9 Things to Do in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in the Winter

February 19, 2021


Jackson Hole winter travel guide: here's everything you need to know about things to do in Jackson Hole in the winter, from hot springs to Grand Teton National Park.

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Snow-capped mountains. Alpine forests. Turquoise hot springs. Horse-drawn sleighs. The snowy, remote valley of Jackson Hole, Wyoming sits at the base of Grand Teton National Park, with Yellowstone National Park neighboring just an hour to the north. Visiting Jackson Hole in the winter is like stepping into a mountain-filled snow globe, complete with cozy lodges, awe-inspiring wildlife, and some of the world’s best skiing and winter sports. Snowboarding, ice skating, and sleigh riding in the clear, crisp air of Grand Tetons… yes, please!

But Jackson Hole is more than just a magical mountain ski town; it’s also filled with majestic elk, wildlife-inspired art, and craft breweries, for instance. We tapped an insider to give us the scoop on Jackson Hole in the winter. Take it away, Emily!


First things first – Jackson, or Jackson Hole? You may have been asking yourself this question, and if so, you’re not alone. Jackson Hole refers to the valley in which the town of Jackson sits. Early settlers used the word “Hole” to refer to a valley surrounded by mountains on all sides. 

Due its remoteness and harsh weather, Jackson was only settled by European Americans because of the Homestead Act of 1862, which essentially gave free land to anyone willing to build some stuff and use it for something for a few years.

But the richness of animal and plant resources, as well as the stark beauty of the natural features, have been attracting people here for thousands of years. Indigenous peoples such as the Eastern Shoshone, Bannock, Blackfeet, Nez Perce, and A’aninin nations have been traveling through the valley since the last glaciers receded roughly ten thousand years ago.

Ever since Grand Teton National Park was established in the late 1920’s – a close neighbor to Yellowstone National Park, the very first National Park in the country – this once quiet valley now attracts visitors from all over the world. So pack your warmest socks and your coziest sweaters, and read on for 9 unbelievable things to do in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in the winter!

Psst: Planning a trip out West? Here are some other posts about nearby destinations that you might find helpful:

The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in
The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in “downtown” Jackson Hole, Wyoming – right across from the famous elk antler arch!

Jackson Hole in Winter Travel Tips

With a little bit of preparation and flexibility, traveling to Jackson Hole in the winter should be pretty straightforward. Read the following tips so you can best enjoy safe (and warm) travels.

When should I visit Jackson Hole in the winter?

Although winter temperatures (and sometimes snow) last from October until April, a trip in January, February, or March will allow you to take full advantage of reliable snow and winter activities.

By traveling between January and March, you’ll be avoiding Jackson’s main tourist seasons in summer. The winter tourist season begins around the holidays in December and tapers off in March or early April. And while both summer and winter are fantastic times to visit, winter is definitely the quieter option. 

But off season means even fewer crowds – and lower prices. That said, there are certain months which have distinct advantages. October and November are cold and often snowy, but without the festivity that true winter brings. You’ll get the best Jackson Hole in the winter experience in January, February, and March.

How cold is it?

If you’re seeking snow and wintry weather, good news: Jackson Hole gets nice and cold in the winter, with average low temperatures from December through February in the single digits and with highs in the 20s and 30s.

Jackson Hole winters typically bring a lot of snow, but can also surprise you with intermittent, brilliantly sunny days. So don’t forget to bring sunscreen and sunglasses – sunlight reflecting off of the snow can be intense!

Can I visit Yellowstone National Park from Jackson Hole in the winter?

Unfortunately, it’s not very easy to do. The only way to get into Yellowstone in the winter from Jackson is on a snowcoach or snowmobile. I can’t speak for the snowmobile tours, but snowcoach tours are 12+ hours and, in my experience, less focused on wildlife.

Save a winter visit to Yellowstone for another time and focus on enjoying Grand Teton National Park instead!

View from the airplane window while arriving in Jackson Hole, WY.
Flying directly into Jackson Hole is well worth it – it’s both safer and easier. Plus, look at the view from the window seat!

How to get to Jackson Hole in the winter?

In the winter, the cost of flying directly to Jackson Hole is well worth it. You might be tempted to get a cheaper flight to Salt Lake City and drive the rest of the way to Jackson, but you just never know when an avalanche or blizzard is going to close down a highway.

Play it safe and fly into Jackson Hole Airport – plus, the view on a clear day is an unforgettable bonus. 

From the airport you can get a shuttle or taxi into town or pick up a rental car. 

Do I need a rental car?

