Thursday morning had begun with one mission in mind: get our Jackson Hole Winter Adventure started! After a quick breakfast in Rock Springs, our launching point, we headed out on the road, with about a three-hour drive ahead of us. Our plan was to snowshoe in Grand Teton National Park from the Taggart Lake Trailhead. The drive out of Rock Springs is never anything super spectacular, but as you drive north on US Hwy 191, the Wind River Range will come into view, and once through Pinedale, the Tetons are not too far off.
Turpin Meadow Ranch
Our blog posts/reviews do not usually include detailed information about the lodging establishments that we stay at. However, because Turpin Meadow Ranch is combined with their own Nordic trail system, I (Stella) will write a full review about this wonderful establishment where we were lucky to have stayed for three nights in March 2020.
HISTORY: Turpin Meadow Ranch is located in Moran, Wyoming – about one hour north of Jackson Hole. It dates back to 1887, when Dick Turpin, a fur trapper, settled and built a cabin there. Soon, other cabins were added, and in 1932 the Ranch had begun welcoming guests. A historical landmark was erected in 1940 for Dick Turpin; it rests along Buffalo Valley Road near the entrance of the main lodge. The Ranch sits along the Buffalo Fork River, which runs a few steps out of the front doors of the cabins.
WINTER ACTIVITIES: Turpin Meadow Ranch has it’s own Nordic trail system, which encompasses ten miles of groomed cross-country ski trails (for both skate and classic), varying from easy to moderately difficult. Some of the trails were nestled within the pine trees, while others were in the open meadow area. The trail map had indicated that there were also trails for snowshoeing and fat tire biking, although I saw snowshoers and bikers on the ski trails. (There were also separate trails for snowmobiling). Additionally, dogs are allowed on the ski trails. We saw tons of happy pups having the time of their lives…my heart was broken wishing that Goldie and Aspen could have been there with us having fun, too – they loved the snow!
Our stay at the Ranch had been during the last weekend that they were open for the winter season; it appeared that the classic ski tracks had not been groomed in a few days, likely because it was their last open weekend. Fat tire bikes, snowshoes and ski gear were available for rent at the lodge for inexpensive rates. Larry and I plan to try fat tire biking some time in the future, but right now we are having too much fun snowshoeing and cross-country skiing…there doesn’t seem to be enough time to do everything since we are not yet retired, much to our chagrin.
CABINS: There are two options for lodging at the Ranch: cabins (all different sizes) and chalets. The cabins have a covered porch with chairs/tables so guests can enjoy the outdoors. We had a single room cabin, which had a bathroom, couch, gas fireplace, mini-fridge, and coffeemaker. The bathroom had a wonderfully large, tiled walk-in shower with modern fixtures. Toiletries were provided, but because they were placed in refillable containers with the Ranch’s label affixed to them, I was unable to determine if the products within them were vegan/cruelty-free or not (I do hope they were).
One thing that was a little peculiar was that our cabin had two twin beds welded together to form a larger bed. And because they were two separate beds, there was a deep crevice in the middle, so we had to each sleep on our individual bed. With that said, however, both of the mattresses were very comfortable, which is what’s most important anyway. Please note: there are no TV’s in the cabins/chalets, which is a great benefit because it allows guests to get away from the modern world of technology during their stay. Instead, the lodge offers a variety of games and books for guests. I had played my guitar.
There is no parking in front of the cabins; guest parking is by the lodge. Guests can either carry their stuff to the cabin/chalet, or pack everything onto one of the sleds that the Ranch offers. All of the cabins are situated very close to the main lodge, and to the entrance of the Nordic trails, which allows guests to literally ‘ski out the front door.’ That was awesome, and was the primary reason why we had wanted to stay at the Ranch. Additionally, the cabins/chalets are dog-friendly. It was fun watching pups run back and forth on the path in front of the cabins.
STAFF/SERVICE: I was pleased by the degree of politeness and helpfulness of the staff. They truly aim to make guests’ stay as wonderful as possible. They do provide daily housekeeping to tidy up the rooms, but I never utilize that service anywhere we stay, as I always make the bed first thing in the morning, and organize everything prior to leaving for our day’s adventure(s). At Turpin Meadow Ranch, guests receive service with a smile.
FOOD/DINING: Let me preface by saying that I loved the ambiance of the restaurant area (and the wait staff were also wonderful). There was a strong sense of community amongst the guests when everyone was gathered for breakfast and dinner. The people who go to the Ranch are like-minded in that they are all interested in the outdoors, so it was fun sharing adventures with one another.
