If riding with elk is on your bucket list, Benezette, PA is a must!
Benezette, Pennsylvania resides in the heart of the Pennsylvania Wilds. It is also known as the Elk Capital of the state, with approximately 1400 elk, the largest free roaming elk herd east of the Mississippi River.
What better way to experience viewing these majestic animals than atop your trusty steed? While most of the visitors may visit the Elk Country Visitor Center in hopes of catching a glimpse of these large animals, horseback riders have the chance of running into them while on trail.
If catching sight of elk interests you and you think you’d like to make a trip to trail ride, here are the pros and cons of the overall experience.
The Scenery is on Point
There are many different scenes to take in at Benezette. Some of the trails run along a creek bed while others climb the mountains. The trails along the creek are softer and each glimpse of the water you get is astonishing. The mountainous terrain is rugged and has openings at the top that lead to remarkable views. Each trail is stunning in its own way.
You’re in Elk Country
Seeing the elk is an experience like no other. They are significantly larger than a horse and stand extremely still while the horses are passing. Surprisingly, for how large they are, they efficiently blend in with the shrubbery. If you’re not looking for them, you may pass them by without knowing. Not only can you see them in the wooded areas, but also you may also find them while in town.
The Trails are Plentiful
There’s a lot of ground to cover if you get the chance to ride the trails in Benezette. We rode 10.9 miles the first day and 12.4 miles the second. We took a different trail each day and there were still other trails we did not get to ride. You’ll find yourself detouring to other trails which may or may not lead you to where you thought you were going to end up.
One of the trails takes you through the mountains and to the local wine store called Benezette Wines. This wine store has hitching posts around back so that you can tie your horse, go in and grab yourself a wine slushy — only if you’re over 21 of course.
If you’re not into wine and like something with more of a punch, you can ride to Rut n Bugle Distillery for some moonshine. This outlet also has hitching posts for you to tie your horse to go in and grab the drink of your choice.
Minimal Availability at the Horse Campground
During our stay in Benezette, we lodged at Big Elk Lick Horse Camp. Getting a camping spot here has proven to be difficult. Reservations are booked almost a year ahead to hold your spot. If this is a place you’re dying to mark off your riding bucket list, book now!
Amenities Have Limited Options
At Big Elk Lick Horse Camp, there are not enough stalls to match the amount of trailers they can accommodate. While you may not be able to get one of the 16 stalls available, the camp ground does allow set up of temporary pastures or high lines.
There are only 20 amp plug-ins at this campground. If you have a larger rig, you may be primitive camping or plan on bringing your generator.
Trails are Rocky
The terrain in the mountains is immensely rocky. Those who have ridden the trails before stated that if their horse is usually barefoot, he gets shod for this trip. If their horse usually has two shoes, he has four shoes on for these trails. These trails are some of the most vigorous I’ve ridden. If you’re horse has tender feet — or even if he doesn’t — come prepared by having shoes put on.
Trails are Not Well Marked
If you like to ride at a place with well marked trails, this is not it. It’s easy to take a wrong turn and get lost in these trails — we did it a handful of times. If making your way off the beaten path doesn’t bother you, just make sure you do not find your way onto areas that have no trespassing signs. The individuals who posted these signs are strict enforcers of it.
Overall, if you’re looking to experience a once-in-a-lifetime trail ride with some of the neatest wildlife, this trip is one you should put on your list. We experienced these trails while the leaves were changed in the fall and it was an extraordinary sight.
You can tie your horses to the hitching posts to go into the town’s stores and grab a drink and continue riding for the rest of the day. This is one destination you won’t want to pass by!
Saddle up and go riding, Horse Nation!