When Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful,” he might as well have been referencing Jackson, Wyoming, the western mountain town that serves as the gateway to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. It’s where purple mountain majesties aren’t just something you sing about, where false-front storefronts aren’t just replicas on an HBO set, where Ansel Adams found a muse in the Snake River, where the buffalo roam and there’s plenty of homes. (They just cost, uh, millions of dollars. Hello, tax haven!) Even the flight there has a certain transcendental splendor: the Jackson Hole Airport is the only commercial airport in the United States set inside a national park.
With international travel out of reach for the majority of Americans, this classic American vacation destination is seeing a resurgence in visitors (which, in this pandemic age, is a mixed blessing). For those who are suddenly inspired to go west, here’s Vogue’s guide to Jackson, Wyoming, whether you’re visiting in the summer, winter, fall, or spring. (Although for those latter two seasons, which are considered the off-season, know many places may be closed.) Always check with the locale tourism board before traveling, and wear a mask—in Jackson, they’re required.
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Where to Stay
Perfect for: The Group Ski Trip
Caldera House is not your traditional hotel: partly because traditional hotels don’t boast framed Ansel Adams photographs and Lindsey Adelman light fixtures, and also because it only offers two-or-four bedroom suites. Impeccably designed and right at the base of Jackson Hole mountain, it’s both lavish and conveniently located. Plus, with its private après ski lounge complete with fire pits, plunge pool, and locker room, Caldera House also feels a bit like a private club—if Soho House went snow. And, if this kind of thing matters to you: Gigi Hadid and the Kardashians stayed here!
Perfect for: The Millennial Adventurer
Located in Jackson town, the Anvil Hotel is a modern take on the rustic rancher’s getaway: there’s iron cast bedframes and woolen blankets, yes, but also stylish bath products and Justin’s Peanut Butter cups in the minibar. (The design is by Studio Tack, which also did the recently-opened Lake House on Canandaigua. They were asked to live in Jackson for a full year before embarking the project.) Bonus? The restaurant Glorietta is on site (but more on that later).
Four Seasons Jackson Hole
Perfect for: Families
With a heated, year-round pool, a kids club complete with foosball and X-box, ski-in, ski-out access, and a very close proximity to Jackson Hole’s famous bungee trampoline, Four Seasons Jackson Hole is the preeminent place to say if you have little ones. Adults will have plenty of fun too: the rooms are spacious and warm, the food, excellent, and there’s a spa perfect for a post-hike massage.
Jackson Home Company
Perfect for: The Long-Term Rental
Looking to stay in Jackson for awhile? The Jackson Home Company is offering impeccably-designed homes, adorned in a neo-western style, right at the base of Snow King Mountain. The minimum rental period is one month.
Perfect for: The Self-Sustaining Holiday
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some travelers are opting for homes over the luxury hotel stay, as it provides more privacy and gives you more control over your environment. In Jackson, Airbnb offers dozens of home that qualify for their Airbnb Luxe tier: this home in Teton Village is the ultimate place for powder-hounds, whereas this charming lodge is perfect for those looking to immerse themselves in nature. And, if you want to go all out—this cabin, set among a rocky ridge, has breathtaking views of Jackson’s sprawling wilderness.
What to Do
Go wild in Grand Teton National Park
This entry is almost too broad, but no trip to Jackson is complete without a trip through this miraculous wonder. Go paddle boarding at String Lake, a tranquil body of water with spectacular views of the mountain, or take a hike on the Solitude Lake Trail. Rent an e-bike and ride to Jenny Lake. Hell—if you couldn’t tell, any activity that involves a lake is a wonderful idea. Soak in the splendor of the mountain tops, especially Sleeping Indian. And keep a lookout for animals along the way: it’s almost statistically impossible to see a moose, elk, or buffalo while you’re there. (Although, if you’re back-country hiking: make sure to pack some bear spray.)
Ski Jackson Hole
Jackson Hole Mountain resort is one of the hardest mountains in North America, with only 10 percent of its terrain meant for beginners. But for the intermediate to advance skiers, it’s a challenging, adventurous dream. If you’re a (skilled and experienced) risk taker, descend Corbet’s Couloir, which, with its steep, rocky drop-in, is known as “America’s scariest ski-run.”
Climb the Via Ferrata
In the summertime, skiing is off the table, but adrenaline junkies can still get a rush climbing Jackson’s Via Ferrata. (For the uninitiated, the Via Ferrata is a route that allows you to scale rock faces with cables and steel rungs.) There’s beginner, immediate, and advanced routes, with challenging man-made obstacles thrown in for fun: think suspension bridges, or a 35-foot vertical “sky ladder.”
Visit Mormon Row
Tucked off the Antelope Flats Rd is Mormon Row, a collection of abandoned structures that date back to the 1890s. Not only is it a preeminent example of classic western homestead architecture, but one of the best views you can see without hiking: its plains flow seamlessly into the Tetons.
Where to Eat
Old Yellowstone Garage
You can order high, you can order low, but you can’t order wrong at Chef Jeremy Williamson’s Old Yellowstone Garage in Teton Village, which serves fine dining dishes like oven roasted quail . . . but also pepperoni pizza. (Hey, after a long day on the slopes, sometimes a slice just hits the spot.)
Located at the Anvil Hotel, Glorietta can best be described as an Italian-Western trattoria: what else would you call a restaurant that serves elk bolognese, grilled trout with heirloom tomatoes, and mozzarella sticks with pomodoro? For drinks, order a Sardinian spritz, or if you need something stronger, the Garibaldi.
Need to warm up when it’s below freezing? A spicy dish from Teton Thai in Teton Village should do the trick. Bonus: if you’re staying in a home rental, it makes for perfect takeout.
No trip to Jackson would be complete without a stop at Persephone, the charming bakery that’s a 2020 James Beard award nominee for best pastry chef. If you’re stopping by for lunch, order the fried chicken or mortadella sandwich. Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with a turmeric latte and a pack of their double chocolate walnut cookies.
Picnic is a café in West Jackson from the same team behind Persephone. The warm and airy design, done by local firm E/YE Design, took inspiration from what they describe as the “Jackson uniform”: used denim. It’s open for breakfast and lunch, and you can’t go wrong with anything on its health-focused menu. Especially the “Jackson Hippie” breakfast sandwich, which may or may not helped with this writer’s serious hangover.
The Grill at Amangani
For a special occasion, go to the Grill at Amangani, which is set upon a sprawling vista overlooking the Snake Valley. It offers sustainable ranch meats and farm-to-table cuisine.