How to Day Hike in Jackson Hole Like a Local
There’s no end to hiking in the Jackson Hole area. From short treks outside of town to alpine passes and lakes in the national parks and wilderness areas in the region, there are options for everyone, and there’s a few helpful hints that locals know to help them on their way.
No local leaves home to go into the backcountry without bear spray. And while most know how to behave around a bear to avoid unfortunate encounters, they also know there is that remote chance of a cub, for example, popping up on the trail, mother still hidden in bushes. In uncertain and dangerous encounters, rest assured that bear spray works. Period. Get bear spray and know how to use it. Also, nothing will scream “I’m a tourist” louder than bear bells. They don’t work on bears and they only annoy other hikers. There’s a reason they’re so cheap.
While we’re on the topic of bears, a frustrating trend that’s been on the rise is blaring music while on the trail. Nothing will bring more disdain and dirty looks not just from locals, but from other visitors by doing this. Some do it because it’s just what they do in the city, others do it because they’re petrified of bears and believe making as much noise as possible will keep the bears away.
It’s important to understand that your odds of getting attacked by a bear are incredibly low. In addition, you really have to go out of your way to even get attacked. Give bears their space, and avoid taking selfies with them or close-up portraits and they’ll have absolutely no reason to attack you. Turn the music off for everyone’s sake.
Likewise, in the same sense that blaring music pollutes the quiet that people are on the trails to experience, trash will also ruin everyone else’s day. If you don’t plan to eat it or take it out with you, don’t bring it. This includes toilet paper (don’t bury it either), orange/banana peels, water bottles, napkins/wipes, or anything else like these. Bring a trash bag for trash. Make it a sealable bag for toilet paper. Littering along the trail is not only an eyesore for other hikers, but also potentially deadly for wildlife. Do not litter under any circumstances. Learn Leave No Trace and practice it any time you’re on a hike.
Most locals also prefer to leave no trace on social media. If you find a secret place that you love, don’t invite hoards of people in through social media to destroy and overrun it. Part of the magic is that there are still places to get away to that you have to yourself. Posting the location on social media will instantly ruin that. If you have to post a location, keep it general, like Grand Teton National Park, or Wyoming, or even more preferred, “Tag responsibly – Keep Jackson Hole Wild.”
Don’t Rely on Search and Rescue
Too often people leave for a day out completely underestimating the challenges of the terrain, or better said, overestimating their abilities in unfamiliar territory. This leads to frequent calls to Search and Rescue to bail people out of what should have been an easily avoidable situation. This wastes volunteer resources, and worse, potentially distracts them from true emergencies.
Be prepared when you go out and know your limits. If you normally hike no more than five miles near sea level, a hike like Amphitheater Lake or Death Canyon should probably be skipped. Bring enough food and water, and if you plan on hiking for the day, a water purifier is a valuable resource to keep you hydrated while out on the trail, minimizing the weight you need to carry. If you don’t have one, pick one up at Skinny Skis or Teton Mountaineering.
Grab Breakfast On the Go
A big day out warrants a big and delicious breakfast. No other place has a better reputation than D.O.G. for their breakfast burritos. They not only have meat and veggie options, but also spicy and regular. Grab one of these for breakfast before heading out and you’ll be properly carbed up for adventure!
Grab Lunch To Go
Speaking of Creekside Market, they’re hands down the local favorite for sandwiches. With the ability to create any kind of sandwich you want with plenty of great options to accessorize your meal, they can accommodate any palette packed into a delicious sandwich. Freshly made and ready to hit the trail, it’s no wonder this spot is the go to favorite for nearly every guide and outfitting company in Jackson. With a convenient location right on the way out of town, it’s a one stop shop for everything you need to be on your way.
Best Post-Hike Meal
Once you’re done exhausting your body, there are some fantastic ways to replenish it! If you find yourself up in Grand Teton National Park and are in an easy drive to Signal Mountain Lodge, head up that way to partake in the Signal Mountain Nachos. Renowned for not only being an actual mountain of nachos, but also for being undeniably delicious, they have a reputation with locals that’s hard to rival. Both veggie and meat options pair wonderfully with their signature blackberry margarita, so pile on the extras and enjoy!
If you’re back in Jackson and looking a perfect craft beer to go with a great meal, look for Thai Me Up, just around the corner from town square. With some incredible craft beer by any standard, they’ll have the perfect flavor to relax aching muscles. Make sure you sit in the bar area as well to take advantage of their bar menu, which is more of a blend of Thai and American rather than strictly Thai that you’ll find in the restaurant side.
Craving Mexican food? Skip the crowds at Merry Piglets and head to Pica’s for some delicious Mexican food in a relaxed atmosphere. For a classic burger done any way you want, head to Liberty Burger to satisfy that craving.
Jackson Hole locals are a happy and friendly bunch. One thing they’re used to is general trail friendliness. Tourists are easily spotted on the trail as those who keep their head down and ignore everyone around them, causing locals to wonder, why would you keep your head down while hiking among the scenery you’re in?
Pick your head up. Look around. Stop every now and then and admire where you are. Once you do that it’ll probably go without saying, but also say “hi” to other hikers on the trail. If you’re in an area where you’re not seeing too many other people, maybe even ask a question and make a new friend. You’ll find it surprisingly easy. It really just boils down to acknowledging that you and the other person crossing your path are both having a pretty great experience in the same place. Why not recognize that in the other person?
Enjoy It Out There!
The hiking in the Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park region is unparalleled. The dangers are real, but easily avoidable, and the food is rewarding and unbeatable. With a bit of proper preparation, a day of adventure can be easily had, rewarded with some amazing food that only makes the day that much more memorable.