Sleigh rides at Hardware Ranch canceled due to COVID-19 concerns; elk viewing still available
Hyrum — Though sleigh rides will not be offered at a popular destination east of Hyrum this winter, you will still have a chance to see hundreds of wild elk.
The decision to not offer the rides due to COVID-19 concerns was made in consultation with the Bear River Health Department.
"Keeping people safe from COVID-19 is our top priority," Brad Hunt, manager of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Hardware Ranch Wildlife Management Area, said. "The sleighs we use are fairly long, but they're also narrow. It's impossible for people to be in the sleighs and maintain the recommended safe distance from other individuals and groups."
That doesn't mean you can't come to Hardware Ranch and enjoy seeing elk this winter, though. Dress warm, pack a lunch and bring binoculars or a spotting scope. Starting Dec. 4, the visitor center will be open on weekends until Feb. 14, and two viewing areas outside the center will provide great views of the elk every day of the week.
"To keep people safe, COVID-19 protocols will be in place inside the visitor center," Hunt said. "You must wear a mask. And, to keep the crowds small, we'll limit the number of people who can be in the visitor center at any given time."
After signing in, you can move into the indoor observation area. This area provides a great view of the meadow in which the elk are feeding. You can stay inside the visitor center for up to 15 minutes.
"We have to limit the amount of time to make sure we don't get too many people inside the center at once," Hunt said.
When you arrive at the center, you'll also receive a one-page map and activity guide.
"There's lots to do outside the center," Hunt said.
See elk at viewing stations, 'treasure hunt' with your kids
Two viewing stations, complete with informative signs about the elk, will be set up near the visitor center.
"You’ll need to bring your own binoculars or a spotting scope, but you'll have a great view of hundreds of elk," Hunt said.
WMA staff are currently working on the activity that will be offered in the one-page guide. It will likely be a treasure-hunt type of activity you can do outside the visitor center with your kids.
In addition to viewing elk and the activity, hiking the Curtis Creek Trail at the WMA is a great way to get away and enjoy the beauty of the area.
"If you'd like to hike the trail, it's a good idea to bring snowshoes," Hunt said. "The snow can get pretty deep, but the views in the winter are amazing."
Great trout fishing is also available in the Blacksmith Fork River, which flows through the canyon leading to the ranch.
Hours and directions
From Dec. 4 until Feb. 14, the visitor center will be open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
To try to minimize the risk to those who are in the COVID-19 high-risk category, those who aren't high risk should wait until noon to enter the visitor center.
"Waiting until noon will allow those who are high risk to enjoy the center with fewer people inside," Hunt said.
You can reach Hardware Ranch by traveling 16 miles east of Hyrum on state Route 101 through Blacksmith Fork Canyon.