Now that it’s mid-summer, huckleberries are starting to make their annual appearance. These delicious morsels are known to grow all over the northwest from up in Glacier National Park, further west in McCall, Idaho, and throughout the Tetons. They grow scattered about in Oregon forests, up into the Canadian territories, and sometimes as far east as Michigan.

Huckleberries have earned the adoration of many, but regrettably, they won’t be lining the grocery store shelves this summer. Due to their untamed nature, the only way to enjoy their succulent taste is by engaging in the age-old tradition of foraging. As you embark on your huckleberry-seeking adventure, understanding what to look for becomes an essential aspect of this delightful quest.

What the huck are Huckleberries?

The huckleberries are closely related to blueberries as part of the Ericaceae family, but they have a distinct taste that is slightly more tart. Huckleberries are smaller, round berries that come in a range of colors, from red to dark blue.

Unlike blueberries that grow in clusters, huckleberries present themselves as single berries, scattered across the landscape. They have a bright violet juice in their interior, a stark contrast to the pale green hue of blueberries. A simple way to recognize these delightful berries is by their slightly bigger and bitter seeds, providing a unique taste experience.

Huckleberries have a rich history, treasured by Native Americans for their medicinal properties for centuries. Today, they are widely used in jams, pies, and other delectable treats. These nutritious berries are a great source of antioxidants, vitamin C, and iron.

A handful of violet huckleberries

A bush with a few exceptional looking huckleberries

Foraging Huckleberries in the Tetons?

When: Huckleberries are typically in season during the summer months, usually from July to early September. In the Jackson Hole area specifically, keep an eye out for prime huckleberry-picking opportunities during this period.

Where: The million-dollar question for foraging huckleberries in the Tetons is where to look. Avid foragers keep their spots secret, but tagging along with an experienced huckleberry hoarder is your best chance for success.

If you’re on your own, search for huckleberries in areas with partial to full sunlight, like old clear-cuts, burns, and heavily logged regions. Huckleberries thrive in open canopies that allow more sunlight to reach the forest floor. Look for them at elevations between 3,000 ft to 7,500 ft in disturbed areas, including old burn zone (20 – 50-year-old burns), ski runs, and partially-forested spots. Huckleberries have been known to grow along the Teton Pass, GTNP, and Yellowstone NP. Explore some trail options on our trail search page on JH Nordic.

However, climate change is impacting huckleberry habitats, leading to shifts in their distribution and growth patterns, with potential implications for the landscape and wildlife in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Emphasizing sustainable foraging and addressing climate change is vital to preserving the joy of huckleberry foraging for future generations.

A map of projected changes of huckleberry habitats over the next 60 years. Regions in the US are projected to loose huckleberry habitats, while regions and Canada will gain them.
RCP 4.5 is a moderate scenario according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), where emissions peak around 2040 and then decrease. On the other hand, RCP 8.5 is the highest baseline emissions scenario, with emissions continuing to rise throughout the twenty-first century.
Huckleberry stained hands, the fingers are a bright magenta color

How: Foraging huckleberries can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience, but it’s essential to do so responsibly and sustainably.

  1. Hand-picking only: Use your hands to pick the berries gently, leaving the plant and surrounding environment undisturbed. Avoid using tools like bush rakes that may harm the plants.
  2. Only pick ripe berries: To ensure you’re picking ripe berries, look for colors ranging from blue to purple, indicating full ripeness. Avoid picking red or green berries as they may not be fully matured.
  3. Personal use: Only pick berries for personal consumption. Avoid over-harvesting, which can disrupt the local ecosystem and wildlife. In Grand Teton National Park, berry collecting is an exception to the leave-no-trace rule. So, you can enjoy berry picking with a limit of one quart per species per person per day.
  4. Species verification: Be cautious of poisonous berry species that may grow in the area. Use guidebooks or seek local expertise to identify huckleberries correctly.

Not just for humans:

Humans are not the only ones drawn to the delightful taste of huckleberries. The bears of Jackson Hole are particularly fond of this fruit. Huckleberries are a key food source for grizzlies during the summer, contributing significantly to their diet as they prepare for hibernation. When foraging for huckleberries, it’s essential to be mindful of your surroundings and carry bear spray as a precaution. And remember, we are sharing the harvest with other animals who count on berries as a vital food source.

A black bear snacking on some huckleberries straight from the bush

Recipes with Huckleberries

Now that you have foraged huckleberries in the Tetons, it’s time to get creative in the kitchen! Here are some delicious recipes you can try:

  1. Huckleberry Pancakes: A fun twist on the classic blueberry pancake
  2. Huckleberry Compote: There is so much you can do with a simple huckleberry compote, put it on top of ice cream, yogurt, roasted elk, or pan-seared salmon.
  3. Huckleberry Ice Cream: Arguably one of the best huckleberry pairings. Make it at home or treat yourself to a milkshake from the Victor Emporium
  4. Huckleberry Simple Syrup: Make a batch of this huckleberry simple syrup and you can make Huckleberry lemonade or grab some rum, limes, and mint for some huckleberry mojitos
A waffle cone, with a giant scoop of purple ice cream, huckleberry flavor

A corner store in Victor, Idaho known for their huckleberry ice cream and milkshakes

A colander of red-violet huckleberries that are freshly washed

Huckleberry foraging in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is a delightful adventure into nature’s bounty. Understanding huckleberry characteristics, sustainable foraging locations, and maintaining ecosystem balance ensures a fulfilling and responsible experience. 

Grab your basket, head into the wilderness, and savor the allure of these delicious wild treasures. Happy huckleberry foraging!

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