Booking a hotel room, or renting a house in the Jackson Hole area is, of course, all well and good. But there are other ways to stay here during your visit and truly experience “the cowboy way” at a sustainable destination. Here are four options that offer memorable adventures and unique—even luxuriously rugged—accommodations.
Teton Wagon Train
What could be more Wild, Wild West than rolling across the sage flats that flank the Tetons in a covered wagon, sitting around a campfire at night singing along with honest-to-goodness cowboys before retiring to your tent under the most star-filled skies you may ever see? The answer is, probably not much.
Teton Wagon Train offers just such a unique and unforgettable experience for your visit to Jackson Hole.
Relive the experiences of the American West on the Teton Covered Wagon Train and Horse Adventure.** The cowboys and cowgirls of the Double H Bar Ranches look forward to leading you on a four-day, three-night adventure of a lifetime. Double H Bar, owned for more than 40 years by the Warburton family, focuses on old-fashioned, Western hospitality.
“It’s definitely a Western adventure and that’s how we bill it,” says owner Jeff Warburton. “It’s unique—there aren’t too many places you can go and spend four days traveling in covered wagons. A lot of people say to us, ‘I loved watching Wagon Train and Little House On the Prairie and this is just like it.’ For history’s sake and memory’s sake, it’s worth it to choose us.”
Fun Fact: Many of the Warburton's ancestors crossed the plains with wagon trains and helped settle the West.
Couples, families and individuals of all ages can enjoy this memorable vacation experience full of adventure and outdoor educational opportunities on a covered wagon trek of a lifetime. It's not necessary to know how to ride a horse or have previous camping experience as Double Bar H ranch hands will be glad to give instructions. Your covered wagon is a modern version of the old Conestoga wagons, equipped with rubber tires and padded seats for your comfort.
The adventures includes—in addition to plenty of horseback riding—canoeing, nature hikes in the beautiful country near Yellowstone National Park, throwing tomahawks and knives, campfire entertainment and more. Authentic Dutch Oven food is cooked over an open fire, and the Conestoga Chuckwagon is always stocked and ready to roll. The Teton Wagon Train aims to satisfy even the heartiest outdoor appetite with roast beef and ham, barbecued chicken, cowboy potatoes, vegetables, salads, fruit, and more.
Guests sleep in two-man tents or can enjoy sleeping outside under the stars. Warm sleeping bags with 3-inch foam mattresses, sheet liners, pillows, and pillowcases are provided for each person.
"You'll get to know other people from all over the world," says Jeff. "This will be our 46th season and we’ve had guests from almost every country in the world."
**The 2022 season is full. Departure dates in 2023 will be June 12, 19, 26; July 3, 10, 17, 24, 31; August 7 and 14. The minimum age to participate is 4 years old. Cost is $1,095 for adults, $1,015 for age 9 through 14, and $965 for children 4 to 8 years old.
There is also a seven-day vacation package offered that in addition to the Teton Wagon Train and Horse Adventure includes a full-day bus tour of Yellowstone National Park, whitewater and/or scenic rafting on the Snake River, an opportunity to shop and explore Jackson Town Square, among other fun activities, and four nights accommodations in a Jackson Hole motel. The other three nights are spent camping with the wagon train.
For more information and reservations, visit tetonwagontrain.com, or call 888-734-6101.
Flat Creek Ranch
A top-rated TripAdvisor specialty lodging experience in Jackson Hole, Flat Creek Ranch is a luxury guest ranch tucked miles into the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the Gros Ventre Wilderness Area. It has been voted as one of the Top 10 Dude Ranches by USA Today and was recently earned Business Emerald Sustainability Tier (BEST) level of sustainability performance.
Getting to your own private wilderness is your first adventure—a 15-mile route across the National Elk Refuge and into the mountains over a rigorous Jeep track. At the end of the road, you reach a true, secluded haven away from the hustle and bustle of your life back home.
