World-Class Golf Experience
Written By: Dave Kelly
There is a mountain town that combines the charm of the Old West with the allure of the great outdoors. Unsurpassed ski resorts with cowboy-chic bars. And an exceptional art scene with unparalleled wildlife.
Welcome to Jackson Wyoming.
Some call the area “Jackson Hole”, which is a wide valley that begins about five miles south of Yellowstone National Park to the north, ends at the Snake River just south of the town of Jackson itself, and is home to Grand Teton National Park.
But make no mistake – whatever you call it, it is nothing short of breathtaking.
The area has been home to Indigenous Blackfoot, Crow, and Eastern Shoshone tribes for over 10,000 years. The town itself was named after William Henry Jackson, who took the first photographs of the Teton Mountains and nearby Yellowstone. These pictures, along with sketches by fellow traveler Tom Moran, helped convince Congress to protect the land by designating Yellowstone as the first national park in 1872.
Jackson was settled in the late 1800’s, with dude ranches becoming the focal point of a growing pioneer community. It was ahead of its time, electing an allfemale town council in 1920, and soon after, Jackson Square was built, which since 1953 has featured arches made up of hundreds of shed antlers gathered from the National Elk Refuge just north of town.
We chose The Cloudveil as home base for our Jackson Hole experience. This Marriott Autograph Collection hotel offers eclectic luxury at the center of the activity in the area. Majestic mountain ranges serve as a backdrop for exceptional dining and shopping experiences just steps from the front door.
The hotel’s setting is a modern take on Western history. Our rooms incorporated the natural beauty of our surroundings and contemporary comforts such as a gas fireplace. In a nod to Grand Teton National Park’s proximity, each hallway features life-sized wildlife videos on the walls at the end of each corridor. Authentic leather furniture lined with local furs reflects the Wyoming spirit.
Jackson Hole, a fusion of Old West charm and outdoor splendor, offers an escape into a world where cowboy-chic bars meet unrivaled ski resorts, and a vibrant art scene mingles with wild, untamed nature.
An all-day restaurant, The Bistro, is located on site. Drawing on inspiration from Parisian-style neighborhood brasseries, it features modern European dining, bringing seasonal, beautifully prepared dishes to life. While it is convenient for The Cloudveil guests—we enjoyed croissantand-coffee breakfasts there every mornings—it attracts folks from around town with its dynamic interior layout, unique zinc bar, and a fresh raw bar.
The following day, we were up before the sun to meet our guide Mark Bolen, owner of Teton Wild Custom Wildlife Tours, to begin our Jackson Hole adventure. Mark’s tours explore the very heart of Jackson Hole, with his years of experience allowing for the exploration of hidden gems and breathtaking vistas.
Our half-day tour led us into Grand Teton National Park, which boasts over 300,000 acres of magnificent mountains and spectacular wildlife. We began our morning by witnessing a stunning sunrise over the rugged peaks of the Gros Ventre Mountain Range just north of town, looking east over the National Elk Refuge, home to as many as 7,500 migrating elk every winter. Although it was early in the season, hundreds of elk meandered through the valley in the morning light, seeking a safe harbor for the winter months.
It was a remarkable way to begin our day.
Over the next five hours, Mark helped us explore the expansive park, from sweeping Jackson Lake in the north to picturesque Jenny Lake, which proudly displays Grand, Middle, and South Teton mountain peaks as her stunning backdrop. We visited other notable places in the park, such as Mormon Row, a scenic collection of six abandoned building clusters from an early settlement in the area, and the Chapel of the Sacred Heart, a charming wooden church on the shores of Jackson Lake that was built in the 1930’s and still holds services today.
But the spirit of any expedition into Jackson Hole is its wildlife. Mark took us down single-lane country roads in search of bison, elk, moose, and antelope, and our success rate was outstanding. He located them all as we explored, starting with a herd of over 50 bison that we discovered down a narrow twisting lane. We exited the tour vehicle, keeping it between us and the herd, and stood in a field no more than 100 feet from many of these majestic creatures. It was a peaceful and serene setting to experience the best of nature’s gifts.
Our tour had it all, including sightings of bull moose butting heads, coyotes circling their prey, and mule deer close enough to the vehicle that we
could see their breath in the air – all of it surrounded by stunning peaks, valleys, and rivers. To top it off, Mark’s personal anecdotes accentuated the local vibe that Teton Wild Custom Wildlife Tours is known for.
To relax from our day of exploring, we decided to visit Astoria Hot Springs and Park. The springs, part of a hundred-acre property managed by Astoria Park Conservancy, were built in 1960 as two pools for the community to gather at, utilizing the thermal springs of the area to keep the water temperatures at a constant 100 degrees or more, as they still do today.
Four more pools were added in 2018, and guests now make reservations for sessions throughout the day that last an hour and 45 minutes. When we arrived, we changed into our suits, scampered through the chilly air to the main pool, and jumped in for a soak. The water warmed us to the soul as we enjoyed looking out over the stunning landscape while steam rose into the air.
We showered off and headed back to the The Cloudveil, invigorated for the rest of the trip’s activities. Our visit featured world-class museums, galleries, and restaurants. We enjoyed exploring and have created a list of “don’t miss” recommendations for any trip to Jackson Hole.
of Wildlife Art
Built on a steep hillside with a stunning view of the National Elk Refuge, this museum is home to more than 5,000 paintings and sculptures that represent wild animals from around the world. Works from such prominent artists as Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe, and John J. Audubon abound, and American wildlife artist Carl Rungius has an exhibit that displays his stunning big-game paintings. The museum is surrounded by a ¾ mile Sculpture
Trail that leads past dozens of huge animal statues created by world-famous sculptors.
