Jackson Hole Cool-Down
When summer turns the heat up in Utah, head north!
It’s hard to sum up what makes Jackson Hole such an appealing outdoor destination. Is it the Grand Tetons? The Snake River? Yellowstone National Park? The National Elk Refuge? Is it that Jackson is a place where you can have myriad outdoor adventures during the day and then enjoy top-notch dining at night? Maybe the answer is that it’s just a five-hour scenic drive from Salt Lake City. It’s just plain cool, not only in terms of being an edgy and adventurous locale, but in terms of degrees Fahrenheit (daytime summer temps here range between the low 60s to the low 80s). Here’s a four-day itinerary from Salt Lake City designed to help you keep your cool while experiencing hot adventures.
The first leg of the journey is a two-hour drive north to Lava Hot Springs. Take Interstate 15 north out of Salt Lake City and stay on it past the Utah/Idaho border. Take Exit 44 for McCammon Road, or Highway 30, then follow the signs to Lava Hot Springs (430 E. Main, 800-423-8597, LavaHotSprings.com).
The name of the town is the reason people love to visit. Bring your swimsuit and have a soak in geothermal waters ranging from 102F to 112F degrees. The chemical-free mineral waters will leave you feeling calm and relaxed for dinner at Riverwalk Thai Food (695 E. Main, 208-776-5872, Online on Facebook).
You wouldn’t expect to find excellent, authentic pad Thai in a converted gas station in rural Idaho, but this restaurant has a secret following of groupies known to regularly drive up from the Wasatch Front just to eat here.
From Lava Hot Springs, it’s another 2 1/2 hours to Jackson Hole, Wyo. Keep heading east on Highway 30 to Soda Springs, where you’ll get on Highway 34 heading north and later east. Just beyond the Idaho/Wyoming border, you’ll hook up with Highway 89 heading north, which will take you into Jackson.
Jackson offers numerous hotel options, including the Wort Hotel (50 N. Glenwood St., 800-322-2727, WortHotel.com), right in the heart of downtown. Dating back to 1941, this award-winning boutique hotel is chock full of Western history and character. Drop your stuff in your room and head downstairs to the Silver Dollar Bar for a nightcap. Built in 1950, the bar is inlaid with more than 2,000 uncirculated Morgan silver dollars.
If you’re looking to stay somewhere more rustic or private, check out a cabin at Fireside Resort in the neighboring town of Wilson (2780 N. Moose Wilson Road, 307-733-1177, FiresideJacksonHole.com). The 23 cabins range in size, but all come with a full kitchen and a fire pit, complete with a complimentary bundle of wood.
Stop in at Persephone Bakery (145 E. Broadway, 307-200-6708, PersephoneBakery.com) to try the croissants, which they claim are “the closest you will get to France in Wyoming.”
The morning is often the best time to see wildlife and one of the best—and more responsible—ways to do this is to take a wildlife expedition with Teton Science Schools (700 Coyote Canyon Road, 377-733-1313, TetonScience.org). If you’re staying in Jackson or Teton Village, a professional guide will pick you up in a customized, multiple-passenger safari vehicle complete with roof hatches for better viewing.
The tours feature the elk, moose, bison, eagles and other animals that roam in Grand Teton National Park (307-739-3300, nps.gov/grte) and the National Elk Refuge (675 E. Broadway, 307-733-9212, FWS.gov/nationalelkrefuge). Taking a tour also helps fund Teton Science Schools’ mission of environmental education and research.
Once back in town, grab a made-to-order sandwich at Creekside Market & Deli (545 N. Cache St. 307-733-7926, CreeksideJacksonHole.com), along with water and anything else you want to stuff in your backpack for a picnic later in the day.
Walk across the parking lot to Teton Mountain Bike Tours (545 N. Cache St., 307-733-0712, TetonMtBike.com) to start on a biking adventure. The shop has all kinds of bikes and guided tours available, but the easiest way to spend an afternoon is to rent road bikes and follow the 20-mile paved pathway that runs from just across the street from the shop out to Jenny Lake, where you can enjoy the picnic lunch you picked up earlier. The ride takes you along the edge of the National Elk Refuge and into Grand Teton National Park.
