I’d been to Jackson Wyoming before but never as a cyclist. Jan and I passed through once on a visit to Montana and there was also a business trip a long time ago. It’s not the kind of place you easily forget. There’s the Teton Range, the town’s iconic square and the laid back, friendly Wyoming vibe. Knowing that it was only four hours from Ogden made a trip back here inevitable and this was the weekend we decided to come.
Late October is a good time to be in Jackson, at least from my perspective. The summer hordes are long gone and the skiers have not yet arrived. I’ve stumbled into other mountain towns this time of year and, truth be told, it’s just awesome to have these places to yourself and the locals. It’s easier to get into the restaurants you want to try and prices are a little lower. The stress of the high season is long gone and people are more inclined to open up to you since they have a little more time and the pace is more reasonable.
It’s also a great time to cycle, or at least it would have been were it not for an ill-timed Pacific system that dumped copious amounts of rain in town and snow on the surrounding mountains. That’s okay. I cycled anyway. Who wouldn’t?
The town of Jackson is in a valley known around the world as Jackson Hole. The Tetons lie about 10 miles to the north of town. Famed Jackson Hole ski area and Teton Village are to the northwest. The relatively unknown and under-appreciated Gros Venture wilderness is to the east and the Wind River Range is beyond that. The Snake River tumbles south through the valley before heading west into Idaho. This is a seriously beautiful place…the big leagues for people like me who are into this sort of thing.
So I got up Saturday morning to a cold, steady rain and headed north toward Grand Teton National Park. There’s a side path that runs along US Highway 191 from the northern edge of town to Moose Junction, approximately 10 miles north. It tucks under the highway there and enters the national park. Cyclists have to pay to get in, which is a real shame. It’s $15/person for just Grand Teton or $20 if you want access to Yellowstone, too. Although I would have loved to continue the additional 6 miles to Jenny Lake, it just wasn’t worth the freight on this day. I knew I would have to fight a biting, wet wind back into town and so I turned around at the pay station and headed for the barn.
When I got back, the rain had stopped and so I continued on. I was able to explore the town itself via a series of well marked bike lanes that take you just about everywhere you want to go. Jackson hired Alta Planning + Design to build out a bike network a few years ago and it’s delightful to cycle around town. Where dedicated lanes don’t exist, sharrows do. In fact, sharrows are everywhere and the prevalent 25 mph speed limits make it real easy to get around on a bike. I think it helps that Jackson is just not someplace you want to hurry through, even if you have other places to be. Motorists are generally courteous and take their time. That said, all bets are off in the summer when the roads are clogged with impatient city folk in their RVs. I know what that’s like.
But on this day, anyway, cycling here was pure bliss. I’ll be back. There are side paths that take cyclists from town to Teton Village and south to Hoback Junction with more under construction. You can find out more about these here. There are also miles and miles of isolated back roads that head into the wilderness replete with elk, moose, bear and even wolves. I’d like to explore these places and hope to have a chance to do so soon.