The Tetons are beautiful, well, pretty much everyday, all day long. They’re beautiful at night, under the glimmering light cast by a full moon. They’re beautiful during afternoon thunderstorms, with their forested midsections hidden behind clouds and, higher up, the occasional summit poking through. And they're obviously beautiful on clear days when the sky provides a stunning blue backdrop. It’s almost impossible to find a time when these mountains are anything but spectacular, but sunsets provide a special kind of beauty that is truly something else. Here are 5 of the best ways to enjoy an unforgettable sunset in Jackson Hole.
1. Look both ways
11,000-feet up Garnet Canyon in Grand Teton National Park, the Lower Saddle is a low point between the Grand and Middle Tetons. Those two peaks loom up to the north and south, but both the east and west views are wide open. Look west and you can watch the sun set behind Idaho’s Big Hole Mountains. Look east, both out to the Gros Ventre Range and also down to the valley that is Jackson Hole, and everything is bathed in a rosy light. Pay attention to the shadows on the valley floor; you don’t even have to look that closely to see that there's a profile of the entire Teton range.
2. Urban views, or not
Crystal Butte , in the Gros Ventre Wilderness, just above downtown Jackson, gives you the option of two very different sunset views. Climb about 1,300 feet up, to the point at which you reach the ridge, and you’re rewarded with a bird’s eye view of downtown Jackson. There are several rocks right here that make perfect perches for sitting and watching as the town’s lights. You can even see the neon lights of The Million Dollar Cowboy bar from here. Continue up this ridge for another ¼- to 1/2 –mile and marvel at how town disappears and the Tetons and National Elk Refuge appear. Again, there are conveniently placed rocks and downed trees that make for good sitting spots. Since the trek down Crystal Butte is quite steep, you do not want to forget your headlamp for this excursion.
3. With a cocktail in hand
Want a relaxing sunset? Dornan’s , in the tiny hamlet of Moose at Grand Teton National Park’s southern entrance, is the place. If you don’t have kids in tow, order food at the downstairs counter and a drink at the downstairs bar, and then head for the open-air roof deck. If it’s a quiet crowd up on the deck, you can hear the Snake River flowing past a couple of hundred feet away as you reach out and seemingly touch the Tetons.
If you’ve got under-21s with you, order your food and drinks and then grab a downstairs table just inside the northwest-facing door. The windows here are as expansive as they get and, if you want to walk outside and take photos, there’s a deck just outside the door.
4. From the comfort of your car-camping site
It doesn’t matter whether you snag a camping spot at the base of Shadow Mountain just outside the eastern boundary of Grand Teton National Park or higher up. Pretty much all of the campsites (one or two excepted) on this gentle mountain have fabulous views to the west. If you don’t feel like spending the night out, this is also a spot you can make a sunset-specific visit. It’s only about a 45-minute drive from downtown Jackson. Drive as far north on the dirt road along the mountain’s base as you care to, grab a camp chair out of the trunk or back seat or just sit on the hood of your car and chill. After the sun’s done its thing, head back into town, maybe for a pint and a pizza at the Brew Pub .
5. Summit sunset
RootsRated has called Sleeping Indian the best hike in Jackson Hole . Now we’re telling you that hiking the 5.5-miles (one-way) to its 11,239-foot summit will deliver a spectacular sunset view. The tallest peak around for some distance, the Indian is in the Gros Ventre Range on the eastern side of Jackson Hole. This means you can look west from its summit and watch the sun dip and then disappear behind the Tetons. You can also look in every other direction and have unimpeded views. The sun’s final rays of the day illuminating the Red Hills , toward the east, is a particularly lovely sight.
Finding the trail back into the forest from the Indian’s open belly can be difficult in the dark, even with a headlamp to guide you. But it is possible. Why not bring a bivy bag and spend the night. The summit is flat and grassy and immensely suited to sleeping when the weather forecast is right. Oh, and come morning, you’re at one of the best spots in the valley for catching a sunrise....