Running the World: Where to Run in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

View from Grand Teton National Park
View from Grand Teton National Park

Once in a while we Salties like to share our rave runs in various parts of the world.  After spending several days in the Grand Teton National Park / Jackson Hole, Wyoming area, I thought I would share some tips on great places to run and cross train.

GTNP is pure, untamed wilderness with awe-inspiring views everywhere you go.  It is astoundingly beautiful, but certainly not always the safest place to run alone.

Don’t believe me?  In the 7 days we were there, we encountered 2 large grizzly bears, 2 big black bears and an abundance of other wildlife, such as buffalo, elk, pronghorns, and more.  Everywhere you look, there are signs cautioning you not to hike alone, to make noise, to carry bear spray and NOT to run.

Well that is a little unsettling....
Well that is a little unsettling….

Sounds like a tough place for an avid runner, right?  Well, not really if you plan things right.  I was able to find some beautiful routes where I could safely get in some quality altitude training with amazing views.  I also found some awesome (bad ass!) cross-training options to compensate for the times I could not get away to a safe place to run.  There is certainly no limit to the amount of physical activity you can do in this area.

National Elk Refuge, Jackson, Wyoming

The first night of our trip, we stayed in Jackson. Jackson is a very small tourist town, so the running options seem very limited at first.  Not so.  While my family slept, I woke up early and ran to the National Elk Refuge at the edge of town.  It has a nice dirt road that runs several miles.  It has wide open spaces, so I didn’t have to worry (too much) about startling wildlife.  It is also closed-off to protect the elk, so while there is some wildlife, I didn’t have to worry about having any close encounters with bears.  It was an absolutely beautiful run with a few rolling hills.  It is also at high altitude, so it was tough.  I can’t say I minded stopping every couple of miles to catch my breath and taking a few photos though.  Highlights were the mountains all around, pronghorns scurrying by, and the curious little ground squirrels (locals call them Chizzlers) who seemingly posed for me when I pulled out my phone to take a few photos.  I got in 9 miles, but you can easily go more if needed.

View from my run in the National Elk Refuge
View from my run in the National Elk Refuge

Bike/Pedestrian Trail in Jackson

Another great place to run in Jackson is the bike path on the east side of town.  This path runs along Highway 26/89 and the National Elk Refuge.  There are some pretty big climbs, but also some spectacular views and many, many miles of paved pathway.  There is also a fair bit of traffic on the path (cyclists, walkers and runners), so you won’t feel too isolated.  I did not have an opportunity to run on it this trip, but I will certainly check it out next time.


Bike/Pedestrian Trail at South Jenny Lake

Seeing this will make you pause before hitting the trails for a solo run, trust me.
Seeing this will make you pause before hitting the trails for a solo run, trust me.

Other than the first night of our trip, we stayed in a little cabin in Grand Teton National Park in Colter Bay.  It is an amazing place right on Jackson Lake with spectacular mountain views.  There are an abundance of trails right there, but I was too leery to run on them by myself as I was deep in bear/moose country.  Some runners run the trails wearing bells and carrying bear spray, but that option sounded WAY too stressful and expensive (bear spray is $50 a canister and you can’t use it unless the bear is within 30 feet).  If I had a big group to run with, I would have considered it.  But I didn’t, so I opted for something a little different.

One morning when my boys were fishing, I took a 25 minute drive out to the south Jenny Lake park/campsite entrance.  From there, I was able to get water and hit another paved bike path that went on for miles and miles along the road.  It was also nice and open, so I was unlikely to startle any wildlife.  I did a nice little 5 mile out-and-back and took in a lot of beautiful sights.  One could easily run or bike for many, many miles here.


Hiking is a great way to cross train when in GTNP if you don’t want to leave your family for several hours to drive to and get in a run.  There are innumerable options for hikes in the area – from very easy to very strenuous.  My family likes to veer off the beaten path as some are heavily trafficked.  One day we decided to climb the Grand Teton mountain.  We started at the trail head a Lupine Meadows.  We hiked 3 miles up the mountain and saw spectacular views.  It was a strenuous hike and as the altitude increased, we had to stop a few times.  It was absolutely amazing and well worth it.  We were able to get in over 6 miles in just under 3 hours (with a half hour stop at the top of our hike to take in the views and refuel).


Another day, we went llamaneering!  We went on a 5 mile hike with llamas through the woods near Teton Pass.  We didn’t see a single other person out there and it was amazing.

Me and Lucy on our 5 mile hike in the woods.
Me and Lucy on our 5 mile hike in the woods.
Mountain biking down a mountain is intense!
Mountain biking down a mountain is intense!

Mountain Biking!

One of the days during our trip, we drove into Teton Village in Jackson Hole to grab lunch and then spent the day mountain biking down the mountain.  It was incredible – but certainly not for the faint of heart.  I hadn’t ever really mountain biked before, and flying down a ski mountain over big jumps and banked turns was pretty intense!  But it was absolutely incredible.  Unfortunately I took a huge fall on my last run when I got a wee bit over confident (who, me?)…. So my advice to anyone (over 35) is to enjoy getting comfortable on the bike, but don’t get too cocky.  I learned the hard way that my body is no longer 25 years old and as pliable as green wood (it is now purple and sore on my left side).  Even so, I’d add it to the must-do activity list for this area of the country.  How often can you mountain bike down a mountain?

Water Sports

There are also many opportunities to do white water rafting or kayaking.  We did not white water raft this time because the water was freezing, but it is a great place to do it.  We also usually kayak, but after I ate it on my left shoulder on the mountain bike, I wasn’t quite up for several hours of paddling.  GTNP – and especially Colter Bay are amazing places to hit the water though, so do it if you can.

Grand Teton National Park is an amazing place.  Did I miss any must do activities? 

Mindi is a serial marathoner. She is a private practice attorney, wife and mom of two awesome (and super fast) boys, ages 12 and 14. She coaches Girls on the Run and is a big advocate of youth running.

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  1. I’m heading to Jackson in two weeks to hike. I’m really nervous about the Grizzlies. I’ll be hiking with only one other person. I would feel comfortable starting out on highly traveled trails…any suggestions?

  2. Thanks for the help! Do you have any suggestions for Yellowstone? I’m camping at grant village. My husband gets 5-6 miles in everyday and is worried he won’t have safe places to run.

    1. Hi Mary! I wish I could help, but I did not run in Yellowstone. If you learn any great spots, please share! Have a great time.