Posts tagged ‘Jackson Hole’
When I first moved to Jackson 5 years ago I was told that the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar was a tourist trap, so I avoided it for the first year under the assumption that only tourists went there. What a fool I was! Since my first time at the Cowboy Bar 4 years ago it has become one of my favorite night life spots. It has a very unique atmosphere, complete with saddles for bar stools, silver dollars inlaid in the bar, pillars of knobbled pine and trophy animals on the wall and in showcases. It also has 4 pool tables for those who like to play bar games. Since 1937 the Cowboy Bar has been a fixture of the town square. Though it has undergone a few changes in ownership, the bar remains similar to its original condition – a piece of history that has outlasted years of change on the town square.
I believe that the Cowboy Bar offers some of the best nightlife in the valley. It is the only bar that has a built in stage and dance floor and it regularly has live music. The bar itself can accommodate a crowd. It has 3 bars and a multitude of tables with waitstaff. The bands who play at the Cowboy Bar play country western music. When they have live music (see the schedule on their website) the dance floor will be packed with swing dancers ranging from amateur to experienced. If you aren’t much of a dancer it’s fun to watch others on the dance floor and enjoy the live music.
From young to old, tourist to local, skier to cowboy, you will find a wide range of people at the Cowboy Bar. Everyone goes to the Cowboy Bar for the same thing – they are looking to have a great time. So don’t be surprised if you get asked to dance by a stranger, or if someone at the bar asks to buy you a drink.
The Cowboy will often have a cover on nights that they have live music. Be prepared to pay up to $10 for entry. Drinks are reasonable and not overpriced. It is also one of the last bars to close at night – on a weekend night the bar closes at 1AM. So be sure to pack your dancing shoes or cowboy boots and stop in at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar when you are in town.
Table Mountain is located just outside of the western boundary of Grand Teton National Park. The trail head is in Alta, Wyoming, but you must drive over Teton Pass, into Idaho and then back into Wyoming to reach it. The drive is approximately an hour long, but it is worth it. This dog-friendly hike offers some of the most breath-taking views of the Teton Range. The vista offers a new perspective on the range, as you view the Tetons from the west, as opposed to the common eastern view. From the summit of Table Mountain you feel like you can reach out and touch the Grand Teton.
There are two trails up to the summit of Table – Huckleberry trail and the Face. The Huckleberry Trail is 7 miles one way, while the Face is 4 miles of sheer uphill grunt work. To access the trail head drive from Jackson to Driggs, Idaho. At the stop light in downtown Driggs take a right and head towards Grand Targhee Ski Resort. After you pass the small town of Alta you will go over a cattle grate. A little bit after the cattle grate there will be a dirt road on your right. Take the right onto Teton Canyon Road, go a little more than 4 miles, where you will cross two bridges that are close together and are single lane, just before you get to the trail head. The first parking lot that you pass is the for the Huckleberry Trail trail head. The second parking lot is the best place to park for the Face Trail.
Whenever I hike Table Mountain I hike up the Face trail and down the Huckleberry Trail. The Face Trail is very steep and relentless. The elevation difference between the parking lot and the summit of Table Mountain is around 4,000 feet and on the Face trail you gain most of the elevation within the first 3 miles. The Face trail head is in the woods just past the pit toilets in the second parking lot (to the left if you are looking directly at the toilets). It is not marked until you have hiked about 100 feet on the trail.
My friends packed our dogs in the car and took the drive over to Idaho last weekend to hike Table Mountain. I couldn’t tell who was more excited for the hike – me or my dog. Canyon sat patiently in the trunk with Chula, my friends retriever mix. Both took turns crying and doing circles in the back. The moment we hit the dirt road before the trail head it was on. Both of them knew that we were getting close and they increased their cries to hoots and hollers. I couldn’t wait to open up the tailgate and let them run around.
