Leaf Peeping

Jackson Hole, with its expansive evergreen forests, isn’t known as a top destination for fall colors. But for those who appreciate quality over quantity—aspens glowing gold above the irrigated, green pastures of a ranch with the Tetons in the distance—the valley might be one of the best places in the country to catch the season’s changing colors … if you know where to go. An added benefit of leaf-peeping here? Some spots are best visited by car, others via great hikes. You can take a scenic chairlift or boat ride to others, or even stand-up paddleboard. Here’s where we take our friends and family lucky enough to visit in the fall.

A couple of miles north of the tiny community, Kelly, which is entirely surrounded by Grand Teton National Park, Gros Ventre Road heads east off Antelope Flats Road and deep into the mountain range it is named for. The road is paved for several miles before it becomes gravel. There are some washboarded sections of road, but any passenger car can make it the sixish miles to an overlook and interpretive site for the 1925 Gros Ventre Slide, which is one of the largest recorded land movements in U.S. history. While the nearly 100 year-old scar from the slide on the lower flank of Sheep Mountain is impressive, that’s not what you’ve driven here to see. Yes, you’ll want to take time viewing the slide site, but once you’ve had your fill, turn around and drive back towards Antelope Flats and Kelly. This section of the Gros Ventre Road is lined with aspen trees that perfectly frame the snaggly Cathedral Group of the Tetons rising in the distance.

It’s understandable to think that if you hike or ride the scenic chair up Snow King Mountain, five blocks south of the Town Square, you’re doing it for the expansive views of the National Elk Refuge and the mountain ranges that surround the valley. Sure, the Tetons (to the north), the Gros Ventres (to the east and north), and the Snake River Range (to the southwest) are beautiful from “the King’s” 7,808-foot summit, which has almost 360-degree views. But in the autumn, a golden aspen grove on the western side of its summit is the prettiest thing to see. The distant mountains are merely a bonus.

One of the most beautiful autumn drives in the valley is on Fall Creek Road, a rural byway at the base of Teton Pass that heads south from Wilson. (Although most of the road is devoid of shoulders, it offers a beautiful bike ride; Fall Creek Road doesn’t get much traffic.) You can do this as a 20-ish mile out-and-back drive/ride starting and finishing in Wilson, or as a 40-mile loop beginning and ending in the Town of Jackson. Fall Creek Road, itself, is about 17 miles long, and its most intense colors can be witnessed where it passes through stands of cottonwoods of the Snake River bottoms, about eight miles south of Wilson, as well as where it winds its way around Munger Mountain, which might have the valley’s highest density of aspen trees. If you want to drive to Munger, about 11 miles south of Wilson, and then turn around, you’ll see an abundance of vibrant color. You can also take Fall Creek Road about six miles past Munger Mountain to its junction with U.S. Highway 26/89/191. This intersection is several miles south of Hoback Junction; to return to Jackson from here, it’s about 13 miles. For about half of the return to Jackson, the road parallels the Snake River and meanders through additional cottonwood forests.

If you fancy the chance of wildlife sightings along with fall colors, consider floating the Snake River from Wilson to South Park. This is a scenic stretch of river, and it does not have any whitewater. (Although debris in the river and channels can make navigation difficult for those unfamiliar with the area; several Jackson Hole outfitters offer guided trips here.) From the launch at the bridge across the Snake River near Highway 22’s junction with Highway 390 (aka Teton Village Road), the riverbanks are lined with giant cottonwood trees, and the parade of color continues all the way to South Park, where you’ll take out. In addition to admiring the cottonwood’s colors on this float, keep your eyes peeled for Bald Eagles. There are several nests along this stretch of the river.

You can hike the two-ish miles from South Jenny Lake to the lake’s western shore on a newly rebuilt trail or take a ten-minute passenger ferry between the two points. While South Jenny Lake is the most visited spot in Grand Teton National Park and has an abundance of amenities like a ranger station, convenience store, bathrooms, interpretive signs, benches and tables, and a small museum, the lake’s western shore is wild. Aside from a small pier where the ferries dock, the only amenity you’ll find on the west shore is a trail system, which features an ancient dry stone masonry technique that is almost as interesting as the surrounding forest. While both hiking and the ferry ride to the west shore show off fall color, our favorite autumn, Jenny Lake experience is to park at the small boat launch on the lake’s southern end, carry our stand-up paddleboards the 100 feet to the lake, and paddle along the western shore. Almost every time we’ve done this, in addition to witnessing changing colors, we’ve seen moose. (Fair warning: We always do this it early in the morning; even though temperatures can be in the 30s, we find the chill a worthy trade-off to have the lake to ourselves). Know that any watercraft in Grand Teton National Park must have a permit, which is available at the Moose Visitor Center.

