Saturday marks the official start of fall and the elk rutting season is underway in Pennsylvania. Many people from across the state and beyond will be making their way to Benezette, Elk County, to witness the elk during their most active time of year.
This is an exciting, not to mention beautiful time of year to visit the northcentral region of our state. It’s a great opportunity to get yourself or your family and group of friends outdoors to enjoy the fresh autumn air!
Before you head out to the elk range, consider a few of our tips below. You can maximize your chances of seeing elk and having a safe and enjoyable visit by knowing where to go, when to go, what to do and what not to do.
Safety First – For You AND Wildlife
Photo credit: Jacob Dingel
First and foremost, it is absolutely critical that those visiting the elk ranges understand that these are wild animals. Rutting season runs from mid-September through October and during this time bull elk are very protective of their harems and can be extremely aggressive. Please be safe, considerate and respectful of the elk. Give them space. Wildlife watchers often congregate in areas with the best viewing opportunities. Problems can arise when folks gather on the shoulders of rural roads and are focused on watching elk rather than oncoming traffic. Your actions help all elk-watchers, landowners, law enforcement and conservation officials have a good experience.
Keep a Safe Distance – Elk are wild animals. Always observe from a safe distance, and at the minimum of 100 yards (the length of a football field). Risk of serious injury or death can occur if a safe distance is not observed. If you cause the animal to move, you are too close.
Do Not Block Traffic– When viewing elk from your vehicle, park completely off the roadway or view elk from designated Wildlife Viewing Areas.
Respect Private Property– Elk know no boundaries, but humans do. Please respect private property when viewing elk.
Do Not Feed Elk– Feeding elk in Pennsylvania is illegal.
Best Elk Viewing Destinations
Photo credit: Jacob Dingel
Winslow Hill is one of the best places to see elk, hands down. You may need binoculars, or they may be close to the viewing station and/or the road. That’s part of the fun. You won’t know where they’ll be until you get there! Take Winslow Hill Road, three miles from its intersection with State Route 555 in Benezette to get to this spot.
Elk Country Visitors Centeris a state-of-the art facility that opened in 2010 and features great interpretive and interactive exhibits about the elk herd. There are also two large viewing stations by the center. The address is 950 Winslow Hill Road, Benezette.
Hicks Run Viewing Area overlooks high-quality elk forage area, and elk are commonly present there early and late in the day year-round. This is a great place to photograph fall foliage. The viewing area is along State Route 555, about 12 miles east of Benezette, near Hicks Run Road.
Woodring Farm is a nice place to park if you would like to take a short hike. This is a ¾ mile easy trail, which circles 81 acres of the elk’s habitat with a lookout. From State Route 555 in Benezette, turn onto Front Street, then turn onto Winslow Hill Road and follow it for about 2.6 miles.
Thunder Mountain Equestrian Trailis a good option for those wanting to ride through elk country on horseback. It’s a 26-mile loop, with shorter route options, through the Elk State Forest. The trailhead and day-use parking for equestrians are along East Hicks Run Road about 3.75 miles from its intersection with State Route 555, and 12 miles east of Benezette.
The Hoover Farm Viewing Areaof Moshannon State Forest has a handicapped-accessible viewing blind 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.
State Route 555 runs through the heart of 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.
FREE Edutainment on the Elk Range
The below events are scheduled to run through Columbus Day, unless otherwise noted.
Hands-on Guided Trail Hike at the Woodring Farm— Every Friday and Saturday night at 5 p.m. and Sunday morning at 10 a.m. Meet at the trailhead. No hike scheduled for Sept. 22 and 23.
Guest Speaker Presentations at Dents Run View Area, on Winslow Hill— Every Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Sept. 22, PA Elk Management, Jeremy Banfield, PGC Biologist
Sept. 29, Chronic Wasting Disease, Tony Ross, PGC Biologist
Oct. 6, PA Bats, Michael Scafini, PGC Endangered Mammal Specialist
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Great Elk Tour; Winslow Hill Viewing Area — Sept. 22-30, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Children’s Wildlife Crafts; Winslow Hill Viewing Area — Every Sunday, from 1-3 p.m. No crafts scheduled for Sept. 23.
We realize not everyone will be able to visit Benezette this fall, but we still want you to have the elk-viewing opportunity. The live elk cam streaming on our website lets you be able to watch for elk from the comfort of your own home! WATCH IT LIVE HERE. We’ve had a very active elk cam season so far this season, so be sure to check it out. The best times to view are at dawn and dusk. You may also see white-tailed deer, turkeys and groundhogs. This stream is the product of the coordinated efforts of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, HDonTap and the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission.