Exploring St Kitts, a Caribbean Island Nation Rich in Heritage, Natural Attractions

Oneil poses atop Mount Liamuiga. The hike to the top of Mount Liamuiga is strenuous and satisfying, and rewarded with a view of the ocean © 2012 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin

We are huffing and puffing our way through the dense rainforest up a 2 1/2 mile trail

St. Kitts, barely 68 square miles in all, has been at the crossroads of human settlement for centuries – Liamuiga, meaning “fertile island” was the name the Carib people gave the island around 1300 AD, and San Christobal was the name that Christopher Columbus gave it when he sighted it in 1493 on his second journey and St. Kitts was the first colony in the Caribbean for both the British and French. But the island nation is relatively new to the Caribbean tourism pantheon, and that makes visiting here all the more exciting.

“Authentic” is how you describe St. Kitts. “Unspoiled” is another descriptor. “Like the Caribbean used to be, before high rises and Starbucks.” “Simply marvelous” is yet another.

This means you feel like you are “off-the-beaten path,” complimenting yourself on your incredible brilliance at discovering a new, jewel of a destination, even when you are in the lap of luxury at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort & The Royal Beach Casino – a stunning resort that hugs the beach and offers the best of everything: championship golf, world-class spa, the largest Vegas-style casino in the Caribbean, a selection of fine dining restaurants, white sand beach, children’s and family programs, all served up in a comfortable, casual, unpretentious atmosphere.

From a promontory on St. Kitts, you can see the rolling waters of the Atlantic Ocean on the left and the calm Caribbean Sea on the right © 2012 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

While it is tempting to stay within the St. Kitts Marriott Resort resort – there is certainly enough to do – you will want to venture out and explore St Kitts, which has a fascinating history and plenty to show for it. (The St. Kitts Marriott’s concierge desk has a thick catalog of tours and attractions to visit. The best idea is to hire a car and driver and take you around for a day.)

During our all-too brief stay, we have the opportunity to sample some of St Kitts’ highlights:

Hike to Mount Liamuiga

Oneil Mulraine, a popular guide who has led hikes up Mount Liamuiga for more than 30 years, picks us up at the St Kitts Marriott for the 45-minute (or so) drive to the trailhead.

The ride itself is a wonderful opportunity to appreciate this tiny, young, island nation, and Oneil is happy to point out historic sights and interesting attractions along the way.

St Kitts is a small island – just 21 miles long, five miles wide in the middle, a total of 68 square miles. There is just one main road that rings the island (you drive on the left here) and no traffic lights. The road hugs the shore and goes through small villages.

A new section of highway is named for Kim Collins, a track and field sprinter, who in 2003 became the World Champion in the 100 meter dash, and was a four-time Olympian, from1996-2008, and the country’s first athlete ever to reach an event final.

Oneil offers commentary about the island and its history, its flora and fauna, as we drive.

St. Kitts is a young country – it achieved independence in 1983. Since the 1700s, its economy was based on sugar cane, but the government, which nationalized the sugar cane industry in 1974, decided to shut down sugar production and shift the country’s economic focus to tourism Consequently, St Kitts is relatively new in the pantheon of Caribbean vacation destinations.

And that is St Kitts’ great appeal: it is authentic, unspoiled, unpretentious, unglitsy.

It’s a real place, with a real community – in fact, the country is so small – with a population of about 50,000 people – it seems that most know each other. People are very welcoming and friendly.

Oneil points out the St. Kitts Sugar Factory and Compound, no longer used for processing sugar, that has become a heritage site.

A farmer in the field © 2012 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We turn off the road leading to the Mt Liamuiga Hiking Trail. Oneil says that the access has been changed because of the land that was sold for a new golf course; a new trail was built to connect with the old trail, but it adds 20 minutes to the hike. We go up a primitive road, passing small fields.

At the top, we can see two Dutch islands, Saba and St. Eustasis very close by.

Oneil hands us each a walking stick – which becomes our major friend during the hike.

The hike is billed as strenuous, and for once, the label is accurate: it is a strenuous hike, physically and mentally challenging. You are hiking up for about 2 1/2 miles to get to the top of the volcano for a view down into the caldera (not hot, but you may smell sulphur). The trail has eroded over the years, making it more difficult.

The second quarter section is relatively easy – but the second half is a series of 3 hills – one tougher than the next.

