Thank goodness for the great outdoors, am I right? Not only is it full of natural wonders and epic adventures to be had, but it's also the safest place you can go during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, it can even have a substantial effect on your physical and mental well-being–something we could all use a little more of during this tough time!
So where did I go? Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Why? 97% of Teton County is public land, which means endless wilderness where I can snowshoe, Nordic ski, alpine ski, and dog sled safely.
In this post, I'll cover some of Jackson Hole's best COVID-safe activities for a winter adventure you'll never forget, such as the best places to spot bighorn sheep, hit the slopes for some downhill shredding, take to the mountains on a dog sledding adventure, and more!
Huge thanks to Visit Jackson Hole for sponsoring this post. This post contains affiliate links and I will receive a commission upon purchase at no extra expense to you. All opinions are always my own.
3.2 Go Dog Sledding
3.3 Taste the Town
3.4 Get Wild at the Elk Refuge
5. Packing List
Is Jackson Hole Safe to Visit During COVID-19?
The city of Jackson is taking all necessary precautions, putting your and the community's safety first, and it's up to us, as visitors, to help keep it a safe and enjoyable experience for all. Here's how to do your part when visiting Jackson Hole, WY.
Pro Tips for a Successful Trip
Help keep Jackson Hole responsibly wild by staying clean, careful, and connected.
If flying, wear a mask while traveling at all times. Pack extra hand sanitizer and wipe down everything: your seat, tray table, arm rests, window, etc.
Wear your mask in public spaces at all times (this includes anytime you're indoors or in line to go indoors, lift lines on the mountain, while riding public transportation, etc.). The only exception is while you're seated at a table.
Keep a safe social distance of 6' or more between you and others at all times.
Prioritize outdoor activities over indoor activities to limit the spread.
Avoid in-person social activities. Gather with members of your household only.
Reduce your trips to purchase food and run errands. Takeout and contactless delivery is highly encouraged.
Keep surfaces clean.
Wash your hands regularly.
Stay informed with the most up-to-date information at jhcovid.com.
Traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic can increase your chances of contracting COVID-19. If you have come into contact with someone who may have contracted COVID-19, please delay travel. Only travel if you feel comfortable doing so, and please refrain from traveling if you feel ill in any way, shape, or form.
5 COVID-Safe Jackson Hole Activities to
Experience This Winter
1. Hit the Slopes for an Active Day of Skiing/Snowboarding
Just 20 minutes outside of the town of Jackson, a celebrated ski resort awaits shredders of all levels. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort boasts the tallest vertical rise in the contingent US with some truly impressive terrain.
Pro tip: Start your day on the looker's right side of the mountain, gradually making your left to more challenging terrain.
Pro tip: Grab a deliciously hot waffle and a hot (spiked) drink at Corbet's Cabin for a summit treat!
I shredded at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, but there’s two other skiing and snowboarding resorts, Grand Targhee and Snow King, in the Jackson Hole area. Check them out!
How to Get There
We had a car with us during our stay, but public transportation is widely available and easy to use. Some hotels (like Mountain Modern Motel) offer free shuttles to and from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, so check with the front desk upon your arrival. Otherwise, the Start Bus is just $1-$3 one-way, and drops you off right at the main entrance to the Teton Village–you can't get much closer to the lifts than that!
If you're driving, there are four lots to choose from. In order of proximity to chairlifts:
Village Lot: $30/$40 (peak season)
Cody Lot: $30
Crystal Springs Lot: $30
Ranch Lot: $15/$20 (peak season), free to carpoolers with three or more passengers.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR) is currently operating at limited capacity and tickets do sell out.
While walk-up windows are open, I recommend purchasing online well in advance to ensure you get to shred on your preferred date, and save a little money in the process (purchasing online and in advance gets you a discounted rate).
Pro Tip: If you have an Ikon Pass, JMHR is included, and if you have a season pass of any type (excluding the Indy Pass), you can receive 50% off your lift ticket through April 11, 2021.
Where to Rent Gear
Need gear? No worries! There are a ton of gear rental hot spots to choose from.
JH Sports: This ski-in, ski-out full-service gear shop is as close as you can get to the slopes themselves. You'll have to carry your gear maybe five feet before strapping in.
Door 2 Door: Forget long lines at the village, this service delivers fitted boots, boards, and skis straight to your doorstep for no fuss fun.
Snow King Rentals: Located in the town of Jackson, Snow King Rentals has everything you need for a full day on the slopes.
Don't forget, we're still in a pandemic!
While skiing is among the safer activities when it comes to COVID-19, we still need to follow all of Jackson's required precautionary measures during our visit (see tips above). Buffs are not enough while waiting in ski lines or on gondolas–carry a mask in your pocket and throw it on when you reach chairlifts, grab a drink at a lodge, or hop on a gondola.
The only mask exception is when you're seated at a table.
More information about how to stay COVID-safe here.
