5 Prime Wildlife Viewing Spots Around Jackson Hole

Nature is the star of the show in Jackson Hole. Tourists come seeking the majestic natural vistas of Grand Teton, and Yellowstone National Parks, plus the possibility of seeing wild animals. Naturalists say the area has the largest diversity of mammal life in North America. And many of the larger species can often be seen in a number of great locations.

You can easily drive to any of these locations from the town of Jackson. All but one are paved and even the lone gravel road is well maintained for as far as you'll need to go on it.

Before we get to the animals, though, some cautions are in order.

  • Please keep in mind your safety and the other people using these roadways. When you see an animal off to the side of the road, be sure you are able to safely pull over off the roadway before you stop. If there isn't adequate space to pull off nearby, continue on until you find a safe place to turn around and return on the other side of the road.
  • Odds are other visitors will have spotted the animal before you. Use caution and slow down when approaching groups of vehicles parked along the roadway. In their excitement to see the wildlife, many may not be thinking of coming traffic.
  • DO NOT APPROACH THE ANIMALS. Enjoy them from a distance and the shelter of your vehicle. This is not a safari park or drive-thru zoo. These are wild animals that can be unpredictable and dangerous, especially if they feel threatened.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled fun.

Miller Butte
Big Horn Sheep at Miller Butte in Jackson HoleBig Horn Sheep Near Miller Butte in Jackson Hole - Aaron Atkinson

How to get there:
From Jackson Town Square go east on Broadway until it ends - about a mile. Turn left onto the gravel road entering the National Elk Refuge. Miller Butte is about two miles up the road. The Miller house is also worth a stop (late May - August) for a look into pioneer life and the nearby ponds usually have an assortment of waterfowl. The road closes for the winter sometime in October or November and opens again, as the weather allows, in April or May.

Best times to see wildlife: One of the few areas where wildlife viewing can be good any time of the day from spring through fall.

What to look for: Big horn sheep populate the butte. You might encounter them down near the road anywhere along the slope. Once the road passes the northern end of the butte, look for bison and elk.

Gros Ventre River
Moose near the Gros Ventre River in Jackson HoleYoung Bull Moose near the Gros Ventre River in Jackson Hole - Aaron Atkinson

How to get there:
From Jackson Town Square travel north on N. Cache/US26 for about six miles to the Gros Ventre River (pronounced "Grow Vaunt" - there's a lot of French influence in the valley).

Best times to see wildlife: Mornings and evenings tend to be best in most of the locations. The animals often seek cooler shade during the hottest parts of the day. Spring and autumn will be better viewing seasons than the middle of summer.

What to look for: This is a favorite hang-out for moose. You might also see elk and mule deer.

Antelope Flats Loop Road
Bison on Antelope Flats in Jackson HoleBison on Antelope Flats in Jackson Hole - Aaron Atkinson

How to get there: From Jackson Town Square head north on N Cache/US26 to the Gros Ventre Junction. Turn right on Gros Ventre Road. At the town of Kelly, the road veers to the left going to the north. After about 3.7 miles, turn right at the intersection and follow the road back to US26. Once at the highway, turn left for the thirteen miles back to Jackson.

Best times to see wildlife: Mornings and evenings, spring and fall. Although this is a great little drive even in the summer. There are some interesting displays of nineteenth-century farm life at Mormon Row as well as Forest Service roads that diverge up into the mountains.

What to look for: bison, elk, mule deer and pronghorn antelope may be spotted in the area. Look for them near the trees along the river or at the base of hills.

Moose-Wilson Road
Black Bear in Jackson HoleBlack Bear in Grand Teton National Park - Mark Tebeau/Flickr

How to get there:
From Jackson Town Square travel west on Broadway until the intersection for WY22. Basically follow the signs for Teton Village. Turn right on WY22 for about four miles to WY390. Turn right again and stay on WY390 for the fifteen miles to Moose. The latter half of the trip will be on a narrow, forested back-road inside Grand Teton National Park.

Best times to see wildlife: Because you're in the woods, this area can be good anytime of the day in the spring, summer, and fall. The road past Teton Village is closed in the winter.

What to look for: This is one of the better places for bear sightings. moose, elk, and deer may also be found here.

Snake River Canyon
Mountain Goats in the Snake RIver Canyon near AlpineMountain Goats in the Snake River Canyon - Aaron Atkinson

How to get there:
From Jackson Town Square go west on Broadway and follow the road as it bends to the south. Follow the signs for US26 all the way to Hoback (13.3 miles). Exit the traffic circle to the right and cross the Snake River. Alpine is about 23 miles down the river through a spectacular canyon.

Best times to see wildlife: Mornings and evenings, spring and fall.

What to look for: This is one of the few locations in the area to see mountain goats; best seen in numbers from mid-March to mid-May. They're likely to be along a five-mile stretch of the highway just before the town of Alpine. Other animals large animals that frequent the canyon include elk, mule deer, moose, and occasionally both black and grizzly bears. Oh, and watch for bald eagles along the river.

Even if you and the wild life don't happen along in the same place and the same time, each of these short drives provides stunning natural vistas. Enjoy your visit to Jackson Hole!

Aaron Atkinson lives in Idaho Falls. He's been roaming around Yellowstone and the Tetons for 25 years.