Depending on your itinerary, you may or may not need a rental car. A lot of destinations in Jackson and Teton Village are accessible by the local START bus, which offers free rides within downtown Jackson. You can also walk almost anywhere downtown or in Teton Village, assuming you’re already there. 

However, any unguided trips into Grand Teton National Park will require your own vehicle. If you are staying in town and plan to join tours for all of your outdoor adventures, you might be able to skip the rental car, as many tours offer hotel pickups. 

If you do rent a car, be sure to choose one you feel comfortable driving in the snow and request a car with snow tires. Weather can be nasty during Jackson Hole winters – sometimes closing roads – so check conditions and road advisories with the Wyoming 511 app. 

  • Travel Tip: We recommend using Kayak  to compare rates on rental cars and find the best deal.
National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
The world’s most photogenic Elk at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Photo Credit

Respect the Wilderness! 

Always respect the wildlife that call this valley home. Winter brings animals like moose, elk, and deer down to lower elevations, and travelers should be cautious driving on roads and walking on trails. Never approach or feed any animals – you should always be at least 3 bus lengths away from any wild animal – and always yield to them. 

It’s also important to avoid interfering with their natural habitat in any way and to follow Leave No Trace guidelines

But it’s not just wildlife that requires awareness and safety precautions. Don’t put yourself or others at risk unknowingly – if you plan to venture out on any unguided adventures, make yourself aware of potential avalanche and weather hazards and plan accordingly – be sure to check the avalanche forecast for the area you’ll be visiting before you leave. If you are planning to downhill ski in the backcountry, you should always carry avalanche safety gear and know how to use it (think about taking a course)!

Understand National Park and National Forest policies and regulations if you recreate within these areas. 

Avalanche Safety Tips

Backcountry snow sports are surprisingly safe; however, if you are venturing out into avalanche terrain such as backcountry downhill skiing or snowshoeing across a steep slope, make sure to: 

  • Bring the right gear: you should always have a transceiver, shovel, and probe if you are doing snow sports in backcountry avalanche terrain! Or, play it safe and go with a guided tour – they’ll have it covered.
  • Check the forecast: Check both the weather and avalanche forecast before setting out. An avalanche forecast takes into account recent snowfall, snowpack, temperature changes, and other risks that can increase the chance of an avalanche occurring. For example, avalanche risk increases with loose snowpack, temperatures consistently under freezing, and immediately following heavy snowstorms (the first 24 hours afterward are most avalanche-prone). 
  • Keep a watch out for avalanche terrain: When considering avalanche terrain, look at the slope’s angle and the shape of the slope – avalanches most commonly occur when snow accumulates on slopes angled between 30 and 45 degrees. If you are below a steep slope, try to stay out of the ‘runout zone,’ which is where the snow will fall if it releases 

If you do on a very rare chance get caught in an avalanche, keep these tips in mind. For more information and see where you can take recreational avalanche training, check out the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education.

The view from above of the snowy mountains and trees while skiing in Jackson Hole, WY.
It’s much easier to appreciate views like these when you’re bundled up all cozy in your winter gear!

What to Pack for Jackson Hole in the Winter

Visiting Jackson Hole means being prepared for extremes: extreme cold, snow, and mountainous terrain – and also extreme sports and beauty. Don’t get me wrong, you can still have a relaxing time here, but you’ll enjoy yourself more if you’re prepared!

Packing properly for Jackson Hole is crucial to ensuring not just your safety, but your enjoyment. Ever heard that saying, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing?” When snowflakes are swirling around the mountains you must make sure you’re prepared for any conditions.

In addition to keeping you warm as you explore in town, weatherproof clothing is especially important if you’re going to do outdoor activities like snowshoeing, skiing, or ice trekking. It gets cold AF in Jackson Hole in the winter and, in snowy or icy conditions, frostbite is a real threat. So, be sure to bundle up in your favorite warm wool sweaters, your winter parka, and waterproof winter boots! We’ve got all the details you need.

You’ll want to wear a merino wool base layer underneath your clothing every day during your Jackson Hole winter trip – that means that the layer closest to your skin should all be made from merino wool. Merino wool is super warm, incredibly soft (nope, it’s not itchy) and much more lightweight than synthetic fabrics, as well as being naturally antibacterial, which means you can re-wear it without the re-wear funk.

If wool isn’t your thing, wear an equally insulating base layer, like one made from silk (here’s a silk top and bottom option). Avoid non-insulating fabrics like cotton, and remember that natural fibers are pretty much always better than manmade textiles like polyester.

After your base layer, you’ll need to add on at least one additional layer before your outerwear, like a pair of pants and a sweater. And if you’re doing winter activities, add a waterproof layer as well, like lined snow pants or water-resistant hiking pants.

