About this Itinerary
Northwest Wyoming is a place of incredible beauty. The Teton Range is one of the most distinctive features of the region, and the two neighboring national parks, Yellowstone and Grand Teton, attract millions of visitors annually.
The only human inhabitants of Jackson Hole before 1800 were the Native American tribes who traveled into the valley during the summers to hunt and live. Trappers and explorers entered the region in the early 1800s. Lewis and Clark’s famous mission, exploring the unknown territory of the Louisiana Purchase, has a role to play in the story of this corner of Wyoming. Although the expedition didn’t enter the state, one of the members of the crew, John Colter, headed back into the mountains in 1806, on his return trip. He was scouting for a fur trading company, and set an example with his trip as he traveled into Crow territory and convinced them to trap for beaver pelts, which were quite valuable at the time. The infamous mountain men of the era, including Jim Bridger, Jedediah Smith and David Jackson, traveled through the area going to and from the annual summer Rendezvous. The valley’s namesake is David Jackson, who gave his name to the valley when he supposedly spent the winter of 1829 on the shores of Jackson Lake. The term "hole" indicated a high valley that was surrounded by mountains, and William Sublette, a friend and partner of Jackson, referred to the mountain valley along the Snake River as Jackson's Hole.
The region has changed considerably since the days of Davey Jackson, but one thing stays the same: the valley is incredibly beautiful, and visitors from around the world are inspired by the natural splendor of the area.
Fly into Jackson Hole Airport, the only airport in the United States that is within a national park. An AllTrans shuttle is an affordable option to get you into the town of Jackson. There are countless options for lodging in this mountain resort town. Consider the Inn on the Creek, a charming B&B on the banks of Flat Creek. The rooms are bright and comfortable and the inn is within walking distance of downtown. If you’re ready to embrace the cowboy side of this town, the Buckrail Lodge will be a natural fit. The cedar log rooms are filled with Western décor and the staff will surely give you a warm “Howdy” when you arrive.
For bike rentals, stop into Hoback Sports, which has the widest selection of bikes to rent in town. From a top-end road bike to a full-suspension mountain bike, to sturdy hybrids, the rental fleet includes whatever you are looking for. In addition, the shop has a full inventory of biking clothes and equipment. Supplement your bike rental with a little retail therapy! Another option for bike rentals is Teton Mountain Bike Tours. Located on North Cache Street, right across from the southern end of the pathway, the friendly folks here will be able to set you up with a bike and answer any questions you may have about riding in the area. For outdoor equipment purchases, a visit to Skinny Skis is a must. While the store's name indicates their focus on nordic skiing, the shop is not at all limited to the winter sports! Any camping, hiking, or outdoor enthusiasts will find what they need here, whether it be a spare headlamp, a pair of running shoes, or a daypack.
Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the town of Jackson. Ride the Alpine Slide, a wicked fun adventure for kids and adults alike. For the history buffs, the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum will keep you engaged with exhibits on the Indians and homesteaders of the valley. Also offered are archeology classes and field-based learning excursions!
The foodies in the group will appreciate dinner at Café Genevieve (135 East Broadway). The cozy restaurant is far from kitch; the food is seasonal, local and expertly prepared. If you’re a bluegrass lover, don’t miss the live music on the back porch on Wednesday nights during the summer. The folks at Café Genevieve know how to take your evening from “nice” to “perfect” when they place the barrel-aged cocktail in your hand.
In the morning, start your day off right with the best cup of coffee in town and a bagel at Pearl Street Bagels. A quick tip: you'll be denied if you ask for your bagel to be toasted. All bagels are made in-house daily and the owners, bakers and locals agree: they are perfect as-is.
Catch the trail at the northern edge of town, near the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center, right off of North Cache, and ride north on this separated paved trail. The National Elk Refuge, 24,700 acres of protected land, spreads out on your right. Of course, Elk abound, but keep your eyes peeled for coyotes and hawks as well! Take note: this section of trail is closed between November 1 and April 30 for elk migration.
Three miles up the trail, you’ll reach the National Museum of Wildlife Art. After admiring the on-trail public art installation here, ride through the tunnel and up a short hill to the museum. Designed to integrate seamlessly with the hillside on which it rests, the architecture of the museum, which echoes the surrounding landscape, is reason enough for a visit. More than 80,000 people visit the facility annually, and for good reason. The museum is home to stunning exhibits and awe-inspiring wildlife sculptures.You could easily spend hours admiring the art here! If you’re hungry, stop into the Rising Sage Cafe, the museum’s restaurant that overlooks the Elk Refuge and sculpture garden.
