During my Spring Break in mid-March, I had the opportunity to spend a week in western Wyoming and eastern Idaho with my dad and brother. After landing in the oasis that is the Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) and being greeted with cozy cabin decor and free mimosas, we set off on an incredible mountain adventure. Our stay included stops on both sides of the Rocky Mountains and I’ll be covering all the details of our vacation to help you plan your next western adventure! If you’re looking to take a warmer spring vacation, check out this travel itinerary for Atlanta and Birmingham.
First Stop: Alta, Wyoming
Hidden between the legendary Sun Valley and Jackson Hole ski resorts, Grand Targhee is a great place to beat the crowds and crazy costs usually associated with skiing in the mountains. Though not cheap, our lift tickets cost half of what a daily pass at Jackson Hole sells for and we had way more room to roam on the slopes. The only concern you’ll want to note with this place is that it lives up to its nickname, “Grand Foggy” – there were a few white-out moments during our sets that forced us to wait for minutes at a time until the fog cleared and we could find each other. A little scary, sure, but just remember to stick together and you should be okay!
When looking for places to eat in the area, The Royal Wolf in nearby Driggs, Idaho dominated search results, had five-star reviews, and was also toted as a local hangout. This place definitely lived up to expectations and seemed to be where locals and visitors alike came for dinner and drinks! Other than our visit to The Royal Wolf, we ate at the resort restaurants, which were also awesome, albeit still pricey.
Second Stop: Idaho Falls, Idaho
As mentioned previously, any commute between Alta and Jackson requires travel through Idaho. Having never visited the state before and with a full day set aside to transition between locations, we took a day trip along the Gem State’s eastern edge and made a pit stop in one of my now-favorite towns, Idaho Falls!
Attractions: Teton Dam, Museum of Idaho, Idaho Falls River Walk
Our first stop was entirely accidental, when just a short way into our Idaho road trip we approached a historical marker on the side of the road. Still high on that new-state excitement, I insisted we veer off and check it out. The Teton Dam is known for being a catastrophic failure, but is definitely a sight to see. This outlook provides an incredible vantage point to take in the entirety of the infamous structure.
Upon arriving in Idaho Falls on a random Tuesday morning in March, I admit that I was scrambling to find something to do to entertain all three of us. While I love small museums like the Museum of Idaho that we visited, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I was relieved to find out that the museum’s main floor contained an interactive dinosaur exhibit, which was actually a fun way for us to move massive dinosaurs using remote controls and read about the species that once lived in this area. The museum also had a ton of history about the town, including the many name changes it went through before becoming Idaho Falls. I also recommend their gift shop for any postcards or souvenirs you might want to pick up.
We also explored the River Walk downtown, specifically the 2.3-mile Temple Loop, named for the beautiful LDS temple along the river. This is what made me fall in love with this small city. Pictures do more justice to the natural beauty of the Snake River and actual Idaho Falls than words, but being there in person was breathtaking. Trees literally grow in-between channels of the falls, which cascade perpendicular to the river current. This place also looks like it would be incredible to visit in the summer, with great spots to fish, sit outside, or take in a variety of local events! While a few hotels have started popping up overlooking the river, the parkway remains a prominent barrier between the two.
Finally, it was time for lunch. The food was so good in general on this trip, but this was hands-down my favorite meal. The SnakeBite Restaurant is a pub-style Idaho Falls classic just a few blocks from the Snake River. I ordered a portobello sandwich with fries… and, you guys, the sandwich was amazing, but we NEED to talk about the fries! The home of the potato sure knows what to do with them; these fries were covered with the perfect combination or spices and paired with Idaho’s signature fry sauce, which is one part ketchup, two parts mayo. I don’t even like mayo, but this was so good! There was ketchup at the table too and I honestly ignored it. They also had an incredible dessert menu! Just a heads-up to bring cash, as the SnakeBite does not take credit cards.
Third Stop: Jackson, Wyoming
Is this the part you’ve been waiting for? I see why! Jackson is one of those places that feels like a dream. Sure, that’s partially because it’s a resort town, but it is powered by people who’d give their lives to spend another day in the mountains and that’s a kind of passion you can’t find just anywhere.
Attractions: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Teton Tour Company, National Elk Refuge
It’s the biggest, baddest ski resort in the U. S. of A. Okay, I guess that’s just my opinion, but Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is certainly the biggest, baddest ski resort I’ve ever been to! This famous set of slopes in the Tetons truly lives up to its “resort” moniker; everything from the gondolas to the surrounding accommodations are top notch, though that’s not what this place is known for. We didn’t ski its famous backcountry or cliff spots, but did hit up as many of its black and blue routes as we could squeeze into a day. The powder was amazing – and exhausting – but I kept going because the skiing was just that good. I even survived an accidental mogul route!
With good powder comes not only great skiing, but also great snowmobiling! We set aside half of a day for a tour through Togwotee Pass with Teton Tour Company; the drive in their shuttle is about an hour each way from Jackson, but we spent just the right amount of time on the trails. Most were wide and easy to navigate, though our guide also let us go off the trail in designated areas. My dad and brother loved that, but I’m not one to ride around in circles. Whether you prefer trail rides or plowing fresh powder, though, you’re sure to have a great experience here! I can’t seem to find our exact tour on their website anymore, but there are a few other awesome-looking excursions.
A free activity that you’ll definitely want to make time for is a drive through the National Elk Refuge. It’s a beautiful 3.5-mile scenic drive through the mountains that, sure enough, are separated by valleys of elk. Early spring is actually the perfect time to make this drive, as the elk move up to higher elevations once the weather warms up to feed on meadow plants and seek shelter in the forest.
Dining: Cutty's Bar and Grill, Calico Restaurant
If you don’t already know, I’m a sucker for classic American pub food and a good (veggie) burger. Cutty’s Bar and Grill in Jackson was everything my stomach desired! They are known for their Philly cheesesteaks, though that was obviously not my pick. I still dream about my burger over a year later and I loved that all the tables were covered with maps!
When traveling, I always try to recall whether I know anyone living in the place I’m visiting so I can not only set aside time to catch up with them, but also to see if they have any local recommendations. One of my high school friends is actually an outdoor educator and ski instructor in Jackson and suggested we meet up at Calico Restaurant in Wilson! This is a more upscale and expensive place, but is definitely a great option if you’re looking for good Italian food. I ordered pasta, but heard that their pizza is great as well!
Was it a little more fancy and expensive than our budget was hoping for? Okay, yes, but living the condo life for two days made this whole trip feel even more like a dream. Our rental at The Aspens was so cozy and had the cutest decor! It was in a beautiful little village with incredible mountain views and frequent moose sightings. I loved hanging out there and definitely recommend a condo stay for ski vacations in general, since every place has its own personal touch and you literally get to live in a neighborhood full of ski junkies! It’s a vibe for sure.