I’ve been following Amelia from Tales of a Mountain Mama ever since my son was a baby, and I’m not embarrassed to say that I fan-girled out a little when we got connected as bloggers last year. Amelia provides invaluable advice to parents who love the outdoors and want to grow that love in their children. She’s fortunate to be raising her family in one of America’s most beautiful places: Grand Teton National Park in Jackson, Wyoming. Today she’s sharing her insights as a local mama to five kids to help you plan your dream family trip to Jackson Hole!
Jackson Hole, Wyoming is an amazing place full of stunning views, unique wildlife, and mountain living. As a local I pinch myself daily to be able to live here, and we do what we can to not let our kids take it for granted. While there are plenty of things to do in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I’m excited to share our favorites with you to make the most of your time.
Just a quick note that Jackson sits at an elevation of 6237’ which affects different people in different ways. If you are used to sea level, go slow, listen to your body and drink tons of water. Watch kids carefully too and be sure they don’t become dehydrated – it’s easy to do!
Also – we’re in bear country! Carry bear spray when hiking. Canisters are available for rent at many locations in the Jackson, WY area. You can’t fly with bear spray, but if you want it waiting for you when you arrive you can order it here for delivery to your hotel.
How to get to Jackson Hole with kids
Jackson Hole does have an airport located only about 15 minutes from town, but flights tend to be fairly expensive in the summer. That said, the winter tickets are very reasonable as they are subsidized by the ski area. Flights into Salt Lake tend to be more affordable if you don’t mind the ~5 hour drive. You can compare flight prices here for your dates.
I strongly recommend renting a car to visit the area unless you plan to stay right in town, but that would cut out a bunch of great activities so I don’t advise it. Check rental car rates here – and I recommend booking as soon as you have your flights, as they can be tough to come by in busy season!
There is public transit that is decent and local bikes to rent if they happen to be situated where you want them (but don’t bank on them being there!) The main part of town is very walkable, though.
Where to stay in Jackson with Kids
Unfortunately, staying in Jackson especially in the summer months is not cheap. This list of places to stay in Jackson Hole gives a wide range of options, but we suggest always checking for deals on travel websites for Jackson Hole hotels. Usually your best bet is planning in advance, looking for package deals and staying for more than just a night or two.
The Lexington is a great hotel with a good breakfast and fresh-baked cookies nightly. It’s also located on the north end of town and easy to walk from there to downtown. They do have at least one large family room that we always try to get so our family of seven can spread out. They have a small indoor pool and hot tub.
This hotel was just redone a few years ago and is a great more affordable motel option for families. They do have a small indoor pool and some great restaurants nearby (we love the beef triangles from Bapp!)
This hotel is fairly new and is in a great centralized location. It has an outdoor pool and hot tub, a free breakfast and great rooms. Plus it has a parking garage which helps immensely with parking downtown.
Prefer to not share walls with your neighbors, but still be close to town? The Rustic’s little cabins are cute and cozy and all your own. Plus there’s a creek running through the property and lots of green space for kids to run.
Local Dude Ranches
More of an all-inclusive than just a place to visit while you explore Jackson, dude ranches are a fantastic family vacation. For dude ranches with the best kids programs in the Jackson area, check out Red Rock Ranch, R Lazy S Ranch, Spotted Horse Ranch, Lost Creek Ranch, Goosewing Ranch or Gros Ventre River Ranch. Reservations need to be made far in advance.
Camping in the Jackson area without a reservation is hit or miss. There are some great dispersed camping options out of town, but they are often full of seasonal workers living out of their cars. So if you’re planning on a visit to Jackson and want to camp, be sure you reserve a campsite before you come. The Gros Ventre campground for tents or RVs or the Jenny Lake Campground (tents only) are both great and close to town.
While there are VRBO options in Jackson, they do fill fast. Alternatively you can look in the Driggs or Victor area for more affordable options, especially if you’re traveling with a large group. The drive is only about 30-40 minutes to Jackson, but do note it is over a steep mountain pass.
Best hikes in Jackson Hole with kids
Hiking in Jackson Wyoming rewards you with amazing views if you can beat the crowds. As locals we always start as early as we can in the day to beat the heat and choose less popular trails. The ones I listed below are still busy, but not as crazy as others in Grand Teton Park. Remember to hydrate frequently especially if you’re hiking in the heat, carry a first aid kit and bring bear spray.
