We don’t know if statistics back this up, but to locals, July seems like the busiest month in Jackson Hole. There can be lines of traffic stretching out to the north and west from the Town Square. The queue for the boat across Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park is several boats long. And then it’s a continuous stream of people plodding up to Inspiration Point on the lake’s western shore. Not to mention the parking lots of most every trailhead are packed. And good luck if you want to eat at a nice restaurant and didn’t make a reservation weeks ago.
But, all this being said, it is still possible to escape the craziness. In fact, it's pretty easy. And you don’t need to give up any outdoor activities, or even good food to do it. Locals love July’s long, hot days because they’ve figured out how to manage the area’s crowds. Here's how to squeeze out a multitude of Jackson's favorite activities in a very local way:
Climb 4,200-feet over 7.2 miles on this trail to the 10,450-foot summit of Rendezvous Mountain. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s policy is that if someone gets themselves to the top of Rendezvous, they get a free ride down. Since Jackson’s afternoons have been averaging 80-some degrees the past several weeks, do this run early in the morning. The first tram down leaves the top at 9:00 am. If you make it to the top by then, chances are you won’t have to share it with more than a couple of other people, and it could just be you and the tram operator.
This one-hour mountain bike ride covers most of the downhill trails built by the Teton Freedom Riders at the base of Teton Pass—Upper and Lower Jimmy’s Mom, Powerline Jumps, and Parallel. If the air off the giant rock right at the start of Upper Jimmy’s Mom intimidates you, know every single feature on all of these trails has a ride-around. Also know that, towards the end of the Hour of Power, when you’re on Parallel Trail, even the ride-arounds are pretty tricky. Think three-foot drops off roots. You can avoid Parallel by staying on Old Pass Road when you pop out onto it above Crater Lake from Powerline Jumps. If you need to refuel, Pearl Street Bagels at the base of the pass, in Wilson, does a great bagel and espresso. Just don’t ask them to toast your bagel.
There is no greater lazy summer activity than floating Flat Creek , which, of course isn’t that lazy when it’s interspersed with tiny moments of terror. Adrenaline and inner tubes aren’t usual partners, but with Flat Creek’s periodic drops and sharp turns, they are. Flat Creek winds its way through downtown Jackson allowing for floats of varying lengths. Almost everyone puts in at the Dairy Queen and takes out at Russ Garaman Park or Smith’s Supermarket. The park has a wonderful stretch of grass where you can further relax, and Smith’s Supermarket has a liquor store and a bakery that turns out one of the biggest apple fritters you've ever seen. You should be starting to feel a bit like a local now; maybe getting the urge to spew about how much you raged on the Hour of Power? Or fix the snag in your DriClime Windshirt with a piece of duct tape?
Surprisingly, locals were a little slow to catch on to the awesome-ness of The Deck at Couloir . No longer. Today they even know to bring their visiting family and friends. The best margarita in town with some of the best views? It's a no-brainer.
Most of our suggested activities for your July-like-a-local aren’t time sensitive, but if you want to take advantage of the Deck’s Happy Hour (5-6 p.m.), you need to be waiting in line at the bottom of the Bridger Gondola by 4:30. Any later and you’ll merely be one of dozens of sad people ringing The Deck’s perimeter forlornly looking on at all of the happy, seated and sated people drinking their discounted beers and $5 specialty cocktails and munching on gourmet sliders and tempura Portobello fries drizzled with the most addictive sauce in the universe. And you don’t want to be that person. That person won’t get a seat until well after 6.
Tourists go for Snow King . Locals do too, but for more of a social experience or squeezed-in workout than an awesome hike. When they want a short(ish) awesome hike close to town, they go for Crystal Butte . It’s substantially steeper than Snow King and there’s no option of taking a lift down, like at Snow King, but the trail up Crystal Butte is an actual trail, not a 12-foot wide service road. July is generally too late for the wildflower explosion that happens on Crystal’s lower flanks in May and June, but there could still be a few arrowleaf balsamroots and Indian paintbrush hanging on higher up. There’s no definitive turn-around point for Crystal Butte. About 1,400 vertical feet up, you get on a ridge where you have views to both west to the Tetons and east deeper into the Gros Ventres, and it's less than two miles from Town Square.
We’ve heard it called Blackflail Butte—with good reason, the “warm-ups” here are 5.10—but, for hard sport climbers Blacktail Butte is awesome. Hit it in the evening and you can climb while enjoying one of the best sunset views in the valley. If you can’t make it here in the evening, you’ll want to hit Blacktail in the morning. With little shade and the sun directly overhead for much of mid-day, it can get Yellowstone-geyser hot on these crags. That said, an hour of climbing in the full-on sun here would make a float down Flat Creek feel that much better! Also, your forearms might not be able to handle much more than an hour on this crimpy limestone. For those with the skills, WaterStreak (5.12b), Do the Right Thing (5.11a), Crack'n the Cherry (5.11a), Wild at Heart (5.11b), and Graceland (5.11b/c) are killer.
Congratulations. Now you just have to keep this level of activity up for an entire summer and you’ll be a true J-Holer.