Flat Creek Inn

Category: Winter Adventure

Non-Skiing Winter Activities in Jackson

Not much of a skier? We get it. Some people live for the slopes, and other people sprained their wrists on the bunny hill twice in a row when they were thirteen and haven’t had much of a desire to get back out there since. (You know, some people.) For those in the latter category, Jackson Hole still has a lot to offer during the ski season. Come along and we’ll show you a few of our favorite non-skiing winter activities in Jackson.

Snowshoe or Cross Country Ski

Want to get outside without shooting wildly downhill at the mercy of gravity? Try snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. A favorite winter activity in our family, both cross-country skiing and snowshoeing provide excellent opportunities to get fresh air, exercise, and see the winter world from a different point of view. Don’t have your own skis or not sure where to start? Cross-country ski tours are available for all skill levels and ages. Not sure where to go? Here’s a good starting point.

Take a sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge

Every year, thousands of elk, along with a variety of other animals, fowl, and mountain men (just kidding), migrate to the refuge for the winter. We recently wrote about what you can expect from the sleigh ride experience. Bring a blanket and your camera and get ready to immerse yourself in some of the most stunning winter landscapes the West has to offer.

Visit an art gallery

Need a break from the winter weather? Did you know that Jackson has an internationally renowned art scene? Jackson boasts over two dozen art galleries in town alone, including the famed Wilcox Gallery, which showcases art from some of the biggest names in Western art. But art isn’t limited to just the galleries. Businesses around town strongly support local artists and it isn’t uncommon to come across art displayed in unexpected places. If you somehow manage to make it through all the galleries in town, you can spend a lazy afternoon meandering through the National Museum of Wildlife Art. Founded in 1987, the museum holds more than 5,000 works of wildlife art from prominent artists including Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, and John James Audubon. Visit the Palate while you’re there for lunch with an inspiring view of the elf refuge.

Take a dog sledding tour

For the most unique (and awesome) winter experience, try an authentic sled dog tour through some of the area’s most stunning scenery. Several local companies offer tours, including Call of the WYld and Jackson Hole Iditarod Dog Sled Tours. Both companies offer unique experiences that are sure to inspire your next Instagram post and make all your friends and family supremely jealous. 

Ride the aerial tram

In just 12 minutes, the aerial tram ascends 4,139 vertical feet to the summit of Rendezvous Mountain. With an elevation of 10,450 feet, you can enjoy sweeping panoramic views of the Teton Mountains, Jackson, Grand Teton National Park, and the Snake River Valley. For an even more stunning view, stop into Corbet’s Cabin for their Top of the World Waffles. If you find yourself in Jackson through the weekend, there’s a weekly interdenominational worship service (at the top of the mountain), which you can attend on Sundays at 9:30. If you board without ski or snowboard equipment, the ride to the service is free. Snag a complimentary ticket at guest services. 

If you’re not sure where to stay to experience all these winter wonders, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered here at Flat Creek Inn.

Real vs. Fake? Which Christmas Tree is Better For the Environment?

real vs. fake Christmas trees

Every year when December rolls around (or November, depending on who you are), the topic of Christmas trees starts flitting across your mind. Should I buy real? Is this the year I give in and buy a fake tree? Is one better for the environment than the other? After all, when you live in a place as beautiful as the Western United States, it’s natural to want to protect it. Let’s dive into the pros and cons of each and see which tree will make the cut this year. (See what we did there?)

Real Christmas Tree

  • Nostalgic piney scent.
  • You can have your Hallmark moment at the Christmas tree farm every year.
  • Doesn’t require the intensive carbon emissions that it requires to produce and ship artificial trees.
  • When harvested correctly, there are MORE trees left standing than are harvested. That means that of the 350-500 million trees growing on tree farms across the country, only 30 million are harvested for Christmas trees each year.
  • Purchasing a real Christmas tree helps support small tree farmers and local businesses, like the one owned by the cute lumberjack who entices the big-city girl to leave her law firm and start a bakery for orphans in a Hallmark movie.
  • Christmas trees are grown on soil that often does not support other crops.
  • The farms that grow Christmas trees stabilize soil, protect water supplies, and provide a habitat for wildlife while they’re growing.
  • For every tree cut, most farmers plant one to three saplings in its place, making trees a sustainable resource.

… Or Fake

  • You’re not vacuuming pine needles off your floor until June each year.
  • Convenience. You can use this tree year after year AND you don’t have to spend hours in tears detangling the lights, as many artificial trees come pre-lit.
  • If used for more than five years, artificial trees can have less of an environmental impact than buying a new tree each year.

At the end of the day, assuming you plan to use your artificial tree for longer than five years, neither really has that significant of an impact on the environment compared to other activities of daily living. So if that real tree brings you Christmas cheer, buy it. If you’d rather go artificial, be our guest. Either way, I hope you make yourself a steaming mug of hot chocolate and enjoy being with your loved ones as you decorate your tree this year.