Lakeshore Trail in Grand Teton National Park
The Lakeshore Trail at Colter Bay is a great 2 mile loop to do with kids that is flat with gorgeous views of Jackson Lake. We always take lots of stops to throw rocks and build forts on the shore. I appreciate that it is partly shaded too, making it one of our favorite things to do in Grand Teton National Park with kids!
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Phelps Lake Trail
Start this trail at the Lawrence S. Rockefeller Preserve off the Moose-Wilson road. The parking lot is small and fills quickly, so best to arrive at the preserve before 9 am. Follow the signs for the Woodland trail at the junction for about a 1.3 mile hike to Phelps Lake. The lake is clear and cold and makes a great cooling-off point. For older kids eager for longer Jackson Hole hikes, you can continue around the lake to do a full 7.2 mile loop, or just turn around and go back the way you came.
The 5 mile round trip trail to Ski Lake is heavily trafficked, but has more beautiful views and ends at a lake with fun mud to play in for kids. The wildflowers are amazing here in early summer. This trail is the hardest of the three with 1,148 feet elevation gain, but worth it!
Things to do in Jackson Hole with kids (other than hiking)
While you’re probably planning a Jackson Hole family vacation to focus on hiking, there are plenty of other kids activities in Jackson Hole to check out if you want to build some variety into your itinerary.
The local Children’s museum is small but mighty – it’s one of our favorite Jackson Hole kids activities. Open to public drop-ins Tuesday – Friday 9-11:30 and 12-2:30, this is a great place for kids aged 0-12ish. Since occupancy is limited, we recommend making advanced reservations. They do some special programing throughout the summer like their annual Touch a Truck Event usually in June so watch for them!
Pro tip: Get half price admission with your local Association of Children’s Museums membership card. Free entry for Blue Star Families!
R park is a great place to take kids for small hiking, swimming, boating or fishing. This summer “Mama Mimi”, a giant wooden troll statue by Thomas Dambo, arrived and delights children and adults alike.
Snow King is the local’s ski mountain, but it’s also a really fun place to hang out in the summer. We love the ropes course (for families with older kids), their alpine slide and the mountain coaster. They also have putt-putt golf and a fun maze on-site. Get a pass and plan on spending the afternoon there.
While the Jackson Hole aerial tram is not open this summer, the Bridger Gondola is and it’s a great way to get some pretty awesome views of the valley. There are also great downhill bike trails at all levels being accessed by the Sweetwater Gondola and Teewinot lift. Watch for “Friday Night Bikes” deals and purchase tickets in advance online to save some money.
Best places to eat in Jackson Hole with Kids
Usually afternoon thunderstorms will push visitors to town for dinner after a day in the mountains, so I recommend planning on starting dinner early with kids to avoid the crowds. Traffic can back up coming back south from the Park so plan accordingly to avoid hangry little ones.
Bar J Chuckwagon
Hands-down the Bar J is my favorite summer dinner experience. While reservations are not required, it’s a very good idea to have them to assure yourself a seat. The all-you-can-eat BBQ Beef dinner is absolutely delicious, which surprised me the first time I went as I am not a huge BBQ fan. Other dinner options including chicken and vegetarian choices are available. Guests are seated at long bench seats and, after dinner, entertained by the Humprey Family. The entertainment is family-friendly, funny and authentically western. Note: The summer of 2021 will be the last summer the Humprey family performs so go this summer!
Sitting right outside of Moose, Wyoming and the entrance to Grand Teton National Park, Dornan’s Pizza not only has great pizza and beer, but outdoor seating with amazing views. It’s a great place to park, ride bikes on the paved paths towards Jenny Lake and then come back for pizza. If you’re brave enough to try bike packing with your kids, it’s also a great stopping off point.
Kelly on the Gros Ventre
If you love sandwiches, these are the best in the county and worth the drive out to Kelly (about 30 minutes from Jackson) for them. They are huge, fresh and come in a variety of flavors. Note that they are only open for the summer and hours vary, so call first!
The Brew Pup is loud (which drowns out kid noise) and has great outdoor seating. It has great beer and great food and is a favorite of ours year-round.
Moo’s Ice Cream
If you appreciate really great homemade ice cream like I do, Moo’s is worth waiting in a line for on a hot summer day or evening. It’s definitely more spendy than other ice cream shops, but the quality is outstanding and worth every penny.
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Amelia lives with her husband and five kids in Grand Teton National Park in Jackson, Wyoming. For nearly a decade she’s been blogging about hiking, biking and playing in nature to help other families get outdoors more – and have more fun doing it.