Jackson Hole offers array of activities amid wildlife

Beyond skiing: fishing, kayaking, float trips, climbing — and Old Faithful

Bob Dunn

Jackson's Hole, notice the apostrophe on Jackson. This was the name of Jackson, Wyoming, in the early years. The town was named after David "Davey" Jackson who was a trapper back in 1829 (it was called this by his partner, William Sublette). Jackson and Sublette spent much of their time in the "hole" in the mountains. The "hole" was first settled by Jackson and Sublette, and they were joined by many French-Canadian trappers of the Hudson Bay Company. It is to this French-Canadian history that the area’s largest mountain peak, the 13,770-foot "Grand Teton," owes its name.

Les Trois Tetons--The Grand on left with Middle and South Tetons. (Photo Marianne Dunn)

For many years, the "hole" was the site for summer time rendezvous of the many trappers who converged on the area. After the fur trade ended the hole remained quiet until approximately the 1880s, when ranchers began to acquire spreads and raise cattle in the area, establishing the towns of Jackson, Kelly, Wilson, and Moran. Nearby Yellowstone became the nation’s first National Park in 1872, a full 18 years before Wyoming even became a state.

View of the valley from the top of Rendezvous Peak, Teton Village. (Photo Marianne Dunn)

The first ascent of the Grand Teton was in 1898 by William Owen. Jeff Crabtree, a friend with whom I skied this year, grew up in Jackson and has climbed the Grand many times and commented that it is quite an experience to reach the peak. I have never climbed to the peak of the Grand, but have hiked up to the point where it requires rock-climbing experience to go further -- and the hike even to that lower point is great, with outstanding views of the valley.

View of The Grand. (Photo Marianne Dunn)

The towns of Jackson Hole, Moose, Kelly, Wilson, Teton Village and Hoback are surrounded by National land: The Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, National Elk Refuge and Bridger-Teton National Forest. Nearly everywhere you turn, then, is pristine land for you to roam whether hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing.

Cross-country skiers on Jackson Lake with Mount Moran looking over them. (Photo Bob Dunn)

John D. Rockefeller purchased many acres of land in the area and donated it to the government for the expansion of Grand Teton National Park, though he held on to a large piece on the shore of Jackson Lake. He built a large hotel back in the 50's on this spot. The hotel is great and has a private setting on the lake, surrounded by the Grand Teton National Forest and looking up at the Grand Teton. It is open only in the summer, but it is a great place to stay or visit. The Grand Teton Park visitors’ center is open year round and is well worth a visit.

The author and friends descending Grand Targhee in perfect conditions. (Photo Marianne Dunn)

Snow King Mountain Ski Area in Jackson started in 1939 with a rope tow, and the original and longtime manager Neil Rafferty added a bi-cable chairlift (the first chair-lift in Wyoming) in 1946. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, located in Teton Village, was started in 1965 and is the largest ski area in the region, with many hotels and restaurants at its base. This is about 15 miles from downtown Jackson. The other great alpine ski area nearby is over Teton Pass to Driggs, Idaho, and Alta, Wyoming, with some wonderful skiing terrain and spectacular views from the west of the Tetons.

View from a distance of Jackson Lake and the Tetons.(Photo Marianne Dunn)

You’ll find a wide variety of activities in Jackson, regardless of the season. Summer: You have fishing, kayaking, float trips down the Snake River, mountain climbing, viewing the many unique sites such as Old Faithful and the 308-foot Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River. Be sure to hike down to the brink for some great views of the river and falls. On the way you will spot many buffalo and other wildlife along with the great number of hot springs. Fall: This season will provide all the above along with the ability to hunt and see the migration of the elk herds down to the refuge near the town of Jackson. Winter: Alpine skiing at the three resorts and many cross-country groomed and ungroomed trails along with sleigh rides through the elk refuge, snow mobile rentals to explore the outback and snow-shoeing. Spring: Wonderful with some great back-country alpine and cross-country skiing and, of course, fishing along with hiking and viewing the wonderful alpine flowers, especially to the west of the Grand in Alaska Basin.

Historical information acquired at the Jackson Town Library.

Internet sites that you should visit whether prior to a trip or to do a little dreaming are:







February, 2009