Located in northwestern Wyoming, Jackson Hole is a beautiful alpine valley ringed by the Teton Mountain range on the west and the Gros Ventre mountains on the east. The town of Jackson, with a population of 6,400 year-round residents, is not the quiet and somewhat isolated mountain retreat it once was. As a gateway to the parks, Jackson receives about three million visitors annually. While the winters attract about 350,000 destination skiers, the summers draw much larger crowds from all over the world who come for the parks, the climate, recreation and the amenities of a resort town.
For outdoor enthusiasts, the allure of Jackson Hole is its role as a sanctuary and playground. With access to the winding Snake River and thousands of miles of trails to hike or bike, adventure-seekers will be especially satisfied. From the extreme to the serene, Jackson Hole is a mecca. Activities range from dining at chic restaurants to fishing the Snake River by dory. Camp by a lake or stay in a luxurious resort atop a butte. Lose yourself in the mountains or join the crowds at the rodeo.
79 miles east along US-14 and the North Fork of the Shoshone River from Yellowstone National Park, Cody was the brainchild of investors who in 1896 persuaded "Buffalo Bill" Cody to get involved in their development company, knowing his approval would attract homesteaders and visitors alike. During summer, tourism is big business, but underneath all the Buffalo Bill-linked attractions and paraphernalia, Cody manages to retain the feel of a rural western settlement.
The wide dusty main thoroughfare, Sheridan Avenue, holds an array of souvenir an ranchwear shops, and is the scene of parades and rodeos during the annual Cody Stampede, held on the weekend of July 4. Between June and August, there's a rodeo every night at the open-air stadium on the road to Yellowstone (8.30 p.m.; $7). The town also features the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, the nation's most comprehensive collection of western Americana (720 Sheridan Ave.).
Pretty, tree-lined Bozeman lies in the lush Gallatin Valley, a mere eighty miles north of Yellowstone National Park. Founded by farmers in 1863, it's the only sizeable town in Montana not to owe its roots to mining, railroading or lumbering, and the absence of slag heaps, shabby warehouses or railyards makes a refreshing change. South of downtown, as Montana State University peters out into a beautiful wilderness in the shadow of the mountains, the huge Museum of the Rockies at S Seventh Ave and Kagy Blvd holds dinosaur finds, Native American weapons and a fine selection of western landscape paintings.
Bozeman is well placed for those in search of outdoor activities. The ranger office, 601Niles Ave (587-6920), provides details of local walking trails, and Chalet Sports at Main and Willson (587-4595) rents out mountain bikes and ski equipment.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication