If you are heading to Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park, it’s a must that you spend time in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The natural setting surrounding Jackson Hole is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Recreational opportunities include hiking, biking, river rafting, and skiing. The quaint little towns in the valley still provide a feeling of the Wild West with their historic downtowns, rodeo events, and reenactments of the town square shootout. There is so much to do and see in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, that’s why it’s become a must-visit destination.
Planning a trip to Jackson Hole? Then continue reading to find out our recommendations of top things to do in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Grand Teton National Park
Wyoming’s majestic Teton Mountains are the centerpiece of Grand Teton National Park. The towering Grand Teton, standing at nearly 14,000 feet (4,200 meters), rises above a rich scene with extraordinary wildlife, shimmering alpine lakes, and lush meadows. Many of the famous sights in Grand Teton National Park can be experienced by driving the scenic road through the park. However, in our opinion, the best way to experience the park is by lacing up your hiking boots and hitting the trails.
Additional Reading: Top Hikes in Grand Teton National Park
If hiking is not your thing, get on the water to enjoy the natural scenery and wildlife of Grand Teton National Park. Small passenger boats shuttle visitors across Jenny Lake to Inspiration Point, one of the most photographed spots in the park. Paddleboarders, kayakers, and canoers will find both String and Leigh lakes a breeze for leisurely paddling.
Whitewater Rafting & Scenic River Trips
As it means through the valley, the Snake River cuts a path through some of the most spectacular scenery surrounding Jackson Hole. Visitors can choose to take a calm, peaceful float trip with opportunities to view wildlife like bald eagles, osprey, moose, and elk with the backdrop of the Teton and Gros Ventre Mountain Ranges. For those seeking an adrenaline rush, whitewater rafting trips take on Class III rapids through the narrow Snake River Canyon.
If you would like to paddle your own boat there are several outfitters in the area that offer canoe, kayak, and raft rentals. Jackson Lake Dam to Pacific Creek is one of the best stretches on the Snake River for canoeists and novice boaters. Here boaters will find mostly placid waters with minor rapids as the river makes its way through the wildlife corridor of Oxbow Bend and then South Park to Astoria.
One of the best ways to experience the wonderful landscapes of Jackson Hole is on horseback. Traveling on horseback also allows you to venture further than you would on foot. Local outfitters provide half-day, full-day, and overnight horseback trips through private ranches or national forest land. Most of the scenic rides head in the direction of the Tetons, though there are multiple areas to explore that offer their own unique adventure.
Choose from introductory horseback rides to more rigorous rides that involve splashing through creeks and climbing up mountains as you go deep into the wilderness. You can even opt to live like a pioneer as you travel by covered wagon on a multiple-night adventure into the heart of the Tetons.
Discover more with our Visitor Guide to Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Rugged wilderness, majestic peaks, abundant wildlife, and incomparable natural beauty, perhaps no other park is as epic as Yellowstone National Park. Covering over 2 million acres, Yellowstone is home to the world’s largest combination of geysers and thermal features, including the iconic Old Faithful. Visitors are likely to see several animals, such as bison, gray wolves, and grizzly bears freely roaming the landscape in their natural habitat.
When visiting Yellowstone from Jackson Hole, you will begin by driving the scenic John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Highway. As you drive through this area, notice the jagged granite peaks turning into green rolling mountains and new pine regrowth from the 1988 wildfires. You will then enter Yellowstone through the South Entrance eventually coming to West Thumb and Yellowstone Lake.
There are unbelievable scenic drives with numerous pullout areas to take in the views of Yellowstone National Park but the best way to see Yellowstone’s real beauty is to get out of the car and go for a hike. Spend your time trekking to mountain top vistas, exploring lush meadows, and discovering stunning waterfalls located in Yellowstone’s backcountry. More than 900 miles (1,400 kilometers) of hiking trails await you.
Additional Reading: Top Hikes in Yellowstone National Park
Visit a Mountain Resort
No matter the season, visiting one of the three legendary mountain resorts near Jackson Hole provides plenty of opportunities for fun and excitement. The Winter season offers some of the best deep powder conditions for skiing and snowboarding in the Rockies. Summer brings alpine slides, gondola rides to view the mountain scenery, hiking, and mountain biking.
- Jackson Hole Mountain Resort – Located just 12 miles (19 kilometers) from the town of Jackson, this famed mountain resort offers 2,500 acres of terrain. It is home to the largest continuous vertical rise in the country at a staggering 4,139 vertical feet (1,261 meters). The Bridger Gondola travels to an elevation of over 9,000 feet (2,700 meters) during a 12-minute ride where you can eat lunch at one of the several lunches while taking in the mountain views.
