National Elk Refuge

National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

While on a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Mike & I decided to check out the National Elk Refuge. This refuge was established as a winter habitat for the elk, who migrate down from high country beginning in the winter months. The food draws and keeps them at the refuge. A charming winter sleigh rides takes you through the refuge. You will notice antlers lying about; these are shed by the elk. They have been collected and displayed in several arches around Jackson Town Square.  Make sure to stop by after your ride to take a look – the quaint downtown area is worth strolling around and perhaps stopping for a snack (Pearl St. Bagels is great!).

The tour guides are excellent; ours gave us an interesting, informative history of he refuge and the overall Jackson Hole area. They definitely keep your attention and make the ride more interesting and educational unlike some boring tour guides who make you wish the ride was over. Unfortunately,we visited too late in the season for the sleigh ride. Due to the lack of snow on our visit, the sleigh ride was transformed into a wagon ride. Most of the elk had already migrated, so if you want to see thousands, plan your visit during the snowy winter months.  To me, this is an ideal Western attraction – snow capped mountains, free roaming wildlife, and lots of open land! I would definitely return again!

Visit the National Elk Refuge website for ticket information. On a side note: take the drive along Gros Ventre Road in the nearby Bridger-Teton National Forest (just a short drive from the refuge). This is a great drive for spotting wildlife: we saw several moose along the route!

The National Elk Refuge is located at 675 E. Broadway Jackson, WY 83001.

Harriman State Park

Winter scene at Harriman State Park in Island Park, Idaho

When planning a vacation to Idaho, most people only think of the big parks like Yellowstone and Coeur d’Alene Parkway. However, you will be missing out by ignoring Harriman State Park, found in Southeast Idaho. This beautiful park is located just 45 minutes from Yellowstone. In fact, we passed it several times on our way out to Yellowstone before deciding on a separate visit.

The natural beauty of the area is unparalleled, especially during the serene winter months. The winter is the perfect time to test out your skiing skills on the 25+ miles of groomed trails. The views are absolutely amazing no matter which trail you pick (over a dozen varieties ranging from beginner to advanced exist).

The idyllic setting sets the perfect mood for any winter activity. We loved the feeling of being by ourselves in the wilderness – a feeling which exists more so out West due to a number of attractive factors including plenty of open landscapes, large mountain ranges, and scarcely populated areas.

The summer months present opportunities for wildlife viewing while biking, hiking, or horseback riding. In addition, camping is another popular activity for outdoor lovers looking for a rustic experience in a gorgeous area of the country. Special events are held throughout the year. Visit the Harriman Park website for information of upcoming events.

I highly recommend a visit to this beautiful state park, whether as a side trip on your way to Yellowstone, or as a day out in itself. You will leave with a great workout, a wonderful quiet nature experience, stunning photographs, and long lasting memories!

Harriman State Park is located about 38 miles from Yellowstone and 14 miles from Mesa Falls. All 3 of these attractions are must-see attractions in the area! Harriman is located on Green Canyon Road in Island Park, Idaho.