Choosing a Hike in Jackson Hole
While we recommend taking at least one hike in Grand Teton National Park during your stay in Jackson Hole, fantastic hiking is found throughout the valley. Further down, we cover the variety of your options.
- First, consider driving time and how long you’re willing to spend in the car on the way to the trailhead.
- Second, consider the activity level of your group. Are you seasoned hikers looking to feel the burn, or are you traveling with small children? You’ll want to select an easy, moderate, or advanced hike based on your ability.
- Third, check the trail conditions. This is especially necessary in late spring, early summer and in late autumn, as snow maybe obscure some trails and make them impassable. Resources for verifying trail conditions can be found by stopping into visitor centers or ranger stations.
- Be Prepared in the Backcountry—ALWAYS pack these essentials: food, water, first aid, warm clotes, light, fire, phone and bear spray. Learn more at backcountryzero.com
By the Season
Peak hiking season stretches from late June through the end of September. This is the golden time when days are longest, trails are driest and you’ll see a variety of plant life, including waving wildflower meadows in July and fiery aspens in the fall.
- Summer (June-August): Average temperatures range between 70 and 85+ degrees with cooler mornings and evenings. Tends to be sunny, though afternoon thundershowers are frequent. Many trails are exposed and do not offer much shade, meaning that proper hydration and sun protection are crucial. You may encounter more people on popular trails, particularly in Grand Teton National Park. On national forest trails, you may also encounter dogs and mountain bikers sharing the trail.
- Fall (September-early November): Average temperatures from 45-75 degrees with cooler mornings and evenings. Never rule out an early snowstorm in Jackson Hole! Shoulder season hiking means less busy trails and a nice crispness in the air, though the daylight hours are shorter and you’ll want to bring along extra layers. Be aware that you might be sharing the trail with dogs and/or mountain bikes if you’re outside the national park. **Grand Teton National Park closes the primary Inner Loop access road on November 1st.
- Winter (mid-November-early March): Ever heard of snowshoeing? What about cross-country skiing? These will be your main modes of bipedal transportation during the winter, as trails will be laden with snow and Grand Teton National Park’s Inner Loop Rd will be closed. Never fear, this mode of hiking is just as fun as its less snowy counterpart and can be just as easy. You will need hats, gloves, and the works, though, and may want to look into renting some gear. Average temperatures of 30 degrees and lower.
- Spring (March-May): Temperatures can range from 35-70 degrees. The Inner Loop Rd in Grand Teton National Park reopens on May 1st. While temperatures begin to warm up, rain and even snow showers can still affect your day outdoors. The other major obstacle is snow, and lots of it. Check trail reports and check in the ranger station to ask which hikes have been cleared and are ready for foot traffic. Keep in mind that most high alpine hikes are not accessible at this time except with advanced gear such as ice axes and crampons.
What You’ll Need on the Trail
See our article on "What to pack for a hike in the Tetons"
- Ample water
- Sturdy shoes with adequate ankle support
- Quick-drying synthetic or wool socks
- Bear spray
- High-energy snacks
- Broad-spectrum, sweat-proof sunscreen
- Bug spray
- Headlamp or flashlight (in case you end up hiking down later than you anticipated)
- First Aid Kit
Know Before You Go
- Jackson Hole is located at an altitude of 6,300 feet. What does this mean? If you are sensitive to altitude or have just arrived in the valley, you may want to take it easy at first and build up to peak scrambles over the course of your visit.
- Each year, emergency services in Jackson Hole rescue dozens of folks from hikes gone awry. The best way to avoid this for yourself is to know your limits, respect the weather, use good maps and do not go off trail. If you start to be worried that you have lost your trail, turn around. Heck, you still hiked in the Tetons, even if you didn’t make it to your intended destination.
- We have a dry climate, even though there are lots of rivers and lakes around. Bring plenty of water and keep in mind that even though Jackson Hole’s water looks glacial clear, it can still harbor harmful bacteria and is not safe to drink without a purification system.
- Our higher altitude means we’re closer to the sun. Wearing a sun hat, sunglasses, covering up, and of course, layering on a broad-spectrum waterproof sunscreen are key to avoiding a trip-ruining sunburn.
