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50 Things to-do in Jackson Hole & Grand Teton National Park

 

Teton Pass Sign

 

Higher clearance vehicle recommended

At some point every year, my thoughts turn to it. A hunger to see it, breathe the mountain air, gaze upon the abundant wildlife, dine at my favorite restaurants, and hike favorite trails, inevitably begins to gnaw.  

There is something to be said for the delicious stride of habit’s familiarity.

Some can’t fathom traveling to the same place twice; there is indeed a great deal to see in the world. But even among those with the most severe case of wanderlust, many have a favorite destination – a place whose familiar embrace is longed for.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming is that place for me.  The wonder and enchantment of the mountains and the valley is constant. It’s the intrigue generated by the continual motion of rotating sensory stimulus that causes me to travel there again and again — it is never the same twice.

Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole overlap (one of only two airports in the United States in a National Park).  But I’ve broken the list down by what’s technically in the Park and what isn’t. With a map and this list, you’ll see some of the best the area has to offer.

Mormon Row Barn

Explore!

 

view from the upper saddle

base camp

Grand Teton base camp

Grand Teton National Park

1. Walk through Jackson Lake Lodge. The wall of windows at the back facing the Teton Mountain Range frame a spectacular view. The wildlife watching at dusk from the outdoor patio at the back is fantastic. Highway 89/191 just north of Jackson Lake Dam.
2. Enjoy a meal on the patio at Signal Mountain Lodge – the PILE of memorable (based on size and taste) nachos and the tequila lime chicken quesadilla are a must. Add insult to injury and get the chocolate pecan bourbon pie to go and one of their palm-sized homemade cookies at the checkout counter.
3. Since you’re already there, drive to the top of Signal Mountain. Teton Park Road south end of Jackson Lake. And yes, you CAN drive to the top.
4. Take the boat across Jenny Lake and walk up to Inspiration Point/Hidden Falls. Teton Park Road.
5. Take a hike. There are many from which to choose and for all fitness levels. From the Taggart Lake hike of 4 miles to the all day not-for-the-faint-of-heart Amphitheatre Hike (rated very strenuous), there’s something for everyone. Taggart Trailhead – Teton Park Road just north of the Moose Entrance gate; Amphitheatre Trailhead – Teton Park Road, Lupine Meadows, north of Taggart trailhead and south of Jenny Lake.
6. Drive to Antelope Flats for wildlife viewing. Road turns East off of Highway 89/191 just north of Moose Junction. Watch for a sign.
7. See the barns on Mormon Row for a classic view of the Tetons. 13 miles north of Jackson on 89/191, go east at the Gros Ventre Road turnoff, then head north on the first road that junctions. Mormon Row is in the southern area of Antelope Flats.
8. For scenery and wildlife viewing, find Schwabacher’s Landing. It’s a photographer’s dream. Highway 89/191 north of Moose Junction.
9. The same goes for Oxbow Bend. Highway 89/191 north of Moran Entrance Station and south of Jackson Lake Junction.
10. Find the spot where the 1953 Western film, Shane, was filmed (towards Kelly).
11. See the Gros Ventre (Grow Vaunt) Slide Geological Area. On June 23, 1925, 50 million cubic yards slid off the side of Sheep Mountain damming the Gros Ventre River and creating Lower Slide Lake. Highway 89/191 just north of Jackson and south of the airport, turn East onto the Gros Ventre Road. Follow the paved road past Kelly.
12. Stand in awe at the Snake River overlook made famous by Ansel Adams. Highway 89/191 north of Schwabacher’s Landing, south of Triangle X Ranch (all marked).
13. Locate the Old Patriarch Tree (about a 15 minute walk off the road). 89/191 north of Moose Junction. If you want the GPS coordinates, you’ll have to leave a comment and ask me for those!
14. Stay at a dude ranch. Any dude ranch.
15. Take a horseback ride. Anywhere.

