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A Grand Teton summerA Grand Teton summer

Jackson Hole, WyomingJackson Hole, Wyoming

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.

  • Summer brings lupine and other wildflowers to Jackson Hole. Mt. Moran and the Tetons, reflected here in the Snake River, will draw your gaze all day as you play. Photo courtesy JHMR.
  • The Grand Teton Lodge Company offers lunch, dinner, and scenic calm-water rafting trips. All include round-trip transportation from Jackson Lake Lodge to the Snake River. You'll raft a beautiful 10-mile section of the river inside Grand Teton National Park where wildlife sightings are common. Dine at Deadman's Bar, right along the river bank in the shadow of the Tetons. Photo courtesy GTLC.
  • A beautiful native cutthroat trout, just before it’s gently released back to the river. With over 80 miles of prime Snake River cutthroat trout habitat between Jackson Lake Dam and Palisades Reservoir, the Snake River in the Jackson Hole region is an incredible fishery and one of the last strongholds of native cutthroat trout in the Rocky Mountain West. Photo courtesy World Cast Anglers.
  • Another kind of float trip—hot air ballooning over Jackson Hole—provides an excellent way to spot wildlife, as animals tend to disregard the silent balloon overhead. Smell the fresh air, hear the birds, and take great photos without a windshield in the way. Photo courtesy Wyoming Balloon.
  • Jogging back down the trail from Bradley Lake, I nearly ran right into a bull moose in velvet exactly like this one and also feeding on willows, but I lacked a digital camera to record the event. I froze in place as he stared at me and then returned to feeding. Luckily it was August and not October, when he would have been in a far less generous mood. Moose are plentiful in the park. Photo by Alan English CPA via Flickr.
  • Yes, the buffalo roam the sage hills throughout Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park, just south of Yellowstone. The parks are linked via the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, so named because Grand Teton National Park probably wouldn’t exist at all if not for extremely generous donations of land from Rockefeller, who had the foresight to protect the land from development until it could be placed in trust for the enjoyment of all, in perpetuity. Photo courtesy JHMR.
  • Mama grizzly makes sure her cub is watching and following her as she looks both ways and crosses the highway. Grizzly bear numbers have begun to recover since the big bruins were placed on the endangered species list in the 1970s, but their future depends on continued protections and enough suitable, connected habitat to live in. Photo courtesy NPS.
  • Jenny Lake Boating provides shuttle services across Jenny Lake at the base of Teewinot Mountain. The shuttle boat eliminates a two-mile hike (each way) to the Cascade Canyon trailhead, thereby saving time and energy for your hiking day. Shuttles run every 10 to 15 minutes throughout the day. Photo courtesy Jenny Lake Boating.
  • The Jenny Lake Lodge is a AAA four-diamond resort at the foot of the Tetons. Their Signature Stay Package includes a full gourmet breakfast and nightly five-course rotating dinner menu, horseback riding, use of cruiser bicycles, and other complimentary guest activities. The historic cabins at Jenny Lake Lodge are a perfect blend of modern comfort and Old West charm. Choose between freestanding single-room log cabins, duplex cabins, or cabin suites that include a sitting parlor and wood-burning stove. Photo courtesy Grand Teton Lodge Company.
  • The rugged beauty of the Tetons makes every hike in them extra special. Photo courtesy JHMR.
  • Dam, it’s nice out here….go for an early-morning hike in Grand Teton National Park and you never know what you’ll see—a moose cow and calf, deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, or maybe even a beaver’s home. Photo courtesy JHMR.
  • The word is overused in travel writing, but "breathtaking" accurately describes the view out the 60-foot windows along the entire lobby of the Jackson Lake Lodge. Many people spend hours here or on the patio, just staring. Jackson Lake Lodge is a full-service, 385-room eco-hotel that offers fine dining, recreation, retail shops, a swimming pool, playground, and an exhibit featuring Native American artifacts and Western art. Photo courtesy Grand Teton Lodge Company.
  • Have you ever seen a more beautiful marina than this one at Colter Bay? Photo courtesy Grand Teton Lodge Company.
  • When we took our kids for a late afternoon/dinner horseback ride, the scene looked exactly like this. They loved every minute. Photo courtesy Colter Bay Corral.
  • Honestly….if you haven’t been here and seen this in person, you owe it to yourself and your family to go this summer! Stand among the arrowleaf balsamroot, soon to bring forth their cheery yellow flowers, smell the pines, and watch as another sunset lights up the jagged tips of the Tetons above Jackson Lake. Photo courtesy Grand Teton Lodge Company.

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.

Some of the world’s youngest mountains, the rugged Tetons lure accomplished mountain climbers from around the world. Even without prior climbing experience, if you’re in generally good condition, you can hire a guide and ascend the mighty Grand Teton. But if you just want a taste, check out the brand-new Via Ferrata at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR), about three miles west of the airport. First developed in the Alps, a Via Ferrata is a protected climbing route that allows relatively inexperienced climbers to access mountains safely. Metal rungs, cables, and bridges get you into the thrillingly steep terrain the Tetons are known for, without the risks typically associated with unprotected climbing and scrambling. JHMR offers accommodations, restaurants, and numerous activities for adults and kids. In 12 minutes the Aerial Tram whisks you up 4,139 vertical feet, where you can take a yoga class, hike, run, or just enjoy the phenomenal views, along with famous gourmet waffles in Corbet's Cabin.

After a couple of days’ training with the experts at Exum Mountain Guides, even novice climbers in good shape can tackle the classic climb to the summit of Grand Teton. Photo courtesy Exum Mountain Guides.

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.

The hike to Bradley and Taggart lakes begins in the open but soon climbs into thick stands of willow and then a pine forest. Photo courtesy NPS.

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!

JMHR’s Via Ferrata is an assisted climbing activity that takes you high above the valley floor, across suspended bridges, and along granite walls, all with a knowledgeable guide. Located just south of Grand Teton National Park, JHMR has many offerings that will give participants a day of family fun around Teton Village. Photo courtesy JHMR.

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Crista Worthy

Crista V. Worthy

Crista V. Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association. To suggest future destination articles, send an email to [email protected]
Topics: Travel, US Travel

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