Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is one of America’s finest destinations for skiing, but that’s not the whole story. The summer months are actually more popular among travelers thanks to many great warm-weather attractions. Here are our go-to things to do in Jackson Hole, regardless of season.
1. Hit the Town Square
If you’re visiting Jackson in summer, your first stop should be the town’s hub: George Washington Memorial Park. Commonly referred to as Town Square, the park is a gathering place for the community and one of the best ways to understand what Jackson is all about. With mountains visible in the distance and local institutions surrounding (yes, there’s a Starbucks too), this is a great place to lay out a picnic, relax with a book, or plan out your day’s itinerary. Each of the square’s four corners is decorated with a welcoming elk antler arch. Town Square hosts many of Jackson’s events, including Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival, Old West Brew Fest, and Town Square Lighting. Those looking for things to do in Jackson Hole can usually find them here.
2. Jackson Hole Museum
Jackson Hole Historical Society & Museum, just up the road from Town Square, is a great place to learn the ins and outs of this 200-year-old Wyoming town. The museum is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm. Go there to learn the history of some of the activities further down this list: the Jackson Hole Rodeo and the National Elk Refuge. Some of the current exhibits include The Art of the Hunt featuring some impressive deer mounts, and Early Agriculture and Dude Ranching which encapsulates the “last of the Old West” myth.
Skiing is the one of the first things people come to Jackson for, and that’s because Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is a consistent presence near the top of the world’s best ski resorts rankings. Jackson Hole may be known as an expert skier’s playground—half its trails are rated black/expert or higher—but it has an abundance of intermediate terrain too. It is nicknamed The Big One, and for good reason. JHMR boats 4,100 vertical feet of skiing, which is the greatest continuous rise in the United States. Corbet’s Couloir is its most famously difficult run, so steep that many visitors have to crawl to the edge to sneak a peek. Beginners shouldn’t feel discouraged however; Jackson Hole is known to have one of the best ski schools around so if you’re learning you’ll be in safe hands.
Where there’s legendary skiing, there’s usually legendary après-ski, and Jackson has some of the country’s finest. If you only go to one après-ski in town, it should be the famed Mangy Moose Restaurant & Saloon in Teton Village at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain. The 40-year-old Jackson institution has a great slopeside view and decor that hasn’t changed in years. The Moose has live music daily beginning at 4 pm for a family-friendly après filled with local beers and regionally sourced food. Later into the night, the place turns into a bit more of a party. Believe it or not, it’s a great avant-ski too, with fresh coffee and pastries starting at 7 am. Back in Jackson, Snake River Brewery is a popular spot for craft beer lovers, and Million Dollar Cowboy is a staple with a Wild West atmosphere.
5. Yellowstone National Park
The iconic national park is more than 100 miles north of Jackson, but it’s totally worth the drive. Yellowstone receives hundreds of thousands of visitors every year and many of those crowd into the park during the summer months. Consider making a spring or autumn visit to see the park with fewer other people around (and therefore better chance of spotting wildlife). Driving through the park is the easy way, but don’t skip out on jumping out of your car and hiking a trail or even just walking a boardwalk. Old Faithful is a park highlight: it’s a large geyser that erupts roughly 20 times a day, spewing about 130 feet of hot water in the air.
Pro Tip: head to the geyser first thing in the morning before the crowds arrive, then as they begin to take shape around Old Faithful, you’ll be on your way to the less crowded Yellowstone Lake. In the evening, try and spot bison and other wildlife, and then pick a spot for stargazing.
6. Granite Hot Springs
Thirty miles to the southeast of Jackson, Granite Hot Springs is nestled in the Gros Ventre Mountains (which translate from French to “big belly”). The natural springs are a place for comfort and relaxation, perfect for rejuvenating the muscles and the mind after an intense morning hike, which you can do in the mountain range. At 7,000 feet of elevation, the hot springs are also great to visit in the winter when they crank the water temperature up to 112℉ so you can warm up even with snow all around you. In winter, it becomes a bit more of an adventure; you can only access the pool via snowmobile, dog sled, skiing, or fat biking.
7. National Elk Refuge
One of the coolest things to do in Jackson Hole for animal lovers, the National Elk Refuge was built in 1912 as a sanctuary for one of the largest elk herds on the planet. Open 10 am to 4 pm daily, the park is just north of Jackson. One of the best ways to tour the refuge in the winter is by sleigh ride. The horse-drawn carriages navigate the refuge and offer amazing opportunities for photography, getting you up close and personal with the elks. While elks were the reason the refuge was established, there are other species to be seen here too. Majestic trumpeter swans, eight-foot wing spans and all, can be spotted year round. During a sleigh ride, you’ll likely be able to spot a bald eagle perched atop a tree, while packs of wolves are sometimes visible in winter.
8. Jackson Hole Cabin Rentals
The Jackson area is home to some of the finest accommodations for group vacations. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s Teton Village is a great place to stay whether you’re visiting for a winter ski trip or a summer getaway, for small groups or large. Some of the coziest Jackson Hole cabin rentals even offer ski-in-ski-out access. Heartwood Lodge offers direct access to Teewinot trail to get your ski day started, and an outdoor hot tub, fireplace, and heat lamps to end it in style. On the Elk Refuge is a perfect summer vacation home that, as the name suggests, is situated within the national park. The large, one-level home is a magical getaway when you’re looking for privacy, silence, and nature.
9. Ski-High Dining
In addition to Jackson Hole’s renowned après-ski spots, there are several good fine dining restaurants to know about when you’re looking for more than a cold drink and some music. One of our favorite ways to enjoy a lunch break or a dinner after a day on the slopes is to go back up to the top. The three-year-old Piste Mountain Bistro is a Bridger Gondola ride away, 9,000 feet above the ground. There, you’ll find a comfortable upscale atmosphere, delicious comfort food, and incredible Jackson Hole Valley views from the highest restaurant in Jackson. We suggest the Crispy Salad, a fan favorite, and one of their signature cocktails.
10. Jackson Hole Rodeo
The wildest thing you can do in Jackson would have to be the Jackson Hole Rodeo. The 100-year-old tradition traces back to the town’s cowboy roots. Located at the base of Snow King Resort, the rodeo takes place from May through August, two and sometimes three times a week. There are several different forms of competition to understand. Bronc riding is when the buck tries to throw the rider off its back; barrel racing is a timed event in which the horse and rider attempt to complete an obstacle course in the shortest time possible; and calf roping is where the rider, mounted on a horse, attempts to catch a calf by throwing a loop around its neck. Now that you know what to expect at the Jackson Hole Rodeo, you’re all ready to get your cowboy on.