Is the National Elk Refuge Worth a Visit?

national elk refugeOne of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of an area you’re visiting is to observe local wildlife. At The National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, you can do just that! The Refuge has 24,700 acres of grassy meadows and marshes that sit in an intermountain valley in northwestern Wyoming. Their goal is to provide, preserve, and manage lands for elk, birds, and other big game animals, and is a great place to learn about the creatures that inhabited Jackson Hole long before we did!

Explore the National Elk Refuge

When planning your visit, the Cowboy Room at the Bentwood Inn is a wonderful homestead after a wildlife excursion. It’s Wild West feel and luxurious amenities will help you stay comfortable and connected to nature.

The Animals

If you think that you’ll only be seeing elk in the National Elk Refuge, think again! 47 different types of mammals have been identified on the Refuge and make their home in a variety of habitats. Bison, bighorn sheep, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, coyotes, and wolves are just a few of the magnificent species that have been spotted by guests. In addition, over 175 species of birds, including swans, cranes, and even bald eagles frequent the area.

The main attraction, elk, can be seen in herds of thousands when they migrate to The National Elk Refuge during the cold winter months. Their migration can last from a few days to several weeks, and can sometimes cover up to 60 miles depending on the weather. The National Elk Refuge provides a much-needed winter sanctuary for this majestic creature.

The Seasons

The National Elk Refuge is a great place to visit any time of the year and has a variety of attractions in each season. In the winter, guests can take a horse-drawn National Elk Refuge sleigh ride amongst the wintering elk to watch them feed on the natural vegetation. In the spring, the male elk begin regrowing their velveted antlers, and calves are born in May and June.

If visiting the National Elk Refuge in summer, guests can either drive their own cars or walk through the Refuge where ducks, geese, and swans can be seen swimming in open ponds. During this time, the bull elk’s enormous antlers reach their full growth and look remarkable. In the fall, the bulls begin to challenge and fight one another during their breeding season, and birds pass through as they make their way down south. In September and October, the elk enter rut (mating season) and male elks can be heard bugling. The sound is eerie, but beautiful and worth the experience.

Events at the National Elk Refuge

On top of the natural events that take place throughout the seasons, The National Elk Refuge provides guests with fun and exciting activities that will create life-long memories. Recreational activities including hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, photography, environmental education, and hiking are offered throughout the year and are a great opportunity for guests to interact with wildlife and nature experts. For more information on activities in the National Elk Refuge, including getting a permit for National Elk Refuge hunting, visit the National Fish & Wildlife Service’s website.

Start Planning Your Trip!

With picturesque views and fascinating animals, The National Elk Refuge is definitely worth a visit. You’ll learn the history of Wyoming wildlife and will bond with family and friends over the beauty of the state. To see gorgeous artists’ renderings of elk and other wildlife in the area, be sure to visit the National Museum of Wildlife Art, or relax after a sleigh ride at the Granite Hot Springs. And for even more ideas on things to do in the Jackson Hole area, be sure to download our free vacation guide! It’s a great resource for experiencing the best that Jackson Hole has to offer. And to take advantage of our wildlife tours which we’ll plan for you, be sure to view our specials and packages page.

Photo: USFWS Mountain-Prarie | Flickr