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The best way to see Jackson Hole in a day is to concentrate your energies on the town of Jackson and the southern part of Grand Teton National Park. Start with a quick breakfast — a fresh bagel and coffee — at the locals’ favorite Pearl Street Bagels in downtown Jackson before driving north to Kelly. You’re headed to this tiny town inside Grand Teton National Park to look for bison; so make it your mission to keep your eyes peeled. If the ground’s covered with snow, you can save the drive to Kelly — you won’t see any bison out there because they’ve migrated to lower elevations — and instead take a sleigh ride into the National Elk Refuge, where thousands of elk winter alongside a few hundred buffalo.
After you’ve seen a few members of the country’s largest herd of free roaming buffalo, head for the southern entrance to Grand Teton National Park. Just before the entrance station, make sure to stop at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. It’ll give you a better idea of what you want to see inside the park along with some of the history and also a close look at the lives of some of the animals that live in the park. If it’s summer, see if there’s a scenic float trip down the Snake River that has room for you. During the winter, ask the Visitor Center if there’s a free ranger-led snowshoe tour heading out.
If you want to explore a bit of the park on your own, head towards the Bradley and Taggart Lakes Trailhead, three miles up the road from the southern entrance station. Trails circle the lakes year round. In the winter, the road is closed beyond this trailhead/parking area. Unusual for the Tetons, the trails here are gently rolling rather than steep climbs.
After you’ve finished in the park, head back towards Jackson. If you didn’t stop at the National Museum of Wildlife Art to catch the winter sleigh ride, stop on your way back into town.
If it’s summer, your goal is to make it back to town by 6 p.m. The Jackson Hole Shootout Gang has been pitting good against bad six evenings a week between Memorial Day and Labor Day for nearly 60 years, making it the longest running gunfight in the country. The script changes a little every year, but you can bet there will be a damsel in distress, an escaped outlaw, a few cheesy stunts and more than a little shooting (blanks, of course).
From the Shootout, walk across the Square to the Million Dollar Cowboy Saloon, where the bar stools are topped with saddles and real cowboys mingle with tourists. There’s a steakhouse in the basement, but just go for a drink in the bar. You’ve got dinner reservations at Couloir restaurant out in Teton Village. At 9,065 feet at the top of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s gondola, Couloir’s views are as tasty as the food.