The weather is warming up in Jackson, and we’re seeing more tourists around town square. Memorial Day is often regarded as the unofficial start to summer, and we couldn’t be more ready! Kicking off our summer season this weekend is the 35th annual Old West Days. This weekend long affair offers locals and tourists alike an array of fun events, including the Old West Brew Fest, and our first Rodeo of the season.
The Old West Brew fest begins tomorrow, May 28th, at 11am in town square, and allows beer connoisseurs the opportunity to sample craft beers from some of our fantastic local brewers, including Jackson’s own Snake River Brewing, as well as national favorites such as Sierra Nevada Brewery. Tokens for tastings can be purchased at the event, and stagecoach rides through historic downtown Jackson will be available around the square. Following the Brew Fest is the first Shootout of the season, which happens Monday through Saturday until Labor Day, also near town square.
On Sunday, check out the free Historical Downtown Jackson Walking Tour, put on by the Jackson Hole Historical Society. Meet them at 2pm in the center of town square.
For more information about this, and other upcoming events, visit the Chamber of Commerce’s website at jacksonholechamber.com.
So… last weekend was Hill Climb here in Jackson. This being my first spring spent in the area, I got to experience this special event for the first time. For those of you who may also be unfamiliar with Hill Climb, the event is formally known as the World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb. About 20 snowmobilers known as the Jackson Hole Snow Devils started a hill climb in 1975 at Snow King Mountain in town, and the tradition has continued annually at the same location ever since. To say that it has grown in size, however, may be an understatement. This year, for its 40th anniversary, Hill Climb drew over 300 snowmobilers, and a crowd of more than 10,000 fans to the valley.
Snowmobilers start the events early in the morning, and they last all day. Competitors start at the base of the mountain, and the objective is to snowmobile straight up the incredibly steep slopes of Snow King, and end up the first one at the top. I live right near the base of Snow King, and so luckily (or unluckily, depending how you look at it), I was able to see and hear the snowmobiles revving up early every morning.
The festive spirit of Hill Climb is definitely palpable in the air in Jackson throughout the weekend. The base of Snow King houses beer and food stands from great local vendors, and of course, hundreds of jovial fans. A trip to the nearby bars downtown is recommended on Friday and Saturday night, as visitors and locals alike continue the celebratory spirit after hours. If you don’t prefer to be right in the middle of the crowd to spectate the events, a great option is Lift Restaurant and Bar, which due to its location, has become somewhat of an epicenter for Hill Climb festivities. Located on Cache Street, just across the street from the base of Snow King, Lift is open all day during hill climb and serves up a delicious selection of elevated bar food and drink. A great way to spectate is to go to the roof of Lift, which has perfect panoramic views of the action at Snow King.
Overall, Hill Climb is definitely a unique way to have some fun while taking a break from skiing in March, if you can. I hope that you are able to experience it at least once during your travels to Jackson Hole… I definitely look forward to it next year.
While Jackson Hole is famous for the world class skiing and snowboarding available at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the area also boasts other unique winter activities suited for the whole family. Our front desk staff had a chance to experience some of these activities for themselves this season, and are eager to share with you their recommendations on how to spend a cold winter day in the Hole…
Jalene recommends checking out some of the activities that Snow King Sports and Events center has to offer throughout winter. Located at the base of Snow King Mountain, near the center of town, Snow King Sports and Events center hosts Jackson Hole’s very own hockey team, Jackson Moose, all season long. They typically play on Friday and Saturday nights, but go to snowkingsec.com to check when they are in town. These games are always a good time, and local food and beer vendors are on site to quench your thirst and/or appetite. Be sure to look for Knuckles the mascot! If hockey games aren’t your thing, you can also use this same ice rink for ice skating. The rink is open to the public Monday through Friday from 12pm-2pm, and fun for all ages!
If you love animals and are looking for a definitely unique experience, Tricia recommends checking out Jackson Hole Iditarod Sled Dog Tours. We definitely recommend the full day tour they offer, as you get to experience the beauty of Granite Hot Springs, and soak in the hot water after a long day of being pulled by Alaskan racing sled dogs. Lunch is included, and this type of tour is an excellent opportunity to witness a variety of wildlife that Wyoming has to offer. They even offer an orientation session to more adventurous travelers who wish to “drive” their own team of dogs. Call them at 800-554-7388.
