11 Wonderful National Wildlife Refuges
Visit these peaceful natural havens near busy national parks
En español | If you're looking to commune with the great outdoors this summer, you're likely to find national parks teeming with like-minded visitors. For a more peaceful retreat, consider a side trip to a nearby national wildlife refuge. “Refuges offer a quieter, more relaxing experience of nature,” says Cynthia Martinez, chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System. President Theodore Roosevelt established the first wildlife refuge, Pelican Island in Florida, in 1903, to protect the animals and their habitats.
With far fewer visitors than national parks, many of the 567 refuges across the country combine stunning scenery with up-close seasonal wildlife viewing (the best times are often earlier or later in the day) on trails or self-guided drives. And most of them are free. Here are 11 of our favorites that can easily be paired with a national park visit.
COVID update: Although national wildlife refuges are open, due to the coronavirus epidemic, visitor centers remain closed and some public activities are suspended. Before visiting a refuge, check its website for updates and alerts, as well as for current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention safe travel guidelines.
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