When to visit Jackson Hole & Togwotee Pass area is a question best answered by asking yourself what you like to do. Winter and summer are the two opposite poles of life in Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks, as well as surrounding areas.
In winter Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Bridger-Teton, Togwotee Pass, and Jackson Hole each have a magic all its own. Snow-covered landscapes, frosty trees, and steamy geysers create a wondrous landscape. Yellowstone’s geyser-fed rivers remain unfrozen, creating a natural winter refuge for thousands of waterfowl, including majestic trumpeter swans. Snowmobilers and cross-country skiers explore the millions of acres of public lands, while nearby downhill ski resorts give visitors a variety of thrills and challenges.
Annual snow accumulations in Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks can range as high as 400 inches at 10,000 feet to over 200 inches on the valley floor. These are just a few of the reasons why people from all over the world seek out our “backyard” for their wintertime recreation.
Spring is snowmelt season. Temperatures and weather conditions waver between warm and summery to cool and wintry. Until mid-May when the highways into Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks open, this is a quiet time of the year. Rivers begin to fill with snow runoff from the higher peaks (great for whitewater enthusiasts). In the valley, wildflowers begin to dot the landscape. Trout are hungry, flowers poke through the snow, birds return from winter habitats. By Memorial Day, temperatures have usually improved and winter is but a distant memory.
Summer is the time of the year when people in Yellowstone & Grand Teton country spend even more time out of doors than usual. Rivers run full and fast, then later slow and clear. Trails into the mountains open. Lake temperatures rise to a level where the brave can swim or water-ski. The length of the day expands to help us all fit in more summer activities such as hiking, biking, camping, kayaking, climbing, fishing, golfing, or whatever summertime pursuit we prefer. The weather usually settles into a delightful pattern of dry, mild days and evenings just cool enough for a pleasant night's sleep.
To escape the hubbub, autumn in Yellowstone & Grand Teton is the right time to visit. Hunting season attracts sportsmen of a different sort on the periphery of Yellowstone, and locals, who have been working double shifts all summer long, now have time to unwind and chat. Fall has increasingly become a time of visitation as many people become aware of the consistent and agreeable weather usually found during September and much of October. The end of October brings the season to an end when Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks close to automobile traffic and the valley gradually slips away to winter as the snow level descends to the valley floor.
Changeable is the buzzword for weather in Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks, as well as Jackson Hole. One minute you could be walking down a trail in the bright sunshine and the next minute be caught in a storm. But don't get nervous… just be prepared!
In the Summer
Packing a number of layers that you can add and remove as the weather changes is the best way to ensure you'll be comfortable. A wind and waterproof layer, especially for longer hikes, is always recommended. Except for the hottest of days, a layer of fleece or a sweater and long underwear is a welcome bonus if temperatures should begin to drop unexpectedly.
A dry shirt or layer of polypropylene can be handy if you work up a sweat and run into a headwind. A hat with a brim and sunglasses are a must for avoiding sunburn and the glare of the sun. (The radiant strength of sunlight is greater at higher elevations than at sea level.)
A good pair of waterproof, broken-in boots can be the difference between feet ready to go all day and feet lumpy with blisters. Summer days are usually warm and sunny; so don't forget the shorts too.
In the Winter
The same approach to dressing applies in the winter, only more so. Thicker and additional layers of fleece, wool, or capilene underneath the critical wind and waterproof layer will help you ignore the frigid temperatures and have fun. If you're going to be perspiring avoid cotton, as it has very poor insulating abilities when moist.
- Warm, insulated boots
- Wool or polypropylene pullover
- Winter parka with a hood
- Sunglasses AND ski goggles
- Wool hat
- Neck gator
- Insulated mittens and gloves
- Face Mask, scarf, or bandana
- Insulated Gortex pants
- Wind/Waterpoof pants and jacket
- Thermal Long Underwear
- Wool/polypropylene socks
- Ski gators
- Small pack to take on your sled (for camera, water bottle, sunscreen, spare gloves, phone, binoculars, etc)
The rule of thumb is to wear what's comfortable. Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks are mostly informal, although you might want to wear a collared shirt at some of the fancier dining rooms in the park.
Health & Safety
At 6,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level, the air in Yellowstone and Grand Teton Country can be thin and dry. The reduced amount of oxygen at these elevations can affect pre-existing medical conditions, especially respiratory problems. Symptoms like headaches, increased pulse, shortness of breath, higher blood pressure, nose bleeds, insomnia, loss of appetite, fatigue and even some swelling of the feet and ankles are occasionally experienced. Seek medical assistance if symptoms like these persist or become severe.
Most people adapt quickly to the altitude. However, lowlanders should take time to get acclimated. Instead of rushing up into the mountains for an ambitious hike on day one, relax and let the body adjust. Drink more water than you think you need. Dehydration is commonplace in Yellowstone because the relative humidity is much lower in the mountains than it is at sea level. Once you feel thirsty, it's too late: you're already dehydrated.
For people heading into the mountains, especially those who plan to sleep above 8,000 feet, mountain sickness can be an issue. Symptoms are the same as those listed above. They generally disappear within 48 hours with sufficient fluid intake and rest. If symptoms worsen, it is important to descend to a lower elevation immediately as it is possible - albeit unusual at this relatively low altitude - that one is experiencing the onset of High Altitude Cerebral Edema, an acute, life-threatening syndrome that has taken the lives of many high altitude climbers in the Himalayas.
Here is a list of useful links to help you with your travel plans:
- Jackson Hole Airport
- Jackson Hole Wikipedia
- Wyoming Travel Information Service
- Yellowstone National Park
- Grand Teton National Park
- Arctic Cat Snowmobiles
- Polaris Snowmobiles
- Ski-Doo Snowmobiles
- Yamaha Snowmobiles
- Specials & Packages
If you would like to suggest additional useful links, please contact us and we will be happy to consider your suggestion. Thanks - and we look forward to seeing you soon.