I have a confession: Until last fall, I’d never been to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This came as a shock to friends who know how much I love that hard-to-nail combination of adventure and exclusivity, and when I told them I was finally departing for this beloved destination, they were just as excited as I was. And let me tell you, Jackson Hole did not disappoint.
I was totally awestruck from the minute our plane touched down at the petite (and recently updated) airport smack dab in the middle of Grand Teton National Park, with boundless nature views extending in every direction. The ongoing conservation efforts here are apparent, reflecting the Jackson Hole Land Trust’s protection of some 55,000 acres across Northwest Wyoming.
The swankiest stay for a sojourn is undoubtedly the Four Seasons Resort and Residences. The Forbes Five-Star, AAA Five-Diamond hotel is one of few luxury ski-in/ski-out resorts in America, situated at the base of the top-rated Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Having stood as the grand dame of Teton Village for two decades, the opulent six-acre property just underwent a full-scale renovation last year.
All 124 spacious guest rooms and suites got a refresh, with updated interiors echoing the surrounding tranquil environs and incorporating state-of-the-art technology. Several privately owned residences within the property are also available for rental, including the crème de la crème penthouse, boasting five bedrooms spread out across 4,700 square feet. Although I was tempted to stay tucked away in the secluded sanctuary of our suite (complete with gas fireplace, private balcony and vistas galore), the Four Seasons’ impressive array of amenities and activities beckoned.
The hotel’s public spaces are adorned with natural materials like wood, stone and leather, which act as a gallery backdrop for a remarkable collection of some 2,000 artworks, including originals by Joan Miró, Grant Wood and Alberto Giacometti. All cravings are satisfied thanks to the onsite culinary offerings, including sophisticated steakhouse Westbank Grill, boisterous Handle Bar and laidback Ascent Lounge. (I highly recommend the wagyu beef tartare and the bison tenderloin with seared foie gras at Westbank, if you’re asking.)
As I quickly learned, relaxing is not hard to do here. Clocking in at nearly 12,000 square feet, the spa features a full-service salon, hot and cold hydrotherapy, steam rooms, and a wide range of massages, facials and other soothing treatments. The Après Body Ritual will set you right after a day of skiing, hiking or otherwise enjoying mountain life, complete with a relaxing whirlpool soak, a tailored massage, an invigorating foot scrub and a rich body wrap. Complimentary yoga classes take place in the well-equipped gym, and the heated freeform pool is the ideal spot for year-round lounging.
But let’s be real: Adventure is the name of the game in Jackson Hole, and the Four Seasons definitely delivers. The hotel taps local experts to guide you on a plethora of excursions all year long, such as fly-fishing or whitewater rafting on the Snake River, hot air balloon aerial tours, ATV and horseback riding excursions, and, notably, the new immersive wolf encounter in nearby Yellowstone National Park. For our wildlife safari in Grand Teton, I set the bar high, telling our naturalist guide I hoped to see all the animals the 310,000-acre park is famous for, including the elusive grizzly bear. In addition to educating us about the area’s notable conservation programs, she somehow pulled it off, complete with sightings of elk, moose, pronghorn, bison and, yes, even a grizzly bear.
Of course, a trip to Jackson Hole is incomplete without a visit to downtown, with its inviting shops, restaurants and art galleries all centered around the picture-perfect town square. Fine Dining Restaurant Group is behind the top eateries here — including wine and tapas bar Bin22, Asian fusion eatery The Kitchen and Parisian brasserie The Bistro — all of which exude the destination’s signature casual elegance. I also thoroughly enjoyed a stroll through the National Museum of Wildlife Art, featuring works from Georgia O’Keeffe, Carl Rungius and John James Audubon.
So to all you longtime Jackson Hole lovers, I say: I totally get it. I now understand why this tiny Wyoming resort town has long enchanted everyone from financier and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr., who in the 1920s helped establish Grand Teton, to celebrated photographer Ansel Adams, who captured the area’s stunning landscape, to modern-day regulars like Sandra Bullock, Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt. And with our collective fascination for the ranch lifestyle at an all-time high (thanks, Yellowstone), I’m ready to declare Jackson Hole the premier American West destination.