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.

Off-Season is the Best Season

Yes, Jackson Hole’s trails are at an in-between stage during April and early May. They’re not yet snow-free or dry enough for hiking or biking. Also, the ski lifts at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Snow King Mountain have closed for the season. Still, there’s plenty to do in the valley, including these favorite spring activities of ours. A bonus of the spring off-season? No crowds!

Wyoming Stargazing

Photo Courtesy of Wyoming Stargazing

“We have some of the darkest skies of anywhere in the country,” says Dr. Samuel Singer, the founder of Wyoming Stargazing, which does year-round stargazing safaris. “A few places are darker—national parks in the Southwest, which have drier air and are father from cities—but Jackson Hole still has amazingly dark night skies.” Singer says his favorite moment of every stargazing program is when he parks at the spot he will set up the telescope and the night’s stargazers exit the van. “I turn the headlights off and everyone steps outside under this big, dark sky and they’re just blown away. I think some people get dizzy when they look up. It feels like you’re in a fishbowl.”

Photo Courtesy of Wyoming Stargazing

“It’s like a wildlife tour, except we go out and see stars,” says Dr. Samuel Singer, who has a PhD in science education and founded Wyoming Stargazing in 2013. “We get people to explore the extraordinary in the ordinary. The sky is always above our heads, we normally just don’t look up, and there is so much cool stuff up there day and night, especially here, where we’re lucky to have pretty dark skies.” The reason dark skies are so hard to find today? Light pollution, a collective term that includes all forms of artificial light, but most conspicuously the perpetual sky glow that hovers over urban areas.

Book a stargazing safari at wyomingstargazing.org, $500 for up to 2 people, $175/person for groups of 3 to 13


National Museum of Wildlife Art

Photo Courtesy of National Museum of Wildlife Art

Most people passing through Jackson Hole do so without realizing the valley is home to the wildlife art equivalent of the Louvre, Hermitage, Metropolitan, and Prado. Included in the National Museum of Wildlife Art’s 5,000+ piece permanent collection is Auguste Rodin’s The Crying Lion—yes, the same Rodin famous for The Thinker. This piece was inspired by a visit Rodin took to Jardin des Plante (the Paris Zoo) in the company of Louis-Antoine Barye, founder of the European movement known as les animaliers (“the animal sculptors”) and also represented in the NMWA’s permanent collection alongside perhaps the most heralded animalier, Rembrandt Bugatti. “Yes, we’ve branched out significantly from Rungius and the Big Four,” says Dr. Adam Duncan Harris, the museum’s Joffa Kerr chief curator of art. “These are the very same artists you’ll find in the Louvre. They’ve been fun acquisitions and artworks that elevate wildlife art to a different level of appreciation and understanding.”

Wildlifeart.org, open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday and 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sundays through April; May – October, open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily, $15 (adults), $13 (seniors), $6 (first child), ($2) additional children


Jackson Hole Eco Tour Adventures

Photo Courtesy of Jackson Hole Eco Tour Adventures

While many local human residents leave for part of the off-season, it’s a totally different story with the valley’s wildlife. “Much of the wildlife is concentrated in the low valleys where there is little-to-no-snow and spring green-up is beginning,” says Taylor Phillips, a wildlife biologist and founder of Jackson Hole Eco Tour Adventures, which does 4- to 12-hour wildlife tours in and around Jackson Hole. “Spring is amazing in the Jackson Hole Valley. With copious amounts of snow in the high country and bluebirds signing in the valley its a great time to explore Grand Teton National Park for Wildlife.” Specifically in April, “The spectacle is strutting sage grouse,” Phillips says. And also, “If one is lucky then the first bison calves can be seen!”

Photo Courtesy of Jackson Hole Eco Tour Adventures

During the spring off-season, bighorn sheep haven’t yet migrated out of the valley into the mountains.  Taylor Phillips, a wildlife biologist and founder of Jackson Hole Eco Tour Adventures loves taking clients to the Elk Refuge to see sheep. “The back side of Miller Butte is a great place to go for raptors and bighorn sheep,” he says. “They haven’t made their spring migration to Sheep Mountain [aka Sleeping Indian] yet.”

jhecotouradventures.com, 307/690-9533, 4-hour tours in Grand Teton National Park from $140/person, 8-hour tours from $240/person


Jay Goodrich Photo Adventure

Photo Courtesy of Jay Goodrich

“Even in the mud season, there is so much to photograph here,” says Jay Goodrich, a Jackson-based professional photographer who offers half- and full-day photo tours and whose own work appears in Outside, The Washington Post, Outdoor Photographer Magazine, Mountain Magazine, and Powder. “It’s a matter of honing your eye. There is always something compelling to shoot, you just need to find it.” Goodrich wants to teach you how to find it on a custom photo tour. “I’ll help people go beyond just holding up a camera and taking a photo of a pretty scene. I look at every photo as a design opportunity—think about lines and shape and contrast, and the differences between highlights and shadows.” If this sounds intimidating, “Some people who comes on tours only have their iPhones, so you don’t need to have much experience or expensive equipment,” Goodrich says. “Whatever you’re using to take photos, I’ll help you discover settings that will allow you to take much better photos.”

Photo Courtesy of Jay Goodrich

“The valley might be muddy and brown, but the peaks all around the valley never look that way,” says photographer Jay Goodrich. “They’ll have snow up on them that usually lasts through mud season. This is the time of year I skip the wide, vast image and instead zoom in and look for dynamic things happening up high.” Goodrich also says he likes to photograph animals in the spring. “They’re starting to migrate, so tight, detail oriented shots of bison or elk are great.” Because each of Goodrich’s half- and full-day photo tours is custom, if clients are interesting in photographing wildlife, he goes to different spots than when clients want to focus on landscapes. “I’ve had clients tell me, ‘I want to find a fox,’ while others say, ‘I want to get interesting shots of the Tetons.’ I like helping people do both.”

Book a photo safari at Jaygoodrich.com or 970/376-8883, From $450/3 people


Biking in Grand Teton National Park

Until May 1, Grand Teton National Park’s Inner Park Loop Rd. is open only to non-motorized travel. This traditional was started in 1977, by then-GTNP deputy superintendent Jack Neckels. At that time, after that park’s road crew cleared the snow from the 11-mile stretch of road between the Bradley-Taggart Lakes Trailhead and Signal Mountain Lodge that is closed to cars all winter, the road surface had to dry for several weeks before cars could drive on it (without damaging it). Neckels—who went on to become the park’s superintendent—decided that someone should be able to enjoy the road during this “drying out” time and a tradition was born.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the road was redone, and even rerouted a bit. When this was finished in 1992, some park workers suggested the road no longer needed to be plowed so early, as the material it was made of it no longer had to dry out. Neckels, superintendent by then, said no to that idea. Biking the Inner Park Loop Rd. had become a rite of spring and would remain. nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/bike.htm

Clearing Grand Teton National Park’s Inner Park Loop Rd. this year took longer than in years past. Last spring, it was cleared in 2 days. This year, plowing 16 hours a day (broken into 2 shifts), 2 drivers took about 6 days. At times, they were clearing the epic winter’s worth of snow at speeds as slow as one-tenth of a mile per hour. Cyclists, runners, walkers, roller-skaters, skateboarders—any type of non-motorized activity is allowed on the road. Dogs are also allowed, on leashes no longer than 6-feet. buckrail.com/teton-park-road-open-to-non-montorized-use/


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