Posts tagged ‘Jackson Hole’
For those who follow our blog, you may remember that I wrote about my attempt of St. John last summer. The trip was horrendous. It failed on multiple levels – group communication, leadership, route finding and we had a injury to boot! So when one of my friends who accompanied me on the trip last summer asked if I was up for round two I decided that I couldn’t let a mountain like St. John keep me down. I agreed to pick her up at 5AM the next morning.
I have to say, I really have this early morning wake up to go climb a mountain thing down pat. When I rolled out of bed at 4:30AM I get dressed in the clothes I laid out the night before, throw the peanut butter banana oatmeal I made with walnuts in the microwave and take the dog out. By the time I’m back the oatmeal is done and all I have to do is jump in the car where I have already put my pack and boots. Done in 15 minutes.
After picking up my friend Crista and reaching the trail head we strapped on our boots and turned on our head.. wait a minute. We didn’t even need a headlamp. At 5AM it was already bright enough to pick out the trail. We cruised along the Jenny Lake trail until we reached the trail to the Lake of the Crags. That’s when the real hike began. The trail is steep right from the get go. While it was exhausting there is one benefit to a steep trail – it’s shorter. The trail also provides beautiful views of Jenny Lake below. As we started to ascend the canyon clouds formed from the lake and chased us up the valley.
By 8AM we reached Ramshield Lake and the Lake of the Crags. It was so beautiful so early in the morning with the soft glow from the sunrise and the stillness of the water. We took a break to refuel and rehydrate. We both discussed the route and where we think that we went wrong the last time. We headed up the couloir, checking for signs of kairns or small trails. Fortunately, we found some kairns so we knew that we were on track. It was amazing how much easier it was the second time around. Maybe it was because we knew where “not to go”, maybe it was because it was just two of us instead of four, either way it was almost embarrassingly obvious which couloir we should ascend.
Once we reached the steep scree in the couloir it was slow going. However, the views kept improving with every step so we didn’t mind taking short breaks to catch our breath and take in the scenery. The most breathtaking view was when we reached the top of the couloir and had a view direct into Paintbrush Canyon and of Jackson Lake. It was only a short scramble to the top from that point but it was definitely the most challenging part of our hike. The exposure was overwhelming as we shuffled along a small rock ledge. Then we had a class 5.2 climb to the top – without protection and with some serious repercussions. If you are afraid of heights this is not the hike for you.
After a few deep breaths and some technical maneuvers we reached the summit. And what a glorious summit it was! The view of Jackson Lake, the valley as well as the Grand Teton 11,430 feet were stunning – one of my favorite views in the park! We both ate our lunches that consisted mainly of peanut butter and some bread product and reflected on how frustrating our first attempt at the summit was.
The descent was steep and surprisingly took almost as long as the ascent. Since the scree is so loose you need to hike slowly to make sure that you don’t misstep and send yourself tumbling down the hill. The day was gorgeous – clear and sunny so we didn’t mind the slower than normal descent. I have to say, if you are looking for a first time summit objective in the Tetons Mt. Saint John is a great choice. Aside from a few technical maneuvers on the summit cone the hiking is pretty straightforward and relatively (though steep) easy. We were able to hike it in 8 hours from car to car. Not bad for a summit hike in the park! Just be sure to bring bear spray and have some knowledge of route finding since the trail is barely marked once you leave the Lake of the Crags. “A Climber’s Guide to the Teton Range” is a book a recommend to anyone interested in getting into climbing or mountaineering in the Tetons. Just be safe and have fun!
There are many gorgeous canyons to hike through in the Teton Range – Cascade Canyon, Paintbrush Canyon and Death Canyon to name a few. Granite Canyon creates the north border of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, one of the local ski areas. The canyon leads you from the valley floor up 2,000 feet to the open fields behind the ski resort and then to the summit of Rendezvous Mountain should you choose to continue that way up the trail.
The trail is typically hiked from the top of the Tram down to the base of the ski resort. You can purchase a ticket for the tram at the base of the mountain for $26. For a $6 off coupon follow this link. The hike, while all downhill, is rather long (12.75 miles long to be exact) so I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who isn’t in good physical shape or has small children. Also, I wouldn’t suggest that you do this hike if you are flying in from sea level and it is your first day in Jackson. The summit elevation of the Rendezvous Mountain (top of the tram) is 10,450 feet and that can be a challenge if you aren’t yet acclimated.
