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Crystal Butte Trail is up, up, up, but the views overlooking Jackson and the surrounding valley are worth the huffing and puffing. Photo courtesy of Zach Wolfel

First-Timer’s Guide: Jackson, Wyoming

This remote town is an adventurer's paradise.

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Remote, rugged, and bursting with creative energy, Jackson, Wyoming, should be on every traveler’s bucket list. (Fun bit of trivia: Though everyone refers to it as Jackson Hole, that’s a misnomer. “Hole” is an old-timey word once used to describe a valley surrounded by high mountains—so Jackson Hole really refers to the entire valley, not just the historic town.) Adventuring outdoors is a way of life here, thanks to Jackson’s proximity to two national parks (Grand Teton and Yellowstone), a ski resort, and Snake River’s rafting and fishing opportunities. But visitors would be missing out if they didn’t save some time for exploring the town’s incredible array of galleries, boutiques, and restaurants. Trust us: Jackson is worth the eight-hour drive.

The Odometer: 514 miles (one way)


Explore the Outdoors: Plan to spend a large portion of your vacation outside. Get the lay of the land with the 1.6-mile (one way) Crystal Butte Trail. Don’t let the manageable mileage fool you: The route gains 1,300 feet in elevation in that short distance, but the payoff is panoramic views of the valley and surrounding mountain ranges. True daredevils will want to book a walk along Jackson’s first via ferrata, which is expected to open this month. Those looking for a calmer outdoor excursion should take a drive through the National Elk Refuge on the edge of town; you’ll have the best luck spotting these regal creatures at dawn and dusk. Of course, there’s also mountain biking at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Snake River’s aquatic playground, and endless opportunities for adventures at the national parks.

Refuel: Persephone Bakery is our favorite spot to start the day, thanks to fresh-baked pastries and hearty toast options. Local Butcher is a great for grab-and-go lunches (box lunches start at $9.99). The Handle Bar beer hall at the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole is the place for après drinks and bites—even if it’s not ski season; this summer, the venue launches BBQ, Bourbon and Bluegrass, with selections of local bourbon and bluegrass bands. For dinner, go the steakhouse route at Local Restaurant & Bar, where the menu is brimming with local meat and game (elk chop, anyone?). Or head up to Teton Village to snag a table at Spur Restaurant at Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa. Executive chef Kevin Humphreys has been named Jackson’s best chef nine years in a row.

Have a Drink: You can’t visit a mountain town without downing some beers. Snake River Brewing delivers with a bustling atmosphere, engaging staff, and roster of award-winning beers. (True hop heads will want to take a slight detour on the drive into town to taste the offerings at Melvin Brewing in Alpine.) On the other end of the booze spectrum, The Rose is a true craft cocktail lounge, serving tipples in a dimly lit, speakeasy-esque space across the hall from the Pink Garter Theatre. And then there are the bar seats made from saddles and the impressive Wild West decor at Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, a true Jackson landmark; live music is often on tap.

Shop Around: Fantastic galleries and boutiques abound here. Peruse the breathtaking works at the 30-year-old National Museum of Wildlife Art; don’t forget to head outside to walk the 0.75-mile Sculpture Trail. Or simply wander the blocks surrounding town square and you’ll find a shop (or three) that strikes your fancy—from unique, locally made gifts at Made to Habits women’s boutique to Mountain Dandy‘s American-made wares for men and the home. Look out for the third storefront from Stio, a local outdoor clothing company, to open in Hotel Terra this winter.

Stay: Hotel Jackson opened in mid-2015 in town center. The 58-room boutique hotel has a sophisticated yet rustic mountain vibe, in-room Nespresso machines, and a rooftop whirlpool. For those looking to stay closer to the ski resort, check out Hotel Terra Jackson Hole in Teton Village. The eco-friendly, luxe accommodations are LEED-certified, feature organic mattresses, and are just steps away from some of Jackson’s most beautiful terrain.

 

If You Do One Thing: Plan your visit to coincide with the 2017 total solar eclipse (August 21). Jackson sits along the center line of the eclipse, meaning it offers prime viewing (or, er, darkness). Grand Teton will have designated viewing areas set up; the Four Seasons is hosting a private viewing party (which is now sold out); and lift rides to the summit of Snow King Mountain will also be available. Fine more eclipse-related events here.

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