Get Up Close and Personal with Nature at its Finest at the National Elk Refuge

Tucked away on the outskirts of the beautiful outdoor mecca of Jackson Hole, Wyoming is the 25,000 acres that comprise the National Elk Refuge. Created in the early 1900s, it is designated as a protected area to serve as a home for just under 10,000 elk each year, one of the largest herds on Earth!

The thousands of elk who make up the herd migrate to the refuge from all over the northern states, from the Grand Tetons to Yellowstone National Park. Because this is such a unique park, it gets rave reviews from visitors and locals alike.

Herd of Elk With Mountains in Springtime

Image via USFWS Mountain-Prairie on Flickr.

The National Elk Refuge is a must see destination during any visit to Jackson Hole, but especially during the winter months when you can get up close and personal with many of these majestic animals.

Here are some of the activities you can enjoy during a visit:

Sleigh Rides

During the winter months, after the majority of the elk herd has arrived in the refuge, the Fish and Wildlife Service offers visitors educational horse drawn sleigh rides through the park.

Sleigh Ride in the National Elk Refuge

Image via USFWS Mountain-Prairie on Flickr.

This is a must see opportunity (don’t forget your camera!) to view not only thousands of elk, but also some of the other local wildlife such as bald eagles, bison and coyotes.

For another epic winter experience in the area, take a dog sled ride from Jackson Hole to Granite Hot Springs!

Two Bald Eagles in a Tree

Image via USFWS Mountain-Prairie on Flickr.

Feature Creatures

The National Elk Refuge is a great place to spend some time with the naturalists employed by the fish and wildlife service. They are a treasure trove of information on the local wildlife and can also provide you with some tips and tricks to make sure you trip is special.

One program is the Feature Creature hour, where a naturalist will spend time each day specifically showcasing one of the local animals found on the reserve.

Self Guided Tours

Of course, there is plenty of opportunity in the National Elk Refuge to enjoy some self guided tours. Visitors to the park can drive along designated roads to take in both the scenery as well as the animals all year round.

In addition, if you can’t make it to Jackson Hole during the winter, the refuge is gorgeous all year round, offering miles of hiking trails and plenty of local wildlife throughout a number of habitats.

All in all, the National Elk Refuge is one of those hidden gems of the park system that should not be forgotten.

Herd of Elk

Image via USFWS Mountain-Prairie on Flickr.

If you ever get the chance to take a trip out to Jackson Hole, be sure to put the refuge on your list to enjoy a truly one of a kind experience! Share your photos with us using #drivethenation!

Have you visited National Elk Refuge? What did you think?