From the top of the tram you head south towards Cody Peak until you see a trail sign on the right hand side indicating the direction to Marion Lake and Granite Canyon. Almost immediately you enter Grand Teton National Park. From there you lose elevation quickly via a series of long switchbacks.
After about 2 miles of downhill switchbacks (with one small uphill one thrown in) you will reach a number of open fields. At the trail junction take a right to head towards Granite Canyon. You get a good view of the back side of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and some of the surrounding mountains. In June to early July the field is filled with gorgeous wildflowers. When we hiked it last weekend there were some flowers but most had already bloomed and died. However, there was some active wildlife – we saw a deer grazing in the field as well as a momma ruffed grouse with her babies.
At the next trail junction you will take a right to get into Granite Canyon. I must be honest, it isn’t the most spectacular canyon in the park since you rarely get a view of the valley and the mountains surrounding the canyon aren’t particularly spectacular. Of course it is pretty though, and unique in it’s own way. The things that the canyon has going for it is that it is rarely traveled so if you are looking to get away from the crowds it’s a good hike and it is very convenient since there is easy access via the tram. We hiked up the canyon (I’m not a big fan of downhills) and the pitch once you hit the fields back down to the valley is very mellow. We were able to cruise at a pace of almost 3 miles per hour. Which we probably wouldn’t have been able to sustain if we were in any of the other canyons.
The trail through the canyon does follow a stream which has some beautiful cascades. Also, if you are an avid skier you get a good look at some of the backcountry lines off of the side of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Once you reach the bottom of the canyon you follow the Valley Trail back to the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
As always, bring your bear spray and plenty of food and water as well as some warm layers and a rain jacket. Plan to make a day of this hike so you aren’t rushed and have time to take in the scenery and serenity of the backcountry.
The clock reads 8PM as I lay in bed and the light filters into my room. 10 hours earlier I agreed to meet a friend on the Lower Saddle of the Grand Teton at 7AM. Falling asleep while it’s still light out poses a challenge but the knowledge that my alarm clock will be blaring at 1:30AM keeps me in bed. I fall into a restless sleep, dreaming of a combination of mountain adventures and work, the two things that seem to be ruling my life this summer (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).
At 1:30AM I heat up my breakfast, let the dog out and pack up the car. My fiance, Jared, and I decided last year that we wanted to climb the Grand Teton last year before our wedding on August 17th. Also, since I don’t sleep well in a tent and we are both a little on the crazy side we decided that we wanted to do it in a day. 16 miles and 8,300 vertical feet in one day? Totally doable. As we drive by the town square we see plenty of revelers standing around on the sidewalk deciding their next move as the bars are closing. We are reminded again of how insane what we are doing really is.
At 2:10AM we pull into the Lupine Meadows trail head. People packing their bags by headlamp indicate that there are 2 other groups preparing for their ascent of the Grand. We do one last check through all of our gear, strap on our packs and then start up the trail. For 3 hours we hike through the dark, following the small spot illuminated by our headlamp in front of us. The trail is peaceful. There is no wind, no birds, no noise whatsoever. There is also no moon so we continue through the darkness and talk about our goals for the day. Obviously a summit would be nice, but nothing in mountaineering is ever guaranteed.
We reach the meadows in Garnet Canyon around 5AM. By now the horizon has started to brighten. We refill our water by using a filter and pumping water straight out of the stream. After a brief snack we start up the steep switchbacks that lead to the lower saddle. As the sun rises the surrounding mountains get enveloped in a gorgeous alpenglow. I look at the Middle and South Teton and think about how high they look from where I am. Then I remember that if we summit the Grand Teton we will be about 1,000 feet higher than that Middle Teton. I quickly push the thought from my mind because from where I stand the thought of reaching that altitude is daunting.
After hiking for another hour and a half we reach a large snowfield at the foot of the Lower Saddle. The time is 6:45 and it looks like we will be right on time for our 7AM rendezvous time. The snow is firm. Much firmmer than we thought that it was going to be. We break out our ice axes and start climbing the field, kicking steps as we go. The snow is so firm that we can barely get our axes to go more than 2 inches into the snow. With extreme caution and concentration we continue up the snow field. As we near the top we hear our friend, Charles, call our names. We look over and see him by his campsite with 3 other friends. Relieved to be off of the snow, we head towards his camp.
