Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve: See Jackson’s nature unspoiled!
Do you like nature? Of course you do. You wouldn’t be in Jackson Hole if you didn’t, unless you’re just a connoisseur of stuff made out of elk antlers or something. At the Laurence Rockefeller Preserve, half an hour out of town, you can experience the outdoors the way Mother Nature intended: in peace and quiet, often devoid of the chatter of other visitors.
Located four miles south of Moose on Moose-Wilson Road, the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve is set aside for people like you to get into nature and find solitude and reflection free of congestion. The preserve admits only at a set amount of cars at one time, which means only a small faction of the masses usually present in the Jackson area during the bustling summer will be found there.
The road is closed to RVs and trailers and is unpaved for 1.5 miles. Parking is limited. Consider carpooling to alleviate congestion and reduce the impact on the environment. The preserve is car accessible from May 1 to October 31, and the center is open from late May through September.
Even the building is designed to enhance the peace and solitude of your visit, with its displays and its design working together to evoke a sense of harmony with nature. A team of professionals—including designers, writers, and even sound recordists—joined to create this 7,000-square-foot tribute to the area’s nature splendor. You’ll find a sort of poetry in the architecture, and you’ll also find literal poetry on the walls, a piece by conservation writer Terry Tempest Williams that flows across the walls.
Once the visitor center has got you hankering for some serious quality time with nature, what’s there to do? Hike along an 8-mile trail network and get breathtaking views of Phelps Lake, Death Canyon (don’t let the name fool you; it not really so bad), and the dramatic Teton peaks. If you get your kicks from fishing, get a Wyoming fishing license first (you can get one at Flat Creek Inn), and be sure to wash your fear using the wash station at the parking area to avoid spreading any aquatic nuisances—non-native species that mess up in the ecological stability of the area, like that weird guy you didn’t invite to the barbecue but who shows up anyway.
There isn’t any camping in the preserve, but there are three backcountry campsites on the north end of Phelps Lake. Just don’t park your car at the preserve overnight.
Feel free to explore the network of trails leading Phelps Lake through forests and aspen groves. The main Phelps Trail encircles the glassy blue waters of the lake. During the ice age, glaciers flowed down these canyons and carved depressions on the valley floor, which later filled up with water. On crisp summer days, nothing feels so good as taking a fear-defying jump off the jumping rock. You’ll know it when you see it. There’s no sign labeling it as the spot from which to take the plunge, but nature did a pretty good job of making it obvious. Nature’s cool like that.
You may see moose, mule deer, eagles, well, and many other types of birds. Watch out for bears—both black and grizzly bears. Humans have assigned those names, but bears aren’t much for labels; grizzlies can be brown or black, while black bears can be blonde, cinnamon, brown, or black. Ask a ranger for the details. No matter what color the bear, approaching it will not end well for you, so keep your distance. Keep going south along Moose-Wilson road to reach Teton Village for opportunities to view wildlife.
While you’re there, be sure to offer a silent thanks to the preserve’s namesake, Laurence S. Rockefeller, who gifted 1,106 acres of his family’s private ranch rand to the National Park Service. After the visitor’s center was completed, workers removed all roads, horse trails, and buildings from the preserve to return it to its previous unspoiled state—all for people like you to enjoy.
Find out more at the preserve’s website.