There is plenty to do and see in Jackson that doesn’t require help or interpretation. But there is also so much that’s improved by having a knowledgeable pro around. Catching a glimpse of a moose is always cool, but when you’ve got a naturalist along who has spent her life studying moose—as well as bison, wolves, elk and birds of prey, among other wildlife—you might learn why the valley’s moose population has dropped by more than half in the past decade. The same goes for the Town Square. It’s always cute, but if you are wandering it with a volunteer guide from the JH Historical Society, perhaps you’ll hear about Ma Crabtree, her brass knuckles and her hotel— the valley’s first, where the unheated rooms went for just $1.50. Here are the tours I send my family and friends on—tagging along when I can, of course:
Downtown History Tour
In 2014, the town of Jackson celebrated its 100th birthday. This free, hour-long, summer-only walking tour of several downtown blocks covers much of that history, from the Clubhouse (now an architect’s office and retail space) to our all-female town government, which we elected back in 1920.
Jackson Hole Eco Tour Adventures
Jackson Hole Eco Tour Adventures’ wildlife tours into and around both Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks—as well as its primitive-skills survival tour and photography-specific itineraries—are led by trained naturalist guides that include former NPS interpretative rangers along with wildlife biologists, wildlife trackers and microbiologists.
National Elk Refuge Sleigh Ride
Horse-drawn sleighs have been used to feed the National Elk Herd for more than a century. These days, between mid-December and early April, Belgian and Percheron horses pull open sleighs—dress warmly—loaded with people into the herd daily. There’s no way to get closer to elk. Tours depart from the Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center.
Elk Island Breakfast and Dinner Cruises
Between June and September, lake levels permitting, boats depart GTNP’s Colter Bay Marina for the largest island in Wyoming. Waiting on Elk Island are breakfasts of Idaho river trout, sausage, potatoes, and pancakes, or dinners of steak, baked beans, corn-on-the-cob, and fruit cobbler. Both outings offer in-your-face views of blocky, glaciated Mt. Moran.
FLY Jackson Hole Scenic Flights
Scenic flights over and around the Tetons are controversial because of the noise pollution they generate. But if you decide you want a bird’s-eye view of the range, go with long-time local pilot Pete Lindell, who’s a stickler for the park’s rules governing sightseeing flights, and also offers up tidbits about the geology of the area.