I was guilty of calling the town of Jackson, Wyoming, “Jackson Hole.” Imagine my surprise when I learned they were two different places — the town of Jackson and the valley of Jackson Hole. Luckily, I never wagered my entire potential winnings on this question in Final Jeopardy (R.I.P. Alex Trebek).
Just in case you are selected as a contestant on Jeopardy — or love a good trivia game — let me give you some background on Jackson vs. Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Jackson Is A Town
In 1893, Margaret Simpson, a postmistress without a post office, named the town “Jackson” after David Edward Jackson, so mail could find its way there.
“Davey” Jackson (1788 – 1837) was an explorer, trapper, and fur trader. Although he intended to farm in Missouri for a living, he was lured away from the Midwest by an advertisement for a fur-trading company seeking trappers. As a trapper and eventually part-owner of Smith, Jackson and Sublette, a fur trading company, he spent his time throughout the West.
Since its early days, Jackson has expanded to include hotels, restaurants, bars, art galleries, museums, shops, public art, and, of course, a post office.
Jackson Hole Is A Valley
Jackson Hole is the valley formed by the Teton Mountains in the West and the Gros Ventre Mountains in the East. The 50-mile-long valley is in the western part of Wyoming. Jackson Hole was first called Jackson’s Hole.
Mountain men called large, alpine valleys “holes” and named this one for the legendary Davey Jackson who rendezvoused here in the 1820s.
Mountain men and trappers like Davey Jackson gathered in the valley because of the abundant wildlife, particularly beavers that lived along the Snake River.
Jackson Hole Has Other Towns
In addition to Jackson, the towns of Kelly, Moose, Moran, Teton Village, and Wilson are located within the valley.
Moran is the eastern gateway to Grand Teton National Park. It was the first tourist town in the area and had, at one time, a lodge that was popular with visitors heading to Yellowstone National Park.
The town of Moose is also in Grand Teton National Park. The Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose provides information to help plan your park visit, trail maps, and backcountry permits.
To better visualize Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park, check out the visitor center’s 3-D map.
With a population of 1,463, Wilson is the second largest town after Jackson (population 10,553 in 2019). Located at the eastern base of Teton Pass, this historic town was named after Nick Wilson. He was a Pony Express rider who knew his way across the Teton pass and helped Mormon settlers cross it in the 1800s. Today, Wilson has hotels, Airbnbs, and several restaurants.
The Moose Wilson Road that connects Wilson to Grand Teton National Park is a great place to see wildlife, particularly at dawn and dusk. This road is popular with wildlife photographers for that reason.
Teton Village is home to a world class, upscale ski-in/ski-out resort. And while winter is its most popular season, you can grab a gondola to the top of the mountain and enjoy a cold brew and appetizers from The [email protected] on summer evenings.
Things To See In Jackson Hole
Much of Jackson Hole is within Grand Teton National Park. At a minimum, a leisurely loop around the park’s paved roads will allow you to see the grandeur of the Teton Mountains and spot some wildlife.
The National Elk Refuge runs along U.S. Highway 89/191 between Jackson and Grand Teton with plenty of turnouts that have covered viewing areas and benches.
If you’d like to see artists’ renditions of wildlife, visit the National Museum of Wildlife Art just north of Jackson. This extensive collection features sculptures, paintings, and educational exhibits on wildlife conservation.
To learn more about the area’s history, homesteading days, and early settlers, visit the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum in Jackson. They have a juvenile bison mount on display that is huge, even though it hadn’t reached its full size.
When To Visit
Grand Teton National Park is open year-round, but the visitor centers and some roads close in the winter. The park’s website has details.
For Jackson Hole Mountain ski vacation packages, lift tickets, lodging, and snow reports, visit Jackson Hole’s website.
Pro Tip: If you plan on visiting both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, you’ll need to buy a 7-day pass for each park. Alternatively, you can buy an annual pass or a senior pass if you are over 62. For more information, visit the National Park Service.
For more information on Jackson Hole, check out Jackson Hole’s best restaurants and nine reasons to visit Jackson Hole in the winter.