First, let’s orient ourselves. Jackson Hole is a 42-mile-long, 7-mile-wide valley in northwestern Wyoming that is home to Grand Teton National Park and lies just south of Yellowstone National Park. It is an outdoorsperson’s paradise, with easy access to mountain biking, hiking, fly fishing, rafting, wildlife “safaris,” skiing, snowshoeing and more.
Jackson is the valley's cowboy-cosmopolitan main town (population about 8,000), complete with wooden sidewalks, a quaint town square with an elk-antler arch at each corner, a vibrant arts scene, the occasional celebrity sighting, locally owned boutiques, and breakfast burritos the size of a small dog.
With so much to do, you'd think it wouldn't much matter where you stayed while in Jackson Hole. Except it's really convenient to walk out your front door and be in downtown Jackson, and also to have a front desk staff that can tell you from firsthand experience the best places to hike, bike, fish, grab a cocktail, find a game of cornhole or order a steak tartare pizza. Enter the Mountain Modern Motel: the town's first hip, contemporary lodging (that doesn't cost more than $400/night).
Newly renovated, Mountain Modern Motel's design and staff cater to travelers looking to adventure without breaking the bank. (Summer rates start at $165; winter rates start at $99.)
Long familiar with Jackson Hole, I knew Mountain Modern Motel before it was remodeled, renamed, and reopened in May 2017. A fan of contemporary western design, I watched with interest as the old wood siding was redone and repainted, corrugated-metal accents and galvanized-steel railings were added, and both a giant fiberglass statue of a bison at the back entrance and rooms’ front doors were painted a bright orangey/red.
Contemporary western décor is a recent arrival in Jackson. Five years ago, Jackson hotels or motels didn’t have red bison sculptures. Nor did rooms have fun photos or maps. There'd be western or wildlife art and over-stuffed furniture. Lobbies likely had taxidermied mounts of local wildlife.
If you arrive at Mountain Modern without any adventures planned, it's possible you'll find inspiration in the lobby, which uses black-and-white versions of topographical maps of the area as wallpaper and has plenty of real topo maps on communal tables for guests' use and reference.
Each of the 135 rooms follows the same theme. The walls behind my mini-kitchen (fridge, Keurig and a microwave) and vanity area have a super-condensed topo map of the valley. On the room's biggest wall is more custom wallpaper, made from photos of an iconic Jackson Hole scene like fly fishing on Flat Creek, bison grazing on Antelope Flats or the East Face of the Grand Teton.
Mountain Modern's lobby has flashlights repurposed to hang from the ceiling as pendants and Yeti coolers and backpacks hanging from wall hooks made with climbing carabiners. (The coolers and packs are for guests' use.) High on a wall behind the freestanding wood-burning stove is the bust of a deer, but made from vintage wool blankets rather than the real thing.
Over an espresso and bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit sandwich at breakfast, which is included with your room, I ask staff about their favorite hikes close to town. I leave with three recommendations, one of which starts two miles away.
If this were almost anywhere but Jackson Hole, which is surrounded by four mountain ranges with more trails than you could get to in a lifetime, I could see relaxing on the sofa in my room or hanging out in a sleek leather armchair in front of the fire in the lobby and reading a book for most of a day. But this is Jackson Hole, and there’s a never-ending list of places to explore and activities to try.
Mountain Modern itself doesn't offer any guided trips, but the front desk keeps a list of trusted outfitters leading everything from whitewater rafting excursions to wildlife safaris, rock climbing, snowmobiling, and horseback riding, and will happily make arrangements for you. Reservations at Mountain Modern Motel can be made on their website.