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.
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) :
You, of course. If you can’t make it this year, you can always view the elk from the Flat Creek Inn Elk Cam.
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.
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.
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.
Because it’s cool and fun.
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