Oneil, who seems he could fly up this mountain (he can do it in less than 2 hours – it takes us 4), is wonderfully motivating and encouraging, telling us “Just three minutes more to where we rest,” “Just 12 minutes more to the end of Hill 1” (“Three minutes until the end of Hill1, then we start Hill2.”) and so forth.

When things get tough, he tells us “Focus on the trail.”

Oneil points out the flora, giving us time to rest aswe hike up Mount Liamuiga © 2012 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Oneil is wonderful about pointing out the trees and flowers of the rainforest – which serves a dual purpose, in letting us rest and catch a breath as we climb.

A palm tree is like people – it has one life; if the top is cut off, it dies, he tells us. The same with a banana tree: once the bananas are taken off, the tree dies.

When one of our group has too much trouble and is holding us all back – meaning that we won’t be able to make it to the top before we have to turn back – Oneil is as encouraging as he can be, but finally finds a place where she can sit and wait for us to make it to the top and return. He is clear about her staying put and not moving on her own.

Even though there is just one trail up and the same trail back, it can get confusing – there are some false openings – and the trail is not marked at all.

We continue on the second half of the hike, where it gets even more strenuous, each hill a little harder and steeper than the next, until we are scrambling over rocks, using the tree roots for hand holds and footholds.

Hiking the last section of Mount Liamuiga© 2012 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Finally, the trail goes to a narrow perch at the top of Mount Liamuiga, from which we can peer down into the caldera. People used to be able to hike down into it, but an avalanche some years ago made that too risky.

There is mist, so we don’t get the full impact of the view. It begins to drizzle a bit, and I get worried about how difficult the hike back down will be if the trail becomes muddy.

But this isn’t the end – Oneil leads us to the other side where you have to climb up steep rocks to a narrow peak; those who make that climb are rewarded with 360-degree views to the ocean.

We make our way back down – I have devised my own technique of sliding or turning around and climbing down like a ladder – anything that works is my motto – and I bless my walking stick which has become my companion.

We reach the half-way mark where our companion should have been. She isn’t there. We have to assume she started back on her own (cell phones don’t work here).

Sure enough, close to the very end of the trail, we find her. She says that she and a monkey had a staring contest for about 40 minutes; she also saw hummingbirds and butterflies.

The hike is strenuous, physical, demanding, challenging, a true adventure – not those namby pamby things which call themselves adventure but then turn out to be a walk in the park. The trail is not marked and even though there is really only one, certain spots can be deceptive and lead you a wrong way. Also, you never know where you are or how far you have to go, and you might not even realize when you came to the end. I would not recommend you do it on your own (you need transportation anyway).

Kids, probably 10 or 12 and up, who are adventurous (and have hiked before) could do it, but there are big stretches for anyone under 5 feet. They have to be prepared to hike for about 4 hours (2 hours each way), and not have any way back if they bail.

I wouldn’t suggest doing the hike without a guide.

Bring hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, a windbreaker, water (at least 2 bottles), snacks, a walking stick, and wear hiking shoes or sneakers, and probably light pants or capris instead of shorts that you don’t mind getting dirty. (Surprisingly, there were no insects to worry about).

(You can book the hike from the St Kitts Marriott tour desk, about $90 and well worth it. There are several guides that lead the volcano hike; ask for Oneil Mulraine.)

Sky Safari

On our second morning, we are bound for ziplining, but stop first at a promontory very close to the St Kitts Marriott where you can see a spit of the island where the Atlantic Ocean is on the left side and the Caribbean Sea on the right – one side rolling, the other side calm.

We spot a monkey. Originally brought to the island to get rid of snakes. the monkeys did that just fine, but have propagated to the point where they outnumber the people. They are as common to see as squirrels (though apparently, they pick and choose when they want to be seen, and if you have food or reach for a mango, it is a race to see who will get there first.) One skips across the road, climbs the hill, perches on the fence, runs down the other side, across the street.

We arrive at Sky Safari – a new zipline attraction, located on what was the Wingfield Estate, set in the picturesque foot hills of the central mountain range.

It is very well organized – we are outfitted in harnesses and helmets. The ziplines are ideal for beginners – you don’t need to use your hand as a brake – you stop automatically by hitting a spring at the bottom, like a rubber band.