Other adventures to experience at this sustainable destination—once you are settled into one of the five historic, completely renovated cabins—include hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and even backcountry experiences. Some dude ranches host 50 to 60 guests at a time, but Flat Creek offers an intimate ambiance with a capacity of just 12 to 14 guests; you are never part of a crowd. And while most dude ranches require a minimum stay of one week, the minimum stay here is just three nights.
“Everyone comes to Jackson to be a part of the wild environment, but to be able to surround yourself by thousands of acres of national forest and wilderness is a luxury we don't take for granted,” says Shelby Scharf, manager. “Not to mention, with only 14 guests at a time and the nearest neighbor 10 miles away, you feel like you are part of the family.”
Each guest cabin on the ranch is a suite consisting of a bedroom, a living room with a woodburning stove, bathroom with an antique clawfoot bathtub, and a sitting porch. Electric power comes from a state-of-the-art solar system—a symbol of the ranch’s determination to preserve our environment and promote low impact eco-tourism.
"My favorite things aside from the fishing were the wood fired hot tub, wood fired sauna, cabin right on the creek, coffee brought to the room before breakfast, and all of the employees and guests were great, and really made us their family." - TripAdvisor comment
Serving food from traditional to decadent, the ranch kitchen is supplied by local, organic meat and produce whenever possible, including fresh greens from the garden.
While at the ranch you will have use of canoes, kayaks, a drift boat, paddleboards, and hiking and fishing equipment. Trail rides take place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
“When you come to the ranch, you can do as many or as few activities at you like, and there is no guesswork,” Shelby says. “You don't get stuck in the ‘I don't care.. what do you want to do?’ mood of vacation, wasting your precious time.”
Flat Creek Ranch operates from mid-June through mid-September. A three-night weekend escape in summer costs $3,150 per cabin (not per person). A four-night wilderness experience package is $4,200 per cabin. There are also five-, six- and nine-night ranch and backcountry combo packages.
For more information and reservations, visit flatcreekranch.com, or call 307-733-0603.
The Darwin Ranch
Nestled back in the Gros Ventre Wilderness area of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Darwin Ranch offers a true get-away-from-it-all dude ranch experience. In fact, the family-operated guest ranch is the most remote guest ranch in the lower 48 states.
"The Darwin Ranch is like nothing else in the West,” said Oliver Klingenstein, co-owner alongside his mother, Kathy.
Twenty-five miles down a dirt road, you will find a herd of horses dotting a spectacular green river valley amidst a collection of 100-year-old cabins.
"Once you unpack and park your car, you won’t see a vehicle for the rest of the week.”
The Darwin Ranch has been hosting guests on and off since the 1920s. It was more formally a guest operation in the 1930s, and then it wasn’t again until its revival in 1964—and the Darwin has been operating as such since.
“We offer the best,” Oliver explained. “You experience the best access to the epic remoteness of the Bridger-Teton Forest and the Gros Ventre Wilderness and an approach that offers you the freedom to make this experience your own as well as the best service that quietly assures that your experience is unforgettable.”
The ranch can accommodate 18 guests in nine spaces. Extra beds and cots take the maximum capacity to 23. There are three private cabins, all free-standing. Each has a screened porch, a bath and a queen bed plus a twin/daybed. There is also one larger cabin split into four separate rooms, each with its own entrance, bath and porch. An additional room is available on one end of the Willow (utility) cabin, plus the Loft in the upstairs of the lodge.
“Our guests come back year after year as a jumping-off point to their wilderness exploration—it is the platform and the wilderness is the vacation," said Oliver. "Once you unpack and park your car, you won’t see a vehicle for the rest of the week.”
With a background in sustainable farming, conservation and environmental issues, Oliver and Kathy are committed to preserving, protecting and sharing the land.
“We are off the grid and are working towards a zero-waste future,” said Oliver.
The majority of the ranch’s meat and vegetables come from its sister ranch outside of Cody, Wyoming, where they raise beef and pork following sustainable, integrated agricultural practices.
"We fill in with organic meat and produce from Teton and Sublette counties whenever possible,” Oliver said.
