Going Off The Beaten Path in Jackson, Wyoming

Jackson is a unique and famous city. The area, collectively referred to as Jackson Hole, is like a bubble of flat land surrounded 360° by forests, mountains and national parks. The high elevation keeps the entire region cold at night year round and thanks to the rugged yet scenic terrain, the area is also famous for skiing. However there so many more offbeat Jackson activities and things to do nearby besides just that!

Let’s get off the beaten path in Jackson, Wyoming!

Jackson is entirely surrounded by the Grand Teton National Park and National Elk Refuge. The outdoor adventures are endless! There are so many great land- and water-based activities to be had nearby. Hiking. Wildlife. River-rafting. Fishing. Hot springs. There are countless day-trip adventures to be had — or, if you want to stay longer, consider checking Jackson Hole cabin rentals or Airbnb to spend an authentic night under the stars but without the work that comes with camping 😉

Whatever you end up doing in and around town, don’t miss the following unique and offbeat Jackson activities.

National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming
National Elk Refuge in Jackson

Visit an Intermittent Spring

Old Faithful isn’t Wyoming’s only time-based water attraction, just the most famous. That reliable hot water geyser has been Wyoming’s claim to fame since the late 1800’s. However the state also has a cold water feature that operates intermittently, hence the name — Intermittent Spring. Also known as Periodic Spring, this natural occurrence is the largest in rhythmic spring in the world.

At Intermittent Spring, the water flows in 18 minute cycles. 18 minutes on, 18 minutes off.

Intermittent Spring, a rare natural formation that starts and stops on its own -- one of the unique and offbeat things to do in Jackson, Wyoming
Is Intermittent Spring unique and offbeat enough for you?

Why the river flows like this is not a mystery anymore. There is a widely accepted as true scientific theory behind Intermittent Spring. Basically, cold spring water collects in underground cave and begins slowly filling up a narrow shaft that leads to the surface. Eventually water pressure builds up too great, forms a funnel and all the water gets sucked out. Incoming air then closes the waterway until water pressure builds up again.

Think of it like flushing a toilet. The funnel sucks the entire basin down a narrow tube in a flash. Only at Intermittent Spring, you get to watch the toilet water coming out, instead of filling back up.

Explore Moose -- not the animal, the place -- one of the offbeat Jackson Hole things to do
Imagine living here 100-200 years ago…

Home, home on the range

Having grown up in Texas, I am quite comfortable around firearms and a fairly decent shot. But if you are neither, consider checking out the Jackson Hole Shooting Experience. Here you can not only learn to shoot but also take a firearm education class and understand why so many people support gun ownership. Maybe even begin to grow a little more appreciative of them yourself. After all, the beauty of travel and new experiences is that you learn to see things from both sides.

Beginners can learn the basics of gun safety and go for their first shoot. Rather than just pick any random gun, an expert will pair a first-time shooting with the most appropriate gun. Already know how to shoot? Browse the massive arsenal and pick something new.

Those already familiar with handling various firearms at close range can improve their long range skills or learn a new one, such as mastering the shotgun or taking a tactical defense class. They also offer ladies-only classes and other specific short courses, such as improving your hunting skills.

Still in doubt? Leave all of your preconceived notations and judgements at the door and come try for yourself. As a wise man once said, “Don’t knock it until you try it.”

The #1 offbeat Jackson destination is Smith Mansion, the unique and off the beaten path abandoned mansion of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming
The pinnacle of offbeat Jackson destinations is the Smith Mansion — otherwise known as the Abandoned Mansion of Yellowstone, the top all-around winner when it comes to cool, quirky, and off the beaten path Yellowstone National Park sights

See the Abandoned Mansion of Yellowstone

Everyone always talks about how great Yellowstone National Park is but it is beyond great. Stunningly spectacular. Absolutely breathtaking. No trip to Wyoming is complete without a visit to the world’s largest concentration thermal hot spots — estimated to be around 10,000 — which is why they attract over four million visitors per year!

Yellowstone National Park is not only America’s first national park but also the first in the entire world — hence that “the first and still the best” nickname.

However what these four million people fail to mention is the unique, offbeat and completely out of place Smith Mansion, otherwise known as the Abandoned Mansion of Yellowstone.

This handmade wooden structure tells the story of a man who loved a lady, but seemingly loved carpentry more. In 1970 Lee Smith began making a house for his wife. After the first floor was complete, Lee kept building, kept adding on new floors, new balconies, and eventually even giant elaborate exterior staircases. He never stopped. After the divorce he kept building. It was not until his death in 1992 that construction ceased. Lee was only 48 when a strong gust of wind blew him off the roof while he was (you guessed it!) working on his house. He fell twelve feet and passed away from his injuries.

The Smith Mansion is truly one-of-a-kind. There are no blueprints. Everything came from Lee’s mind. Unfortunately after he died the house became neglected and began rotting. Efforts are currently underway to preserve and repair the mansion by Lee’s daughter, Sunny, and her husband. Although public tours are not regularly scheduled due to the disrepair the house has fallen into, the family is trying to raise funds to help pay for the preservation. Give them a shout and perhaps you can score a private tour.

It is impossible to miss the Smith Mansion if you are entering Yellowstone from the the eastern entrance. It is less than hour drive from Yellowstone Lake, and regardless of which entrance you used, definitely worth the drive just for the photos. Read more about the history of Smith Mansion.

What are your favorite off the beaten path things to do/see/eat in Jackson Hole?

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel."   Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

6 thoughts on “Going Off The Beaten Path in Jackson, Wyoming”

  1. Smith Mansion looks like a big old pile of kindling Derek. Amazing how one match could be its undoing LOL. Awesome roundup on a truly remarkable area. I recall kids from my high school doing ski trips to Jackson Hole. Gorgeous. Some of the best that the US has to offer for pristine beauty.


    • That’s so awesome you grew up nearby and had the chance to experience it. Never to visited Jackson Hole as a kid — I was always flying off to Hawaii or somewhere else exotic — but that is probably a good thing because highly doubt that I would have been able to appreciate the simple and serene beauty. I would have (back then) been more interested in my GameBoy. Now the older, more refined me completely understands, appreciates and enjoys escaping life and retreating to Jackson for a week (or three lol)

  2. Wow, haven’t visited your website in years. I first contacted you years ago, I think when I was still in Austin. What we have in common is a passion for travel and curiosity about the world, and having left high-paying jobs to travel. I recently moved away from my ancestral homeland of Stonewall/Fredericsburg/Luchenbach Texas to a small town south of the Gila Wilderness in SW New Mexico.

    Glad to see you are still out there exploring. If you ever want to explore the Gila, come visit. I just bought a house in Hurley, south of Silver City and have an extra bedroom for visitors. My last blog entry tells of the move: http://www.whereswaynenow.wordpress.com

    • Hey, Wayne, great to hear from you. Yup, I’m still here and there, bouncing around the globe. Well, not so much at the current moment, all things considered. At least things worked out well and you were able to finally fulfill that goal of selling the Stonewall place. Plus a new project to work on, so cheers to that.

      I returned to Asia in January and was country-hopping around Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam until the end of March when everywhere started closing down. Been hanging out on a deserted beach in Thailand ever since. Also a great place to ride out a pandemic 😉 but definitely getting a bit restless.


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