5 Days Exploring Jackson Hole, Yellowstone and Grand Teton
Updated: Sep 22, 2022
Go hiking, view wildlife, learn rodeo skills on a horse, stargaze, and go rafting in this packed 5 day trip to a couple of America's most famous parks.
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Day One: Jackson Hole: Historical Tour, Horseback Riding, and Stargazing
Day Two: One Day Road Trip to Yellowstone National Park
Day Three: Whitewater Rafting + Rodeo
Day Four: Grand Teton National Park
Jump ahead to other planning tips, click a topic below:
Jackson Hole: Historical Tour, Horseback Riding, and Stargazing
Start the morning by taking a 1-hour historical walking tour of Jackson Hole. Tours are available Monday through Saturday by appointment. The tour costs $10 per person. Be sure to stop and see the Elk Antler Arch in town as well.
Eat brunch in town (see Where to Eat) and then spend the afternoon either horseback riding or training for rodeo events on a horse.
We booked an Introduction to Rodeo outing and had a fun and entertaining afternoon. They offer sessions at 9:30 am, 12:30 pm, and 3:30 pm. You will have two hours where you learn barrel racing on a horse and roping skills both off and on a horse.
If you prefer a less expensive option or only want to ride horses there are a couple other options near Jackson Hole.
Horse Creek Ranch. The ranch is located 15 minutes outside of town. They offer riding between 8am to 7pm on weekdays and between 8am-5pm on Saturday. They also offer a 2 hour sunset ride option, half day options and full day options. One hour is $45 and prices go up from there.
Spring Creek Ranch. Rides start at $59 for the first hour and they have 5 departure times each day.
That night we ate in town (see Where to Eat) and then went back out later for stargazing.
A local non-profit, Wyoming Stargazing, offers free or donation based stargazing with a telescope and guide in Wilson. They usually offer it Friday nights from 10pm-11:30pm but check their calendar for updates.
The later you stay out stargazing, the more visible the stars will be. Dress warm and bring a blanket, chair and hot beverage to stay as long as you can. The star viewing was the best I have experienced in the United States.
One Day Road Trip to Yellowstone National Park
Wake up as early as possible to drive to Yellowstone. I would recommend starting your Yellowstone day in Hayden Valley, one of the best wildlife viewing areas in the park. The closer to dawn you can arrive, the better chances you have of seeing wildlife. It is a 2.5 hour drive from Jackson Hole to Hayden Valley. There are multiple vantage points to pull over and look for bison, wolves, elk and more.
*For this road trip day I recommend packing lunch and snacks. Then you can maximize your time hiking and seeing sites, rather than buying food.
After visiting Hayden Valley, you will start driving North and then will follow a loop West and then South around the main sites of Yellowstone.
Drive 10 minutes from Hayden Valley to Artist’s Point, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. You can reach the viewpoint with an easy .1 mile walk from the parking lot. If you have time, you can continue on hiking to Point Sublime, for a 3-mile round trip hike. The trail follows along the edge of the canyon with minimal elevation gain. The hike has stunning views throughout it that make it worthwhile to hike even just part of the trail.
Next drive 30 minutes to the Norris Geyser Basin. It is an area full of geothermal activity. Start following the trail from the parking lot. Most of the trail will be on a boardwalk. You’ll first go through the Porcelain Basin. It is an area with no trees but numerous colorful, bubbly thermal areas. The trail then leads you through Back Basin, which is more wooded and has spread out thermal areas. The entire walk is 2.25 miles, and is all flat.
Then you’ll have a forty minute drive to the Midway Geyser Basin. Here you can see the Opal Pool, Turquoise Pool, Excelsior Geyser and most importantly the Grand Prismatic Spring. This was my favorite stop in our day in Yellowstone. The walk around these four sites only takes 15 minutes on a boardwalk, but you’ll likely end up spending more time than that.
Finally end the day going to see Old Faithful. It is a 13 minute drive from the Midway Geyser Basin. Old Faithful erupts 20 times a day. Track the estimated eruption times through the park’s website here.
If you have time to spare while waiting for an eruption, stop in to see the Old Faithful Inn. It is the largest log hotel in the world, and a National Historic Landmark.
From Old Faithful back to Jackson Hole will be a 2 hour drive.
Whitewater Rafting + Rodeo
We went white water rafting on the Mad River with Mad River Boat Trips. They are a well organized company with fun guides, so I would recommend the experience. The rafting outing is 3-3.5 hours. They offer numerous boat options with pricing starting at $65 per person.
That evening we went to the Jackson Hole Rodeo. It is every Wednesday and Saturday night from 8pm-10pm. It is an entertaining two hours full of various rodeo events for every age group and entertainment in between events. It is especially interesting to see after completing the rodeo training on day one. Tickets start at $31.
Grand Teton National Park
*Pack a lunch and snacks for this day as well to maximize your time exploring the park. Also be sure to pick up a map at the visitor’s entrance.*
It is a 30 minute drive from Jackson Hole to Grand Teton National Park.. If you can, depart before dawn to watch sunrise in the park and increase your chances of seeing wildlife. Schwabacher’s Landing is a perfect spot for sunrise and wildlife viewing. You’ll have the mountains and colorful sky reflecting in the Snake River below. If you don’t make it to this spot for sunrise, add it to your scenic drive later in the day.
