The Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette is the epicenter of elk viewing in Pennsylvania!
And while it is often mistakenly called the Elk County Visitor Center (and it is located in Elk County), it is in fact managed by the non-profit wildlife conservation organization Keystone Elk Country Alliance.
So why is the Elk Country Visitor Center so popular?
How do you get there?
When is the best time to go?
What are the best things to see and do there?
Follow along as I share my experiences and advice for exploring the Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette!
Elk Country Visitor Center FAQs
The Elk Country Visitor Center is located at 134 Homestead Drive, Benezette, PA 15821.
Or if you prefer to navigate by GPS coordinates, use 41.32328, -78.36795.
Any time it’s open!
During the peak elk viewing season (September-October) the Visitor Center is typically open 8am-8pm, 7 days a week.
However with COVID-related rules and closures seemingly changing weekly, you may want to check the Visitor Center’s official website before you go.
The Visitor Center is divided up into a series of rooms, each one with a slightly different educational mission.
And yes there are modern restrooms as well (because that’s the first question my wife would ask!).
The Great Room is home to many full-size taxidermy displays, lots of interactive touch-screen displays (that may or may not be enabled due to COVID rules), and huge panoramic windows that look out onto one of the elk viewing areas.
Think of the Discovery Room as a “please touch” museum, focused on elk and other Pennsylvania wildlife.
There are antlers, bones, taxidermy displays, and even live turtles and snakes!
Of course! Anything and everything you can think of featuring elk and other PA Wilds-related themes.
No – it’s free to park and free to get in!
As mentioned, there is a gift shop as well as a donation box, with funds from both going directly to efforts to conserve and protect the wildlife and habitat of PA Elk Country.
Certainly one of the first things you’ll notice (and a great photo-op!) is the massive elk sculpture near the front entrance.
There are 3 main trails and elk viewing areas on the grounds, each one just a short stroll from the Visitor Center.
Unless you want to end up on one of those “How not to act around wild animals” videos on YouTube, you should not try and approach the elk too closely, don’t try to feed them, and leave your pets (especially dogs) at home.
The Vista Trail Viewing Blind is a low stone wall that looks out over a valley-shaped food plot, planted especially to attract elk.
As with elk viewing anywhere in Elk Country, they are most active in the early morning and then again in the evening.
That’s not to say you won’t see them at other times, but those are your best bets.
Again – a low stone wall looking out over a food plot, this food plot being much larger and flatter than the Vista Trail one.
Early morning and then again in the evening.
Of the 3 viewing areas at the Elk Country Visitor Center, this is consistently the one viewing area where I’ve seen the largest number of elk.
Basically a continuation of the Buckeneezer Hollow food plot.
A large flat field with many pines in the background.
Early morning, late evening.
No! They are wild animals, although certainly they are less skittish around people than elk you may encounter in surrounding counties.
It is part of the mating ritual and a challenge to fellow bull elk.
Yes – they use a variety of vocalizations and body movements to communicate with one another.
Generally in late May / early June, after a gestation period of 8.5 months.
They then stay with the mother until the following spring calving season.
Yes – the bull elk shed their antlers every year, and all elk shed their summer coats every year for a winter coat 5 times warmer.
Wild elk once roamed throughout Pennsylvania, but became extinct in the state by 1867, due to unregulated hunting and habitat loss caused by timber harvesting and expanding human settlements.
Elk were reintroduced to Pennsylvania between 1913 and 1926, and the elk you see today are descendants of those elk that were trapped in the west and relocated to the PA Wilds.
Discover the Pennsylvania Elk Herd!
Despite their reintroduction into the state more than 100 years ago, many Pennsylvania’s don’t know that we have a thriving elk herd right here at home!
And while elk can be found in at least 5 counties in the state now (Cameron, Clearfield, Centre, Potter, and Elk), the Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette is a great place to start your elk viewing experience!
From interactive exhibits to real live elk, a trip to the Elk Country Visitor Center deserves a spot on your PA Bucket List!
The 15 Best Elk Viewing Destinations in Pennsylvania is your “cheat sheet” to finding 15 of the best elk viewing spots in PA!
Looking for more elk photos from PA Elk Country?
Then be sure to check out my “50 Best Pennsylvania Elk Photos” gallery!
The nearby Quehanna Wild Area is home to several large herds of elk, as well as a number of waterfalls.
The Cross on the Hill near Benezette in Elk County is both an inspiring roadside attraction and a gorgeous scenic overlook!
Table Falls is located just minutes from the Quehanna Highway in Elk County, and features a short hike to a picturesque stream and waterfall.
Exploring the Ridge Road Vistas in the Elk State Forest will introduce you to Pennsylvania’s most scenic State Forest road, featuring 6 world-class ROADSIDE vistas along a 3 mile stretch of road.
Round Island Run Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in the PA Wilds / Elk Country region.
The hike in to this 3-tiered waterfall always has the potential for elk viewing, as the first half of the hike borders a large field / power line cut.
Hiking the Fred Woods Trail in Cameron County introduces you to a 4.57 mile-long hike that takes you past two fantastic vistas, as well as one of Pennsylvania’s finest rock formations.
For a completely different kind of hiking destination in the heart of Elk Country, check out the abandoned nuclear jet engines bunkers in the Quehanna Wild Area!
These Cold War-era relics were once the site of top-secret nuclear propulsion tests, although now they sit empty and abandoned.
There’s also a good chance you cross paths with an elk on the short hike to the bunkers, or at the clearings in the forest where the bunkers sit.
You can find my map and directions to the abandoned nuclear jet engine testing bunkers HERE.
PA Elk Country is home to TONS of incredible views, and you’ll find directions to the best ROADSIDE vistas in my write-up “The 20 Best Scenic Overlooks in PA Elk Country.”
Parker Dam State Park is a 968-acre expanse in Clearfield County featuring a tranquil lake, a beach area, scenic vistas, and miles of hiking trails.
Decker’s Chapel in Elk County is the smallest church in Pennsylvania, and one of the smallest churches in the entire United States!
Kinzua Bridge State Park in McKean County is home to what was once the longest and tallest railroad bridge in the world!
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