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.

Snow King Mountain
There’s a reason they call it Neverland. | Snow King Mountain
There’s a reason they call it Neverland. | Snow King Mountain

Jackson Hole’s population is roughly 10,700 people total—and the entire state of Wyoming is under 600,000—but more than 2.6 million people visit each year, so it isn’t that secret of a spot. The second you step off the runway and take in that first view of the Tetons, the jaw-dropping crown of the Rocky Mountains, you’ll see why the nicknamed Neverland is essentially the mountain version of Danny Boyle’s The Beach.

Not only is the 42-mile-long valley the gateway to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, it’s also where you’ll find some of the most impressive ski terrain in North America. Sure, Jackson Hole attracts adrenaline junkies and extreme sports chasers, but it’s not all black diamonds and mountaineering—there’s also a fantastic après scene, safari treks (yes, you read that correctly), world-class art galleries and museums, and a dialed-up food scene that goes far beyond wild game dishes. There’s even a slopeside winter food festival with famous chefs and winemakers from around the country (move over, Aspen!). And over the past few years, boutique hotels have popped up alongside creative restaurants, enticing travelers to stay a little longer.

If you go for a week, you’ll want to stay forever. It’s a year-round paradise, so your itinerary will be full even when it isn’t ski season. Here’s everything you need to know about Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and what to do once you get there.

jackson hole wyoming
Each town has its own vibe, so find the right one for you. | Visit Jackson Hole

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 are located. 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, since all hotels are within walking distance to 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 your best bet. 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. Moran Junction, meanwhile, is a tiny village and gateway to hiking, river sports, and fly fishing. And Hoback, 15 minutes south of town, is where the Hoback and Snake Rivers collide, making it a summertime spot for water activities.

start bus jackson hole
The trusty Start Bus never lets Jackson Hole visitors down. | Visit Jackson Hole

Finding your way around Jackson Hole

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 pretty much 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 seriously shell out for it. 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 it’s 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, tours, and even areas in parks shut down for several weeks to reset.

cowboy bar jackson hole
You can’t leave without grabbing a shot at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. | Photo courtesy of Visit 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, fire pits, 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 Trattoria, a hyped Italian restaurant with a standout wine and cocktail list (don’t 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 fire pits 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.

wildlife in jackson hole
A safari is closer to get to than you think. | Jackson Hole EcoTour Adventures

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.

Or, if you’re 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
Don’t worry, there are bunny slopes, too. | Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole

Ski some of North America’s most amazing slopes

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 serious skiers, book Exum Mountain Guides and head into the Teton backcountry for a pristine powder day.

If you’re in town in February, grab a sloshie (a boozy adult slushie) from Bodega on the way into Teton Village and watch 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, with everything 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.

jeep in jackson hole
There’s plenty of exploring to be had around Jackson Hole. | Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole

And if you don’t ski…

There’s still tons 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.

Over at the National Museum of Wildlife Art, you’ll find a collection of more than 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, which also offers fantastic views of 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.

snake river grill
Snake River Grill is the hottest ticket in town. | Snake River Grill

Wash down 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 pét-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.

Persephone Bakery
Persephone Bakery is home to the best breakfast sandwich in town—plus fantastic croissants. | Anvil Hotel

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 and a lively après scene. Meanwhile, the 307 Fries (pomme frites braised in elk gravy, cheese curds, and chives) and a cold, local beer at 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.

Jackson Hole Food & Wine
Slopeside drinks? Yes, please! | Jackson Hole Food & Wine

Or attend the winter food festival

Jackson Hole Food & Wine’s Winter Fest takes place slopeside March 2 through 4, and highlights acclaimed chefs, vintners, 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 rare whisky with The Macallan in the Library Room of Four Seasons Resort or indulging in a wine dinner at 9,000 feet.

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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.