Located an hour’s drive south of Yellowstone, the town of Jackson is nonetheless a convenient place to start a tour of the park. It’s a lively and entertaining place that offers everything you could want in a Western experience, including the mesmerizing drive along the Teton Range.
On the north edge of Jackson, the Rustic Inn occupies 12 acres at the foot of a high butte along slow-moving Flat Creek, which meanders out of the adjacent National Elk Refuge and on into town. What you notice first are several dozen small log cabins overlooking the creek and landscaped wetlands. But we were guided to the far end of the property, to a handsome lodge, set apart and screened from the rest of the resort by mature trees and shrubs. Inside, the theme is Western, but decidedly upscale.
An inviting campfire circle is centered on the lawn, and there’s another gas campfire inside a colorful canvas tipi that lights up at night like a magic lantern.
Wingback chairs and a leather couch front a large stone fireplace in the lobby/lounge; bronzes on the tables and art on the walls honor Wyoming’s wildlife, landscape and cowboy tradition. There’s a small but complete bar and a kitchen where breakfasts are cooked to order. A hallway leads to a spa with four treatment rooms, a blue-tiled eucalyptus steam room and a sauna. Outside, a ground-level porch, set with tables and chairs, offers views of the buttes beyond the creek. An inviting campfire circle is centered on the lawn, and there’s another gas campfire inside a colorful canvas tipi that lights up at night like a magic lantern. On a wood deck near the entry, guests can sit with a drink in front of a gas fireplace or step into the tiled whirlpool tub.
We had reserved a One-Bedroom Spa Suite, one flight up a wide stairway from the reception and lounge area. The nicely furnished and accessorized living room included a queen-size sleeper sofa and plush chairs. Large casement windows provided ample southern light but no interesting view. A closet between the living room and the bedroom had room for two luggage racks as well as hanging items. In the bedroom, a leather chair and ottoman sat in a windowed niche beyond the dark wood king bed. The large spa-like bath, accessible from both the bedroom and the living room, held twin vanities, an oversize glass-enclosed shower and a freestanding, fast-fill soaking tub.
Smaller suites are equally plush, and two include balconies, but in each case, the soaker tub sits in the bedroom instead of the bath, an arrangement not to our liking. The large, one-room Grand Balcony Spa Suite includes a gas fireplace and a hot tub on its balcony. Two 1,550-square-foot two-bedroom, two-bath suites with full kitchens offer the most room and luxury, plus the added option of joining the two into one large apartment for a group of friends or family.
The resort offers a long list of outdoor activities, including daylong wildlife tours to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, and it provides shuttle service, by arrangement, to Jackson Hole Airport, which is served by Delta, United and American airlines. Jackson’s resident population is less than 10,000, but at times, visitors far outnumber the locals. Bars and breweries, cafés and restaurants, boutiques and galleries line its streets. If you want to venture farther, the resort operates a gratuity-based shuttle, and our driver was friendly, helpful and prompt.
The resort’s cozy, atmospheric Rustic Bar serves well-made cocktails and offers an adequate wine list, but Jackson has better restaurant options, some with gourmet dining, and some with lots of local atmosphere and really good food. The latter sounded good to us after several nights of overly fussy entrées, and when two outfitters we met in the bar raved about the fried chicken and the meatloaf at the Rendezvous Bistro, we decided to try it. The restaurant has a respectable international wine list and features traditional French and American dishes in a casual but urbane atmosphere. We had reserved a table, but when we arrived, we chose to eat at the lively bar. The efficient and cheerful server took our orders. Our cocktails were mixed with a smile and shaken with panache. And when our food came, we tucked in as enthusiastically as everyone else in the place.
AT A GLANCE
LIKE: Attractive creekside site close to Town Square; cozy bar.
DISLIKE: Unappealing resort restaurant.
GOOD TO KNOW: Two two-bedroom suites may be joined to accommodate family groups or friends.
The Spa Suites at the Rustic Inn 94 One Bedroom Spa Suite, $890; Two Bedroom Spa Suite, $1,490 (includes full breakfast). 475 North Cache Street, Jackson, Wyoming. Tel. (307) 413-7685.