Friday, June 9, 2017

Outdoor Fun in Jackson Hole

I'll admit that visiting Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Grand Teton National Park was a post-Yellowstone Park afterthought. We were in the area... so, why not? Located just south of Yellowstone, this area holds its own against its more famous neighbor. As soon as Jackson Lake came into view with the Teton Mountain range rising up behind it, I knew that we were in for a scenic treat. Our few days based in Jackson Hole were filled with all sorts of outdoor adventures followed by evenings relaxing in town. It's an admittedly touristy place, but all the wide open space keeps it from ever feeling overly crowded.

Fur trappers and mountain men first entered this valley between the Teton and Gros Ventre mountain ranges by descending its steep slopes, feeling as if they were climbing into a massive hole. The area is named after David Edward "Davey" Jackson,  a beaver trapper who was one of the first white men to spend an entire winter in this valley in the 1820's. It would be another 50 more years before Jackson Hole was regularly inhabited year-round.

FUN FACT: The area is expecting record high crowds on August 21, 2017. Why? It's a prime viewing area for a total eclipse of the sun beginning at 10:17AM and peaking at 11:35AM.

Clear water fills 250 foot deep Jenny Lake

Boat across Jenny Lake and hike up to Inspiration Point

There's a 2.5 mile trail along the shores of Jenny Lake from the Visitor's Center to the dock on the lake's western edge, but we chose the 12-minute shuttle boat as the quickest way to reach the trailhead. From the dock, signs point to a family friendly hike up to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. The 2.2 mile roundtrip trail has an elevation gain of 450 feet through a tall conifer forest and rewards hikers with a gorgeous, panoramic view of the lake on one side and the Tetons on the other.

Up at Inspiration Point. That tiny white object near my shoulder is the shuttle boat crossing Jenny Lake.

Horseback Riding at Spring Creek Ranch

Dude ranches are quite popular in this area, and nothing makes you feel more like a cowboy than riding on a horse. Our nose-to-tail, one-hour ride took us up to a ridgeline on East Gros Ventre Butte where we could look down on the town of Jackson and still marvel at glorious views of Grand Teton itself.

Photo credit: Dusty Stables Photography

Before our ride, we had lunch at The Granary, located on site at Spring Creek Ranch. Perched 1000 feet above the valley floor, it has spectacular views out the window — one of the best in America according to Plus, the food was tasty, and the prices were comparable to other places in town. (Overall, I felt sticker shock at how expensive a casual meal costs in Jackson Hole. So, this practically felt like a bargain considering the service and scenery.)

The excellent view from The Granary Restaurant

Raft down the Snake River

Our horseback ride and meal was part of the Paddles and Saddles package offered by Jackson Hole Whitewater. The other part of the activity was heading down the Snake River either on a Class III Whitewater Rafting trip or a Scenic Float Trip. My friend took both her young elementary school kids and her mom on the 8-mile rafting trip, and all three generations loved it. They had a choice of sitting on the side to help paddle or in the middle to just hold on. Every section of whitewater rapids is followed by a calm stretch of river.

Rafting along the Snake River

I am a total wimp, so I signed my family up for the 13-mile Scenic Float trip. As promised, it is incredibly calm and relaxing. The peaceful  waters allowed me to focus on the guide and his vast knowledge of our surroundings. A sack lunch of sandwiches, chips and a cookie was included as part of the float. Best of all, we saw lots of wildlife along the shores and up in the trees, including numerous bald eagle sightings. High powered binoculars are available on the raft, but it seems that my kids were more interested on looking at each other close up with them than looking beyond the boat.

Bald Eagle sighted along the Snake River

Take a ride on the Jackson Hole Aerial  Tram

People are spoilt for choice for high up views all around the valley. One of the best is reached by taking the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram from Mountain Resort to the top of Rendezvous Mountain. The huge tram holds 100 people and takes 12 minutes to climb 4,139 vertical feet (1262 meters) along 12,463 feet (3,799 meters) of cable.

Heading upwards on the Jackson Hole Aerial Tram

The top was windy but a great place for tons of photo opportunities. Since we took the tram up at the end of the day, we made especially sure not to miss the last tram down. No way did we want to spend the night up there! Too bad that we didn't have time to enjoy the waffles at Corbet's Cabin at the top.

The top of Rendezvous Mountain

Climbing the Ropes Course at Mountain Resort

While most of Mountain Resort seemed to be filled with shops and restaurants (some only open during the winter ski season),  the kids were immediately drawn to the Ropes Course after we came back down on the tram. 