We get to try it out on a small practice zipline at the base, before we pile into a jeep and drive up a really steep, curvy dirt road up to the highest zipline.

We have a guide who goes down first and another guide who launches us.

Sky Safari zipline is a new attraction on St Kitts © 2012 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We “fly” above the rainforest, over a river and an aquifer, reaching speeds up to 60 mph. There are four ziplines, each one shorter and faster than the previous one.

The first zipline, “The Boss,” is 250 feet above the valley floor and 300 feet above sea level is the steepest of the ziplines, and takes about 30 seconds to travel the quarter mile. The second is called Mango Tango, 1000 feet long, 200 feet above sea level. The third goes over the River of Giants, the longest river on the island. The last zip, Brimstone Blast, is 900 feet long, 150 feet above the valley, and the fastest of the ziplines; there are two lines, so we go two-by-two and have a mock “race” to the bottom.

Sky Safari ziplines are ideal for beginners. The guides are funny and fun, relax you, and you always feel they are nearby. (Sky Safaris, info@skysafaristkitts.com, www.skysafaristkitts.com).

Wingfield Estate

The Sky Safari is located on what was Wingfield Estate, above Old Road Town, the first English settlement in the Caribbean, and we get to see the remnants of a centuries old sugar processing plant, which is an archaeological site. The tall chimney and buildings are mostly intact still. You can see a newly discovered 17th century rum distillery, a steam engine, the aqueduct for a water wheel.

After sugar was introduced in the 1640’s, Wingfield Estate developed into a major sugar plantation and one of the few to use water to power its factory © 2012 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

After sugar was introduced in the 1640’s, Wingfield developed into a major sugar plantation and one of the very few on the island to use water to power its factory works. The aqueduct is a unique architectural feature on the island and found only at Wingfield Estate Yard.

The story of Wingfield Estate continues as we go, literally next door, to Romney Manor.

Next: St Kitts’ fascinating heritage

Contact St. Kitts Marriott Resort & The Royal Beach Casino, 858 Frigate Bay Road, Frigate Bay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, 800-228-9290, 869-466.1200, fax 869-466-1201 or visit www.stkittsmarriott.com.

For more information about St. Kitts contact the St. Kitts Tourism Authority toll free from the US at 1-800-582-6208 or from Canada 1-888-395-4887, e-mail info@stkittstourism.kn, visit www.stkittstourism.kn, or connect on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

View a slideshow at: www.examiner.com/slideshow/exploring-st-kitts-caribbean-island-rich-heritage-natural-attractions.

See also:

St Kitts Marriott is Ideal Caribbean Getaway with Top Golf, Spa, Casino, Beach, Kids Club


© 2012 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit www.examiner.com/eclectic-travel-in-national/karen-rubin, www.examiner.com/eclectic-traveler-in-long-island/karen-rubin, www.examiner.com/international-travel-in-national/karen-rubin and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures.

5 Stellar Hiking Trails On National Wildlife Refuges

Fall is a great time to hike in the national wildlife refuges © 2012 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Why see Labor Day as an end to the outdoors season? One of the year’s best hiking times is about to begin. For a treat this fall, explore some standout trails on national wildlife refuges. Refuge trails can be just as scenic as national park or national forest trails, but tend to be less well-known. All the better for wildlife viewing.

So says Mike Mullaley, who in 2011 helped survey more than 1,500 miles of trails at 234 national wildlife refuges with his Student Conservation Association team. “Many of these places are off the beaten path,” he says. “With fewer people on site, there is a great chance to experience nature.”

Here are some outstanding hiking trails of varying length, difficulty and terrain on wildlife refuges nationwide. (For other trails in the National Wildlife Refuge System, visit http://go.usa.gov/w9O.)


Trail: Pine Beach Trail, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 4 miles roundtrip
Difficulty level: Moderate. Sandy terrain
Wildlife to watch for: Bobcats, coyotes, red fox, osprey, shorebirds, neotropical migratory birds
Trail details: In refuge brochure, available at the refuge office or trailhead. A separate Pine Beach trail guide identifies plants along the way.
Trail map: http://www.fws.gov/bonsecour/trails.html

Enjoy a hike to what Mullaley calls “one of the finest beaches I have seen in this country.” The popular trail begins in a coastal forest and passes a saltwater lagoon on one side and a freshwater lake on the other. It proceeds south through small, rolling dunes to a great vista of the Gulf of Mexico. Says Mullaley, “You can hike right into the water and cool off!” Respect signs asking you to stay on the trail and avoid disrupting the fragile dune ecosystem.


