There are still places in the US where the buffalo roam. Where an afternoon ramble is guaranteed to include ample views of grazing elk and, with a little luck, eagles soaring overhead. Where a chorus of frogs is the soundtrack to every sunset and the mountain whitefish dart past during your afternoon dip.
In terms of vacation time to wildlife viewing, it’s hard to beat the Grand Tetons. It’s an unchallenged champion when it comes to best places for wildlife viewing in the US. Standing under its broad skyline with the commanding mountains standing guard nearby and the grassy valley floor underfoot, ‘home on the range’ loses any trace of corniness and instead becomes an anthem that feels all your own. The beauty is breathtaking. The closeness to wild things is both rooting and unsettling.
Now, getting back to nature means different things for different people. For some it’s setting off with a compass, curiosity and not much more in terms of creature comforts. For others, it’s loading up the Rover and setting the GPS for the reserve.
$$$$ – Luxury
Four Seasons Jackson Hole
The Four Seasons is the global franchise for families who like their adventures to come with 800 count thread sheets. Families also love the Seasons for their spacious rooms—suites and residences take up a major portion of the hotel and even the one-bedroom rooms include a relaxed sitting area so families have a little room to stretch out. Childproofed rooms can be reserved upon request and nanny and babysitting services easily arranged.
When you’re ready to pry yourself from the many creature comforts of the resort, you can book a luxury wildlife safari led by one of the hotel’s in-house naturalists. The four-hour ‘safaris’ take families out into the park for an afternoon of sightseeing and wildlife spotting (through Swarovski spotting scopes). Gourmet lunch included. Read more on the FS safaris here.
$$$ – Mid-Priced
R Lazy S Dude Ranch
This lovely ranch raises many questions: Is it a ranch pretending to be a resort? Or a resort pretending to be a ranch? Was it named by the Tappet brothers, Click and Clack? One item however, is absolutely certain—it’s a fantastic family base for exploring the Tetons.
The R Lazy S boasts a fine stable of over 75 horses and rides for all abilities every morning and afternoon (plus all day rides). But many check in without any interest in getting in the saddle. They love R Lazy S for the comfortable cabins, spot-on location and welcoming staff. Cabins are booked by the week and include all meals. Dining varies from sit-downs to buffets to cookouts, and parents are guaranteed at least one uninterrupted meal. At the dinner hour, guests meet in the main lodge for a pre-dinner glass of wine, then adults head off to their dining room and kids into theirs.
Jenny Lake Campground
This popular tent-only campsite is first-come, first serve so arrive early to get a spot. There are restrooms and up-close and personal views of the mountains, but no showers.
Colter Bay Village
For those who still want to camp but not quite so primitively, there’s Colter Bay Village. It’s by no means any sort of glampsite, but you can rent tent cabins and there are coin laundromats.
Pony Express Motel
Located in Jackson Hole, the Pony Express Motel is a solid budget option. Rooms are clean and extremely reasonably priced, and that’s how the owners like it. The Pony Express isn’t a neglected but lucrative endeavor for it’s owners; their mission is to provide the best on a budget, and it shows. Many rooms feature kitchenettes, and even the smallest family room lodging option includes an in-room microwave.