The menus are made from scratch, vegetable-forward, varied and vibrant, reflecting the bounty of the summer season here. The cooks are experienced, imaginative and inspired by chefs and traditions from around the world.
The Klingensteins believe that there is real value in the opportunity for exploration and true adventure, especially in a welcoming, intimate and luxurious setting, and with the benefit of a safety net that is largely unseen. A significant aspect of this is focusing on creating a loose-reined atmosphere of curiosity, learning and self-challenge, be it with respect to gaining confidence in moving through the rugged backcountry, discovering local flora and fauna, or in saddling a horse and helping the wranglers run the herd out to pasture for the night.
In addition to the guest ranch, The Darwin Ranch also offers a Wilderness Camp which is six miles up the Gros Ventre River, across from Upper Falls.
Hunting in autumn at the Darwin is the “quintessential Western hunt,” said Oliver. Running from late September through the end of October, hunts are based from the ranch and guests travel on horseback.
The stays at the Darwin are one week in duration, from Saturday to Saturday. The summer season for 2022 runs from July 3rd to September 24th. Visit darwinranch.com for more information and to make reservations. You may also email Kathy at email@example.com.
Triangle X Ranch
There are really no unattractive views when you’re out in Jackson Hole, no matter where you choose to stay, but Triangle X Ranch probably provides the most spectacular, iconic vista of them all. Located within Grand Teton National Park it features a jaw-dropping, bang-on view of the Tetons.
Triangle X is an authentic dude ranch—a five generation family-run business—celebrating more than 90 years of operation. It is located 26 miles north of the town of Jackson and 32 miles south of the entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
Horseback riding is the centerpiece of your seven-day vacation on this historic guest ranch.
“Our target crowd is mostly people looking for a Western dude ranch experience,” says manager Lucas Turner. “It’s for people who have never been to a dude ranch before and want to try a new thing when they decide to come out to Jackson Hole,” Lucas continues. “Or if a family has already done the a la carte vacation out here, but really has an interest in horses, they want to come back to Jackson and try something more inclusive.”
Guests can choose from a variety of rides led by friendly and knowledgeable wranglers, ranging from scenic “slow” rides to advanced rides covering longer distances. Beginners are given special attention and soon come to feel like “old hands” on the trail. There are also riding programs for kids and teenagers (13 to 19 years old).
While riding you will be entranced by the ever-changing vistas of the Teton Range and Snake River valley over a great variety of trails. Experience rides along the river where elk, moose, and bison are often seen; over sagebrush flats; through green foothill meadows with colorful wildflowers; or to the top of timbered mountains.
Each of the ranch’s 20 distinct, one- to three-bedroom log cabins originated in Jackson Hole and has a story of its own. Your home for the week may have housed an early settler family in the late 1800s, later being moved to the ranch and gazing eternally out at the Tetons. Or your cabin was built with logs cut nearby the ranch and hauled in with teams of horses and constructed by members of the Turner family.
All cabins are attractively furnished and provide all the needed modern amenities. However, the Turners have chosen to not provide television, telephones or WiFi in the cabins as they want you to enjoy the true traditional dude ranch experience.
Fun Fact: In 1950, Congress included much of the valley floor into an expanded Grand Teton National Park, including the acreage of the Triangle X Ranch. Today, the Triangle X continues operation as an authorized concession of the National Park Service – the last dude ranch concession within the nation’s entire National Park’s system.
Evening activities include square dancing, a ranch history presentation, cookouts, and National Park interpretive programs. Guests can also take a day or half a day off from riding to go explore Yellowstone National Park, hike in the Tetons, ride the Aerial Tram up in Teton Village or stroll downtown Jackson.
Triangle X's peak season is from June 9th to August 25th, with a seven-night minimum stay (Sunday to Sunday). Prices range from $2, 017 to $2,794 per person, per week.
For more information and reservations, visit trianglex.com, or call 307-733-2183.
This story was written by Julie Butler, editor of Jackson Hole Traveler. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.