Continue your ride north, past Gros Ventre Junction. A bison sighting (from afar) is very likely on this stretch, so keep your eyes open! At Moose Junction, follow the pathway as it turns left to cross under US 191. As you emerge from the underpass, the Teton Range greets you in its full glory. Continue down the trail and across the Snake River. A few hundred meters after the river, turn left toward the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center. Opened in 2007, this architectural wonder is a far cry from your average visitor center. In an effort to minimize the building’s impact on the surrounding land, the designers and architects used green building techniques, including recycled materials, energy efficient windows and native vegetation. Inside, trace valleys and canyons on the raised relief map, which provides a birds-eye-view of the park.
When you’ve learned everything there is to know about Grand Teton National Park at the discovery center, turn around and backtrack a half mile, back across the Snake River and take a left into the tiny town of Moose.
Consider taking fly fishing lessons from the professionals at Snake River Angler. If fishing isn’t for you, but you’d still like to spend some time unwinding on the Snake River, sign up for a scenic raft trip. While wildlife sightings are not guaranteed, your chances are high. Top on the list of possible sightings are elk, bald eagles, red tail hawks and moose. Don’t rule out beavers, foxes or river otters!
Return to Moose in time for dinner at the Dornan’s Chuckwagon. In the open-air pavilion with a view of the Tetons, you can’t find a better dining locale. Your trip is planned perfectly if you land in Moose on a Monday night; once a week, bluegrass and folk music enthusiasts get together at Dornan’s for the Hootenanny. You might even get to see ski legend Bill Briggs picking away at the banjo. He is a mainstay of “The Hoot” and his musical chops are equally impressive as his skiing resume. If you choose to stay in the Dornan cabins in Moose, you will fall asleep to the lull of the Snake River. There are few places as scenic and comfortable as this little mountain hamlet.
Beginning the day in Moose is like taking your first breath of fresh air. Wake up to the smell of sweet sage and the glow of the first sun on the tip of the Grand Teton. Hop back in the (bike) saddle and ride north on the pathway, back across the Snake River and toward the park entrance. Passes are available for purchase from the Automated Fee Station adjacent to the Moose Entrance Station. As the pathway winds up the bluff out of the Snake River floodplain and onto the plateau, you’ll be within spitting distance of the Teton Range. Right before the trail crosses Cottonwood Creek, a parking lot and trailhead on the left side of the path offer a choice for a short hike to Bradley and Taggart Lakes. Lock your bike at the trailhead and take the 4.5 mile loop to these two beautiful glacial lakes, or continue riding north.
The northern terminus of the paved trail, Jenny Lake, is seven miles north of Moose. Leave your bike and walk toward the base of the mountains to the Jenny Lake Boat Dock. Rent a canoe from the kind folks at Jenny Lake Boating and paddle on the lake. Remember: the water is fed in part by snowmelt, so it’s cold! Keep your life jacket on and be mindful of changing weather conditions. Alternatively, catch the trail near the boat dock and circumnavigate the lake, a seven mile stroll that promises wildflowers in the early summer and huckleberries in the late summer. Another option is the boat shuttle across the lake. From the far dock, head up Cascade Canyon on the trail to Hidden Falls, or continue on the trail a bit further to Inspiration Point; the vistas from here are truly breathtaking.
Head back south to Moose for a well-deserved pizza and beer on the deck at Dornan’s. The sun sets behind the mountains and the alpenglow lights up Shadow Mountain on the east side of the valley. Treat yourself to another evening in the cozy cabins.
Sleep in, and take your time on the 12 miles back into Jackson, and check your Jackson to-do list!
You’ll be disappointed if you miss the Jackson Hole Shoot Out. It's a tradition that startles some first time visitors to town; since 1957, the Town Square has been overtaken by bandits every summer night at 6:00 p.m. Don't worry— it’s all for show. With the exception of Sundays (there's no shootin' on Sundays!), a brawl of historic proportions breaks out on the Town Square. Although this performance is well choreographed and has been done thousands of times since its inception, you'll feel like you're a first-hand witness to an Old West shootout as you stand on the wooden boardwalks and smell the smoke from the duel.
Grab your cowboy boots and Stetson hat and head on down to the historic and cultural mainstay of this Western town: the Jackson Hole Rodeo. Every Wednesday and Saturday between Memorial Day and Labor Day, locals and visitors stream into the arena. The rodeo begins at 8:00 p.m., but show up early if you want a good seat. Cowboys don't care if it's raining; there is no weather delay or event cancelation, so bring your rain slickers and a good attitude if Mother Nature throws a curveball. Or, if you’re looking for a dinner and a show, spend your final evening in town at the Jackson Hole Playhouse. With western flair, the show will transport you back into the Old West.
Enjoy the last day in Jackson Hole and start planning your return trip!