6 of the Best Ways to Explore Wyoming’s Grand Tetons
The Tetons and Jackson Hole offer outdoor playgrounds unlike any other.
Jackson, Wyoming, is a mountain town known as much for its opulence as is it for its unique amalgamation of resident ski bums, artists, nature enthusiasts, and gazillionaire tourists.
Presided over by the imposing Teton range, Jackson’s famed slopes attract as many, if not more, top skiers and snowboarders as any other destination in the lower 48. Yet in the non-winter months, when the region’s freshly powdered peaks and snowy undulations melt away, an outdoor paradise teeming with adventure awaits.
It is a family-friendly destination capable of accommodating all manner of interests and levels of expertise, from mountain biking and backpacking in Grand Teton National Park to world-class angling, river-running, and rock climbing. The slow introduction of warmer weather also brings with it a surge of wildflowers, thunderous rivers and waterfalls, and the emergence of wildlife to satisfy the palate of any photography enthusiast.
Whatever your interest, Jackson Hole and its surrounding area comprising Grand Teton National Park and the 3.4 million-acre Bridger-Teton National Forest is a playground unlike any other. And with spring and summer beckoning, we put together a list of some of our favorite adventures that will ensure your upcoming visit is a memorable one.
If they’re not already, get these on your bucket list!
During a recent visit to Jackson, I had the opportunity to check out the Amangani hotel, a destination truly befitting of the luxuries the town is known for. There, I caught up with local wildlife guide Jared Paul, who assumed the role as the hotel’s wildlife maestro in 2004 after first starting there as a bell boy.
It was immediately evident on my tour with Paul that I was exploring alongside a guru of everything in and around Grand Teton National Park. Paul imparted his wisdom of elk migrations and the supernatural life of Bear 399—seriously, read more about 399 and the 20-plus cubs she’s had—as well as gray wolf population disputes and moose diets.
Moose, fox, coyotes, grizzly bears, wolves, big horn sheep, mountain lions, bison, an immense elk population, and hundreds of species of birds call this region home, and through Amangani, both guests and non-guests can arrange a tour with Paul. The hotel also works with numerous outfitters offering half-, three-quarter-, and full-day tours.
Tame the Snake
The Snake River is as much a sightseeing staple of Jackson Hole as the mighty Tetons that serve as its backdrop, a sight made even more famous when it was captured as part of the 1940s national park photography series by the legendary black and white photographer Ansel Adams.
And yet, not even Adams’ iconic vantage point could capture the thrill of actually rafting the river. With Dave Hansen Whitewater and Scenic River Trips, guests can embark on a thrill ride of 8 miles of class II and III rapids that gouge through the Snake River Canyon.
Or, if a leisurely float is more your speed, the company offers two different scenic rafting trips that span 13 miles of river nestled between Grand Teton National Park and Bridger National Forest. Happy floating!
Step It Out
Offering the best hiking access into the inner Tetons, the Cascade Canyon Trail is a 9-mile roundtrip popular with both day hikers and backpackers. Moderately challenging, the trail takes about 4.5 hours to complete—as long as the snow has fully retreated.
As a sightseeing bonus, the best way to access the trail is a scenic 10-minute boat trip across the mirror-like Jenny Lake. The ride, courtesy of the aptly named Jenny Lake Boating, eliminates 4 miles of hiking to and from the Cascade Canyon trailhead. No reservations are required, and shuttles run every 10 to 15 minutes.
As a bonus for those looking for an even more challenging hike good for an overnight backpacking experience, try the 16.5-mile Lake Solitude Trail near Alta.
Sections of the Snake River certainly produce high speed rafting adventures like those above, but it is the river’s quieter segments that yield some of the best fly fishing in the U.S.
Connect with Snake River Angler, an outfitter and fly fishing shop touting an smorgasbord of permits that equate to some of the best river access around. Full- and half-day guided trips, both the drift boat and wade variety, span eight stunning sections of the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest, and parcels operated by the Bureau of Land Management.
Guests will enjoy one of the most impressive populations of native cutthroat trout in the Rocky Mountains, while taking in views of the Tetons, Snake River Canyon, and the Gros Ventre Range. Also offered are guided trips on Wyoming’s Green and New Fork rivers, as well as the various river systems of Yellowstone National Park.
For the real adventurer—and those without heights-related trepidations—consider climbing one of the most iconic peaks in North America—the Grand Teton—alongside Exum Mountain Guides. Guiding in the Tetons since 1930, Exum guides shepherd groups and individuals up these impressive faces hundreds of times per year, with many guests having never climbed previously.
Physical ability is no doubt important while tackling the 13,775-foot summit, but from there, guides have you covered. One or two days of pre-climb instructional classes will get you up to speed on the necessary techniques before embarking on one of the most difficult, but rewarding, two-day trips you’ll ever take.
Interested? Learn more about preparation and physical expectations for climbing Grand Teton.
Why drive or hike when you can take in sights, smells, and sounds on a leisurely, multi-day saddle-bound stroll? Few outfitters in the Jackson area do horse and pack trips better than the U.S. Forest Service-authorized Triangle X Ranch, a classic dude ranch that ushers guests through custom itineraries tailored to appeal to anyone from the most rugged to family-friendly.
Each trip, which lasts for a minimum of four days, offers no shortage of wildlife viewing, photography opportunities, or fishing. Guides, wranglers, and cooks accompany each journey, sleeping bags and mattresses are included, and guests enjoy a relaxed pace on well-maintained trails.
What’s not to love?