Ropes Course at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

The Grand Adventure Park of the Mountain Resort also includes a mountain biking trail, rock climbing wall and a drop tower. 

Explore the town of Jackson

As I said at the beginning, Jackson Hole is undoubtedly a touristy town. Gift shops, restaurants and ice cream parlours catering to visitors abound. Yet, it's a different feeling than, for example, being crammed into the narrow passageways of Venice. There's so much soaring openness that it seems that there's room for everyone. 

Famous antler arches on the corners of the Town Square

One of the iconic places in Jackson  Hole is the Town Square with an archway fashioned out of elk antlers on each corner. The National Elk Refuge is located just a mile from the square. Every year, the local Boy Scout troop collects the antlers that are shed each winter and auctions them off as a fundraiser. No animals are harmed. Each antler goes for about $2, and each arch is made of approximately 2,000 antlers. 

My mom-in-law and her sister in Jackson Hole in 1950

One of our favorite stores in town is the Jackson Hole Toy Store. The proprietor is one of those people who truly has a passion for his work. There's a unique selection of international toys that I don't see at my nearby Toys'R'Us. Since we last visited, they've added a wireless shooting gallery with 40 targets located around the store. That sounds like so much fun!

Go down the Alpine Slide

Alas, we didn't get around to everything on our To Do list while in Jackson Hole.  Another friend highly recommended the Alpine Slide at Snow King Mountain Resort. Perhaps you can give it a go and tell me if you enjoyed it.

Where to Stay

My family of five easily fit into one of the suites at The Lexington located just a few blocks from the Town Square. A tasty breakfast was included, and I really liked that they had multiple USB outlets on the desk for us to charge all our devices. The kids had a blast at the small indoor pool, too. 

I can tell you one thing for sure. We slept very well each night as we recuperated from a day packed with activity.

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  1. Wow! Now, I'm even more excited about visiting here next year! Amazing shot of that Eagle!!

  2. I know Jackson Hole for its snow sports. I didn't realise how many things there are to do during the summer months. My pick would be a lot of hiking and walking. The view from Inspiration Point looks wonderful.

  3. I've heard so many good things about Jackson Hole. I'd love to go skiing there in winter. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  4. What a beautiful place! One of my coworkers grew up in the northern part of the country and he says the Jackson Hole area is one of the most stunning places he has seen. Hope to make it there one day. I have heard is very vibrant with tons of thing to do. And, yes, I have heard people are flocking there for the eclipse. #wkendtravelinspiration

  5. Thanks for sharing so many family-friendly activities from your trip. The Paddles and Saddles package sounds like a great time. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  6. Stunning! I've never heard of this area before, but we're planning a trip to some USA national parks next year so will totally look into this. That bald eagle is amazing

  7. What an amazing afterthought - it is so beautiful there and the horse-riding looks perfect. The landscape is amazing and I can imagine how lovely the raft trip was. It is an amazing place and I would love to go there. Thanks for linking up.

  8. Jackson Hole is beautiful! Your intro really resonated with me. That's exactly what we thought about it too on our way out of Yosemite. #wkendtravelinspiration

  9. I loved the Grand Teton Park and it's so true that most people miss it. Loved the Jackson Hole antlers - those I missed.

  10. Jackson Hole looks beautiful. I mainly hear about it for skiing, but I am more of a summer person. I would love to explore the area, your photos are beautiful. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  11. Stunning photos! I went to Jackson Hole as a young person, and would love to revisit! #theweeklypostcard

  12. I love all your adventures here. I would be up for the float boat, too. That sounds much more relaxing than the rafting. The bald eagle is gorgeous. Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursday

  13. The hike and ropes course looks awesome! We will definitely check those out in Jackson Hole! #weekendwanderlust :)

  14. I love the Tetons so much! We used to go there when I was a kid, and I've been back a few times as an adult. I would love to visit in winter next!

  15. Such a beautiful part of the country! You've definitely got our wanderlust fired up. I'd love to do the trail ride and really enjoy those gorgeous outdoors! Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard!

  16. Oh my, I missed this one earlier. Great photos and what an action packed time you had. . .I was ready for a nap just reading this one!

  17. Indah Nuria SavitriJuly 12, 2017 at 7:36 AM

    Look like a fantastic place to visit indeed! We haven't been to that area and they are on top of our list for sure!

  18. Thank you for sharing all this information about Jackson Hole, Michelle. I wanted to go see this place for a long time, but still didn't make it there. Now that I see your gorgeous picture I feel even more enticed to go. I heard it's particularly beautiful in winter and if offers some great skiing. Maybe I should try it then, although in summer seems absolutely gorgeous too.


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