As one enters Grand Teton National Park from the North, one is greeted by turquoise Jackson Lake; The Snake River that meanders through the landscape; and the jagged fangs of the majestic Tetons. This spectacular sight was captured in the iconic black and white photo taken by Ansel Adams in 1942 from Snake River Overlook.
The Tetons, which consist of eight peaks over 12,000 ft. high – with Grand Teton being the tallest at 13,770 ft. – tower over the valley known as Jackson Hole. Ten million years ago, massive earthquakes lifted the mountains skyward and caused the valley to slip downward.
Early explorers and trappers referred to Jackson Valley as ‘The Hole.’ The name took hold, and today the entire valley, which includes Jackson, Teton Village, Moran Junction, Wilson, and the surrounding areas, is known as Jackson Hole.
The valley retains its cowboy mystique thanks to saloon-style bars and restaurants like the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar and the Stagecoach Bar; Jackson square’s famous arches built of elk and moose horns; and summer rodeos held in the Teton County Fairgrounds.
In autumn, the landscape shimmers with golden leaves fanned by the breezes; come summer, paddleboarding, camping, fishing, and white water rafting are popular; while winter is Jackson Hole’s high season. Ski lovers from across the USA and abroad descend on the valley and head for the ski slopes, and accommodation is hard to come by. It’s recommended that one make reservations well in advance.
Be on the lookout for bears, moose, and elk in the vicinity of Oxbow Bend and the forests surrounding the lakes.
Jenny Lake, String Lake, and Leigh Lake that rest in the Tetons’ shadow are gorgeous, calm lakes that act as a mirror for the mighty mountain range. You can take a shuttle boat across Jenny Lake to Inspiration Point, hike the forest trails that hug the lakes’ perimeter – and kayak, row, or paddleboard in the crystal clear waters.
Wyoming Stargazing is a nonprofit organization in Jackson that receives rave reviews from visitors. www.wyomingstargazing.org [Unfortunately, during our visit, it was only open to visitors on Friday nights, so we missed it.]
Spring Creek Ranch Castagno Outfitters is popular for its horseback trail rides to East Gros Ventre Butte, where one is treated to magnificent views of the Tetons and the town of Jackson. They close after October 15th, so we took a trail ride with Teton Village Trail Rides. The horses walk inches apart – nose to tail – so slowly that it’s annoying for anyone who has some horse riding experience.
After days of hiking and horseback riding, you may want to relax your aching muscles in a secluded hot spring swimming pool, nestled among the trees. Go early in the day when the air is crisp, and you’re likely to have the pool virtually to yourself. Granite Hot Springs is 30 miles southeast of Jackson. There are toilets and large communal changing facilities.
Downtown Jackson, hugged by the mountains, has a quaint charm. While the majority of historic buildings have been demolished, thankfully, there are no faceless high-rise buildings in sight. A plethora of boutiques, art galleries, interior design stores, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops are housed in rustic, western-style stores.
Beyond the Old Downtown area, you’ll find strip malls, banks, gas stations, hotels, supermarkets, car dealerships, and many more eateries.