Ski, Tourist, and Off: The Three Seasons of Jackson Hole
I was born and raised in Jackson Hole, and while I can’t afford to live there, I’ll probably call it home until I find somewhere better (unlikely). As it goes with most people who end up there, my parents moved out there for a season. Forty years ago. My photography took off after moving away, but each visit provides an opportunity to relive old haunts and spend a little extra time in the mountains.
Hiking in the Tetons during the summer always carries the risk of a freak thunderstorm. On this particular day the threat only materialized after scrambling up to the Lower Saddle and looking out over the Idaho side. We were chased off of the Middle Teton in the following hailstorm, leaving the summit for another day.
Some of the best Teton views in the valley are actually outside of the park boundaries. Shadow Mountain, possibly the worst kept secret in Jackson, has some of the best campsites on a first come, first serve basis. On summer weekends, the trick is to stake out a spot after the previous night’s campers have left, but before the next wave of campers arrive. When you’re done staking out your campsite, treat yourself to some of the best singletrack in the valley.
A summer storm keeps the Grand Teton socked in before dropping a thin blanket of snow at higher elevations. Snow can fall during any month of the year under the right conditions, even in the valley.
Willi Brooks takes a leap into Phelps Lake in Grand Teton National Park. The lake, once a retreat for the Rockefellers, can be accessed by two hiking trails. If you don’t mind some elevation gain, the route from Death Canyon trailhead is well worth the effort, passing by one of the few sandy, lakeside beaches in Wyoming.
A buck with velvet antlers near Grand Teton National Park in July. Each spring, male deer, moose, and elk shed their antlers.
I started skiing Teton Pass during high school, hitching a ride to the top from Wilson after school and cramming in a few quick runs. Overcrowding in the parking lot at the top means I still often thumb a ride from the bottom, but if you’re willing to put in a few miles, the crowds disperse rather quickly.
Taggart Lake Trail, Grand Teton National Park. The off season – October and November – sparks a migration of both animals and locals. Elk head to the National Elk Refuge for the winter and many business owners take a break before winter and leave town. It’s a quiet time, but also a respite from the busy tourist seasons and great time to visit the park.
A handful of historic buildings and crumbling log cabins have been spared by the National Park Service along Gros Ventre Road in Grand Teton National Park. For decades, the park service had a policy of demolishing man-made structures, despite any historical significance. The park now takes history into consideration, allowing cabins built in the late 1800s and early 1900s to remain.
Growing up near Yellowstone, as a kid I always thought the crown jewel of the National Park system was crowded and smelled like rotten eggs. While both of those complaints are still somewhat valid (the geyser basins emit sulfur into the air), I’ve come to realize what an amazing place it is to explore. There are hundreds of miles of trails off the beaten path, but even on the most crowded boardwalks, there are few places like it on Earth.
Grand Prismatic Spring, in Yellowstone, is the largest hot spring in the United States and third largest in the world.