Fell into Jackson Hole for a Week of Fun

Jackson Hole
Mormon Row

When I was a kid I wanted to be a cowboy so badly that I wore saddle shoes until high school thinking they had something to do with horses and the Wild West. Last July 4th, I fell into Jackson Hole and landed in the cowboy country of my childhood dreams.

The name hole, which means valley, refers to a sumptuous valley 48 miles long and between 8 and 15 miles wide, surrounded by spectacular mountain ranges. The area in the northwest corner of Wyoming is known as “the last and best of the Old West.” And mercy be, I felt like cowgirl just being here.

Jackson Hole
Downtown Jackson Hole

Jackson, settled in 1894, was established when homesteaders staked out land and struggled to eek out a living in the rugged land. The town, retaining its old charm in wooden boardwalks along Western store fronts, boasts of 80 different eateries, bi-weekly rodeos, chuck wagon shows, shoot outs and a Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, but the land itself is the biggest draw.

Situated at the gateway to Yellowstone and Grand Teton Parks the local population of 23,000 expands during summer and winter ski season to accommodate 4 million visitors every year.

If you are a cowgirl at heart like me, you will want to check out the not so touristy spots that reveal the history of west like Mormon Row, where Mormons established homesteads in the late 1800s known as Gros Ventre.

Jackson Hole
Menor’s general store

Just inside Grand Teton park, you can visit Menor’s Ferry, the area homesteaded by Bill Menor in 1892-94. Menor ran a river ferry crossing the Snake River near the present-day Moose, Wyoming. You can visit the restored home, barn, store, and ice sheds. Stepping into the white washed log store with artifacts from the turn of the century like sarsaparilla bottles make you feel like you are stepping into the past century.

Jackson Hole
inside the Historical Society Museum

Another overlooked spot may be The Historical Society Museum in Jackson Hole, which shows small displays of artifacts from Jenny Leigh homesteaders’ settlers’ life and details of Native American history.

No trip to the Wild West would be complete without a Wrangler show and Bar J Chuckwagon supper show serves up a real treat re enacting the cattle drive chuck wagon tents of yesteryear. Bar J cowboys, who have performed nationwide, serenade guests and tell jokes while you dine on simple, wholesome fare – steaks, BBQ chicken and beef, baked potato, apple sauce, biscuit and sheet cake washed down with coffee or lemonade. Walking through the chow line while cowboys slap a steak on your tin tray makes you feel like you are dining at a cowboy camp.

Jackson Hole
Bar J cowboys performing

But by far the greatest drawing point is the park itself.

The true beauty of the land can be best seen by foot on the hundreds of miles of park trails that lope up and down and alongside the Grand Tetons.

So saddle up with me and hit the trail. Join me next week for a hike where we met up face to face with a bear and live to tell.


Comments

  1. Barbara Carlson

    Pat, I loved your travelogue. I haven’t been to Jackson Hole in Years…now I want to go back! I wore saddle shoes, too but it was because Mom didn’t give me a choice…if only she had told me I could be a cow girl I wouldn’t have minded so much!

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Thanks Barb. I, too, would love to go back to Wyoming. I am not so sure saddle shoes had anything to do with cowboys, but in my child’s mind saddle reminded me of horse, which made me think rodeo, Wild West and cowgirls.

  2. Kathleen Pooler

    Oh my gosh, Pat. Such a fun journey you have created! And saddle shoes used to be the rage but I never connected it with cowgirls. Come to think of it, I wanted to be Annie Oakley😊

  3. Randy Duncan

    Pat, reading your blog….brings back memories of the time I spent in Laramie, WY for 2 yrs., in radio. I had a great time…if the stations hadn’t gone completely automated, who knows,……..

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Glad my blog brought back happy memories. I wouldn’t mind a stint in Laramie for a few years. Bet you have some of your own Wild West stories to share.

  4. Rachael Jefferson-Buchanan

    Looks as though you are having way too much fun out there in cowboy land! 😁 Having watched Saturday morning cowboy movies throughout my childhood (a twin brother would make a girl do that), I appreciate your personal insights and photos. Would love to try some of the ‘real deal’ line dancing in that bar! Looking forward to the bear encounter story next week 😳 xxx

  5. Jean

    We had a great family trip there about 10 years ago. It’s one that we still talk about!! So many beautiful places to see and experience.

  6. Tina Quick

    Loved being in cowboy country and especially the Bar J Wranglers. So happy to have shared that part with you and your family. I also have longed to be a cowgirl. I’ve often thought if I could go back in time, I would pick the wild west days. Glad you all had so much fun out there.

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Oh we had a blast and were so happy to be included in the wedding festivities. Just think if we lived back then we could be Bonnie and Clydetta…only we would wear white hats and ride around saving settlers from the bad guys.

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