Fantastic Raptor Hangout
You'll find very few wildlife experiences that are more exciting than the sight of a Golden Eagle gliding over a landscape painted in late autumn reds, yellows and oranges. The best and most easily accessible location in Pennsylvania to enjoy this sight is at Waggoner's Gap Hawk Watch.
This 125-acre hawk watching rock outcrop is situated on the Kittatinny Ridge, also known as Blue Mountain. Waggoner's Gap has one of the largest concentrations of raptors in the U.S., with 15,000 to 20,000 raptors passing through every year. It is one of the best sites along the Kittatinny Ridge, in the East to see Golden Eagles, and in PA to watch the fall hawk migration. From mid-August to December, dedicated volunteers diligently count Sharp-shinned, Broad-winged, Cooper's, and Red-tailed hawks; Northern Harriers; Turkey and Black vultures; and Bald and Golden eagles.
Autumn is the best time to hike the rocky path to Waggoner's Gap. There are two trails to choose from, the Hawk Trail (marked with an orange bird painted on the rocks) which leads to the rocky outcrop and the Songbird trail (marked with a yellow bird painted on the rocks). Both trails lead to a beautiful 180-degree vista of Cumberland Valley. The outcrop consists of tumbled boulders so proper footwear is recommended. Be prepared for conditions that are typically cooler and windier than in the Valley. The trails are accessible, short and easy to navigate both in the same afternoon. Read more about Waggoner's Gap.
Groups: Does your group enjoy the outdoors? Then add a visit to Waggoner's Gap Hawk Watch to your next itinerary and enjoy birds in flight. Parking and admission is free. An open air theatre offers a great view and if scheduled, an educational session.
Migration Counts: Check the Audubon Society of Pennsylvania for statistics and other helpful information. Find the most recent hawk counts here or view archived data here from HawkCount. View the Susquehanna River Birding and Wildlife Interactive Trail Guide for a searchable database of all birding locations in Pennsylvania.
Learn more about other Bird Watching Hotspots in Cumberland Valley.
- Directions: The Waggoner's Gap Hawk Watch can be reached by walking up a rock trail from the parking lot on the north side of the Kittatinny Ridge. The parking lot is off PA Rte 74, about 6 miles NW of Carlisle, Pa. Directions to the parking lot: From the east: On I-81 S take the Middlesex exit (exit 52) and turn right on Rte 11 S toward Carlisle. Continue south on Rte 11 for 1.5 miles to a traffic light at Wolf Bridge Rd. Turn right. Follow Wolf Bridge Rd 2.5 miles to a stop sign at PA Rte 34. Turn right and go .4 miles to a left turn on PA Rte 944 W. Go 5 miles to a stop sign at the intersection with Pa Rte 74. Turn right and go 2 miles up the mountain, being careful on the 90 degree turns. The parking lot is 200 yards beyond the crest on the right. From Baltimore: Travel north on I-83. Either take the Pa Turnpike west from Exit 18 or turn off I-83 onto I-581 W to I-81 S a mile beyond the Turnpike. Then follow the above. From D.C.: Take Rte 15N past Gettysburg to Pa Rte 74N at Dillsburg. Follow Rte 74 N through Carlisle to the mountain. From Winchester, VA: Take I-81 N to exit 47A in Carlisle. Turn left on Pa Re 34 N. Go to the square in Carlisle and turn left onto Pa Rte 74 N. Follow 74 N to the parking lot (be careful following signs, there are two turns that can be tricky). Trail to the rock outcrop: The trail leaves the oval parking lot at the right hand (uphill) side. After approx. 100 yards it splits, but both forks lead to the lookout. The right hand trail is less steep but longer. The lookout is an angled rock pile. Bring a cushion to sit on and warmer clothing than you think you might need. There is very limited space for chairs of any sort and that space is claimed very early in the day. There is a portable toilet in the parking lot. The parking lot is gated and unlocked by the counter for the day. The gate will remain locked over night and during inclement weather when no watch is being conducted.
- Hours: Dawn to Dusk
- Months Open: August 1st - December 31st
- Motorcoach Parking:
- Parking: Free
- Any Length Trail:
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- Miles of Trails: 1
- Number of Trails: 2
- Scenic Overlook:
- Trail Length < 5 Miles:
- Group Reservations Required:
- Maximum # of People for Tour: 50
- Motorcoach Parking:
Type of Experience
- Tours Available: