Its called Elk Scenic Drive for a reason. But theres more than majestic, antlered creatures to the 127-mile loop across four counties starting in Snow Shoe.
Its great for wildlife viewing of all sorts, said Carla Wehler, operations manager for the Elk Country Visitors Center near Benezette.
Wykoff Run Natural Area, for example, along Quehanna Highway in the middle of the loop, offers a prime place for bird watching because of the diversity of species. Osprey, bald eagles, hawks, black bears and beavers also may be spotted along the way, as well as spectacular vistas.
The states wild elk herd, however, remain the star attraction.
About 800 live in the wilderness, the largest herd in the Northeast. Theyre the descendants of the first elk reintroduced to the state in the early 20th century after the last native one was killed in 1867.
This month and the next are the ideal times to see and hear them. Bulls bugle to attract mates.
They have just started, Wehler said recently. You hear a few here and there, but come September and October, theyll increase. Its called mountain music.
Wehlers facility, near Gilbert Farm off Winslow Hill Road, increases the odds of an elk spotting. Three observation trails, all wheelchair-accessible, branch out, leading to viewing spots. Wehler recalled seeing 100 elk in a field near the center.
Though the elk dont follow a schedule for appearances, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources recommends the first and last hours of daylight as the best times to catch a glimpse.
From Snow Shoe, Elk Scenic Drive follows state Route 144 to Renovo, then goes along state Route 120 through Sinnemahoning.
At Driftwood, the loop continues on state Route 555 through Benezette to Weedville, picking up state Route 153 to Interstate 80's Penfield Exit 111. Travelers pass near the Parker Dam, Bucktail and S.B. Elliot state parks, and through three state forests and three state game lands.