Jackson Hole, Wyoming
“There’s Gold in them there hills”
As you get close to Yellowstone National Park things can tend to get a bit expensive, but they need not be. I have listed various ways to make for a fun, exciting, affordable vacation in and around Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Snuggled at the base of the mighty Teton Mountain Range in Northwest Wyoming, the valley of Jackson Hole offers an exhilarating taste of the Wild Wild West in more ways than one.
At the southern edge of the valley, the little town of Jackson (population 9,577) is an authentic Old West town, where moose and mule deer roam the streets, and ranchers rub shoulders with ski bums and jet-setters from around the globe.
The valley is also home to Grand Teton National Park and Bridger-Teton National Forest, with some of the most spectacular alpine scenery in the world, as well as an impressive array of wildlife, from marmots and mountain lions to elk, bison, and grizzly bears.
And if all this isn’t wild enough, skiers and snowboarders can carve up the slopes of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, frequently voted North America’s number one ski resort thanks to its more than 2,500 acres of precipitous and often powder-packed ski terrain.
Whether it’s the excitement of a whitewater trip or the solitude of paddling a mountain lake, there are plenty of ways to enjoy some Jackson Hole water fun.
Time for H2O
Though Jackson Hole is world-famous for epic ski terrain and the “Cowboy powder” that falls from the sky each winter, the area gets quite hot and arid during the summer months.
The alpine desert climate would be downright hostile were it not for a serpentine waterway churning through the Hole.
Born in the trickles of melting snow high in the Teton Wilderness, the Snake River is America’s 10th-longest river, running roughly 1,000 miles from its origins in the Wyoming high country to its confluence with the Columbia River near Pasco, Washington.
The Snake’s whispering riffles and roaring rapids provide a haven for wildlife and recreation and the 69 miles that wind through Jackson Hole comprise one of the most scenic and pristine stretches of river in America.
Close to 300,000 folks float, fish, and paddle the Snake each summer.
Floating on the Snake River can begin at the northern end of Grand Teton National Park, just below Jackson Lake. From here, there are more than 70 navigable river miles, offering something for everyone.
The first 60-plus miles consist of swift yet smooth water and one fun, eight mile whitewater stretch for the finale. Not many rivers flow from a valley to a canyon and head north on the continent before merging with an ocean—yet another testament to the uniqueness of Wyoming’s Snake River.
Pan for Gold in Wyoming and Montana
Across the border in Wyoming, gold prospectors can be found hard at work panning for gold during the summer. Most days you can see them along public stretches of creeks and streams in the South Pass Area near Lander.
During South Pass City State Historic Site’s Gold Rush Days, held every year in mid-July, you can take gold-panning lessons along the banks of Willow Creek. For more information: www.windriver.org
Travelers who are interested in gold panning should stop at local sporting goods or hardware stores along their route to purchase gold-panning supplies. When you find them, it’s a good bet there’s gold to be found nearby.
In Montana, you can see gold panning demonstrations in several locations.
At the Kootenai National Forest near Libby, an entire area has been dedicated for gold panning. You can also try your luck at Alder Gulch, in Nevada City. For more information:www.virginiacitymt.com.
Spanning more than 310,000 acres, Grand Teton National Park is one of the most beautiful mountain wilderness areas in the world. Tourists arriving in Jackson Hole for the first time often gape in awe at the jagged peaks of the park’s towering Teton Mountain Range (Grand Teton is the highest peak at more than 13,770 feet.)
If you arrive into the valley on a commercial flight, you’ll actually land in Grand Teton National Park at Jackson Hole airport — one of the few airports in the world within the borders of a national park.
Nature lovers and photographers will be in heaven here with more than 200 miles of hiking trails and breathtaking vistas that range from dense pine forests and fields of colorful wildflowers, to sparkling lakes, and the winding Snake River. Among the diversity of flora and fauna are more than 900 species of flowering plants, 300 species of birds, and 60 species of mammals including moose, black bears, and grizzly bear.
A great place to begin a tour of the park is the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose, which provides an excellent overview of the park’s ecology. The popular Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve serves as the starting point for one of Jackson Hole’s best hiking trails.
Other trail highlights include hikes to Signal Mountain, Taggart Lake, String Lake, and Leigh Lake, and the boat trip on Jenny Lake is also a favorite.
Photographers and anyone who loves gorgeous scenery should take the scenic drive to Antelope Flats between Moose and Kelly. Along the way, you can photograph the Mormon Row historic homes, one of the iconic images of Jackson Hole, as well as herds of bison and pronghorn antelope.
After exploring the park, stop by Dornans in Moose for a delicious lunch or snack on the outdoor deck with magnificent mountain views.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Teton Village
Frequently voted the number one ski resort in North America, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is legendary among powder hounds for its long runs and challenging in-bounds and backcountry terrain.
The resort boasts a reputation as the birthplace of extreme skiing, however beginners and intermediate skiers will also find plenty of suitable terrain.
In the winter, skiers and snowboarders can carve up more than 2,500 acres of ski trails on two mountains, and expert skiers can take the plunge into the spine-tingling Corbet’s Couloir, a steep and narrow chute with a 10 to 20-foot drop-in (depending on snow conditions) from the cornice above.
But the fun doesn’t stop when the snow melts. In summer, you can ride the 100-person Jackson Hole Aerial Tram to 10,450 feet for incredible views and high alpine hiking trails, or hop aboard the high-speed gondola and enjoy a meal with panoramic views over the entire valley.
Other fun things to do in the summer include mountain biking, hiking, frisbee golf, and a ropes course catering to climbers of all abilities.
Teton Village, at the base of the ski mountains, offers excellent resort amenities including shops selling outdoor gear and clothing, as well as popular Jackson Hole restaurants and hotels. The free summer concert series staged here is a hit with locals and tourists alike.
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Catch a cheap flight to Jackson Hole, Wy