Once we got our packs settled – bear spray? Check! Snacks and lunch? Check! Plenty of water? Check! Water filter (I don’t leave home without mine!)? Check! Extra clothes and first aid kit? Check! We were good to go. We headed to the Face Trail. My girlfriends were visibly nervous as we headed up the steep trail – “I haven’t been hiking at all this summer!” “I feel so out of shape” “Can we stop for a moment so I can catch my breath?” Yep, it was as steep as I had remembered. Despite all of their nervousness we made good time. Within an hour we had sweeping views of the valley below, a patchwork of fields and long paved roads creating a grid-like divide across the landscape. Looking directly across the valley we saw a patch of Aspen trees, yellowed by the recent cool weather.
After another hour of hiking we merged with the Huckleberry Trail. At this point the trail turned us out onto a high alpine meadow. The ascent mellowed out and we got our first glimpse of the summit of Table. The mountain is aptly named because jagged cliff bands rise from the high alpine meadow and create a circle around the flat summit. A mile of nearly flat terrain brings you to the cliff band, where you must scramble up to the summit.
Once on the summit there is plenty of space to spread out and enjoy the incredible view. To the left you can see mount Moran and Paintbrush Divide. Straight ahead you have a front row seat to the spectacle that is Mt. Owen, Grand Teton, Middle Teton and South Teton. Below, you can appreciate the South Fork of Cascade Canyon and to your right you can see Hurricane Pass and Alaska Basin.
The wind picked up as we ate our lunch on the summit and we found ourselves bundling up and talking about cutting our time on the summit short so that we didn’t freeze. We took some photos and then scrambled down from the summit. One of my friends has a bad knee, so we opted for the long, more mellow descent. As we merged onto the Huckleberry Trail we met a girl with her dog. She asked if we had any water to spare. I said that I had a water filter so I was happy to give her the rest of my water and then fill up once I reached the creek in half a mile. She was very grateful. I cannot stress enough that you should bring extra water for this hike. It’s a long one!
The views on the Huckleberry Trail differed from the face trail because now we were in the valley, as opposed to on the face. The trail meandered through Aspen groves and followed the creek back to the trail head. Fall was in full swing and we couldn’t take enough photos. It was absolutely breath taking. As we neared the end of the trail I noticed Canyon walking off the trail with his nose in the air. I called him back and grabbed his collar. I looked off into the woods where Canyon was sniffing and spotted a bull moose among the Aspens. Then I spotted a second moose walking through the sage brush. We said hello and kept moving down the trail, giving them a wide berth.
Once back at the car we started talking about getting a beer and some appetizers. We settled on heading to West Side Yard, which just opened in Driggs. We were very impressed by the extensive beer list and appetizers. After absolutely crushing some nachos, fried portobellos and french fries and savoring our beers in a unladylike fashion, we headed over Teton Pass back to Jackson. Everyone raved about the hike and we joked about how our dogs were going to sleep well.
Table Mountain is a great hike and is family friendly – as long as your kids aren’t too young and are physically fit. The Face trail isn’t for the faint of heart, but the Huckleberry Trail is very manageable. If you are planning on spending a few days in Jackson or spending a night over in Idaho I would highly recommend checking out this classic hike.
The day was a Saturday in early July of last year when our friend Charles came over to pick up some climbing gear for his trip up the Grand Teton. After discussing his trip, who he was taking with him and the route he was going to take he said “you guys should come with us!” My soon to be husband and I looked at each other for a moment. We had been talking about crossing the Grand Teton off of our bucket list before getting married. We had already crossed almost all of the surrounding peaks off of our list – South Teton, Middle Teton and Teewinot. After a quick exchange of glances I said “that sounds like fun, count us in!” It was 4PM and we agreed to meet him on the lower saddle of the Grand Teton at 7AM the next day, less than 24 hours later. 4 hours later we were packed and in bed. It was difficult to fall asleep when the sun was still up, but knowing that we were to be getting up and hiking in 5 hours kept me in bed. At 1AM the alarm sounded. Our dog looked at us like we were crazy as I prepared some oatmeal and we packed up the car with our packs.
