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.
Two years ago I was elbow deep in preparation for my August wedding, reading the Knot blog posts and perusing Pinterest boards for inspiration when I came across a post about preparing for your first dance. My then fiance, Jared, would regularly joke about how I had an allotted number of times I could get him out on the dance floor each year. Every time I would drag him out on the dance floor at a friends wedding he would remind me “you are using up one of your dances tonight!” In our early years when I frequented the Stagecoach Bar in Wilson for Disco Night, or Ladies Night as it’s also referred to, on Thursday nights I invited him the first few times. After politely declining every time I came to realization that Thursday nights at “the Coach” were always going to be a true ladies night for me.
So when I came across the article about our first dance a little bit of panic set in. We definitely didn’t have much practice dancing as a couple and I was having a western wedding, complete with the cowboy boots under my dress, so how could I not throw in some country western dance moves for our first dance? I immediately turned to my best friend, Google, and asked it where I could find country western dance lessons in Jackson Hole. It generated one solid lead – Dancer’s Workshop offered country western dance lessons at the Center for the Arts. Yahtzee!
I pulled up the schedule and my enthusiasm rapidly waned as I realized that the only lesson available before our wedding was an advanced lesson. Jared and I didn’t even know what foot to start with, let alone how to do a turn. I called up the Workshop and asked if the lesson was suitable for beginners. They said that it may be a little advance but we should be fine. So we each donned our cowboy boots, paid our $20 fee and entered the dance studio, where the lesson was held. Within the first 5 minutes we knew that we were in over our head. They were teaching complex, old school country western dance moves, such as “the window”. One of the instructors noticed us flailing in the corner and came over and gave us some basic maneuvers to work on. We had a good time but knew that we probably should have started with a class for beginners. So, when last week I saw an ad for free country western dance lessons at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar on Thursday night, I told Jared that we should attend.
We showed up at 7:30PM, grabbed a drink from the bar and headed to the dance floor. There were three instructors – one old school cowboy and two ladies with flowing skirts. We started by learning the steps, one foot in, one foot planted in the back – lean in, lean out, lean in, lean out. Once we had that sorted we moved on to a girl turn, then a guy turn. As we progressed through the lesson we realized that we knew a lot more about country western dancing than we gave ourselves credit. There were a few couples who had clearly never danced before, dancing like puppies whose paws are too big for their body, clumsy and flailing. They watched us with awe, as if we were Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk for the first time. However, I’m pretty sure that we looked like bumbling idiots, just less so than them.
We were taught the cuddle and how to do a behind the back boy turn. Then we learned the two step, which while it is important to the history of country western dancing, I have yet to really see it being done on the dance floors in Jackson Hole. After the lesson we tipped our instructors and then the band started. We grabbed a beer and headed out onto the dance floor to try our new moves. We had an absolute blast! And I think that we even got a whoop or two from the crowd – though I could have completely been imagining that. If you are interested in learning how to dance, or even just to experience some true western culture, I would highly recommend attending the country western dance lessons at the Cowboy Bar. The lessons occur every Thursday from 7:30PM to 9PM. Make sure to bring a partner because when we went there were a lot more girls than guys so they didn’t end up doing the lesson. So grab your partner, don your cowboy boots and head down to the Cowboy for some good old fashion dance lessons!
**Note – the Dancer’s Workshop offers Country Western Dance Lessons on occasion. They currently do not have any lessons scheduled**
Canyon and I are both on the hunt. Walking with purpose, scanning the ground. Of course, we are looking for different things. He is looking for a red tailed squirrel that keeps chattering, taunting him as he sits safely in a nearby tree. I am searching for morel mushrooms, an edible treasure that grows in the spring. As I part some tree branches, bushwacking off of the trail, I look down and spy a brown fungi. Precisely what I am looking for. I admire the wavy pattern of the cap and as I kneel to pick it I let the joy of the hunt spread over me. I found one! My first morel. And then, like a drug addict, I am on the hunt for another one. Craving the satisfaction and high that you get from finding a wild mushroom.
Last year, I went foraging for the first time. My first experience was hunting for golden chanterelles. At night I would dream of finding them. Whenever I was on a hike I always kept my eyes peeled for them. After finding my first morel, I assure you, the feeling is the same. As I sit in my office, I am daydreaming of wandering around in the woods in search of small brown beauties. Remembering the taste of my morels, which I dredged in flour and fried in butter last night, makes my mouth water. They tasted earthy and soft.
As far as wild mushrooms go, morels are easily identifiable and valuable – a pound of mushrooms can sell for around $14 dollars a pound. However, they are rather elusive. After an hour of searching, I only had 3 small morels to show for my effort. However, they are just starting to grow at the elevation of the area where I was looking for them.
Like most mushrooms, morels like moist ground and grow in treed areas. Morel hunting is a favorite pasttime of many Jackson Hole residents, but don’t ask them about where they go hunting. Like hunting elk, friends rarely share their hunting grounds. People have their secret spots where they return to year after year to harvest mushrooms. The last thing they want to do is increase the competition and have to share their bounty with someone else. The secretiveness of morel hunting makes the experience even more thrilling.
I don’t recommend that you eat any wild mushrooms unless you are certain that you have correctly identified them. While morels are rather easy to identify, there are a few mushrooms that look similar and can cause gastro-intestinal distress. Here is a link to information on false morels.
Morel hunting is a family friendly activity and is very enjoyable – even if you don’t find any mushrooms, the walk in the woods and the thrill of the hunt itself is very fun. Morels grow in Jackson in May and early June, so go take a walk and see what you can find! Just don’t ask me where I found mine… ;)
Up next, we have our front desk representative, Brittany’s recommendations. Though not as detailed as Kelly’s recommendations this is a great itinerary if you already have an idea of where you would like to stay in Yellowstone. In case you missed it, our front desk is giving us some great ideas for itineraries if you have 5 days to spend in Yellowstone and the Jackson Hole area. See our front desk manager Kelly’s recommendations here!
Day 1: Yellowstone Van Tour
Start off your trip with a tour of the park! Enjoy all the natural wonders that Yellowstone has to offer—including the famous Old Faithful Geyser!
Day 2: Fishing Bridge Hikes
Now that you’ve got the lay of the land, it’s time to get on your feet! Explore the variety of trails around Fishing Bridge and Yellowstone Lake!
Day 3: Mammoth Hot Springs
Get to know the park through the lens of the past! Spend your day learning about Yellowstone’s history—while also checking out one of the park’s most well-known thermals!
Day 4: Lamar Valley Wildlife
While away the afternoon by viewing the wildlife of Lamar Valley! The Valley features some of the most beautiful flora and fauna in the park—and maybe you’ll even see a buffalo or two!
Drink in one final day in this magnificent place! Rent a bike at Old Faithful and ride the Fountain Flats Trail; nothing completes a trip to Yellowstone like cycling through the heart of the park!
Our front desk has created an itinerary for their ideal 5 day trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park. First up, we have our new front desk manager, Kelly’s 5 day trip.
Day 1: Arrive in the town of Jackson, WY
- Arrive at the Jackson Hole Airport
- Eat at Jedediah’s at the Airport
- Depart Jackson Hole Airport and head into the town of Jackson – Flying T Taxi $35.00+ (307-690-4141)
- Check in to the Painted Buffalo Inn
- Stroll through the Town Square & browse local shopping, watch “Old West Shootout” at 6pm
- Dinner reservations at Nani’s
Day 2: Jackson Hole Area/Grand Teton National Park
- Breakfast at E.leaven
- Depart Jackson for Teton Village
- Ride the Tram to the summit
- Small hike around the area of the Summit, PHOTO Ops!
- Eat lunch at TOP OF THE WORLD WAFFLES
- Ride the Tram to the base
- Depart Teton Village
- Visit Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center
- Visit Craig Thomas Discovery Center
- Explore Moose & Kelly – Moose-Wilson Rd, Mormon Row, Moulton Barn
- Return via Elk Refuge Rd; Photo Ops!
- Order sandwiches for picnic lunch at Pearl Street Market
- Dinner reservations at The Snake River Grill
Day 3: Grand Teton National Park
- Check out of Painted Buffalo Inn
- Depart Jackson for Grand Teton National Park
- Stop at Snake River Overlook for 6:09am sunrise; Photo Op!
- Breakfast at the Trapper Grill at Signal Mountain Lodge
- Visit Jenny Lake Visitor’s Center
- Take the Jenny lake ‘shuttle’ across
- Hike Cascade Canyon trail
- Stop for picnic lunch @ Hidden Falls
- Take return Shuttle across the lake
- Visit Jackson Lake & dam – small hike with potential for wildlife activity
- Check in to the Jackson Lake Lodge
- Have dinner at the historic Jackson Lake Lodge Mural Room
Day 4: Yellowstone National Park (South/West Sections)
- Check out of Jackson Lake Lodge (early morning)
- Depart for Yellowstone National Park
- Visit Duck Lake Trail at the West Thumb Geyser Basin – easy, 1mi hike
- Visit Old Faithful Geyser – photo ops
- Have breakfast at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge Geyser Grill
- Purchase picnic lunch items from Old faithful Inn Bear Paw Deli
- Visit the Geyser Basin area; including Grand Prismatic Spring, Great Fountain Geyser and Fountain Paint Pot – easy walks w. photo ops
- Visit Harlequin Lake Trail & have picnic lunch – easy, 1mi hike
- Check in to the Alpine Motel in West Yellowstone
- Have dinner at Madison Crossing Lounge
Day 5: Yellowstone National Park (North/East Sections)
- Check out of the Alpine Motel
- Scenic drive to Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace
- Check in to the Mammoth Campground (1st come, 1st serve, $20/nt)
- Visit Wraith Falls – easy, family friendly hike
- Visit the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park – photo ops
- Visit the Upper and Lower Falls – light walking, photo ops
- Visit Artists Point – photo ops, potential wildlife viewing
- Have dinner at the Roosevelt Lodge Dining Room
- Visit Lamar Valley towards dusk for best chance at wildlife viewing
- Return to campsite for s’mores and family bonding
For more resources on hiking in Yellowstone visit this website.
For more information on Grand Teton National Park click here. For more information on Yellowstone National Park click here. Do you have any additions that you would make to Kelly’s itinerary? Suggest them in the comments! Next week we will here from another front desk representative on what their ideal Yellowstone trip is.