Situated in western Wyoming, Jackson Hole is a valley known for its wilderness recreation opportunities, nestled amongst the rugged peaks of the Tetons. It is near two national parks, Grand Teton and Yellowstone, offering an array of luxury ski resorts, old-fashioned camping sites, and authentic dude ranches. The vibrant heart of the valley is the town of Jackson, blending the charm of Old West storefronts with contemporary attractions.
Jackson is also a great place to run. Downtown is 6,200 feet above sea level. A guideline is to reduce your expected sea-level pace per mile by 4 seconds for every 1,000 feet above 3,000 feet.
Start your day with an early morning run down the multipath trail bordering Highway 89/191 as it hugs the National Elk Refuge on its way to the Grand Teton National Park entrance. You can run to the trail start on the edge of downtown Jackson or drive and park. The path is paved and sparsely crowded, especially in the early morning. From Jackson, it is about 8 miles to the entrance of Grand Teton National Park. The route is flat with stunning scenery. A swatch of wild grass and flowers grows between the path and the main highway. On the other side is a simple wooden and wire fence that marks the boundary of the National Elk Wildlife Refuge. Next to the fence is grassy marshland, where ducks, geese, and other birds swim. Beyond are the grassy plains of the western landscape, spotted with sagebrush, creeks, pine trees, and rocks. In the middle of the refuge, as if dropped from the heavens, is the imposing Miler butte that rises like a tabletop of stone from the plains. Further beyond are the weathered tops of mountains, a footnote to the grandeur of the Tetons but mountains worth seeing most anywhere else.
On your run, you can see wildlife (elk, deer, or mountain sheep). During summer, the refuge may appear barren from expansive game herds, but small packs of elk and flocks of birds are frequent. The sanctuary comes to life in the winter. Starting in November, snow in the surrounding mountains pushes elk and big-horn sheep into the refuge. By December, the big herds arrive, along with their predators: wolves and mountain lions. Elk migrate from over a hundred miles away in Yellowstone National Park to winter at the refuge and graze on the grass grown in spring and summer.
Another option is to run the sidewalks and bike paths around downtown. On a morning run, you will see the sun rise above the mountains casting creeping shadows down the mountains that form the bowl surrounding Jackson. Areas of downtown Jackson have kept the Old West feel with vintage facades and wooden sidewalks. Early risers pack Jackson from tourists embarking for the National Parks, skiers headed to the world-class slopes, and East Coasters with their biological clocks tuned hours earlier. The scent of freshly brewed coffee and bacon fills the air to meet the awakening demand.
Start by running along Broadway Avenue, the main thoroughfare, towards the outskirts of town. You will pass restaurants, grocery stores, banks, and retail shops on this route to give you an orientation of the city. Next, run along Snow King Avenue's paths that border the town's backside near the Snow King Ski Resort. You can even run to the top of Snow King ski mountain in the off-ski season – a roughly 5K route, gaining 1,571 feet of elevation.
Pinky G's Pizzeria has the best carbs in town, especially if you have kids. Residents have voted Pinky G's as the best pizza in Jackson Hole since 2011. Inside you will find an eclectic, open-air atmosphere of wood tables, big-screen TVs, chalkboard menus, and neon lights. Don't wait for table service. You need to order at the counter and find your table. The pizzeria is open later than other town restaurants, ideal for late-arriving travelers or evening carb-loading.
Dornans Chuckwagon is a family-owned and operated restaurant located in the heart of Jackson Hole on the bank of the Snake River inside the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park. The Pulled Pork BBQ and Beef Brisket are seasoned and smoked on the property. Dornan's is an ideal breakfast, lunch, or dinner stop on travels to Grand Teton or Yellowstone National Parks. The Chuckwagon is only open from June to September. You can enjoy your meal under a covered pavilion on shared, extra-long picnic tables with breathtaking views of the Tetons in the background.
Cowboy Coffee is a must-try coffee shop in downtown Jackson. Cowboy Coffee is fresh-roasted in Jackson. Voted best coffee in 2022, Cowboy Coffee is no secret to the locals or visitors – there's a line out the day starting early in the morning. Unlike the namesake cowboy coffee brewed over campfires, Cowboy Coffee delivers high-quality brews and espressos with no trace of campfire grit and grounds.