This post brought to you by Flat Creek Inn.

Breanne Kunz was raised in the Pacific Northwest but grew up spending summers in Idaho and frequently visiting Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. She is a wife and mom who likes to write. She’s a fan of live Christmas trees because she’s from Washington State where live Christmas trees are life.


Picture credit: Candy Cane Christmas Tree Farm, Oxford, MI.

Chiu, A. (2022, November 25). Are real or artificial Christmas trees better for the environment? The Washington Post. Retrieved December 5, 2023, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2022/11/25/artificial-tree-real-christmas-environment/

(n.d.). Real vs. Fake—Which Christmas Tree Is Better for the Environment? The Nature Conservancy. Retrieved December 5, 2023, from https://www.nature.org/en-us/what-we-do/our-priorities/protect-water-and-land/land-and-water-stories/real-vs-fake-christmas-tree/

National Christmas Tree Association (n.d.). Environmental Benefits. Retrieved December 5, 2023, from https://realchristmastrees.org/education/environmental-benefits/

 

Sleigh Ride through the National Elk Refuge

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? In the elk refuge, snow is glistening. Winter is upon us and there’s snow place better to be than in Jackson! (We deeply apologize for that pun.) If you’re looking for a magical start to the holiday season, look no further than a sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge. Sleigh ride national elk refuge

About the Elk Refuge

First, a bit of background. It all started in the nineteenth century when the arrival of settlers in Jackson Hole resulted in a major disruption to elk migrations. Decreased habitat, severe winters, and other factors led to the starvation of thousands of elk. Wanting to preserve large elk populations in the area (but also keep the elk out of their stuff), Jackson locals began feeding the elk through the winters. And so in 1912, the elk refuge was formed and sleigh rides to feed the elk began.

Today, the National Elk Refuge consists of nearly 25,000 acres of winter elk range. And although guests no longer feed the elk, the tradition of winter sleigh rides continues!

Here’s what you need to know (as always, confirm hours and prices before arriving) :

Who

You, of course. If you can’t make it this year, you can always view the elk from the Flat Creek Inn Elk Cam.

What

A magical winter experience surrounded by some of the West’s most stunning and iconic landscapes. Also, the largest migrating elk herd in North America. In addition to elk, you may also see eagles, coyotes, foxes, badgers, bison, deer, wolves, swans, and a whole host of other fowl. Each ride is unique.

When

The 2023-2024 season runs December 16 through April 6, weather permitting. Sleigh rides run from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm daily. Though reservations are not required, they are highly recommended, especially during the holiday season.

Where

The National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming, in case you missed it the first time. If you need a place to stay while in town, check out Flat Creek Inn, conveniently located across from the elk refuge.

Why

Because it’s cool and fun.

What Else?

Blankets are neither provided nor sold. You are welcome to bring your own and I’m sure you’ll be glad you did. Sleigh rides last approximately 45 minutes to an hour. You’ll need to arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled ride time. Shuttles from the visitor’s center parking lot run every 20-30 minutes.

Come with questions! Beyond just driving the sleigh, your guide is a wealth of knowledge and is ready to answer any and all elk-related questions you can think of.

Have you ever taken a sleigh ride through the elk refuge? Let us know in the comments!

***

Breanne Kunz was raised in the Pacific Northwest but grew up spending summers in Idaho and frequently visiting Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. She is a wife and mom who likes to write. She thinks a sleigh ride sounds nice, as long as it’s followed by a steaming mug of hot chocolate.


Borgreen, D. (2011). Elk at National Elk Refuge [Photograph]. Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsmtnprairie/5790547938

What to Do in Yellowstone National Park in the Winter

Yellowstone in Winter
Photo credit: Jeff Gunn from Atlanta, USA

When most people think of Yellowstone National Park, they think of iconic geysers, vibrant hot springs, and the occasional foreign tourist becoming a cautionary tale about why getting close to bison is bad. But there’s a whole other side to this natural marvel that comes out in the winter. After all, there’s something really metal about fire and ice together. If you want to witness steaming geysers and bubbling hot springs framed by glistening snow and pretend you’re part of a Scandinavian rock band, you’re in luck. Let’s take a look at all there is to do in Yellowstone in winter. 

Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing

If there’s one thing we dislike about Yellowstone in the summer, it’s the crowds. Nothing ruins a view like a giant tour bus parked in front of it. But imagine you’re snowshoeing or cross-country skiing through a pristine wintry glade, silent except for the crunch of your footwear against the top layer of snow. That’s Yellowstone in winter for you.

