There’s no bad time to plan your Jackson Hole vacation, but in October the crowds thin and the colors change. Aspen trees and ground foliage in bright yellows and oranges are striking set against the granite of the Tetons. And while snow might dust across the top of the peaks, there are plenty of lower elevation fall hikes where you can have the trails and scenery to yourself.
Here are a few fall hikes you should consider.
Cascade Canyon is teeming with people in the summer. A boat shuttle shortens the hike, but visitors are also drawn to the canyon’s beauty. The canyon clears out in the fall. The Jenny Lake boat shuttle closes before October so you’ll have to hike around the lake. This mellow trail along the shoreline is a great outing in itself. But if you have the energy, at the other side of the lake continue the short climb to Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls, some of the most popular spots in the park during the summer. If you want something longer continue up the canyon. It won’t be hard to understand why this is one of the park’s most popular hiking areas in the summer.
Granite Canyon to Teton Village
This mild trek starts through stands of aspen trees and opens to view of Jackson Hole. Start at the Granite Canyon trailhead, walk to the Valley Trail Junction, about 1 mile from the start. Then head south for about 2.5 miles coming out at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
To keep the hike short, leave a car at the village before you going to the trailhead.
Expect vibrant colors and even some wildlife.
Another hike that attracts the masses in the summer, it’s easy to see why when the crowds clear. You’ll get some short climbs, Teton views, fall foliage and two mountain lakes in just more than 5 miles. Often done as a lollipop loop, you also get new scenery most of the route.
Really there isn’t a bad hike in Grand Teton National Park, you’ll just want to watch the snow line when planning your outing.
Jackson Hole weather can change quickly this time of year. A warm day where you hike in a t-shirt might be followed by a day of snow and jacket-weather. Come prepared. Pack a variety of clothing options in your suitcase, but also your backpack. Don’t forget layers on the trail, food, water and a headlamp—just in case. It starts to get dark earlier this time of year. Don’t forget your bear spray and remember that even low-elevation hikes in Jackson start at more than 6,000-feet. It can make even an “easy” fall hike strenuous if you aren’t acclimated.
Three reasons to plan your Jackson Hole vacation in the Fall
Fall colors, bear sightings and solitude, Jackson is a special place to visit in the fall. You’ll find milder temperatures with crisp mornings, warm afternoons and brisk evenings, everything fall weather should be. There’s fewer people and still plenty to see and do. Read on to discover why fall might be the best time to plan your Jackson Hole vacation. (Just remember to bring an extra jacket. The weather in Jackson Hole is always variable, but especially as the seasons start to change).
- Fewer crowds. Jackson and Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks are brimming with visitors in the summer months of June, July and August. Come September the crowds thin. There’s still a lively bustle in town and plenty of activities, but there’s a little less congestion. Get out on the river this time of year and you might have it to yourself.
- Prime wildlife viewing. Fall is a great time to see animals in Grand Teton National Park. Many of the park’s animals are active during the season. The fall is the rut, or breeding season for elk. You can hear the animal’s piercing cry most often in the early evening as males bugle to attract a mate and show dominance. There’s even a chance to witness sparring between male elk. Moose are also seeking mates during the fall. Bears are especially active in the fall seeking berries and other nutrients to sustain them through hibernation. Scenic float trips down the Snake River make great Jackson Hole wildlife tours, giving you a chance to view animals on the river banks from a safe distance and learn about the area’s history from your guide.
- Fall colors. Fall in the Tetons is dependent on weather, but usually starts in early September and runs through mid-October. Fall colors often peak about the third week of September. The forests of the park are comprised of evergreens and deciduous trees. Cottonwoods line the banks of the Snake River. Aspens dot the hillside. And in the fall these trees, along with shrubs and ground cover, turn to yellow, orange and red. Barker Ewing’s Jackson Hole float trips take you through the heart of fall colors.
What you need to know about recreating in Jackson Hole
The scenery isn’t the only thing that will leave you breathless on your Jackson Hole vacation. Jackson is situated at 6,237 feet and if you aren’t used to that kind of elevation, chances are your body will let you know. Here are a few things to remember that will help you enjoy all the Jackson Hole summer activities, no matter where you call home.
Give your body a day to adjust to the higher altitude before heading high into the Tetons. You might find you don’t hike quite as fast, or you feel a little weaker if you aren’t used to exercising at high altitudes. When you haven’t adjusted, altitude can bring on headaches and nausea, especially if you try to get after it on the rivers or trails before your body has acclimated. Give yourself time to adjust. Listen to your body. Let it rest when tired and …
Jackson is a dry climate, but just because you aren’t soaked with sweat standing on the Town Square, doesn’t mean you should stop pushing the water. In fact, the higher up you are, the more water you need to drink. Staying hydrated helps prevent those headaches and nausea some people experience when at a higher altitude than they are accustomed. Drink more than you think you need.
