As one of the most popular destinations in the U.S. for outdoor lovers, Jackson Hole is surrounded by stunning natural beauty. With 2.7 million acres, 97% of which is federally protected, Jackson Hole is a true oasis for exploration and adventure. It’s a short drive away from Yellowstone National Park, the first to be designated a national park in 1872, and Grand Teton National Park, known for its pristine lakes and abundant wildlife.
The Jackson Hole area experiences four distinct seasons. Those visiting Yellowstone and other national parks in the area come from spring to fall when the weather is perfect for hiking, camping, mountain biking, fishing, and sightseeing. In the winter, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is world-renowned for its thrilling skiing scene, with endless acres of skiable terrain. However, you don’t have to know how to ski to have an unforgettable and wonderful experience. Here are 10 winter activities for non-skiers in Jackson Hole.
1. Scenic wildlife tours
Jackson Hole is home to a diverse range of wildlife species, and wildlife tours are available year-round. Winter offers a unique opportunity to observe some of the region’s diverse wildlife. While many animals are present in the area year-round, such as elk, wolves, and bison, other animals, such as coyotes and red foxes, are more active in the winter. You’ll also get sightings of pine martens, which are easier to spot against the snow, and mountain goats, which can usually only be found in high alpine conditions but come down to lower elevations in the winter. Birdwatchers will be able to see the rare snowy owls and bald eagles hunting for food.
2. Hot air balloon rides
With the snow-covered mountains of the Teton Range below, hot air ballooning offers a dramatic, birds-eye view of the gorgeous Jackson Hole landscape. In the winter, when the humidity is low and the air is crisp and clear, you’ll get unparalleled visibility. It’s a unique opportunity to spot amazing wildlife from above.
Flights during sunrise and sunset are especially popular. Guests can see the sky change in lightness and colors, making the experience even more magical and enchanting. During your tour, you’ll learn about the topography and notable landmarks of the area. Being in the sky also provides a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere, creating a floating sensation worldwide.
3. Dog sledding
Dog sledding tours offer a memorable and immersive way to experience the winter landscape in Jackson Hole while bonding with these fascinating animals. The dogs are trained through a combination of socialization and specific training methods. Experienced guides will take you through the whole process. You’ll be introduced to the individual dogs on the team. You’ll be paired with a professional to help you prepare and harness the dogs with the equipment. Then, you’ll embark on a journey through Jackson Hole’s scenic winter landscape, including snow-covered forests and meadows.
If you like to hike, snowshoeing is a wonderful way to explore the trails in winter. There are a variety of scenic trails in Jackson Hole, perfect for snowshoeing. Located just three miles from the entrance of Grand Teton National Park, the Taggart Lake Trailhead will take you on a short and scenic 1.5-mile hike. Bridger-Teton National Forest features numerous trails that are great for spotting wildlife as well.
5. Ice skating
In the winter, ice skating is popular both indoors and outdoors. Snow King Sports and Events Center is a popular venue where you can rent skates or participate in skating lessons. For more unique settings, several outdoor locations set up skating rinks. One of Teton’s Village’s newer additions, the Village Rink on the Commons, offers free skating if you bring your own skates. Downtown Jackson Park Square turns into a magical winter wonderland, complete with a skating pond and neon lights. In addition to the outdoor rinks, frozen lakes and ponds turn into natural skating rinks — just make sure the ice conditions are suitable!
6. Snowmobile tours
Snowmobile tours are another exciting way to experience the area’s stunning mountain trails, snowy forests, and open meadows. These tours are especially popular with photographers. They are a unique and thrilling way to see the terrain, backcountry, and wildlife of Jackson Hole and the surrounding areas. You can find short, introductory tours for beginners, full-day immersive adventures, and nighttime tours for more advanced drivers. You can choose specific destinations or do multi-day experiences.
7. Snow tubing
Fun for groups or the whole family, snow tubing is an invigorating adventure at specific tubing hills and parks. These locations are specially groomed and maintained to provide a safe experience. The hills vary in gradient and size depending on skill levels and age groups. Some locations have lifts or conveyor belt systems to take you up the hill so that you don’t have to climb up after each ride down. Additionally, some locations may allow you to link your tubes together for a group experience.
8. Spa and wellness
After your adventure, treat yourself to a luxurious wellness treatment at one of the local spas. Grace Spa is within walking distance of Jackson Town Square and offers massages, facials, waxing, and other salon services. Head to The Spa at Four Seasons Resort and pamper yourself with their holistic treatments and services.
9. Shopping and dining
The Town of Jackson is known for its vibrant culinary scene and chic boutique shopping, where restaurants, bars, stores, and art galleries line the streets. Specialty stores, such as Atelier Ortega, Altitude, and Terra, sell everything from hand-made souvenirs and luxury home goods to designer clothes and Western-style accessories. For creative works made by local artists, Made is a charming gift shop and gallery that’s a favorite among residents and visitors. For fine dining, Snake River Grill serves elevated American fare in a rustic log cabin setting. For dinner with a view, Haydens Post Restaurant is located at the Snow King Resort, and it’s known for delicious locally-sourced cuisine.
10. Indoor activities
While Jackson Hole is known for its incredible outdoor recreation, the adventure doesn’t stop indoors. You can take a leisurely stroll through all the art galleries downtown and check out a variety of artwork, including one-of-a-kind crafts, paintings, sculptures, and photography. Some galleries have onsite studios where you can witness local artists at work. For more educational and interactive experiences, you can visit the museums, including the National Museum of Wildlife Art and the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum.
Discover more things to do in Jackson Hole
As an avid outdoorsman himself, Colby Murphy
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*Header photo courtesy of Unsplash