We take a short break and stuff as many calories into our body as we can before leaving the lower saddle for the summit of the Grand Teton. As we start ascending the trail my stomach starts yelling at me “why did you think it was okay to drink a smoothie, eat beef jerky, trail mix and a powdery gatorade substance that tasted like pixie sticks?! All within a 10 minute span!” I decide to slow down my pace a hair to allow my stomach to digest so I pull up the rear of the group.
The route finding is a bit of a challenge but fortunately patches of snow can be avoided. We decided to climb the Owen-Spaulding route, the original route up the Grand Teton. After a steep scramble up to the upper saddle we break out our ropes, climbing shoes and prepare for our first climb, the Belly Roll. Honestly, with a name like the Belly Roll I had no idea what to expect. The climb traverses the side of the Grand with a substantial drop into Valhalla Canyon below. It’s difficult to see or hear each other on this part of the climb so it is recommended that you bring a set of walkie talkies so the people at the beginning of the climb and end of the climb can communicate.
The portion that the climb is named after is a small crawl space that is located between an overhanging rock and another rock, creating a small space which you can crawl on your belly across if you are scared of the exposure. In the photo to the right I decided to straddle the rock and take this photo.
None of the climbs on the Owen-Spaulding route (also known as the OS) are rated higher than a 5.4. After we Belly Crawled we ascended another 50 feet or so to Sergeant’s Chimney, the second and final climb. This wide chimney has plenty of foot and hand holds. After 20 to 30 minutes of waiting in the cold shade of the Grand for my team to climb the chimney I started to shiver. Fortunately, I was next to climb. I scrambled up the chimney doing my best to warm myself up. After the chimney it’s another short scramble to the summit. We saw one guided group coming down as we were about 100 feet from the summit.
I was one of the first of my group to reach the summit. The summit block is actually surprisingly large. Fortunately, we only had to share the summit with another party of 2 people. The view from the top made me feel like I was looking outside of an airplane window. The valley looked miles away, which I guess is pretty accurate. It is about 8 miles from the trail head to the top of the Grand Teton and we were standing at 13,770 feet. Jared and I had started our hike at 2:30AM and reached the summit at 11AM. 8.5 hours in and we were only halfway through our hike/climb. Fortunately, there was barely any wind, the sun was shining and there was no bad weather on the horizon so we spent an hour hanging out at the top of the world, snacking and taking turns taking photos of each other. Some of our group drank whiskey from a Gatorade bottle which they passed around.
Knowing that we were only at the halfway point and were running out of our “good weather” window we started the long hike back to the car. I was actually more afraid of going down the Grand than I was going up. The reason being is that there are a lot of loose rocks that can easily be kicked off and sent traveling through midair towards your friends below. Once again we waited, this time in the sunshine, as my group took turns rappelling during the first pitch, and then the next.
The second pitch incorporated a hanging rappel. I was prepped before I dropped in but nothing can prepare you for standing on top of a rock and seeing your friends 100 feet below you with nothing but thin air and a rope separating you.
Finally we could change out of our climbing shoes into our boots that we had stashed at the bottom of the rappel. As we headed towards the lower saddle we came across some loose ground. All of a sudden I took a step and sent a rock the size of a football headed straight for Charles’ head. He was about 25 feet below me and I screamed “Rock, Charles, ROCKKKKK!!” As if in slow motion he looked up towards me and ducked, nearly missing the rock that I had sent hurtling towards his head. After apologizing profusely and taking a few deep breaths we continued down the mountain.
We reach the lower saddle at 3PM and leave our friends to pack up their camp. We refuel and begin the long slog back to the car. Finally, at 7:30PM we reach the car. Our entire hike/climb lasted 17 hours and boy were we happy to see the car! After a high five and some stretching we loaded up the car and headed home physically and mentally exhausted.
NOTES ABOUT THE GRAND:
- If you are not experienced with route finding, mountaineering, climbing or reading weather please use a guided service to take you up the Grand Teton. The two most respected guiding services in Jackson are Exum Mountain Guides and Jackson Hole Mountain Guides.
- Jared and I are in excellent physical condition and are experienced mountaineers, we do not suggest doing the Grand Teton in one day unless you are experienced, acclimated and in good physical condition.
