Feature | Photo Essay

Wyoming Highway 22

A commute like none other.

// Photos and text by Bradly J. Boner

Spanning only 17.5 miles between the Idaho-Wyoming border and the town of Jackson, Wyoming Highway 22 isn’t the Cowboy State’s shortest highway, but it is definitely one of busiest, and certainly among the most scenic. The road winds over Teton Pass, a 1,200-foot ascent in only about two and a half miles from the west, before plunging about 2,200 feet down into Jackson Hole on the eastern side of the Teton range and into the hamlet of Wilson (population about 1,500). From there, Highway 22 straightens and bisects six miles of Jackson Hole, crossing the mighty Snake River before the highway ends at its intersection with Highway 191 in west Jackson. The Wyoming Department of Transportation estimates that about 5,000 people drive daily between Teton Valley, the 20-mile-long and 10-ish-mile wide valley on the western side of the Tetons that is home to about 11,000 people and only two stop lights, and Jackson Hole. Bulging housing prices put living on the Wyoming side of the Tetons out of reach for a significant chunk of workers who make Jackson Hole’s economy tick; other people are fine working in Jackson’s relative hustle and bustle but want to live on the quieter side of the Tetons.

Over the 17 years I’ve commuted from Teton Valley to Jackson—driving east down Center Street in Victor, Idaho, coffee in hand, until turning right and joining the steady stream of commuters heading to work in Jackson Hole—I’ve learned every detail of the drive. There are the broad S curves just above Coal Creek; the long straightaways where you finally have a chance to pass that dump truck or tentative motorist; the expansive view of Jackson Hole as you crest the top; the precarious avalanche paths where you get nervous if you linger too long on snowy winter days; the sweeping views of the Tetons to the north between Wilson and Jackson. All of these details demand a sense of hyperawareness and simultaneously fit into a drive that seasoned commuters have on autopilot. 

Over those same years, I’ve found adventure in the powder stashes accessible from Teton Pass—the apex of Highway 22. There are few places in the country where you can park, strap on your skis, hike, and ski 2,000 vertical feet of powder to the road, and then hitch a ride back to your car. It’s another routine on the pass that repeats itself over and over in the winter; during the snowiest days in December and January, the Mount Glory boot pack alone can see more than 1,000 ascents. (Read more about ski touring on Teton Pass and in the Tetons on page 136.)

And over those many years, on the thousands of commutes and hundreds of trips into the backcountry, I’ve stopped countless times to take pictures of scenes that were just too good to pass up—a portrait of a road that has become tightly woven into so many aspects of my professional and personal life. Every time I feel like the drive to and from work over Teton Pass isn’t worth it, I tell myself that there are people who have much worse commutes than this. People in big cities are in their cars twice as long as I am to go half the distance, stuck in gridlock traffic looking at the ass end of the car in front of them. That’s not to say that the occasional car accident or timid driver on Teton Pass doesn’t grind progress to a crawl, but when it does, at least we can enjoy the view.

Mist in trees on Teton Pass, October 2008
A skier carves tracks into the south face of Mount Glory on Teton Pass above Highway 22, January 2008. The proximity to world-class backcountry on Teton Pass means proficient skiers can make the 2,000-foot ascent of Glory and be back to their cars in less than an hour, oftentimes before heading to work for the day.
The pullout at the summit of Teton Pass routinely becomes packed with vehicles of backcountry users seeking powder during the winter months. March 2014
Backcountry skiers ride in the back of a truck up the east side of Teton Pass after hitching a ride from Old Pass Road near Wilson, February 2014. The practice is common on both sides of Teton Pass for skiers and snowboarders doing laps in the backcountry.
An osprey takes on a pair of Canada geese in an attempt to intimidate them off a platform nest at Skyline Curve along Highway 22. Two osprey—birds that typically use the same nest year after year—had arrived to find the geese in residence and spent several days unsuccessfully attempting to kick them out. April 2013
A young cougar emerges from a tree well near Highway 22 just west of Wilson. March 2008
A small herd of elk runs through a field on the north side of Highway 22 near Wilson. The elk were trying to cross the road to join the rest of their group on the south side of the highway. December 2013
Avalanche debris dwarfs motorists on Highway 22 below Glory Bowl near Teton Pass. Poor visibility and dangerous avalanche conditions can keep Teton Pass closed for extended periods, sometimes days at a time. December 2008
Cars snake past an overturned box truck that wrecked while descending the west side of Teton Pass, snarling traffic for evening commuters. January 2021 JH

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