Best Michigan Elk Viewing Spots - Gaylord Michigan: Where (Interactive Map), When and Best Times to See Majestic Elk | DNR Overlooks in Northern Michigan

Best Michigan Elk Viewing Spots | Gaylord Michigan: Where (Interactive Map), When and Best Times to See Majestic Elk | DNR Overlooks

By: Sherry Trautman | | Last updated: September 1, 2023

I find Michigan elk so fascinating and majestic!  Did you know they are most active (and easier to see) in September and October during their breeding season? Keep reading for the best Michigan elk viewing spots in Northern Michigan!  

Frequently Asked Questions About Michigan Elk

Are there wild elk in Michigan? Yes!  You can see elk herds in northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan around the Gaylord region. 

What areas of Michigan have elk? Where are Elk In Michigan? The Pigeon River Country State Forest in Northern Michigan near Gaylord is home to Michigan's only free-roaming elk herd. There are about 500 head of elk!

How many bull elk are in Michigan? A Michigan DNR survey resulted in a population estimate between 870 and 1,684 elk.

When to See Michigan Elk: So Majestic!

September and October are prime elk spotting months in Michigan as it is breeding season. During this time frame you can hear male bulls bugling, as they are very active rounding up the females.

  • The breeding season or rut begins in early September and peaks around September 20th.  Elk are most visible dusk and dawn. The Pigeon River Country Discovery Center in Gaylord recommends going out around 7:00 am or earlier for the best results. 

During the hot summer months of June through August are the most difficult times to see elk.

How Big Are Michigan Elk?

Elk can stand roughly 6’ tall, weigh over 800 pounds and display 40 pound antlers.

Where to See Michigan Elk: Elk Viewing Gaylord MI

  • Pigeon River Country State Forest: In September, the Pidgeon River Discovery Center tends to have an elk viewing hike, so be sure to check their website.
  • Gaylord’s City Elk Park. Sometimes it is hard to spot elk in the wild but you will have a much better chance of seeing these majestic animals at the Gaylord City Elk Park!  There are 108 acres of habitat with approximately 40 elk. Navigation: Just put the Gaylord Elk's Lodge in your navigation on your phone and it will take you directly to the public viewing area. 
  • Mounts can be seen at Call of the Wild Museum in Gaylord Michigan. Plus 

Interactive Michigan Elk Viewing Map

Click to Expand Table of Contents
  • Click on the plus and minus in the left corner to zoom in or out of the map.
  • Click on the icons for more info, addresses and photos of the stops.
  • Click on the map to drag and move it to view surrounding areas.
  • In the Header, click on the rectangle in the upper left of the map to see a menu of all of our stops. Click on anything that looks interesting to see where it is on the map. To hide the menu, click the rectangle in the header.
  • In the Header, click on the "square" icon in the upper right side to expand the map for better viewing.

Our Map Key: The gray color are recommended Michigan elk viewing sites by the Pidgeon River Discovery Center and also the DNR. Easier access by vehicle, I'm guessing. The dark brown color is DNR recommended Michigan elk viewing sites. 

Per the Pidgeon River Discovery Center, the following spots are designated elk viewing areas. Chris and I placed them on the interactive map above for more easier navigation and planning. Here are the directions per the Pidgeon River Discovery Center.

  1. 3.5 miles east of Vanderbilt on Sturgeon Valley Road, then 3 miles north on Fontinalis Road
  2. 8 miles east of Vanderbilt on Sturgeon Valley Road at a pipeline corridor
  3. 4 miles north of the Pigeon River Country State Forest Headquarters on Osmun Road
  4. 18 miles east of Gaylord on County Road 622.

More Fun Things To Do Since You Love Nature and Outdoor Adventures...

Oh and Be Sure to Visit Nearby Grayling!

I absolutely LOVE exploring, hiking and kayaking in Grayling Michigan.  The area has one of the best HIKING trails I have ever been on (scenic boardwalk along a lake...seriously incredible!) ...check it out!  Grayling Michigan Guide!