We have a few specific suggestions for items that are tried an tested:

  • Merino Wool Base Layer Leggings: These super comfy 100% wool leggings function just like long underwear. They’re made of soft, super-luxurious wool and make your legs feel like they’re being hugged by an extremely soft sheep. You’ll need to wear these underneath your pants every day during your trip.
  • Merino Wool Base Layer Undershirt: Layering is crucial in the cold, and you’ll need to start with a base layer of insulation on top and bottom.
  • Wool Socks: Make sure you don’t just have run-of-the-mill acrylic socks for Jackson Hole – they won’t keep your feet warm while you’re out in the snow! Instead, bring socks that are primarily made of soft, heat-regulating wool, like these or these, and don’t be afraid to double up.
  • Winter Boots: I recommend boots that can withstand ice or snow, are weatherproof and waterproof, and are comfortable enough to walk in. My favorite winter boots are made from waterproof leather and with a thermal insole to keep your toes toasty warm, and they’re extremely lightweight and foldable so you can stuff them in your bag when you travel. You can read more about them in this round-up of the best travel shoes for women. Note: If you’re bringing along a pair of boots you already own, you can buy the thermal insoles separately. After taking these to the Arctic and snowshoeing in Canada, I swear by them!
  • Travel Jeans:  My favorite travel jeans have six enormous pockets, are super stretchy and buttery soft, dry quickly even after walking through the snow, and are roomy enough to layer over an insulating base layer (or two). They’re even cozy enough to wear on a plane – and they’re super cute! You can get a pair on the Aviator USA website.
  • Lined Leggings: On very cold days, I add an extra layer of insulating warmth by throwing a pair of lined leggings on over my base layer and under my travel jeans or snow pantsI go for ones lined with merino wool.
  • Warm Hat: You want a hat that will stay on your head when it’s windy wind and keep your ears nice and warm – bonus points if it’s lined.
  • Warm Coat and Packable Down Jacket:  Your outerwear is arguably the most important thing you’ll bring to Jackson Hole in the winter other than your shoes. It has a big job – namely, keeping you warm but not sweaty, allowing you to actually move your arms, and letting you explore for hours without feeling heavy or restrictive. Plus, it’s gonna be in almost all of your photos.  I bring this cozy fleece-lined coat with me, as well as a lightweight, travel-friendly packable down jacket.
  • Gloves: Don’t go outside in Jackson Hole in the winter without gloves on! I have these wool gloves that work with touchscreens, because let’s face it, I have a hard enough time using my phone without wearing gloves. Over those gloves I layer on a thicker pair that’s waterproof for snowball making and such.
  • Sunscreen: Bring sunscreen for the sunny days, especially if you plan to spend a lot of time outside. At high elevations, winter sun reflecting off the snow is no joke. Don’t forget to pack sunscreen for your lips too.
  • Winter Sports Gear: Bringing a few things can easily be packed in your suitcase will save you cash on rentals. We recommend these goggles and these gloves for snowboarding, and these travel-friendly crampons for extra traction on icy ground.  
  • Bathing Suit: Not what you would expect., but Jackson Hole has hot springs and you don’t want to miss out!

Whew! That should keep you warm and toasty. For more winter travel packing tips, head over to our Cold Weather Packing Guide.

Oh hey, want a printable version? Just sign up below and we’ll send a winter packing checklist straight to your inbox.

Printable Winter Packing List

This FREE 3-page printable packing list will help make sure you don’t forget anything for your next winter trip. We’ll also send you our favorite travel tips!

Things to Do in Jackson Hole in the Winter

Dog sledding in the snowy forest in Jackson Hole in the winter.
One of the coolest and most unique things to do in Jackson Hole in the winter is to dogsled through the forest to a beautiful natural hot spring!

Dogsled to a Hot Spring

If there is one thing to splurge on during your winter trip to Jackson Hole, make it this dreamy journey – by dogsled – to a picturesque natural hot spring.

Never considered dogsledding? Didn’t think you’d need a bathing suit for your winter vacation? Think again.

Jackson Hole Iditarod Sled Dog Tours leads guided trips up a dramatic, glacially carved canyon surrounded by the snowy peaks of the Gros Ventre mountains. And if the journey wasn’t enough, the destination is a sparkling, turquoise hotspring (!!!!). 

Jackson Hole Iditarod Sled Dog Tours is the original dogsledding company in Jackson, operated by an experienced Iditarod veteran. If you’re unfamiliar with dogsledding, the Iditarod is a 1,000 mile sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, commemorating the historical significance of this method of travel in America’s last frontier. While you won’t be traveling a thousand miles – or even a hundred – you’ll learn a ton about the sport from true professionals. 

