It doesn’t matter if the calendar says it’s winter or summer, Jackson Hole welcomes you with open arms and an even more open calendar of outdoor activities. Read on for a few suggestions on how to best prepare your bags for the journey.
The best time to visit Jackson Hole
The best time to visit Jackson Hole depends on what you want to do. The ski season at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort runs from late November or early December (the opening date is different every year) through the first weekend of April.
For the remainder of April and into May, most hiking and biking trails are still covered with snow, so there isn’t an opportunity to get into the mountains unless you have expert mountaineering skills. But summer’s crowds haven’t yet descended on Grand Teton National Park, so if you want to see the park sans hiking, May is a great month.
June can be iffy in terms of weather; it can be glorious, with days in the 70s and 80s, or it can occasionally be snowing.
Summer almost always has arrived by the Fourth of July. Both July and August offer the most stable weather — days in the 80s with nights getting down into the 40s — but the valley is packed. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, an estimated 3 million cars pass by Jackson’s Town Square. There’s a reason there are so many visitors here during this time, though: it’s absolutely beautiful.
Locals often say September or October is their favorite month. With the increased popularity of the Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival, September is almost as busy as August; but it’s a different crowd from the earlier summer tourists.
September visitors usually spend more time in Jackson and less time in Grand Teton National Park, which means that, for those who do visit the park, it’s pretty quiet. Wildlife is also fairly visible as the animals beef up for the upcoming winter. Jackson Hole doesn’t have a ton of fall color because it doesn’t have that many deciduous trees, but the color that it does get comes in September.
When there’s an Indian summer, October is spectacular. It’s just as likely that it will be snowing and sunny, though, so this month is best for those who are flexible with their plans.
In November, many restaurants, galleries and shops are closed. Snow has begun to fall, ending summer activities, but ski season has yet to start, putting the area in a sort of limbo when it comes to activities.
What to pack for Jackson Hole
Packing for Jackson Hole can be complicated considering that summer see 80 degrees during the day and dip into the low 40s at night. Winter days can be many — many — degrees below zero on the valley floor, but 25 degrees halfway up the mountain at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Temperature inversions in the winter are not at all uncommon.
The key to navigating these extremes is layer, layer, layer. It’s just the layers’ thickness that varies depending on the month. A warm down jacket is a good item to have year round.
Although Jackson Hole has plenty of upscale restaurants and hotels, jeans are acceptable to wear anywhere in the valley. If you mention a tie, it had better be in reference to fly fishing.
Because of the high altitude, hats and sunscreen are recommended no matter which month you are visiting.
The best places to shop in Jackson Hole
The best shopping in Jackson Hole is in the tiny ski town of Jackson, surrounding the centerpiece, Town Square. You can peruse contemporary and Western art galleries, sporting goods shops, clothing boutiques, a bookstore, candy stores, souvenir and T-shirts shops and, for when you get hungry, cute eateries.
Mountain Khakis were born in Jackson Hole in 2003 and locals from skiers to ranch hands quickly took notice. Look for MK’s original mountain pant or alpine pant at JD High Country Outfitters and Skinny Skis.
When you feel like dressing up a bit, Terra carries edgy skinny jeans from Genetic Denim, printed cashmere by Marika Charles, Tucker tops and skirts, and airy silks from Calypso alongside Robert Graham and B.D. Baggies items for men. It even keeps little ones stylish with Under the Nile organic robes, wraps and teething toys.
If you are looking specifically for ski gear, Teton Village is overflowing with ski shops. Teton Village Sports has been around since 1965 and has a great selection. In the summer, many of the shops transition to selling and renting bikes instead of skis.
In the tiny town of Wilson, at the base of Teton Pass, Hungry Jack’s General Store carries a little bit of everything, from locally made truffles to cowboy boots. Wilson is on the way to Grand Targhee, one of the three ski resorts in the area, and makes for a good stopping point before the mountain pass.