Where to Spot Jackson Hole Wildlife
Jackson Hole has a lot to offer, but one of its most prominent attributes is its beautiful natural landscape and plentiful wildlife. From hiking to camping, there’s an activity for every outdoor enthusiast — and, if you love watching wildlife — you’re in the right place! Jackson Hole is home to some of the most incredible animals in North America, and we’re going to tell you where to find them.
Impressive horns are the most prominent marker of this elegant animal.
Bighorn sheep are native to rocky terrain, and Jackson is no exception. Bighorn sheep make an annual migration to the National Elk Refuge to spend the winter. Visitors can enter for free and drive through the wintery preserve to witness the herds as they walk between cars.
Visitors sometimes notice GPS collars on some of the bighorn sheep. These collars help people view the migration patterns of the animals between the winter and summer, informing wildlife managers about potential pneumonia outbreaks. Bighorn sheep are particularly affected by pneumonia and are seen as a species in need of conservation. Guests to the park are encouraged to keep moving slowly (and not stop) to avoid letting the sheep lick the salt from cars and potentially spread pneumonia around the herd (we know, it sounds made-up). Visitors are encouraged to view the animals from a distance rather than taking advantage of a photo or “selfie” moment.
You can find another local herd of bighorn sheep higher up in the Tetons. Instead of coming down to National Elk Refuge, this herd climbs further up the mountain to spend the winter on the peaks of Mount Hunt and Prospector Mountain in Grand Teton National Park.
Other herds reside in places like Hoback Canyon and Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park, which are also easily accessible to visitors or through Jackson Hole wildlife tours!
Seeing one of these giant, graceful creatures in person is a moment to be treasured.
Moose are some of the most fascinating creatures found in the Jackson Hole area and are spotted in many different areas. One of the most popular destinations is Moose Wilson Road, an eight-mile stretch of road between Teton Village and Moose, Wyoming. This scenic drive features an overlook into a prominent moose habitat and access to several trailheads. Visitors can also expect to see beavers and blue herons during the drive!
Another great place for spotting moose is recommended not by guidebooks, but by the locals themselves! Alongside Gros Ventre River from Highway 89, it’s common to spot moose standing in the bushes and the tall grasses beside the river. Visitors should keep their eyes peeled for the span of a few miles, as moose are seen all along the banks of the river.
For a guided moose-spotting experience, visitors can also book Winter Wildlife Tours with resorts in the area. Moose are often solitary in the summer, but group together in the winter, making for a great viewing experience throughout November and December!
Amongst their home on the range on grassy plains, these bulky animals graze the days away.
The National Elk Refuge is also home to a local herd of bison during the winter months. Bison historically roamed the Jackson Hole area freely. They were reintroduced to the area via the Jackson Hole Wildlife Park near Moran, Wyoming. Today, they are found roaming freely throughout the area!
While these magnificent creatures’ winter in the National Elk Refuge, the bison spend the summer months inside of Grand Teton National Park, where they are much easier to spot. One of the most popular destinations inside the park is Oxbow Bend, though bison can also be seen around Kelly Loop, Antelope Flats, and the Elk Ranch Flats turnout alongside Highway 89.
Bison are drawn to grassy plains and sage flats, so seeking out wide, flat areas in and around Jackson Hole is more likely to yield a sighting of one of the native herds.
One of the most vocal animals representing Jackson Hole wildlife — in the fall.
As its name suggests, the National Elk Refuge is also a popular destination for viewing the namesake elk in the area. The herd of elk native to the Jackson area migrate to the refuge to spend the winter in a protected environment, then head out to disperse across the area in the summer. If you’re in the Jackson area from October to December, the refuge is by far the best place to spot elk!
There are many locations spread out across the area perfect for elk viewing for spring and summer visitors. The Jackson herd travels through Grand Teton National Park, Gros Ventre, Yellowstone National Park, and throughout the Teton Wilderness.
In addition to spotting the elk, many visitors to Grand Teton National Park listen for the unique sound of elk bugling during October. Though potentially startling to newcomers, the sound is unforgettable and marks a transitional time in the park. Locals recommend seeking out the Bradley-Taggart trailhead, White Grass Meadow, and Granite Canyon during October to experience this memorable (and loud) phenomenon!
Seek these fast, furry predators out in large valleys and leave your pets at home.
Another valuable addition to the wildlife in the area, wolves can also be found enjoying the protected landscape of the National Elk Refuge in the winter months but disperse across the area as the elk do during the spring and summer months.
Some of the best places to see wolves in and around Jackson Hole include Elk Ranch and the Gros Ventre River in Grand Teton National Park, and Slough Creek, the Lamar Valley, Hayden Valley, and Pelican Valley in Yellowstone National Park. A good rule of thumb for spotting wolves is to seek out large meadows and expansive valleys, which are plentiful in the area.
Another suggestion for finding wolves, especially in the Yellowstone National Park area, is to seek out wildlife photographers who are on location. Most are more than willing to share their observations, so long as you remain quiet and courteous, and do not scare off the wolves! A barking dog is sure to scare off a pack of wolves, so be sure to travel without your furry friends on this expedition.
No matter what type of captivating wildlife you’re interested in spotting, you’re sure to find them residing in our beautiful corner of the world! If you’re still not sure where to go, there are a few options for wildlife tours you can join in on for guaranteed sightings. Many outfitters and locations offer views of local wildlife, though camping is another surefire way to connect with nature. Be sure to investigate different options for your stay, depending on what kind of experience you want. Book your trip today to explore Jackson Hole wildlife — you’re guaranteed to bring home some stunning photos and epic stories.
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There is so much to do in Jackson Hole. Rush downriver in a kayak. Ride horseback through a sea of golden grass. Cast a line into water clear as the sky, while the fish flash by like stars. There’s hiking, biking, snowmobiling, and of course, skiing. The Clear Creek Group affiliates with the best service providers in the area, people as passionate as we are about providing great experiences. We can arrange anything imaginable, from backcountry pack trips and heli-skiing to the selection of a personal chef.