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 (www.nps.gov). 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: http://store.usgs.gov/pass/index.html
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 www.nps.gov 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:
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.
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, www.jhtra.org/
- Our 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, www.wildlifeart.org/
- 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, www.jhww.com/
- 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:
- Moo’s for ice cream: http://moosjacksonhole.com
- Trio: excellent meal and fun location in Jackson; American bistro; wheelchair-accessible; www.bistrotrio.com/
- Spur in Teton Lodge: regional foods; wheelchair-accessible; http://tetonlodge.com/spur-dining/
- Il Villagio Osteria, Italian cuisine (great pizza) in The Hotel Terra; accessible; www.jhosteria.com
- Calico: hard to get a reservation at so we never had a chance to eat here, but highly recommended by locals and accessible; http://calicorestaurant.com/about/
- Q Roadhouse: right next to Calico outside of Teton Village; another highly recommended restaurant (that we didn’t try) and this one has a brewery; http://www.roadhousebrewery.com/restaurant/
- Nora’s Fish Creek Inn: outside of Jackson in Wilson; hearty breakfasts and lunches in a neat old building that is wheelchair-accessible; www.norasfishcreekinn.com
- The Bunnery: kind of a big deal, it seems, in Jackson; wheelchair-accessible but very crowded; delicious breakfast burritos; bunnery.com
The 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….