- The Grand Teton, as with any other mountain in the Tetons should be respected. Many people have died on the Grand Teton. There are many high consequence decisions that need to be made when on the Grand and you should not take the climb lightly. But it is an amazing experience which I suggest anyone interested in mountaineering or climbing should partake in, just with the necessary precautions.
There are plenty of different hikes in Grand Teton National Park. However, one of the most popular hikes is the one to Surprise and Amphitheater Lake. If you are looking to stay away from the crowds this may not be the best hike for you as the majority of the trail is shared with backpackers and Grand Teton summit hopefuls. Don’t get me wrong, the hike is absolutely worth the traffic on the trail, there are just other hikes that I would recommend if you are looking to get away from the crowds.
This hike starts at the Lupine Meadows trail head and is rather straightforward. There are only two junctions and the trail is well signed. As always, bring your bear spray as well as a partner (hiking alone is discouraged). I would suggest starting this hike in the morning and having lunch at the lake. Besides giving yourself a reason to mingle at the lake, I suggest an early start because the upper part of the trail doesn’t have much shade and thunderstorms are typical around 3 to 4PM in the summer.
Grand Teton National Park has a trail map to Surprise and Amphitheater lake – you can find it here. You will climb 3,000 vertical feet from the valley floor to reach two glacial lakes that lie in the shadow of the Grand Teton. The mileage is 10.1 miles round trip. This hike is for those who are physically fit and want a long excursion in the park.
Start by parking at the Lupine Meadows Trail Head. The first mile is rather flat but you start gaining elevation once you reach the ridge line that will bring you toward the mountains. At the first junction continue straight and start up the switchbacks. The long switchbacks between the junction with the Valley Trail and Garnet Canyon are my favorite part of the hike. The views of Bradley and Taggart Lake below are breathtaking and in late June and early July there are fields of wildflowers lining the trail.
After another 1.3 miles you will reach the second junction. Bear right (straight) to stay on the trail to Surprise and Amphitheater Lake. After the junction it’s another 2 miles to reach Amphitheater Lake. You will reach Surprise Lake first, nestled among trees with a small waterfall feeding it. Continue up the trail to reach Amphitheater Lake, which is located at the base of a cirque. Here you can imagine the glaciers that formed the landscape years ago. The view of Disappointment Peak, Grand Teton and Mountain Owen from the lakes are stunning. If you feel very adventurous pack an overnight backpack and spend the night at Amphitheater Lake. There are campsites on the lake shore. Be sure to check in at the Visitor’s Center and get a permit and bear canister if you intend on camping there.
Once you are done at the lake, retrace your steps to your car. I hope that you enjoy this popular hike in Grand Teton National Park. Whether you are spending a day or a week in Jackson Hole, be sure to take at least a small hike in the Tetons. It’s worth getting out of the car and stretching your legs for.
Grand Teton National Park has numerous trails that take you to the remote reaches of the park. You can find most of them on the trail map that they hand you at the gate to the park or at the Visitor’s Center. However, there are a some trails that the National Park Services has elected to “not maintain” so they aren’t displayed on the map or marked on the trails. Some of my favorite hikes are unmaintained trails because they see little traffic and bring you to extraordinary places.
Delta Lake is one of the hidden gems in Grand Teton National Park. This lake is a brilliant turquoise color and has a staggering backdrop starring Mount Owen. To reach the lake first park at Lupine Meadows trail head. This trail head is very popular as it is the same trail that you use to access the Grand Teton (as well as the Middle and South Tetons and many other peaks). The first mile is a gentle incline and then the trail banks right up a ridge and the serious elevation gain begins. Keep going straight towards Surprise and Amphitheater lakes when you reach the junction with the Valley Trail.
The next 1.5 miles are a series of mostly open switchbacks through fields of wildflowers (when in season, which is late June and early July). Be sure to bring your bear spray as I have had encounters with a mother black bear and her two cubs in this area (last year). Eventually the trail will split and you can go left to reach Garnet Canyon (and the Grand Teton) or right/straight to reach Surprise and Amphitheater lakes. Continue straight/right on the trail. The first switchback after the junction is where you depart from the maintained trail.
Please keep in mind when I say “unmaintained” this means that the trail is not clearly marked (if marked at all) and there may be obstacles in your way that you need to avoid. For example we had to duck under a fallen tree when we visited the lake this past weekend. For Delta Lake I suggest that you have excellent route finding skills as the trail leads you into Glacier Gultch and across numerous boulder fields. As you depart from the trail you will go down a steep hill and then begin your ascent again. Following this trail you will be deposited into the first boulder field. Look for kairns, or small piles of rocks clustered together on top of the boulders, to find the trail. Make sure that you look back frequently from where you came from so that you won’t have an issue finding the main trail upon your return.
The trail continues after the first boulder field, slightly uphill and then enters a massive boulder field. The lake is at the end of the large boulder field and is about 500 feet in elevation gain from when you enter the boulder field. This hike would not be good for those with young children as the boulders are large and hard to negotiate and some of them move so it can be quite dangerous if you aren’t careful. Eventually you will be able to see and/or hear the run off from the lake. Follow the water up to the foot of the lake.
The lake is beautiful so I suggest that you bring a lunch and hang out for awhile. Be sure to bring layers or a warm jacket though. The lake is a glacial lake and the wind tends to funnel through the area so it can be quite windy and a little chilly, even on the warmest of days. I wore a GPS watch when I hiked up to Delta this past weekend so if you want to see the route feel free to check out this page. From my watch I gathered that it was 7.44 miles round trip and 2,400 feet of elevation gain. Of course this will vary depending on what route you take through the boulder field. As I said previously, this lake is a little challenging to find, so make sure that you have good route finding skills and carry extra food and water just in case you get off trail. Lastly, enjoy the scenery and bring your camera! You’ll want to take plenty photos of the lake and the hike so that you can post them on Facebook and make your friends jealous ;)!
There are so many great trails in the Jackson Hole area. There are plenty of loop and out and back run options. One of my favorite places to go trail running is the Cache Creek area. Located on the eastern edge of Jackson, there are plenty of steep and mellow trail running options. They all gain some vertical and some have multiple rises and descents. Hagen trail is one of my favorite running trails because it sees little bike traffic. You can run out on the Hagen trail and then back on the dirt road or if you want to run from town to the trail head you can make this run a longer loop by running Hagen Highway to Sink or Swim back into town. The best map for the Cache Creek trail system can be found here on the Friends of Pathways website.
Another favorite trail run of mine in the Cache Creek area is to run the dirt road and then jump onto the Putt-Putt Trail. This trail has many small hills and short descents. It is very popular with bikers, so if you do decide to run with music on this trail make sure that you keep the volume low and be aware of other trail users. Also, I have run into moose occasionally on the Putt-Putt trail so be aware of your surroundings. The great thing about Putt-Putt and Hagen is there there are a lot of spur trails that connect to the main dirt road every mile or so. This allows you to make your run as long or as short as you’d like. Also, the area is pet friendly so you can bring your dog along for your run.
If you are up for a challenge one of my favorite loops is running from town to Josie’s Ridge trail and then up the ridge to Snow King and then down the face of Snow King. This run is not for the faint of heart. With 1,200 feet of elevation gain it will get your heart pumping. There is no shame in walking up some of the Josie’s Ridge trail. I definitely recommend that you bring water on this run as there are no streams and the ridge doesn’t have much shade. The views on this run are stunning.
Another favorite place for trail runners is Teton Pass. Running Old Pass Road is quite the challenge. The old dirt road ascends steadily to the top of Teton Pass. Many people walk old pass road as well as bike it so be aware of your surroundings. Also, wildlife, including bears have been seen on Teton Pass so pay attention and try to make noise to alert animals of your presence.
Lastly, the Elk Refuge Road, located in the North East corner of the town of Jackson is a nice dirt road with endless mileage. It is an out and back run and has some elevation gain, but not much. It’s great for someone who is looking to avoid pavement but doesn’t want to look out for rocks and roots. The road starts at the end of East Broadway and then continues until there is a split (around mile 4). Go right to Curtis Canyon (and a hill climb) go left to continue to Flat Creek Road. This run provides views of the refuge and the Tetons as well as the Town of Jackson and Snow King Resort . Depending on the season you will see elk in the refuge (they are there in the early Spring or late Fall). Also, big horn sheep frequent the area as well as coyotes and other small animals. Just be courteous to the wildlife and give them their space. You do not want to be charged by a big horn sheep, trust me.
Another great place to run is on the Snake River Levee. The maximum mileage on the east side of the dike is around 4.5 miles and on the west side of the dike is 3 miles. The east side is an out and back with a small loop at the far end. It is a flat dirt road that is popular with walkers and anglers. It borders the Snake River so I would suggest that you run on the east side for breathtaking views of the river and Teton Range.
There are plenty of trails in the greater Jackson Hole area to run on. Just keep in mind, if you do decide to run by yourself make sure that you make lots of noise when you are on Teton Pass or other remote areas further away from town. Also, carry bear spray with you if you want to go for a longer run, or if you are going deeper into the wilderness. Also, be sure to carry some water and snacks if you aren’t familiar with the terrain. Lastly, be sure to enjoy the scenery! Not every run has to be a race to the finish.
Jackson Hole is a mecca of bike paths and beautiful vistas. There are miles of paved paths or dirt if that’s what you prefer. This post is about the best places to go for a road run, I will write about trail running at a later time. For the past two months I have been training for the Jackson Hole Half Marathon on June 8th. The run starts just outside Teton Village and ends at the base of Snow King Mountain in the town of Jackson.
The run takes place primarily on bike paths so I have been running the Moose-Wilson road bike path (find it on this map) a fair amount to familiarize myself with the course. For those who are looking for a short 3 mile run to a long 10+ mile run this bike path is great. It is flat for the most part and provides adequate shade from the mid-day heat. The only part of the path that I consider difficult is what the local’s call “the windy mile.” The windy mile is the last mile before you reach Teton Village. It stretches a wide open plain where there are no trees to provide shade or block the wind. Wyoming is a windy state and this section of the bike path has earned its nickname. Depending on the length of your run the Stilson Parking Lot is a great place to start. You can run to Wilson for a short 3 miler or you can run up to Teton Village for a 13+ mile run. The distance is marked on the pathway so you can keep track of your mileage.
Another one of my favorite pathways to run on is the Jackson to Gros Ventres Road/Grand Teton National Park pathway, identified as the Wapiti Pathway on this map. This pathway starts just north of town by the Dairy Queen. The path borders the National Elk Refuge and is open from May 1 to October 1. This pathway is best run in the morning or late evening when the sun isn’t strong. There is no shade on the path so it can be especially brutal to run on it during the middle of the day. This path is very popular with bikers so be aware of your surroundings during your run. At mile 3 you reach Fish Hatchery Hill, a steady incline of about a half a mile gains you 200 feet of elevation. If you can make it up the hill you will be rewarded with a stunning view of the Tetons. This pathway continues all the way up to Grand Teton National Park, so you can make your run as long as you want. Just keep in mind that after Fish Hatchery Hill the path tends to be very windy. Also, the pathway runs parallel to Highway 89, a one lane road that tends to see a lot of traffic. If you are looking for serenity this might not be the path for you.
Both pathways provide great out and back run options. Unfortunately, there aren’t many great loop options in the Jackson area. Either way, these pathways provide a great alternative to running on a treadmill. Be sure to try them out when you are in Jackson Hole.
Every year April Fools Day brings an onslaught of harmless pranks and tomfoolery across the US. In the “peter pan” town of Jackson Hole, where every resident refuses to grow up, it is only natural that its residents take April Fools Day to a whole other level. At Jackson Hole Mountain Resort the locals descend on to the hill in bright neon onesies, jeans, rear entry boots and snow blades. While we appreciate the skiers who visit our valley, sometime their attire is downright hilarious. Some people feel like if you go skiing once a year, why invest in a good ski jacket and pants? Why not just use an one piece that you bought in the 90s, or a pair stretch pants from the 80s? So in turn, us locals dress up like those visitors. While this day may seem like a jab to our visitors, it really presents an opportunity to escape the rad bro get ups and just have some good old fashion (literally) fun.
The term gaper is derived from the gap present between the goggles and hat or helmet. Unfortunately, this feature is indicative of an individual who rarely skis or who is learning how to ski. It may seem a bit pretentious, but Gaper Day is all about having fun. You get to ski in a pizza, mess around in the lift line and laugh at yourself and others, a lot. The best way to witness this spectacle is to head to the “Thunder Bumps” on the Thunder trail located under the Thunder chairlift. By mid day there will be a party at the top of the trail, people eject out of their skis and drink beers while watching fellow gapers do tricks off of a small jump. To get a taste of what you’re in for check this video out (fast forward to 2:30 if you want to see people skiing off of the jump). Ultimately, gaper day is about having a good time.