Wyoming Cutthroat

snake river overlook B&W film

 

Jackson Hole Area

Home Away From Home

Big Smile, Tiny Cutthroat Trout

 From the Top

16. Get pictures at the top of Teton Pass (8,341 feet), in front of the famous Teton Pass sign with the cowboy pointing towards Jackson Hole (especially fun during the winter when the snow covers most of the sign). Approximately 11 miles west of Jackson on Highway 22 and just up the mountain from Wilson.
17. Speaking of Wilson: grab a cappuccino and bagel at Pearl Street Bagels (my fav? everything bagel with sundried tomato, olive oil cream cheese + an oatmeal craisin cookie) and eat it on the picnic table just out back.  There’s also a Pearl Street Bagels in the town of Jackson but it lacks something (even though the food is just as good) compared to the Wilson location.  Also in Wilson, eat at Nora’s. Shop at Fish Creek Interiors. Get a soda pop at the General Store.
18. See the National Museum of Wildlife Art. Just north of Jackson on 89/191. Be sure to check out the gift shop.
19. Drive to the Curtis Canyon Overlook. In Jackson behind the hospital, take the Elk Refuge Road. It’s a dirt road that makes a forced turn to the north – after that change of direction, take the first road east. Wind your way into the backcountry until you see the sign and the overlook. Great place. I once photographed an eclipse from there. And big horn sheep.
20. If you know how to flyfish, then wet a line here. If not, take a lesson or a guided trip. Check out Jack Dennis or several other flyshops for their offerings.
21. Take a drive on the Moose-Wilson road. Make sure you have binoculars for the wildlife. North of the airport on 89/191, take the Moose Junction exit. Before you get to the Grand Teton National Park gate, you’ll see a sign for the road on your left.
22. Wine tasting at Dornan’s; pizza at Dornan’s; cookies at Dornan’s (inside the grocery shop). North of airport on 89/191, take the Moose Junction exit. Dornan’s has a sign just past the turnoff.
23. Raft down the Snake River (through the Canyon). Several outfitters to choose from.
24. Chicken pizza at the Brew Pub (Snake River Brewery – downtown Jackson). Any beer at the Brew Pub – micro brewed on the premises.
25. Latte & Bagels at Pearl Street Bagels (one in downtown Jackson and another location at Wilson)
26. Stay at Wyoming Inn (Red Lion Inn), or the Four Seasons, or the Snake River Lodge & Spa, or the Wort Hotel.
27. Try Pica’s restaurant near Albertsons in downtown Jackson. There’s a florist and a few other shops next to them. They have great Mexican food, terrific margaritas. The fish tacos are my favs.
28. Breakfast at Bubba’s – biscuits and gravy, pancakes – best I’ve ever had!! Great omelets.
29. Any meal or snack at The Bunnery (downtown Jackson)
30. The Blue Lion Restaurant! Have the stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer and the lamb shank for an entree (downtown Jackson).
31. Dinner & oyster shooters at the The Rendezvous Bistro. My husband loves the green oyster shooters, I love the red ones. Try both. (South of downtown Jackson)
32. Massage at the Rusty Parrot (downtown Jackson)
33. Take in one of the many festivals. The Fall Arts Festival is in September. Film Festival in September/October. Music Festival in July and August. 
34. Lunch at Sweetwater Restaurant, on the patio (downtown Jackson).
35. Shop at Skinny Skis and Teton Mountaineering in downtown Jackson – my two favorite shopping excursions in the world (go up the stairs in Teton Mountaineering and you’ll find their sale items).
36. Check out Cloudveil’s flagship store (they’re headquartered in Jackson). It’s on a corner in downtown Jackson, but off the square.
37. For fun, unique, home interior shopping and small colorful gifts, check out Wild Hands for really neat artsy colorful objects (downtown Jackson), Paradigm Interior Design next to Pearl Street Bagels, and Jackson Lighting.
38. Shop at The Bootlegger in downtown Jackson.
39. Take a sleigh ride on Elk Refuge in winter.
40. Order an Arnold Palmer wherever you eat (it’s a tea/lemonade mix and very Jackson).
41. Tram ride to the top of the Teton Village mountain (Rendezvous Mountain) and hike down, or NOT.
42. Enjoy lunch or simply a walk through at Teton Village’s Mangy Moose Restaurant. The Idaho trout fish and chips are memorable as is the full sized stuffed moose hitched to a sleigh hanging from the ceiling.
43. Dinner at the Bar J Chuckwagon on Highway 22 (on the way to Teton Village). You’ll get a real chuckwagon meal (fit for a king), a wagon ride, and a cowboy music show.
44. Hike to the top of Snow King (ski mountain in downtown Jackson) and if you can’t do that, take the ski lift – GREAT aerial view of Jackson.
45. Hike up High School Butte and watch the handgliders take off.
46. Find the Sleeping Indian (hint: Sheep Mountain).
47. Find the town square’s live webcam and wave to friends at home (stand on the corner near the stagecoach office and wave to the cam on top of Jackson Trading Company); sit in the town square, admire the elk horn arches (all naturally shed), and people watch.
48. Attend the Shootout every summer evening at 6:00 p.m. (downtown Jackson)
49. Find an art gallery brochure and take a self-guided tour around the galleries located on the Jackson town square.
50. Attend a rodeo.