2. Get Mushy on a Dog Sledding Tour
Did you know Jackson Hole has its very own Iditarod? And it's run by Jackson Hole Iditarod Sled Dog Tours' Frank Teasley, who is quite the character if I do say so myself. With over 40 years of dog sledding experience and eight Iditarods under his belt, Frank is the real deal, and the last thing we expected was to see this Jackson Hole legend greet us straight out of our morning shuttle.
Our driver gave us the lowdown: "Take Frank with a grain of salt," and "do yourself a favor, don't refuse his boots," were a few valuable words of wisdom I held on to. You're only ever as warm as your toes, and these boots sure did do the trick.
We chose the half day option and were paired with a couple from Texas. The full-day option takes you to Granite Hot Springs, which are only accessible by dogsled, cross country skiing, or snowmobiles in the winter.
Our musher loaded the four of us on to two separate sleds with eight dogs tethered up and stoked to be the chosen ones for today's run.
No joke, these dogs love nothing more than running with their buds in the great outdoors. They're proud to be sled dogs, and it totally shows. Each had their own way of showing it: some jumped up and down, another put his front paw on his thigh like he was winding up for takeoff, and another would sit quietly and look back at the musher, waiting for his command.
After a quick "how-to" session, two of us stood on the runners while the other two cozied up in the sled under a down sleeping bag. One loud "Let's Go!" and our sleds lurched forward. Before we knew it, we were gliding along a river in a gorgeous snow-covered valley in the Tetons.
Five miles in, we pulled over to the riverbed with a stunning mountain view, our musher propped up a picnic
table, built a fire, and pulled hot cocoa, cornbread, and chili made by Frank's wife for an incredible hot lunch with a view. This is the halfway point for full day trips heading to the springs.
Petting the dogs is encouraged–they LOVE love, and will take all they can get. In fact, giving these dogs love is part of the musher's job, so petting them actually does the mushers a favor, and I took FULL advantage.
All too soon, it was time to head back for our shuttle ride home. I honestly couldn't have imagined a better day.
Masks are required aboard the shuttle, in Jackson Hole Iditarod's facilities, and when you're within 6' of others. However, once outside and socially distanced, mask removal is permitted. Take a whiff of that fresh Teton air!
How to Book:
Jackson Hole Iditarod is in high demand, so plan ahead! I'd recommend booking at least a month out just in case. Jackson Hole Central Reservations handles most of their bookings. While we went with Iditarod Dog Sled Tours, there’s other dog sledding options available where you can book tours.
3. Taste the Town
Jackson and the Teton Village have some pretty incredible restaurants with tastes from all over the world. Restaurants in Jackson Hole are operating at 50% capacity and takeout is highly encouraged to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Handle Bar: Patio seating with fire tables and an unobstructed view of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort's chairlifts.
The Deck @ Piste: Take the Bridger Gondola up Jackson Hole Mountain to the lodge for lunch on the mountain with a view of the valley.
Thai Me Up: We love the name. There's a single table on their front patio that allows outdoor dining near Snow King Resort. Call ahead!
Hayden's Post: Located at the base of Snow King Mountain, Hayden's Post has outdoor tables and heat lamps that you're welcome to use. However, there's no outdoor tableside service, but you can definitely order takeout and skier-watch all evening. Teton Thai: A Teton Village fave, this thai fusion restaurant offers outdoor patio seating to enjoy your to-go orders.
Gather: Highly recommend this one! I tried their elk bolognese, baby carrots (which were amazing), and pork buns, and indulged from the comfort of our room at Mountain Modern Motel, which is just a few blocks away. SO GOOD.
Hatch: Arguably the best margarita in town, this taqueria is freaking delicious. I tried their smoked pork tacos and bison enchiladas with mole. YUM
Bin 22: Wine bar in the front, restaurant and bar in the back. The owner is a certified Sommelier who wanted to recreate an Italian wine shop right here in Jackson, and I'd say he did a mighty fine job.
4. Get Wild at the Elk Refuge
If you're looking for a little wildlife fix, head to the Elk Refuge! There's about an 80% chance of seeing elk and bighorn sheep, and we're happy to say we saw both!
How to get there:
Once in Jackson, drive down E Broadway St. until you hit a fork in the road. To the left, you'll see a massive sign reading "Elk Wildlife Refuge." It's as easy as that!
Pro tip: Take your visit to the next level with a horse-drawn sleigh ride through this snowy landscape with a knowledgeable guide! It's the only way to get up close and personal with elk in a safe and respectful manner.
Pro tip: Don't turn around before reaching Millers Butte! Bighorn sheep love hanging out on its rocky cliffs, about 1.5 miles from the Elk Refuge entrance. Look hard! They're masters at camouflage.
Pro tips for a successful trip to the Elk Refuge:
If you're driving, take it slow! Not only is it icy, but this space is home to a ton of wildlife. Speed limit is 30mph.
Never stop on the side of the highway–there are plenty of pullouts where you can safely park for better wildlife viewing.
Winter is a stressful time for wildlife–their survival is completely dependent on conserving energy. Remain a minimum of 100' away from wintering elk and 25' from other wildlife to avoid added stress.
