The search is on for a legendary character with plenty of bulk and facial hair, and we're not talking Santa. Matthew Moneymaker, co-host of Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot, says the creatures have been seen in every state but Hawaii, "in places where there are enough deer to feed on." The Bigfoot Field Research Organization president is used to skeptics but believes Bigfoot is a descendant of an Asian relative of the orangutan. He shares with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY some spots where the hominids may live.
Redwoods State Park, Calif.
With its towering redwoods and thick forest, it's hard to beat the atmosphere at this Northern California park. "It's ancient looking, kind of a holdout from the Ice Age," Moneymaker says. He recommends taking a walk along the Smith River on Howland Hill Road. "We hear of lots of different sightings and sounds in there," he says. "I've found tracks crossing that road." 707-465-7335; parks.ca.gov/?page_id=413
Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, Ore.
You don't have to go far to find Bigfoot. This area 20 miles east of Portland in the Mount Hood National Forest is prime spotting territory, Moneymaker says. Bigfoot apparently has a sweet tooth and goes ape for huckleberries, which grow in the area. Scores of campers have been scared off by noises and have had rocks thrown at them. The creatures, Moneymaker says, "do things to make you feel very uncomfortable." 503-668-1700; fs.usda.gov/mthood
Michaux State Forest, Pa.
Nearby Gettysburg may have Civil War fame, but among Bigfoot aficionados, this state forest is a big deal, too. The area's apple orchards keep the deer population healthy, and that, in turn, attracts sasquatch-like creatures, Moneymaker says. On one expedition, researchers used a parabolic microphone to detect a mysterious crunching through fallen leaves. 717-352-2211; www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/stateforests/michaux/index.htm
Valles Caldera National Preserve, N.M.
The high density of elk and deer attracts Bigfoot to this working ranch near Los Alamos, Moneymaker says, noting that the creatures may use the park's mountainous lookouts to peer down on herds in the spring. Even when there's no wind, dead trees often topple mysteriously. "They let you know that they're there." 505-661-3333; vallescaldera.gov
Bird Mountain Wildlife Management Area, Vt.
This prominent mountain peak outside the town of Rutland has had its share of activity, including a trail-cam picture famous in Bigfoot circles of what appears to be a female sasquatch carrying her offspring. Centuries ago, American Indians reported seeing an apelike creature and, more recently, hikers say that they have come upon a sasquatch. 800-756-8880; rutlandvermont.com
Lost Creek Wilderness, Colo.
This area southwest of Denver in the Pike National Forest has massive granite arches and boulders and is a likely Bigfoot summer habitat, Moneymaker says. During a recent visit, he spoke to several people who say they heard strange vocalizations coming from this roadless preserve. "This is another area that's not too far from civilization," he says. 719-553-1400; fs.usda.gov/psicc
Olympic National Park, Wash.
A temperate rain forest thick with moss and ferns makes for prime Bigfoot habitat, Moneymaker says. "It's the sort of place you expect to see a dinosaur walking around." Tracks are often found along the Queets River, where some believe sasquatches are drawn by the large herd of Roosevelt elk. 360-565-3130; nps.gov/olym
Fahnestock State Park, N.Y.
There's a long history of Bigfoot encounters in this mountain park a mere 90 minutes from New York City. Moneymaker says investigators have found mysterious markings in the snow. "We did hear them respond to some of our howls, and that kind of validated the track finds. Walking the Appalachian Trail at night through the area is a good bet for an encounter." 845-225-7207; nysparks.com/parks/133/details.aspx
Salt Fork State Park, Ohio
While some sites downplay their sasquatch notoriety, this state park has even hosted a Bigfoot conference. Researchers have been coming for decades to this area about 60 miles south of Cleveland. "It has been going on there longer than anywhere else," Moneymaker says. "Many people have encounters there." 740-439-3521; dnr.state.oh.us/parks/saltfork/ tabid/785/default.aspx
Ponca Wilderness Area, Ark.
Moneymaker says he had several good Bigfoot moments on a recent expedition in this area along the Buffalo National River in northern Arkansas. "There were a handful of people who saw them, and just about everyone heard them at night," he says. Most of the Bigfoot action centered on the area near Steel Creek Campground. 870-439-2502; nps.gov/buff