Trail: Skyline Trail, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 2 miles roundtrip
Difficulty level: Strenuous. Elevation gain: 1,800 feet.
Wildlife to watch for: Dall sheep, moose, brown bear.
Trail details: Trailhead is at mile 61.0 on the Sterling Highway. Use parking area on south side of the
road. Trailhead begins on the north side, to the left of the guardrail. See also http://go.usa.gov/wI9

Trail map: http://go.usa.gov/wI8

Gain quick access to mountains in the Mystery Creek unit of the Kenai Wilderness. This heart-pumping trail begins in forest and emerges above tree line in about three-quarters of a mile; one half-mile further, the trail gradually disappears in an alpine area. Above timberline, see spectacular views of the Kenai Mountains, the Kenai Peninsula lowlands and Cook Inlet. Mt. McKinley (Denali) is visible to the north on clear days. Steep, rocky hikes to the tops of several nearby peaks are possible.


Trail: Champion Cypress Tree Trail, White River National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 1.2 miles one way
Difficulty level: Easy
Wildlife to watch for: Black bear, white-tail deer, coyote, bobcat, red or grey fox, woodpeckers, neotropical migrant birds such as prothonotary warblers, indigo buntings, Carolina wrens, northern cardinals
Trail details: http://go.usa.gov/wII
Trail map: http://go.usa.gov/wX4

The trail leads through a swamp to a bench overlooking a small stream and a mammoth cypress tree (43 feet around, 120 feet tall) ─ the largest in the state of Arkansas. Writes Mullaley, “Elsewhere in the South, you can find cypress ‘knees’ (vertical root protrusions) that reach one to two feet above the ground or water. The knees of the Champion Cypress Tree must be somewhere between seven and ten feet tall. It is a wonderful spectacle.”


Trail: Tidelands Trail, Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 1.8 miles (with up to 6 miles of optional add-ons)
Difficulty level: Easy to moderate
Wildlife to watch for: Shorebirds including western sandpipers and black-neck stilts; waterfowl such as
northern shovelers and ruddy ducks
Trail details: http://www.fws.gov/desfbay/basic.htm#Trails or download a brochure from the refuge website
Trail map: Available at the visitor contact station

This figure-eight trail ─ popular with pedestrians, cyclists and dog-walkers ─ passes through several types of habitat and offers great views of the bay. The trail goes over the Newark Slough, a tidally influenced natural channel that allows saltwater to penetrate inland. It also passes a salt pond. In winter, look for lots of migratory shorebirds and waterfowl. The Tidelands Trail was designated a National Recreation Trail in 1981.


Trail: St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge portion of the Florida National Scenic Trail
Length: 40 mostly flat miles; shorter out and back hikes are possible
Difficulty level: Easy
Wildlife to look for: Alligators, night herons, black bears, raccoons, turkey, deer, owls, woodpeckers,
Trail details: http://go.usa.gov/w9L
Trail map: www.florida‐trail.org

This piece of the 1,400-mile Florida National Scenic Trail offers primitive hiking through Gulf coastal pine, dense stands of leafy trees and a saltmarsh wilderness. The refuge trail crosses marshy areas via boardwalks and bridges. About 15 miles of trail follow refuge roads that are closed to vehicles. You’ll need a boat (ask locally) to cross the St. Marks River. Campers: Get an overnight use permit from the refuge web site. SCA interns Mullaley and Alex Aaker say their 15-mile hike on the trail in late April “allowed us to see a vast extent of Florida’s wildlife, wilderness and coastline.” Fall hikers may see migrating monarchs. Packing note: Bring bug spray. Writes Mullaley, “It was my first experience with ticks (15 total in both ankles!), but it does not hinder the excitement of the trail.”


