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Do Jackson Hole Like a Local: 5 Things Not to Miss on Your First Visit

Make the most of your trip with these five activities that are local favorites:

Written by Megan Schetzsle
 
 
Rugged, western, and beautiful–Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has a LOT to offer first-time visitors. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when planning a vacation to Jackson Hole; there’s so much to do and see that it’s hard to choose how to spend your time.
 
From a local’s perspective, these are the 5 activities that you won’t want to miss. From the mountains and wildlife to shops and restaurants, use this list as a guide to immerse yourself in the unique landscape of Jackson Hole.

 

Yellowstone National Park


Photo: Megan Schetzsle 

Yellowstone National Park is a must-see for any first-time visitor to Jackson Hole. It’s located just two hours north of town and features the iconic sights of Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Lamar Valley. There’s also a good chance that you’ll spot bison, elk, and bears in the park.
 
If it’s your first time to Yellowstone, exploring the whole park can be daunting. It’s easy to lose track of time and tempting to stop at every landmark. Maximize your time by picking the top features that you’d like to see and focus on them first.
 
Another option for discovering Yellowstone is guided tours. In summer, there are tours that drive you through Yellowstone, teaching valuable insights along the way. In winter, Yellowstone is closed except for guided tours via snowmobile or snowcat. These are also a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience the winter magic of Yellowstone and get close to its snow-covered features.
 
 

Grand Teton National Park

 
Photo: Megan Schetzsle

Sometimes overlooked for its neighbor to the north (Yellowstone National Park), Grand Teton National Park should not be missed on a first trip to Jackson Hole. In late spring through early fall, the park offers opportunities for hiking, biking, camping, and climbing that are unparalleled. Start with a hike up to Inspiration Point, and you’ll get a view of the Teton valley that is awe-inspiring.
 
Whether you are looking to climb the mountains or simply take a walk through their beautiful forests and flowers, make it a point to stop in Grand Teton National Park once you get to Jackson Hole.
 
It’s worth noting that in winter the park is closed except for a stretch of road past the park entrance. If you’d like to see the mountains and their wildlife up close, this is an option for doing so while there’s snow.
 
 
 

Town Square

 
Photo: Megan Schetzsle
 
 
No visit to Jackson Hole is complete without spending some time in Town Square. Surrounded by its iconic antler arches, Town Square has activities for everyone: restaurants, shopping, and specialty stores -- all with the Old West flair that Jackson Hole is famous for.
 
Take an afternoon or a day to walk around Town Square and explore all that the town of Jackson Hole has to offer. You can window shop, people watch, buy souvenirs, and taste local restaurants.
 
 

Elk Refuge

 
Photo: Megan Schetzsle
 
Once you arrive in Jackson Hole, you’ll quickly notice the Elk Refuge: it’s a giant expanse of land located just outside of town. From fall to spring, the Elk Refuge is home to thousands of elk. The elk spend the colder months on the refuge, where they receive supplemental feeding as needed.
 
The Elk Refuge makes the list of must-see activities because from fall to spring there are sleigh rides (in the snow) and wagon rides (once the snow has melted) that take you onto the refuge to view the elk. Seeing the elk with views of the Tetons in the background is a way to experience Jackson Hole like none other.
 
Visiting the Elk Refuge is also a fun family activity. It’s kid-friendly with plenty of entertainment on the sleigh and wagon rides as you learn about the area and the elk.
 
 
 

Teton Village


Photo: Megan Schetzsle
 
 
Teton Village is located at the base of the mountains, about 30 minutes from the town of Jackson.
 
In the winter, Teton Village is a skier’s paradise. If you’ve come to Jackson Hole to ski, this is where you’ll spend most of your time. But even if you aren’t here for the winter mountain sports, Teton Village still has a lot to offer. It’s full of restaurants and shops, all with beautiful views of the mountains.
 
In summer, stop in Teton Village for the chance to ride the famous Jackson Hole gondola to the top of the peaks. It’s worth the ticket price to experience an incredible view of the mountains. In 12 minutes, you’ll soar up to 4,139 vertical feet and get a 360 degree view of the Tetons. Don’t forget your camera and try to go on a clear day.
 
 
 

Megan lives with her husband and son in an 800-square-foot log cabin in Jackson Hole, WY. In search of a simpler pace of life, Megan & her husband took a leap of faith to pursue their own cabin dreams: they quit their jobs, sold what they own, and moved across the country from downtown Austin, TX to their mountain side cabin in Jackson Hole, WY.  You can read her blog here or follow her on Instagram here.

 

See also: Top Nine U.S. National Park Hikes