A winter tradition in the Top of Utah is set to kick off this weekend as hundreds of elk are returning to some of their favorite wintering grounds.
Hardware Ranch Wildlife Management Area officially kicks off its winter touring season on Friday, followed by the ranch’s annual Elk Festival on Saturday.
Starting Friday, the ranch’s visitor center will be open and sleigh or wagon rides will be offered from noon to 4:30 p.m. on Fridays and Mondays, and from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday, the Elk Festival will offer activities including making Christmas ornaments from local plants, turning pinecones into bird feeders, and painting. Except for a fee to ride a horse-drawn sleigh or wagon through the meadow at the WMA, all of the festival activities are free.
The main attraction at Hardware Ranch, however, are the herds of elk that show up to feed after the snow falls. Last week, ranch manager Brad Hunt said elk were starting to come into the meadow area where the sleigh and wagon rides are held.
“Some of the elk have moved down off the benches and into the meadow and around the barnyard area at the WMA,” Hunt said. “They’re close enough now that I can hear the cows and calves talking when I leave at night.”
Marni Lee, assistant manager at the ranch, said visitors should bring binoculars and dress for all types of weather.
“We will host the event,” she said, “even if it snows.”
Those who want to go on a sleigh or wagon ride must buy a ticket at the visitor center by 4:30 p.m.
On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the sleigh rides will not be running and the visitor center will not be open. Visitors can still bring binoculars and view the elk from a distance, though.
For more information, call Hardware Ranch at 435-753-6206.