Jackson Hole's setting is incredibly special. The granite peaks surrounding the town of Jackson hide all kinds of gems to hike to. There are waterfalls, fields of wildflowers, crystal-clear alpine lakes, white-sand beaches, and, best of all, steamy mineral hot springs where you can soak your worries away. Is there anything better for the soul than a breathtaking hike followed by a rejuvenating dip in a natural hot spring? We think not.
If lush, wildflower-studded greenery below sweeping mountain vistas is your thing, then plan a hike along the Alaska Basin Trail. Most of it is within the Jedediah Smith Wilderness unit of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, so it's a bit more off-the-beaten-track than hikes in Grand Teton, but still offers incredible mountain views. The whole thing, round trip, is about 16 miles, but even hiking a portion, like the earlier miles in the meadows of the Basin, provides incredible scenery. Those who continue all the way to the Basin Lakes will be rewarded with complete alpine lake serenity. Mirror Lake in particular is a stunner.
One of the most popular hot springs in the Jackson Hole area is Granite Hot Springs. This developed hot spring is located in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, and is attached to a 51-site, first-come, first-serve campground. Though there's a fee to soak, the huge concrete pool which was built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) is kept impeccably clean, and the scenery around the spring remains untouched. The water temperature is around 90-100 degrees, making it a luxurious place for a soak. It's open in the summer and in winter, when it's only accessible by snowmobile (rentals or tours), dog sled tour, and cross country ski. Pro tip: Bring towels and cash.
Grand Teton's glacial alpine lakes are some of its most precious gems. The Leigh Lake Trail connects three of them: String, Leigh, and Trapper. It's about six miles long, starting near String Lake and following the shore of Leigh Lake at the base of Mount Moran until it ends near Trapper and Bear Paw Lakes. This trail is known for being flat in a park filled with mountain hikes, and it's one trail that's less likely to be made impassable by snow in the spring and early summer. You can also find backcountry campsites along the trail, if you're so inclined.
While Granite Hot Springs is developed, Astoria Hot Springs is natural. It's right along the stunning Snake River, and the views it offers of the Snake River Canyon are gorgeous. Since it's a natural spring, it might take a minute to find. Look for the red Astoria bridge, park at the boat launch, and follow the scent of sulfur upstream to the slightly built-up rock pools. These springs are on the hot side, so test the temperature of the water before hopping in. The best time to visit is the late spring through the summer, as the water in the river is lower, making the soak a calmer experience.
Cascade Canyon is ten miles of pure Teton beauty. Start with a boat ride to the west side of Jenny Lake, and then after hiking to the top of Hidden Falls, you can take a moment to climb Inspiration Point, which offers an amazing panoramic view of Jenny Lake. Then the trail enters the canyon. The crystal-clear, snow-and-glacier-fed Cascade Creek flows down the center of the canyon, lined on either side by towering granite peaks. The trail passes by pebble beaches and through stands of evergreen forest, creating a storybook setting. With the boat ride, the hike is about nine or ten miles, ideal for a day hike.
Deep within Yellowstone National Park is one of the most special hot springs in Wyoming. Dunanda Falls is a 150-foot waterfall with hot spring-fed pools at its base. Campsite 9A3 is a backcountry campground that's close to the falls. The hike is about 16 miles round trip, so planning a night at the campground leaves more time to enjoy the trail and the falls. To reach this wonderland, start at the Belcher Ranger Station (where you can inquire about backcountry camping fees if you want to camp) and take the trail to Belcher Meadows. You'll find hot spring pools along the stream, above the falls as well as below them. The trail takes hikers to the top of Dunanda Falls, so take your time and be careful as you descend to its base to reach the springs there.
One of the most popular hikes in Jackson Hole is right in the center of the town of Jackson. The Snow King Mountain Summit Trail is 1.8 miles round-trip, but ascends a heart-pumping 1,571 vertical feet, making it good exercise. There's a whole trail system on the mountain that's great for trail running and mountain biking to stretch out your workout. Whichever way you get to the top, the views of the Tetons, the Elk Refuge and the town of Jackson are absolutely epic. It's free to hike the trail up, but when the chairlift is running, you can pay $5 to take it back down.
The wilderness around Jackson Hole provides a perfect place to escape into nature. Waterfalls, alpine lakes, wildflower meadows, and relaxing geothermal hot springs wait to be discovered along scenic trails, making this the ultimate hiking and hot springs destination.
Banner Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Hidden in a valley under the shadow of the Tetons is Jackson Hole - a mountain town unlike anything else. Known as the birthplace of the world's first national park and the "crucible of conservation," Jackson Hole is a mecca for those hungry to escape and get back to something real and wild.