Do not approach the Refuge fence or travel off road at any time. This can scare the animals and cause additional stress.
More on how to carefully and respectfully enjoy the Elk Refuge here.
5. Take a Drive through Grand Teton National Park
At a Glance:
Entrance Fees: $35 for private vehicle; $70 for an annual pass; $80 for America the Beautiful Pass (highly recommend)
Native Lands: Shoshone, Bannock, Blackfoot, Crow, Flathead, Gros Ventre, Nez Perce
Size: 310,000 acres/485 square miles
Established: 1939 as a National Park
Activities: Hiking, fishing, boating, climbing, horse-back riding
Majestic is an understatement. This 485-square-mile park is home to some of the US's most incredulous landscapes, wildlife, and adventures. In the summer, travelers can backcountry camp, hike, raft, fish, horse-back ride, and so much more, but in the colder months, snow turns this national park into a winter playground. Backcountry skiing/snowboarding, Nordic skiing, ice fishing, snowshoeing, wildlife viewing, and more are at your fingertips. It's a year-round adventurer's paradise, and if you'd rather take in the beauty from the comfort of your warm, cozy car, the Tetons is the perfect place to do so.
There are four roadside spots made famous by Ansel Adams back in the day where you can soak in Les Tois Tetons and all their beauty without having to walk more than 500 feet:
Mormon Row Historic District
Snake River Overlook
Read more about each here: 5 of the Coolest Roadside Photo Spots in Grand Teton National Park
Where to Stay
Mountain Modern Motel
Perfect for the adventurous who still want to stay in the heart of Jackson to experience all its charm, each Mountain Modern Motel room was beautifully renovated with outdoor-inspired decor (including massive wall murals), and a full-on gear wall that optimizes storage for things like snowboards/skis, hiking boots, huge winter coats, and other bulky gear you might have trouble storing in just your average hotel room.
The lobby serves a totally affordable breakfast each morning, including make-your-own croissant breakfast sandwiches, and $2.50 lattes (yes, please). There's also a collaboration space in the back if you'd like different scenery while working remotely, and a pool and hot tub are across the way at limited capacity and a 1-hr time limit.
If you like BBQ, you're in luck! Big Hole BBQ is on site, and a free shuttle takes you to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort so you can avoid parking fees.
(Bonus: if you're a season pass holder, you get a discount!)
The Jackson Hole Hideout
Truly something special, the Hideout is a gorgeous off-the-grid mountainside B&B that's completely intertwined with its surrounding wilderness (it was literally hand-built with trees logged from its backyard).
Walking in, we were greeted by the smiling innkeeper, slash chef, slash built-in friend, Joe, the smell of freshly baked banana bread wafting out of the front door, and a crackling fire completed the scene. I instantly felt at home.
Hand sanitizer and masks sat in the entryway and social distancing was practiced at all times and each room has their own entrance for minimal COVID-19 risk.
Your stay comes with a freshly made breakfast–we let Joe make all the decisions, and let me tell ya, our frittatas, potatoes, and brioche French toast did NOT disappoint–a well-stocked snack pantry, and basically everything you could ever need. Joe was extremely accommodating and such a joy to be around.
Keep an eye out for the resident moose family and the fox that lives under the porch–and keep your distance!
(Photos by Anvil Hotel)
The American West meets the 21st-century at the Anvil Hotel. Inspired by Wyoming's national parks, these gorgeous accommodations hail those who share their love for exploration. Each room has a Woolrich blanket for peak coziness, and leather-wrapped pegs to rest your skis or snowboard when you're not on the slopes.
(Photos by Fireside Resort)
If you love your own space, Fireside Resort's cabin rentals are the way to go. Sustainably built, each cabin has a full kitchen, a fireplace, a privately furnished deck, and their own fire pit. They're also centrally located, right in between Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and the town of Jackson for easy access to both!
Moisture-wicking base layer (Smartwool)
Puffer – I wore my quarter zip Patagonia puffer almost every day, either by itself or layered underneath my waterproof coat for extra warmth.
Waterproof coat(s) - I brought my snowboarding jacket for long days on the mountain, and my insulated trench coat for walks around town.
Waterproof pants – I wore my Burton Goretex Bibs for all my outdoor adventures. Their powder cuffs kept my boots and socks snow free dogsledding and on the slopes.
Smartwool socks – Moisture-wicking, odor resistant, and warm as all get out, these socks saved my toes on even the coldest of Jackson Hole days.
Waterproof hiking boots – I LOVE my Danners. If you've read one of my recent blog posts, you've heard this before. They're warm, cozy, cute, and keep my feet dry all.day.long.
Slip-on shoes for around the hotel.
Snowboard/skis + Helmet + Goggles
Snowshoes + Poles
Reusable water bottle
Camera – I brought along my Canon 5D Mark IV and my Sigma Art 24-70mm lens
Lotion – LOTS OF IT
Chapstick – Carmax saved my poor chapped lips this entire trip
Who's ready to get shreddy? I'll see you in the mountains!