After watching the sunrise, drive to the South Jenny Lake Trailhead. From there you can boat across Jenny Lake or hike 2.4 miles around the lake to the Cascade Canyon Trailhead. I would recommend the boat shuttle. The 12 minute boat ride is a relaxing way to view the lake and allows more time for the other trails. Boat shuttles run every 10-15 minutes and cost $18 for a round trip ride.
Once at the trailhead hike 1.1 miles to Inspiration Point. It is an uphill climb for most of the mile hike. On the way up take the short side trail to see Hidden Falls as well. Inspiration Points give sweeping views looking out on Jenny Lake. You could turn around here and hike back down to the boat or continue on the Cascade Canyon Trail.
If you have time I would recommend continuing on for at least part of the remaining trail. The rest of the Cascade Canyon trail is relatively flat and you can hike it for another 4 miles. I would recommend hiking another 1.5 miles until you reach the ponds down in the canyon. They are beautiful with the mountain peaks behind them.
After hiking back down to the lake and boating across to the parking lot, spend the rest of the day driving the Grand Teton Park Road. The drive will take 1.5 to 2 hours depending on how long you spend at each stop.
Be sure to stop at the sites below (in this order from Jenny Lake):
Menor's Ferry Historic District and the Chapel of the Transfiguration
Mormon Row Historic District
T. A. Moulton Barn
Snake River Overlook
J.P. Cunningham Cabin
Jackson Lake Overlook
From the Jackson Lake Overlook it is an hour drive back to Jackson Hole.
There are endless biking trail options depending on what distance you prefer, if you want flat, paved or mountain biking trails.
Ho Back Sports offers bike rentals directly in Jackson Hole. They were helpful in talking through the trail options with us. You can connect to some of the trails directly from their shop. Their rentals start at $39 and you can rent the bikes for 3 hours or a full day.
Options for flat trail rides are:
Jenny Lake/Grand Teton Pathway
North 89 Pathway through the Elk Refuge
Antelope Flats Trail
Spend your last night eating in Jackson Hole (see Where to Eat) and also go to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. It’s been in Jackson Hole since 1937 and often has live Western music and swing dancing.
Build an Itinerary with a Jackson Hole Stop
When planning a trip to Jackson Hole, try to strategize your days according to the day of the week. Aim to visit Yellowstone on a weekday to avoid crowds, even more ideally Monday through Thursday. Also avoid Yellowstone around US summer Holidays. Stargazing in usually only available Friday nights, and the rodeo is usually Wednesday and Saturday nights, so plan your days accordingly for those as well. This itinerary works well as a stand alone trip, but if you are doing a longer road trip out West you could add it on to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite as well.
Lodging Recommendations for Jackson Hole, Wyoming
We stayed in a home rental for this whole trip to make our own breakfasts, wash clothes, make packed lunches and afford better views and space to spread out within our budget. Check both Airbnb and VRBO for rental options. We ended up renting a home in the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort through Outpost Vacation Rentals and Property Management. We were happy with their service and it was convenient to be on the ski resort to have hiking, miniature golf, the luge course and other summer activities set up right outside our door.
Advanced Booking Advice for Jackson Hole, Wyoming
You will need to book Introduction to Rodeo as early as in advance as possible. It does fill up for the summer. I would also recommend booking your white water rafting in advance.
What to Wear And Pack for a Jackson Hole and Yellowstone Trip
Read My Packing List for more recommendations on specific gear. What to Wear
Hiking boots or shoes
Hiking sandals or water shoes for white water rafting
Warm Layers for nighttime, it will drop into the 40’s (Fahrenheit) even on summer nights.
What to Pack
A daypack for hiking and biking
A Water bottle or hydration pack for hiking
Binoculars for animal viewing in the National Park
Bear Mace- Summer is bear season, so this is important to bring especially for the Cascade Canyon Trail in the Tetons. That trail cuts through berry bush areas that attract bears.
A collapsible cooler for the National Park road trip days. You could also buy one at a grocery store once you arrive.
What to Eat while in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Bison- A lean but flavorful red meat that is less common on menus in other parts of the States.
Huckleberries- A more tart version of a blueberry, you’ll find them fresh in late August, but also in lots of jams and desserts year round. There are even cocktail variations using huckleberry at restaurants and bars.
Morel Mushrooms- Look for them on restaurant menus in May when they are picked locally.
Wilcoxson’s Ice Cream- You’ll find this ice cream at food stops in Yellowstone. It’s been around since 1912.
Where to Eat while in Jackson Hole
The Bunnery- A bakery and restaurant perfect for breakfast or lunch. We ate here multiple times and picked up baked goods for our road trips too. It is simple food made well.
Roadhouse Brewing Co. Pub and Eatery-Elevated pub food in a fun, casual atmosphere. You can order flights of beers to sample what they brew.
Snake River Grill-A fine dining option with an elegant rustic decor and a menu that highlights local meats, fish and produce.
Hatch Taqueria and Tequilas- A casual Mexican option with award winning margaritas.
Getting Around in Jackson Hole
To follow this itinerary you will need to rent a car. The Jackson Hole town itself is walkable, but to go anywhere else you will need a car.
When to go to Jackson Hole
This is a summer based itinerary but Jackson Hole is also known for its skiing. You can visit Jackson Hole year round but your choice in activities will vary depending on the season. Summer will always draw large crowds to Yellowstone, but avoid going around summer holidays to minimize crowds as much as possible.
Additional Reading: My Packing List Trip Dates: June 30th- July 5th, 2016 Article Updated: June 2020.