- Be aware of wildlife. The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem never ceases to awe and inspire with its incredible array of wildlife, from bison topping one ton to petite pikas hiding out under granite boulders. Enjoy these amazing sightings, but please respect the wildlife sharing the trail. Do not approach or feed wildlife. The National Park Service recommends giving wildlife a distance of 25 yards (100 yards for bears and wolves). Both Grand Teton National Park and its surrounding wilderness areas provide crucial habitat for black and grizzly bears. Negative human/bear interactions can sometimes lead to these bears being euthanized, so please, read up on bear safety today. The basics: hike in groups and always carry easy-to-reach bear spray. Note that you cannot board an airplane with bear spray, so you may wish to rent some instead of purchasing it.
- Your cellphone may not have service in remote areas. Depending on your carrier, be prepared to lose service in the national parks and forests. This is why observing basic trail caution is key.
- For the most part, dogs are not permitted on national park trails, and are permitted on-leash in the national forest. As stated above, check on trail conditions with a visitor center or park ranger before you go. We especially recommend this if you’re hiking in the shoulder seasons.
Hiking in Grand Teton National Park
For a relatively small park (485 square miles), Grand Teton National Park is absolutely packed with rewarding hikes for all levels, which we cover more at length elsewhere. One thing that tends to awe park hikers is the ability to get right up in there—on the shores of jewel-like lakes, perched on spiny peaks, or peering into yawning mountain canyons. All by way of saying, hiking in Grand Teton National Park is a must-do and this is a great map, Grand Teton National Park Hiking Map.
Three things to note: you will need a park pass to access most Grand Teton trailheads. The driving time to most trailheads from Jackson and Teton Village averages around 30 minutes, so factor that into your day’s plan. In addition, if you’re planning on an overnight stay, visit a ranger station to obtain a permit and bear-proof canister.
Hiking the Jackson Hole National Forests
Grand Teton National Park is definitely not the whole story when it comes to hiking in Jackson Hole. In fact, the whole valley is surrounded by protected wilderness, comprising mainly different sections of the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Some parts of the forest border downtown Jackson and Teton Village, while others can represent a bumpy drive over rough and tumble dirt track. While locations close to Jackson are popular all year long, many more remote (but no less spectacular) national forest gems allow you to experience miles of blissful seclusion, even during the height of summer. Don’t miss it.
Two things to note: Trailheads in the Gros Ventre and Granite Creek areas (among others) also involve driving on dirt roads, so you may wish to avoid this if you’re driving a rental car. There can also be less signage and less defined trails in national forests depending on how often these trails are hiked. Arm yourself with an excellent hiking guide to the region—we list a few below.
Hiking Near Jackson
Good news! You can get into the outdoors without even leaving city limits! Snow King Mountain is a great place to start, as its face is crisscrossed with a demanding 1.8 mile switch-backing trail that reaps an extremely worth-it vista of the valley from the summit. This is also an access point to continue your adventure on the Game Creek trail or other popular mixed-use Bridger-Teton National Forest trails. Accessed from the Jackson Hole Community Pathway near the post office on Maple Way, the 2.4-mile Josie’s Ridge hike is an alternative summit of Snow King Mountain, with no less glorious views.
Between Jackson and Wilson on Hwy 22, the two Snake River levees (one on your right before the Wilson bridge and one on your left directly afterwards) are Jackson Hole’s unofficial parade grounds for pups, pedestrians and families. These are great choices for a completely flat, scenic and easy out-and-back walk.
And the new Rendezvous Park (R Park) that borders the north levee has its own trail system.
Hiking near Teton Village
Staying in Teton Village yields quick access to hiking trails as well. For one thing, you’re only 1.4 miles from the Granite Canyon entrance to Grand Teton National Park. From the base of Teton Village, you can hike the 7 miles to the top of Rendezvous Mountain or you can skip the grunt work, take the Tram 4,139 feet to the top, and explore a variety of hikes from there.
The 39-mile Teton Crest trail can be joined here, or you can hike the 6.2 miles to Marion Lake. Keep in mind most of these hikes are for medium to advanced hikers.
For Further Reading
- Grand Teton National Park Hiking Map
- Grand Teton National Park Trail Brochure
- Jackson Hole Hikes, by Rebecca Woods
- Beyond the Tetons, by Rebecca Woods
- Short Hikes and Easy Walks in Grand Teton National Park, Grand Teton Association