Jackson Hole Hill Climb

51.  BONUS!  Attend the World Championship Hill Climb (snow mobiles — great fun).

 

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Hard Life

 

25 memorable sights: The Black Hills

The Black Hills (Pahá Sápa in Lakota) are an isolated mountain range rising from the Great Plains of North America in western South Dakota. The range extends into Wyoming.  The hills are covered in trees, an effect that gives them a darkened appearance from a distance. The dusky corner was distinctive enough to garner the name “black hills.”

The grandeur of granite rising from the cliffs of Mt. Rushmore will in one upward glance sweep away any countryman’s negative sentiments. And impress the hell out of everyone else.  Mt. Rushmore is but one impressive sight however, among the many packed into South Dakota’s southwestern corner.

Black Hills South Dakota

the little squiggle that you can’t read is a secret note in my Atlas. Sorry about that. While I won’t share that, I did want you to see a map of the area.  Nebraska to the south, Wyoming to the west.

 

Air Force One over Mt. Rushmore. Wikimedia Creative Commons.

Air Force One over Mt. Rushmore. Wikimedia Creative Commons.

First. -- Tammie Dooley all rights reserved

First. — Tammie Dooley all rights reserved

Anchored by Rapid City (airport code RAP), the Black Hills area still echoes with the report of Wild West Colt pistols. You can wander through Native American Indian Reservations as you contemplate what to take in first — the sights of Mt. Rushmore featured on the big screen in National Treasure: Book of Secrets, the cavernous limestone formations of Badlands National Park, Sturgis or the frontier town of Deadwood. Throw in the Crazy Horse MemorialCuster State ParkWind Cave National Park, the 1880 TrainBuffalo Gap National Grassland, the Geographic Center of the U.S., the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, Jewel Cave National Monument, or the Mammoth Site, and a week’s vacation can be easily spent in one of the most scenic and pivotally historic areas of the lower 48 states. And that’s before you even cross into Wyoming. Forget the guidebook, you’ll need only your Atlas and a penchant for discovery.

The Badlands?

Badlands, South Dakota — Tammie Dooley all rights reserved.

