Despite cold temperatures, snow, and ice, many U.S. national wildlife refuges offer a variety of wildlife watching opportunities during the winter season. Many national wildlife refuges contain scenic nature trails that can be explored on foot, snowshoe, ski, or sled. Some refuges even provide free equipment for day trips. Other options include sleigh rides and self-guided vehicle tours.
Snowshoeing and Cross-country Skiing Areas:
Kenai National Wildlife Refuge (Alaska)
Kenai National Wildlife Refuge contains 16 miles of forested ski and snowshoe trails.
Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge (Idaho)
Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge contains four trails plus a 6.2 mile auto tour route (closed to vehicles in winter) where visitors can snowshoe and cross-country ski.
Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge (Maine)
Snowshoe the one-mile Carson Trail to view common eiders, bufflehead, Canada geese, common loons, and other birds.
Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge (Massachusetts)
Together, Assabet River Refuge, Great Meadows Refuge, and Oxbow Refuge, contain more than 25 miles of ski and snowshoe trails.
Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge (Michigan)
Located near Saginaw, Michigan, Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge contains 17 miles of refuge trails are open to snowshoeing and skiing. Explorers may encounter bald eagles, white-tailed deer, red fox, eastern cottontails, and other wildlife.
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge (Minnesota)
Near Bloomington, visitors can experience snowshoeing at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Snowshoes are provided free when six inches or more of snow is on the ground.
Rydell National Wildlife Refuge (Minnesota)
Cross-country skiers can explore seven miles of wide, groomed trails at Rydell National Wildlife Refuge. Wildlife includes white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, fishers, and more.
Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge (Minnesota)
Eight miles of trails are open to cross-country skiing at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge.
Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge (New Hampshire)
At Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge, a two-mile trail leads to Great Bay. A shorter trail leads to Upper Peverly Pond. Wildlife includes bald eagles, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, and red fox.
Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge (New York State)
Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge contains 7.5 miles of ungroomed ski trails and 2.5 miles of ungroomed snowshoe trails, plus 3.5-mile Feeder Road, which is open to both skiing and snowshoeing.
Audubon National Wildlife Refuge (North Dakota)
Look for white-tailed deer, ring-necked pheasants and bald eagles on the 8-mile auto tour route or the one-mile Prairie Nature Trail. The refuge has snowshoes for loan, Monday through Friday.
Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge (North Dakota)
This refuge contains 7.5 miles of trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Erie National Wildlife Refuge (Pennsylvania)
Erie National Wildlife Refuge contains 4.5 miles of posted trails are available for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge (West Virginia)
Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge contains 31 miles of trails and roads are open to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The neighboring White Grass Ski Touring Center offers regular Snowshoe Discovery Tours, which lead onto the refuge.
Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (Wisconsin)
At Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, five miles of ungroomed snowshoe trails are open from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week. A two-mile ski loop is open seven days a week, from sunrise to sunset. Visitors can borrow adult or child-size snowshoes at the visitor center.
Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge (Wisconsin)
Visitors to Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge can enjoy cross-country skiing on four miles of ungroomed trails.
Winter Wildlife Tours:
National Elk Refuge (Wyoming)
At National Elk Refuge, visitors can take a horse-drawn sleigh ride to view wintering elk. Sleigh rides operate daily except Christmas Day. Visitors can also take self-guided vehicle excursions on the refuge. Bison, hawks, eagles, deer and other wildlife may be sighted from the refuge road.
source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service