Jackson Hole may be known for its winter activities—snowboarding, skiing, that one infamous chute, Corbet’s Couloir—but the summer is just as popular for visitors looking for outdoor adventure and experiences.
Tourists and transplants flood the Jackson Hole city limits and surrounding wilderness during the summer months for everything from camping, fishing and hiking to wildlife photography and five-star meals featuring game meat. However, nothing can beat the area’s most exciting and advisable main attraction—whitewater rafting.
There are tons of reasons to consider Wyoming for your next adventure destination, but these alone will convince you it’s time to book your trip to Jackson Hole. Whether you’re a first-timer or a rafting master, Wyoming is the place for you.
The wildlife is literally out your backdoor (or hotel’s lobby). If you’re the type of person that pulls over on the side of the road to admire and take photos of the wildlife then look no further. Over 60 species of mammals, over 100 species of birds, and a half-a-dozen game fish can be found in the Jackson Hole and Yellowstone area. And if you don’t happen to see any wildlife from the water, book a spot on one of the local wildlife safaris and go in search of your favorite critter, bird, or large carnivore.
The scenery is National Geographic in person. Experiencing any landscape from the tube of a rubber boat is unique, but the scenery surrounding Jackson Hole is on another level. Unlike other mountain ranges whose summits are dwarfed by foothills and smaller peaks, the Teton Fault creates a dramatic rise in elevation from 5,000 to 7,000 feet and the craggy peaks of the Teton mountain range rise up in postcard perfection, encircling you as you paddle in her majestic shadow. Don’t leave your camera behind—just make sure it’s in a waterproof case.
We hear swimming legendary rapids are more fun. Jackson Hole is filled with gorgeous lakes and rivers, but it’s notorious for the frothy whitewater on the Snake River. Rafting these legendary rapids—Lunch Counter and Big Kahuna—will be an adrenaline rush to say the least. When the guide yells, “Dig in!” they mean it. But you’ll be lost in the thrill of taking massive waves head on to realize how hard you’re working to stay in the boat. And if you happen to fall out, stick your feet up and embrace the natural roller coaster of the wave train with the confidence that your guide will get you back in the boat safely.
The whitewater is just the start of a long list of activities. There’s a reason thousands of people visit Jackson every summer and rafting is only one of them. Whether you’re booked for a half-day, full day or a multiday, you can easily fill any off-water time you have left. Drive through Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, leaving plenty of time to wait for Old Faithful to erupt. Test your fly fishing skills and see if you can hook a cutthroat or mackinaw lake trout. Take a day hike through the jagged, towering peaks at the Paintbrush Divide. Grab some pub grub and brews at Sidewinders Tavern or Snake River Grill. Or stick around town and indulge in boutique shopping—art and fashion—and fine dining.
Take in the unpolluted, western sky. Montana might be dubbed the Big Sky country, but Wyoming is nothing short of a close runner-up. Whether you’re catching the sunset or sunrise on your rafting trip, you’re going to experience something magical. Sure the sun rises and sets everywhere, but watching the colors dance across the Wyoming sky is a magical experience. The Jackson skyline with its dark granite and perpetually white peaks create a stark contrast against the deep oranges and pinks, purples and blues of a sunrise or sunset not polluted by streetlights and skyscrapers. And then there’s that clean, fresh, mountain air—what more could you ask for?
Everything will be in bloom. There’s nothing more beautiful than a voyage down the river surrounded by lush green trees, blue skies, and beautiful flowers at every turn. During the height of rafting season (May through September) all of the flowers, trees, and foliage will be in bloom. Because Jackson Hole only gets about 60 continuous frost-free days every year, it’s exciting to be there when everything comes to life with color. The best wildflowers to spot during this time of year are the columbines, fireweed, monkshood, and the very rare calypso orchids.
Hit the snooze on social media and the ‘Real World.’ Sure, Jackson Hole has hotels and coffee shops with free WiFi, it is 2018 after all, but is it really a vacation if your phone pings with every new email, an anxious boss just hoping you’ll take the time to check? The only reason to bring your phone rafting is to take photos of the aforementioned wildlife—or your partner being pulled back into the raft after a mishap at Lunch Counter—but rafting in Wyoming brings another luxury we often overlook: No Service. Unplugging, even for eight hours is a great way break away from the hectic day-to-day tasks of inbox-social media-inbox-repeat. Wyoming can be an oasis for you to take some time to hit the refresh button, clear your mind, and appreciate the moment.
You can’t beat sunny and 75. Wyoming is located in the far midwest, meaning we see all of the seasons. Grant it the weather could be a little different depending on the time of year you visit, but during the rafting season, it’s typically warm and sunny. Temperatures during the day average from 70 to 90 degrees—ideal temps for whitewater rafting. However, things do tend to cool down during the evening, especially in the higher elevations. So, pack some layers for when things start to get a little cooler.
Sit back and let the guides entertain the family for a day. A whitewater rafting trip is an experience for the whole family to enjoy. Whether you’re going on a Class III whitewater excursion or taking a Class I float trip with the youngsters, just about any age can enjoy a trip on the river. And the best part, it’s the guide’s responsibility to keep them entertained, from geography lessons to stories of carnage and mayhem (when the whitewater isn’t cutting it). Generally, the minimum age limit for rafting trips is six years old, but be sure to check with the company you’re booking with. As long as your kiddos meet the age requirement, you can all head out on the water.
Editor’s Note: Guest contributor Abby Hackmann works for Teton Whitewater, one of many Wyoming rafting companies offering unforgettable trips down the Grand Teton and Snake River. Learn more about rafting in Jackson Hole and the gear you should pack for your next whitewater adventure on Teton’s Adventure Blog.