Want to go horseback riding on a butte in Wyoming, or fly-fishing on the Snake River? Check out why Jackson Hole has the best activities for the active traveler in any season.
Jackson Hole has long been a top winter destination, worshipped by skiers and snowboarders alike for its famously challenging terrain. But one of the best-kept secrets about this Wyoming town is that the "off-season" is just as activity-filled as their famous winters—and equally anticipated by locals.
After over a decade of visiting Jackson Hole, I’ve discovered that each season carries its own unique appeal. A fly fisherman will tell you that fall is the best time of year, while horseback riders prefer summer, and a rafting guide will recommend visiting in the spring. Here are the best activities to enjoy in Jackson Hole throughout the year, including kayaking, hiking, fishing, and—of course—skiing and snowboarding. Saddle up!
Hit the slopes. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, renowned for its expert trails, recently expanded its intermediate terrain in the Casper and Teton lift areas, so there has never been a better time for skiers and snowboarders of all-levels to visit. But keep an eye out for unlikely companions on the slopes. Caught in a whiteout last winter, I skied over to the side of the trail to wait for friends, stopping in front of a cluster of trees. Moments later, I heard a rustling sound, followed by heavy grunts. Turning around, I found myself face to face with a moose—and he had two friends behind him. Needless to say, I hightailed it down the mountain after that, and lived to tell the tale over drinks at the Mangy Moose.
Take a sleigh ride. The sleigh rides in the National Elk Refuge are not to be missed if you’re visiting Jackson between December and April. I loved my experience this winter: Sipping hot chocolate on the back of a sleigh, we were surrounded by elk in every direction on the snow-covered fields. A ride is particularly popular during the holidays, so book in advance around New Year’s Eve or Christmas.
Brave the rapids. Jackson Hole Whitewater Rafting is a great way to test the heartiness of your companions, and witness the beauty of the area. Spring is an ideal time for a trip: the rivers are overflowing with water, and the birds are visible through the barren branches, perched overhead watching their prey.
Hike and kayak in the Grand Tetons. Grand Teton National Park is particularly lovely in the spring, when the flowers are in bloom. Visit Jenny Lake before the summertime tourists, and venture out to the remote Two Ocean Lake—I saw two bears while kayaking there. A visit to Dornan’s is a must to cap off your day in the park: Order the sensational pizza and take in the (equally sensational) view of the Tetons.
Saddle up at the ranch. Spend an afternoon at Spring Creek Ranch, where the riding and the views are unparalleled. Opt for the two-hour ride; the time you spend navigating overgrown brush on the way down the mountain will be paid off with a beautiful vista from the top of the butte.
Catch a rodeo. Check out how the west was won at the Jackson Hole Rodeo, open Memorial through Labor Day. The shows coincide with the setting of the sun behind the Tetons, giving "fire on the mountain" an all-new meaning.
Cast a line. Channel A River Runs Through It with fly-fishing at Westbank Anglers (Montana is just across the border, after all.). September and October are the best months to go: It’s less crowded, and you’re more likely to be successful. Head to Bridger Wilderness for a more remote experience: I spent a full day on a winding river, with the mountains in the distance, and not another soul in sight.
Saddle up (again) at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. Nothing beats the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar after a day of adventuring: I’ve shown up in muddy hiking boots after a long day in Yellowstone and fit right in. Fall is the time to experience the scene like a local, since the bar isn’t crowded with tourists. Saddle up at the bar (the stools are saddles), or head down to the dance floor to let loose—the live band is always excellent.
While Eagle Creek is here to provide tips and insights on travel, we cannot accept any responsibility for any potential consequences arising from the use of this information. Always conduct your own research and use your best judgment.
Related links (from Eagle Creek blog):
America’s Top Snowboarding Destinations
Best Places to Visit in February and March
Hit the Slopes: Ski at These Amazing National Parks