In Jackson Hole, the CTS cuts through a Wyoming Valley filled with wildlife, wondrous peaks, and Western charm.
It was Jackson Hole that converted me. I’m a coastal guy. But this valley in western Wyoming is so spectacularly picturesque that I’ve become a mountain guy too. Not that I’m a convert to snow. Summer is even more popular than Jackson’s renowned winter ski season, locals tell me, and summer is when I always go. The season is not long, bookended by a muddy spring and early snows, but from June to August I’ve been rewarded with mountainsides blanketed by evergreens, the peaks of the Teton Range cutting into a clear sky, and flat, easy driving on the valley floor alongside bison and elk, gray wolf and black bear.
The best way to think of the valley, driving-wise, is as a left-handed hook. The tip of the hook is the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (aka Teton Village). Roughly 16 kilometres south and east of this recreational area (via Routes 390 and 22) is the upscale-cowboy town of Jackson, and from there it’s a straight shot north on 89 past the Jackson Hole Airport (the only airport in America that’s located in a national park), and into the jaw-dropping landscape of the Grand Teton mountains.
I roll up into the parking lot of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in the CTS Sedan, and the stopping power of the 4-piston aluminium Brembo® front brakes reminds me that this machine is a true sport vehicle. With its long, lean profile and inlaid hood it delivers looks and performance—a devastating combo.
It’s good policy in mountain destinations to head up high at the start of a trip to take in the lay of the land. As Bridger Gondola climbs to more than 2700 metres, the whole valley comes into view—the Technicolor-green herringbone patterns made by the fir, blue spruce, and the lodgepole pine of the subalpine region. To the west, there’s the Teton Range; to the east, the Gros Ventre Range. The bright Snake River, true to its name, twists and turns along the valley floor. An easy hiking loop is accessible from the gondola’s landing, and I’m loving the crisp, clear air up here, which is about 11 degrees cooler than at the base of the mountain.
Once I return to the valley, I’m anxious to get to the town of Jackson, so I pull out my key fob and rev up the CTS with the Adaptive Remote Start. A half-hour later, I’m heading for the antlers: not on actual animals, but the antler arches that serve as the entrance to Jackson Town Square. I find a parallel spot on Center Street, or rather the CTS does. The vehicle’s Automatic Park Assist scans for an available parking space and automatically steers itself. A little accelerating and braking, and I’m in.
I head over to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, a local fixture where the stools are made from leather saddles and the bar has its own beer and wine labels. I settle in with a Million Dollar Cowboy Bar Beer—a golden ale—and shoot some pool.
After checking out some galleries and cowboy boot shops, I jump in the CTS to head north out of town. The route through the 1250 square kilometres Grand Teton National Park is one of the nation’s best drives. It’s utterly accessible and yet it’s real nature; this ecosystem has changed little since prehistoric times. The handling of the CTS is so sure and the feel of the powertrain is so graceful—the sedan is one of the lightest vehicles in its class—that I’m able to sneak peeks at the 4200-metre-high Grand Teton.
The road hugs the 24-kilometre-long Jackson Lake, and I pull over to see the peak’s reflection in its waters—a justifiably famous view, made even more enchanting when I spot a moose at the waterline 45 metre away. The day is hot and dry, but the lake doesn’t draw many swimmers—though it’s popular for fishing and boating—because the surface temperature rarely breaks 16 degrees.
Still, it’s hard not to feel emboldened in such a landscape. There’s nothing to do but hang my shirt on a tree and jump in.
WHEN YOU GO
BEST SCENIC: The whole stretch along Route 89 along Jackson Lake offers a mirror image of the Grand Tetons.
BEST LODGINGS: Amangani (amanresorts.com) is the most luxurious resort. Check out the show-stopping views from its infinity pool and Jacuzzi, which are dramatically lined with fire urns.
The Cadillac XT5 is currently not available in the United Kingdom.