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Frequently asked questions
Below are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions we get from visitors to Hardware Ranch.
Do you take reservations? May I purchase tickets in advance, such as online or over the phone?
No, we do not take reservations or sell tickets in advance. Just come up to the Visitor Center on the day you want to go on the ride and purchase your tickets there. All tickets sold are first-come, first-served. Therefore, rides do not "fill up" for the day. As long as you have a ticket and are in line by 4:30 p.m., you will get a ride.
Can a car without four-wheel drive make it up to Hardware Ranch in the winter?
The road up to Hardware Ranch, Highway 101/Blacksmith Fork Canyon Road, is a paved state highway that is regularly plowed. In most conditions and with careful driving, four-wheel drive is not required. However, please use your discretion and pay close attention to weather conditions near Hyrum when entering the canyon or planning your trip.
Does Hardware Ranch have an address that I can enter into my GPS or online map service?
The visitor center lacks an address that a GPS or online map service such as Google Maps will recognize. Instead, you may enter the address of the Hyrum McDonald's into your GPS (25 South 800 East, Hyrum, UT 84319) and then follow these directions:
May visitors come up to Hardware Ranch and view the elk from a distance even when the visitor center is closed?
Yes, the Wildlife Management Area is open all year long — you just will not be able to go into the Visitor Center or take a sleigh ride. Keep in mind that the elk are only present during the winter. Are the rides and visitor center ADA accessible? Yes, our facilities are fully accessible. Please let us know if you need special accommodations and we will provide a ramp or step to allow you or a loved one to get on the sleigh.
Which day is the best day to visit in order to beat the lines?
On non-holiday weekends, Fridays and Mondays are the least busy days. Saturdays are our busiest days of all. Holidays are universally busy, with holiday Saturdays often being the busiest days of the entire elk-viewing season — which can result in very long wait times. Please keep all of this in mind when planning your day.
How many people can fit on a wagon/sleigh?
Each wagon/sleigh can fit about 20 to 25 people depending on the mixture of adults and children.
How long does the ride last?
About 20–30 minutes.
Under what conditions are your wagons turned into sleighs?
When there is less snow on the ground, we use wagon wheels. When there is at least a foot of snow on the ground, we switch out the wagon wheels for sleigh runners. The vehicle used is the same regardless of whether it has wheels or runners.
Do you purchase tickets for a specific time or receive a number?
No. Rides are first-come, first-served. If there is a wait for rides, your entire group must wait in line in order to receive a ride.
How often do rides run?
We run multiple sleighs continuously. Once you purchase your tickets at the visitor center, you must wait down at the sleigh line for the next available sleigh. On slow days, we might switch to holding rides every half-hour.
How long is the wait for the ride?
Once you purchase your tickets, you need to wait with your whole group in line, outside, for the next available ride. We run multiple sleighs continuously, but sometimes (e.g., holidays, Saturdays) we are so busy that a line forms.
When does the visitor center close?
We stop selling tickets at 4:30 and the Visitor Center building closes at 5:00.
Does the ride involve feeding the elk?
No, the general public does not feed the elk at any time. Employees and volunteers are responsible for feeding the elk before the visitor center opens. The ride still allows for close-up viewing of wild elk and their behavior, and the drivers are interpreters who will teach you about Hardware’s history and the elk themselves.
Does Hardware Ranch still have a restaurant or sell hot cocoa?
No, we no longer sell any food or beverages. We provide a lunchroom where you can eat the food you have brought. The lunchroom is located in the small building across the parking lot from the visitor center. Please be aware that the lunchroom has rustic conditions, is kept at a lower temperature than the visitor center, and has low lighting. On Mondays and Fridays there might be large numbers of schoolchildren using the lunchroom around midday.
Are moonlit sleigh rides or breakfast events still offered?
No, we no longer do those things.
Are dogs allowed?
Only service dogs are allowed in the visitor center. No dogs are allowed on the ride as their presence can potentially disturb the elk.
Is food allowed on the ride?
No, food is not allowed on the ride.
Can visitors walk or drive out into the meadow?
The meadow is a designated rest area and is closed to the public. Trespassing and harassing protected wildlife will be prosecuted. The closest you can get to the elk outside of the wagon ride is at the sleigh line itself.
Do you offer refunds?
No, all sales are final and we do not offer refunds of any kind. This includes refunds for long wait times, weather conditions, acts of nature, or no elk.
What time of year do the elk enter (and leave) Hardware Ranch?
The elk herd's arrival coincides with the cooling temperatures of early winter. Similarly, their departure matches up with the warming temperatures of early spring. Elk usually begin to arrive around late November and stay until the end of February, but this is not always the case.
What time of day would be best to see the most elk? What determines elk numbers in the meadow?
Cold weather forces more elk down into the meadow. The time of day has very little impact on the number of elk, but they tend to be more active in the mornings. The colder and snowier the weather is on any given day, the more elk will be present.
Are there very many bulls in the herd?
The vast majority of our herd consists of elk cows, calves, and spike bulls (2-year-olds with a single point on each antler). A small number of bulls with branched antlers are mixed into the herd. We only see a few large bulls after heavy snowstorms or extreme cold snaps, as they tend to isolate themselves further up in the hills.
Do the elk shed their antlers while in the meadow?
No. The elk tend to leave the meadow by late February or early March, and they begin shedding their antlers in March and April.
Does Hardware Ranch offer attractions other than the sleigh ride (e.g. horseback rides, feeding the elk)?
The main attractions we offer are the elk-viewing sleigh rides and the visitor center. We also hold events on certain days of the year, so keep an eye out for announcements on our website and Facebook page. We do not offer horseback rides, and feeding the elk is an activity that is not available to the general public.
Is shed hunting allowed in the WMA?
Public areas around Hardware Ranch are available for shed hunting given that you possess the proper certifications. However, the main meadow where the elk are fed in the winter is not available to public access at any time.
Are the dirt roads around Hardware Ranch open during the winter?
No, those roads are seasonally closed to road vehicles. Even if they appear passable, they are still closed in the winter. Only Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs) may access them. Once the main road has dried out and been graded by the county, it is often passable to cars and four-wheel-drive vehicles, but please use your own discretion. Offshoot roads and designated trails are are accessible by OHVs and 4WD vehicles only.
What are the fishing opportunities up at Hardware Ranch?
Curtis Creek, Rock Creek and Blacksmith Fork River are all available for fishing.
What are the hiking opportunities up at Hardware Ranch?
We do not have any maintained trails specifically for hiking. However, the Curtis Creek backcountry road is available to anyone on foot or horseback. Access it by parking at the OHV parking lot (just past the turnoff for the visitor center) and then walking about 300 yards down the dirt road. The gate will be on your right. Curtis Creek access for horseback riding is located on the eastern corner of the OHV parking lot.