An hour later we were on trail. It was a pitch black and a beautiful clear night as we made our way up the mountain from the Lupin Meadows Trailhead. By dawn we were in Garnet Canyon, watching the first light hit the high peaks. We refilled our water and had a quick snack break before the last push up to the Lower Saddle of the Grand Teton.
As we neared the saddle we had to cross a snow field. A hard, icy boot pack stood between us and our friends on the saddle. As we neared the top I heard a shout from Charles welcoming us to the Lower Saddle. But I was so focused on not slipping on the steep boot pack that I couldn’t even acknowledge his cry until I was on dry ground, away from icy peril. I gave him a big hug and followed him up to the camp that they had made the night before. I downed a granola bar, some beef jerky and a snickers. I have to say, a Snickers at 7AM never fails to hit the spot.
After a some brief introductions, our crew of 6 started up the saddle to the Owen-Spaulding route and the Upper Saddle. The OS is primarily on the west and north side of the Grand Teton, which means it rarely sees the sun. I stayed in my puffy jacket for most of the ascent, despite it being early July. As we reached the first climbing pitch we stashed our shoes by a boulder and put on our harnesses and climbing shoes. The first pitch is called the Belly Crawl, and it is more of a traverse than a vertical pitch. Charles started off by leading the climb, scaling a large rock out cropping and then dropping out of sight. Then he paused so that the next climber, me, could tie in. We tied 8s on a bite so we were all connected on one rope.
I thought that I was well prepared for the exposure of the belly crawl, but nothing can prepare you for the 18″ ledge with an overhanging rock above you and sheer 2,000 foot drop off on the other side that you experience in the middle of the pitch. As I was shuffling my way onto the belly crawl all of a sudden movement stopped. They were tying another climber onto the line. So there I sat, in purgatory, not in danger but not quite safe either, exposed on the belly crawl. I decided to sit on top the ledge as opposed to crawling through the small shelf on my belly. The view down to Vallahala Canyon and up Cascade Canyon was stunning, so of course, I whipped out my camera and gave the view a thumbs up. As long as you didn’t acknowledge the fact that there was thousands of feet of open area directly below you, you were fine! Finally, we started moving again and I scrambled to the safety of Owen’s Chimney. One of Charles’ friends rounded the corner with a sour look on his face. I thought the he was just shaken up by the belly crawl, but when he reached us he told me that he had mounted a Go Pro to his climbing helmet and as he started the Belly Crawl he bumped his head on a ledge and it sent the Go Pro sailing into thin air. He watched it disappear out of sight to the bottom of Vallahala Canyon. The Go Pro was still filming. I always thought that it would be really cool footage if the camera survived the fall.
After everyone made it across the Belly Crawl we eased our way up Owen’s Chimney to Sergeant’s Chimney. It was a very easy climb to the top of the chimney (though we stayed roped up). At the top we ditched the rope and scrambled up to the summit. It was a gorgeous blue bird day when we summitted around 11AM, 9 hours after we had left our car. We only had to share the summit with two other climbers. We stayed on the large summit block for about half an hour, fueling up and taking in the breathtaking view. After taking the mandatory photos, touching the USGS summit marker, we reluctantly left the summit and started the long trudge back to the car.
We did two rappels – the first was an easy rappel, the second was easy in technicality but included a terrifying 120 foot free fall over a ledge. Some of the people in our party were more comfortable with the rappel than others. Slowly one of the members of our party made his way down to the ground, collapsing on it when he finally was off of the rappel. You could tell that he wasn’t a fan of heights. We found out boots stashed by a nearby boulder. After 3 hours in our climbing shoes, everyone was very excited to change back into our hiking boots.
