Winter Wildlife Photography in Grand Teton National Park

Added by Michelle Olmstead

Winter is a great time to observe and photograph wildlife in Grand Teton National Park. The animals are easier to spot in the snow, and they are often near the road, allowing greater opportunity to get the shot than in the busy summer months.

Winter is a special time in Grand Teton National Park.  The landscape is transformed into a winter wonderland, and there is a stillness and quiet that you won't find in the busier tourist seasons.  It is also a prime time for spotting wildlife as many species move down from the surrounding mountains to congregate on the valley floor. 

In winter you can only access the park by vehicle via U.S. highway 191, which is just north of town square in Jackson, so your starting point will be from town.  Heading north, you will encounter the National Elk Refuge. Thousands of elk spend the winter here, and you can take a tour of the refuge via sleigh ride to see them up close. You can also drive the refuge road, which is just east of town.  Here you can see other species which frequent the refuge in winter including Bald and Golden Eagles, Bighorn Sheep, Pronghorn, and Bison.  Be advised that there is no parking along the road and just a few pullouts. 

Approximately 7 miles from town square (heading north on 191) you will come to Gros Ventre Junction.  This area is a prime spot for wildlife viewing, including moose and birds of prey who are frequently seen along the river.  After spending time in the Gros Ventre, get back on the main road and head further north into the park where you may spot coyote, fox, bison, and even wolves.  There are several packs in GTNP.  

Please make sure that you practice the principals of "Leave No Trace" when viewing and photographing wildlife. This includes keeping a proper distance from the animals, and not feeding them!  Feeding wildlife is very detrimental, as it causes them to become habituated to humans. Make sure not to do anything that will change an animal's natural behavior just to get the shot.  Especially in winter when an animal is eating and food is scarce, getting too close can cause them to abandon their food source.  It is helpful when photographing birds to use your car as a blind. They will often be spotted in trees or on power poles just off of the road, and shooting from the car can be necessary when it is not possible to get out and set up the tripod without disturbing the bird.  When I photographed the coyote fishing in the Snake River, I was far enough away that I was able to set up my tripod without disturbing the scene.  In addition, deep snow in the park will often cause wildlife to use the sides of the road to move around, which makes for easier viewing, but also creates the potential for collisions. When visiting the park in winter (and any season) it is vital to slow down, and be aware at all times.

As far as equipment goes, you will need to bring a lens with a long enough focal length for photographing wildlife. All shots here were taken with a Nikon D7200 body and a Tamron 150-600mm lens, and even on my crop body, I found myself wishing for a bit more reach. An extender would have been helpful. There are many places on the web to rent lenses with my favorite being borrowlenses.

Being prepared for winter conditions in the park is a must, as weather and temperatures can be extreme. It is not unusual for temperatures to drop to well below zero and stay there.  During a recent trip, we encountered -25 degrees Fahrenheit when we entered the park in the morning. In addition, roads are often covered in snow and ice, so a vehicle and tires that can handle those conditions are recommended.

Always remember that wildlife are unpredictable and there is never any guarantee that you will spot them, but winter makes it easier. Spending several days in the park definitely increases your chances.   

Read More


Food Nearby


Leave a Review

Overall rating: 


Winter in Wyoming is a very special time - there are elk EVERYWHERE! It's incredible, and the opportunities for wildlife photography are frequent. I was lucky enough to live in Jackson, and when driving, you would encounter these huge open spaces simply filled with a herd of elk. Really special!

Love It

Wildlife photography is something else in Grand Teton National Park. It's amazing, and the wildlife is pretty unique. It's really easy to pick out wildlife in the snow too. I love how few of people there are in winter too.

Stay Nearby

Jackson, Wyoming

Jackson Hole Adventure Townhouse

Nestled in Jackson Hole between Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons and Snake River, our 3BR, 3BA log townhouse is the perfect home base for up to 8 adventurers. With cozy rustic décor and easy access t...

From $187/night

Jackson, Wyoming

Jackson Hole Townhome W/ Views

Get away in comfort at our rustic 3BR, 3BA log cabin townhouse - just minutes from Snow King Mountain and Jackson Hole. With Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons to the north and Snake River to the so...

From $175/night

Teton Village, Wyoming

Glamping Of Jackson Hole

Glamping of Jackson Hole is a summer glamping destination located in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. We provide a luxury wilderness camping experience only 20 minutes from Jackson Hole down Fall...

From $500/night

Nearby Adventures

  • Whitewater Raft the Snake River

    Back in college I was a rafting guide for the daily section of the Green River in Utah. I spent many a weekend in the summer sleeping out under the stars by night and navigating the rapids by day. Naturally I've been anxious to introduce my kids t...

  • Hike to Snow King Summit via Slow Trail

    The Slow Trail is shared by hikers, dog walkers, and trail runners. There is an option to take the ski lift down after reaching Snow King Summit, which shortens the hike to 1.9 miles. The trail is good for intermediate hikers, and dogs are allowed...

    3.8 miles 1551 ft gain

  • Visit the National Elk Refuge

    In the 20th century when development continued to grow, the refuge was created to provide the elk with an efficient habitat for survival. So today, when you come to visit the refuge - the time of the year you come will impact what you see at the r...

  • Hike the Sleeping Indian Trail

    This trail allows dogs. Please take note that there is very little water along the trail, so bring more than you think you'll need. The Sleeping Indian Trail takes about 8 hours to complete, and is approximately 13 miles round trip with 4,100 feet...

    13 miles 4300 ft gain