Get Your Cowboy on in Jackson Hole

Northwestern Wyoming is a recreational paradise. Hiking, wildlife watching, photography, fishing, rafting, skiing. Rodeos, dude ranches, hot springs. So much beauty concentrated in such a relatively small, relatively remote area. Most come for the national parks, Yellowstone (our nation’s first, covering over 2 million acres and hosting over 3 million visitors annually) and Grand Teton (301,000 acres, with 2.6 million visitors annually). For excellent access to the parks, plus a wide array of shops, services, and lodging, many stay in the town of Jackson.

Elk antler arches mark the Town Square.
Elk antler arches mark the Town Square.

“Jackson” or “Jackson Hole?”
It’s a simple distinction. The town is Jackson; the valley in which the town is situated is Jackson Hole. Jackson Hole is bordered by the Teton Range and the Snake River.

The town of Jackson centers on its Town Square, which is bordered by E. Broadway to the south, E. Deloney to the north, N. Cache to the west, and Center St. to the east. Broadway is the town’s main east-west thoroughfare, as well as the road you use to get to Teton Village, Wilson, and points south. It changes from East to West Broadway at Cache St. Cache is the main north-south thoroughfare and the road you use to get to the Jackson Airport and the main entrance to Grand Teton National Park. It changes from South to North Cache at Broadway.

You can’t miss the Town Square, with its characteristic giant arches made entirely of elk antlers, one on each of its four corners. It’s a good place to start if you want to check out the central gallery, shopping and saloon scene. If you arrive in the off season, like I did, you might even find a place to park on or near the square! In high season (summer or ski season), don’t count on it. Jackson is nothing if not tourist-friendly, however. Parking lots and public restrooms are available at King and Deloney and at Gill and Center, each a short walk from the Square.

Author gets her cowboy on sitting on a saddle seat.
Author gets her cowboy on sitting on a saddle seat.

Watering Holes And Grub
While you’re at the Town Square, unless you are just too uppity to enjoy some unabashed tourist kitsch, you’ll probably visit the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. You’ll probably sit on those iconic, authentic western saddle bar stools (you know you want to). You’ll probably order a bottle of beer (because there are no taps). And you’ll take a photo, like I did. All of the above. It’s cute. But don’t eat there.

Jackson has a plethora of not just good, but bordering on great, restaurants. Many are closed in the shoulder season, but two I can wholeheartedly recommend are Local (a contemporary steakhouse with seasonally inspired food and a killer beer and wine selection, adjacent to the Million Dollar) and Nikai Asian Grill and Sushi Bar (sushi in Wyoming? Darned straight, and it’s outstanding. Block and a half north of the square on Cache).

In season, the options are wide open. Take the Bridger Gondola from Teton Village (the ski village just outside Jackson proper) to the Rendezvous Lodge at 9,095 feet elevation and dine at Couloir. The Snake River Grill has a fine reputation for upscale, romantic dining. Pizza, Thai, and other casual dining options abound.

If you’re cooking in (our condo had a great kitchen), treat yourself to something exotic from the Jackson Hole Buffalo Meat Company. Our buffalo tenderloin with morels we picked ourselves was outstanding, so we followed it up with elk rib eyes the next night. Hiking makes you hungry!

Elk rib eye: It’s what’s for dinner.
Elk rib eye: It’s what’s for dinner.

Things to do
It’s easy to spend an entire week in either Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park. Seeing both is a bargain, if you only want to hit the high points. Joint admission to the parks is $25 per vehicle ($12 for individuals hiking or bicycling) and is valid for 7 days (in 2015). With that kind of entertainment at your doorstep, I don’t see much need for anything else.

But if you tire of hiking, or for a rainy day respite, Jackson is a good place for shopping, whether low-key souvenir stores, funky second-hand shops, upscale clothing boutiques, or artwork at one of its many fine galleries. If you need replacement hiking, camping, skiing, or other outdoor adventure gear, you can find it all here. If shopping’s not your bag, try a few hours at the National Museum of Wildlife Art or a quick trip to the 1880s at the Jackson Hole Museum.


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