Looking for an easy route to start? Try Old Gardiner Trail, Lone Star Geyser Trail, or Black Sand Basin Trail. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing deserve a post of their own, so stay tuned. 

Wildlife Watching

While some animals migrate or hibernate during the winter, Yellowstone’s wildlife remains active. Spotting wolves, elk, bison, and other creatures against the snowy backdrop is a photographer’s dream—and indeed, Jackson’s art galleries are filled with that stuff. Here are a few places to try getting a glimpse of wintry wildlife: 

  • Lamar Valley: Grab a four-wheel drive vehicle and head northeast. This place is like the VIP section for Yellowstone’s wolf packs. But it’s not just wolves strutting their stuff here; you can also catch bison, mule deer, and coyotes.
  • Firehole River: You’ll need a guided tour crew, but check out the Firehole River between Madison Junction and Old Faithful, where the trumpeter swans munch on . . . whatever swans eat. (Our research ended there. Find out yourself.)
  • Mammoth Hot Springs: Check out a cold-air hotspot for viewing bison, coyotes, and eagles.
  • National Elk Refuge: We’re particular about this one, where thousands of elk winter every year. You can spy on these majestic creatures from lookout points, or you can hop on a guided sleigh ride through the refuge (check out our upcoming post on the topic! Or just book a room and Flat Creek Inn and bring binoculars. 

Snowcoach Tours

Don’t want to brave the elements? Yellowstone has you covered. Take a guided snowcoach tour—a hulking bus racing along on giant wheels or treads, like something from an oddly chill Mad Max movie. Taking one of these heated vehicles is a comfortable and scenic way to witness the park’s highlights.

Winter Lodging and Hospitality

While several park lodges close during winter, select accommodations remain open, offering a cozy retreat after a day of adventure. And may we suggest Flat Creek Inn . . .

Tips for Your Winter Adventure

  • Pack accordingly: Dress in layers and bring appropriate gear for snow activities.
  • Check for road closures: Some roads may be closed, but many areas remain accessible.
  • Book early: Lodging and tours often fill up quickly, so plan and reserve in advance.

Embrace the Unforgettable

Whether you’re seeking tranquility amidst snow-covered trails or looking forward to a hot meal after your snowcoach rumbles back to civilization, Yellowstone in winter promises an unforgettable experience for adventurers and nature lovers alike.

***
Ryan Kunz is a copywriter and freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics, including media, the outdoors, and whatever else strikes his fancy. He hates tour buses and all they stand for. 

Free Astoria Hot Springs in Jackson Hole

This free hot springs in Jackson Hole is a gem that you don’t want to miss!

What is it?

First set of hot springs at the free Astoria Hot Springs.
First set of hot springs

The hot springs are made up of about 5 or so small “pools.”

Two of the pools are together at the bottom of the trail, and then if you walk another 50 feet or so you can find about 3 more small pools.

Second set of hot springs at the Free Astoria Hot Springs.
Second set of hot springs

The temperature of the springs depends on which one you are in, but they are quite hot and feel really nice.

They are big enough and deep enough to fit several people in each one.

Pro tip: Try dipping in the hot springs and then running into the cold river and taking a dip in there!

How to Find the Hot Springs

The red bridge near the free Astoria Hot Springs.
The red bridge

First, find the Astoria Hot Springs Resort. The free hot springs are right across the river from the resort.

When you see the red bridge, you will know that you are close.

Head into the gravel parking lot near the bridge. There are two parking lots, one closer to the bridge and one a little further away – go to the one that’s a little further away from the bridge.

The parking lot at the free Astoria Hot Springs.
The parking lot

After you park look for the dirt trails. There are two paths you can take. The one that goes downward will take you to the first two hot springs.

The trail to the free Astoria Hot Springs.
The top of the trail

The trail that goes along the top will take you to the hot springs that are a little further away. Basically, both paths will lead you to the hot springs, so it doesn’t matter which one you choose.

Heading down the trail to the free Astoria Hot Springs.
Heading down the trail to the hot springs. You can see them below if you look hard!

Tips

  • These are HOT springs so they will probably be most enjoyable in the winter, spring, or fall. In the summer it might be best to head there early in the morning, or in the evening when it’s a little cooler outside.

    Soaking in the free Astoria Hot Springs.
    Ahhh, nothing better than soaking in the hot springs!
  • The bottom floor of the hot springs has sharp rocks so walk carefully or wear water shoes.
  • The hot springs may smell like sulfur (aka rotten eggs) so prepare yourself for that!

Beautiful mountain views at the free Astoria Hot Springs.
Beautiful mountain views

The Flat Creek Inn is the perfect place to stay when you come visit the free Astoria Hot Springs!

Shan’tel Christensen is a mother of 5 and a graduate student. She enjoys the beauty of nature and little getaways to amazing places like Jackson Hole.

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