The town of Jackson (pop. 9,000) lies near the southern end of Jackson Hole, hemmed in on three sides by Snow King Mountain, the Gros Ventre Range, and East Gros Ventre Butte. At 6,200 feet in elevation, Jackson experiences cold, snowy winters, wet springs, delightfully warm and sunny summers, and crisp, color-filled falls.
Jackson is unlike any other place in Wyoming; on a typical summer day more than 35,000 tourists flood the town. Sit on a bench in Town Square on a summer day and you’re likely to see cars from every state in the country.
Tourists dart in and out of the many gift shops, art galleries, fine restaurants, Western-style saloons, and trendy boutiques. The cowboy hats all look as if the price tags just came off.
In other parts of Wyoming, Jackson is viewed with a mixture of awe and disdain—awe over its gorgeous scenery, but disdain that Jackson is not a “real” town, just a false front put up to sell things to outsiders.
Yes, Jackson is almost wholly dependent on the almighty tourist dollar, but as a result it enjoys a cultural richness lacking in other parts of the state. Besides, if you don’t like all the commercial foolishness, it’s easy to escape to a campsite or remote trail in the wonderful countryside of nearby Grand Teton National Park or Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Keep your eyes open around Jackson and you’re likely to see well-known residents such as Hollywood stars Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart, Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, Connie Stevens, and Sandra Bullock, along with former Secretary of the Interior James Watt (who resigned in disgrace in 1983), attorney Gerald Spence (of Karen Silkwood and Imelda Marcos notoriety), Yvon Chouinard (mountaineer and founder of Patagonia), industrial heir Charles DuPont, and members of the extended Rockefeller family. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has a luxury home in Teton Pines and is a frequent visitor, which explains all of the Blackhawk helicopters, Secret Service agents, and Suburbans with dark-tinted windows.
Getting to Jackson
Access to Jackson Hole has become easier in recent years, with several airlines and daily buses now serving the valley. Most summer visitors arrive by car, although a few more adventurous souls pedal in on bikes. If you’re looking for or offering a ride, KMTN (96.9 FM, 307/733-4500, www.kmtnthemountain.com) has daily ride-finder announcements during its Trash and Treasure radio program. Tune in weekdays 9:30-9:50 a.m.
Several local travel agencies offer reservation services for those who prefer to leave the planning to someone else. They can set up airline tickets, rental cars, lodging, horseback riding, fishing trips, whitewater rafting, ski vacations, and all sorts of other packages. The biggest is the long-established Jackson Hole Central Reservations (307/733-4005 or 800/443-6931, www.jacksonholewy.com), which produces a slick glossy publication of featured properties. Jackson Hole Reservations (307/733-6331 or 800/329-9205, www.jacksonhole.net) has an equally complete listing of local places.
Jackson Hole Airport (307/733-7682, www.jacksonholeairport.com) is eight miles north of Jackson inside Grand Teton National Park. The remodeled airport is small and cozy but offers daily jet service to several U.S. cities. It’s the only commercial airport within any national park, and the Grand Teton Association maintains a gift shop here. Stop by the Ground Transportation Information Desk (open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. year-round) for helpful maps and advice. Nearby are courtesy phones for local businesses and racks of brochures. You’ll also find free Wi-Fi and a restaurant.
Delta/SkyWest (800/221-1212, www.delta.com) has year-round flights from Salt Lake City, with summer and winter service from Minneapolis/St. Paul and Atlanta. American (800/433-7300, www.aa.com) has summer and winter flights to Dallas and Chicago. United/United Express (800/864-8331, www.united.com) offers year-round service from Denver and Chicago, plus summertime flights out of Los Angeles.
Frontier Airlines (800/432-1359, www.frontierairlines.com) has summer-only flights from Denver; these are turboprops, not jets. (Some Delta/SkyWest and United/United Express flights from Denver and Salt Lake City are also on these smaller planes.) In addition, the tarmac is often crowded with Lear and Gulfstream jets and other noisy transportation symbols of the elite.
Amazingly, there are no flights into Jackson from Seattle or Portland. If you’re flying in from the Pacific Northwest, you will need to go through Salt Lake City, a 275-mile rental car drive from Jackson.
Greyhound buses don’t come even close to Jackson; the nearest stopping place is the regional hub at Salt Lake City. Mountain States Express/Alltrans (307/733-3135 or 800/652-9510, www.mountainstatesexpress.com) has year-round daily service connecting Jackson with Salt Lake City ($70 one-way) and Idaho Falls ($35 one-way) daily. Along the way, vans pass through Star Valley, Cokeville, Kemmerer, Evanston, Park City, Rexburg, Tetonia, Driggs, and Victor, and you can also get on or off at any of these towns.
Salt Lake Express (208/656-8824 or 800/356-9796, www.saltlakeexpress.com) runs shuttle vans connecting Jackson with Idaho Falls three times daily for $39 one-way. The company also has daily service south to Salt Lake ($67), north to West Yellowstone and Butte, and west to Twin Falls and Boise.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Yellowstone & Grand Teton, 5th Edition