10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Jackson Hole
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.
See also: Where to Stay in Jackson Hole
1 Grand Teton National Park
Spanning more than 310,000 acres, Grand Teton National Park is one of the most beautiful mountain wilderness areas in the world. Visitors 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.) Those arriving on commercial flights into the valley 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 bears.
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 eight miles of beautiful 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. A scenic drive to Antelope Flats between Moose and Kelly offers the chance to see the Mormon Row historic homes as well as herds of bison and pronghorn antelope. After exploring the park, hungry hikers can stop by Dornans in Moose for a delicious lunch on the outdoor deck with magnificent mountain views. Note that some park roads and access points are closed during the winter months.
2 Editor's Pick 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, sightseers can ride the 100-person 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 summer activities 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 restaurants, and hotels. The free summer concert series staged here is a hit with locals and tourists alike.
3 Jackson Town Square
Cowboys and cashed-up globetrotters feel equally at home in the funky Old West town of Jackson, which sits at the south end of the valley at an elevation of 6,237 feet. The town is a popular jumping-off point for the geothermal wonders of Yellowstone National Park, a mere one-hour drive away, and the rugged mountain wilderness of Grand Teton National Park. A great place to start a tour is the Jackson town square. Tourists love to snap photos here standing under the famous elk antler arches or gliding around on the tiny ice-skating rink in winter. From the square, visitors can enjoy an Old West style horse and carriage ride around town or stroll along the boardwalks lined with boutique shops, art galleries, and restaurants. During the summer, don't miss the Old West-style Jackson Hole Shootout demonstrations in the town square, held Monday through Saturday from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Also nearby, Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum was founded in 1958 and features exhibits on the history of Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park.
4 Snow King Mountain
A five-minute drive from the town square in Jackson, Snow King Mountain is the steepest north-facing FIS (International Ski Federation) racing course in the continental US. This beautiful pine-cloaked mountain rises above the streets of Jackson on the south edge of town, and its summit sits at 7,808 feet. Established in 1938, the mountain was the valley's first ski resort. Today, it offers an affordable ski or snowboarding experience for those who don't mind the relatively limited terrain. A highlight here is the stunning view from the summit (some say the best in the valley) of Jackson, the Elk Refuge, and the snow-capped Tetons in the distance. In winter, skiers and snowboarders can access 400 acres of trails, serviced by three lifts. One of the lifts provides access to five beginner trails and six intermediate trails, complementing the steep and often icy expert terrain. Night skiing is also offered, and kids will love the tubing course at the base. In summer, the mountain hosts horseback rides and the valley's only alpine slide, while the steep hiking and mountain biking trails give the calf muscles a great workout. At the base of Snow King, the climbing walls and children's playground are a hit with the little ones in the warmer months.
5 The Snake River: Scenic Floats and Whitewater Adventures
An exciting way to explore the Jackson Hole wilderness from a different perspective is a rafting trip on the Snake River. This famous waterway slithers through the valley from its headwaters in Yellowstone National Park. Several outfitters offer two different styles of trips: a relaxing scenic float trip through Grand Teton National Park (or the South Park section of the river), and an adrenaline-infused whitewater trip on Class III rapids. Both offer the chance to admire stunning scenery including steep limestone canyons, the craggy peaks of the Teton Mountain Range, and thick pine forests. Along the way, rafters might spot some of the local wildlife such as deer, bald eagles, osprey, moose, marmots, and beavers. Fly fishing for trout along the river is also a popular pastime, and guided fly fishing float trips can be arranged in season.
6 Jackson Hole Rodeo
A trip to the wild, wild west town of Jackson wouldn't be complete without seeing the famous Jackson Hole Rodeo. Barrel-racing, bull-riding, bareback bronc-riding, and calf-roping are just some of the exciting activities on the lineup here, and even the local little tykes participate with nail-biting bareback rides. The rodeo is held twice weekly during summer with extra performances during peak visitor times. Another popular event held at the Rodeo Grounds, usually in July, is the Teton County Fair with fun games, farm animals, and dizzying rides.
