I am from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and I had the good fortune of visiting Benezette, Pennsylvania about three years ago. My apologies, I took some photos with my phone when I was there but they didn’t come out well so most of the photos here are not mine. Pennsylvania is home to the largest elk population in the North Eastern United States. There are about 1,350 Elk with the majority of them living in Elk county, named for the Eastern Elk that once lived there. The Eastern Elk were hunted to extinction in Pennsylvania but western Elk were brought over from Yellowstone in 1913 to protect them from loss of food due to their habitat being used for agriculture.
Elk county located in a forested and sparsely populated region called the Pennsylvania Wilds made a perfect habitat because it is isolated from human activity and historically was home to Elk. However, the Elk faced a big hurdle as the ecosystems in Pennsylvania and Yellowstone are very different. It took a little while for the western elk to thrive in their new home as they were simply released into the Pennsylvania Wilds without any time to acclimate. But now they are doing well with their only worry being caught in the cross hairs of a human during hunting season.
Now, the elk are the major draw for tourism in the Pennsylvania Wilds. Hordes of tourists come to see them and marvel at their gigantic size. They are much larger than you would expect. Males can weigh around 700 pounds. Benezette is a small town and the go-to designation for those that want to see the Elk. There are many viewing spots where you and a trusty pair of binoculars can go and search for Elk. There is also the Elk country visitor center where you can get information and see displays about the Elk as well as other wildlife that calls Benzette its home.
While I can`t guarantee you will see them, there is a very good chance. There are several viewing areas set up for visitors such as Dents Run or Winslow Hill. When I was there are I saw around ten, a few from afar and amazingly I saw a buck and doe just across the road when we were driving. The buck was similar in height to our truck.
I couldn`t believe how big they were and I was grateful to be in the safe confines of a truck in case the buck decided I was a threat. Do not approach an Elk, they can seriously maimed or even kill you especially the males during Rut(mating season). Benezette is a wild and serene place where you can marvel at the natural wonders of the world. During my time there, I saw Elk(of course), a variety of birds, white tailed deer, and a large snake on the road(I am not sure of the species).
If you live in the North East (especially Pennsylvania), I recommend making a weekend trip to Benezette. You won`t have wifi or a good phone signal but in exchange, you can get stunning views and a chance to see in person a breathtaking creature massive in size and sporting a rank of antlers that puts whitetail bucks to shame.
A car is a must to visit Benezette and to the access the viewing areas. It is a 2.5 hour drive from Pittsburgh , 4 hour drive from Phillidephia and 4.5 drive from the NYC area.
For more information visit Benezette`s offical tourism page.