We made our way down from the upper saddle to the lower saddle, scrambling between loose rocks and scree. At one point I kicked off a big rock, right above Charles. “ROCK, CHARLES, ROCK!!” I screamed. I will never forget seeing him look up at me and the rock and duck, as it coasted 4″ away from his head. In that moment, I remembered that what we were doing was very dangerous and we were not out of the woods yet. I could have killed one of my good friends in an instant. That thought was sobering. When we reached the Lower Saddle Jared and I bid goodbye to our friends, who still had to pack up their camp. We scrambled down the rocky pitch that defines the Lower Saddle and coasted to Garnet Canyon. Surprisingly, both of us had a lot of energy even though we were going on hour 12 of hiking. We finally reached the car after 14 hours of hiking. Exhausted but happy we talked about our trip and schemed about what our dinner would be. I find that a juicy burger always hits the spot after a long hike in the park. Finally, with the Grand Teton crossed off of our bucket list we could get married with no regrets!
If you are interested in climbing the Grand Teton I would suggest that you do it in two days, unless you are in incredible shape and adjusted to the altitude. There are two guiding companies that I would recommend you go up the Grand with – either Exum Mountain Guides or Jackson Hole Mountain Guides. Both provide stellar service and have high camps set up on or near the Upper Saddle. None of the guiding services do the Grand Teton in one day. A two day ascent is recommended. If you are an experienced climber or mountaineer and want to do it on your own I would highly recommend purchasing “A Climber’s Guide to the Teton Range” by Ortenburger & Jackson, which can be found locally at Teton Mountaineering just off the town square. Either way, no feeling compares to standing on top of the Grand Teton and seeing the world laid out below you. It’s worth the effort, I promise you that.
There is a trail up on Teton Pass that’s pitch isn’t too steep, it takes you through fields and wanders through the pine and aspen trees until you reach a small lake in a basin. The best part about this mellow hike is that your dog can come along! The trail I’m talking about is the hike to Ski Lake. It’s 4.6 miles round-trip from the parking area with an elevation gain of 850 feet. The trail is perfect for families and dog owners alike.
To reach the trail, drive 2/3rds of the way up Teton Pass from the Jackson side until you see a large parking lot on the left hand side and a sign and a small dirt road on the right hand side of the road indicating “Phillips Canyon.” Park either in the parking lot or on the dirt road and then take the dirt road up until you see a trail split off on your left hand side. There will be a sign for Ski Lake and Phillips Pass Trail. Follow the Phillips Pass Trail up into the large open meadow where you’ll cross a small bridge. The junction for Ski Lake is just past the bridge on the edge of the meadow.
The trail slowly gains elevation as it heads west. The views are beautiful from the trail and even better when the wildflowers are in bloom in July and August. This is a very popular hike with the locals (and their furry friends) so expect to see a fair amount of other people. You will know when you reach the lake because the trail will dead end at the lake. Make sure to bring bear spray, water and some snacks, especially if you are hiking with children. Also, since the hike is starting at such a high elevation, 8,211 feet, you may want to bring some extra layers because it will be cooler than the hikes that you may have taken in the valley. Once you are done with your visit at the lake, retrace your steps back to your car. Additionally, since the hike is at a high elevation it may be snow covered or muddy until mid-June depending on the snow year.
One of the best things about being located in downtown Jackson is that you can walk to a myriad of shops, restaurants and bars. Whether you are looking for a souvenir t-shirt for your kids or for an authentic western hat, cowboy boots or belt buckle, there is a shop that fits your needs on the town square. Here’s a list of some of my favorite shops:
MADE – Located in Gaselight Alley, this shop features goods made by local artists. The owner, John, makes all of the glass items in the store. His belt buckles are very trendy and I love his Teton themed coasters for the coffee table. There are also plenty of other Wyoming themed knick knacks including bucking bronco accent pillows, antler necklaces and bronco coffee mugs, pint glasses and wine glasses. Also be sure to head across the street to their sister store “Mountain Dandy.”
Wyoming Outfitters – For a good quality pair of cowboy boots or a Western button down shirt head over to Wyoming Outfitters. They have a good selection of quality boots and western attire. It’s the perfect place to stop and splurge on a western outfit to wear to the rodeo.
