Beautiful mountain scenery in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

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 sleigh rides at the Elk Refuge. Winter is a great time to visit Jackson Hole, regardless of whether or not you are a skier as there is lots to do and see.

The National Elk Refuge

The National Elk Refuge provides 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.

National Elk Refuge wagon ride - Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Elk at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Group of elk at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Unfortunately because it was late March we did not see as many elk as we would have seen during the prime of winter. In case of warmer weather, the sleigh ride will be transformed into a wagon ride. 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 opportunity 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 and Greater Yellowstone Visitors center or on the National Elk website.

Update: As of 2023, rides are now $35 pp. Check the website for updated pricing info.

Jackson Hole Town Square

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 are comprised of the antlers shed by the elk naturally every year. You will learn 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.

Jackson Town Square - Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Elk Antler Arches in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

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 enjoy a quick bite to eat before you start your day.

Skiing and other winter recreation

The Jackson Hole ski resort is of course considered one of the best 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.

Winter fun in Jackson Hole, Wyoming - Jackson Hole Ski Resort

Scenic drives

At the Visitor’s Center, we received a free map of scenic drives. Along with great mountain scenery, these drives 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 a busy, congested city. We also took a drive along Elk Refuge Road (supposedly 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!

Moose sighting on Gros Ventre Road in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Bridger-Teton National Forest in Jackson, Wyoming
Moose sighting at Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming

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.

Gorgeous scenery on a drive near Jackson Hole, Wyoming

A great vacation destination for outdoor lovers

Overall, Jackson Hole is a gorgeous vacation destination, particularly for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you are a 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.