Is it “Jackson” or “Jackson Hole”? Or: A Wheelchair and A Week in Wyoming

View of the Grand Teton Mountains from Mormon Row

View of the Grand Teton Mountains from Mormon Row

A quick geography primer:  according to Moon Handbooks, Jackson Hole is the name of the valley at the base of the Grand Tetons, a jagged set of mountains named “Teewinot” by the Shoshone Indians.  Jackson was named after a trapper who was based in the town;  the “hole” means a valley ringed by mountains.  Apparently it used to be called “Jackson’s Hole” but the name was eventually changed to “Jackson Hole” to end the sly comments.

Jackson is the town at the southern end of Jackson Hole.

This summer, my family and I stayed in Teton Village, about 12 miles northwest of of Jackson.  My favorite thing about this village is its proximity to the entrance of Grand Teton National Park (   For $25, you can get a seven-day pass for a car for both Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.  If you are a US citizen and have a permanent disability, you can get a free pass to all US national parks;  see:

In my experience, there are always facets of the national parks that are accessible to the mobility impaired:  the visitor centers are often educational and accessible; there is usually one trail or more that works for a wheelchair; and most of the parks have a loop for cars with roadside parking for scenic viewpoints (that are often labeled with informative signs).  I have yet to meet a park ranger who was not resourceful and helpful when it came to my questions regarding accessibility.  The website at has detailed information on what is accessible in the park.  I cannot stress enough what a good resource the National Park Service (NPS) website is.

Grand Teton National Park is in the northwest corner of Wyoming (just south of Yellowstone National Park).  A few highlights follow:

  • Marianne at the Craig Thomas Visitor Center, Grand Teton National Park, WY

    Marianne at the Craig Thomas Visitor Center, Grand Teton National Park, WY

    The Craig Thomas  Discovery and Visitor Center (also known as Moose Visitor Center) is 12 miles north of Jackson.  It was renovated in 2007 and is a green and accessible building, with gift store, accessible bathrooms, exhibits and auditorium.  It is fully-staffed with rangers, at least in the summer.


  • The Jenny Lake visitor center is 8 miles north of Moose at Jenny Lake.  This visitor center is much smaller and not truly wheelchair-accessible, although there are accessible trails around the lake.   There is also accessible parking and curb cuts, as well as accessible rest rooms.  The big draw here is Jenny Lake;  you can rent kayaks or take the shuttle over to hike Hidden Falls (not accessible).  There is a scenic boat tour (narrated tour around the lake, about 45 minutes long)  that operates out of Jenny Lake and it is wheelchair-accessible; contact the visitor center there for more details.
  •  Colter Bay Visitor Center is 25 miles north of Moose and adjacent to Jackson Lake.  We didn’t have a chance to explore this area of the park beyond a drive-through.  Jackson Lake is bigger than Jenny Lake, and the Jackson Lake Lodge has a wheelchair-accessible restaurant, which is supposed to have beautiful sunset views over the lake.
  • Mother moose and baby on Moose-Wilson Road, Grand Teton National Park, WY

    Mother moose and baby on Moose-Wilson Road, Grand Teton National Park, WY

    Just driving through the park is a beautiful experience, affording sightings of moose, elk and prong-horned antelope.  My youngest daughter, Delia, and I got up at 5 am several mornings and parked ourselves (in our car) along Moose-Wilson Road hoping to spot a bear, but to no avail.  They are here, as are wolves, eagles and the pica, but we didn’t see them.

My second favorite thing about Teton Village was our hotel, The Hotel Terra.  (See my post review of the hotel.)

Other things to do in the Jackson area if you have mobility challenges:

  • Jackson Hole Therapeutic Riding stables,‎
    • IMG_2831Our daughter had a private lesson here, and we would consider coming back just so that she could do a week of camp (really, daily lessons); the staff is supportive and welcoming, and they have a fantastic hoyer lift set-up to help someone with mobility challenges get on a horse
    • Wildlife Art Museum,‎
      • A small museum but interesting rotating exhibits, beautiful lounge room with views over National Elk Refuge, and an accessible pathway for viewing the outdoor sculpture
    • Jackson Hole Whitewater,‎
      • they’ll accommodate you in their rafts with (extra) supportive seating for scenic float trips down the Snake River but you have to transfer into their big blue rafts
    • And there’s always eating:

IMG_2497The biggest downside to the town of Jackson if you use a wheelchair?  A deranged person designed the downtown sidewalk system.    Sidewalks are raised for no apparent reason, with steps spouting from nowhere;  ramps appear and disappear into stairs, and many sidewalks are missing curb cuts.  I guess you could motor down the street in your wheelchair, as we did, but frankly, it seems like you’re increasing your chances that one of the parallel-parked cars will back out over you….


Accessible Hotel Review: The Hotel Terra, Teton Village, WY

Although not inexpensive, it has a few things going for it:

  • the accessible parking spots are near the door (so you don’t need valet every   day unless you want it)
  • the outdoor pool is heated and has a chair lift for those who need assistance getting into the pool
  • IMG_2469we were able to create an apartment-like suite by adjoining a single room next to a one-bedroom hotel room that easily accommodated the five of us and our wheelchair.  The suite then had two bedrooms, a Murphy bed, three full bathrooms (one of which was completely accessible), a kitchen (refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, stocked with utensils, dishware and a coffee maker), a living room area that accommodated all of us and a 6-person table.  And the laundry facilities were across the hall from us!IMG_2470
  • there were several dining options, all accessible, nearby;  you could order take-out from all of them and there was a small grocery store (the Mangy Moose)
  • The Aspens, an organic supermarket, was down the road a few miles and is accessibleIMG_2504
  • very close to the southern entrance of Grand Teton National Park
  • close to Jackson
  • just before I left, I was on The Hotel Terra website and saw a 30% discount on hotel rooms for some of the dates we were there;  I called and they applied the discount to our entire stay.  Nice!
  • concierge service was very helpful in researching wheelchair accessibility for activities and restaurants

What I didn’t like about The Hotel Terra:

  • there was a big gap, maybe two inches from the entrance to the door jamb, which was awkward for Marianne to manuever over in her wheelchair (she got a little stuck sometimes)
  • there were only three or four accessible parking spaces, and it doesn’t seem like enough
  • the Mangy Moose store is not wheelchair-accessible
  • the restaurants are expensive, and it was impossible to get a reservation at Calico, a highly-recommended restaurant near The Aspens, or Q Roadhouse (right next to Calico), which were more affordable
  • the pool is small – really small
  • there are two buildings;  we opted to stay in the main building which had the cafe in the lobby, a restaurant in the lobby, the pool and the gym.  But the accessible room overlooks the Teton Village courtyard, which has a water fountain that attracts small, excited – and, when the jets go off randomly, shrieking – children.  And sound does carry in this valley….