We took a morning this week and did a little winter adventure that you can only do in Jackson Hole. We toured the elk refuge being pulled by two massive Belgian horses, and saw the nations largest elk herd up close and personal.
The National Elk Refuge runs the sleigh ride, and the drivers are not only bona fide cowboys, but also super knowledgeable about the elk, and the refuge itself. I’ve done this sleigh ride a handful of times, and this year’s show topped them all. The ride is about an hour in total, and weaves you through what I would call, the most scenic sleigh ride, this side of the Mississippi.
The elk congregate on the refuge because they’re fed there during the winter months. The sleigh driver told us that elk come from hundreds of miles away to winter here, not all of them end up on the refuge, and not all of them are on this refuge, (there are several in the valley). Whether you agree with the policy or not, the truth is, the town of Jackson and the surrounding home sites take up what was once the wintering ground for this great animal. In turn, the refuge houses the animals for the winter months and feeds them usually from January through March, until the snow has melted. To get the details, you’ll have to do the ride yourself! I won’t ruin it for you!
The elk in this valley are quite a spectacle, but they also contribute great character to this place. They are highly respected by hunters and sightseers alike. Their great stature, communication skills, and trophy racks are certainly a sight that you should see and hear for yourself. Take a morning or afternoon from your busy life or trip, and take a close look at a really wild animal.
Pictures truly can’t even do these elk justice. Come see the Wapiti for yourself and take the sleigh ride while you’re at it. The kids will love it, (my 2 year old who sits still for nothing quietly sat on my lap for the entire hour.) And it will certainly be an experience to be remembered. Get out there quickly; the bull’s start to shed their horns mid March, and you don’t want to miss those antlers up close.
The rides start at 10, and go about every hour. Contact the National Elk Refuge for details, or go to the visitor’s center in Jackson, across the street from the Rustic Inn. Visit their website here.