The Route: starting in Rapid City

Interstate 90 East of Rapid City will deliver you to Wall, South Dakota. If you’re already parched or ready for a stop, the Wall Drug Store offers refreshment, take in the National Grasslands Visitor Center, or search for the Minuteman Missile Silo.  From there 240 South will take you directly to the scenic drive around the North Unit of Badlands National Park. The loop ends at Interior. To continue into the South Unit’s 2.7 million acres of sprawling erosion of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, proceed past Imlay to Scenic, turning South at the first/only turnoff. You’ll need to stop at the White River Visitor Center to get permission to proceed into the Reservation. West on Highway 2, then North on Highway 40 to Redshirt will complete the South Unit. “Highway” 2 is a misnomer. The road is gravel, albeit wide and well maintained. Continuing past Redshirt on Highway 40 to Hermosa presents the choice of turning North on Highway 79 and back to Rapid City, or west on Highway 36 to 87 South to Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park. From Wind Cave National Park you can easily hit 385 North taking you to Custer, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Mt. Rushmore, and the ‘1880 Train’ in Hill, as you progress northward.

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

Plains Indian Burial Platform

Pyre — Tammie Dooley all rights reserved

The area is deceptively compact.  While distances aren’t great between any point (from Rapid City to Hot Springs on 79 is only 57 miles) you will not desire to cover any of it quickly.  And the twists and turns of the roads preclude speed.  While limited lodging is available in the smaller towns and in Badlands National Park, the high season summer months make day trips to and from your pre-reserved lodging in centrally located Rapid City conducive to combing the area.

Deadwood

Once you’ve exhausted the sights south of Rapid City, 385 will take you to Lead (as in lead a horse to water), Deadwood, the Geographic Center of the U.S. in Belle Fourche, and Sturgis to the East just off Highway 90.  Either of these towns is worthy of securing lodging if you’re ready to venture past the Rapid City anchor.  Summer is high season though and Sturgis along with towns in the area are choked with bikers for the annual Bike Week Rally usually the first week in August.

Deadwood is a personal favorite (fall only, please). Wild Bill and Calamity Jane are buried in the Mt. Moriah cemetery. Saloon 10 is where Wild Bill made famous the Dead Man’s poker hand of Aces & Eights when shot from behind by Jack McCall (hanged for his crime). The town, while a haven for gambling is replete with history and the nostalgic charm of false storefronts.

Deadwood, South Dakota

Deadwood, South Dakota — Tammie Dooley all rights reserved

Regarding FOOD, if you’ve got a nose for chocolate on the road, stop by The Chubby Chipmunk for a fix.  For lunch, try the Deadwood Thymes Bistro. The last time there I had the White Bean & Chicken Chili, a Three-Cheese grilled sandwich with bell peppers and a slice of apple all melted together between perfectly browned, thick sliced bread, and a large, cold, creamy slab of their Peanut Butter & Chocolate Pie.  I was hungry; the meal memorable. I’d like a repeat please.  For dinner I sat one night on a perch over downtown Deadwood in the 2nd story location of Kevin Costner’s Sports Bar & Grill (above the Midnight Star casino on Main Street).  While I don’t recall the food in the same longing manner as the lunch from Deadood Thymes Bistro, I do fondly remember the view and the numerous photos/posters of Kevin Costner in his Western movie roles.

A Wyoming Detour

Since you’re on the border and you could add another state-notch to your holster belt, or you’ve got another day or two to burn, why not venture into Wyoming? Devil’s Tower National Monument is a quick drive and well worth the time. Take Highway 90 to Sundance, Wyoming. From there head north on 14 for a few miles. Or if you’re sticking to the backroads, Highway 34 west out of Belle Fourche (turns into 24 at the Wyoming border) will get you there as well.  Should you venturing here during the off-season, don’t count on lodging nearby. There IS lodging, but…

Devil's Tower National Monument, Wyoming

Devil’s Tower, Wyoming — Tammie Dooley all rights reserved

President Theodore Roosevelt Proclaimed Devil’s Tower the first National Monument in 1906. Many Plains Indians have legends associated with “Bear’s Lodge” and consider it a sacred site. The Kiowas legend goes like this: Kiowas were camped by a stream where there were lots of bears. Seven little girls were playing away from their village and bears took chase. The girls ran and just as the bears were about to catch them, they jumped on a low rock. One of the girls began to pray. The rock began to push itself out of the ground raising the children higher and higher. The deep grooves running down the sides are said to be made by the bears attempting to claw their way to the top. The rock continued to push the children upward into the sky so far they reside in the sky today as the pleiades star cluster.

