Jackson Hole is one of America’s most fabulous winter ski destinations, but the area really shines in summer, when you can go hiking, biking, rafting, or mountain climbing in and around Grand Teton National Park. The Tetons rise dramatically above this most beautiful of valleys where moose and bears roam free, and Yellowstone is just a short drive or flight away.
The Jackson Hole Airport is entirely contained within Grand Teton National Park, so a noise curfew is in effect. Study the airport’s recommended arrival and departure procedures and be extra mindful of density altitude on hot days. One summer morning, departing Runway 01 with five souls aboard a Cessna 210, we ate up a lot of the long runway and then had to slowly circle-climb northeast of the field before we could safely exit the valley.
The Snake River begins in Yellowstone and flows through Jackson Hole. South of Jackson, you can ride Class III rapids for eight miles as the river squeezes through the narrow Snake River canyon. Farther north, the Snake is calm. Scenic rafting trips let you relax, look for wildlife, or even stop for lunch or dinner. Bring your fly rod or hire a guide for great fishing at the foot of the Tetons. Hot air ballooning and rodeo all summer add to the fun. I always visit my all-time favorite museum, the National Museum of Wildlife Art. Each June at Plein Air Fest Etc., some 50 invited artists set up their easels on the sculpture trail overlooking the National Elk Refuge to create their one-day masterpieces. Attendees enjoy gourmet snacks, beer, and live music, and then the artworks are sold by silent bid, with proceeds to benefit the museum. Speaking of elk and auctions, each May brings the Elkfest and its huge elk antler auction, when shed antlers gathered on the refuge by Boy Scouts are sold to benefit Boy Scouts of America and the refuge.
For me, the best part of summer in Jackson Hole is exploring Grand Teton National Park. Try a morning hike to Taggart and Bradley lakes. You’re practically guaranteed to see deer or moose; I literally almost ran smack into a giant bull moose when running back down that trail. Four miles up the road is Jenny Lake, right below Grand Teton and Teewinot Mountain. Take the Jenny Lake Shuttle Boat across the lake and you can enjoy easy hikes along Jenny Lake’s far shore, to String Lake or Leigh Lake, or ascend Cascade Canyon. The historic cabins at Jenny Lake Lodge are elegant, private, and relaxing, while the romantic dining room offers breakfast, lunch, and a nightly rotating five-course prix fixe dinner menu.
About four miles north of Jenny Lake you’ll come to the much larger Jackson Lake and the Signal Mountain Lodge, Jackson Lake Lodge, and Colter Bay Village. The Jackson Lake Lodge ranks among those top national park lodges that are simply unforgettable, due to the architecture and scenic setting. The view when dining in the Mural Room is stunning—floor-to-ceiling windows reveal the Tetons rising above the sage (from my experience, only Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada, tops it). On another trip when we brought our kids, they loved the Pioneer Grill’s huckleberry milkshakes. We all stayed in a large, affordable, and fun, if slightly rustic, duplex cabin in Colter Bay Village. We also took them on a horseback ride from Colter Bay that included a chuckwagon dinner.
Scenery, wildlife, great food, and outdoor adventure: Summer in the Tetons just can’t be beat!
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