Jackson Hole Trading Company – Located at the main intersection of Broadway and Cache, this store has quality souvenirs including local goods – huckleberry jam, elk jerky or huckleberry chocolate bars. Additionally, they have some Jackson themed home goods and your standard souvenirs such as postcards, magnets and key chains.
Lees Tees – For good quality souvenir t-shirts head diagonally across the street to Lees Tees. Here you will find a variety of t-shirts and sweatshirts all with different designs and sayings about the Jackson Hole area.
Teton Mountaineering and Skinny Skis – If you are looking to pick up some last minute supplies for a hiking or backpacking trip head on over to Teton Mountaineering or Skinny Skis. Both carry a great selection of outdoor apparel, shoes and gear. Teton Mountaineering will have a broader selection and has a better variety for climbers while Skinny Skis has a larger selection of children’s clothing. Both also carry bear spray and rent outdoor gear.
High County Outfitters – For the fly fisherman, this is your go-to store. Additionally, they have a large selection of guns upstairs for the sportsman. They also have a large selection of outdoor clothing and shoes.
Jackson Hole Resort Store – Don’t have time to make it to Teton Village, the base of the famed ski resort Jackson Hole Mountain Resort? Don’t worry! If you are looking to purchase any ski-themed gifts head over to the Jackson Hole Resort Store. They also have a small selection of outdoor clothing.
Those are a few of my favorite stores on the Jackson Hole Town Square. There are plenty of other stores that are worth a stop in, notably The Hide Out (for belt buckles and leather), Vom Fass (for artisanal oils, vinegars, spices and spirits), Accentuate (for the ladies) as well as plenty of art galleries. Either way, a stroll on the Town Square is always a good idea. If it’s a hot day, be sure to stop at Moo’s Ice Cream and take a break to get a cone or milk shake and eat it in the small park on the town square. Oh and don’t forget to take your photo in front of the iconic elk antler arches!
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is known for their steep ski trails and relentless vertical during the winter season. However, during the summer season you can hike 4,139 vertical feet uphill to the summit of the famed ski resort. If you think that their double black trails look intimidating during the winter, wait until you see the terrain during the summer! Some trails look completely unskiable. For example, Alta 1 is a sheer rock face, the Expert Chutes are huge craggy outcroppings and Toilet Bowl looks like it’s better fit for a rock climber than a skier. But don’t worry, there is a trail system and access road that allows you to hike among these double black diamond trails. No climbing harness necessary.
We begin at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Teton Village, Wyoming. There are a few trails that can take you to the summit. Currently, the bottom half of the Summit Trail is closed while JHMR is preparing to install a new chairlift. The alternate route is up the Wildflower Trail, a meandering trail that has beautiful vistas, park benches and of course, wildflowers when they are in season. The trail starts in the base area just to the right of the red Bridger Gondola. After about 3 miles, the Wildflower Trail meets up with the Summit Trail, which is essentially the access road for JHMR. The road switchbacks up the mountain and is the main trail used to access the summit. The total mileage of from the Wildflower Trail to the summit via the Summit Trail is approximately 6.6 miles long (one way).
If you prefer a single track trail I would suggest hiking up to the top of the Gondola and taking the Cirque Trail to the summit. There will be signage on the Summit Trail on how to access the top of the Gondola (approximately a mile after joining the Summit Trail from the Wildflower Trail). A local favorite is hiking down from the top of the tram to the top of the Gondola via the Cirque Trail or Summit Trail for drinks on the Deck. The Deck doesn’t open until 4PM so nothing is open at the top of the Gondola until then.
The Cirque Trail is steep and becomes a little bit of a scramble after you pass the top of the Sublette Chairlift. For the skiers who know Jackson Hole, the trail follows the East Ridge Traverse trail. For those with a slight fear of heights or prefer something more mellow, I would advise sticking to the Summit Trail. The summit trail passes the top of the Thunder Chair and then traverses into the bottom of Rendezvous Bowl and up to the top of the Sublette Chair, where it has one long traverse across the bowl and then zigs back up to the top of the tram.
