Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is one of the most beautiful places I have visited in the USA. The winter is a must for skiing and snowboarding. But there is so much more to do here! After 9 weeks of staying in Jackson during the coldest winter I have ever experienced, I have a laundry list of things you should try if you find yourself up here during the snowy season.
Difference between Jackson and Jackson Hole: Before you go, make sure you know the difference between Jackson and Jackson Hole. Basically Jackson is the town and Jackson Hole is the Valley. Tourists usually get confused by this, so be like the locals and know the difference!
What to do….
There are lots of shops, art gallerias and places to eat in town square. For the art lovers, almost all of the gallerias are free to go in and check out. Have a Sweet tooth? Stop by the Yippi I-O Candy Company for any type of candy you can imagine! Looking for some cheap, warm weather gear? Head to the Browse and Buy thrift shop for some cheap snow pants or gloves.
Right in the center of town you can find free 3 hours parking that wraps around town square. Don’t forget to stop underneath one of the famous antler arches, located at each corner of the square! The four of them are each made with real elk antlers. No, no elk we harmed in anyway to build these arches. They were all shed by Elk on the refuge.
Cowboy Bar (Free Swing Dancing!)
The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is a must for any tourist. They regularly have live country music and drink mixes you can only find at the Cowboy. Instead of bar stools they have saddles you can climb up on, or table if that is more your style.
On Thursday nights at 7:30pm the Cowboy Bar has free country swing dancing lessons. Whether you have been dancing for years or have two left feet, anyone is welcome to join in. There is always someone needing a partner so don’t worry about flying solo. The moves are easy to pick up and they start from scratch so whatever level you are, you can join in.
The Escape Room (Exitus)
One of the newest additions to Jackson is the Exitus Escape Room!
I have only been to one other escape room but this one takes the cake! I felt like I was in a live action video game! I don’t want to spoil the surprise so I wont say too much. What I will say it that it is SO worth it!
The Exitus just opened this past month. In fact, my group got to be the beta testers. However, I would have spent the $30 it costs to do it again. The rooms change from time to time so there are different adventures you can test out. Ours was a cabin in the woods. So, if you are looking for something new, or a rainy day activity, head to town square and check it out!
A big thing around here seems to be huckleberry. I’m not sure if it is a Jackson thing, or a Wyoming thing, but they seem to have Huckleberry flavored everything. The best treats would be huckleberry ice cream or huckleberry filled chocolates.
The Elk Refuge
The Elk refuge is a prime tourist spot. Where else would you be able to take a horse driven sleigh ride through a snowy field full of Elk?
You can purchase your $21.00 ticket at the visitors center along the road between town square and Teton National Park. From there, you hop on a bus and they will take you down the road to where the sleighs await. Climb aboard and take any seat. It wont matter where you sit, you will get a good view from anywhere. They have blankets on the sleigh but make sure to dress warm because it is cold!
You spend an hour or so watching and learning about the Elk. When your ride comes to an end, you can pet the magnificent horses who took you on your tour. From there you will be brought back to the bus and taken back to the visitors center.
Take some time to explore the visitors center. They have tons of information in regards to what to do and see around Jackson along with lots of souvenirs. If you make a trip upstairs you can learn a bit about the wildlife around the area as well.
Relax in the natural hot springs. Around Jackson there are natural hot springs that tourists and locals flock to in the winter. The most known one is the Granite Hot Springs. I’ve heard it is hard to get to in the winter and you need to take a snowmobile or dog sled. However, the ones we went to are the Astoria Hot Springs. Some of the locals we spent time volunteering with pointed us in the right direction and told us how to get there.
Since it is a local spot that the town would like to keep a secret, I wont be the one who posts the location online. However, if you ask some of the shop owners or workers they can point you there (*cough *cough, ask at the Cowboy Coffee). Or, if you are really interested send me a message and I’ll direct you to the right spot.
Fair warning, the springs are HOT! And they also reek of sulfur. Don’t worry, the smell will wash away eventually and you will get use to the heat if you tread in slowly.
Dog Sled Races
Find out when and where the dog sled races are! I have never seen dogs so excited to run in my entire life, but they absolutely love it!
We volunteered at the races and got to help set up and play with all the dogs! So give them a call and see if they are in need of volunteers. The dogs love the attention and it was a great experience. It was a blast and probably my favorite thing we did while in Wyoming.
Go Ice Fishing
I never got the chance to actually go ice fishing myself, but while driving around Teton National Park we got out to take a walk on the frozen lake and ran into some ice fishers. They had drilled a hole in the ice, and despite being out there all day they only caught one fish… and their tent had flooded. So, not a great day for them but it was cool getting to see them fish and hear their stories. (Another must: TALK TO THE LOCALS!)
Tubing at Snow King
If you want to have some fun in the snow but are not a skier or snowboarder, try snow tubing. It cost $20 for an hour for adults and $5 each additional hour. Grab a tube, get in line and let the ropes pull you to the top of the hill. From there you can hook up with your friends and ride down together, race each other, get a running start or just cruise down the hill solo.
Grand Teton National Park
The entrance to Grand Teton National Park is just a few miles down the road from town square. Not many of the roads are open during the season but there are at least two that you can drive down. Check the weather first because if you go on a cloudy day you wont see anything.
To enter the park in the winter it is $25 per vehicle (they do take passes or military ID). If you do not want to pay you can still see the Tetons by simply driving own the road that leads to the park entrances. (The photo below is IN the park.) Depending on where you go you may want to bring snowshoes or cross country ski. Trust me, the snow get deep.
The National Park offers free snowshoeing right below the Tetons! Strap on the shoes they provide and follow the park ranger for a short 2 hour trek and wildlife lesson in the park. Before you show up call ahead to reserve your spot. They do ask for a small donation of $5.00. While it is optional, please consider making the donation, as it goes to the upkeep and protection of the park.
If you do not shop up early (aka: are the last person there like I was) they may give you a pair of new snowshoes, which is not as cool, but still tons of fun.
Keep your eyes open for animals! There are so many different wild animals around Jackson Hole. While there we encountered deer, moose, mountain goats, bald eagles, and elk, there is still tons more to witness.
Just remember the animals are wild. Some may get close to you but please do not try to touch or feed them, for your safety and theirs. Whatever road you drive on you will see deer along the side. So drive slow and give wildlife a break!
(The deer below was sitting outside the library window. He couldn’t see inside the glass.)
Most people do not realize that, though it is winter, there is much more to do than ski while in Jackson Hole. The locals are great to talk to, the food is superb and the place itself will make you never want to leave.