No matter which winter activity you choose, rest assured knowing that once you return to town, there are a wide variety of world-class restaurants, night-life options, and art galleries to round out your stay!
Off-season in Jackson is a wonderful time! Autumn is devoid of the large crowds and traffic that summer brings, and the cooler weather, although unpredictable at times, is a welcome change! So what do the locals do once the tourists leave? Oftentimes, the answer is: Dine! It’s no secret that Jackson is home to a wide variety of amazing restaurants, bars, and cafes. So what keeps the diminished population during the fall eating out and supporting all of our local culinary gems? Budget friendly specials! This is something we’re particularly keen on at the Painted Buffalo Inn, and so we want to share with you some of our favorites. If the discounted meals aren’t enough to entice you, many local restaurants also use this opportunity during the year to donate some of their proceeds to charitable causes.
Q Roadhouse & Brewing Co.: located just a few miles from town in Wilson, Q Roadhouse serves up steaks and American comfort classics, as well as an extensive draft beer selection. Head there this fall with a friend, and buy one entrée and get the second one for $2. 100% of the $2 benefits a different Jackson Hole non-profit each week. 2550 Moose Wilson Road, Wilson.
Bin 22: I can’t adequately stress how good this place is. I actually ate lunch there today (which was wonderful, by the way). Located right downtown, they serve a delectable assortment of Italian inspired dishes, as well as an amazing selection of fine meats and cheeses. Bin 22 is located inside of a liquor and wine shop, and you’re free to peruse the store before your meal to select a bottle of wine, which your server will open for you and serve at your table. During off-season, EVERYTHING is buy one get one for $2, and the $2 is donated to Go Pink JH, which raises awareness for all components of women’s health right here in Jackson Hole. 200 W. Broadway, Jackson.
Trio Bistro: Trio is always near the top of my list for a memorable meal in Jackson. Their menu often changes to reflect seasonal specials, and the space is a great atmosphere to have a couple cocktails (or a few). If you enjoy great food, and a game of chance, come here during the off-season to spin “The Wheel.” Presented to you after your meal, the wheel offers rewards including 10% off your entire meal, a free round of drinks, or even “Just the tip,” which only obligates your party to leave a (hopefully healthy) tip for your awesome server. Only open for dinner. 45 South Glenwood, Jackson.
I was born and raised in a tiny coastal town just north of Boston, Massachusetts. When I was 12 years old my parents bought a 13 foot Boston Whaler. After that, my summers changed. Sure, we would still go to the beach, but we also had the option to drop the boat in the water and motor out to a tiny island, or go waterskiing or wading for sand dollars. In high school my parents let me take my boat out with my friends. We would jet around for hours, exploring the coast line and keeping out trouble. Well, for the most part. There was that one time when I hit a sand bar and busted up the propeller. Oh and that other time when I put the boat in and forgot to put the plug in and it started to fill with water as I drove it over to the dock. Either way, I had a blast putting around in that little Boston Whaler, so I was disappointed when I moved to Jackson and didn’t know anyone with a boat. As much as I love the mountains, I love spending time on the water as well.
When my husband told me that one of his co-workers owned a boat I made it my mission to get invited onto his boat. The next time I saw him I walked up to him and asked “So when am I going to be invited to go out on your boat?” I hardly knew the guy, but that’s how desperate I was. The next week I found myself gliding across Jackson Lake, radio blaring, Tetons unfolded in front of me like a pop-up picture book, lake water spraying my face and a huge grin on my face. I was back, baby.
However, I was disappointed to find out that my new friend didn’t even own a water ski. I grew up water skiing and dabbled a little in wake boarding. He told me that we were going to wake surf. I had the faintest idea what wake surfing entailed. Apparently, when wake surfing you want to intentionally sink part of your boat in order to create a bigger wave. We piled everyone in the back corner, filled a ballast bag with 400 pounds of water, tossed our friend a small surf board and a rope and took off at a blistering 12 miles per hour. It was really cool to see a wave that you can surf in Wyoming.