At the top of the tram you can enjoy a delicious waffle at Corbet’s Cabin, snap a few photos and then decide whether you would like to take the tram down or hike down. Hikers can take the tram down for free. Conversely, some people prefer to take the tram up the mountain and then hike down to the base. Downhill only hikers must pay for a ticket for the tram. Unfortunately (for me), dogs aren’t allowed on the tram. However, dogs are allowed on the mountain, which isn’t the case for any of the trails in the neighboring Grand Teton National Park. For a trail map and a list of all of the trail descriptions visit Jackson Hole’s website. As always, bring bear spray, food and plenty of water on your hike.
You’re hiking along with your family, deep into some family bonding when you round a corner and see a bear about 20 feet down the trail. What do you do??
The first tip starts in town, way before you even hit the trail. If you are thinking about hiking or mountain biking in the Teton area it is imperative that you purchase bear spray. There are a variety of different sprays ranging from a small size and a larger size but they all do the same thing – deter bears. The larger size is good if you are only planning on buying one can of spray. However, it is suggested that you have more than one person with bear spray in a group of 3 or more. For this, the smaller size will do the trick.
Now, you have the spray, you are in the woods and spot a bear. What do you do with the darn thing? First, make sure that the spray is accessible. Wear it on your hip belt of your backpack or on your belt. The spray doesn’t do you any good if it’s in your backpack. By the time that you take off your pack, unzip it and get out the spray you could already be charged by a bear. Next, remove the safety, which is a wedge between where your thumb should be located and the canister. Do not spray until the bear comes within 40 feet of you. Do not make eye contact with the bear and try to back away slowly while talking in a soothing voice to the bear. Say things like “Hi, Mr. Bear. I’m not here to hurt you. I am backing up slowly.. etc.”
If the bear starts pawing the ground on all fours and puts its head down like it is going to charge, prepare to spray the bear. Be aware of the wind. If the wind is coming toward you, you will most likely get sprayed a little too. In this case, wait until the last possible moment to spray the bear. Hold the canister out away from your body and spray at the feet of the bear when it is far away. Since the spray will rise, the bear will have to run through the mist of pepper spray in order to get to you. If it is within 10 feet of you, aim for its head. Deploy the spray in 2 to 3 second bursts in a sweeping motion. This will prolong the amount of time that you can spray the bear. If you hold down the trigger the whole time the spray may be out in as little as 8 seconds. Try not to use the whole amount of spray in the first attack since more than one application may be needed.
If for some reason the bear remains undeterred by the spray and continues to charge you, get on the ground and lie with your stomach on the ground. Spread your legs so it is difficult for the bear to flip you over. Cover your head with your hands. Maintain this stance until the bear becomes disinterested and leaves the area. Do not stand up until the bear has left the area.
After any attack be sure to retrace your steps and clear the area. Also, warn others about the bears presence, including the National Park or National Forest staff.
How do you avoid a bear encounter all together? Noise. The primary reason that a bear attacks is that it was surprised by the people – it is scared and views you as a threat. If you carry on a conversation while hiking or biking it will help prevent you from sneaking up on a bear and surprising it. It is debatable whether bear bells have any effect. Overall, conversation or singing works best. Just remember, the bear is more afraid of you than you are of it. It attacks because it feels threatened, not because it is naturally viscous. Hopefully you will not run into any bears when you are on a hike or bike ride in Jackson Hole, but if you do, remember these tips –
1. Always carry pepper spray
2. Avoid eye contact with the bear
3. If charged use a sweeping motion and spray in 2 to 3 second bursts
4. If attacked, drop to the ground, cover your head and spread your legs. Do not drop to the ground unless the bear actually hits you.
With these tips in mind you should be able to survive a bear attack.