In a place as beautiful as Jackson Hole, Wyoming, it doesn’t take much to have two perfect days. Commercial and private flights arrive at the Jackson Hole Airport, gliding along a landing strip that runs parallel to the Grand Tetons. Fall is an incredible time to explore what Jackson Hole has to offer without needing to fling yourself down the side of a snowy mountain (just to clarify, Jackson Hole is an 80-mile-wide valley with the city of Jackson sitting within it). Whether you’re on the lookout for wildlife, hiking to hidden waterfalls, eating delicious meals or enjoying a relaxing day at a Five-Star resort, there is much to explore and admire in one of the nation’s ski meccas, even if you decide to leave the skis back home.
Schedule an early flight, if possible, so as to enjoy the view as you arrive into Jackson. When you enter your rental car, get your bearings: There are two main thoroughfares in Jackson — Route 89, which runs north-south on the east side of the Snake River, and Moose Wilson Road, which follows north-south on the west side. Teton Village is on the river’s west side, while Jackson, a small town with shopping, restaurants and the famed Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, sits on the east.
Drive toward Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole, located in Teton Village. The Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star resort, which opened in 2003 as the luxury hotelier’s first slopeside destination, is cozy and welcoming year-round, with countless outdoor fire tables, two stellar onsite restaurants, and a ski-in, ski-out layout for quick access to the slopes. Once you check in, grab lunch at Four Seasons’ The Handle Bar, the Mina Group’s American-pub-meets-après-ski-lounge that’s located at the base of the mountain. Tempura zucchini spears and tuna tartare pair with a glass of housemade sangria for a light lunch. Now, if you’re really hungry, don’t pass up the half-pound elk burger, loaded with chipotle aioli, charred red onions and cheddar.
Once you’ve devoured the meal (and the unbelievable views), take a drive north along Moose Wilson Road, where you’ll likely see buffalo, pronghorns or other mysterious wildlife roaming about. (Whatever you do, don’t forget your binoculars.) Once you cross back over to highway 89, there are plenty of places to pull off to admire the scenery. Gros Ventre and Antelope Flats roads are favorites for spotting animals, and the streets are clearly marked.
After satisfying your inner John James Audubon, head to Jackson for an espresso at Persephone Bakery and shopping. Make sure to stop at unique brother/sister gift shops Made and Mountain Dandy. Later, enjoy a meal at Local, a modern steakhouse with a laid-back vibe hailed by, well, locals as one of the best new restaurants in town. Chefs and co-owners Paul Wireman and Will Bradof, who both spent time at Jackson Hole’s famed Snake River Grill, present a menu that includes appetizers such as buffalo tartare with black truffle vinaigrette; a raw bar complete with oysters and ceviche; a charcuterie spread with options like duck prosciutto and Humboldt Fog goat cheese; and a wide selection of local and regionally sourced steaks, all served with housemade compound butter. Save as much room after dinner as you can, though, because you still have to walk to Moo’s for a gourmet ice cream cone. Ask to sample the wild blueberry, fresh banana or any of the other tasty organic flavors before deciding on your nighttime treat.
When 7:30 p.m. strikes, so too does the live music at the Silver Dollar Bar, the throwback watering hole located in Four-Star The Wort Hotel. Order a whiskey neat, and watch locals and visitors alike do the two-step, spinning and twirling to the sounds of a string band every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. Arrive early to get a spot at the bar and stay late for a prime position on the dance floor.
When you wake up, get dressed and walk downstairs to the Four Seasons’ Westbank Grill for breakfast. No need to request a table with a view — the restaurant’s large windows face Rendezvous Peak, granting everyone brilliant vistas in the early hours. The impeccable breakfast menu includes several must-haves. If all the dancing left you famished, order the huevos rancheros, served with a cheddar-scallion biscuit and spiced elk and wild mushroom gravy. If you’re feeling something light, go for the Fisherman’s Breakfast, cedar-planked rainbow trout served with poached eggs, baby spinach and crème fraîche.
Afterward, don your gear and embark on one of the numerous day hikes in Grand Teton National Park. The entrance to the park is located a little more than a mile from your hotel. Passes are good for seven days and apply both to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park (about 55 miles from Jackson). If you’re up for a mildly strenuous trek, we’d suggest parking at the entrance to Jenny Lake, taking the ferry across, and hiking to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. Looks from the water, the falls and lake are astounding, and with a round-trip ferry ride, the whole journey only requires a two-mile hike.
After the adventure, drive north to Signal Mountain Lodge for lunch on the shores of Jackson Lake. There are picnic tables available for packed lunches (Four Seasons offers picnic lunches to go), otherwise, The Trapper Grill and Deadman’s Bar serve scenic panoramas with a side of delicious burgers, loaded spuds and nachos.
After a rest back at your room, check the Jackson Hole Rodeo schedule, and make plans to be at the 8 p.m. rodeo, located at the fairgrounds just southwest of Jackson. For a bite before the show, call room service. The vegetable spring rolls with sweet Thai chili sauce, or the Ascent Appetizer platter of sushi and sashimi could be a welcome reprieve from Jackson’s beef-heavy fare.
As for the rodeo itself, tickets in the reserved area are worth it to see real cowboys roping bulls and holding on for dear life as bucking broncos rear and rock for the crowd. When the last steer is corralled, you’ll have done so much cheering that you’ll feel like part of the community. Who cares that your plane leaves for home in a few hours? In the two action-packed days you’ve spent in Wyoming, you’ve experienced enough of Jackson Hole to want a return trip — this time with skis in tow.