It’s the wild, wild West, and you just want to let your inner cowboy, or cowgirl, loose this summer. Or is it inner cowperson? You get our drift. Vast open land. Old country-western towns. Ten-gallon hats. You’re going big, or going home. Your kids may not have camp this summer, but if you play your cards right, you can make your own summer camp. But elevated — horseback riding through the Snake River Ranch, fly-fishing on private concessions, floating down the river on a dinner boat and hiking in the majestic Grand Teton National Park.
It’s the wild, wild West, and you just want to let your inner cowboy, or cowgirl, loose this summer. Or is it inner cowperson? You get our drift. Vast open land. Old country-western towns. Ten-gallon hats. You’re going big, or going home. Your kids may not have camp this summer, but if you play your cards right, you can make your own summer camp. But elevated — horseback riding through the Snake River Ranch, fly-fishing on private concessions, floating down the river on a dinner boat and hiking in the majestic Grand Teton National Park. And, of course, a not-roughing-it place to stay. Welcome to Jackson Hole.
Jackson Hole, a valley between the Teton Mountain Range and Gros Ventre Range, is home to the towns of Jackson, Kelly, Moose, Moran, Wilson and Teton Village. Jackson is the seat of Teton County, also known as one of the wealthiest zip codes in the United States. The people here sitting next to you may be wearing scuffed-up cowboy boots and unassuming denim, but they are likely among the heavy hitters who have figured out the end game and call this place home, at least for part of the year. When landing in Jackson Hole, you quickly figure it out. It’s the only airport in the US located in a national park. There are many beautiful places in the United States, but this is definitely top five.
Good For: Couples, families, singles, solo travelers, groups of friends. Come one, come all — Jackson Hole has something for everyone.
When to Go: The summer is high season for Jackson Hole, as there is something for everyone to do, whether your athletic ability is 0 or you’re off the charts at 10+. The winters are more challenging unless you a proficient skier, in which case, they have some of the best skiing in the region.
Suggested Stay: At least four days, or stay the summer like a lot of visitors do. The happy medium is a week because, unless you’re flying private, there are not a lot of direct flights to town.
Four Seasons Jackson Hole
Where to Stay: This depends on the season and your reason for being in Jackson Hole. If you’re an avid skier and it’s wintertime, Teton Village at the base of the ski slopes should be your home. The Four Seasons, at the base of the gondola, is as ski in, ski out as it gets and is a quintessential, polished experience from start to finish. If you’re here for summer, the Four Seasons is also a good value for the combination of service, rooms, location (close proximity to Grand Teton National Park) and food. In general, the food (more on that later) in Teton Village is nothing to write home about, but the Four Seasons is one of the exceptions. Their breakfasts are the best in town, with the huevos rancheros as a standout. They also do a stellar seafood tower, which gives you just the right amount of indulgence while staying on the healthier side of things.
If you’re up for spending $2,500+ nightly in Teton Village, Caldera House, at the base of the tram, is where the likes of the Kardashians have stayed. It is the most expensive place to stay in town, and the art — including works by part-time local resident Jessica Lichtenstein — is off the charts. If the billionaires behind the development had their way, there probably wouldn’t be a hotel, but alas, it’s how they scored such a coveted location.
For summer, if you’re looking for the most spectacular view in the entire region, Amangani, which means “peaceful home,” is your spot. Up on a mountain and facing the surrounding mountains, it doesn’t get any better. If you do nothing but sit by the pool (get the two loungers directly facing the Grand Tetons), you still will have the essential Jackson Hole experience. The common areas of the hotel are showstopping, from the entrance with its grand views of the surrounding mountains to the coziest of living and library areas for “working from home” or capping off an evening. Suites are generously sized, especially for Jackson accommodations, even at the entry level, and have large terraces. Executive Chef Andrew Walters has taken over the helm of the kitchen, having ascended from line cook, and is creating the best food in Jackson. Right now, the hotel, spa and restaurant is only open to guests, yet another reason to make Amangani at least a two-night stay on your circuit.
In town, the best hotel, hands down, is the boutique Hotel Jackson, located right around the corner from the Jackson Hole Playhouse, the oldest building in the area, which has kept much of its history as the original post office, a car dealership, a horse stable and even a bowling alley intact. The hotel’s service is unassuming and genuine; they want to help you in any way they can. Rooms are all new and spick-and-span clean. The location just can’t be beat for exploring town and, when times go back to normal, for stumbling back from Silver Dollar Bar, where locals and visitors alike stay late into the night. The town of Jackson is the definition of charming, well worth spending a night in and waking up early for breakfast at Cultivate Cafe.
What to Do:
Hiking. Get up close and personal with the outdoors, whether that’s taking in the views or conquering the mountains. You can climb the Grand Teton, which at 13,000+ feet takes around eight hours and is an advanced level of difficulty. Or you can drive through the national park and take selfies along the way. Choose your own adventure. For something in the middle of those options, there are a number of manageable hikes in the two- to four-hour range, including Jenny Lake and the ascent to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point.
