An American Safari: Jackson Hole's Vast Terrain, Wildlife and Luxury Lodgings


One doesn't go to Wyoming to be sociable and surrounded by crowds of people; with only half a million residents, it gets the award for least populated state in America. Those who go to Wyoming go for its spectacular land filled with endless ski terrain, elk reserves, and two of the nation's most popular National Parks: Yellowstone and the Grand Teton National Park. Earlier this fall, I visited Jackson Hole to enjoy the region at the turn of fall when elk, moose, and bears actively roam the land preparing for the bitter winter. Staying at sister properties Hotel Terra and the Teton Mountain Lodge in the Teton Village, I once again discovered my love for this great wilderness.

Photo Courtesy of Hotel Terra

Opened in 2011, Hotel Terra is the area's most progressively green hotel, holding a Silver LEED certification for its standards in eco-friendly hospitality. Modern but still country-cozy, Hotel Terra is at the foot of the 116-trail Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, a beloved mountain of skilled boarders and double-black diamond level skiers. Even without snow, the 132 room hotel is often packed by those seeking adventures in the Grand Teton just one mile away.

Photo Courtesy of Hotel Terra

A favorite aspect of Hotel Terra, besides its gregarious staff, is the boutique Chill Spa, located on the roof of the hotel. A dip in the massive outdoor hot tub overlooking the mountain range is not to be missed. Nor is the eucalyptus steam room, particularly after hiking during a chilly October day. Before a replenishing massage, guests can select scents as a take home treat from the Blend Bar in the form of body butters, lotions or scrubs. In one of the spa's six treatment rooms, visitors can take advantage of deep, dreamy relaxation with the help of the spa’s therapists easing body tension.

Photo Courtesy of Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa

Just a few yards from Hotel Terra is its sister property, Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa. More traditional than its modern counterpart, the property is loaded with polished wood beams, stone fireplaces, and plaid décor. Historical photos of skiing and mountaineering scenes can be spotted throughout the hotel and most are available for purchase. Similar to Hotel Terra, Teton has suites able to sleep up to 12. The two-story Penthouse boasts a spiral staircase, giant jetted-whirlpool tubs, and magnificent views of the mountain and Tetons.

Photo Courtesy of Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa

The bottom floor of the hotel is home to the Spur restaurant, manned by Kevin Humphrey, one of the locals’ favorite chefs, five years running. Usually while exploring a new town, I don’t visit any particular restaurant twice, but the food offered by the Spur restaurant was so hearty and notable, my guest and I dined there two nights in a row. Something about crisp weather makes meats of all sorts irresistible, and the restaurant offers a variety to choose from such as dry aged buffalo sliders, the Wyoming Angus beef brisket, and the Snake River Farms boneless kurobuta pork chop. Plenty of options are available for vegetarians as well like the perfected goat cheese and spinach polenta cakes. A number of locals filled the booths and tables around-a solid sign that Spur is the place to be.

Similar to the African Serengeti's big game animals, the Yellowstone and Grand Teton areas of Wyoming are home to magnificent clans of moose, bison, elk, bears, wolves, eagles and more. A notable tour is the half-day Wildlife Safari throughout the Grand Tetons offered by Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris. Like most at Jackson Hole Wildlife Safari, the guides have decades of guide experience that is evident. The guide for the day proved this by his keen eye and unending knowledge about the land and the parks.

Moose and bison are large creatures, but they hide exceedingly well amidst brush land and pines, but the guide was easily able to spot them, pointing out, "Out there-way to the left, under that tree line, those two black spots. Two male moose!" Sure enough, peering through a scope lens, the unmistakable giant racks of the moose would appear. For wildlife lovers, or those who enjoy discovering the biodiversity richness of an area, a wildlife safari is a must.

Fly fishing is also a sought-after activity because of the state’s numerous natural rivers and streams, often carved out by glaciers that provide endless spots to snag brown and rainbow trout. Unlike "pole fishing," which requires one to simply dangle a rod in the water and wait, fly fishing takes actual expertise. Mangis Guides, based in Jackson Hole, has a team of life-long fly fishing guides who guarantee you'll hook a fish, even as a first-time fly fisher. Floating along the Snake River with the Grand Tetons in the backdrop, one can view majestic bald eagles and elk along the riverbed.

Once at an ideal spot along the water, you will begin to learn the art of flinging a line just right with the help of your tour guide who will show you how to arch the line up and out into the water. The guide could easily toss a line and grab a fish within two throws. It took me about 30 throws, but I pulled a fighting eight-inch trout right out of the water soon enough. I'd certainly recommend going with Mangis Guides for a fly fishing excursion, as the company provides all the equipment, the fantastic guides, and pick up and drop off from both Hotel Terra and Teton Mountain Lodge.

So while visiting Wyoming may not top your bucket list, it is a destination that should be considered. Especially for outdoor enthusiasts, the stunning landscapes paired with its crisp fresh air, makes this state a true gem with plenty of activities to keep you entertained.