This Great American Drive will compel you to sing the Stars & Stripes and purchase a long, black duster.  Be prepared.

WARNING LABEL: If you decide to venture out of Belle Fourche to locate the original Geographic Center of the U.S. or anywhere in the above discussed areas, BEWARE of Rattlesnakes.

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The Tetons from a Dog-Trot Cabin

Standing in the breezeway of the settler’s dog-trot cabin, the sod roof sheds sandy sparks when the wind rises. Moisture from the dirt floor has been trawled by a broom so many times, it’s glossy in spots. And cold and hard as concrete.

The single window of the home lopsidedly frames the massive Tetons. To enjoy the view straight-on it’s necessary to kneel beneath the low ceiling. On my knees to photograph the scene, the cold seeps through my jeans. The sharp, snow covered crags cause my eyes to glance away for the softer bits of stray light coming through the gaps in the lodgepole pine logs. A powerful stroke of wind puffs the heavy snow into swirls covering the upper peaks of the mountains. It quickly chases down the cabin. Pulling my coat tighter around me, a few steps land me back in the warmth of the May sun.

Dog-Trot Cabin

Standing at the back of the cabin, the ancient panoptic beauty of these mountains rivets my attention and the discomfort of the chill is momentarily forgotten. The next blast of air turns my head back to the cabin. There, in between the pioneer’s only separation from the elements and the view of which I can never get enough, their struggle comes to life.

The truth is one of the most photographed, most photogenic scenes in America was of little consolation in the isolation of the brutal environment.

Hard Work

According to the Homestead Act of 1862, five years of residence on the property along with cultivation of the land was required to call it your own. The problem was, well, there were a lot of problems.

The ability to cultivate had to be arrived at. With only 60 days of a frost free growing season, limited access to water, and land choked with willows and aspen brush, many pioneers managed to clear less than 20 acres during the 5 year term.

From a final testimony of proof:

1911 2 acres veg. cattle got it.
1912 3 acres ½ acre veg. 1 ton.
1913 No crop
1914 No crop too dry.
1915 3 acres cattle got it.
1916 3 acres 1 a.veg. ¼ ton veg.

Six years of body battering labor shared in a cursive 30 word preemption document, entitled a settler to 160 acres in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 1918.

His work had just begun.

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Medora

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

The plan from the start was to see North Dakota from end to end. Entering the state on its far western border from Highway 85 (two hours later than planned) because of the hunt for the Geographic Center of the U.S., I’m tempted to call it a day. Snowfall in the Western part of the state has been unusually heavy over the 2008-2009 winter, meaning road conditions demand attention.

But not enough to override the recognition night is about to throw its protective cover.  And with that dimming comes glorious shadows, wildlife stirrings, sunset kaleidescopes, and the overall suspense that lovely, unexpected things happen when the light wanes. Joy spreads through my tired limbs leaving no room for thoughts of the creature comforts of a motel room. I drive into T.R. National Park.

Theodore Roosevelt became the nation’s 26th President in 1901. He said “I would not have been President had it not been for my experience in North Dakota.”  The Park includes Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch and was designated a National MEMORIAL Park in 1947. It didn’t achieve full National Park status until Jimmy Carter gave the approval in 1978.

IMG_1179

Mule Deer

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

See what I mean about lovely surprises?

Treasures of the Dakota Plains

Veering from Highway 385 onto 79, then onto the first unmarked road heading east, the Badlands are nowhere to be seen but the expansive Pine Ridge Indian Reservation offers enough gems to keep my camera clicking.  The reservation is 2.7 MILLION acres, more than twice the size of Delaware and is home to the Oglala Lakota American Indian tribe, descendants of such famous warrior chiefs as Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, and Crazy Horse.

