(for locals and not-so-locals)
By Amelia Mayer
Jackson is not only a playground for elite athletes. It also offers a multitude of family-friendly adventure opportunities. The hardest part, as most parents know, is just getting out the door. In our family, if we don’t have a solid adventure plan the day before, we waste our day at home. That said, all adventures don’t have to be an epic. Sometimes the smallest ones end up being the most meaningful.
R (Rendezvous) Park Half- or Full-Day Adventure
Visit R Park on a hot day to play in the water or lounge lakeside on the beach, rubbing shoulders with other families. Pack beach toys, floaties, and SUPs for hours of fun in the water. You can also embark on the short hiking trails along the lake, or saunter down the path and go fishing. Head to the park on Trout Tuesdays for bilingual fishing instruction, or celebrate the longest day of the year at the park’s Solstice Celebration, complete with music, food trucks, and a junior ranger program. Since the summer sun is intense in the mountains, plan on claiming shade early or bring your own tent or umbrella to create it. rpark.org
Snow King Full-Day Adventure
Snow King caters to kids of all ages and ability levels with many different activities within a close perimeter. Start your morning by hiking up the mountain on the well-marked route (M&Ms in hand to encourage little hikers up the fairly steep grade). This road is a gem, as you can quickly get in some great views and then turn around whenever the kids get weary. After you’re done, ride the Alpine Slide or the Cowboy Coaster (adults will dig this, too). Older kids will love the Treetop Adventure Park where they can harness up and clip into a ropes course high above in the trees. Round off your visit with the Amaze’n Maze and putt-putt golf. snowkingmountain.com
Mike Yokel Park Half-Day Adventure
Mike Yokel Park is our family’s favorite destination because of its shade trees and covered picnic areas. Plus, it has an irrigation ditch running right through it. Pack along a bag of recycled materials for a STEAM-inspired boat-building project, then race your creations down the ditch. The playground here has challenging climbing structures for older kids and easier routes for younger ones. And while no bike paths lead directly to this park, it’s an easy jaunt from Snow King on foot or bike (just watch out for traffic).
Make sure to go early in the summer, as the water flow subsides, and sometime ceases, late in the season. And pack out what you pack in—boats and all. tetonwyo.org/facilities/facility/details/Mike-Yokel-Park-17
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Half- or Full-Day Adventure
Teton Village is bursting with activity each summer, and many of the festivities are free.
If you’re feeling ambitious, take a hike up the mountain. Then head back down to the Pop Jets in the Village Commons to cool everyone off. This splash pad is located right next to a fantastic playground, complete with a shaded area for picnicking and snacks.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s sprawling Grand Adventure Park will test the skills of kids and adults alike with a ropes course, a climbing wall, and a bungee trampoline. A day pass gives you access to unlimited gondola rides, and you can access hiking trails of varying lengths. If you don’t want to spring for the pass, gondola rides are free after 4:00 p.m. And mountain biking families can use the Teewinot Lift for only $10 during Friday Night Bikes. jacksonhole.com
National Museum of Wildlife Art Half-Day Adventure
Check out the National Museum of Wildlife Art—both inside and out. Start by walking the 3/4-mile sculpture trail before heading inside. The trail runs north to south, stretching along the bluff and overlooking the National Elk Refuge. See the museum’s calendar for a schedule of live music, theater, and yoga held trailside throughout the summer months.
The Children’s Discover Gallery is a great place to let kids safely explore and a good rainy-day adventure, too. This area includes a hands-on artist’s studio, life-size diorama, animal costumes (our kids’ favorite), a reading nook, and a puppet theater. Splurge for lunch-with-a-view at Palate or pack a picnic for your wiggly kids and eat outside by the sculptures. wildlifeart.org
How to fit it all in
- Get ready to go the night before, then plan the active part of the adventure early in the day. Following a hike, treat the kids to breakfast or lunch, using this as a bribe for those less enthusiastic. (We love pastries from the Bunnery or Persephone, or burritos from D.O.G.)
- Adventure while the kids nap. Pack up the stroller or bike trailer for an on-the-go nap. Fresh-air naps are the best and you can sneak in some quiet time for yourself while they’re at it.
- Go after dinner. Summer days are long here, and places are less crowded at night. Plus, end-of-day activities help kids sleep better. The Cowboy Coaster and Alpine Slide at Snow King stay open until 9:00 p.m. in the summer.
- Double (or triple) up! Plan an active adventure in the morning, go sightseeing in the middle of the day, and then enjoy a ride or mini-golf late in the afternoon.
- Be flexible. The beauty of microadventures is that you can embark on one with little notice or planning. Adjust your schedule to allow for weather, crowds, and family moods.