When it got to be my turn I hopped into the water and hoped for the best. Surprisingly, it only took a few tries for me to be able to get up.. and then fall back down. I had never surfed before in my life, so it was a new concept for me. But I am happy to say that over the past year I have gotten the hang of it and now I can let go of the rope and surf the wave. It’s a strange feeling, surfing a wave in the middle of the mountains. Obviously we have a lot of fun doing water sports on the lake, but everyone once in awhile you have to stop and take in the scenery. Jackson Lake is breathtaking. Being out of the water provides a different vista of the Tetons.
Are you planning on bringing your boat to Jackson?
There are two boat launches on the lake – Colter Bay and Signal Mountain Lodge. We typically launch at Signal Mountain Lodge and then head over to Spaulding Bay, Moran Bay or Half Moon Bay. Depending on the wind direction these bays tend to be the calmest on the lake. Moran and Half Moon Bay are by far the most scenic. If you bring your own boat in be aware that you may need to go through boat inspection where Wyoming Fish and Game inspect your boat for invasive species. The boat check is typically right before the Moose entrance to Grand Teton National Park. You can get gas on the water at Colter Bay, but I would recommend fueling up before you get on the water since it is cheaper.
Want to get out on the water but don’t have your own boat?
You can rent boats at Signal Mountain Lodge. They offer pontoon boat, deck cruiser, runabout and fishing boat rentals. As well as non-motorized boats, such as kayaks and canoes. Unfortunately, they don’t offer any ski boat rentals. You can also do a tour of the lake with Grand Teton Lodge Company, based out of Colter Bay. For information about their scenic tours visit their website.
If you are considering trailering your boat to Jackson Hole, be sure to check out Jackson Lake. Or, if the water in Jackson Lake is too cold, head down to the Palisades Reservoir in Alpine, Wyoming. The water tends to be warmer there, making it the prime choice for early season and late season water sports. Either way, there are no bad days spent boating on the lakes in the Jackson Hole area. Be sure to enjoy the scenery as well as the sunshine. Because like all good things, summertime in Jackson doesn’t last.
I rarely surprise myself. However, this morning I was talking with a guest about their upcoming rafting trip and it dawned on me that I haven’t blogged about whitewater rafting in Jackson Hole. Really?? I am shocked. It is one of the most popular summer activities in Jackson Hole. There are tons of rafting companies in Jackson, twelve, to be exact. Most of them offer a scenic float option and a whitewater rafting trip. The whitewater trip is on an 8 mile stretch of the Snake River in the Snake River Canyon south of town. Most whitewater companies have an office where you go to sign your waiver and sign up for the trips. They will bus you to the river from their office. Some will do pick ups at your hotel.
Here are some of the most common questions that we receive regarding whitewater trips:
Do I need to book the rafting trip in advance?
Nope! While reservations are recommended, they aren’t required. Many companies have two to four departures daily and most will have some empty spaces on the day of. If you are planning on being in Jackson for a couple of days I would wait to see what day looks like it has the best weather and then sign up the day before. Of course, if you only have one day that you are going to be in Jackson and you want to do the trip I would recommend booking in advance so that you can get on the trip that you want (whether it be a 10AM departure or 4PM departure). I would also recommend advance reservations if you are part of a larger group (5 or more people).
Can my kids go whitewater rafting?
As long as they are 6 years old or older, yes! The age restriction is mostly based on height and weight. Kids who are younger than 6 years old aren’t able to be properly fit for a life jacket so it can be dangerous if they fall out of the boat. When families ask whether I recommend a scenic float or a whitewater trip for their kids I always suggest whitewater rafting. The classic raft trip is in large boats and they have plenty of place for the kids to sit in the middle of the raft while the parents paddle. Kids love getting wet and the rapids are rather mild.
How big are the rapids?
They range from a class 2 rapid to a class 4 rapid (out of 5 classes of rapids). The two big rapids are Big Kahuna and Lunch Counter. When one is “up” due to high or low water the other one is virtually non-existent. Big Kahuna is essentially a giant wave that you crash into – getting you soaking wet! This rapid tends to be present later in the season during lower water flow. Lunch Counter is a series of waves that seem relentless when you’re paddling through them. If you raft early, in May or June, you will be able to raft Lunch Counter. These two rapids are exciting. I wouldn’t call them scary – especially if you are in a big boat (as opposed to an 8 man boat).
What’s an 8 man boat?
