Fall in Pennsylvania isn’t just the ideal time for foliage tours. It’s also prime time for hawk watching!
Starting in mid-August and lasting until mid-December, the autumn hawk migration lets PA residents and visitors witness approximately 18,000 raptors during this annual event. In addition to hawks, watchers often have the opportunity to see eagles, falcons and vultures in action, too!
Seeing hundreds and thousands of these magnificent creatures in flight is an exhilarating experience. And Pennsylvania boasts multiple spots for exceptional hawk watching opportunities.
Below, we’ll spotlight some of the best hawk watching spots in the state – and offer some helpful tips to make the experience even more enjoyable for you!
Best PA Places for Hawk Watching
Of all the hawk watching locations in Pennsylvania, one spot in particular often seems to top the list: Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.
Located near Berks and Schuylkill Counties along the Kittatinny Ridge, this popular spot is not only a global resource for raptor studies and education, it’s also a state-designated Important Bird Area. Although this spot charges a small admission fee, it offers quite possibly the best views and trails for outstanding hawk watching during the migratory season.
In addition to its views and lookouts, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary includes a museum, bookstore, a native PA plant garden, and multiple accommodations for hawk researchers. Throughout the year, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary also serves as a great resource for watching songbird, dragonfly and butterfly migrations, too.
Also located along the Kittatinny Ridge, Waggoner’s Gap is another popular PA spot for serious hawk watching. Visitors have their choice of two trails to follow: the Hawk Trail and the Songbird Trail. No matter which trail visitors choose, each one leads to breathtaking views of the Cumberland Valley. From these spots, trailblazers can marvel at varieties of hawks and eagles in flight.
With an elevation of 2,690 ft, the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch offers perhaps the highest elevation for any PA hawk-watching lookout. Located on the Somerset/Bedford County Border and operated by the Allegheny Plateau Audubon Society, it’s a great location for a variety of hawk and eagle species along with various other migratory birds.
Hawk Watching Tips
Much like any journey, hawk watchers need to be properly prepared for their surroundings and weather conditions. Below are some helpful tips for optimum hawk watching:
- A pair of quality binoculars. Although the naked eye can see plenty during a watch, binoculars elevate the experience to the next level by allowing visitors to see the creatures up close.
- A folding camp chair or stool. Watchers may be on the lookout for long durations, so it’s best to have a place to rest.
- Dress in layers. Temperatures and conditions fluctuate throughout the day. So it’s always best to dress in layers. If the temperatures get warmer, you can always shed a layer or two. If it cools off, you can add them back.
- Sunscreen. Yes, it’s fall. Yes, it can be foggy and overcast somedays. But hawk watchers are still exposed to the sun’s rays for long periods of time. It’s always best to cover exposed areas with sunscreen. A wide-brimmed hat also provides extra protection.
- Bring a map or guidebook. Since cell phone and GPS service can be spotty along the trails and lookouts, it’s always best to bring a map or trail guide for reference.
- First-time hawk watchers may want to bring along a hawk reference guide to help them identify the various species they’ll see during their visit.
These are just a few of the many great hawk watching lookouts in Pennsylvania. If you would like to learn more about this great fall activity, we recommend visiting Audubon Pennsylvania for more hawk-watching information and tips.