This Cute Ski Town Is the Gateway to Yellowstone and a Winter Paradise

National Parks, hot springs, mountain lodges, and the best steak tartare pizza ever.

Here’s a secret: Jackson Hole, Wyoming, isn’t that secret. Over 2.6 million people visit Jackson Hole each year, which is a shocking statistic considering its population is roughly 10,700 people total—and the entire state is under 600,000. But once you step off of the runway and take a glimpse at the Tetons, the jaw-dropping crown of the Rocky Mountains, you’ll quickly understand why the nicknamed Neverland is basically like the mountain version of Danny Boyle’s The Beach.

Not only is the area a gateway to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, it’s also home to some of the most impressive ski terrain in North America. Sure, the area attracts adrenaline junkies and extreme sports chasers, but in case black diamonds and mountaineering aren’t at the top of your vacation list, there’s also an elegant winter scene beckoning to all.

Check out safari treks, world-class art galleries and museums, a dialed up food scene that goes far beyond wild game dishes, and even a slopeside winter food festival with famous chefs and winemakers from around the country. In the past few years, boutique hotels have popped up alongside creative restaurants, prompting travelers to stay a little longer, exploring historic Town Square and beyond.

If you go for a week, you’ll want to stay forever. It’s a year-round paradise, so it’s wise to book in advance and have a gameplan. Here’s everything you need to know about Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Anvil Hotel
The town of Jackson is full of shops and antlers. | Anvil Hotel

Choose between villages and towns

Jackson Hole isn’t one specific place, it’s several different towns with wildly different personalities. Which area to choose will depend on your vacation goals; here’s a cheat sheet to guide you in the right direction.

The Town of Jackson: Also referred to as “town,” this is where the majority of restaurants, hotels, nightlife, and shopping exist—and also where the iconic antler arches and historic Town Square sit. This is where most travelers stay if they want to visit the parks and get a glimpse of the best that town has to offer, as all hotels are within walking distance to all attractions.

Teton Village: Teton Village puts Jackson Hole Mountain Resort at your fingertips. If you’re looking for a full day of mountain sports, staying in Teton Village is wise. Note that you’re entering resortville, land of fancy lodgings, so it’s definitely more spendy. There are a few restaurants and bars here, and the town is only a 20-minute drive. FYI: the village is more lively in winter vs. summer.

The other towns: Wilson is a tiny alpine town at the base of Teton Pass, and roughly a 15-minute drive from town and Teton Village. There’s one bed and breakfast, the Jackson Hole Hideout, but many day trip here for backcountry skiing or to grab a drink at the Stagecoach Bar, a local watering hole. Moose is a tiny community that you’ll pass through on the way to Grand Teton National Park—and for pizza with Teton views at Dornan’s. Kelly is an isolated community bordering the eastern part of Grand Teton, where wildlife is often spotted. Whereas Moran Junction serves as a tiny village and gateway to hiking, river sports, and fly fishing. And Hoback is 15 minutes south of town, where the Hoback and Snake Rivers collide, making it a summertime spot for water activities.

Visit Jackson Hole
Get a car and save your legs for hiking up mountains. | Visit Jackson Hole

Getting to Neverland

If you’re flying to the area, you’ll likely land in the tiny but well-connected Jackson Hole Airport (JAC). The airport sits in Grand Teton National Park, offering unobstructed Teton views like you’ve never seen before during landing and takeoff.

If you stay in town, you can basically walk everywhere—but renting a car is crucial, as Jackson Hole is spread out and Uber is very unreliable. There are taxi services, but expect to pay a pretty penny. If you are trying to stick within a certain budget, Start Bus is reliable and will get you to all of the main attractions—and also a solid bet to get to and from Teton Village if drinks are involved at lunch or dinner. In summer, buzz around on a Start Bike to explore.

Winter and summer are peak seasons so expect surge pricing for hotels. And while off season (in early spring and fall) might seem like a more budget-friendly time to visit, know that many restaurants, shops, and tours, and even areas in parks shut down for several weeks to reset.

Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole
Coffee with a view. | Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole

Where to stay in Jackson Hole

Teton Village and the town of Jackson are like night and day, depending on what you’re looking to accomplish. The village is more expensive and, at the end of the day, more relaxing when the sun goes down. And while town isn’t cheap by any means, it’s where all the nightlife action is and gets pretty rowdy (no visit is complete without hopping on a saddle bar stool for a shot and beer at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar).

In town: The Cloudveil, Jackson’s first luxury digs, has all the amenities of a slopeside resort—like cozy in-room fireplaces, spacious rooms, and a hot tub with views—only it’s steps from all of the restaurants and nightlife. After the slopes, catch unobstructed views from The Cloudveil’s rooftop, winterized with blankets, firepits, and warming libations from The Bistro. The Anvil Hotel feels like a country shop with little touches, like pegs and cubbies to organize outdoor gear, custom-designed Woolrich blankets, and a gorgeous mercantile with handpicked gifts. Plus, it’s attached to Glorietta, a hyped Italian restaurant with a standout wine and cocktail list (do not leave without trying the housemade mozzarella sticks). For budget seekers, Cache House is a modern spin on a hostel, but with ridiculously comfy beds, private showers, and stylish hangout areas—all for a fraction of the price in these parts.