Whether you are on a family white water trip, or scrambling up a peak in Grand Teton National Park, don’t forget the sunscreen. The higher altitude increases your risk of sunburn. Even when the weather in Jackson Hole seems mild, lather up.
Don’t let sunburns, dehydration or altitude sickness ruin your Jackson Hole vacation. Remember whatever you are doing, you are doing it at high elevation, and don’t forget to keep drinking water.
There’s no place better than Jackson Hole, Wyoming in the summer, and people know it. While visiting Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks should top your list of Jackson Hole summer activities, you’ll have to share these special places with millions of other people as the parks continue to see record numbers of visitors. But with a little planning, a sense of adventure, and a willingness to get up early, you can still find some solitude. Here’s how to do it.
Go early or stay late.
Traffic peaks in the parks between about 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. It’s worth the early alarm to get through the gates a couple of hours before the rush. Or consider an evening trip into the parks. Jackson Hole in the summer offers long hours of daylight and you can maximize it to find solitude. You’ll find popular spots quiet, if not empty, in the off hours. Plus, you are more likely to see wildlife. Animals are most active in the early mornings and evenings. And there’s no better place to catch sunrise or sunset.
Get off the pavement.
There’s an old saying in Yellowstone National Park that 97 percent of visitors use only 3 percent of the park. While this hasn’t been fact-checked, you will find more people on the roads than on the trails. Both Grand Teton and Yellowstone offer a range of hiking and walking options from well-maintained trails and boardwalks, to long or steep trails that offer epic adventure. Talk to rangers in the parks for recommendations and the latest information on trail conditions and closures.
Take the less traveled trail.
Getting off the pavement is just the start in escaping the crowds. If you’ve never been to Yellowstone, you should visit Old Faithful. But if you’ve already seen the iconic geyser erupt, look for less popular spots. In Grand Teton National Park, most people head to Jenny Lake to hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. These are beautiful spots, but you’ll be sharing the trail and the views with throngs of others. Check with rangers for recommendations and trail conditions for some less popular places. There are plenty of sites that offer beautiful views and a little solitude.
Get in and on the water.
You can be just feet from the roads and feel a world away when you get on the water. Float trips offer stunning scenery, exceptional wildlife viewing and a knowledgeable guide to tell you about the area. Fishermen and women can find peace in the rivers of Yellowstone. As traffic crawls by, they can relax and focus on their cast. (Just make sure you get a park fishing permit).
Signing up for a wildlife tour to get away from people might seem counterintuitive. But Jackson Hole wildlife tours offer a chance to explore the area with a guide who often has insider info on the best time to hit popular sites and secret spots for wildlife viewing.
What month is best to raft the Snake’s rapids? That depends on you.
Rafting the Snake River in Jackson Hole offers plenty of fun and thrills all summer long, but the character of the river changes with the seasons. Deciding when to book your next river excursion depends on what kind of whitewater you’re looking for.
Adventurers seeking the Snake’s wildest rides might opt for a guided rafting trip with Barker-Ewing Whitewater down the Snake River Canyon during peak runoff.
Every year, sometime between late May and mid-June, the warm western sun sends snowmelt pouring down the slopes of the Tetons into the creeks of the Snake River Basin. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation engineers at the Jackson Lake Dam look at the past winter’s snowfall totals and make careful calculations to ensure that Jackson Lake will be full, but not overflowing. When the time is right, they begin closing the spillway gates, dropping water flows from the reservoir.
Until then, the Snake offers its most extreme conditions. Year-to-year, peak water flows can range from less than 10,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to more than 25,000 cfs. Regardless, hiring an experienced guide who knows the river’s moods and tricks is essential.
Several rapids in the Snake River Canyon change dramatically depending on the water level. Three Oar Deal, a hole 2.7 miles downstream from the West Table put-in, doesn’t exist during the late summer when the water is low. But, when the river flow exceeds 12,000 cfs, Three Oar Deal is a Class V whitewater feature with a small margin for error.
Another Snake River Canyon rapid, Big Kahuna, rapid offers a standing wave that’s best for surfing below 6,000 cfs. But Lunch Counter, a rapid 5.2 miles from the put-in, is a favorite for surfers when water flows range from 13,000 to 6,500 cfs.
But if your summer vacation falls later in the summer, never fear, rapids in Snake River Canyon still get the adrenaline pumping well into the late summer/early fall. Check our next blog post for scenic float recommendations.
What time is best for a scenic float? Just ask the wildlife.
A scenic float down the Snake River during the summer in Jackson Hole offers stunning beauty regardless of when you make the trip. But for wildlife watchers, there’s a few tricks to make sure you maximize your haul of charismatic critters. In general, rafters increase their chances of seeing the region’s stunning wildlife at dawn and dusk. Rafting companies like Barker-Ewing whitewater suggest their early morning trips for the best chance of success, especially for birds.
An 8:30 a.m. float from Snake River Ranch to Wilson is almost sure to include sightings of raptors such as bald eagles and osprey, and waterfowl such as Barrows goldeneyes and mallards. Be on the lookout for larger species such as trumpeter swans, Canada geese and American white pelicans too. Mammals also prefer the twilight hours, and the Snake River plays host to scores of moose and elk. Time it just right, and you might even catch these animals wading or swimming across the river as they move about their habitats. Foxes, beavers, otters and muskrats are also common. Even grizzly bears and wolves make an appearance by the riverside on occasion. In the northernmost reaches of Grand Teton National Park, rafters might even catch a herd of bison grazing near the water.
Time of year is also a factor. Many species migrate in the spring and fall, and its easier to spot these animals as they’re moving from their winter range to their summer range or vice versa. Entire herds of elk and deer may stage along the banks before a river crossing to greener pastures during the shoulder seasons. And, where these ungulates go, predators are sure to follow.
Still, even at the height of summer under the mid-afternoon sun, a spectacular wildlife spotting on a Snake River scenic float trip is practically a forgone conclusion. The Snake River corridor—the river and the riparian lands around it—offer some of the best habitat in a region known for its top-notch wildlife. Bring your binoculars and waterproof camera and prepare for some serious bragging rights.
While the deep powder and steep terrain of our local ski resorts offer some best winter recreation in the nation, for many it’s the dog days of summer that truly make us smile. Jackson Hole, Wyoming is truly one the nation’s premier summer vacation hot spots. Here you’ll find a plethora of activities for any age or interest wrapped up in one of the world’s most beautiful locales.
Below we’ve listed the top 5 reasons to visit Jackson Hole this summer.
1) The Parks—Of course, Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks offer unlimited adventures for those who treasure the outdoors. Each park features its own brand of stunning scenery, educational opportunities and recreation activities. It would take two lifetimes to experience it all.
2) The Wildlife—Hand-in-hand with the parks is Greater Yellowstone’s spectacular wildlife. The region is one of the last in the 48 states where you can still see all the animals that lived here when the first Europeans arrived. From predators such as wolves and grizzly bears to ungulates such as bison and elk, it’s one of the best reasons to make the trip to Jackson Hole.
3) Whitewater Rafting—Our favorite activity in Jackson Hole, of course! The Snake River Canyon offers world class whitewater rafting experiences. Experience features such as Three-oar- deal, Big Kahuna and Lunch Counter for a family friendly thrill. Book a trip with Barker-Ewing Whitewater for the best river trip Jackson has to offer.
4) Fly Fishing—The Snake River and its tributaries offer some of the best fly fishing in the nation. Cast your line for the prized Snake River Fine Spotted Cutthroat Trout, a local favorite. Whether wade fishing or floating in a drift boat, Jackson Hole’s flying fishing experience is second to none. Check out our combination rafting and fly fishing trip for the best of both worlds!
5) The Tetons—Whether you’re built for multi-day backpacking trips or a leisurely 2 mile hike, the magnificent Teton Range is reason enough for a visit to Jackson Hole. Try a boat ride out to Cascade Canyon in Grand Teton National Park, or explore the wilderness from Teton Canyon on the west slope of the Tetons in Alta.
Hang with the locals during Jackson Hole’s summer community events!
We at Barker-Ewing Whitewater have had the great pleasure to live and work in Jackson Hole for more than 53 years. Why so long? Of course, the draw of living in one of the wildest, most spectacular places on Earth brought us here, but it’s the people that convinced us to stay.
The many great people who call Jackson Hole home have cultivated a strong sense of community—a collective personality that shines through in our local events. Below is just a slice of the many excellent cultural events our community has to offer this summer season.
1) Fourth of July Parade—Come celebrate your freedom at the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce, Howdy Pardners Ambassador Club Fourth of July Parade. The events start at 7:00 a.m. with a Pancake Breakfast on Town Square. Then, parade floats and other entries line up at the Teton County Fairground for the parade start. The day finishes at 6:00 p.m. with a performance of patriotic songs sponsored by the Grand Teton Music Festival.
2) Teton County Fair—July 22-31, join us for the Teton County Fair, located at the Teton County Fairgrounds in Jackson. In addition to lots of great rides, rodeos, fried dough and cotton candy, fair-goers can expect to see Teton County’s finest livestock, fiddle playing and the always cutthroat and always hilarious diaper derby.
3) Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival—The Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival is a series of 50 events during the first half of September designed to celebrate Jackson Hole’s world renown art scene. The high point of the 11-day event is inevitably the Palates & Palettes Gallery Walk, scheduled for Friday, Sept. 11. Dozens of galleries open their doors to ply the public with wine and food and show off work from some of the west’s finest artists.
4) Old Bill’s Fun Run—This fundraiser sponsored by the Jackson Hole Community Foundation has raised $121 million for charity over the 19 years of its existence. Come see Jackson’s wide array of worthwhile non-profits specializing in everything from wildlife preservation to feeding the hungry to educating children about science. Athletes young and old can choose to participate in the run itself, which starts on Town Square and follows the Elk Refuge Road for some spectacular views.