Wildlife Escape to Jackson, Wyoming
Wyoming is the least populated state in the country, but the vast alpine, forest, lake, sagebrush flats, and wet meadow ecosystems at Grand Teton National Park attract visitors from around the world each year. The airport is right in the middle of the park so keep your eye out for trumpeter swans, bison, and deer on the short drive into Jackson. Homesteaders originally came to Jackson for cattle and horse ranching, although the town is now better known for its spectacular nature and wildlife, along with skiing. The National Wildlife Art Museum is just a few minutes from the airport and makes a great stop on your way out of town before dropping off the rental car. It looks like a beat-up old fort from the outside, but inside is a collection of more than 5,000 pieces ranging from ancient to contemporary, including a gallery dedicated to Carl Rungius, the preeminent painter of North American wildlife.
Where to Stay
The 58-room Hotel Jackson is the newest luxury property in town, in the heart of downtown Jackson, within easy walking distance of favorite local restaurants, shops, and art galleries. Contemporary western art on consignment from local galleries graces the lobby and guest rooms, including mixed media wildlife tableaus, pottery, and an elaborate feathered war bonnet. Rough, reclaimed barn wood lines the hallways and continues into each room, creating a log cabin vibe matched by the room’s neutral brown and beige hues. Relax in the library, where more art is on display, and either watch TV or flip through one of the eclectic western books on the shelves. There’s everything from The Native American Almanac to Outlaws of the Old West for your reading pleasure.
Perched on the edge of a butte, Amangani is more secluded than any property in Teton Village or Jackson, and it’s the most luxurious place in town. Each of the 40 suites has floor-to-ceiling windows and a private balcony to enjoy the spectacular Teton Range views. You face the mountains while you’re showering, taking a bath, and even sitting on the toilet, and there’s nobody but the cattle far down in the valley to spy on you. Take a dip in the infinity pool, easily the most-Instagrammed and jaw-dropping amenity. The pool is heated year-round, and you feel like you’re swimming into the mountains and sky.
Where to Spa
The Four Seasons Jackson Hole spa is both extravagant and expansive—11,685 square feet—with every amenity you could think of. There’s a sauna, Jacuzzi, steam room, and plunge pool, and the robes are so plush you won’t want to change out of them. The oxygen luminescence facial is one of the most popular facials, with a combination of oxygen therapy and red LED light to hydrate, refresh, and calm the skin while speeding up cell renewal and collagen production. Oxygen therapy has become quite popular with celebrities in the last couple of years, as it creates an instant red carpet glow. There’s a big buzzing machine, and it feels a little like getting airbrushed makeup, but instead of foundation, hyaluronic acid, vitamins, and botanicals are lightly misted onto your face, then infused directly into the top layer of your skin. The soothing Intraceuticals treatment ends with red light therapy, a gentler alternative to laser treatments that helps your skin heal and rebuild itself.
CHILL Spa at Hotel Terra is a complete contrast to the Four Seasons. It is much smaller, without all of the amenities, although it does have a nice steam room. Instead of rich, warm brown colors, CHILL exudes a modern coastal vibe with light blues and sandy off-white tones in its relaxation lounge. Even the consultation form has playful graphics that make filling out your preferences and medical history a little less tedious. Try the signature herbal massage here, where a hot poultice is used to detoxify skin and ease sore muscles. The poultice, made with a combination of 21 herbs, including lemongrass, ginger, and turmeric, is yours to keep.
At Solitude Spa next door, you can get the best manicure and pedicure in Jackson. My nail technician, Cat, was such a perfectionist, which I appreciated, and gave my cuticles some much-needed TLC. The spa pedicure utilizes brandy pear sea salt scrub, followed by a pink moon body butter; both FarmHouse Fresh products have such a sweet aroma that you almost think they’re edible.
Where to Dine
FIGS at Hotel Jackson is a diverse new option—the only place in town you’ll find Middle Eastern-inspired fare. Start with either the hummus or baba ghanoush. The housemade pita bread was the highlight of my meal, and flavors like sumac, za’atar and harissa are used throughout the menu. For more typical mountain fare, Spur at Teton Mountain Lodge is your spot—meaty grilled trumpet mushrooms over truffled corn purée are a nice accompaniment to heart buffalo sirloin with chickpea cassoulet.
For dessert after dinner, walk through the elk antler arches marking the four corners of town square and get in line at Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream, Jackson’s favorite ice cream shop for the past 19 years. The shop will be scooping around 16 flavors on any given day and it’s hard to choose when your options include wild huckleberry, rich Belgian chocolate, Southern Comfort pecan, and soursop sorbet. Go all out with a three-scoop brownie ice cream sundae covered in homemade hot fudge. Sorbets are smooth, creamy, and diabetic-friendly, made with 99-percent pure organic fruit and one-percent cane sugar.
What to Do
In Jackson you’re surrounded by an extraordinary natural ecosystem, and no matter the time of year you visit, there’s something beautiful to see in the surrounding area. Amangani’s full-time guide, Jared, has been taking guests on full-day and half-day excursions to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park for 15 years. He’s full of great stories (ask him about antler hunting) and his passion for wildlife and knowledge of both animals and the region’s history make him an incredible guide whatever your interests may be.
During the winter, all the wild animals migrate to the valley floor, so if you’re ready to take a day off from skiing, it’s a great chance to see a plethora of elk, moose, deer, bison, bears, and maybe even an elusive mountain lion or wolf. I visited during elk mating season, or “rut,” in September and was lucky enough to hear elk bugling amidst the quivering aspen leaves, which had just turned a brilliant yellow orange. The piercing cry is far more high-pitched than I would have expected from such a large, masculine animal—an intense shriek that ends in a “chuckle.” We stopped at several points along the way, and Jared set up a telescope so I could get a better view of the elk herds and see how the bulls wrangle their harem of cows.
The art galleries in Jackson are also worth checking out. Even if you’re not in the market for fine art, it’s fun to browse. Native, Turpin Gallery, and Mountain Trails are a few of my favorites. It’s fascinating to see how various artists capture and express the natural beauty around them in so many different forms.