While Utah’s first significant snowfall Monday may not have resulted in enough snow to allow Hardware Ranch’s Clydesdales to pull sleighs, the popular Cache Valley elk reserve opens for the season Friday.
To celebrate, the Division of Wildlife Resources is planning an elk festival Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the ranch, 16 miles east of Hyrum on Utah 101 in Blacksmith Fork Canyon.
Hardware Ranch manager Brad Hunt said as of last week there are already 350 elk in the area where sleighs or wagons are pulled.
Except for a fee to ride through the elk herd ($5 for those 9 and older and $3 for those 4 to 8), all of Saturday’s festival activities are free.
The event will allow kids to make Christmas ornaments using sagebrush, bitterbrush and other plants found at the WMA.
Visitors can also learn to call elk and participate in an elk-calling contest in the last hour of the festival.
Food is not available at the ranch, where elk are fed each winter to keep them out of private farm lands, but there is a heated auxiliary building at the ranch where visitors can bring lunches.
Displays inside the visitor center offer information on many types of Utah wildlife, but especially elk. For those who want to make a day of it, there are a number of factory stores in Logan for Christmas shopping, and Crystal Hot Springs in Honeyville is open year-round for soaking.
The winter season sleigh or wagon rides — depending on snow amounts — open Friday and run through Feb. 26. Rides are available from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and from noon to 4:30 p.m. Friday and Monday. If you want to ride, you must buy a ticket at the visitor center no later than 4:30 p.m.
The visitor center is not open and the sleigh rides do not run Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, but wildlife watchers can view the elk from a distance with binoculars.
For information, including holiday hours, visit www.hardwareranch.com. You can also call the ranch at 435-753-6206.