American Places Responsible Recreation

10 Ways to Enjoy Your National Wildlife Refuge

Did you know that there is at least one wildlife refuge in every state? If you aren’t familiar with our wildlife refuges, they provide both vital habitat for beloved fish and wildlife and they provide incredible opportunities to get outside with your family, friends, or even solo. Check out some of our favorite ways to explore wildlife refuges below, and then get out there and experience them yourself (don’t forget to tag us, @TroutUnlimited, on social media when you do!).

  1. Go fishing!
    We obviously can’t publish a Top 10 list at TU without including angling opportunities. With over eight million annual fishing visits to wildlife refuges, these pristine lands and waters are the perfect place to try your luck. Click here to plan your next outing.
  2. Escape the city, without going too far.
    There are 101 urban wildlife refuges, all of which are within 25 miles of the biggest cities in the United States. This means serene, natural places aren’t just reserved for weekend excursions – an after-work jaunt to a wildlife refuge is within your grasp! Find your urban refuge here.
  3. Embark on your next hunting trip.
    Hunting is available on nearly 400 wildlife refuges coast to coast. As all activities on wildlife refuges must be compatible with conservation goals, hunting on refuges is reserved for significant wildlife management. Find your hunt here.
  4. Give back to the places where we love to play.
    From helping run events to hands-on conservation projects, there are plenty of ways you can volunteer at your nearby wildlife refuge. Connect with your local TU chapter to see if there are any upcoming opportunities on a refuge where we are recovering or restoring habitat.
  5. Take a hike!
    There are over 2,100 miles of public walking trails and boardwalks throughout the Wildlife Refuge System, ranging from a casual stroll to a strenuous climb. Pack your water, wear comfortable shoes, and hit the trail at your own pace. Find your next hike here and find ADA accessible trails here.
  6. Bring the whole family.
    Wildlife Refuges offer year-round educational programs for kids and students, including school programs, summer camps, interpretive presentations, and more. Have a 4th grader? They can visit wildlife refuges for free with the Every Kid Outdoors Pass!
  7. Give birdwatching a try.
    Birding and wildlife observation brings almost 42 million annual visitors to wildlife refuges, making it one of the most popular activities on refuges. As anglers, we inherently love learning about new species—so why not take that love to the skies and learn more about the wildlife in your area? Click here to get started birdwatching.
  8. Bring history to life.
    A handful of wildlife refuges also contain important historical and cultural sites of significance. Even if there isn’t an official cultural site on your favorite refuge, you can learn so much about the land’s history during your visit. See historic and cultural sites on wildlife refuges here.
  9. No need to choose – you can try it all!
    Still looking for an excuse to get out to a wildlife refuge? There are endless outdoor activities you can try during your next visit – boating, photography, biking, ice fishing, dog sledding, foraging, and more! Learn more about all recreational opportunities.
  10. Support and share your National Wildlife Refuges.
    Trout Unlimited supports improved recreational access, including fishing and angling, on our National Wildlife Refuge System. Unfortunately, the System is chronically underfunded. Stay tuned for ways you can help advocate for improved funding and learn more at

As you visit your National Wildlife Refuge, remember to recreate responsibly and share these special places with the wildlife and communities that rely on them.