Visitor ActivitiesThe Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest urban refuges in the country and is home to more than 330 species of migratory and resident wildlife. Visitor activities include wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, nature programs, fishing and more!
Begin your visit at the Visitor Center, located just inside the Refuge entrance. An interactive exhibit hall takes visitors on a journey through the site’s history and showcases the abundance of wildlife at the site. A colorful Discovery Room full of wildlife activities, seasonal crafts, and hands-on displays give young naturalists a whole new perspective on nature.
At the Visitor Center information desk friendly staff and volunteers can answer your questions, help you choose a hiking trail, and get you better acquainted with the Refuge and visitor opportunities. Nature’s Nest Books & Gifts operated by Friends of the Front Range Wildlife Refuges is also located inside the Visitor Center.
Explore the Refuge on your own by taking the self-guided 9-mile Wildlife Drive auto tour that navigates through the bison pasture, grasslands, wetlands and woodlands (no bicycles allowed). The Wildlife Drive is open 7 days a week from 6:00 am – 6:00 pm (closed on Federal holidays). It’s a great way to access additional hiking trails, go birding and photograph the Refuge.
To begin the Drive, follow the signs after entering the Refuge. A car symbol and arrow will guide you along the way. Please be sure to pick up a Wildlife Drive/Trail Map at the Visitor Center parking lot kiosk, inside the Visitor Center or at the Wildlife Drive kiosk. Be sure to read the rules and regulations before beginning your tour. Along the route there are two parking areas with trail access. The route is not plowed in the winter and a small portion of the drive is on gravel road. For winter road conditions on the Refuge please call the Visitor Center at 303-289-0930.
The Refuge has more than 10 miles of easy to moderate hiking available year-round to view and photograph wildlife. The network of trails are mostly soft gravel surface, however, some are mowed/dirt, and meander along lake edges, through prairie shrubland and woodland settings. In the wintertime, snowshoes are permitted on the trails.
Please be sure to pick up a Wildlife Drive/Trail Map at the Visitor Center parking lot kiosk or inside the Visitor Center before hiking the trails. A perimeter trail around the Refuge connects to neighboring communities allowing visitors on foot or on bicycles to take a peek into the Refuge. Pets are allowed on the perimeter trail, but only assistance dogs are allowed on the Refuge.
The Refuge’s trail system and Wildlife Drive offer excellent self-guided opportunities to view wildlife in their natural setting. Sign up for a free guided wildlife viewing tour or nature program to learn more about wildlife from a naturalist. Wildlife viewing is at its best in the early morning or late afternoon when wildlife is the most active. Be sure to bring your binoculars or camera, or check-out a free pair of binoculars with a photo I.D. at the Visitor Center information desk.
Two of the Refuge’s lakes are open for fishing mid-April through mid-October on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays each year. Trophy-size largemouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill and lunker northern pike provide a great opportunity for anglers to get “hooked.” Fishing is catch-and-release only using barbless hooks and artificial bait.
A Colorado fishing license is required and anglers 16 years of age and older must pay a $3.00 daily fishing fee. Anglers must also read, sign, and keep a copy of the Refuge’s Regulations and Permit, which are available at the Contact Station kiosk.
One of the most popular activities on national wildlife refuges is wildlife photography. At Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge it is one of the best ways to connect with nature. With more than 10 miles of hiking trails, a self-guided wildlife drive, nature programs, and viewing blinds the Refuge is a photographer’s paradise. Whether it's photographing deer during the rut, bison calves in the spring, waterfowl during migration, or the backdrop of the majestic Rocky Mountains against a big blue sky or the colorful, tall prairie grasses, it’s easy to capture the Refuge’s beauty through your lens.
Each year the Refuge hosts its annual amateur photo contest. Submissions are accepted through September with the contest underway in early October as part of National Wildlife Refuge Week. For more information view our Amateur Photo Contest Rules and Entry Form, and submit your favorite Refuge photo to the contest!
2012 Photo Contest Winners
Nature Programs and Tours
Can you tell the difference between a red-tailed hawk and ferruginous hawk? Can bison really run more than 30 miles per hour? When do bald eagles get their signature white head and tail feathers? That’s just some of the fun and interesting things you’ll learn on a free guided nature program or wildlife viewing tour. Programs are designed for families and most require a reservation by calling the Visitor Center at 303-289-0930. For a list of current nature programs click here.
Whether you are a beginner or an expert birder, the Refuge offers something for everyone! Did you know more than 280 species of birds have been recorded at the Refuge? Stop by the Visitor Center to pick up a bird check list and then look for your fine-feathered favorites along the trails, from the viewing blinds, or take the Wildlife Drive. We also offer free, guided birding programs with a naturalist to further develop your birding skills.
Schools, scouts, summer camps and youth groups can discover and learn about wildlife through numerous interactive and age-specific environmental education opportunities at the Refuge. It’s the ultimate open space for outdoor education due to its convenient location, diverse wildlife, kid-friendly trails, specialized programming and best of all there’s no cost! For more information, see the “For Educators” tab on this website or click here.
Families can explore the Refuge in a whole new way by checking out one of our free activity backpacks – "Let’s Go Outside" or "Refuge Explorer". Both packs are full of nature games, activities, and discovery tools. Check one out at the Visitor Center information desk and have fun! A photo ID is required to check-out the backpacks.
Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge hosts free, educational nature events and programs throughout the year – from Fishing Frenzy to Refuge Day to Wild Discoveries for Kids and more. Check out our Wild News Nature Programs listing for upcoming events.
Page Photo Credits Autumn Hike - © Rich Keen/DPRA, Exhibit Hall Entry - Susan Drobniak/USFWS, Wildlife Drive Symbols - USFWS/Susan Drobniak, Family Hiking Trail - © Rich Keen/DPRA, Mule Deer During Rut Season - © Dave Showalter, Angler with Northern Pike - © Rich Keen/DPRA, Winter Photography - USFWS, Nature Program - Melissa Van Dreese/USFWS, Birding - © Shattil/Rozinski, Environmental Education Program - Shannon Donnelly/USFWS, Refuge Explorer Backpack - Susan Drobniak/USFWS, Special Events - USFWS
Last Updated: Aug 15, 2013