The Jackson Hole valley today is a major hub of tourism in the American West: skiers in the winter, national park-goers in the summer and mountain lovers all year round. But its primary tourism draw—long before the word “resort” became associated with the peaceful Wyoming locale—was once its dude ranches. Back then, its cowboy bars served actual cowboys, its main street was paved with dirt and its vast expanses were more populated with bison than with people. In 1948, LIFE photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captured the region’s quiet yet dramatic beauty in vivid Technicolor, preserving it—at least on film—for posterity.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.