- Parks and Gardens, Zoos and Aquariums Type
- 2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
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Every autumn, Jackson Hole resonates from the distinctive mating calls of one of its most prominent residents: elk. These large, deer-like creatures have roamed Jackson Hole and the nearby Teton Mountains by the thousands for many years, but they still have difficulty finding food during the harsh winter months. So as temperatures begin to drop, the Hole's herds make their way to the National Elk Refuge, a massive non-enclosed sanctuary. Visit the refuge in winter to find them waiting for spring thaw, munching on staff-provided alfalfa pellets.
While at the refuge, you can observe the animals from your car, or you can tag along on a guided sleigh ride (during the winter months). If you want to spot the most elk, plan your visit for the winter months. Travelers who visited the refuge during the warmer months reported seeing little to no elk. But those who did make the trek here during prime elk-viewing season were surprised by the amount of activity at the refuge and pleased by how close they were able to get to the animals. Many also strongly recommended scheduling the guided sleigh ride tour to get a unique look at the elk in their habitats and highly praise the guides for their expertise. If you sign up for this, make sure to wear plenty of warm layers.
Also on-site is the historic Miller Ranch, a two-story log home that was constructed at the end of the 19th-century. Only open during the summer season, the house is staffed by volunteers who can share information about history of the National Elk Refuge, as well as the area's earliest settlers.
Located just north of Jackson, the National Elk Refuge operates seasonal hours. In the winter (beginning Oct. 1), the facility is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and in the summer (beginning Memorial Day) the refuge is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Stop in the visitor center first to sign up for guided tours or peruse educational displays. Admission is free, but a sleigh ride will cost you: adults pay $25; children between the ages of 5 and 12 pay $15. You can learn more about the National Elk Refuge by visiting its website.
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