When the snow hits, most people go inside to get warm and cozy in front of a fireplace. But you’re not most people. You’re ready to grab a set of skis, brave the cold and enjoy all the white powdery goodness that winter fun has to offer. GEICO is here to help you on your snow-ventures with some fun winter thrills you can take part in at National Wildlife Refuges.
Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge (northern tip)
Explore the refuge’s 6.2-mile auto tour route, closed to cars in winter, or your choice of four ski trails totaling about four miles. Look for elk, white-tailed deer, red-tailed hawks and tundra swans. For more information, call 208-267-3888.
Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge (southern Maine)
Keep your eye out for white-tailed deer, fox, ducks and loons.
Ungroomed trails include:
- The most popular trail, The Carson Trail (1 mile), off Port Road in Wells.
- Timber Point Trail (1.5 miles), off Granite Point Road in Biddeford, skirts the Little River out to the Gulf of Maine.
- Cutts Island Trail (1.8 miles), off Seapoint Road in Kittery, provides scenic water, field and forest interior views.
- The Bridle Path Trail (three miles), off Route 9 in Kennebunk, is an old trolley bed owned and maintained by the town.
For more information, call 207-646-9226.
Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge
Take your pick of more than 25 miles of ski and snowshoe trails at Assabet River Refuge and nearby Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge. Wildlife you might see: great blue heron, Canada geese, barred owl and mink. For more information, call 978-443-4661.
Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge (Saginaw)
Seventeen miles of refuge trails are open to snowshoeing and skiing. Look for bald eagles, white-tailed deer, red fox and eastern cottontails. Reserve snowshoes free. For more information, contact Green Point Environmental Learning Center at 989-759-1669.
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Bloomington (Long Meadow Lake refuge unit) and Rapids Lake
Snowshoe through this greenbelt of marshes along the Minnesota River from Fort Snelling to Jordan. Equipment rental is free at the Bloomington Visitor and Education Center with an ID when six inches or more of snow are on the ground. Or put on your cross-country skis and see parts of the refuge that can be inaccessible most of the year. Wildlife you might see: waterfowl, turkeys, raptors and songbirds. For more information, call 952-854-5900.
Rydell National Wildlife Refuge (northern Minnesota)
Explore seven miles of wide, groomed trails. Look for white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse and fishers. For more information, call 218-687-2229.
Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge (north central Minnesota)
Follow eight miles of snow trails. Look for white-tailed deer, wolves and otters. For more information, call 218-847-2641.
Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge (western New York State)
Follow 7.5 miles of ungroomed ski trails, 2.5 miles of ungroomed snowshoe trails, plus 3.5-mile Feeder Road, open to both skiing and snowshoeing. Look for white-tailed deer, otters and songbirds. For more information, call 585-948-5445.
Audubon National Wildlife Refuge (about an hour north of Bismarck)
Look for white-tailed deer, ring-necked pheasants and bald eagles on the eight-mile auto tour route or the one-mile Prairie Nature Trail. Borrow snowshoes free from the refuge, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 701-442-5474.
Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge
Des Lac boasts 7.5 miles of trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Look for white-tailed deer and ring-necked pheasants. For more information, call 701-385-4046.
Erie National Wildlife Refuge
More than 4 miles of ungroomed trails are available for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Explore the Tsuga Trail (1.2–1.6 mile loop) and Deer Run Trail (three-mile loop), both in the Sugar Lake Division. Look for white-tailed deer, wild turkey and songbirds. For more information, call 814-789-3585.
Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge (near Davis)
More than 30 miles of ungroomed refuge trails and roads are open to snowshoeing. Keep your eye out for white-tailed deer, rabbit, wild turkey or songbirds. Snowshoe Discovery Tours, offered by neighboring White Grass Ski Touring Center, lead onto the refuge. Tours last about an hour and cover around a mile of easy rolling terrain. White Grass offers equipment rentals. For more information, call 304-866-4114 (White Grass) or 304-866-3858 (Canaan Valley Refuge).
2015 Snowshoe Discovery Tour Schedule:
- December 20, 1 p.m. Natural history walk
- January 3, 10 a.m. Natural history walk
- January 10, 10 a.m. High-elevation red spruce ecosystem
- January 18, Martin Luther King Day, 10 a.m. Winter weather in Canaan Valley
- January 24, 10 a.m. Winter tree/shrub identification and wildlife tracks walk
- February 7, 9 a.m. Where birds find food and shelter when the snow flies
- February 15, Presidents Day, 10 a.m. Wildlife that live in high-elevation forests
- February 28, 10 a.m. How wildlife survive the winter
- March 6, 10 a.m. History of Canaan Valley Refuge and its relationship with White Grass
Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (central Wisconsin, 150 miles from Milwaukee)
Cross-country ski or snowshoe on ungroomed trails from December 15 to March 31. The staff recommends White-tail Loop (1.7 miles) for cross-country skiing and Boghaunter Trails (from 0.8 to 3.6 miles) for snowshoeing. Check snowshoes out free at the visitor center from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call ahead for availability: 608-565-2551. Look for red-headed woodpeckers, wild turkey, white-tailed deer and river otters.
Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge (western Wisconsin)
More than four miles of ungroomed trails lead into scenic areas where you can look for white-tailed deer, wild turkey, fox and otter. Check snowshoes out free at the visitor station from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and by special request on weekends. Download trail maps from the refuge website. For more information, call 608-539-2311.
Have snowy fun this winter at your local National Wildlife Refuge!
National wildlife refuges are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Find a refuge near you.
Looking for more ways to celebrate your snow days? Check out Holiday Fun, Naturally.
By Yousef Abdul-Husain