Where to Begin is a series of destination guides that help you get started when you’re going somewhere new.
There are a number of stylish alpine resort towns in the American West, but only one can boast of having an airport inside a national park. Jackson Hole aims to stand above the competition, and wastes no time making a strong first impression. As your plane sets down among the jagged peaks of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, you’ll quickly understand why this mountain valley has become a wilderness escape for the rich and famous — a country-luxe getaway where rugged camping and animal safaris stand comfortably alongside fine dining and finer ski resorts. Forget both worlds — Jackson Hole is the best of all worlds.
Here’s where to begin in Jackson Hole:
IF YOU WANT THE “OLD” WEST:
Though Jackson Hole’s “new” West is represented by celebrities like Kanye, who camped out there for much of 2018, its old version still has plenty of cultural cachet. When Chinese developers wanted to create something like a real-life Westworld outside of Beijing, they used Jackson Hole as a model. There’s even a “Cowboy Bar” that’s an obvious spin on Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, Jackson’s most famous watering hole. The Jackson original is a bit touristy, but it’s still the place to get your fill of old western decor, and comes complete with swing dancing, country music, and horse saddles for bar stools. Other Western classics in the town of Jackson include the elk antler arches in the town square, the Jackson Hole Rodeo, and the National Museum of Wildlife Art, which features over 5,000 pieces from artists spanning centuries of the region’s history.
IF YOU DABBLE IN THE FOOD SCENE:
The Snake River Grill, with its steak tartare pizza, gets the most attention for upscale dining in Jackson Hole and credit for putting “Jackson Hole on the culinary map.” But the thriving food scene demands further visits to the inventive American bistro Trio, the French-inspired Persephone Bakery, and the brunch-famous Café Genevieve. If you want a rec from Kanye, he’d probably tell you to order from Big Hole Barbecue — perfect for catering a campfire album listening party.
IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR WILDLIFE:
Jackson Hole is a land of hip holsters packed with bear spray. So if you’re seeking animals, our recommendation is to go for the elk. Not that the 700-pound beasts are necessarily docile, but a guide at a place like the National Elk Refuge can help you get a close, safe look. The refuge was established to provide a home for the Jackson Elk Herd, about 5,000 of which tend to migrate to the refuge in the winter — so this is largely a seasonal activity. Especially if you opt for the horse-drawn sleigh ride, a particularly popular way to get near the animals (apparently, the elk have become accustomed to it over 45 years of visits).
IF YOU TAKE ONE HIKE:
Yellowstone has more name recognition, and you can/should pair your Jackson Hole trip with a visit there. But the Grand Teton National Park has much of the same on offer, including wildlife safaris and plentiful hiking trails. (All that’s missing are the thermal pools.) One of the more popular options is to start at the impossibly scenic Jenny Lake, pass the impossibly scenic Hidden Falls waterfall, and carry on to the impossibly scenic Inspiration Point. Similarly thrilling hikes exist across all levels of strain. Additionally, the area boasts excellent whitewater rafting, snowshoeing, and — for the wild ones — backcountry skiing. When you’ve had your fill, continue your nature explorations 60 miles from Jackson in Yellowstone.
IF YOU PLAN TO VISIT IN WINTER:
So you’re here to ski. We get it. This is a skier’s paradise, after all, famous for its advanced terrain and backcountry runs. Plus, in recent years new runs have made it possible for a beginner to enjoy the slopes here without noticeable heart palpitations. You have three options when it comes to buying a lift ticket: Snow King Mountain, Grand Targhee, and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort — the local historic one, the out-of-town one, and the legendary “big one,” respectively. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort gets most of the attention, with one of the longest descents (4,139 feet) in the country.
Jackson Hole is unlike any other destination, and the hotels featured on Tablet are unlike any other hotels. You know where to start when it comes to unique local attractions — now it’s time to discover where you should stay.
A no-frills motel upgraded into something stylish, the Anvil delivers throwback style without kitsch, a retro unpretentiousness reminiscent of all the current hip, youth-market boutiques, and one that comes with solid and comfortable rooms and thoughtfully selected snacks and drinks. On that note, the Anvil’s sure to get in on the hot culinary scene with their Italian restaurant, Glorietta, which features a cocktail menu from New York’s Death & Co.
The rare ski lodge that focuses both on physical comfort anddesign, the Caldera House is a luxury hotel that turns the rustic textures of wood, stone, and leather into something refined, contemporary, and faultlessly stylish. As for the comforts, the suites are outfitted to the latest five-star standard, and then some, a full-on “alpine club” complete with members’ lunge, expansive spa, and a gear shop for rentals, fittings, and equipment. Not to mention, the lift is right next door.
Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole
A perfectly straightforward American ski resort on the outside, on the inside you can safely expect the trademark elegance of the typical Four Seasons, with guest rooms in a restrained Western style that’s one hundred per cent contemporary-luxe in function. Gas fireplaces, home theatre systems, spa-like bathrooms and, outside the rooms, an actual spa that’s as lavish as it gets.
On the map as one of the most luxurious and interesting resorts long before Kanye chose it as his personal pied-à-terre, the first Aman outpost in the United States is set high above sea level with a commanding view of everything: the valley, Teton Pass, Snake River Range. And the building itself stands out even among such wonders, an imposing sandstone structure accented with glass and Pacific redwood, a sort of Eastern minimalist take on a rustic Western theme. And it’s Aman — so yes, they have a world-class spa and an infinity pool. A place for the rich and famous if ever there was one. But like any Aman, one that lets the landscape take center stage.
It’s also a great place from which to watch a total solar eclipse.