A great family horseback trip to take during the summer months. One hour drive from Jackson, WY puts you at the entrance to the Teton Wilderness Area. Access it by foot or horseback; no motorized vehicles or bicycles allowed.
The Teton Wilderness Area is Wyoming’s second largest wilderness area. It straddles the Continental Divide in the heart of Wyoming’s Yellowstone Ecosystem. It is bordered on the north by Yellowstone National Park, on the south and east by wilderness-designated-areas, and on the west by Grand Teton National Park.
As you head out from the east toward the Great Divide there are high alpine plateaus broken by ridges and extensive mountain meadows with elevations from 8,000 to 12,000 feet. At Two Ocean Pass, the famous Two Ocean Creek splits to send water to both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans (see pic). Within the Teton Wilderness-area the headwaters of the notable Yellowstone and Snake Rivers arise in alpine meadows of willow and sedge. Once on the western side of the Great Divide the land is dominated by timbered ridges, grassy slopes, and broad willow and sedge meadows with elevations from 7,000 to 9,600 feet. You’ll see evidence of the great fires from the summer of 1988 that burned here and in Yellowstone. This area is vast, spectacular, and unspoiled. Teton Wilderness ranks among the best wildlife areas in the US.
Summer brings trumpeter swans, sandhill cranes, Canada jay, raven, grouse, ducks, geese, Golden and bald eagles, hawks, osprey, peregrine falcon and Clark’s nutcracker. Infrequent and rare sightings of grizzly bears have been recorded but black bears are much more common. For that reason, the guides travel with high-powered handguns and range dogs. We had no close calls with bear during our trek. We did spot black bear at a distance when crossing through meadow-areas. They were most likely feeding on the summer berries. Grey wolves (see pic from a fall hunt), moose, wolverine, bighorn sheep, mountain lion, mule deer and elk also wander across the meadows during the summer months. Although the moose and elk populations have been knocked down since the Canadian grey wolf was reintroduced. Coyotes, beavers, martens, bobcats, porcupines, otters, and mink abound too.
After an eight-hour horseback ride that takes a full-day, you come into the Bridger Wilderness Area. From there it is only a short ride to access Yellowstone National Park if you have the entry permits. Originally established in 1931 as a primitive area, Bridger Wilderness Area is a 428,169-acre region, and was designated as a wilderness area in 1964. The wilderness lies on the west side of the Continental Divide in the Wind River Range and contains Gannett Peak; at 13,809 feet it is the tallest mountain in Wyoming. At Bridger Lake, you are in one of the most remote spots in the lower 48 States.
The summer weather is usually warm and sunny during the day, but due to the high altitude associated with this wilderness, night temperatures may drop below freezing. Mosquitoes, deerflies and horseflies are plentiful most of the summer, so keep insect repellent close at hand if you can’t stay in an open, breezy area.
We spent our time fishing for cutthroat trout in the cool rivers (see pics). During our 5-day wilderness retreat we only saw one other group passing through the valley at a distance, and two rangers on horseback. It was a great trip, with no distractions, no people and very affordable. The nights were bug-free and the star gazing was incredible. Sitting around the open fire at night you’d hear the coyotes and wolves howl and occasionally, a mountain lion scream. The latter being far scarier!
I’m a swimmer so every trip I take, you’ll find me in the water. This trip was no different. After a day fishing, I swam in Bridger Lake and the rivers nearby our camp. Yes, it was freezing cold even in July, and very refreshing.
Jackson Hole is served by a number of airlines. You can easily reach it in a single, short day of travel. Plan to spend a night there coming and going. The drive-in from the airport is spectacular and sets up the week nicely. Jackson is a beautiful, small western town. People are friendly. There are many nice, locally-owned hotels, restaurants, and shops so your layover time goes by pleasantly. Thomas D. Mangelsen, the famous American nature and wildlife photographer, and conservationist has his shop in Jackson. If you visit you won’t be disappointed and will recognize many of his famous wildlife pictures published in numerous periodicals. https://www.mangelsen.com
Travel Article Bio Line
Mark Richards is the retired Chairman and CEO of Appvion, Inc. headquartered in Appleton, WI.
Mark is now President of Meade Street Advisors, LLC a board governance, executive coaching, and
strategic planning consulting business headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Mark travels extensively around the world to unique places and likes to share with others what he finds.