Mud Season Madness in Jackson Hole

No cars to get in the way on an early spring ride in Grand Teton National Park
No cars to get in the way on an early spring ride in Grand Teton National Park Shea
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Swarms of Jackson Hole residents leave town for “mud season” as soon as Jackson Hole Mountain Resort closes in early April. But that doesn't mean all the good outdoor activities dry up this time of year.

“Mud season” is the in-between season when the high country trails are still snowed in, and many of the lowland ones are muddy and slushy with melting snow. It's not quite time for summer sports yet and the skiing isn't the best either. Many residents leave town for a spell on a Mexican beach or a trip to mountain bike in the red-rock country of southern Utah. It's the antithesis of tourist season, as you can tell by all the shuttered restaurants and hotels. But that doesn't mean it's not a great time to explore the outdoors in Jackson. Plenty of adventure awaits before summer fun begins.

Riding on the Teton Park Road in early spring (before cars are allowed on the road) is a favorite springtime activity.
Riding on the Teton Park Road in early spring (before cars are allowed on the road) is a favorite springtime activity. Shea

Road bikers and other non-motorized traffic enjoy full use of Grand Teton National Park's road during the spring. From the time the road thaws out until May 1 , the first date cars are allowed to drive the road, it's a free-for-all for non-motorized users. Bring your bike, unicycle, skateboard, or any other non-motorized contraption you can find and enjoy using the full road without worrying about getting beaned by the extra-wide mirrors on the rental RVs that take over the road come summertime.

Snowdrifts double as bike parking during the spring season.
Snowdrifts double as bike parking during the spring season. Shea

Mud season is road biking season in the valley. While muddy trails are bad news for mountain bikes, as the bikes can leave deep, damaging ruts in their wake, the detailed network of pathways around town and in outlying areas offers ample opportunities to get out and bike on pavement.

Biking from town to Grand Teton National Park on the pathway along the National Elk Refuge (stretching from town up to Gros Ventre Junction) is a favorite locals' ride once the pathway opens for the season on May 1. It is closed from November 1 to April 30 to protect the animals that spend winter on the refuge.

Mud season also offers opportunities to see the valley with just your own two feet—no need for a bike. Lowland hiking begins this time of year. The high country trails, such as the Teton Crest Trail, are still under feet of snow, but some lowland hiking trails start to clear out during mud season. It is called “mud season” for a reason, though, so be prepared for ice, slush, puddles, and mud if you head out. Be aware of trail conditions and avoid deep, wet mud since footsteps sink in, damaging the trail and leaving deep, hazardous holes behind.

Spring is a great time for wildlife-watching in Jackson Hole.
Spring is a great time for wildlife-watching in Jackson Hole. USFWS Mountain-Prairie

Spring is also prime time for wildlife watching, as bears emerge from their winter rest, and various other animals head down to the lowlands to find food amid the melting snows. Keep a sharp eye out for bears and carry bear spray as you explore these areas. Hiking is a favorite way to get out and about and have a chance of peeping a local animal, and Grand Teton National Park is a good place to start.

Grand Teton National Park's popular Bradley and Taggart Lakes trails begins right where the park road closes to motorized vehicles (until it opens up again on May 1). The trails offer 3-6-mile options. In town, Cache Creek offers a trail network packed with options as part of the Greater Snow King Trail System.

Of course, the melting snows also mean whitewater rafting season is just around the corner. Most outfitters begin their trips in mid-May, but some experienced locals ride the local whitewater ahead of those crowds. Stay tuned for our roundup of local whitewater paddling experiences.

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