After the mountain closes, head to the base in front of the tram. The ridiculousness continues off the hill and into the evening.
As with anything in the ski industry, there is no shortage of alcohol involved, so make sure you partake responsibly. Skiing intoxicated can be quite dangerous. Thanks to the amount of hotels, restaurants and bars who own property in the area the liquor laws extend to the base area. You can walk around with an open container from anywhere, the liquor store, a bar, your backpack, etc. without getting in trouble. Though I will caution you, make sure that if you do drink, DO NOT DRIVE. Take the START Bus. The police are aware of gaper day and they tend to increase their presence on the road. Above all, go have a good time and dress appropriately!
You have decided to come to Jackson Hole with your hunny to celebrate your anniversary or to just get away from it all. Most likely one night you may want to have a romantic dinner, something more than your average pizza and beer dinner date. There are plenty of wonderful places to take your loved one out to eat in Jackson, it just depends on how much money you want to spend.
Last year, Jared and I decided to forgo the typical anniversary gifts and treat ourselves to a nice romantic dinner. We initially wanted to have it at the Snake River Grill but we waited too long so we couldn’t get a reservation on the night of our anniversary. We decided to try something new, the Wild Sage which is located in the Rusty Parrot Lodge, a few blocks from the town square in downtown Jackson. The Wild Sage is Jackson’s only restaurant to receive the AAA Four Diamond award but I think that it is a tie between Amangani and the Wild Sage for the most expensive restaurant in town. While expensive, the food and ambiance is worth it. The restaurant is small – think 40 people max and the rustic decor, fireplace and open concept kitchen make for an intimate setting. We were seated by the window where we could watch the cars drive by and the snow fall. The food was melt in your mouth delicious and the cocktails and wine were a delightful addition to our meal. Our reservations were for 6pm and we stayed until 9pm just sipping our after dinner drinks and talking about our upcoming nuptials. We didn’t feel like we were pressured to leave and the staff was very professional and welcoming.
Possibly my favorite restaurant in town, I love the ambiance that the Grill exudes. Its log cabin interior and center fireplace make this one of my favorite places for a romantic date. The first time that I went to the Grill was when Jared took me there for my birthday and we got a corner booth. Our date was intimate and exciting – their menu boasts an array of unique tapas as well as wild game and fresh fish. They have an extensive wine list as well as some specialty cocktails. The Snake River Grill is also a good place to bring a group to celebrate a birthday or graduation. To this day I still dream about the rare filet of beef that I had for my birthday, years ago. I could cut it with my fork – needless to say, I was in heaven.
Without a doubt the best thing about the Granary is the stunning mountain view. Situated on a butte high above the valley of Jackson Hole, the Granary is part of Spring Creek Ranch. The dining rooms is a little outdated but the large picture windows with a sweeping vista mask that fact. The food is good but not as good as the previously mentioned restaurants. The thing that I remember most from my dinner at the Granary is the sun setting behind the mountains. I encourage you to go early during the winter months (think 6pm reservations) and later during the summer months (think 7 or 7:30) to catch the sunset. While the dinner at the Granary is good, the breakfast is wonderful. I especially love their trout and eggs dish. If you are looking for a cheaper romantic dinner try the lounge at the Granary. Sit at the bar or by the crackling fire and enjoy the same breath taking view with a more economical bar menu. The portions aren’t huge but the bar does offer nightly specials such a $4.50 well drinks, $.40 wings, cheap quesadillas and half of glasses of wine depending on the night. The also have a piano player semi-nightly in the lounge area which adds to the romantic ambiance.
Located at the top of the Gondola at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the Coulior has a refined atmosphere with a stunning view of the valley below. One of my favorite things about having dinner at the Coulior is the romantic Gondola ride that you take to reach the restaurant. Be sure to ask for a seat by the window when reserving your table, though if your reservation is anytime after 6pm and you have more than 2 in your party it is almost impossible to get one of those tables. The food is delicious, but it is an all inclusive menu, so if you aren’t willing to pay $95 per person for the entire meal (not including drinks) I would urge you to look elsewhere. During the Spring and Fall Coulior will do a 2 for 1 dinner special for season passholders so if you are a passholder be sure that you are on Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s email list so that you get the heads up when they are offering the 2 for 1s. The food is delicious and the four course meal leaves you satisfied, not stuffed.
