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Katie Cooney JHTTB Summer 22 2

Tips For The Trail

The ins and outs of hiking in Teton County

June 13th, 2022

In Jackson Hole, every route is scenic. Our trails wind through some of the most spectacular scenery in the country and every step makes travelers feel more connected to nature. Be it on foot or from the seat of a bike, there is no shortage of opportunity to take in Jackson’s abundant beauty. But like any good scenic route, it’s best to be prepared. A little extra planning goes a long way in keeping your footprint small and our trails pristine.

Tread lightly

Jackson’s ecosystem is as fragile as it is stunning. Shortcutting trails causes erosion and visual scarring and tramples the fauna that call the landscape home. It can take 10-30 years to recover from damage caused by off-trail detours. Trail users should stay on the trails, even if they’re wet or muddy. A favorite local saying is “take only photos, leave only footprints.” We’d add: leave only footprints on established trails, please. And this goes beyond avoiding stepping off trail. Make sure you pack out all trash, including food waste. It’s a principle we borrow from Leave No Trace. Learn more here.

Respect any closure signs and wilderness boundaries—they’re in place for the wildlife’s wellbeing. And remember, if you encounter wildlife on the trail stay at least 25 yards away from most wildlife and at least 100 yards away from big carnivores like bears and wolves.

Trail etiquette

Many trails in and around Jackson are multi-use, meaning hikers share them with mountain bikers who share them with horseback riders. All are welcome on the trails, but it helps to know who has the right of way when crossing paths with other users. Here’s the low-down:

  • Horses reign supreme on the trail. They always have the right of way. It’s true we just told you to stay on the trail, but you may occasionally have to step off to let horses and their riders pass. Do so on the downhill side and try to find a durable surface, like a rock or sand, to step on.
  • Hikers have the right of way when crossing paths with bikers. If you’re biking in a group, you should let other users know how many there are of you, especially if someone has yielded the trail.
  • Uphill travelers doing the same activity have the right-of-way. So, downhill bikers should yield to uphill pedalers and downhill hikers should let uphill hikers keep their pace.

Remember, we’re all out here to connect with nature and have a good time. Be courteous and respectful of other trail users.

Plan ahead

The most assured way to stay safe on the trail is to know where you are and where you’re going. Ranger stations and visitor centers are stocked full of trail maps and people who can help you plan your trip. They’ll have insight on the best trails, too. Apps like onX, AllTrails and Gaia also help you plan and let you download areas so you can track your location. Make sure you download before you head out as cell service in the mountains is spotty. Once you know where you’re going, tell someone and tell them when you think you’ll be back. Check weather reports before you go—afternoon alpine storms are common, and you don’t want to get stuck in one. Know that no matter the forecast, weather in Jackson Hole can change in an instant. Pack some extra layers. Every day pack should also include snacks, sunscreen, and more water than you think you need.

Whichever scenic route you choose, make the most of it by planning ahead and respecting the trail. See you out there.