You have to try Rendezvous Bistro (380 S. U.S. Highway 89, 307-739-1100, RendevousBistro.net), because it’s a Jackson staple, and where else are you going to find an appetizer of Cajun fried alligator cooked with scallions and peanuts? The bistro also features a raw bar with oysters flown in fresh and shucked right in front of you.
If you want to keep the evening going, visit the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar (25 N. Cache St., 307-733-2207, MillionDollarCowboyBar.com) where the bar stools are saddles and live music can be enjoyed most nights.
Down on Glen, also known as D.O.G., (25 S. Glenwood St., 307-733-4422, Online on Facebook) is known for its gigantic breakfast burritos that keep you energized for the day. If you’re feeling adventurous, add in some bacon to make it a BRO’rrito.
After breakfast, head out to Grand Teton National Park for a morning of hiking. Like any great national park, this one offers trails both short to long, and easy to strenuous. There are 17 trailheads to choose from, with multiple trail options at each one. You can download a trail map in advance off the park’s website. Some of the most popular treks are in the Jenny Lake area, where a hike can be combined with a ride on a shuttle-boat across the lake (JennyLakeBoating.com)
For lunch, head back into town to the Wort Hotel’s Silver Dollar Grill (50 N. Glenwood St., 800-322-2727, WortHotel.com). Even though it might be warm outside, you can’t leave Jackson without trying the award-winning Smoked Bison Chili or the Wort Famous Corn Chowder.
After lunch, consider a journey with Mad River Boat Trips (1255 S. U.S. Highway 89, 866-275-8077, Mad-River.com). Its most popular option, which leaves mid-afternoon in the summer, is the “Classic 8-Mile Snake River Whitewater” trip. Be prepared to get soaked as you help paddle a 10- to 12-person raft under the direction of a professional guide.
Sit on the outdoor deck of Il Villaggio Osteria, (3335 W. Village Drive, 307-739-4100, JHOsteria.com) located in Teton Village, just a short drive from Jackson, and enjoy an extensive wine list to pair with Italian offerings such as risotto with calamari, orange zest and pine nuts.
Grab bagels and coffee to go at Pearl Street Bagels (145 W. Pearl Ave., 307-739-1218, PearlStreetBagels.com). All of the classic bagel-cream cheese combos are available, but if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, try the mountain-berry cream cheese on a honey sunflower bagel.
Take a different route home to drive by Bear Lake. Heading out of Jackson, keep going south on Highway 89. It will eventually head west over the Wyoming/Idaho border and take you through Montpelier, before turning south again and bringing you to Bear Lake, which sits on both sides of the Idaho/Utah border. The drive takes about three hours.
Make a stop in Garden City on the southwest side of the lake. If you have time, and want to get out on the water, check out Bear Lake Water Adventures (420 S. Bear Lake Blvd., 435-757-9003, Online on Facebook) to rent paddle boards or kayaks. If you’d rather be motorized on a jet ski or speedboat, stop by Blue Water Beach Resort (2126 S. Bear Lake Blvd., 844-946-5252), to begin your adventure.
However long you stay or whatever you end up doing in Garden City, you can’t leave without getting a classic, summer-time Bear Lake raspberry shake at LaBeau’s Drive-In (69 N. Bear Lake Blvd., 435-946-8821, Online on Facebook).
After leaving Bear Lake, continue down Highway 89 through Logan and on through the canyon toward Brigham City. Instead of jumping right on the I-15, since it’s summer, stay on Highway 89 south and experience Utah’s Famous Fruit Way. Simply drive along the highway to find various local farms selling fresh produce in roadside stands. The later in the summer, the more options there are to choose from, and you may be lucky enough to be there during pie season.
Collective information about the farms and vendors along the way can be found on Facebook at Facebook.com/UtahsFamousFruitWay or on Twitter @UtahsFamousFruitway. When you’ve loaded up on fruits and veggies, cut over to I-15 near Willard Bay and head on home.
Jackson Hole is one of those places where, once you’ve tried a weekend trip here, you’ll realize there is much more yet to experience. Returning home will only mean you’ll begin planning your next visit.
Kathleen Curry and Geoff Griffin host the Travel Brigade Radio Podcast. Follow them on Twitter @TravelBrigade.