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Exploring the wild west town of Jackson Wyoming and the natural wonders of the spectacular Grand Teton National Park

Jackson, Wyoming

I am always on the lookout for romantic places to visit and Jackson, Wyoming, definitely falls into that category. It is a great place to visit anytime of year. It is a small town set deep in the Rocky Mountains, in an area generally known as Jackson Hole which is famed for its upscale ski resorts. It is a great place to stop and visit on your way through to the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

There are some great places to stay in the town itself but we were touring in our motor home during our last visit and ended up staying at the local KOA (Kampground of America) site a few miles south of the town, which has a perfect location next to the Snake River, which was very turbulent when we visited in late Spring, from the snow melt. Unfortunately the site itself is pretty scabby – from the pitches themselves to the poor washrooms.

For our first day in town we decided to take it fairly easy and went into Jackson to look around the shops. We had visited the previous year and enjoyed the town a lot and vowed to return. The old part of the town has a real western feel to it, with covered wood sidewalks and western style frontage to the shops. It is based around a small town square with a garden at it’s heart, the entrance on each corner ordained with tall arches made from the horns of elk. During the summer months there is a stage code ride that takes you for a short ride around the perimeter of the town square.

This is an exclusive resort town with plenty of expensive shops and pricey restaurants geared to the tourist trade, which is the mainstay of the local economy. We enjoyed looking through these shops although a lack of money …. and more importantly space makes us refrain from buying anything.

National Elk Refuge

Elk are magnificent beasts and one of the true wildlife wonders of North America. They are largest species with in the deer family, with the males weighing up to 750 lb and measuring around 8 ft in length. The male’s antlers can be 4 foot long and weigh around 40 lb. Unlike moose, elk typically gather in herds and seeing a large group of elk together is truly spectacular.Established in 1912, the National Elk Refuge borders the town of Jackson, and is made up of 24,700 acres of mixed habitat. During the winter months it is home to one of the largest herds of elk on Earth; with the herd size numbering around 7,500 elk.

So, if you happen to be in the vicinity in the winter months it is well worth visiting. If you are in Jackson at other times of the year the elk will not be around, but you can out more about the Refuge by visiting the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center 532 N. Cache Street in Jackson.

Another fun activity is ElkFest, which is held annually in the town square in Jackson. This happens during the weekend before Memorial Day. A part of the celebration involves auctioning off elk antlers collected from the Elk Refuge. The local Boy Scouts of America troop help, contributing over 2000 hours, with the collection of the antlers and during the auction. 75% of the proceeds go back to the Refuge with the rest going to the coffers of the Boy Scouts. We were lucky enough to be visiting during the festival and our son donned his Boy Scout uniform so he was able to join in with the local Scout troop and help out during the auction.

Grand Teton National Park
Only 10 miles south of Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Teton National Park is one of the most spectacular of the all the National Parks (in my humble opinion). The park includes all of the major peaks of the 40 mile long Teton Range. These mountains were named les trois tétons (the three teats) by 19th Century French Trappers. They are truly imposing with the largest of the mountains, Grand Teton, rising abruptly 13,775 feet above Jackson Hole.

The park offers plenty of outdoor activities and camping opportunities. It is also only a short distance from Jackson, and can easily be visited from there if that is where you choose to be based. A good place to start with your visit to the Grand Tetons is at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, colloquially known as the Moose Visitor Center. This 22,000 square-foot was built in 2007 and provides a wonderful set of exhibits covering all the elements of the Grand Teton ecosystem in a very light and airy (and warm … especially on a freezing cold day) setting.

Location: Hours: Admission:
Located 8 miles north of Moose at South Jenny Lake. • May 18 through June 5: 8 am to 5 pm
• June 6 through September 3: 8 am to 7 pm
• September 4 through September 23: 8 am to 5 pm

Jenny Lake
One our all-time favorite places on the planet is Jenny Lake, one of the districts of the Grand Teton National Park. Named for the Shoshone wife of the trapper that gave his name to nearby Leigh Lake, Jenny Lake sits at the base of the Park’s Cascade Canyon. Most people start their exploration at South Jenny Lake area, and it offers the most amenities with a visitor center, ranger station, campground and docks. In fact most people don’t get far from their so it tends to get very busy during the summer season. To get to the quieter North Jenny Lake area you can simply take one of the many trails or if you prefer a gentler, less energetic mode of transport there are shuttle boat rides across the lake from the South area docks.

There are many trails available for day hiking and also this provides a great start point for multiday hikes up into the mountains or for the more adventurous who plan to scale the mountains. We have tried several of the trails that go around the lake, which offer many spectacular view points, and have also followed the trails up towards the inner mountains. Basically, you can’t go wrong and there are hiking opportunities for people of all abilities. Some of the trails near the South lake area are accessible to wheel chairs.

Like most locations in Grand Teton National Park, Jenny Lake is easy to find. Multiple signs indicate the North and South recreation areas from the Teton Park Road. Seven day park passes cost $30 per car, $15 per biker or hiker, and $25 per motorcyclist.

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