The days aren’t as long as they were in June and July, but August is just as hot. Fortunately, the water in Jackson Hole’s creeks, rivers and lakes is about as warm as it ever gets (which in some instances still only means 40 degrees or so). Why not check out a new spot while you cool off? Here are five of RootsRated’s favorite places to beat the summer heat in Jackson Hole.
1. Wyoming’s Caribbean
When you arrive at Blue Miner Lake , you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve been magically transported to some secret Caribbean lagoon. But then you’ll look up and see the towering cliffs of the east face of Sleeping Indian mountain two thousand feet above, and you’ll realize you’re still very much in Wyoming. As soon as you dip your toes into Blue Miner, you’ll also feel that you’re in Wyoming. Like most every body of water in the valley, Blue Miner Lake is meant for a quick dip, not a prolonged swim.
And as far as quick dips are concerned, Blue Miner is one of the prettiest around. As the water levels in the lake recede, black rock “islands” emerge, and wading or swimming out to one of them, clambering up, and taking a nap in the sun is a favorite thing to do for locals.
2. The Classic
Usually the Flat Creek floating season ends in late July. Since so much rain has fallen this August, however, Flat Creek, which runs through downtown Jackson, is still high enough so you can float down in a tube and not scrape bottom... much. Very much a creek and not a river, even in relatively high water, expect some obstacles on the bottom. Also at most all water levels there are drops in the creek. Other than that, this is a mostly beautiful, relaxed float only broken by several seconds of sheer terror. Make sure your beverages are battened down before you hit these drops, which are always visible for yards in advance.
For the longest possible float, put in at the Dairy Queen just north of town. Float all the way to Smith’s supermarket, at the south end of town. Grab a seat on the valley’s bus shuttle at Smith’s and it can take you back to your car. And don’t worry about looking silly boarding the public bus with your inner tube. Locals do it all the time.
3. Courage Required
When standing at the top of Phelps Lake Jump Rock , it feels like your 30-35 feet above Phelps Lake. In reality, the pinnacle of this granite boulder is much closer to 20 feet above the water. Still, we’ve always had to think twice about it—“it” being jumping—for a few seconds. All it takes is a few seconds of thought though and then you’re running off the boulder, launching into the air and neatly cannonballing into the obstacle-free water beneath. Getting out of the lake here does require a bit of scrambling up boulders, so wearing shoes of some sort is recommended.
4. Best Swimming Spot
We don’t think any natural body of water in this valley ever gets above 55-degrees, which is still quite brisk. String Lake is pretty much the warmest lake around. As one of the shallowest lakes in Jackson Hole, by August, it’s often warm enough to actually swim in. Not just hop in and out, but hop in and enjoy.
Since it’s easily accessible—you can drive right to String Lake—this lake is exceedingly popular with families and it's also a great picnic spot. If you plan enough in advance, there are several camping spots along its northwestern shore. These are among the most in-demand camping spots in Grand Teton National Park though, so don’t expect to get one if you haven’t made arrangements in advance. But don’t let that stop you; sometimes you might get lucky at the last minute. String Lake is also among the most popular places in the Grand Teton National Park for mellow canoeing, kayaking and SUP-ing.
5. Your Own Private Lake
Yes, Coyote Lake is a bit of a bushwhack, but it’s worth every scratch. One of the few lakes in Grand Teton National Park above 10,000 feet (10,201 feet, to be exact), Coyote Lake is hidden in the upper reaches of Open Canyon. Once leaving the trail from Open Canyon about 1,000 feet below where that trail crosses Mt. Hunt Divide, the bushwhacking is fairly easy. It’s mostly scrambling on scree fields; although the last section just below Coyote Lake requires walking up a steep, somewhat loose, dirt slope. A hassle yes, but the traverse totally primes you for the lake, and chances are, you'll probably have it all to yourself. Though the water is ridiculously cold and you'll probably only manage to stay in it for a few moments, a dip in Coyote Lake is a wonderfully rejuvenating and refreshing experience.