Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in our Octrober 2017 issue. This version was fact-checked and updated (where possible) with current information for the 2018 edition of 5280 Traveler.
Jackson, Wyoming, typically gets its first snow in mid-to-late September, which makes leaf-peeping all the more spectacular. Typically, though, powderhounds don’t crowd Jackson until November. Translation: Once the summer travelers are gone, you can have this remote, charming Rocky Mountain town mostly to yourself.
See The (Artistic) Sights
Built into a hill that overlooks the National Elk Refuge (see “Meet The Locals”), the National Museum of Wildlife Art of the United States is home to more than 5,000 works, including pieces by artists of renown such as Georgia O’Keeffe and John James Audubon. Save time to head to nearby Grand Teton National Park, where you can attempt your best Ansel Adams impression at the same overlook where he captured his famous “The Tetons and the Snake River” in 1942.
Meet The Locals
One of Jackson’s best attributes is its proximity to natural areas (Yellowstone National Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest), which makes wildlife sightings likely. The National Elk Refuge, for instance, is home to roughly 47 mammal species, including one of the largest wintertime elk herds in North America. Tip: You’ll have the best luck spotting these creatures from midday to dusk.
You won’t have any trouble scoring an endorphin rush on the 100-plus miles of hiking and mountain biking trails near downtown, but the real adrenaline buzz rests with Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s new via ferrata (pictured above). (Via ferratas are essentially paths along mountainsides or cliffs that are protected with cables and rungs so climbers can experience thrills without the danger of falling.) Choose from three loops that range from beginner to advanced; the more difficult routes include a precarious walk along a 120-foot-long suspension bridge.
Drop Some Dough
For quirky shops, you’ll want to point your cowboy boots toward Gaslight Alley, a strip of locally owned boutiques in the center of downtown. Our favorite stores are Mountain Dandy for barware, Made for hilarious cards, and Crazy Horse Jewelry for statement turquoise pieces. And if you’re staying in Teton Village, check out the newest location of Stio Mountain Studio for a gear-closet update.
Grab A Bite
The scent of freshly baked dough will draw you in the front door of seven-year-old Persephone Bakery. The creative salads, made with vegetables from the Vertical Harvest greenhouse nearby, will persuade you to stay for lunch. (Don’t leave without some bread, which is prepared daily using regional wild yeast.) For dinner, we recommend Local Restaurant & Bar, a modern steak house that’s as focused on responsible food sourcing as it is on a perfect char.
Spend happy hour at Bin22, a wine bar, bottle shop, and specialty market that hums with after-work crowds clinking wine glasses and noshing on items from the tapas menu. Hop heads will prefer a pint at Snake River Brewing, Wyoming’s oldest brewery, while spirit connoisseurs can appreciate the craftsmanship at the Rose, a dimly lit cocktail lounge serving expertly mixed tipples.