Trail: Kanuimanu Ponds Trail, Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 0.8 mile
Difficulty level: Easy
Wildlife to watch for: Hawaiian stilt (ae”o), Hawaiian coot (‘alae ke’oke’o), Pacific golden plover (kolea), ruddy turnstone, sanderling, wandering tattler, northern shovelers and northern pintails
Trail details: http://www.fws.gov/kealiapond/visit.html
Trail map: Information available at refuge visitors center

This trail provides the best wildlife viewing and photography access at the refuge. Visitors hike along the perimeter of refuge ponds to view one of the largest concentrations of endangered water birds, migratory waterfowl and shorebirds in Hawaii. The trail is set away from two nearby highways, providing for an usually quiet opportunity to appreciate the natural environment. Another easy refuge trail worth investigating: the Kealia Coastal Boardwalk.


Trail: Old Humpback Trail, Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 1 mile each way
Difficulty level: Moderate
Wildlife to watch for: Moose, ducks, geese, eagles mule deer, elk, peregrines, warblers, black swifts
Trail details: http://www.fws.gov/kootenai/recreation.html
Trail map: Available at refuge office or trailhead kiosk

One of several scenic trails at this refuge in the panhandle of northern Idaho, Old Humpback Trail winds its way up steeply through conifer forest. Short spur loops offer picturesque overlooks of the Selkirk and Purcell Mountain Ranges. Selkirk Mountain is important grizzly habitat. For a bonus, add in the quarter-mile Myrtle Creek Falls Trail, leading to an overlook of a falls with a drop of more than 100 feet.


Trail: Bluff Trail, Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 7 miles out and back
Difficulty level: Easy to moderate
Wildlife to watch for: Waterfowl, songbirds, woodpeckers, bald eagles, wetland birds such as egrets and
Trail details: The trail is in the refuge’s Long Meadow Lake unit ─ the unit closest to Minneapolis.
Trail map: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/minnesotavalley/long_meadow.html

Find escape just steps from the city. This trail offers surprising solitude for a place within two miles of the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. The hilly trail skirts the base of the bluffs along the Minnesota River, weaving in and out of forest and ending near a historic bridge closed to traffic. A trail spur leads to an observation overlook that juts out into a river-fed marsh. In case of recent heavy rains, check with refuge staff on trail conditions before you go. Sometimes flooding closes the trail.


Trail: Wildlife Viewing Area Nature Trail, Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 2.5 miles round trip
Difficulty level: Easy, flat
Wildlife to watch for: Pileated woodpecker, American dipper, black-headed grosbeak, Bullocks oriole, Vaux’s swift, Lewis’s woodpecker, willow flycatcher, pygmy nuthatch
Trail details: http://www.fws.gov/leemetcalf/visit.html
Trail map: Available at trailhead. Access the trail from Wildfowl Lane, the county road that bisects the refuge.

This scenic trail began as an access trail to the Bitterroot River, a world-class trout fishery, for local farmers. It was designated a National Recreation Trail in 2005 by Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton. It offers spectacular views of the Bitterroot Mountains and excellent birdwatching; some 80 percent of Montana’s breeding birds use this habitat for nesting, and the refuge forms the core for the Bitterroot River Important Bird Area. The trail ─ originally part of Stevensville, the first European settlement in Montana ─ leads through a fragrant forest of ponderosa pine and black cottonwood. The first half-mile of the trail is paved and wheelchair-accessible. The refuge is also along two National Historic Trails ­– the Lewis and Clark Trail and the Nez Perce Trail – and the Glacial Lake Missoula National Geologic Trail.

New Hampshire

Trail: Wapack Trail, Wapack National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 4 miles one way (trail continues 17 miles past the refuge)
Difficulty level: Moderate to challenging, with elevation gain of 900 feet in less than a mile.
Wildlife to watch for: Migrating hawks, eagles and other raptors in fall, songbirds in spring, bobcat,
moose, black bear, deer
Trail details: http://go.usa.gov/w52
Trail map: http://www.fws.gov/wapack/visit.html

One of the oldest trails in the region, dating back to 1923, the Wapack Trail heads south from the refuge’s northern boundary to the peak of North Pack Monadnock. This small mountain offers great views of the surrounding area and higher Mount Monadnock to the west. SCA interns Stefano Potter and Toji Sakamoto, who surveyed the trail in 2011, called the refuge “one of the most spectacular of our trips…Wapack Refuge had spectacular trails that went precipitously up a mountain whose summit held rocky outcroppings and stunning vistas.” From North Pack Monadnock, the trail continues south into northern Massachusetts.