Jackson Hole Historical
Society and Museum
Founded in 1958 by Western history buff Slim Lawrence, this museum focuses on over 10,000 years of man’s presence in the area. From the history of its Indigenous people to the founding of the city of Jackson, the museum’s exhibits highlight the area’s growth from fur trading and dude ranches to winter sports and outdoor activities. The museum is currently in the process of moving to its new location and will open in the summer of 2024.
The Gun Barrel Steak & Game House
A restaurant that opened in 1993 in what was the Wyoming Wildlife Museum & Taxidermy, the Gun Barrel’s décor includes full-mount game trophies, Wyoming-based cowboy artifacts, and antique guns and gun barrels. The unique menu embraces this theme perfectly, with Game Fare selections that feature elk loin, bison ribeye, and our new favorite, bourbon barbeque bison ribs. The night we were there, they also offered an amazing special that featured three tenderloins – elk, bison, and venison – along with specialty sauces that complimented each. Delicious!
Tucked into the Anvil Hotel just a short walk away, this restaurant is an Italian trattoria with a focus on handmade pasta and wood-fired cooking, done on the huge wood-burning grill that is the centerpiece of the restaurant’s open kitchen. They often use locally sourced ingredients and pair the meals with expertly crafted cocktails. Their specialty rye cavatelli with elk Bolognese and Parmesan cheese highlights the chef’s pasta-making skills.
Located in the National Museum of Wildlife Art, Palate offers an artful lunch with a breathtaking hilltop view of the National Elk Refuge. We enjoyed inventive lunches made with seasonal, sustainable, local ingredients such as our Idaho Trout Fish & Chips and our Elk Meatloaf Wrap. Local craft beer and light wines complemented our meals, making for a relaxing afternoon bite.
Sister restaurant to Palate, Gather is in downtown Jackson just a few minutes’ walk from The Cloudveil. With a warm ambience of mountain chic and eclectic modern cuisine, Gather’s welcoming waitstaff and classic cocktails encouraged us to relax and enjoy the experience. They feature a menu that leans into hearty game prepared in creative ways, so we sampled meals that embraced beef wagyu, bison short ribs, and buttermilk fried chicken. FCM
Witnessing sunrise over the Gros Ventre Mountains and encountering wildlife in their natural habitat encapsulates the spirit of Jackson Hole – a breathtaking blend of history, nature, and adventure.
Yellowstone National Park
Jackson Hole is the perfect home base to visit another outdoor treasure – Yellowstone National Park. We teamed up with BrushBuck Wildlife Tours
for a day of excitement.
Tour guide Daniel arrived at our hotel doorstep at 6am as we joined the rest of our team in the BrushBuck van to begin what was to be a day to remember. We had booked their Yellowstone “Old Faithful, Waterfalls and Wildlife” excursion – twelve hours of outdoor fun that included stops to see Old Faithful geyser, Yellowstone Lake, the Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, a vast array of park wildlife, and even grab a little lunch.
We headed north and were immediately rewarded with stunning vistas as the morning sun rose over the mountain peaks. Daniel hopped out and set up his high-end scope—a tool that would be put to excellent use in the coming hours—and we immediately zeroed in on a landscape that included huge wild moose and graceful native elk in their natural habitat.
Yellowstone National Park’s South Gate is a leisurely two-hour ride from Jackson, so we hopped back onto the tour bus and settled in for a scenic trip. Daniel spent much of his time pointing out native animals, often pulling over so we could get up-close views of majestic bison, pronghorn sheep, mule deer, and more. Daniel’s years as a tour guide have keenly honed his vision and awareness – he spotted animals on the far horizon regularly and eased our bus in those directions to facilitate up-close viewing.
As we marveled at the geothermal wonders and wildlife of Yellowstone, every moment was a vivid reminder of nature's unparalleled beauty and power.
Experience the majesty of Lower Falls, as tall as Niagara Falls, and the punctual spectacle of Old Faithful’s eruptions every 90 minutes.
While the fauna of the area is stunningly beautiful, much of the richness of our Yellowstone experience came from being wrapped in its scenic beauty. The park covers almost 3,500 square miles, making it larger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. It is home to over 500 active
geysers, as well as thousands of hot springs, many of which can be seen bubbling and steaming from the roadside.
Natural geothermal springs such as Sapphire Pool, Emerald Pool, and Grand Prismatic Spring reflected incredible colors from their amazing depths as we traversed wooden walkways that wove through the steamy landscape. The contrast between the stark flat pools and the vibrant colors that they mirrored was stunning to behold.
The park is also home to over 250 waterfalls, many located on the winding Yellowstone River. At a height of 308 feet, the Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is the tallest in the park, as high as the great Niagara back east.
No visit to Yellowstone would be complete without viewing the greatest attraction of them all – Old Faithful. This world-famous geyser is one of the few that erupts on an incredibly dependable timetable. Folks gather about every 90 minutes at the Old Faithful Visitor and Education Center, where rows of benches circle one side of the geyser’s vent hole. There is a sign in the Center that predicts the time of the next eruption. During our visit, it erupted within two minutes of this prediction, shooting about 5,000 gallons of water more than 150 feet in the air. It was breathtaking to see this take place in person after hearing about it since we were children.
As we headed back to Jackson Hole, Daniel had one more surprise for us. His team had spotted a wild grizzly mama bear and her three cubs in a meadow just off a side road. We pulled up at a safe distance and watched for an hour as the bears played and tumbled, oblivious to our curiosity.
We returned to the hotel after sundown, reflecting on the amazing journey that BrushBuck Wildlife Tours had taken us on, making memories and plans to return. FCM
Embark on a journey through Yellowstone’s two-million acres of untamed wilderness, a haven for majestic raptors and grizzlies, dotted with enchanting hot springs like the Emerald Pool.