Immediately north of downtown Jackson, the 25,000-acre National Elk Refuge is protected land and the winter home of about 7,000 elk.
In the fall, elk migrate down to the refuge for better feeding as snow buries their summer grazing grounds. Between mid-December and early April, you can take a sleigh ride into the herd to learn about elk from a wildlife specialist and see them up close. While a single human approaching an elk would scare it (it’s illegal to walk on the Elk Refuge), sleighs — whether carrying visitors or hay — have traveled among the herd since the refuge was founded in 1912, so the animals are accustomed to them.
When the elk migrate off the refuge as the snow melts in the spring, other animals like bighorn sheep, eagles, wolves, coyotes, and more remain. Between August 1 and October 31, parts of Flat Creek that flow through the refuge are open to fly-fishers. The Elk Refuge Road is a scenic drive in any season and, although dirt for at least the first 6 miles, is drivable in most passenger cars.
How to visit the National Elk Refuge
Walk or Bike Along the Pathway
The main trail on the Refuge is the nearly 6 mile, paved pathway that runs along beautiful wetland and grassland habitat. The trail connects to several paved trails in Grand Teton National Park. Cycling is the most popular activity along the pathway. Visitors who are looking for a shorter adventure can stroll along the beginning of the pathway, which departs from the north lawn of the National Elk Refuge & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center. Flat Creek meanders under the pathway, allowing for opportunities to spot cutthroat trout, river otters, and various ducks.
Take a Scenic Drive
The Refuge Road is the official entrance onto the National Elk Refuge. The road travels along open meadows, rolling hills, and rocky cliffs. Wildlife watching and photography are popular activities along the road. From autumn through spring, look for Bighorn Sheep on Miller Butte. There is no fee to visit the Refuge.
Visit the Fish Hatchery
Located on the National Elk Refuge, the Jackson National Fish Hatchery has many visitor opportunities for you and your family. During your visit you can tour the fish hatchery production site, picnic near a scenic pond, and go fishing (Wyoming fishing license is required).The Hatchery is open daily from 10AM – 4PM (excluding federal holidays).
Fly Fishing on Flat Creek
Lower Flat Creek is open to fishing from August 1 through October 31 between posted boundaries. These boundaries are from the posted southern boundary upstream to the McBride Bridge on the Flat Creek Road and up Nowlin Creek from its confluence with Flat Creek to the Closed Area boundary sign. Area restricted to artificial flies only. (Wyoming fishing license is required).
questions about the national elk refuge in jackson hole
Plan your Visit to the National Elk Refuge
Visit the National Elk Refuge
Visitors to the National Elk Refuge may experience their Refuge through a number outdoor recreational opportunities.Website
National Elk Refuge Winter Sleigh Rides
Let National Elk Refuge Sleigh Rides take you on an incredible adventure. When you climb into a horse drawn sleigh that takes you for a ride onto the National Elk Refuge, you will find yourself in the middle of a western adventure unlike any other (December - April).Website
From awe-inspiring encounters with nature to wild and western activities every kind, Jackson Hole offers once-in-a-lifetime experiences, 365 days a year.
Eager to glimpse your first bear, moose, or wolf? Challenge yourself with a run down black diamonds or class III rapids? Hook an 18-inch cutthroat? Meet a real cowboy? Watch a Teton sunset? This place is full of experiences you won't find that at home, or anywhere else for that matter. In Jackson Hole, wild adventures aren't just possible—they're already here waiting for you.