National Wildlife Refuge System

Bring on the Snow

Visitors prepare for a snowshoe hike at Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, WV.
Credit: USFWS

December 23, 2013 - Don’t sit out winter. Get into it at a national wildlife refuge. Explore miles of scenic trails by snowshoe, ski or sled; some refuges lend you the equipment free! Join a planned event – or go when it suits you. Here are some favorite winter activities and some great refuges to do them in:


Snow’s too deep for hiking? Play Bigfoot. If you can walk, you can snowshoe. Expend a little energy while you look for signs of fox, deer and other wildlife.

Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge
Cross-country ski or snowshoe on five trails plus a 4.5 mile auto tour route, unplowed in winter. The tour route goes by an eagle’s nest.

Aroostock National Wildlife Refuge
5+ miles of groomed ski and snowshoe trails

Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge
Snowshoe Clinic
January 18, 9 a.m. to noon
Join Sudbury Valley Trustees and Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) of Acton, Marlborough, and Northborough for lessons at Memorial Forest in Sudbury. EMS will provide snowshoes. SVT's Memorial Forest includes the southern unit of Assabet River Refuge. Register here.

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Winter Wildlife Snowshoe Trek
December 27, 10 to 11:30 a.m.
Take a snowshoe discovery hike along Long Meadow Lake. Borrow snowshoes, free with a picture ID. Or cross-country ski or snowshoe at other times. Hundreds of miles of trails connect to state and municipal trails. Look for wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, bald eagles and woodpeckers. Information: 952-854-5900.


Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Take the two-mile Ferry Way Trail to the bay’s open water or a shorter trail to Upper Peverly Pond.
Look for bald eagles, wild turkey, white-tailed deer and red fox.


Audubon National Wildlife Refuge
Snowshoe Hike
February 1, 10 - 11:30 a.m.
Explore the wintry refuge landscape. Look for white-tailed deer, ring-necked pheasants and bald eagles. Warm up with a cup of coffee or hot cocoa. Pre-register: 701-442-5474 ext. 110.

Or snowshoe other times on the eight-mile auto tour route or the one-mile Prairie Nature Trail. Borrow snowshoes from the refuge, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


Erie National Wildlife Refuge
4.5 miles of trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking.


Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Join a Snowshoe Discovery Tour from adjacent White Grass Ski Touring Center into the refuge
Information: 304- 866-4114.

  • December 22, 1-2 p.m. Focus: Area climate, forest type and geology
  • January 1, 10 a.m. Focus: Natural history and local lore
  • January 5, 10 a.m.
  • January 12, 10 a.m. 
  • January 20, 10 a.m. Focus: Natural history, relationship between White Grass and Fish and Wildlife Service, establishment of Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
  • February 17, 10 a.m. Focus: Natural history, relationship between White Grass and Fish and Wildlife Service, establishment of Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

Necedah National Wildlife Refuge
Snowshoe lesson and habitat hike
January 11, 10 to 11 a.m.
Or enjoy ungroomed ski and snowshoe trails seven days a week, from sunrise to sunset. Borrow a pair of adult or child-size snowshoes at the visitor center. Information: 608-565-2551

Cross-country skiing

Leave the world behind and go for a quiet glide in the woods or on a wildlife trail.


Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
16 miles of forested ski and snowshoe trails.


Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge
6.5 miles of wide, largely flat ungroomed ski trails.
Look for elk, white-tailed deer, Canada geese and tundra swans.


Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge
5 miles of ungroomed trails.
Look for white-tailed deer, moose and migratory waterfowl such as black ducks, mallards and Canada geese.


Seney National Wildlife Refuge
9+ miles of groomed trails.
Ski through a maple, beech and birch forest. See marshes and the frozen Manistique River. Trails are groomed for classic cross-country skiing. You may see a white-tailed deer, bald eagle, coyote or a red fox.


Rydell National Wildlife Refuge
7 miles of wide groomed trails.
Look for white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, fishers.

Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge
8 miles of trails.
Look for white-tailed deer, wolves, otters.


Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge
7.5 miles of ungroomed ski trails. 2.5 miles of ungroomed snowshoe trails.
Look for white-tailed deer, otters, songbirds.


Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge
7.5 miles of trail for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge
31 miles of ungroomed refuge trails plus 18 miles of trails groomed by adjacent White Grass Ski Touring Center.
Choose easy flat trails or challenging ones that climb through the woods. You may see white-tailed deer, rabbit, snowshoe hare, rough-legged hawks, wild turkey or songbirds. White Grass has equipment rentals. Information: 304- 866-3858


Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge
4 miles of ungroomed trails.
Look for white-tailed deer, wild turkey, fox and otter. Snowshoes are available free for use on site.

Dog sledding

You read that right. Traveling by dog sled is part of the Alaska tradition; in the lower 48, dog sledding is more exotic, but still possible. Unless you’ve got your own sled and dog team, expect to pay a private concessionaire.


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

Selawik National Wildlife Refuge
In April, see the excitement of the Kobuk 440, a dog sled race that’s a qualifying event for the Iditarod. Mushers (20 teams, maximum) compete for a $12,000 first-place prize.

Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge


Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge
60+ miles of privately groomed trails

Sleigh Ride

Sit back and enjoy a close-up look at elk. Not many places where you can do this.


National Elk Refuge
Take a horse drawn sleigh ride past wintering elk.
or Daily except for Christmas.

Winter Wildlife Tours 
Sit back and enjoy the scenery.

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
Wildlife Viewing Tours
January 18, 9:30 – 11:30 am
January 19, 9:30 – 11:30 am
February 15, 9:30 – 11:30 am
February 16, 9:30—11:30 am
See bison, hawks, eagles, deer in a winter landscape bus tour.


National Elk Refuge
Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, 1:30 to 4 p.m.
Take a free guided tour along the refuge road where elk, bighorn sheep, waterfowl and other animals can frequently be seen. Hear a naturalist recount refuge history and wildlife management methods. Reservations: 307-734-9378. Updates:

Ice fishing

You needn’t wait til spring to catch fish. Cut a hole in a frozen lake and drop your line in. No boat needed.

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge


DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge


Seney National Wildlife Refuge


Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge


Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge


Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge


Flickr photos: Winter recreation on refuges

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Last updated: February 18, 2014