The 5-mile segment of the Jackson Hole Multi-Use Pathway that lies on the National Elk Refuge and next to Highway 89 – from Flat Creek just north of Town to the Gros Ventre bridge – is closed annually from November 1 until April 30 to protect migrating and wintering wildlife from human disturbance.
Winter is coming to Jackson Hole, and so are the elk. Annual winter closures allow wildlife to move and live within their seasonal habitat with less disturbance from human activity. As a community, we can choose to avoid certain trails and areas to give critical space to our wild neighbors. Read on below to learn more about how you can protect wildlife by respecting the winter closure of the Elk Refuge/Highway 89 Multi-Use Pathway from November 1 to April 30.
What pathway is being closed? For how long?
The 5-mile segment of the Jackson Hole Multi-Use Pathway that lies on the National Elk Refuge is closed annually from November 1 until April 30. The closure begins just North of the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center at Flat Creek. The closure ends at the Gros Ventre bridge.
Please remember that even crossing the pathway to approach the fence, take photographs, and view wildlife is prohibited by the closure and can disturb wildlife.
Why is the pathway closed?
The National Elk Refuge border along Highway 89 is a crucial winter wildlife migration area for the 5,000-7,000 elk that come to the Refuge each winter. Scientific studies have shown that winter recreation causes disturbances to wintering wildlife, with some of the greatest negative impacts on ungulates (hooved animals like elk and deer) coming from foot traffic, rather than vehicles. Skiing, running, or otherwise moving on the pathway may cause migrating or wintering elk to expend extra energy, putting vulnerable wildlife populations at risk. By respecting this annual pathway closure, we allow wildlife and people to move and live more safely throughout the winter.
Read other FAQs about the pathway closure here.
Who decided that this pathway should be closed?
This pathway belongs to Teton County on land owned by the National Elk Refuge. Through an agreement between the County and the Refuge, the pathway is closed annually to stay true to the National Wildlife Refuge System’s message of “Wildlife First.” The annual closure is further supported by the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance and Jackson Hole Community Pathways.
Why that period of time?
Elk migrate to and from the National Elk Refuge during the late fall and early spring. These periods of high movement are why the closure begins November 1 and ends April 30. The closure remains in effect throughout the winter because elk need the Refuge habitat to make it through the harshest months of low temperatures and scarce food availability.
What will happen if I don’t respect this closure?
The biggest consequence of not respecting this pathway closure is the negative impacts that human activity will have on vulnerable wildlife populations. Beyond that, closure violators may be cited for criminal trespass by the Teton County Sheriff’s office and/or under Federal law.
How can I help?
Tell your friends, coworkers, and families about this annual pathway closure and why it exists! As a community, we have a responsibility to take actions that protect our native wildlife populations. By holding each other accountable and remembering that the actions of each individual person can have a positive or negative impact on elk and other wildlife, we can protect the things that make Jackson Hole a unique and special place to live and recreate.
Where can I learn more?
Don’t Poach the Powder is an Alliance program that educates the Jackson Hole community – including residents, tourists, and newcomers – on the importance of respecting winter wildlife closures. To learn more about current and upcoming winter closures and how they protect wildlife, visit: https://jhalliance.org/dont-poach-the-powder/.