- Snow King Ski Area & Mountain Resort – located in town, this resort offers hourly lift tickets, snow tubing, and lighted trails for after-hours night skiing. Here you will also find an alpine slide, bungee trampoline, and mini-golf course.
- Grand Targhee Resort – located near Alta, about 45 minutes from Jackson Hole, Grand Targhee offers two mountains with more than 2,000 acres of skiable terrain. During the summer, explore 70-plus miles of multi-use trails for cross country and downhill mountain biking, as well as hiking and horseback riding.
A variety of winter activities in the Jackson Hole area include snowshoeing, tubing, cross-country skiing, and dog sledding.
Jackson Hole has some of the most diverse terrains for cycling and mountain biking in the United States. From leisurely pathways to thrilling downhill trails and everything in between! You can find maps of bike riding routes here.
When it comes to mountain biking, Jackson Hole has it all. You’ll find most locals riding the meandering trails that climb up Snow King Mountain as it follows over to Cache Creek. The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort provides chairlift services so you can skip the uphills and head right to the exhilarating downhill craziness. Teton Mountain Bike Tours will ensure that you maximize your cycling time in the Grand Tetons and Greater Yellowstone Area.
Looking to explore more of the United States? Read our Top Travel Solo Destinations in the United States.
Arts & Culture
Outdoor venues, live music performances, museums, and year-round cultural events make Jackson Hole a great place to visit for those interested in the arts. Many local artists and galleries feature work that represents the unique cultural heritage of Jackson and the West. More than 25 art galleries are located within Jackson Hole.
The Grand Teton Music Festival, one of the most important symphony music festivals in the United States, offers seven summer weeks of orchestral music and monthly community concerts throughout the year. During the summer months, the Teton Valley Foundation sponsors Music on Main, which is a free, weekly concert series in Victor City Park.
Make sure you visit the National Museum of Wildlife Art which is home to over 5,000 pieces of art representing animals from around the world. The beautiful building that houses the museum is located on a butte overlooking the 20,000-acre National Elk Refuge. Visitors can learn about the history of Jackson Hole at the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum. The two main focal exhibits are on the Native Americans indigenous to the area and the early settlers who helped shape the valley into what it is today.
For some good old Western fun, visit Jackson Hole Playhouse, Wyoming’s longest-running professional dinner theater.
Free Activities in Jackson Hole
Traveling to new destinations can often eat up our wallets pretty quickly. Luckily, Jackson Hole has some fun events and activities that are offered free of charge. Here is our list of a few to check out.
- Farmer’s Markets – Teach your children about where local food and produce come from and grab a healthy bite to eat. The Jackson Hole Farmer’s Market meets Saturday mornings in Town Square and the Jackson Hole People’s Market takes place on Wednesday nights at the base of Snow King Mountain.
- Kelly Warm Springs – Located in the shadow of the Grand Tetons, this large gravel-lined pool stays a constant 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27 Celsius).
- Alive @5 – This free summer series takes place on the Teton Village Commons and fetters music, education, storytelling, and more. Events begin at 5 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
- Stargazing – Meet at the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts on clear Friday nights in the summer for some public stargazing. Astronomy educators will be on hand to help you explore the heavens!
New to camping? Read our Camping Tips: A Beginners Guide to Their First Camping Trip
Camping Options near Jackson Hole
Camping is one of the best ways to experience nature and the stunning beauty of Jackson Hole. Here is a brief list of camping destinations near Jackson Hole.
- Bridger Teton National Forest Campgrounds normally open in late May and close in early September, depending on the weather. Improved camping in designated sites is available for $12-15 dollars a night.
- Caribou Targhee National Forest – There are several public campgrounds with improved facilities in the Caribou Targhee National Forest in eastern Idaho that are a short drive from Jackson. Most campgrounds in the Caribou Targhee National Forest are open from June through September.
- Gros Ventre Wilderness Area – For those seeking a true wilderness experience, the Gros Ventre Wilderness Area east of Jackson offers free camping in primitive sites with spectacular views of the Tetons. August and early September are your best bets for camping free of snow, but the area is accessible year-round for those campers who don’t mind roughing it in the snow.
- Colter Bay Campground – Set amidst towering lodgepole pines just a short, picturesque stroll away from Jackson Lake. The campground offers camping for tents and dry camping for RVs. The campground is open from mid-May to late September.
Additional Reading: Essential Camping Gear Checklist
No matter what time of year you find yourself in Jackson Hole, you’ll find that there is always something exciting happening. This article features a shortlist of things to do while visiting Jackson Hole. Use this as a guide to get you started and then find your adventure as you explore the surrounding areas and the unique downtown.
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