Horseback riding. Aside from hiking, let loose that inner cowperson we were talking about and get on a horse. You are in Wyoming, after all. The cowboys are expert guides, and you can ride into the foothills of Teton Village with Teton Village Trail Rides, or head up by Amangani, where you already start with a magnificent view, to ride at Spring Creek Ranch.
Getting your fly-fishing on. You can fish from a drift boat, in which case you cover a lot of area, or you can go old-school and hike through the most beautiful private ranch concessions, wade knee-deep into waters and feel like you’re in a scene from A River Runs Through It. Either way, hit up Grand Fishing Adventures, which has the inside track to the best private spots and Clay Moorhead, a guide who has way more patience than should ever be expected, even with the least-skilled fishermen and women (speaking for a friend he took out, of course). Read our article on Fly-Fishing 101 here.
Biking. There are trails for every level, from flat paths that run for miles to some serious single track mountain biking.
Stand-up paddleboarding. This is a local’s favorite activity. Even with the throngs of people during the 4th of July weekend, there still were hidden, totally isolated spots to discover. Know though, if you fall in, the water is cold, so bring someone experienced with you.
White water rafting. Also like biking, you can do the Driving Miss Daisy route all the way up to Level 5 rapids, which are the ultimate adrenaline rush.
Checking out Jackson town. Jackson feels like it’s right out of a country-western movie. Stop by Silver Dollar Bar for the artichoke-and-spinach dip along with a whisky cocktail, and every day at 4 p.m., head over to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, saddle up (the bar stools are literally saddles) and order a drink like a boss. The shopping is good; we like Belle Cose for clothing and especially homewares. Also, buying a custom cowboy hat from Encounter Hat Co. and picking up a pair of real cowboy boots should be on your to-do list.
Skiing. In winter, ski, ski and ski. While they’ve created more beginner-friendly trails, we would categorize these runs as more advanced than bunny hill. Great skiers love the terrain here, and winter is a value as it’s actually the low season.
Snake River Grill
What to Know: When you’re out in nature not near anyone, it’s as if the pandemic were from some strange airplane movie and not reality. When you’re around others, a mask is required. The sad part is not everyone wears a mask, and those that don’t are usually from one of the states experiencing high infection rates right now. Because of that, try to avoid being indoors too long and opt for outdoor seating whenever you can. As of publication date, restaurants are closing around 10 p.m., so it’s relatively chill with a more early-to-bed, early-to-rise vibe. Reservations are a must for dinner, otherwise you’ll be stopping for a slice somewhere in lieu of enjoying the charming atmosphere of Jackson.
Where you stay will dicatate if you’re spending upwards of $100/night round trip on Ubers. If you’re staying in Teton Village, it’s spotty on Uber, so it’s better to use the local taxi service to pick you up. Ubers are easy within the town of Jackson though, but as mentioned, the expense adds up. You’ll need a car for the daytime excursions as it’s much more convenient to have your own wheels versus doing pickups by your tour guide or relying on taxis.
Food is fuel in Jackson, so the style is more home-cooked meal versus fancy or elevated dining. They shine more in tacos, pizza and local handmade snacks, like Kate’s Tram Bar, a sweet and salty classic. Persephone is the local coffee shop with a lovely café. Level set your expectations on the food experience, which is good overall but doesn’t tip the scales at great, like you may get in Aspen. Some discerning locals will most often eat at their private clubs or at the homes of those within their social circle, occasionally dining out at Snake River Grill, the exception to the town’s casual scene. The room at Snake River alone makes the restaurant a must for any first-time or regular visitor, as it’s The Polo Bar equivalent in town. Too bad Ralph doesn’t have a ranch in this part of the world, as The Polo Bar would fit right in.
The Nutshell Restaurant List
Amangani – Farm-to-table, clean, elevated, fine dining cuisine
Bin22 – Wine bar where you buy a bottle from their wine shop and enjoy it with small bites like cheese and simple appetizers
Cultivate Cafe – Local café located in the Jackson Hole Playhouse, with vegan and gluten-free options
FIGS, at the Hotel Jackson – Good Lebanese food
Gather – Always packed and one of the more lively outdoor atmospheres, though food may not always be consistent without the top chef in town
Glorietta – The local Italian neighborhood spot where fresh pastas are the star
Hatch – Casual, good tacos and guacamole
Il Villaggio Osteria – Simple Italian in Teton Village for thin-crust pizzas, hearty pastas, fish and steaks
The Kitchen – The one restaurant in town striving to elevate their cuisine
Local – This is where you should go to get your meat sweats on — as in, order up plates of meat to share for the table
Mangy Moose – In Teton Village, renowned for drinks and après ski, along with live music
Paulie’s – An old-school Italian steakhouse below the famed Cowboy Bar
Persephone – Your new favorite local coffee shop; they have emergency s’mores kits — seriously
Snake River Grill – The one meal you should have as a first-time visitor or whenever you want to elevate your food experience in a beautiful dining room
Trio – A local’s favorite dining spot; food is solid, and they’re beautifying their outdoor space at the time of this article’s publication
Westbank Grill, at the Four Seasons – The best food in Teton Village