So basically, you drive a team of dogs (with the guidance of professionals, but still) 10 snowy miles up a remote canyon through gorgeous towering granite peaks – to arrive at a hot spring in which you can soak and relax. 

Toasty from the pool, you’ll redress and enjoy a hot lunch before heading back down the canyon with the sleds. 

Ummm, yes please?

By the way – when it comes to dogsledding, we’re always nervous about the treatment of the dogs as there is not much consensus about whether dog-sledding is ethical. It seems to depend entirely on each individual business. But based on looking through reviews as well as testimonies by my acquaintances, it seems that the dogs are well treated and taken care of here. Please drop a comment if you experience it differently!

  • Travel Tips: This tour will take up most of your day (and a good amount of your trip budget), so plan accordingly if it’s something you want to prioritize. While the tour is located about an hour south of Jackson, guides will pick you up so you don’t have to make the long, possibly snowy drive yourself. Check out this blog post on Bon Traveler for more information about what to expect.

Looking for hot springs but not interested in dog sledding? We gotchu!

Horse-drawn sleigh ride through the Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, one of the best things to do in Jackson Hole in the winter!
Taking a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming is one of the best things to do in Jackson Hole in the winter! Photo Credit

Take a Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride

Ever seen an elk up close? Even seen thousands of elk up close? This is your chance – by way of horse-drawn sleigh!

The sleigh ride through the Elk Refuge is something out of a fairy tale. You’ll board the horse-drawn sleigh and cover up with a toasty wool blanket before heading out on your ride. 

Jackson Hole is known for being home to huge herds of elk, illustrated by the famous elk antler arches in Town Square or the elk steak on restaurant menus. In the winter, thousands of elk from several different herds converge in Jackson Hole to spend the harsh season at a lower elevation.

Long before the Homestead Act enticed settlers to claim their land in the valley, elk would come down from the surrounding mountains to winter in Jackson Hole, where less snow made it easier for the animals to dig down to the grasses they eat. 

When settlers began building big ranches with extensive fencing, the elk couldn’t access enough forage and began dying off in huge numbers – some people even said you could walk miles across the valley stepping only on the backs of dead elk. In response to this problem and with the support of a local wildlife biologist, the federal government set aside land for a National Elk Refuge. This land would be preserved and managed for the animals specifically. 

The elk that winter here are wild – that is, they would still be coming here each year regardless of the designated land. Nonetheless, seeing the elk is a unique bucket-list item for visitors and is a major contributor to the tourism economy of Jackson.

Seeing wild animals up close makes this experience special – on foot, humans appear threatening to the elk. Oddly enough, they don’t perceive humans in a sleigh as dangerous, so you can safely view them within a few dozen yards of where you sit.

To make a day of it, you can also combine the sleigh ride with a wildlife tour!

  • Travel Tip: The sleigh rides typically last around an hour, depending on where the elk happen to be.  Even with the added blankets, you’ll want to dress warmly. You never know when the wind is going to pick up, and you won’t create much heat of your own just sitting in the sleigh.
A heard of elk relaxing at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, WY.
Directly across from the National Elk Refuge is the National Museum of Wildlife Art. I like to imagine the elk are huge patrons of the arts.

Visit the National Museum of Wildlife Art

For a taste of Jackson’s lively art scene, visit the National Museum of Wildlife Art, located directly across from the National Elk Refuge. The museum built into a hillside overlooking the National Elk Refuge holds more than 5,000 artworks representing wild animals from around the world.

Perched like a castle looking over the valley, this museum blends into the surrounding environment – complete with lifelike sculptures of Jackson’s native wildlife. The drive up to this museum’s entrance provides spectacular views of the National Elk Refuge below and is also a great spot to look for wildlife. 

The museum itself is lovely, featuring several galleries from different eras of conservation and wildlife art. Paintings, sculptures, photographs, and even a giant totem (installed by being lowered through a window on the museum’s roof!) stop visitors in their tracks. Spending a couple of hours in this museum will remind you just how inspiring wildlife – and wild places – can be. 

Oh, and if you get hungry for lunch, Palate is an attraction all on its own. Try the Bison Gyro – you’re in Jackson, after all – and enjoy another unbeatable view of the valley. 

  • Travel Tip: Buy your ticket in advance to avoid lines. I also recommend combining your visit with a sleigh ride, since the museum is located directly across the road from the National Elk Refuge. After a cold sleigh ride, you’ll enjoy the warmth of this cozy museum!



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