The, most easily accessible and family-friendly fall colors in Jackson Hole may be found at Rendezvous Park (also known as R Park). On the Snake River near the intersection of Highways 390 and 22, R Park is a 40-acre natural playground and community gathering space with thriving wildlife habitat, ponds, meadows, and knolls. The park opened to the public in 2014 after three years of reclamation. (The area was formerly a gravel pit.) There are colorful cottonwoods and aspens along the river and around a central pond. You can drive to R Park or use the valley’s extensive pathway system to get there. The pathway that links the Town of Jackson with Wilson and Teton Village passes right through the park.

Grand Teton National Park’s best-kept secret might be the Bar BC Ranch, which was founded in 1912 as the valley’s second dude ranch, decades before the Park, as it is known today, was founded. The Bar BC welcomed dudes until the early 1940s, and today it has colorful stands of cottonwoods everyone can enjoy. The ranch and its guest cabins are tucked on a bench above the Snake River, near Moose. In 1987, when the last surviving family member of the ranch’s founders died, the Bar BC was incorporated into the park that had come to surround it. In 1990, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. For the past two summers, the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, the Western Center for Historic Preservation, and Grand Teton National Park have been conducting preservation work on two of Bar BC’s most important cabins. Take a picnic lunch or dinner, wander the cottonwood-lined banks of the nearby Snake River, and enjoy the newly conserved cabins.

Jackson Hole’s Best Outdoor Spaces

With summer in full swing, we’re spending as much time outside as possible. Jackson Hole’s summer is so, so sweet, but oh so short. Of course we make the most of it. Locals and visitors alike spend long days outside watching wildlife, biking, fly-fishing, and hiking. The fortunate among us can also enjoy outside time while at home—on sun-drenched south-facing decks, cooking in an outdoor kitchen before settling in to eat dinner in front of an outdoor fireplace, or reading a book while a creek burbles past a few feet away. The luckiest of us have outdoor spaces that, equipped with hot tubs, heaters, fire pits, and fireplaces, can be enjoyed year-round. Here are some of our favorite outdoor spaces from our portfolio of luxury Jackson Hole vacation rentals.

Phillips Ridge

Set on 74 private acres just south of the community of Wilson, there is no shortage of outdoor spaces to enjoy at Phillips Ridge. (Nor of indoor spaces; the 16,000-square-foot log retreat has five bedroom suites, a home theater, an indoor hot tub modeled after the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone, and a rec room with a two-lane bowling alley.) Terraces surround the home, but the outdoor stars here are the private pond and Fish Creek. The former is big enough to canoe or stand-up paddleboard on and the latter flows through a secluded section of the property. Phillips Ridge guests can fly fish for trout in both the pond and Fish Creek.

Four Pines 6

The more northern of Four Pines 6’s two outdoor patios is proof that outdoor living in Jackson Hole need not be limited to the summer. Accessed by French doors from the home’s combined kitchen/dining/living room, this terrace has a grill and a hot tub, and views of the slopes at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. In addition to two terraces, this 4,800-square-foot home in Shooting Star has five bedroom suites.

Chateau On The Westbank

The 6,400-square-foot, four-suite Chateau on the Westbank has a great room with coffered, cathedral ceilings that are notable for their height, detailing, and plasterwork. As lovely as this room is inside, local architect Danny Williams designed it around the views of outside. These views get even better when you walk out onto the terrace: a private pond in the foreground and the Tetons in the distance. The terrace not only has some of the best Teton views in the valley, but also almost doubles the size of the home’s entertaining spaces.

Cirque View Homestead

The stone terrace at Cirque View Homestead in Teton Village’s Shooting Star neighborhood is just feet from the creek that runs through the home’s backyard. Decorated by KAM Designs, a firm with offices in San Francisco, Scottsdale, and Jackson Hole, it has a fire pit, hot tub, gas grill, and dining table for ten.

