The Bighorn Sheep Experience At The National Elk Refuge

I loved driving through the National Elk Refuge to see the bighorn sheep.  We only did it a few times, but we saw sheep every time.  The last time we even saw three bald eagle eating a dead deer or sheep or something.  Talk about majestic!  Side note: I never realized how big bald eagles are.  It’s insane.  I mean, that picture is from the road.  I was zoomed in pretty far, but still.  They.  Are.  Huge.


Like everywhere else in Jackson and the Tetons in the winter, you can only go so far before the road is closed, but it’s far enough to see the sheep.  Of course on the way in there are all of the elk off to the left and just past that where the rocky cliffs start is where you will start to see the sheep.


On really cloudy, snowy, hazy days they are usually down by the road.  Some will probably be on the road itself.  Even on the clear days, we always saw them by the road.  There would be a few scattered up on the cliffs, but not many.  Eventually the road just kind of ends, though.  It turns into a driveway and it’s just a service road or something if you turn to the left, which probably wasn’t plowed in the winter.  More road or not, I always enjoyed a trip through here.


It’s super easy to visit, and a great stop if you’re doing a DIY wildlife safari (post on it’s way, I promise.)   And if you’re not DIY’ing it and opt for a tour instead, they’ll probably take you down here.  I think we saw one of the tour SUVs every time we made a trip in there.  My highlights of the bighorn sheep was a youngish one trying to cross ice in front of a crowd.  He was probably embarrassed, but he was also determined and made it across mostly fine with a few slips, but I mean, if you have hooves ice just won’t be easy.  The other was the eagles eating the thing.  They were screeching, too which made it even cooler.


Tips for visiting the National Elk Refuge in winter:

  • You don’t need a special vehicle.  My Smart Car made it just fine.  It might be slushy and bumpy from snow melting if it warms up, but you should be fine.
  • Keep your distance from the sheep just like all other wildlife.
  • Keep an eye out for wolves.  I didn’t see any here, but they are in the area.
  • You can’t hike (or snowshoe) here in the winter.  You can walk along the road, but that’s it.
  • Drive slow and watch for sheep in the road.
  • You can go for a sleigh ride in the refuge.  Tickets are at the visitors center in Jackson.

Have you been to the National Elk Refuge?  When did you go?  What did you think of it?  What wildlife did you see?

See bighorn sheep (1)See bighorn sheep

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