Address: 447 West Snow King Avenue, Jackson
7 National Museum of Wildlife Art
Blending beautifully with a rocky hillside overlooking the Elk Refuge, the National Museum of Wildlife Art is worth visiting as much to admire the building's environmentally sensitive design as it is for its superb collection of wildlife art. The art exhibits begin before visitors even enter the building on the Sculpture Trail, where life-size wildlife sculptures adorn the surrounding hillside. Inside, the museum's collection traces the history of wildlife art from 2500 BC to the present day with a focus on European and American painting and sculpture. The more than 5,000 artworks in the museum's collection span a variety of genres and media from Romanticism to Realism, and lithography to photography. Impressive temporary exhibitions complement the permanent collection. After gazing at all the wildlife art, visitors can admire real wildlife on the Elk Refuge through the museum's spotting scope. The museum is also home to an excellent restaurant, which hosts popular Wednesday dinner nights and other special events.
Address: 2820 Rungius Road, 6825, Jackson
8 National Elk Refuge
Famous for being the largest concentration of wintering elk in the world, the National Elk Refuge is home to herds of more than 5,000 animals. In winter, horse drawn sleighs take visitors out across the glittering snowscape for close-up views of these gentle creatures, and accompanying guides provide a narrative history of the refuge. The sleigh rides depart from the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center, which presents excellent exhibits on the history of the refuge and local wildlife. The National Elk Refuge is also home to a bison herd of more than 500 animals, and visitors may also spot coyotes, big horn sheep, and trumpeter swans. From May through September, visitors can tour the historic Miller Ranch on the refuge to hear fascinating stories about the valley's original homesteaders and the region's rich history.
Address: 675 East Broadway, Jackson
9 Chuck Wagon Rides & Wild West Shows
For a fun dose of cowboy culture, visitors to Jackson Hole can sign up for a covered chuck wagon ride followed by a sunset cookout. After dinner, guests are treated to tall tales, singing, and performances by local talent. Several outfitters in the area offer packages: Bar T Five Covered Wagon Cookout & Wild West Show takes visitors into beautiful Cache Creek Canyon for an authentic Dutch-oven dinner, while Bar J Chuckwagon also includes a visit to a western-style village. Teton Wagon Train and Horse Adventure offers four-day trips by horseback or covered wagon. The scenery is exceptional and wildlife sightings are frequent. The chuck wagon rides usually run from Memorial Day through September and are a huge hit with families.
10 Center for the Arts
For such a small town, Jackson is big on culture, and the Center for the Arts is a modern and intimate venue for an impressive lineup of events. The center comprises the Arts & Education Pavilion as well as the Jean Louise and Mike Thieme Performing Arts Pavilion with a 500-seat theater, music center, and rehearsal space. Among the many events staged at the center are ballet, opera, international music acts, films, dance performances, and the excellent Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, held every two years. Classical music fans will also love the summertime Grand Teton Music Festival at Teton Village, while those who lean more towards musical theater will enjoy the delightful Christmas show at the western-style Jackson Hole Playhouse.
Address: 240 South Glenwood Street, Jackson
Where to Stay in Jackson Hole for Sightseeing
We recommend these excellent hotels in Teton Village and the town of Jackson:
- Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole: 5-star luxury, prime Teton Village location, steps from the gondola, multiple restaurants, turndown service.
- Rusty Parrot Lodge & Spa: 4-star boutique hotel, quiet downtown Jackson location, personal service, gourmet restaurant, deluxe spa.
- Cowboy Village Resort: mid-range pricing, downtown Jackson, cozy log cabins, indoor pool and Jacuzzi, fitness center.
- Parkway Inn: budget-friendly rates, short walk to town center, quaint decor, indoor lap pool, free breakfast.
Day Trips from Jackson Hole
Yellowstone National Park
About 57 miles from the town of Jackson, Yellowstone is the oldest national park in the world and one of the country's most magnificent wilderness areas. The park is known for its geothermal features and boasts the world's highest concentration of active geysers - Old Faithful is the most famous. Contrasting with these hissing moonscapes are sprawling green valleys, towering waterfalls, red-walled canyons, rivers, and vast lakes. Wildlife is abundant. Among the dazzling diversity of species in these pristine ecosystems are grizzly bears, gray wolves, bison, black bears, and elk, as well as graceful trumpeter swans and bald eagles. The best way to explore the park is on the many hiking trails, however visitors can also drive the scenic Grand Loop, a 142-mile-long road that twists through the park. Besides the geothermal attractions, park highlights include Yellowstone Lake, Hayden Valley, the Grand Canyon, and the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. Tourists throng here in the summer months, but the park is open year round and offers something different in every season, from the budding trees and flowers of spring to the fiery colors of fall and snowmobile safaris in the winter.