Easy access: Jackson's frontcountry trails
With more than 700 miles of readily accessible trails, Jackson has something for everyone.
By Miller N. Resor, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
June 13, 2012
Bridger-Teton National Forest is often overshadowed nationally by its two celebrity brothers to the north, but those who live in the valley know just how much the second-largest national forest in the lower 48 has to offer.
Stretching from the southern border of Yellowstone National Park and eastern border of Grand Teton National Park all the way to the southern tip of the Wind River and Wyoming ranges, Bridger-Teton encompasses 3.4 million acres.
The entire area has more than 2,000 miles of hiking trails with 700 miles in the immediate vicinity of Jackson.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Teton Pass, Munger Mountain and the greater Snow King area together comprise only a fraction of the miles of trail in the Jackson Ranger District, and yet these four hubs offer a maze of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails that are literally in valley residents’ backyards.
The immediate access these trail systems provide have some calling it the frontcountry.
Not only are these trails a gift to all who live around them, they are a unique attraction to people visiting the area.
“We know that people come to Jackson and live in Jackson because of the public land value,” said Linda Merigliano, the recreation, wilderness and trails program manager for Bridger- Teton National Forest.
The trails are overseen by a consortium of groups that are constantly maintaining old paths and advocating for new ones. The vision and hard work of these groups has turned Jackson into one of the premier trail destinations in the United States.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
A trail from the top of the tram to the top of the gondola is the newest addition in an ever-growing network of hiking trails at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
The Cirque Trail winds down the northeast ridge of Rendezvous Bowl, dips into Tensleep, traverses the Cirque and then drops down to the gondola at the base of the Headwall. Parts of the trail are still covered by snow, but with some glissading, the route is already passable.
When the gondola begins running June 22, the trail will take a little more than an hour and be just the right amount of exercise before hitting happy hour on the deck of Couloir.
Resort pass holders can ride the tram for free. Valley residents are free until June 15 and can receive half-off tram tickets all summer long with proof of residency.
The tram also provides quick access to Grand Teton National Park’s southern region.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s lift- accessed mountain bike park, designed by Gravity Logic, opens June 16.
Teton Pass offers 55 miles of the most accessible trails in the valley.
From Wilson, downhill mountain bikers shuttle to the top of Teton Pass or the Ski Lake trailhead, giving adrenaline junkies immediate access to thousands of feet of vertical drop.
The Old Pass Road and Phillip’s Canyon trailheads offer excellent access to cross-country biking, hiking and horseback riding.
The Teton Freedom Riders have been developing and maintaining trails in the Bridger-Teton National Forest for almost a decade. Their work on Teton Pass has added a number of new trails to the area over the past few years, including the Phillip’s Ridge and Fuzzy Bunny trails.
Greater Snow King Area
Traversing the side of Snow King from west Jackson to beyond the town’s eastern-most regions are 65 miles of well-developed trails that experience a flurry of activity during the town’s snowless months.
With trails for hiking, running, biking and horseback riding, the area is a prime example of frontcountry.
“The greater Snow King area offers a world-class system of multiuse singletrack trail easily accessible from downtown Jackson, where residents and visitors can access the backcountry from their home, work or hotel without having to drive,” said Mike Welch, the executive director of Friends of Pathways. “Being able to experience our public lands and wild places is what creates a deep connection to our environment and creates an ethic of stewardship in our community.”
The most far flung of Jackson’s readily accessible trail systems, Munger Mountain provides another 18 miles of biking, hiking and horseback riding.
Local volunteers have cleared most the area’s trails of trees brought down over the winter.
Munger Mountain is unique in this group because the area is open to dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles starting July 1.