Flying the approach into the basin on a clear summer morning, one gets an eagle eye view of the geologic colossus known as Jackson Hole. With a shear stone wall and snow capped peaks rising 14,000 feet to the west and lush trees and grasses on the valley floor to the north, flying into the Jackson Hole Airport looks like you are flying into a National Geographic photo shoot.
The actual town of Jackson is located about 15 minutes south of the airport. What used to be a quaint mountain town first frequented by trappers in the early 1800s has become an international destination for snow skiing in the winter and experiencing some of the nature’s most stunning scenery in the summer months.
The town of Jackson offers a plethora of western shops, micro breweries, restaurants and outfitters of all kinds. With the Snake River and its many tributaries nearby, whitewater rafting, fly fishing, paddle boarding, boating, biking and hiking are all viable options for those who want to experience nature first hand.
Want to see the valley from high atop the mountain? Snow King Ski Resort in downtown Jackson keeps its chairlift running during the warmer months. The 20 minute ride will take you 1,500 feet above Jackson with 360 degree views and plenty of hiking trails once you are there. The same resort offers some of the best snow skiing in the world in the winter.
You can be in Grand Teton National Park or the first national park in our country’s history, Yellowstone, in less than an hour by car. The vastness of the area almost defies comprehension. Huge pristine fresh water lakes and seemingly endless pine tree forests are in every direction.
Yellowstone is home to Old Faithful and numerous other geysers, all the remnants of the Yellowstone Super Volcano that last erupted 640,000 years ago. The 45 mile rim that circles the caldera gives you an idea of the size and power this super blast must have packed.
The national parks offer lots of other actives as well — camping, mountain climbing, snowmobiling, boating and nature walks just to name a few. While the main roads can become busy during the peak season in the summer, with over 3,400 square miles of park in Yellowstone and 310,000 acres in Grand Teton, there is never a lack of places to find some solitude from the masses. That said, you are literally one with nature when off the beaten paths of the parks... and nature rules!
Grizzly bears and black bears are the two species of bears that inhabit the parks. Make no mistake about it, these animals are carnivores. While most of them shy away from human contact, stories abound in the surrounding towns about campers who got between a bear cub and its mother or who left food easily accessible in their camp. These stories generally don’t end well.
However, there are plenty of other generally more docile examples of nature that can pop up almost anywhere. Herds bison, moose, elk, bald eagles, fox, and wolves all make their homes here. And while some of these animals are often considered “cute” or harmless by many tourists, don’t make the mistake of seeing how close you can get to take a picture.
It is hard not to look at this vast beauty that nature has taken millions of years to develop and think that humans have just recently begun to inhabit it. We truly are a spec in geologic time.