Jackson Hole, Wyoming, sits in a valley bordered by the iconic Teton Mountains.

Wanderings: Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Many people never forget the first time they laid eyes on the Tetons. As one of the most iconic mountain ranges in the U.S., they tower over Jackson Hole, Wyoming, just south of Yellowstone National Park, with the Grand Teton standing tallest at 13,766 feet.

So, one can only imagine the look on Davey Jackson’s face when the intrepid explorer and fur trapper set eyes on these craggy peaks in the 1820s, becoming the first European to spend a winter in the valley. The area was eventually dubbed Jackson’s Hole — a “hole” referring to a deep valley surrounded by mountains. By the 1890s, most of the area’s settlers were cattle ranchers, and in 1894 the town was officially named and platted.

While it was once widely known for the world-class skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

The history of Jackson Hole is important because, in many ways, it defines the community that exists there today. It’s a place where ranchers coexist with hard-core outdoor adventurers, ski bums, and wealthy second homeowners; where Western dives and custom cowboy hat makers sit alongside upscale art galleries and high-end clothing stores; those donning fur coats can be spotted next to locals in duct-taped down jackets in winter; and a cowboy in chaps might be sitting at the bar next to an angler in damp waders come summer. In addition, as a gateway to Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks and a popular year-round vacation destination, Jackson Hole draws visitors from all over the world.

It’s this eclectic cultural fusion — along with the picturesque views and endless outdoor activities — that makes this mountain town unique.

The town has become a year-round destination with activities for every season.

A large draw is Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, which opened in 1964 and is iconic in the snowsports world. “Jackson Hole is still absolutely known as a hard-core ski town,” says Andrew Kruger, communications manager for the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce. “I’ve been all over the Mountain West, and, by far, this is the place I see the most talented skiers. But, as it’s developed, the arts and cultural scene has become really vibrant; there are national touring acts, world-famous artists — I can’t even tell you how many galleries — and a number of events. It’s become a year-round destination.”

Special events bookmark each season in Jackson Hole, and one of the hallmarks is the Fall Arts Festival, which highlights the work of Western wildlife and landscape artists (September 6-17, 2023). More than 50 events occur at galleries and other venues over 12 days, including art walks, an art fair, and a popular quick draw event.

Including the arts found at the National Museum of Wildlife Art and local galleries. It’s also a tourist hub for Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks.

Coinciding with the festival is the Western Design Conference Exhibit + Sale, which showcases the work of Western artisans and designers, and Western Visions, an exhibit and auction that benefits the National Museum of Wildlife Art. Perched on a butte overlooking the National Elk Refuge, the museum features the works of some of the most well-known figures in landscape and wildlife art — from Georgia O’Keeffe and Andy Warhol to Carl Rungius and John James Audubon — making it worth a visit any time of year.

The winter ski season is capped off by the Rendezvous Festival, featuring two days of free live music by noteworthy bands in the Town Square and at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Then, the summer season kicks off with Old West Days, a 10-day celebration of Western heritage with a parade, powwow, mountain man rendezvous, arts and crafts fair, and a brew fest and chili cook-off, among other things.

Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Wildlife Art and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

The quaint downtown has a colorful Wild West vibe, and is centered around the Town Square, where tourists line up for photos next to the renowned antler arches. It’s easy to spend a day walking the wooden boardwalks and perusing the various stores, galleries, and eateries. Stop into the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum to delve into the town’s history and join a walking tour, and top it off with a happy hour beverage at the famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, where a massive neon sign features a bronc rider.

The Snake River, just west of town, has both exciting whitewater stretches and Idyllic fly fishing spots. Photo: Kyle Vosmus

Mama Mimi — A giant troll made from recycled wood, steel, and driftwood by artist Thomas Dambo — was commissioned by Jackson Hole Public Art and sits in Rendezvous Park. Photo: Tanvi N. Patel

In the winter, Snow King Mountain offers a family-friendly alternative to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort close to downtown (with summer activities as well), and High Mountain Heli-Skiing leads powder seekers into the wild backcountry. In addition, there are groomed Nordic trails and sleigh rides through the National Elk Refuge.

The 24,700-acre National Elk Refuge was established in 1912 to protect one of the largest elk herds in North America and is a premier location for wildlife watching. Photo courtesy of Wyoming Office of Tourism

In the summer — aside from touring Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks — a number of other outdoor adventures abound. Outfitters offer whitewater and scenic floats on the Snake River, just west of town, along with guided fly fishing for all levels. Tour the backcountry on horseback, or hit the many nearby trails on foot or bikes. And, keeping with the ranching tradition, Jackson Hole Rodeo hosts evening events on Wednesdays and Saturdays from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, and some Fridays in July and August.

The picturesque Teton Range is a draw for visitors, photographers, and artists. Photo courtesy of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

A visit to Jackson Hole is destined to be a well-rounded one, with the Grand Teton observing from above.


Barker Ewing Whitewater
307.733.1000; barker-ewing.com

Center for the Arts
307.734.8956; jhcenterforthearts.org

High Mountain Heli-Skiing
307.733.3274; heliskijackson.com

Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce
307.733.3316; jacksonholechamber.com

Jackson Hole Historical Society & Museum
307.733.2414; jacksonholehistory.org

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
307.733.2292; jacksonhole.com

Jackson Hole Playhouse
307.733.6994; jhplayhouse.com

Jackson Hole Rodeo
307.733.7927; jhrodeo.com

Mangis Fishing Guides
307.733.8553; mangisfishingguides.com

National Elk Refuge Sleigh Rides
307.733.0277; nersleighrides.com

Snow King Mountain
307.201.5464; snowkingmountain.com

Willow Creek Horse Back Rides
307.733.7086; willowcreekhorsebackrides.com


Altamira Fine Art
307.739.4700; altamiraart.com

Astoria Fine Art
307.733.4016; astoriafineart.com

Diehl Gallery
307.733.0905; diehlgallery.com

Fighting Bear Antiques
307.733.2669; fightingbear.com

Gallery Wild
307.203.2322; gallerywild.com

Horizon Fine Art Gallery
307.739.1540; horizonfineartgallery.com

Mountain Trails Gallery
307.734.8150; mtntrails.net

National Museum of Wildlife Art
307.733.5771; wildlifeart.org

A RARE Gallery
307.733.8726; raregalleryjacksonhole.com
Tayloe Piggott Gallery
307.733.0555; tayloepiggottgallery.com

Turner Fine Art
307.734.4444; turnerfineart.com

West Lives On Gallery
307.734.2888; westliveson.com

Wilcox Gallery
307.733.6450; wilcoxgallery.com


307.734.7333; amangani.com

Brooks Lake Lodge
307.455.2121; brookslake.com

The Cloudveil
307.699.6100; thecloudveil.com

Hotel Jackson
307.733.2200; hoteljackson.com

Inn on The Creek
307.739.1565; innonthecreek.com

Teton Mountain Lodge
307.201.6066; tetonlodge.com

The Wort Hotel
307.733.2190; worthotel.com


Blue Lion
307.733.3912; bluelionrestaurant.com

307.201.5026; coelette.com

Gun Barrel Steak & Game House
307.733.3287; jackson.gunbarrel.com

Jackson Drug
307.201.1275; jacksondrug.com

Million Dollar Cowboy Steakhouse

Mural Room at Jackson Lake Lodge
307.543.2811; gtlc.com/dining/mural-room-jackson-lake-lodge

Snake River Grill
307.733.0557; snakerivergrill.com

Il Villaggio Osteria
307.739.4100; jhosteria.com

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