The Five Closest National Parks to Jackson Hole: Part Two
Last week we covered the first five closest national parks near Jackson Hole—or within a day’s drive, at least. We started with the two nearest parks and ranged a little further out, taking a virtual road trip to some of the most beautiful places the West has to offer. Today we’ll continue our journey with the next five destinations. Buckle up, folks.
Distance from Jackson: 487 miles via US-6 E
Delicate Arch, a Utah icon, is worth the short hike it takes to get there. Almost fifty feet high and standing on a pair of legs that appear too spindly in places to support its weight, it seems to defy science. Sometimes it’s hard to enjoy it without about a million other people doing the same thing, however, but if the path to Delicate Arch is too crowded, remember that the name of the park is Arches (plural!), which means you’ll find plenty of other great arches (over 2000 documented). And if those are still too busy, check out a few perfectly wonderful options below.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado
Distance from Jackson: 493 miles via US-191 S
Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a lot like the more famous Grand Canyon, but if the Grand is a prom king, the Black is in the drama club. One is flashier and more famous, but the other one knows how to put on a heck of a show. The Black Canyon is home to some of the tallest, most dramatic cliffs in North America, a “vertical wilderness of rock, water, and sky,” according to whatever poet wrote the description on the official National Park Service website.
Great Basin, Nevada
Distance from Jackson: 497 via US-50 W
You like mountains under a wide open sky? Great Basin is home to the majestic 13, 063-foot Wheeler Peak. Want to gaze up at the stars without the taint of light pollution? You can do that here, too. You prefer to delve into the darkness with only bats and scorpions for company? Okay, weird. Just kidding—Great Basin’s for you, too: it’s also home to the fascinating Lehman Caves. The point is, Great Basin has something for everyone.
Distance from Jackson: 499 miles via US-6 E
Canyonlands has, as the name might suggest to the discerning reader, lots of canyons. In fact, it’s the largest national park in Utah, which is saying something, since southern Utah is approximately 70 percent national park. (Okay, we made that up.) But it’s also one of the least crowded—like last week’s Capitol Reef, it’s often overshadowed by its more famous sister parks. When Arches gets too crowded, come here instead. There’s even another famous arch (Mesa Arch) and stunning overlooks like Grandview Point or Green River Point.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Distance from Jackson: 500 miles via US 181 S and I-80 E
Rocky Mountain is the fifth most visited national park in the US, and it’s hard to argue with the millions of tourists who come to see stunning lakes, craggy mountains, and winding alpine trails. You’ll find hikes ranging from short and sweet (like Bear Lake or Alberta Falls) to longer and more epic (like the Continental Divide). If you don’t want to get out of your car for some reason, you can just drive Trail Ridge Road. It’s hard to escape the scenery here.
Honorable mentions: the other two Utah national parks
Zion (565 miles away) and Bryce (527 miles away) are both a little too far to fit within the established parameters of national parks near Jackson Hole, but if you came this far, you may as well consider a stop. Zion is famous for its dramatic red rock formations, sweeping views, and winding slot canyons. It’s also gotten increasingly crowded in recent years, so if you don’t want to brave the crowds, you might find Bryce a little less busy. Bryce Canyon National Park is amazing in its own right, known for its stone forests of tall, thin towers called hoodoos.
In researching this blog post, we were intimately familiar with a few of the above parks and had frankly never heard of others. But every park on this list sounds like a good time. Have you enjoyed any of them? Let us know in the comments. Or better yet, stop by Flat Creek Inn and tell us all about it.
Ryan Kunz is a copywriter and freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics, including media, the outdoors, and whether or not Darth Vader could beat Batman in a fight. (The answer is yes.) He has been to about half the national parks on this list and can safely say that every one of them will make a good Instagram post.
Jesse Varner, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Daniel Mayer (Mav), CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
snowpeak, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons