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Elk Bugling in the Fall

A Jackson Hole Tradition for all.

By Meagan Murtagh | October 23rd, 2017

Autumn in the mountains is short and fleeting, but also one of the most beautiful times of the year to visit Jackson Hole. Aspen and cottonwood trees change their colors, leaving incredibly vibrant hues of yellows, oranges and pops of bright reds that blanket the Teton Range. The foliage changes fast, happening all at once, as each aspen grove is connected underground by one giant root, making the color change that much more special. Your best bet to catch these colors is in late September, October and early November. Mornings are cooler with warm afternoons, making it a wonderful time to go explore with no crowds.

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The national parks are still open, and with minimal car traffic, I love heading up north to take in all that nature has to offer. Wildlife is extremely active this time of year as the animals get ready for the long winter ahead. A Jackson Hole tradition of mine is to grab friends, a picnic basket full of goodies, plenty of vino and warm blankets, and take in the beautifully unique live concert that is elk bugling. The only way to hear it is to truly experience it up close and personal.

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The distinct sounds of elk bugling are a great reminder of the majestic wonders in this place we are so lucky to call home. The elk sing to one another with this strange yet beautiful bugle as they attract their mates. Males will duke it out with one another by smashing their antlers together, creating loud smacks among the bugle songs. As the days get shorter, the best time to hear the elk music is in the late afternoon and at early dusk.

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My friends and I picked White Grass Dude Ranch this year as our viewing spot, which is close to elk herds but also offers a bit of history with incredible views. This special place can be accessed from the Moose-Wilson Road. Originally a working dude ranch, it was recently renovated to serve the community as an education center that promotes the heritage and preservation of western structures. It also offers a large open field that is perfect for picnics and, if you’re lucky, amazing alpenglow over the Sleeping Indian at sunset.

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Credit: Peter Lebozzo

Local Tips:

  • Bring bear spray! The bears are very active as they fill up on berries before hibernation.
  • Be bear aware. Study up on all things bear country before your trip.
  • A headlamp is helpful when navigating the short hike out after the sun sets.
  • Blankets, binoculars and a camera are all you need!

Getting closer to nature and experiencing the wildlife activity is just one of my favorite ways to #StayWild in Jackson Hole!

Meagan Murtagh

Meagan Murtagh

Blog Author

Meagan moved to Jackson Hole in 2008 after visiting on vacation and deciding she never wanted to leave. She decided to use her blog, The Egg Out West, to answer friends and family constantly asking "What do you do in Wyoming?”. Meagan loves to showcase her life as a Wyoming gal, including her adventures, travels and personal style. While alpenglow may be her absolute favorite thing about the West, the people and community of Jackson Hole are what have truly captured her heart.

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