Jackson Hole Wyoming: The National Elk Refuge, Grand Tetons, & a Moose Sighting!
Jackson, Wyoming is a beautiful small Western town most famous for its’ world class ski resorts. However, it is also a popular destination with outdoor enthusiasts due to its’ close proximity to beautiful national parks like Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Another popular tourist attraction in the area is the National Elk Refuge. We decided to take a day trip from Idaho primarily to take one of the highly recommended Elk Refuge Sleigh rides. The National Elk Refuge is a winter habit for elk. The elk come down from the mountains because they don’t want to dig through more than 2 inches of snow to look for food (understandably). Once the snow begins to melt they had back up to the mountains, and thus, you will see more of them during the prime of winter.
Unfortunately because it was late March we did not see as many elk as we would have seen in the winter months. The sleigh ride was also turned into a wagon ride because of the warmer weather, which was a bit of a let down, however, we still saw about 15 elk, and the tour guide gave us a great history of the refuge.
I definitely recommend this sleigh ride for the chance to observe wildlife in a natural setting and enjoy an informative history lesson. We took some great pictures! Tours run $18 per person and last about an hour. Sleigh rides will start again around December each year. Tickets can be purchased at the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor’s Center.
We also walked around Jackson Town Square. I wanted to go ice skating, but unfortunately the rinks closed early this year due to the mild weather. One of the highlights in downtown Jackson are the 4 elk-antler arches! These arches, made up of the antlers which the elk shed naturally every year, are collected by the refuge. You will find out more about the history of the arches if you take a sleigh ride at the National Elk Refuge.
Downtown Jackson Hole is a really cute place to stroll around as there are many western style saloons and rustic restaurants, as well as gorgeous mountain landscapes in the background. It’s the perfect setting anytime of the year, being that it feels like a cute snowy mountain town during the winter season, and then transforms into a rustic ambiance during the warmer months, which fits in perfectly for a summer hiking/adventure trip.
There are plenty of restaurants, bars, and motels in the area. We stopped at Pearl St. Bagels for a bagel and hot chocolate. Not the biggest cafe ever and limited seating, but a great place to get a quick bite to eat before you start your day.
The Jackson Hole ski resort is of course considered one of the top in the country. Even if you are not a skier, stop by as there is much more to do! Cross country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice skating, and dog sledding tours are popular with non skiers. I highly recommend snowshoeing if you have never been before. Snowshoeing is a wonderful workout, requires no advanced training, and is a perfect way to enjoy the gorgeous scenery of Jackson Hole. Outside of the ski resort, winter snowcoach tours and a visit to the hot springs are nice relaxing ways to enjoy the pretty alpine scenery.
At the Visitor’s Center, we were given a free map of scenic drives which are also great for spotting area wildlife. One of the top picks for wildlife sighting is Gros Ventre Road. On this road we spotted 2 moose! Seeing any wildlife upclose is a really unique experience, especially for anyone coming from the city. We also drove along another road called Elk Refuge Road, which was supposed to be a hotspot for sheep sightings. Unfortunately, we did not see any sheep, however, we did see plenty of elk running in the distance!
A few photos from our drive!
All of the sudden a lot of snow began to fall. It is crazy how fast the weather changes out West! One minute we had to take a wagon ride as opposed to a sleigh ride due to the lack of snow, and the next we are in a blizzard! We decided to head out before the snow began to pile up. We didn’t want to take any chances of possible road closures/hassle of putting on tire chains. Anyone who has ever attempted to pull over and put chains on their tire during a snowstorm knows just how much a hassle this experience can be! The scenery on the way back was spectacular with the snow covered mountains and pine trees.
Overall, Jackson Hole is a gorgeous vacation destination, particularly for nature lovers and outdoor lovers. Whether you are hiker or skier, snow lover or fan of the bright sunny western skies, or simply someone looking for a peaceful vacation destination where you can immerse yourself in the serenity of nature, you will find it here in Jackson Hole. I am hoping to visit Jackson Hole sometime this spring to ride the tram, and possibly do some biking or hiking in the area.