Among the country's premier resort mountain destinations, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is a gorgeous valley known worldwide as a winter playground. Most notable are the transcendent ski runs at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and the lively Apres-ski at Teton Village or Jackson in the heart of the valley.
But as any seasoned guide, long-time resident, or devoted returning vacationer will tell you, this mountain enclave offers much more than ski resorts. With a lifestyle characterized by the harmony between luxury and nature, Jackson Hole is not just a primary or secondary home destination for the affluent, cold-weather homebuyer; it's a treasure trove of experiences for those who love the spring, summer, and fall months just as much. This is particularly true for those who enjoy boating, rafting, and water sports and embracing the celebrated waterways of Jackson Hole.
Jackson Hole waterways
Much of Jackson Hole's allure during the warmer months is tied directly to its bodies of water. From a majestic and meandering river to a collection of beloved lakes and alpine ponds in Grand Teton National Park and across the valley, everyone has a favorite.
- Best for: canoeing, fishing, kayaking, rafting, and (cold) swims
From its headwaters in Yellowstone National Park, the Snake River winds its way into Grand Teton National Park and through the heart of Jackson Hole. Truly an adventurer's river, you'll find a wide range of activities up and down the river.
While it feeds Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park, the river's most notable section is its southern stretch, just south of Jackson. Here, the river cuts through Snake River Canyon and boasts class III whitewater rapids, often considered among the best in the United States. Additional sporting activities along the river include scenic canoeing and rafting, fishing, and even a cold water swim for those brave souls.
- Best for: boating (including sailboats), camping, canoeing and kayaking, fishing, stand-up paddle boarding, wakeboarding, and water skiing
Nestled at the foot of the majestic Teton Range, Jackson Lake is a testament to nature's grandeur. This vast, 15-mile-long glacially carved lake (how almost all of the Jackson Hole lakes were formed) is the largest in the Grand Teton National Park and was further expanded when dammed in the early 20th century. Its shimmering blue waters reflect the snow-capped peaks and offer an enticing blend of serenity and adventure throughout the year (though services and access are limited in winter).
The lake's shoreline features secluded bays and coves, perfect for those seeking solitude. For the more active souls, Jackson Lake is a haven for boating, sailing, and fishing and is also an ideal destination for campers (including shore camping) if you want to spend several days around the water. The presence of luxury lakeside lodges and cabins accommodates those not quite ready to part with some level of convenience.
- Best for: canoeing and kayaking, fishing, hiking and camping, and stand-up paddleboarding
The Grand Tetons, with their jagged peaks and lush meadows, are also home to a vast array of alpine lakes and ponds. These bodies of water, scattered across varying altitudes, are the true hidden gems of this expansive natural playground, providing some of the region's most breathtaking scenery and most popular outdoor activities.
In all, more than 150 lakes cover the region, from Grand Teton National Park to those in the Gros Ventre Range across the valley. Each lake has its own unique character, and along with Jackson Lake, popular "foothill" lakes include Bradley, Jenny, Leigh, Phelps, String, and Taggart — the standouts being Jenny, Leigh, and Phelps lakes. Further up the mountain, alpine lakes sit at elevations as high as 9,000 feet. While some are easily accessible, offering picnic spots with panoramic views, others are secluded, requiring an intense hike through dense forests or alpine meadows.
Jackson Hole water sports
Drenched in natural beauty, Jackson Hole becomes a magnet for water enthusiasts as the ice melts. The vast expanse of sparkling waters — from the twisting paths of the Snake River to the calm expanse of Jackson Lake, down to the hidden gems of the alpine lakes – presents an assortment of amazing outdoor experiences.
Arguably, the most popular way to traverse the legion of waterways in Jackson Hole is via canoe. Drifting down the Snake River or cruising along Jackson Lake in a canoe allows one not only to explore the landscape but also to witness the beautiful fauna that frequents these water banks.
Jackson Hole fishing excursions are a popular pastime with pristine rivers and easily accessible lakes teeming with fish, offering endless spots for anglers to cast their lines. The network of rivers, streams, and lakes in the valley provides novice and expert anglers plenty of variety and several degrees of difficulty for casting their rods. A number of local guides and outfitters offer fly-fishing excursions across the valley, with the Snake River the favorite destination. Traditional boat-bound fishing can be had on Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park.
Hiking and camping
While it's not exactly an on-the-water activity, hiking to and camping along the shorelines of the region's lakes is an outstanding way to experience them up close. Ideal for those who prefer observing the beauty of alpine water without venturing into it, many Jackson Hole trails meander through verdant forests, leading to hidden vistas of rock and water. Few excursions in Jackson Hole will give you a more memorable photo op than that of a lake or pond high up in the mountains.
Like canoeing, kayaking in Jackson Hole presents adventure seekers with many options. Whether gliding on the tranquil waters of Jackson or Jenny Lake, floating down the gentle currents of the upper sections of the Snake River, or taking on the more dramatic rapids through Snake River Canyon, kayak trips offer a personal touch to the Jackson Hole watersports experience. Solo or tandem, the sleek design of these boats ensures a smooth ride, making them ideal for both leisure seekers and adrenaline enthusiasts.
Stand-up paddle boarding
Popularly known as SUP, stand-up paddle boarding offers an elevated view of the Jackson Hole waterways. With the majestic Tetons as a backdrop, paddlers can glide across the tranquil waters, enjoying the serenity that only nature can offer. These buoyant boards are the epitome of grace on water, letting one soak in the vistas while getting a delightful workout. All seven of the Teton's primary piedmont lakes — Bradley, Jackson, Jenny, Leigh, Phelps, String, and Taggart — support SUP, with rentals available throughout the parks, base villages, or in Jackson.
White water rafting
No mention of watersports is complete without the thrilling experience of white water rafting in Jackson Hole. The choice spot is south of Jackson, where the Snake River diverts into the narrow Snake River Canyon, with its exhilarating blend of class III rapids and scenic floats. With their expertise and passion, local outfitters craft journeys that cater to those willing to take on the river's wilder side, including outings for singles, families, or larger groups. A rafting trip in Jackson Hole is more than just navigating waters; it's a dance with nature, punctuated by sights of wildlife and the thrill of the unknown.
Are you ready to make the move to Jackson Hole?
Ready to discover more about Jackson Hole water sports and the many natural wonders that support your adventurous pursuits? Or is it time to find a place to call your own in one of the country's most sought-after year-round destinations? Contact expert agent Colby Murphy
to start your Jackson Hole luxury home-buying journey and secure your place in this land of unparalleled beauty and grandeur.