12 Best Things to do on your Summer Family Vacation to Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole, Wyoming is a fun family vacation destination year-round. From scenic valley views to hidden wildlife watching spots, this is a destination for families who like to spend their summers and winters outdoors. Once you've checked off this list of things to do in Jackson Hole, drive north and visit the colorful geysers of Yellowstone. If you only have a day or two to explore the area, check out our 7 Scenic Overlooks and Hidden Drives in Grand Teton and Best of Grand Teton National Park.
1. Take a Ride up Rendezvous Mountain on The Aerial Tram
After you have taken a day or two to acclimate to the high altitude of Jackson Hole, take the Aerial Tram up to the summit of Rendezvous Mountain, a 4,139 foot vertical rise. The base of the tram is in Teton Village. The ride features scenic views of the mountains and Teton Village. Often the tram driver will point out a moose or other wildlife hiding in the bushes. At the summit, you can walk around and enjoy the view of the Jackon Hole valley. Alternatively, many hiking trails into Grand Teton National Park begin at the top of the tram.
The Aerial Tram leaves every 15 minutes and carries up to 60 people. The schedule is adjusted to weather conditions and demand. In the summer, the tram opens at 9am and runs until 5pm (until 6pm in July and August). Adult tickets cost $29 during peak season, senior tickets are $23, $12 for children ages 6 to 12, and free for kids under 5 years old.
The tram climbs 4,139 feet up Rendezvous Mountain in about 25 minutes. At the top of the mountain, Summit Loop takes you on a 0.3 trail around the top. Be prepared for wind and low temperatures, even in the summer. Bring a jacket or a sweater. If you are planning to hike, be sure to bring water. Watch out for sudden weather changes, especially thunderstorms during summer afternoons. Other trails at the top of the tram include Corbet’s Trail (0.5 miles each way), Rock Springs Loop (4.2 miles round trip), Green River Overlook (1.75 miles each way) and Rock Springs Overlook (1 mile each way). Stay at the Teton Mountain Lodge or Snake River Lodge. Amangani is a short drive away and offers scenic mountain views.
2. Wildlife Watching on the Moose-Wilson Road
Get up at sunrise and drive to the Moose Habitat on the Moose-Wilson road about 25 minutes from Teton Village. You may be able to spot moose or even a bear. Bring your binoculars!
A part of the road that connects Wilson with Moose is situtated in Grand Teton National Park, beginning just north of Teton Village. The road winds through trees, accross streams and near Snake River. Wildlife can be most easily seen where the road approaches the river, especially early in the morning or late in the evening. Look for moose, deer, bears and diverse species of birds. Before approaching Moose, there is a turnout overlooking Moose Habitat where you can walk around enjoying nature.
The Moose Habitat is located on the Moose-Wilson road, a few miles from Moose. There is a turnout where you can sit and look down towards the habitat below. Moose like juicy green grass that grows in the wet areas of the habitat. It is unlikely that you will see moose during the day because of the noise cars make on the gravel as they stop at the turnout. If you arrive early, however, or stay out late in the evening, you may be rewarded with incredible views of wildlife. After 9pm in July we saw a large black bear hiding behind the bushes down in the valley. After seeing people at the lookout, the bear turned around and started walking from bush to bush parallel with the path that leads from Moose Habitat south through the trees.
3. Jackson National Fish Hatchery and The National Elk Refuge
The Jackson National Fish Hatchery in Wyoming produces eggs and fish to mitigate for fish losses for a distribution area that covers 18,000 square miles. The Fish Hatchery is located in the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, north of the town of Jackson. The hatchery is a part of the Fish and Wildlife Service's National Broodstock Program. The hatchery is open to the public, attracting 75,000 visitors annually. Visitors can tour the fish production process. Be sure to bring binoculars to observe the birds in the area. For hours and more information call 307-733-2510.
The National Elk Refuge is comprised of more than 23,000 acres of elk habitat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, just north of Jackson. National Elk Refuge was established in 1911 to protect elk wintering in Jackson Hole. The refuge is bordered by Gros Ventre River and the main road through Jackson Hole. The road features several turnouts where you can pull over and spot elk with binoculars. Stop by the National Elk Refuge Visitor Center.
4. Watch the Town Square Shoot-Out at the Jackson Town Square
Watch the Town Square Shoot-Out at the Jackson Town Square - kids will love it. After the show, grab a western-style dinner in one of the nearby restaurants in The Western Town of Jackson, Wyoming. The town of Jackson, Wyoming, is located near the southern end of the Jackson Hole valley, between Snow King Mountain ski resort and East Gros Ventre Butte.
Jackson has a year-round population of about 8,600 and is one of the unique vacation destinations in the U.S. During the peak summer season, the town houses 52,000 visitors and residents, and 5,000 in the winter. The focal point of the town is the Town Square featuring trademark antler arches which were built in 1968 using elk antlers shed on National Elk Refuge.
The Town Square Shoot-Out is the longest running shoot-out in the country. The show is free and starts at 5:15 Monday through Saturday, Memorial Day through Labor Day. Visitors form a square around actors dressed in period costumes. In downtown Jackson, visitors can go on a Stagecoach Ride from 9am to 9pm daily, Memorial Day through Labor Day.
5. Go on a Short Hikie from the Granite Canyon Trailhead
The Granite Canyon Trailhead is located on the Moose-Wilson road, near Teton Village. The trailhead is a gateway to numerous hiking trails in Grand Teton National Park. At the Moose Visitor Center or in outdoor shops in Teton Village, you can pick up a detailed trail guide of the area. We liked "Teton Trails: A Guide to the Trails of Grand Teton National Park" by Duffy and Wile. The book includes information about wildlife and helpful tips for hikers. For beginners, we liked "Best easy day hikes - Grand Teton" by Bill Schneider, a small book which you can easily bring with you. It features easy hikes throughout Grand Teton National Park, complete with trail maps.