Dry Goods Store

North of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota

Originally part of the Great Sioux Reservation established under The Treaty of 1868, the reservation faces grave challenges. I left the reservation with photographic captures that are evocative, beautiful and especially poignant when you contrast them with the harsh reality of the human lives there. Passing the photos on to you for enjoyment, in essence taking away only the good from a place whose “bad” is in such opposition, doesn’t feel right to me. Love may be what makes the world go round, but awareness is what makes the turn worthwhile. From the Indian Youth Organization website:  “With the exception of Haiti, life expectancy is lower here than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere (men – age 48, women – age 52), infant mortality rates are the highest in the United States, and many families have no electricity, telephone service, running water, or sewers and must use wood burning stoves to heat their homes.”  There are several grass roots organizations assisting with agricultural education and well-water management. If you’re interested in more, check out the website Running Strong for American Indian Youth.

Plains Indian Burial Platform

Surrounded by steep drop-offs to the Badlands, this is a scaffold burial platform (representational).  Edward S. Curtis photographed one of these in 1908 and Captain Lewis noted the expedition’s discovery of one in his journal dated April 20, 1805.  “I walked on shore.killed two deer, wounded an Elk and a deer; saw the remains of some Indian camp, near which stood a small scaffold of about 7 feet high.underneath this scaffold a human body was lying, well rolled in several dressed buffalow skins and near it a bag.containing sundry articles belonging to the disceased. – Captian Lewis”

Edward S. Curtis, courtesy

Edward S. Curtis 1908, courtesy www.old-picture.com

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

Longhorn Saloon, North of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

Asanpi Bleza "thin milk" in was a Brule indian whose body was discovered in 1948 by John

This took some research.  The sign was too much of a temptation to ignore so I pursued the arrow into a high plains pasture overlooking the edge of the Badlands. Asanpi Bleza “thin milk” was a Brule Indian warrior and the only known casualty of those seeking refuge in the stronghold during the Wounded Knee era. His bones were found by John Swallow, Sr. in 1948. Since Asanpi Bleza died without ceremony or burial, the family in 1948 conducted rites for him near the spot he was discovered. 

Memorial erected on sight of Asanpi Bleza's remains

Memorial erected near discovery of Asanpi Bleza’s remains by John Swallow, Sr. in 1948.

By this time I’ve traveled via dirt road completely around the South Unit of the Badlands (meaning the reservation, which is NOT part of the National Park although they are purportedly working on some agreement). There are no access points for the sunset shot I plan to capture so I head to the North Unit.  Clarification — there are no LEGAL access points. I’m aware I’ve been trespassing at certain points of the day, although I never knowingly violated posted signs. And every footfall has been VERY respectful. I’m certain that makes no difference, but I feel better about it.

The latter part of the day has been dreary and my hopes are not high for the glorious spread of slanted end-of-day rays so needed by the gray, bland Badlands. Racing around without a good map of the Park (yes, they’re open 24/7 but the entrances are not staffed this time of year, so no maps are handed out as you enter),  I find this:

The Badlands?

South Dakota Badlands. The Unexpected.

Not what you expected of the Badlands?  Me either.  A treasure indeed.

The day ends with this:

Mysterious Light Source or God's Mirror?

The Badlands

The perfect ending to a perfect day.  Since I’ve previously made a complete post based on this one shot, I won’t bore you with a repeat.  If you’ve not read about all that transpired for this to magically insert itself into my camera, click here (it’ll be worth your time).

The day actually ended with this:

Hacked and Cold

Weary Solo Road Tripper. No heat in her room. Too tired to care. Wall, South Dakota.

 

The Grand Climb

 

Tammie DooleyAbout SRT... I’m a traveler, writer and photographer for whom the open road frequently summons. Adventurous solo road trips are a staple for me, and a curiosity. So I created this website to share them and inspire you to step out and give them a try. Welcome!

A soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone – Wolfgang Von Goethe

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