Obviously you can have romantic dinners at restaurants that aren’t overly expensive. The options above all offer entrees in the range of $18 to $60. I have had plenty of dates at the Rendezvous Bistro, which is one of my favorite restaurants in town. The Bistro can be a bit loud but you can still carry on a conversation with your sweetheart without having to yell over the table. Another option is Trio, a small restaurant located a block from the town square in downtown Jackson. Trio has a variety of options ranging from pizza to buffalo rib eye and braised short ribs. There are plenty of great restaurants in Jackson so there is no need to limit yourself to this list. Also, please keep in mind that these are restaurants where I have dined and I have not had the opportunity to eat at all of the nice restaurants in Jackson (though I wish that I could!). I hope that you enjoy your romantic dinner wherever you end up!
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is a relatively small ski resort by western standards. No matter where you are on the mountain you can access the base area in 20 minutes or so. However, on weekends, when the lines in the base area are long, sometimes it is nice to eat lunch up on the mountain. I grew up brown bagging it in New England – my dad would bring a backpack full of sandwiches, chips and cookies up to the top of the Cannon tram and stash it in the corner of the cafeteria. But these days I find myself either stashing a Cliff bar in my ski pants to stave off my hunger until Apres Ski or wandering into one of the three on mountain dining establishments. Each eatery has different types of food and a different vibe.
Located at the top of the tram, it is by far the most scenic on mountain dining option (Couloir is a close second). It also has the most character, located in a small cabin that was built at the 60s, it has pieces of history pinned on the walls and it shares it’s space with the Jackson Hole Ski Patrol. There are not many tables in the cabin so be sure to be one of the first ones off the tram to nab a table. Corbet’s Cabin’s specialty is made to order waffles. They also have an array of snack bars, sports drinks, beer and sweets, but you really go to Corbet’s for their waffles. The have four different types of waffles: brown sugar and butter, strawberry jam and cream cheese, nutella and new this year, peanut butter and bacon. I have yet to try the PB and bacon waffle, though it sounds delicious. They serve the waffles sandwich style wrapped in tin foil. Corbet’s Cabin is a great place to go for breakfast or a midday snack.
Top of the Gondola – Rendezvous and Headwall Pizza, Couloir and Dog House
Located upstairs next to the Couloir, Rendezvous is my favorite place to eat on the mountain. It is easy to access if you are skiing Thunder, Sublette or the Tram via the Marmot lift or you may reach it by taking the Gondola. It can get pretty crowded from noon to 2 so be sure to stake out a table before getting your food. My favorite item at Rendezvous is their Vietnamese Pho. The large noodle bowl is packed with veggies and meat or tofu and filled with a mushroom broth. They are made to order so if you have an aversion to jalapenos, like me, you can ask them to make the soup without. The bowls are large enough to split between two average people or one very hungry individual. Rendezvous also has a delicious salad bar, soup station and grill and sandwich station.
Coulior offers sit down dining for the refined skier who is not in a rush to get back out on the slopes. Headwall Pizza and Dog House is a good place to eat cheaply or grab some grub to eat on the fly (say, on a powder day).
Located next to the Casper chair, the Casper Restaurant can handle a crowd. There are picnic tables outside that you can use on nice sunny days, a fireplace with two couches for those who are looking to sit back and relax as well as multiple tables on the first and second level of the building. They have a grill, soup station and their specialty, Mexican fare. I enjoy their burritos, either pork, beef or vegetarian. The burritos are large enough to share or can be devoured by one hungry individual. To avoid the notorious brick in the stomach feeling I normally split the burrito with a friend. Casper is also the only on mountain cafeteria with a full bar (Couloir also has a full bar). They have wonderful specialty drinks as well as delicious jello shots. Please see my previous blog about apres ski at Casper for details on their drink selection.
So there you have it – each one of Jackson Hole’s on-mountain dining options are unique so you can choose which restaurant best suits your needs. Some days I crave Pho, other days a burrito. Most days I crave a waffle, but I have a sweet tooth so that’s no surprise! Hopefully you get to experience all of the on-mountain dining options so that you may decide for yourself which restaurants are your favorites.
Also, as a side note – I do not believe that brown bagging is banned from any of the on-mountain dining options, but I am not positive. Just be courteous and aware of the situation.