6. Take a Float Trip down Snake River
A float trip down Snake River in Grand Teton National Park is a great way to enjoy the park scenery and look for wildlife. Tour guides will point out wildlife such as moose, elk, bison and sometimes a bear. Grand Teton Lodge Company offers scenic float during the summer months. Stop by the Jackson Lake Lodge to find out more. Remember to wear a hat and plenty of sunscreen to protect yourself against sunburn at high altitude.
7. Get to Know The Beautiful flowers in Grand Teton
Grand Teton National Park is home to 7 species of coniferous trees and 900+ species of flowering plants which grow in the park's diverse habitats. Sagebrush is the most widespread habitat type in the park. More than 100 species of grasses and wildflowers grow there. Lodgepole pines dominate in the Grand Teton National Park forests. Other plants include firs, aspens and spruces. Vegetation is most abundant near rivers, lakes and ponds, including Jackson Lake, Jenny Lake, Heron Pond, and others.
Spark your kid's interest in nature by playing games where the whole family tries to identify different flowers growing in the park (just remember, the flowers are protected, so you cannot pick them). The Moose Visitor Center has a diverse collection of nature books - choose one with pictures so that your kids will be able to easily identify different plants.
8. The Shuttle Boat on Jenny Lake
Although a pedestrian trail circles around Jenny Lake, if you want faster access to the hiking trals that begin on the other side of the lake, you can take the Jenny Lake Boat across the lake in the summer. The shuttle boat departs from a dock near the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, mid-May through the end of September. For current hours of shuttle operation, call the marina at 307-734-9227.
Jenny Lake Visitor Center is a starting point for numerous hikes in the area for all ability levels. There is a 6.6-mile long trail that winds around the entire lake. If you want to shorten your trip, you can take the shuttle boat across the lake in the summer and walk back to you car. Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point are two popular destinations for hikers. From Inspiration Point, vacationers enjoy spectacular views of the lake.
Jenny Lake Visitor Center is a great resource for finding our more about hiking trails near the lake. Keep in mind that Grand Teton is located at high elevation and you will need a few days to adjust. Sun rays are very strong at that elevation, so wear a hat, sunscreen and drink plenty of fluids.
9. The Moose Visitor Center offers Exhibits
The Moose Visitor Center is the only visitor center in Grand Teton open year-round, from 8 am to 5 pm, and from 8 am to 7 pm in the summer. It is closed on December 25. For more information, phone 307-739-3399. The visitor center is located 12 miles north of Jackson. The Moose Visitor Center features endangered species exhibits, a relief model of the park, and an introductory video. Facilities include a book store, maps, activity schedules, backcountry camping permits, boat permits, restrooms, telephones. A post office and store are located nearby.
In addition to the Moose Visitor Center, there are three other visitor centers in Grand Teton National Park: Colter Bay (307-739-3594), Jenny Lake Visitor Center and Flagg Ranch. Moose Visitor Center is the only one open year-round.
10. Drive the Scenic Teton Park Road
The scenic Teton Park Road stretches from Moose Visitor Center in the south to Jackson Lake Junction in the north. It leads past Jenny Lake and Jackson Lake, offering beautiful views of the Teton Mountain Range. On the way, you can stop at the Signal Mountain Lodge and enjoy a lunch overlooking Jackson Lake.
There are several turnouts along the road where you can safely pull over, enjoy the view and take pictures of the park. In the early morning and evening, you may even spot wildlife right off the road.The Teton Park Road is closed in the winter.
11. Colter Bay Visitor Center and Flagg Ranch
The Colter Bay Visitor Center & Indian Arts Museum is located 25 miles north of Moose, adjacent to Jackson Lake. The visitor center is open from mid-May to early September. For more information and hours, phone 307-739-3594. From June through September, the Colter Bay Visitor Center offers craft demonstrations, museum tours and other interpretive programs. The Indian Arts Museum has on display a collection of American Indian artifacts, of the David T. Vernon Collection.
Facilities include a bookstore, information desk, auditorium, telephones, restrooms, and backcountry permits. Flagg Ranch is an information station located 16 miles north of Colter Bay on Highway 89-191-287, very close to the entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The visitor center is open June through August from 9 am to 5:30 pm.
12. Jackson Lake in the largest lake in Grand Teton National Park
The largest lake in Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Lake covers 25,540 acres (10,340 hectares) and reaches a maximum depth of 438 feet (134 m). The lake, located 30 miles north of Jackson, Wyoming, is an outdoor paradise for hikers, boaters and wildlife watchers.
The main park road winds from the southern end of the lake across the scenic Jackson Lake Dam, past the Jackson Lake Junction, and north past Colter Bay and Leeks Marina.
Highway 89-191 follows the eastern shore of Jackson Lake north, featuring several turnouts and two picnic areas. You can observe aspen groves, colorful wild-flower meadows and forests, which attract mule deer, elk, white pelicans, Canada geese and other waterfowl. We even saw a bald eagle near Colter Bay. Jackson Lake offers fishing for cutthroat, brown, and lake trout.
Everyone knows how important food is on a family vacation. After seeing Jenny Lake, drive 15 minutes north and stop for lunch at the Trapper Grill. Located at the Signal Mountain Lodge, this outdoor cafe offers unparalleled views of Jackson Lake.
Park your car near the Jackson Lake Dam and take a walk along the bridge to enjoy scenic views of the lake.