For those who are adrenaline junkies like myself, you may prefer to raft in an 8 man boat. With a smaller boat the rapids seem larger and the ride is more exciting. Bigger boats, like the classic raft, can absorb a lot of the rapid and are more stable based on their size. In an 8 man boat everyone is paddling and the smaller boat gives you a more thrilling ride. They tend to cost more because there are less people in the boat. But if you have a group of 8 people it can be more fun because it’s your group exclusively in the boat.
Can I get photos of my rafting trip?
Yes! There are two companies that take your photo at Big Kahuna or Lunch Counter – Floatographs or Snake River Photo. You are also welcome to bring your camera with you, but be aware that it will get wet so make sure it is a waterproof camera or a Go Pro.
What should I bring?
Make sure to bring a towel, suntan lotion, wear your bathing suit and chacos or river shoes if you have them. If not, you can go barefoot or rent booties from the rafting company. I would also suggest bringing a sweatshirt or jacket and a change of clothes. After you are done rafting there are changing rooms where you can change out of your wet bathing suit into dry clothes. You can leave anything that you want after rafting on the bus so feel free to bring your towel and clothes with you on the bus to the river.
If it’s cold out you can also rent a wet suit from the rafting companies. The canyon doesn’t always get sun early in the morning or late at night so sometimes it can get chilly. Most raft companies will also have splash guards – a waterproof jacket that you can rent. You also may want to bring a snack – the drive to the river is about half an hour and the drive back is about 40 minutes. The time on the river varies based on how high the water is. Early season in May the trip could take 45 minutes. Later in the summer, in September, it can take up to an hour and a half.
What can I bring on the raft?
As I have stated before, you are going to get wet. So don’t bring anything you don’t want to get wet or lose. I also like to swim when I am rafting so I typically leave all of my jewelry at home. I have friend who lost his wedding ring to the river, so I would encourage you to remove your rings (unless they are on really tight) and leave them in the car or at the hotel. If you have a waterproof camera that you can attach to your life jacket you can bring it. But don’t bring anything that can’t be tied to the raft or yourself because there is a good chance that it will end up in the water.
Do you have a company that you would recommend?
I like to recommend Lewis and Clark River Rafting and Dave Hansen Whitewater. Both are owned and operated by local families and do a wonderful job. Most of the rafting companies do a great job and are priced similarly. They all run the same stretch of river and most have very knowledgeable and capable guides. When selecting a rafting company I would suggest finding one that offers the trip you want to go on – if it’s an the 8-man whitewater trip or a combination whitewater and scenic trip – and then finding a company that has availability for departure time that you want.
So there you have it! Do you have a question about whitewater rafting that I didn’t cover above? Let me know in the comments! And if you have a chance to go rafting in Jackson Hole, make it a whitewater trip instead of a scenic float. It’s more fun for the kids and parents alike. After all, who doesn’t enjoy wet and wild fun? It is sure to be a highlight of your trip!
We asked our front desk to tell us where they would go in Yellowstone and Jackson Hole if they had 5 days to take a trip. Jalene has explains how she would spend her 5 days below:
For The first day of my vacation I would go to Mormon Row which is near Kelly just before you go into the park entrance for Grand Teton. There are two barns on Mormon Row that are extremely photogenic. Then I would then travel to Jenny Lake and take the ferry to the other side of the lake in order to take the trail to Inspiration Point and then to the Hidden Falls. In regards to where I would stay I would either travel a little farther and got to Colter Bay campground or I would come back to Jackson to spend the night.
On the second day I would head up to Jackson Lake and go to Jackson Lake Lodge. My grandfather loved the fishing at Jackson Lake and it would be great to see it. I would also suggest doing a guided tour of Yellowstone with Bushbuck Guide Services. They have a dawn or dusk tour that is interesting.
For day three I would strike out on my own to explore Yellowstone. I have gone to Yellowstone several time when I was younger so I would first stop at the Mud Volcano. I would then go to the upper and lower falls at the Yellowstone River, also known as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. At the Falls there is a lot to do so I would spend a good amount of time there. I would take Uncle Tom’s Trail which has 328 step each way so after doing that I would be done for the day. For accommodations I would go just outside the west entrance and camp at the campground for the night. This would afford me a great location to start day four.
For this day I would travel to Mammoth Hot Springs. Then I would also go see the North Geyser Basin and then back out to the camping outside the west entrance for the last night of my vacation.