Just when I thought the mountains couldn’t get any more beautiful, we made the drive into Jackson Hole to visit our fourth national park of the trip. For those who don’t know (we didn’t) Jackson Hole is the name of the entire valley, which encompasses Jackson, Wyoming, as well as the ski resort of Teton Village and other small towns.
We stayed in Victor, Idaho, which is just across the Teton Pass (which rises above 8,000 feet). It was simple economics. We stayed in the Cobblestone Inn, part of a regional hotel chain which is the equivalent of, say, a La Quinta. This still cost over $200 a night. But the Motel 6 across the mountain in Jackson, Wyoming was asking $277, so we decided to suffer the 19-or-so-mile drive across the mountain.
At the top of the pass, I was treated to the most beautiful valley view I’ve ever witnessed, with the exception of Waipio Valley in Hawaii.
We started with a drive through the town of Jackson, which is picturesque, though touristy. There is a real stage coach you can catch a ride on, but get ready to stand in line if this is your thing.
We didn’t stop, just kept on to the National Elk Refuge. Free admission! There we saw hundreds of majestic…prairie dogs. Not a single elk visible throughout the entire elk refuge. But tons of those cute little critters. The day was almost spoiled when we saw one of them get squashed by a truck. My critter-loving youngest daughter, who has a heart for all things furry, was in tears. She got over it after awhile.
So there are really no signs telling you when the elk refuge ends, and no obvious big fences or anything, just a sign that says, “End county maintenance,” and the quality of the gravel changes. However, this was where we came across our our best find of the whole area.
The roads Google Maps was telling me to take back to the highway were blocked, but just past them we found a pile of rocks apparently guarding the entrance to a badger den. These two were just hanging out, giving us nasty looks. Kind of reminded me of being at work, really.
I had never in my life seen a badger in the wild, nor did I ever think I might. Very cool!
We had to retrace our steps to get out of the refuge. From there we took Highway 191 north, which provides some great views of the mountains and glaciers,
then looped back through the park starting near the northern end near Jackson Lake and driving south.
The temperature was in the upper 30’s and lower 40’s for most of the day, so most of our trips outside the car were short. Still, just driving through this park is spectacular.
Near the Moose entrance to the park, we turned onto the Wilson Moose road, which is only passable in summer. A short distance down, on a hill overlooking the river, we were treated to our second moose sighting of the trip!
I guess after the first one, the whole hidden moose universe just opens up before you.
Be careful on this road, though, as much of it is unpaved and several spots will barely accommodate two passing vehicles. And while the Wilson Moose Road did provide another moose viewing, there were no Wilsons anywhere.
After that, we stopped for a passable but overpriced lunch in Teton Village, then made our way back to Idaho for the night.
This little soda fountain in Victor had the best mural (and milkshakes) of the entire trip.