We’re glad you asked, as this can be confusing. Jackson Hole refers to the 42-mile long valley between the Teton and Gros Ventre mountains. Trappers and mountain men used “hole” to describe high mountain valleys. Within Jackson Hole are the towns of Jackson, Teton Village, Kelly, Wilson, Moran Moose, and Hoback Junction and also Grand Teton National Park. Jackson, pop. about 10,000, is the largest town in Jackson Hole.
With an authentic, spirited, and distinctive Western mountain character, Jackson Hole is a popular year-round tourist destination. More than 2.6 million people visit the valley annually. Truly, anytime is a good time to visit Jackson Hole. Every season has its own personality. The most popular season is summer. Most summer visitors come for Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Grand Teton National Park is in Jackson Hole, and Yellowstone is just north of the valley. Between them, these parks receive upwards of 3 million visitors every year.
According to U.S. News & World Report Travel, the best months to visit Jackson Hole are April, May, September, and October. The magazine picked these months, which are Jackson Hole’s two shoulders seasons, because travelers seeking a value can find lower rates and also restaurant specials then. Also, coming during either shoulder season means there will be fewer tourists.
Teton Village is the area at the base of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. It is 12 miles northwest of downtown Jackson. Teton Village has ski and bike shops, several boutiques, destination spas, and some of the valley’s best restaurants. Everything in Teton Village is within walking distance of everything else. In winter, most people visiting and/or staying in Teton Village do so to ski at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Many hotels here are ski-in/ski-out. Recently, Teton Village has become one of the valley’s hottest summer destinations too. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has a lift-accessed downhill mountain biking park, adventure course, scenic aerial tram and gondola, and miles of hiking trails. The Grand Teton Music Festival draws professional musicians from around the country to perform a seven-week summer season. All summer long, Teton Village also hosts numerous free, outdoor concerts, and weekend art fairs and antique shows.
Yellowstone’s southern entrance is about 60 miles—about 1.5 hours—from Jackson. Old Faithful is about 90 miles.
Temperatures vary wildly in Jackson Hole. In winter the valley’s weather is similar to that of other high mountain areas. Lows can drop below zero and highs are rarely above 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s average annual snowfall is 459 inches. In the spring and fall, daytime temperatures range from the low 30s to upper 60s. Summer days are usually in the 70s and 80s. There are sometimes afternoon thunderstorms and at night it usually cools down to the 40s. Year-round Jackson Hole is sunny; the valley sees sun nearly 220 days of the year.
Jackson Hole has one of the lowest base elevations of any ski area in the Rocky Mountains: 6,311 feet. Most ski resorts in Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico have base elevations between 6,900 and 9,500 feet. The top of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s tram is 10,450 feet. The tallest mountain in the area, the Grand Teton, is 13,770 feet. Many people travel here each summer to climb this beautiful peak with a professional climbing guide over two or three days.
Although it is known for world-class skiing, Jackson Hole has much more to offer visitors. You’ll be surprised to learn that summer, when you can mountain and road bike, climb, fly-fish, sail, whitewater raft, hike, and view wildlife, is Jackson Hole’s biggest tourist season. Jackson Hole is the gateway to two of the most popular national parks in the country—Grand Teton and Yellowstone. Much of the land in and around the valley not protected as a national park is national forest or a wildlife refuge. Because of its scenery and wildlife, which includes grizzly and black bears, elk, moose, coyotes, wolves, and bison, to name just a few of our true locals, this valley is a photographer’s paradise. When it’s time for a rest day, Jackson Hole has shopping, spas, museums, cultural events, dining, and a vibrant nightlife. The area has close to 100 restaurants, from casual BBQ joints to James Beard-recognized fine dining. Nightlife ranges from spots with carefully curated menus of signature cocktails to craft breweries and the famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, where there are free swing lessons and the bar stools are saddles.
Several airlines fly into the Jackson Hole Airport, which is about 20 minutes from downtown Jackson. It is the only airport in the country to be inside a national park. (Make sure to get a window seat.) Getting here has never been easier. For the winter 2015-16 season, there are non-stop flights from 13 major cities. Daily, non-stop service is offered by American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines from the following cities:
In the warmer months, consider making Jackson Hole part of a road trip. There are incredibly scenic routes to the valley from almost every direction and, along the way these trips have interesting monuments and attractions. Drivers from the south usually take I-80 to Rock Springs, Wyo. From Rock Springs, Jackson is 178 miles . Over the 3- to 3.5-hours, you’ll pass through the Red Desert, along the Wind River Mountains, and through the Hoback River Canyon. From Idaho Falls, Idaho—off I-15—Jackson is approximately 90 miles. This 1.5- to 2-hour trip includes a river canyon and two mountain passes. Salt Lake City is 307 miles (4.5- to 5.5-hours). Denver is 523 miles (8.5- to 10.5-hours).