THE BEST OF WYOMING: FROM JACKSON TO YELLOWSTONE

Mountain and reflection in the river at Oxbow Bend in Wyoming

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About Wyoming

Wyoming is located in a mountainous region of the United States. It is the 10th largest state in the USA by area. However, given the wide sprawling space it is also the least populated state. Cheyenne is the capital city of Wyoming. Many travelers that have been to Wyoming opt for Jackson (or Jackson Hole), the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. Really, that was the main attraction for me to travel here if I’m being honest.

Jackson Hole

As you fly into JAC (Jackson Hole airport) you’re literally engrossed in the gorgeous jagged mountains right away and Grand Teton National Park. There is a lot to do and see in downtown Jackson as well as in the National Park. It’s all relatively compact compared to other National Parks so you can see a lot in a short amount of time.

sunset in the background of the mountains behind the Airplane at JAC Jackson Hole Airport in Wyoming

One thing that really confused me before I visited was the naming convention of this area. Is it Jackson Hole or is it Jackson? Jackson Hole actually is more of a region within Wyoming. Jackson is the actual town whereas Jackson Hole is the region of the valley. Included in Jackson Hole is the town of Jackson, Teton Village, Wilson, The Aspens, Moran Junction, Moose and areas surrounding. The more you know, right?!

Things to do: Downtown Jackson

Elk Antler Arch

One of the main attractions in the center of the downtown area is the Jackson Hole antler arches. There are arches that are made out of elk antlers on the corners of George Washington Memorial Park in downtown Jackson that many people get great photos of! These are made out of real local elk antlers but supported by a steel base. There is a live webcam of the square if you’re missing Jackson or want to check it out prior to seeing it in person.

Restaurants/Food

Cowboy Coffee Co. is a local coffee shop with a few different locations. One is located downtown “by the square” and the other a little farther out but it’s just a drive through. We hit them up multiple times. The breakfast items and specialty lattes were amazing! My favorite being a snickers iced almond milk latte and a biscuit breakfast sandwich.

Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is a must! You won’t be able to miss it with the quintessential bucking horse logo lit up in the main square downtown. (If you’re there at night.) It’s so fun! Once you go inside it’s like stepping into an old fashioned western bar. They even have bar stools made of saddles it was a fun place to go and have a few drinks after dinner one evening.

Persephone Bakery needs to be on your list if you have a sweet tooth! The chocolate walnut sea salt cookies are to die for! They also offer food but, my friend just brought back the goodies to our cabin.

Sidewinders Tavern is a Diner’s Drive In’s & Dive’s spot. I always like checking these places out as they’re usually my jam. (Awesome food & non-pretentious!) I was a little disappointed they were out of one of the DDD dishes but we were also there a little later in the evening so keep that in mind!

A few of the breweries listed below also served food (so technically they could fall into both categories.) Read more on the details below.

Breweries & Beer

Snake River Brewing is a great place to have a few beers and also a casual lunch or dinner. They have plenty of seating both inside and outside. We did have to wait a bit for a table as it was close to lunch time so we just grabbed a few beers and snagged a spot on the free seating area before a table was available.

Roadhouse Brewing Co. We had lunch on their patio after a longer hike. I was impressed with the beers and the food was also great. Definitely recommend!

Pro tip: If you sit on the patio, it overlooks the downtown square so you’re able to people watch and the “Stageshop” where you can take horse drawn carriage rides from the south side of the town square is right below.

Glass of water on the table with Roadhouse Brewing logo on it and in the background the antler arch on the square corner as well as stagecoach station for horse draw rides downtown Jackson Wyoming.
Roadhouse Brewing patio with antler arch & stagecoach station in the background

Melvin Brewing was combined with a Thai restaurant called Thai me Up. It was a really interesting set up and definitely more of a restaurant vs. industrial brewery vibe. We ended up having a few beers (they really didn’t have a lot on tap at that time) and some food. The food was definitely an added bonus to wanting to check out this brewery! It was so good.

Grand Teton Brewing While we didn’t actually go to the taproom, we also sampled some brews from Grand Teton Brewing after we picked them up from the store. (It’s actually brewed in Idaho!) But the namesake made it appropriate to enjoy after spending time adventuring in Grand Teton National Park.

Shopping

There are so many different shops in the downtown area selling t-shirts & typically souvenirs. But, from a recommendation of my friend Lydia I had to check out the MADE store. It was amazing! So many handmade items (hence the name!) and a lot of travel focused things as well. One of my favorite things in the whole store was a line of candles by Good and Well Supply Co. These candles smelled absolutely phenomenal and each had a distinct and different scent to capture the essence of a National Park. It was so hard not to buy everything in the store!

