Wildlife viewing opportunities abound at National Elk Refuge. Whether you are an avid birder, photographer or an amater naturalist, plenty of opportunities exist to see wildlife throughout the National Elk Refuge
The National Elk Refuge lies northeast of the town of Jackson, Wyoming and directly south of Grand Teton National Park.
The winter season, between November and April, is the best time to view elk and other wildlife on the Refuge. To protect Refuge wildlife and their habitats, public use activities are primarily confined to the main, unpaved roads on the Refuge. All off-road travel is prohibited, including walking, skiing, or other recreational activities. Dogs are also restricted to the roadway and must be leashed at all times.
In conjunction with Bridger-Teton National Forest winter travel restrictions, a portion of the National Elk Refuge Road is closed to public travel from December 1 through April 30 to protect wintering wildlife. The closure includes all Refuge roads north of the Twin Creek junction, approximately 3½ miles northeast of the Refuge's entrance on Broadway Street in Jackson. This includes both Curtis Canyon and Flat Creek roads.
Map of Wildlife Viewing Areas on the National Elk Refuge
Many visitors view wildlife from this road, whether it be on a leisurely walk after work or a drive out to Miller Butte to see wintering bighorn sheep. This road offers an westerly view of the town of Jackson and the Tetons as well as a great view of wintering elk. Persons driving on the Refuge Road during the winter season should not park along the roadway and leave them unattended. Brief stopping along the Refuge Road is permitted, but vehicles must continue moving along the road when other traffic approaches. Special caution must be used when large Refuge equipment is present on the roadway.
This butte, centered on the east side of the Refuge and viewed from the Refuge Road, is a prime location for spotting bighorn sheep.
Flat Creek Bird Viewing Pull-out
The Flat Creek ponds directly north of the visitor center offer many opportunites to view waterfowl and water birds throughout the year. In winter, trumpeter swans can often be seen foraging. In the summer, secretive marsh birds like the common snipe can be heard in these marshes.
HWY 26 Auto Pullouts
Paved turnouts on the west side of the National Elk Refuge along U.S. Highway 26 (leading to Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks) are provided for viewing and photographing refuge wildlife.
From mid-December through late March, daily horse-drawn sleigh rides (or wagons, if weather conditions require them) offer visitors a close-up look at the elk herd. Sleigh rides begin at the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center, at 532 North Cache. Visitors can also learn about elk and management of the refuge through a slide show, videos, exhibits, and by talking with refuge personnel. Sleigh riders are encouraged to bundle up since they are likely to be exposed to very cold temperatures and chilling winds.
Limited hiking opportunities exist on the refuge, and there is no overnight parking or camping. Camping is available in nearby national parks and national forests. Brochures and pamphlets containing regulations and information on the Rrefuge and its wildlife are available at the visitor center and at the Refuge headquarters.
National Elk Refuge Home