Perhaps best known as the gateway to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National parks, Jackson Hole offers every type of alpine adventure.
In this long, narrow mountain valley bisected by the Snake River, visitors can go rafting and climbing, cycling and (of course) skiing. A visit here is all about the outdoors, and that means weather matters greatly when planning a visit.
With elevations ranging from 6100 to 6800ft, Jackson Hole has an alpine climate – even more so when you consider that the surrounding peaks rise an additional 7000ft from the valley floor. Winters are long and cold here, with snow sometimes arriving as early as October, although more typically late November or early December. Ski season runs from late November through April, with the area’s three ski resorts – Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Grand Targhee and Snow King Mountain – each maintaining separate opening and closing dates.
Spring is your typical mountain “mud season,” with snowmelt turning trails to mush and waterfalls to cataracts. From June through Labor Day weekend, Jackson Hole teems with visitors who make it base camp for outdoorsy summer vacations, or pass through on national-park road trips.
Ask a local what’s the best season in Jackson Hole, and you’ll get a different answer from a skier than from a mountain biker, and a different answer still from a hiker than from a photographer. The right answer? Every season here has its delights – and the best way to decide which one you like the most is to experience them all.
Summer in Jackson Hole
As the snow melts out at higher elevations and the backcountry opens to hiking and backpacking, the outdoor fun in Jackson Hole goes into full swing. Lakes are high, rivers run wild, and wildflowers transform fields and forests into botanical gardens.
Summer temperatures are ridiculously pleasant here, with daytime highs between 70 and 85 and just enough chill at nighttime to make a campfire welcome. The occasional afternoon thunderstorm is the only real weather drama visitors need worry about.
While quiet reigns in the woods and lakeshores, the town of Jackson celebrates high season in lively style, with enough live theater and music performances to turn every evening into a lawn party.
Winter in Jackson Hole
Winters in Jackson Hole are long, cold and snowy, with the thermometer rarely rising above 30°F, and annual snowfall measuring 280in on the valley floor and more than double that on the peaks. Powder hounds will be perfectly happy with these conditions, of course, but non-skiers will find plenty to occupy them as well, from snowshoeing and snowmobiling to sleigh rides, dog sledding and fat-tire biking.
The town of Jackson Hole lights up the long winter nights with holiday cheer, rivaling Dickensian London in Victorian village spirit.
Spring in Jackson Hole
With the south entrance to Yellowstone National Park closed until mid-May, Jackson stays quiet well into the spring, giving adventurous visitors a chance to savor the silence of mountain peaks.
Visitors to Jackson Hole in spring will find that the weather can’t make up its mind, varying wildly from late-winter snow storms to days sunny and warm enough to fill the rivers with snowmelt and carpet the valley with wildflowers. Those who can deal with the unpredictability will enjoy some of the area’s best wildlife viewing during these months, as bears and other animals emerge from hibernation, often with babies in tow.
Visitors may find many businesses closed or operating under limited hours, as locals take a breath between the winter ski season and the summer onslaught. Old West Days and ElkFest, held the last week in May, welcome visitors back in droves as the high season kicks off.
The winter performance series at the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts, which gets going in January, features concerts by national touring bands (past acts have included Leftover Salmon, KT Tunstall and Yonder Mountain String Band) plus a performance by The Moth.
Glow Lights in Teton Village, an environmental art installation produced by Jackson Hole Public Art, runs for a month starting just before Christmas.
Ride a horse-drawn sleigh through the largest migrating herd of wild elk in North America at the National Elk Refuge; guided sleigh rides are on offer from December through early April, depending on snow. Purchase tickets in the parking lot of the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center.
As long as the temperature is above zero degrees Fahrenheit, Wyoming Stargazing offers free events on the first Thursday of every month. Local astronomy buffs bring their telescopes and offer public viewings of planets, nebulae and galaxies; no reservations needed.
The International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race takes place in Alpine, south of Jackson, and features sled dogs, mushers, refreshments and fireworks.
Jackson Hole Rendezvous, an annual free music festival, takes place at the Jackson Hole Resort in early April. The resort also hosts Music Under the Tram, an ongoing free concert series, starting in March.
Competitors gather for the World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb at the end of March at Snow King.
A week-long celebration of cowboy, pioneer and tribal culture, Old West Days take place each May, highlighted by one of America’s last and biggest horse-drawn-carriage parades. An annual highlight is ElkFest and its world-renowned antler auction.
The Arts Association of Jackson Hole hosts its annual Outdoor Art Fair over two early-summer weekends, with artists showcasing ceramics, photography, paintings, jewelry, woodwork, and other crafts. Family activities and performances are also part of the fun. The National Museum of Wildlife Art’s alfresco sculpture trail is always worth visiting – and revisiting.
National touring artists join the lineup at Jackson Hole Live, a summer outdoor concert series at Snow King Ball Park. And starting in June, the Grand Teton Music Festival features high-profile performers from chamber music to cabaret, opera to pop.
In August, the Art Association of Jackson Hole hosts its annual weekend-long Outdoor Art Fair twice every summer, with artists showcasing ceramics, photography, paintings, jewelry and other arts and crafts, as well as performances and kids’ activities.
Horseback riders, classic cars, and fancy floats draw locals and visitors to attend the annual Jackson Hole Fourth of July Parade, which starts at the Teton County Fairgrounds and continues to Town Square.
Jackson Hole Live, a summer outdoor concert series at Snow King Ball Park, continues through the summer with a lineup of national touring artists. Continuing through August, the Grand Teton Music Festival features high-profile performers from chamber music to cabaret, opera to pop.
The 12-day Fall Arts Festival is a highlight of the Jackson Hole calendar, offering a full schedule of art shows, lectures, gallery openings, a food/art crawl and the Western Design Conference held at Snow King.
The National Elk Refuge celebrates National Wildlife Refuge Week in mid-October with an outdoor display and art challenge and contest.
Jackson Hole is big on lighting up the short winter nights, with a full holiday calendar of festive shows and celebratory events, indoors and out. From community gingerbread exhibits to musical performances to art shows and craft ways, holiday celebrations are held all over town. Consult the Arts Association of Jackson Hole for an up-to-date schedule.
New Year’s Eve torchlight parades and fireworks are a tradition in Jackson Hole, with Snow King, Grand Targhee and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort all hosting festivities to ring in the new year. Check the resorts’ calendars for details.
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