Grand Teton National Park

This national park is known for the dramatic snow covered rugged mountains and pristine lake views. All of Grand Teton National Park is located in the state of Wyoming. The park is open all of the time, 24 hours 365 days a year. However, there are definitely considerations to be made when deciding when to visit. During high season (May-September) it will likely be more crowded but more services and things will be open within the park. In comparison to November- April where things will have more limited hours or be closed all together. Many things will be closed between September and October until spring. So, it really depends on what you want to see on your trip to the park.

View driving down the road in Grand Teton National Park
Driving through Grand Teton National Park

Yellowstone National Park

This national park spans three different states. Parts of Yellowstone are located in Idaho, Wyoming & Montana. The South entrance of Yellowstone National Park is only a little over an hour drive from Jackson. So whether you’re planning on spending only one day in Yellowstone or a few days, I definitely would recommend it. It’s crazy how different the landscape is across Yellowstone National Park compared to the Grand Tetons when they’re logistically so close together. I have a whole post detailing our specific itinerary in Yellowstone for one day. It definitely wasn’t enough to see everything in Yellowstone so a return trip will be needed for sure!

4 Day Wyoming Itinerary: Jackson to Yellowstone

Lets get into the itinerary from Jackson (Hole) to Yellowstone within our time in Wyoming. Technically we were there a little over four days. However, these were all of the full days in Wyoming when we actually did “activities”. The other days, when we arrived we basically just flew in later in the evening, got our rental car and checked into our accommodation. Alternately, the day we left we literally did the reverse we woke up, gased up the car, returned it and then flew home. Technically I don’t count these days as actual days of the itinerary but I think it’s important to note that as well for your planning purposes.

As you’re planning your trip, keep in mind ours was somewhat of an abbreviated version. But, can you experience the Grand Tetons & Yellowstone National Park in less time? Yes. You really could hit a lot of highlights especially if you didn’t want to hike much in 2-3 days. However, keep reading to dive into what we did on our trip from Jackson to Yellowstone.

My number one tip would be to spend more time in Yellowstone and stay within Yellowstone National Park or closer for 1-2 nights and the rest of the time in or near Jackson.

Day One: Jackson & Grand Teton National Park

Wake up bright and early, happy to be here & ready to explore! We had a slight shift in plans just due to last minute circumstances that were beyond anyone’s control. Essentially our friends ended up arriving later than we originally had planned so we set out to drive around Grand Teton National Park getting the lay of the land then met up with them around mid day for lunch at Dornan’s.

Dornan’s

Dornan’s is located right at the entrance of Grand Teton National Park Moose Entrance and actually isn’t a part of the National Park. There are two sit down restaurants and a few casual restaurants located here. There’s a general store/grocery/deli and gift shop as well as tour guide/activities. Activities that operate out of the Dornan’s area include: fly fishing, river trips on the Snake River & tours to view wildlife. There are some seasonal skiing and snowshoeing opportunities from Dornan’s as well. After we had lunch at Dornan’s we headed on our first hiking adventure.

Jenny Lake Area

Parking at Jenny Lake area I was actually really surprised at how much parking capacity there was. We were able to easily find a parking spot at South Jenny Lake/Jenny Lake Visitor Center. From there we doled out the $18 (per person) to take the shuttle boat (round trip) across Jenny Lake. (You can also hike around the lake but since we were already planning on hiking a considerable amount it was worth it to us.) That’s totally up to you what you decide. But, since we didn’t have as much time and were planning on going past Inspiration Point it was for efficiency.

Pristine blue Jenny Lake with trees and mountains off in the distance within Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming
Jenny Lake

Hiking: Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point & Cascade Canyon

Once across the lake we set out on a very highly trafficked hiking trail. It was well marked with signage for Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point, Cascade Canyon & Jenny Lake Trailhead. It was mid-day and there were constantly people that we saw. So, if you want more solitude this trail wouldn’t be for you. Essentially, you follow the trail to Hidden Falls then continue on to Inspiration Point. Many don’t continue on after Inspiration point but honestly this was on my favorite part of this hike. We even saw moose along this trail!

Despite the hazy atmosphere when we were there Cascade Canyon was absolutely stunning! I definitely recommend continuing on the trail to this area. The amount of people dwindles after Inspiration Point and you really almost have the Canyon to yourself. It felt like it just opened up and there was a babbling stream, wild flowers and gorgeous landscape as far as you could see. Cascade Canyon was truly stunning!

Dinner in Jackson

After our hike we headed back to the cabin to change then went to dinner in Jackson. Since we were headed to Yellowstone the next day, it was an early morning so we pretty much ate then turned in somewhat early.

Day Two: Road Trip to Yellowstone National Park

We chose to spend one day in Yellowstone National Park, however, we only really saw a piece of the park. You could easily spend 2-4 days there. Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park are only separated by a mere 31 miles by the John D. Rockefeller Parkway. I have a full detailed itinerary of what we did during our One Day in Yellowstone National Park from Jackson & the south entrance.

