Jackson, Wyoming: Mountain Gateway | Mountain Travel Sobek

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Jackson, Wyoming: Mountain Gateway

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There are few places where you can buy a Cartier watch and a silver, rodeo belt buckle as big as a dinner plate on the same street. Still fewer spots where you can have your lunch out of the modern equivalent of the chuck wagon (the food truck) then later enjoy an expertly prepared haute-cuisine dinner in a luxury lodge. In Jackson, these sorts of charming dichotomies abound.

In a place seemingly so "removed" from it all, Jackson is surprisingly variegated. On one level, it's a town where you can get up close to the "real" West of cowboys and mountain men. On another, it's the perfect jumping off point for those wanting to take to the woods and be a modern-day John Muir or Ansel Adams. On yet another, it's a perfect place to relax, and sip a beer or a Bordeaux seated on a saddle turned barstool.

The Teton range is famous for scenery, fresh, clean air and plentiful wildlife such as moose and marmots. In town, there's no shortage of fauna, either. Here you may spot the leisured ski bunnies, who live on kale smoothies and chardonnay, or the backcountry snowboarders, an energetic lot who spend their youth rushing downhill and there adult lives reliving their epic adventures. Suffice it to say, whatever kind of experience you have in Jackson, you're going to enjoy it. Here's just a sampling of things to do in and around Jackson:  

Granite Hotsprings

When you hear people say a place is off the beaten path they don't usually mean that the path itself will beat you up. But don't let that deter you, because if you can endure a few bumps in the road you'll find yourself at the Granite Hotsprings. Built during the New Deal as a CCC project, the Granite Hotsprings pool is the perfect spot to soak in the mineral-rich waters and take in mountain views. If you're in the area in winter, the pool is reachable only by snowmobile or dog sled, which, relative to a bouncy 4-wheel drive, offers a considerably more comfortable ride.

National Museum of Wildlife Art

How the West was won was generally not at all the way it is been portrayed in popular art and film. What little we do truly know of how the region looked is from the diligent efforts of frontier artists whose work chronicled the sights and events, but also attempted to convey the true majesty and beauty of the region. Many of the works of these pioneers artists are on display at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. The museum houses more than 5,000 artifacts dating back to 2500 B.C. and focuses heavily on the era of European exploration of the West. 

Western Civilization

Since it opened in 2007, it is pretty much guaranteed that any time of year you go to Jackson there will be an outstanding cultural activity at Center for the Arts. In a given month it isn't uncommon to attend dance performances or lectures from notable writers, kids' camps and summer classes, or musical acts from around the world. The Center also hosts the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, held every two years, the Grand Teton Music Festival and the Jackson Hole Writers Conference

Eat Local

Unique to the state of Wyoming is the Wyomatoe. It is, as the name suggests, a type of tomato. What makes the Wyomatoe different is that it is grown at 7,500 feet. They're not easy to find, so if they're around, snap them up. If the Wyomatoe is not in season, there are other dishes to taste that are unique to the area, like elk and buffalo. The easiest way to sample the flavors of Jackson is to take a food tasting and cultural walking tour. Most tours run around three hours and visit some of the town's best restaurants.

Ride Until You Bonk!

For those new to mountain biker slang, "bonk" means to ride until you've got nothing left. Which you can do starting this summer at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. The resort's new mountain biking course is, hands-down, the best place in the Tetons to get "pinned" (def.: experienced riders who go all out). All skill levels from "gutter bunny" (commuter cyclists) to those with more experience have been catered to. The trails are marked in the same manner as a ski run, green for easiest, to double black diamonds for the most challenging. Didn't bring your bike? No problem, there are several bike rental locations happy to kit you out and get you on the trails.  

Did You Know? 

The unique arches at the four main entrances of George Washington Memorial Park, Jackson's "Town Square," are made from elk antlers! The first arch was created in 1953 and the antlers are collected from the National Elk Refuge.

Kevin Lynch

Jackson is the start and end point of our amazing new Yellowstone & the Grand Tetons adventure!

National Museum of Wildlife Art Photo by Brian Gratwicke CC by