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Elk Viewing Destinations

 

ELK VISITORS CENTER: In 2010 the new Elk Country Visitor Center opened. This center, located near Winslow Hill, is jointly managed by the Keystone Elk Country Alliance and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. State-of-the-art interpretive and interactive exhibits inform and educate the public about elk, wildlife conservation and green building design. The facility hosts school field trips and family vacationers alike. For more information, visit elkcountryvisitorcenter.com

BLUE-CHIP ELK VIEWING DESTINATIONS: With a little help, anyone can find elk on the elk range. Consider these locations when you're out and about. Don't be surprised to have some company, though.

1. Winslow Hill is hands down the best place to see elk. With a good pair of binoculars, you can count the whiskers on an elk's face here. Sometimes they're so close to the viewing positions and roads, you can't even use binoculars! The Game Commission's Food and Cover workers maintain an elk viewing area � with off-road parking, a pavilion and portable toilets � overlooking carefully managed elk habitat on Winslow Hill. Elk frequent this area � in fact some seemingly never leave � as well as whitetails and wild turkeys. Bring the kids. Pack a lunch. This is the ace! To get here, take Winslow Hill Road, three miles from its intersection with Route 555 in Benezette.

2. Hicks Run Viewing Area is adjacent to the Hicks Run Cemetery along Route 555 on the Elk State Forest. This viewing area with blind overlooks high-quality elk forage. Elk are commonly present there early and late in the day all year. It's a great stop to tie into a fall foliage ride and the viewing blind offers fine photography opportunities. The viewing area is along Route 555 about 12 miles east of Benezette, near Hicks Run Road. Off-highway parking is available. Please park with care and be respectful of the cemetery. For more information, call DCNR at 814-486-3353.

3. If you're more active and are into leaving the road behind, there are two other possibilities for you to consider. But before you decide to go, recognize that you're entering the Allegheny Mountains and you will find challenges that may test your abilities � sometimes difficult-to-cross streams; rattlesnakes; unfamiliar surroundings; steep terrain, etc. But if you're up for it, the still relatively new, 19-mile Elk Trail on the Elk State Forest will satisfy your thirst for things wild. The trail � often old roads, railroad grades and utility right-of-ways � meanders through decent elk country providing the hiker with both casual and occasionally strenuous stretches of travelway to cover. Camping locations are available along the way. The only parking is at the trailhead along Dents Run Road, about two miles north of its intersection with Route 555, 10 miles east of Benezette. Call DCNR at 814-486-3353 for more details.

4. If you prefer horseback riding, then maybe the Thunder Mountain Equestrian Trail would be more to your liking. The 26-mile loop � also with shorter routes � gives riders an unforgettable ride through the Elk State Forest and some of the finest elk territory Pennsylvania has to offer. The trail comes with great mountain vistas, satisfying encounters with elk and other forest denizens and a taste of wilderness that most naturalists will enjoy. The trailhead and day-use parking for equestrians are along East Hicks Run Road about 3.75 miles from its intersection with Route 555, and 12 miles east of Benezette. For more details, go to Thunder Mountain Equestrian Trail or call DCNR at 814-486-3353.

5. The Hoover Farm Viewing Area of Moshannon State Forest has a viewing blind (handicapped-accessible) overlooking food plots and wildlife openings maintained by the Game Commission. Located at the intersection of Wykoff Run Road and Quehanna Highway, the viewing area is owned by the DCNR and annually draws elk from the nearby big woods. It's a fascinating area to visit with loads of potential.

Route 555 runs through the heart of Pennsylvania's elk country, so whenever you're on the road between Weedville and Driftwood, traveling through the scenic Bennett Branch of Sinnemahoning Creek corridor, keep an eye out for elk, especially around Caledonia, the lower end of the Quehanna Highway around Medix Run, Benezette and Dents Run.