We like to call Jackson Hole the “American Serengeti.” One of the best ways to see the various wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is on a small group, interpretive guided tour where you’ll be treated to off-the-beaten-path wildlife sightings and endless opportunities for photography.
After availing yourself of a half- or full-day tour around Jackson Hole and its environs you’ll wind up with a better understanding of the region’s wildlife, ecology, geology, and history. Some of that history includes information on the fur trappers, early explorers and homesteaders of Jackson Hole, and how the famous elk herd and National Refuge came to be here. You’ll be doing all of this exploring and soaking up of wildlife knowledge from the comfort of a fully customized van or SUV that includes roof hatch windows above each row of seats for safe, unobstructed, fun viewing. All passengers are provided with their own binoculars to use on the tour, and high-quality spotting scopes are also on board for the guide to set up outside for incredibly close views of animals and birds in their native western habitat.
Duration: Four-hour sunrise or sunset tours as well as full or multi-day adventures
Average Cost: Half-day-adults $165 and up, depending upon the tour company; full day - adults approximately $300 each
Where: Around Jackson Hole and in Grand Teton and/or Yellowstone national parks
Ages: Generally all ages are welcome, although each tour provider has its own recommendation regarding how old a child should be to fully appreciate and enjoy the wildlife safari
How: Most tour companies offer a complimentary pick-up and drop-off at your hotel located in the town of Jackson or Teton Village
Highlights: Seeing wildlife up close in their magnificent stomping grounds in the Tetons
Best For ...
Anyone who's interested in seeing wildlife (guaranteed!) in and around Jackson Hole. The experienced naturalists who guide these interpretive tours are men and women with bachelor's—and in some cases, master's—degrees in biology, zoology, wildlife conservation and environmental sciences, among others. They are adept at making the tours fun and memorable for all ages.
What Are My Options?
Families with younger kids are encouraged to take the 4-hour sunset tours, especially in summer when the days may already be filled with other activities. In winter, when you might want to take a day off from the slopes, an all-day Yellowstone tour via snowcoach is a special treat. People interested in more in-depth wildlife discovery will find that a full-day trip allows the guide the flexibility to visit other ends of the valley and—depending upon the time of year—different parts of Grand Teton National Park.
When’s a Good Time to Go?
The best time to take a tour is at the start of your vacation so that when you spot a moose, hawk, bison, fox, etc. on your own later in the trip, you’ll have more knowledge than not of that animal or bird. The most popular tours are the four-hour sunrise and sunset offerings when the animals tend to be more active and the light on the Tetons and the horizon makes for spectacular photo opportunities.
Spring, fall and winter are the best times to see large herds of elk on the move and moose grazing the willow bushes. Grizzlies and black bears are also active during the shoulder seasons—spring and fall—storing up calories either pre- or post-hibernation. In the spring you’ll likely see bears with their cubs as well as other mammals and ungulates with newborns in tow. Of course, the summertime provides a plethora of wildlife sightings!
• Experienced guide and naturalist, dedicated to giving you a memorable day in the Tetons
• High-quality binoculars and spotting scopes
• Pick-up and drop-off in town at your hotel or a convenient meeting place
• Comfortable 4x4 vehicle where everyone is guaranteed a window seat
• Visual aids and field guides to help with a hands-on learning approach
• Snacks, beverages, spotting scopes, and roundtrip transportation are included on most tours. For full-day and multi-day expeditions, meals and lodging are included as well. Be aware that you may need a combined national park pass (Grand Teton and Yellowstone).
What Should I Bring and Wear?
No matter what the season, wear layers and closed-toe shoes. In winter, warm boots, hats and gloves are suggested. Although tour companies provide snacks and beverages, you may want to bring extra goodies that you know the kids enjoy or prefer. It almost goes without saying that you'll need to have your camera and/or cellphone with you. Also, bring along a little patience as it may take a short period of time for wildlife to make an appearance. And don't forget your eagle-eye. No pun intended!
The Last Word
The wild things are all around you here and Jackson Hole wildlife tours offer the best way for you to know what to look for and where to look for it. There perhaps isn't anything more memorable than spotting bison, moose, bears, elk, coyotes, sage grouse, bald eagles, white pelicans, pronghorn, and other furry and feathered residents of Jackson Hole during your vacation.
Traveler Tip: Book your tour before you come out to Jackson, and don't forget to tip your guide!