In Teton Village: Ball out at the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole, the only ski-in, ski-out spot in the village—and the heart of winter’s lively apres scene. Cocktails are best enjoyed around chic firepits or in the heated pool area, with the Tetons lingering in the background. For another excellent option, the Continuum ticks all the boxes for adventure-seeker who appreciates location and amenities. The Village is arguably more expensive in winter, but convenient, as the early bird truly does get the best powder.

anvil hotel
Close enough to pet. | Anvil Hotel

Take a walk on the wild side

You don’t have to fly across the globe to partake in a safari. Track wolves, coyotes, foxes, and bison with the expert guides at Jackson Hole EcoTour Adventures. The multi-day, overnight trips get you into the nooks and crannies of the park, beyond where normal day-trippers venture, allowing guests to see the parks from a different perspective—and without the crowds. Score a parks pass ($35 for a day) and explore at your leisure.

Or if staying in town, grab a Mexican hot chocolate from CocoLove (helmed by master chocolatier Oscar Ortega) and take a 20-minute stroll to the Elk Refuge, home to one the largest elk herds in existence.

Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole
Hit the slopes, or at least look like you’re going to. | Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole

Ski some of North America’s most applaudable terrain

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Teton Village, about 20 minutes from Town Square, is where it's at (and where I personally learned to ski). There are 13 lifts, including Bridger Gondola and the Aerial Tram, with 3,600 vertical feet of skiing and riding. Intimidated? Don’t be. There are plenty of intermediate and beginner slopes to keep you occupied. For the extreme skier, book Exum Mountain Guides and head into the Teton backcountry for a pristine powder day.

If in town February 11–18, grab a sloshie (a boozy adult slushie) from Bodega on the way into Teton Village, and observe Kings and Queens of Corbett’s—an annual competition where pros from around the world do their best tricks on ice on iconic couloir to compete for the crown.

If you have limited time and want to get a couple runs in without committing to a full day, Snow King Mountain, the “locals mountain,” is as convenient as it gets. Here, 400 acres of skiing await, from intermediate to expert trails. On a crystal-clear bluebird day, a ride on the new Snow King Gondola offers unobstructed views of town, the Tetons, and the Elk Refuge. The resort is also home to night skiing, tubing, and a cowboy coaster (Snow King’s version of a roller coaster) that takes you up 456 vertical feet of twists and turns.

spa day
Only way I’d wear a swimsuit in snow? Hot springs. | Visit Jackson Hole

And if you don’t ski…

There’s still lots to do. Town Square is home to a saturated number of local shops, including Altitude, Penny Lane, JW Bennett, Hide Out Leathers, MADE, Mountain Dandy, Womenfolk, and New West Knifeworks. Get a glimpse of the Wild West through an artist's eyes at Altamira, Horizon Fine Art Gallery, and Tayloe Piggott Gallery.

For some under-the-radar fun, visit the National Museum of Wildlife Art, which features a collection of over 5,000 pieces of animal art. The building itself is inspired by the ruins of Slains Castle in Scotland and is tucked into the mountainside, just five minutes from town. Don’t leave without having a meal at Palate, the museum restaurant serving wild game stew and inventive cocktails, all while overlooking the Elk Refuge.

Or watch steam rise amid snow at numerous hot springs in the area for a post-ski or no-ski soak. You can drive, hike, snow shoe, cross country ski, or even dog sled to some of them, including Granite Hot Springs and Astoria Hot Springs.

Visit Jackson Hole
Maybe it’s sushi, maybe it’s wild game. | Visit Jackson Hole

Eat wild game and sushi with mudslide sloshies

Contrary to belief, food options aren’t all wild game burgers and steaks. There’s loads of variety, and one strategy I strongly advise is to do a restaurant crawl to hit the town’s happy hour deals. Try a burger and cocktail at Local; blue cheese waffle fries and a glass of Pet Nat at Trio; oysters and bubbles at The Bistro; and several tapas plates at Bin 22 (with a bottle from the wine shop inside the restaurant). Or you could have… sushi in a mountain town? Yes. Ask any local what their favorite place to dine is and you’ll repeatedly hear King Sushi.

Snake River Grill is the most sought-after reservation, but worth the wait, as the steak tartare pizza, salmon potato pancake, and a martini made just right are a real treat. Breakfast is best enjoyed at Cultivate (a healthier approach) or the acclaimed Persephone Bakery, where the best breakfast sandwich and kouign amann await. Vices include a breakfast burger at Sweet Cheeks Meats, a mudslide sloshie from Bud's Eastside Liquor, and greasy “soak up the booze” slices from Pinky G’s.

In the village, Teton Thai is a must-not-miss. During winter there’s live music at the Mangy Moose with a lively apres scene. Meanwhile, the 307 Fries (pomme frites braised in elk gravy, cheese curds, and chives) and a cold, local beer at The Spur after a day of skiing are pure magic. Off the beaten path in the town of Wilson is Rations, home to the best fried chicken sandwich I’ve had outside the South—plus craft sloshies and an ultra cool wine selection.

Trio An American Bistro
Three days of decadence is fine by me. | Trio An American Bistro

Or attend the winter food festival

Jackson Hole Food & Wine’s Winter Fest takes place slopeside March 10–12, highlighting acclaimed chefs, vitners, and purveyors from Jackson’s backyard and across the country. With four intimate events to choose from, tickets sell out fast. And by intimate, we’re talking sipping bourbon at Pappy Hour with ​​Preston Van Winkle of Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery or indulging in a wine dinner at 9,000 feet with Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s executive chef Michael Britton and sushi chef Ryo Hasegawa of NOBU Downtown NYC.

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Jenn Rice is a travel writer who splits her time between the Southeast and the Mountain West. See what she’s up to @jennricewrites.