Where to Find Gold
Helena National Forest, MT
In early October, you can count more than 100 goldens a day from Rogers Pass, where winds gust up to 50 mph. For the best views, climb the Continental Divide Trail from the north side of the pass off MT 200, east of Lincoln. Crest the ridge in one mile, and train your binoculars to the north. (406) 449-5201; fs.fed.us/r1/helena
Cibola National Forest, NM
Goldens here catch updrafts on the Manzano Mountains, 35 miles south of Albuquerque. To reach a count site, head west 9 miles on FR 245 from Manzano to Capilla Peak Campground. Park 600 feet before the fire tower and hike 1.5 miles on the trail marked by a hawk silhouette. (505) 346-3900; fs.fed.us/r3/cibola
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, PA
Pennsylvania’s Blue Mountains host the largest concentration of golden eagles in the East. Between mid-August and mid-December, watch goldens glide southwest along the ridgelines. At the visitor center, pick up your $7 trail pass and hike the Skyline Trail 2 miles to East Rocks. (610) 756-6961; hawkmountain.org
Get Eagle Eyes Raptors are most active at midday, when heat radiating from the ground produces thermals and strong winds. All eagles avoid flying in fog, and are less active during rain and snow. Goldens tend to be solitary raptors, and will often hunt alone or in a mating pair. Identify them by their gold-flecked necks, small heads, gray tail, and slightly upturned wingtips.