I am a very tough ‘foodie’ critic, and a Pescatarian to top, so it can be challenging to please me in this area. And when I look at menus at any given restaurant (with the exception of Ethiopian, Indian, Nepalese, etc.), I am often disappointed by how few vegetarian options are available. Since our move to Colorado, we regularly travel all over the western states, and Larry often reminds me, “Stella, we are in cattle country.” So, with that comment in mind, I will begin there:
Breakfast buffet: Guests’ stay at the Ranch includes a breakfast buffet in the main lodge each morning. We had stayed for three nights, so we were there for three breakfasts. I was disappointed, but not surprised, with all of the meat involved in the breakfasts, although they did offer to make me some eggs without meat (I do not know if the eggs were locally sourced, pasture-raised, etc.). Most of the breakfast items were freshly prepared, but the “breakfast potatoes” appeared to have been frozen nuggets baked in the oven, and they were terrible. Some freshly shredded hash browns, or sliced pan-fried potatoes would have been awesome. Or an entrée consisting of fresh potatoes, cheese, eggs, and a bunch of fresh veggies all mixed together would have made my morning! The French Toast was very good…I had tasted a hint of orange zest in them; one of the mornings they had some variety of berry compote drizzled over them – delicious!
I was also disappointed by the overall lack of variety of the breakfast options each morning that we were there. The meals were redundant, and by the third morning I just had one small bite of zucchini bread with my coffee. I couldn’t eat the same things again.
Restaurant (dinner): There were very few entrees on the dinner menus (it changed slightly each night) that I could eat, unless I wanted to eat pasta every time. But I always looked over the menus each evening, and was impressed with the creativity and appropriateness of the ingredients paired for each entrée, which truly depicted the talents of the chef. If you are a meat-eater (lamb, beef, pork, chicken), I suspect that you would NOT be disappointed with your meal. And there was always one fish entrée on the menu; however, the first two nights, the fish entrées had some form of coconut in/on it, which I am allergic to. The third evening had bacon-wrapped salmon, and even though the salmon could have been prepared without the bacon, I just didn’t want that (I am uncertain if it was wild-caught).
Because I had reviewed the Ranch’s sample menu online prior to our arrival, I had prepared some meals to bring with us. Unfortunately, the cabins/chalets do not have microwaves, so we had to reheat our meals using the microwave in the bar. Larry had been embarrassed about doing that, but I knew that my options in the restaurant would be very limited, so I was glad to have brought our own food. That being the case, we had only eaten one evening meal at the restaurant. Larry ordered a pasta dish (which we had shared), and I had ordered the Wahoo Ceviche from the appetizer section. Larry’s pasta dish was not anything to rave about (in addition to being at least ten dollars overpriced), but my Ceviche was truly outstanding. The fish was properly prepared, and the eclectic ingredients within the bulk of the Ceviche had paired perfectly with one another – YUM!
Bar: Connected to the restaurant was a small, cozy bar, joined by the other side of the restaurant’s fireplace. The cocktail menu had a nice list of their signature mixed drinks. I had ordered a margarita made with their house-infused jalapeno tequila. WOW – it was super spicy, and had caught me off guard with the first sip, but it was so darn delicious! The bar was well equipped with a variety of liquor, wine and draft beers. Stepping through the side door of the bar will take guests to a covered patio where they can sit and watch the sun disappear behind the mountains each evening.
FINAL THOUGHTS: We were very pleased with our stay, and highly recommend a visit to Turpin Meadow Ranch, especially in the winter to take advantage of the Nordic ski trails. We also really liked the ‘community’ feel there – very friendly, active people who love fitness and the outdoors. Interestingly, most of the guests we had encountered were locals from Jackson Hole, who were staying at the Ranch to “get away” from the touristy hustle and bustle of Jackson Hole.
Thursday: Grand Teton National Park
When we had arrived at the Taggart Lake Trailhead inside Grand Teton National Park, we learned that is a very popular spot, as the parking lot was full with vehicles. Fortunately, there were park volunteers guiding vehicles into other less formal parking spots. One of NPS Ski Advisor volunteers we had talked with had retired to Jackson Hole, and he was very knowledgable about backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, etc. We had anticipated using our snowshoes for the trek that day, but he stated that they really would not be needed as long as we stayed on the designed trail(s). The Taggart Lake Trailhead also doubles a gateway to backcountry skiing in the Teton Range.
It was a fairly short trek to get to Taggart Lake on the main trailhead; roughly one and a half miles. Once we had reached the lake, we trekked back up the trail, and embarked upon one of the many forks in the trail. One of those paths had led us to a spot further down along the lake, while the other path led us to a viewpoint standing high above the lake. The second path that had taken us to the high vantage point was quite steep, so we were grateful to have both had our trekking poles with us to use, both for going up and down that path on the trail. From that vantage point, you are at the north end of the lake, and you can see the entire lake. And, with being that high up, the Tetons seem close enough to touch – what a spectacular view from up there! If we had continued the climb upward from that point, snowshoes would have been necessary.
After pictures had been taken, we made our way back down to the trailhead. Once in the parking area, we immediately noticed that there were far fewer vehicles left in the parking lot, which means people were headed home to get ready for dinner! For us, that meant we needed to hit the road to make it to Turpin Meadow Ranch in order to check in by five o’clock. And that was where our next adventures would take place!
Friday: Nordic Skiing @ Turpin Meadow Ranch
Friday morning after breakfast, eager to continue of Jackson Hole Winter Adventure, we headed out onto the Nordic trails for the first time. The trail system is basically divided between into three sections: The Meadows, The Mule Loop and The Back Forty. The Meadows are easy to moderate trails that wind through the pine trees and spread out over the open meadow area along the Buffalo Fork River. The Back Forty and the Mule Loop start with a steep climb to access the trails. With that said, we were off to explore the meadows.
After we had skied the Meadows section a few times, we decided to ski off-trail, and venture onto the snowmobile trails, which had allowed us to truly utilize the benefit of the particular type of skis that we had purchased. The snowmobile trail follows alongside Buffalo Valley Road. We followed that for about a half-mile, and stopped abruptly when we had encountered huge snowmobile moguls that we figured would not be much fun for us. As we turned around to double back, Stella had decided to try her skis in a section of deep snow, and not more than five feet into her adventure, she had found herself sinking into the soft, knee-deep snow. And in her effort to turn around, she had fallen, and ended up having to remove her skis in order to stand back up and get out of that spot.
That situation reminded me of a time we she had attempted to locate a shortcut when we were snowshoeing along the Fraser River Trail in Winter Park with Aspen. Leaving the trail, she had fallen into waist deep snow, which had taken her a quite a bit of time and effort to crawl out of. One second she had been atop of a huge snow mound, then a second later she was gone – buried in the snow. And on that day, that exact same thing had happened not once…but twice! I had been holding Aspen, who was screaming for Stella, but I couldn’t let her follow because then she would have gotten stuck as well.
Once we made it back to the main trail, we completed the Meadows section once more before heading to our cabin for the evening. We had skied about nine miles that day, and could not have asked for better weather. The sky was clear blue, and temps had been in the high forties, so yes – our faces got a lot of sun! It was a great day, and we were already looking forward to the next day’s adventure!
Saturday: Nordic Skiing @ Turpin Meadow Ranch
Stella and I were chomping at the bit to get out onto trails Saturday, the last day of our Jackson Hole Winter Adventure, so after a quick breakfast we headed out for our second day at the Nordic center. Due to the warmer weather on Friday, and the cold weather over the night, the tracks were crusted over and icy that morning, which had prevented us from getting a good glide. But as the day warmed up, the snow had softened again, and that issue was resolved. After completing the Meadows section, I had went on to ski the Back Forty, while Stella stayed in the Meadows.
The Back Forty is significantly different than the Meadows. It starts with a short, steep climb before leveling out at the top. I would define the Back Forty as intermediate, combined with stretches of easy trail section as well. I had started out with intent loop back Forty, and then jumped onto the Way back Forty, but I had misread the trail map. Instead, I ventured toward the Mule Loop before doubling back to my original starting point and headed to onto the Way Back Forty.
The Way Back Forty was a very pleasurable and peaceful experience, as I had been the only one on that trail, which was carved into a pine laden forest. I wished Stella had joined me, as there was an opportunity to go offtrack on an unmarked trailed that appeared to have been explored by others. After completing the Back Forty, I met Stella back at the cabin for a brief respite before we headed back out one last time to complete the Meadows. That day, we had skied about twelve miles before settling in for the evening.
- Stella ~ Louis Garneau Blizzard II Snowshoes
- Stella ~ Fischer Spider 62 Crown IFP Cross-Country Skis
- Stella ~ Osprey Rev 6 Hydration Pack
- Larry ~ Atlas 1030 Snowshoes
- Larry ~ Rossignol EVO OT 65 IFP Cross-Country Skis
- Larry ~ Osprey Daylite Pack
- Stella & Larry ~ REI Co-op Traverse Power Lock Cork Trekking Poles with Snow Baskets