But here’s an abbreviated version of the sites we visited: Drove to the South Entrance of Yellowstone National Park from Jackson. Then once in Yellowstone went to The Grand Prismatic Spring, Hiked to Fairy Falls, Visited Old Faithful Geyser and Visitor Center then West Thumb Geyser basin boardwalk. It was a full day but definitely doable!

After arriving back we used the outdoor grill outside of our cabin and had a low key dinner then spent some time down by the Snake River. It was great to relax after a long and busy day!

Day Three: Rafting & Downtown Jackson

Where we stayed offered a discount on rafting trips through Dave Hansen. It was really convenient because they actually picked us up and dropped us off right from the main office of the campground. (Versus having to drive into town to the Dave Hansen office and park there to essentially back track to closer to where we stayed.) But, if you’re staying closer to town it wouldn’t be as much of an issue to meet at the rafting office.

The rafting experience was an absolute blast! I would love to raft again! Our guide, Vlad was awesome at instructing us as we made our way down the river and offering information about the river, wildlife and the area. Afterward, although I wasn’t overly warm during the time on the water I got heat stroke. From the sun reflecting off of the water it’s so important to ensure you’re adequately hydrated. Heat stroke is definitely no joke!

I started to feel woozy and gross after we were done eating and having a few beers. Even though I had a large water, I’m sure the brewski’s didn’t help! EEeeekkk! We had a more chill day planned so we ended up just going back to the cabin for a bit and resting before our evening at the chuckwagon dinner.

The chuckwagon dinner was a lot of fun! Although somewhat cheesy at the same time it was fun to learn a little more about the history of the region. You travel in an actual covered wagon to your “camp” and watch the interactive show. It was a unique opportunity to do something different.

A line of horse drawn covered wagons snaking around a dirt path with trees and mountains in the background

Day Four: Grand Tetons National Park & Jackson

Hiked to Grand View Point

Our last full day in Wyoming we set out on 5 mile hike early in the morning. We hiked to Grand View Point. It was definitely worth the effort for some amazing views! But, we really were the only people on the trail until we were closer to the actual viewpoint. There was also a lot of evidence of bears in the area along the trail (hair in the dirt and on trees) so I was extra thankful that we had bear spray! During the start of our hike there was definitely something lurking around that never did show itself (thank god!) but we were prepared with bear spray. I think we also were loud enough that whatever it was kept its distance.

After the hike, on our way out of Grand Teton National Park to Jackson we made our way to a few additional stops within the National Park. Stops below listed in order from when we were done hiking to making our way south and closer to Jackson.

Oxbow Bend

You’ve probably seen pictures of Oxbow Bend and didn’t even realize it! It’s a gorgeous spot to enjoy the view and snap a few pictures. It’s where the Snake River opens up and you can see a stunning reflection of Mount Moran in the distance reflecting off of the water.

Mountain and reflection in the river at Oxbow Bend in Wyoming

Schwabachers Landing

Schwabachers Landing is actually a boat landing. There’s typically a wooden sign off of I-89 but for some reason it was missing and we missed the turn on the first try. We doubled back and turned down the small gravel dead end road. From there it’s just a short walk to the beautiful view down by the river.

Near the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park Schwarbachers Landing wooden fence with the river and mountains in the background

Mormon Row

This area of Grand Teton National Park is within the Southeastern part of the park. It’s a historic region where some homesteaded houses was originally settled by Mormons from Salt Lake City in the late 1800’s. This cluster of houses known as Mormon Row built houses together to develop a community and share the labor amongst everyone.

A small older wooden log cabin near Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park with plains grass surrounding it and mountains in the distance

After hiking and further exploring Grand Teton National Park we were absolutely starving and made our way into town to have lunch. We ate on a patio overlooking the square then spent the afternoon and evening popping into fun shops downtown. Until later that evening when we went to the brewery combination Thai restaurant.

Where to Stay from Jackson to Yellowstone

There are so many different options of where you could stay during a trip including Grand Teton National Park, from Jackson to Yellowstone. We stayed a little bit south of Jackson in a cabin within a campground that offered cabins, tenting, and hookups for campers. It was a little more cramped than I would have liked but it also was nice to have a full refrigerator and a kitchen/grill for our use. I probably wouldn’t stay there again, which is why I’m not mentioning it by name.

There are many different places to stay in Jackson, Wyoming from Jackson to Yellowstone.

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picture of people white water rafting on a river with text reading Things to do in Jackson Hole Wyoming WanderLust in Real Life.com

Published by WanderLust in Real Life

I'm a 30 something living in the Midwest of the United States that loves every aspect of travel. Researching, planning, & of course actually going on adventures whether near or far.

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