Lost In The Woods

Lost in the Woods has seven bedrooms and a professional-grade kitchen with French doors that open to a dining porch. Thanks to a stacked stone outdoor fireplace, you can enjoy al fresco dining year-round.

On The Elk Refuge

When enjoying the outdoor spaces at the Elk Refuge retreat, you’ll always have in-your-face views of the Tetons. Many times, the views here will also include wildlife. On a rare inholding on the 25,000-acre National Elk Refuge, this six-bedroom home often has elk and bison walking past its windows (and decks). Also fox, deer, and coyotes. Overhead, it’s not unusual to see eagles soaring on thermals.

Teton Skyline

“Three acres at the end of a cul de sac totally surrounded by trees, Teton views, and 10 minutes from downtown Jackson: I don’t know if that exists anywhere else in the valley,” says Phil Stevenson of the 8,536-square-foot Teton Skyline home currently on the market. Stevenson, one of founders of The Clear Creek Group, has been involved in the Jackson Hole real estate market since 2005. “And then the home itself is wonderful.”

See for yourself.

Built in 1982 and completely updated about six years ago, Teton Skyline is located in the Skyline Ranch subdivision, which was one of the first neighborhoods developed in Jackson Hole. Set in a rolling landscape just east of the Snake River, Skyline Ranch is a 10-minute drive from downtown Jackson, 5-minutes from Wilson, and 15-minutes from Teton Village. A bike and pedestrian pathway connects the neighborhood to all three communities, as well as to the valley’s elementary, middle, and high schools. “It’s a pretty ideal location,” Stevenson says.

“Because this is an older house, it has a lot of interesting features you’d never find in a contemporary construction,” Stevenson says. “This screened-in gazebo that is part of the main deck is one of them. It’s such a fanciful retreat within the home, and a great place to read or play cards. It is a very special space.”

Included among Teton Skyline’s six bedrooms is a single bedroom guest apartment/caretaker’s residence. This apartment is above the garage and detached from the main house (although you can get from this apartment to the main house under cover). It even has its own driveway. “Guests or caretakers can come and go without having to bother anyone in the main house,” Stevenson says. In addition to the sitting area shown here, the apartment has a bedroom suite and kitchen. The best feature of the bathroom? A deep-soaking copper bathtub.

Teton Skyline has six bedrooms including this master suite. Three guest rooms are on the home’s lower floor while this master and a junior master are on the main level. “It’s designed so that the master suite, and junior master, are private,” says Stevenson.

A breakfast nook in the main kitchen is cozy and intimate. In addition to this main kitchen, which features professional-level appliances and finishes, Teton Skyline also has a chef’s kitchen. “The chef’s kitchen is nicer than many people’s primary kitchen,” Stevenson says. “These are part of what makes this a great home for entertaining.”

“This might be the nicest home theater in Jackson Hole,” Stevenson says. “It is tiered and just extraordinary.” The home theater is on the main floor with two bedroom suites, the great room and two kitchens.

In addition to a north and west L-shaped deck off the main floor, Teton Skyline has a lower level deck with a hot tub. Mature landscaping gives it privacy. “The decks easily double the amount of entertaining space in this home,” Stevenson says. “Our summers are short, but when the weather allows, it is so nice to have outdoor living spaces.”

“This is a wonderful entertaining home,” Stevenson says. “The great room (shown here) is stunning, for its décor and for its views.” Teton Skyline is being sold fully furnished; this includes a collection of western and wildlife art that suits the home’s style and Jackson Hole. Much of the furniture dates to the remodel that was done about six years ago.

Adventurous guests can opt to stay in the prairie wagon set in the lawn in front of Teton Skyline. The wagon has been customized and has a bed, oven and a sink in it. “This has to be one of the most interesting guest rooms in the valley,” Stevenson says.

Transformational Travel

Vacations used to be all about relaxing. And of course some relaxing is good. But more and more experienced travelers are looking for their vacations to include unique, educational, or challenging experiences. Jackson Hole has no shortage of local-led, authentic, custom experiences that your family will be talking about long after your vacation here is over. Here are a few of our favorites.

JH Wildlife Photo Safari

“All of our safaris have great photo ops along the way, but our custom wildlife photo safaris are geared so you can learn tips and tricks from a professional photographer guide who is also an interpretative naturalist,” says Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris owner Jason Williams. You’ll get great images of Jackson Hole’s wildlife, historic structures, and the landscape, and end the safari with new photo techniques—totally customized to your group, whether you’re taking photos with your phone or a DSLR—you can use on your next vacation. A half-day photo safari is $765 for up to 4 people and a full-day photo safari is $1,275 for up to 4 people. Jacksonholewildlifesafaris.com


Jackson Hole Writers Conference

You don’t need to be a professional, or even have been published to go to the annual Jackson Hole Writers Conference, which is held annually in late June. (This year is the 28th conference.) “Anyone who loves writing can attend,” says Tim Sandlin, the conference’s founder, a resident faculty member, and the author of many novels including the Gro Vont trilogy. “We get everyone from beginners to multi-published authors. All you need in enthusiasm.” The three- day conference includes panel discussions, manuscript critiques, workshops, seminars, and social events. “Attendees leave the conference ready to write. They know more about the process of writing and the process of publishing. They make new friends. They take away inspiration.” $410 for the entire conference, which is June 27-29, 2019. jacksonholewritersconference.com

Teton Science Schools

Annually Teton Science Schools engages 15,000 learners from toddlers to retirees. Programs includes multi-day summer camps for elementary and high school students, single-night Front Porch Conversations, which offer attendees the opportunity to learn about a wide range of topics in an intimate environment, and private, immersive full-day tours of Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) and the Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF). As diverse as its programs and classes are, they have something in common: a place-based, interactive take on their subject. TSS founder Ted Major’s belief was that students learn best about natural sciences out in nature. Go to tetonscience.org website for a full schedule of programs for all ages. Private full-day tours of GTNP and the BTNF are $1,500 for up to 11 people.

National Museum of Wildlife Art

Have you ever done yoga outside while surrounded by statues of wildlife and overlooking the National Elk Refuge? Yoga on the Trail is just one of the many experiences to be had at the National Museum of Wildlife Art, which prides itself on being interesting to visitors whether they are an expert in wildlife art or know nothing about the genre. “Visitors with little or no knowledge about art find the Museum engaging,” says Dr. Adam Duncan Harris, the Museum’s Joffa Kerr Curator of Art. “I think this is in large part because the subject matter is our artworks is so approachable.” For those familiar with wildlife art Harris says, not to miss the Rungius Gallery (as a whole) and a display dedicated to the work of Bob Kuhn. “These two painters are regarded as among the best artists of their respective generations,” he says. “Both have been highly influential on younger artists in the field.” Yoga on the Trail is free, B.Y.O.M. (bring your own mat), and 10 – 11 a.m. Thursdays between July 11 and August 29. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through October; tickets $15 (adults), $13 (seniors), $6 (1 child), $2 (additional children), free (4 & under). wildlifeart.org

Wyoming Stargazing

You can’t learn about the night sky—or even see it—just anywhere. Researchers at Italy’s Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute found that two out of three Europeans and four out of five Americans cannot see the 100-billion star galaxy to which our solar system belongs from their homes. In Jackson Hole you can see the Milky Way though, along with about 5,000 stars. Wyoming Stargazing offers free public programs throughout the summer, or you can kick it up a notch and go out on a nighttime stargazing safari with one of their astronomers. “I love when people look through the telescope and see the rings of Saturn,” says Wyoming Stargazing founder Samuel Singer, PhD. “People get super psyched to see something they’ve only ever seen in photos before. There are lots of ‘Oh my Gods,’ ‘Holy sh8*%,” and other profanities,” he says. Simple stargazing isn’t enough though: “We tell stories about these objects. People are looking at fuzzy spots that are the accumulated light of billions of stars from tens of millions of light years away. That’s looking into the past. That light you’re seeing through a telescope one night in 2019 in Grand Teton National Park took tens of millions of years to get here. We’re literally seeing the universe as it existed millions of years ago. I never get tired of telling this story,” Singer says. Go to wyomingstargazing.org for a schedule of Wyoming Stargazing’s public programs. Private stargazing safaris are $500 for up to 2 people and $175/person for 3-13 people.

Ceramics Class at the Art Association

Jackson Hole Arts & Culture

Jackson Hole has one of the most vibrant art scenes in the country. Since the National Center for Arts Research began measuring arts vibrancy in every U.S. county in 2015, it’s rated in the index’s top 10 for small to medium-size cities.

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