Category: explore

It turns out, the golden views at Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge are what you find at the end of the rainbow. This Colorado wildlife refuge offers glimpses of both the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Great Sand Dunes National Park in the distance. The auto-tour route between April and early fall allows a drive, in solitude, amongst wetlands home to dozens of bird species. Along the Rio Grande River Trail, you will see a wide variety of habitats, from lush grasses to dense stands of willow, to towering cottonwood trees. Photo courtesy of Patricia Henschen.

Happy National Trails Day! We’re celebrating the National Trail System and the way trails connect us to adventure, exercise, natural beauty and one another. From a relaxing walk through the woods to a challenging hike, their variety in length, scenery and difficulty offers something for everyone. This photo captures a pink sunrise at mile 200 of the legendary Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, which stretches 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada. Whether you choose to hike locally or in the middle of desert wildflowers in bloom, everyone deserves a journey along a trail. Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management.

There is so much to discover on public lands. Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is the second largest wilderness area in Arizona. A campaign by the Arizona Boy Scouts helped establish the refuge in 1939 to protect desert bighorn sheep and other wildlife. The refuge’s name – Kofa – comes from an acronym for one of the area’s most notable mines, the King of Arizona gold mine. Photo by Rebecca Wilks (www.sharetheexperience.org).

Just an hour from downtown Washington, D.C., Douglas Point offers a tranquil respite from the rush of the city. Several hiking trails (including part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail) lead through a beautiful hardwood forest to narrow beaches along the Potomac tidewaters. The Bureau of Land Management and the State of Maryland jointly acquired about 1,270 acres of land known as Douglas Point, and it’s one of the last remaining undeveloped tracts along the Potomac River. In addition to connecting nearby residents to the outdoors, Douglas Point offers visitors a chance to learn about the region’s history – close by are a Civil War encampment site of approximately 25,000 troops, archeological sites and the evolving ecosystems of the shipwrecks at Mallow Bay. Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management, @mypubliclands

Autumn is in full swing at California’s Eastern Sierra near the famous ghost town of Bodie Hills. Although these rounded sage-covered peaks are less dramatic than their adjoining Sierra Nevada neighbors, they climb above 10,000 feet and offer great opportunities for prepared travelers to explore away from the crowds. A loop route leading from the Bodie ghost town back to Bridgeport via Bodie-Masonic and Aurora Canyon Roads offers glimpses of hidden windswept aspen groves and views of the rugged Sierra Nevada crest – even better vistas can be had with some hiking. Both mule deer and pronghorn antelope can be seen along the route. Hunting, wildlife viewing and exploring the backcountry roads are popular pastimes in this area. High clearance vehicles are recommended for these remote unpaved roads, and be sure to check local weather conditions before venturing out. Photos by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management, @mypubliclands.

Happy Alaska Day! 

On this day in 1867, the Territory of Alaska was formally transferred from Russia to the United States, and in 1917, Alaska Day was created to celebrate this historic moment. From stunning mountains to winding rivers that snake through valleys, there are over 222 million acres of public lands in Alaska and much of it’s managed by the Interior Department. This beauty scene is Beaver Creek Wild and Scenic River. The river flows west past the jagged limestone ridges of the White Mountains and is a popular spot for river adventurers. It’s great for a float trip, wildlife viewing and fishing. Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management, @mypubliclands

As we continue our celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers System and the National Trails System, we’re spotlighting the St. Croix Wild and Scenic River. One of the original eight rivers protected in 1968 under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the St. Croix is a lush green ribbon that winds along the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin, offering outdoor enthusiasts a chance to enjoy nature within easy reach of a major metropolitan area. You can #FindYourWay in a canoe and camp amid the northwoods; boat and fish surrounded by wooded bluffs, state parks and historic towns; or enjoy a swim, take in bountiful scenic views and watch for wildlife that make the banks their home. Nearby, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail traces the southern edge of the Wisconsin Glaciation, which ended 10,000 years ago. Several sections of the Ice Age Trail are rail-trails – disused railway tracks that have been converted to recreational trails. Rail-trails are part of the National Trails System, and today there are nearly 24,000 miles of rail-trails across the United States. Photos courtesy of Craig Blacklock.

All this week, we’re celebrating 50 years of the Wild and Scenic Rivers System and the National Trails System. This stunning photo is from the Appalachian National Scenic Trail – which was established on October 2, 1968. Conceived in 1921, built by private citizens and completed in 1937, the Appalachian Trail (or A.T.) stretches 2,180 miles from central Maine to northern Georgia. As it winds through the Washington Mountains in western Massachusetts, it grazes the headwaters of the Westfield Wild and Scenic River, a partnership river also created and managed by citizens in surrounding communities. The A.T. was one of the first trails in the National Trails System, along with the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. Today, the system includes 11 national scenic trails, 19 national historic trails and over 1,200 national recreation trails throughout the country that link historic sites, wildlife refuges, national parks, national forests and wilderness areas. Whether it’s a short day hike or an epic thru-hike, there are plenty of opportunities to #FindYourWay along one of your nation’s amazing trails. Photo by J. Smilanic (www.sharetheexperience.org).

On October 2, 1968, President Johnson signed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the National Trails System Act into law – creating a system of rivers and one of trails for current and future generations to enjoy. 

We’re celebrating these landmark acts all week with photos from some of the amazing rivers and trails that have been protected over the years. First up is the Flathead Wild and Scenic River in Montana – where the philosophy of river protection was born. In response to a proposed dam on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River in the late 1950s, naturalists and researchers John and Frank Craighead asserted the idea that some rivers should always remain free-flowing. Their thinking, activism and writing eventually resulted in passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Today, all three forks of the Flathead River are protected. Flowing along the southern boundary of Glacier National Park, the Middle Fork serves up Class II-III whitewater. #FindYourWay to solitude and sweeping views on its North Fork, which intersects the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail – one of the most recent scenic trails designated in 2009. Experience true wilderness water adventure on its South Fork, which flows out of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. What is your favorite river adventure? Photos by Daniel Lombardi, National Park Service.

The aspens are dressed in golden hues at Colorado’s Alpine Loop National Backcountry Byway, and they sure are beautiful! A rugged 4×4 road that winds through the spectacular scenery of the San Juan Mountains connecting Lake City, Silverton and Ouray, the Alpine Loop byway climbs up to 12,800 feet while showcasing old mines, ghost towns, natural wonders, abundant wildlife and stunning geography. While the trees have reached their peak and leaves are starting to fall, next weekend should still be good for autumn colors in the area. Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management, @mypubliclands