As a bonus, refuge manager Graham Taylor recommends adding the 1.1-mile Cliff Trail, a spur off the Wapack Trail. “It’s a talus slope with granite outcroppings and spectacular views of Miller State Park, to the south,” says Taylor. “The trail will be a great spot to watch hawks and eagles migrating down the ridge in the fall.”

New Mexico

Trail: Chupadera Peak Trail, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 9.5 miles roundtrip
Difficulty level: Strenuous
Wildlife to watch for: Desert birds such as the cactus wren, greater roadrunner and Gambel’s quail. Jack rabbits, lizards, rattlesnakes, coyote, javelina. Seasonal wildflowers and cactus including claret cup cactus, fourwing salt brush and yucca.
Trail details: Trail guide available in the visitor center nature store. The trailhead is on a gravel road about one mile north of the visitor center.
Trail map: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/newmex/bosque/index.html

This trail through a Southwest wilderness area winds through the Chihuahuan Desert up a steep volcanic canyon. The first 1.5 miles climb gently to a bench with a great view of the refuge. After that, the trail steepens, gaining more than 1,700 feet of elevation from the valley floor to the peak. The reward at top is a 360-degree panorama of the refuge and the Rio Grande, surrounding mesas and the majestic Magdalena and San Mateo Mountains to the west. The trail was designated a National Recreation Trail in 2008 by Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kepthorne. It’s best used in the fall, winter and spring, when temperatures are below 100 degrees. Watch out for rattlesnakes in the late spring and early fall. Take plenty of water and wear adequate footwear.


Trail: Charon’s Garden Trail, Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 4.4 miles out and back
Difficulty level: Moderate
Wildlife to watch for: Bison, rattlesnakes, longhorn, eastern collared lizard, canyon wrens (called by
some “the sound of the Wichitas”)
Trail details: http://www.summitpost.org/charon-s-garden-wilderness/274583
Trail map: http://www.summitpost.org/charon-s-garden-wilderness/274583

“I always imagined western Oklahoma’s terrain was flat,” says Mullaley. “I was definitely wrong.” This hike in the Charon’s Garden Wilderness Area, he says, “climbs into the heart of the mountains. There, a boulder field tests your sense of direction, adventure, and quality of shoe! The hike to the boulder field is well marked; the walk through it, not so much. After traversing some narrow gaps and rocky terrain, you come round the mountain to find small streams and waterfalls and stunning mountain views.”

Randy Hale, refuge environmental education specialist, calls the hike “probably the jewel of the Wichitas. There are places where you wonder, ‘How am I going to get from here to there?’ It’s really rugged.” Note: Bring plenty of water. If the lot is full at the Sunset Picnic Area, at the base of Elk Mountain, park instead at Treasure Lake and hike south to north. Roadside parking is not allowed.

South Carolina

Trail: Trail network, Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 2 to 10 miles
Difficulty level: Easy, flat
Wildlife to watch for: Wading birds such as white ibis, wood ducks, herons and egrets. Alligators,
shorebirds, turkey, deer.
Trail details: See trail guide at http://www.fws.gov/pinckneyisland/publications.html
Trail map: http://www.fws.gov/pinckneyisland/publications.html Also available at parking lot kiosk

Pick from an easy network of trails on a coastal island closed to vehicle traffic. The island’s salt marsh and upland habitats teem with birds and other wildlife. One route popular with even hiking novices follows a gravel maintenance road (about one mile each way) to Ibis Pond. Narrower dirt trails lead off into areas of live oaks, slash pine and cedar.


Trail: Dungeness Spit, Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 11 miles out and back from the parking lot
Difficulty level: Moderate. Best done at lower tide
Wildlife to watch for: Seals, deer, seabirds such as pigeon guillemots, shorebirds such as black
Trail details: http://www.fws.gov/washingtonmaritime/dungeness/
Trail map: Available at the trailhead or refuge office

For saltwater hike lovers, here’s a gem: a scenic hike in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, along the longest coastal spit in the continental United States. The refuge trail leads half a mile through forest to an overlook before it drops to the beach at the foot of tall bluffs. Continue on toward the spit’s end, where a lighthouse has kept guard since 1857. The inside and tip of the spit are closed to the public to protect wildlife habitat. Volunteer keepers offer daily tours of the New Dungeness Light Station.

West Virginia

Trail: Middle Valley Trail, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 6 miles one way
Difficulty level: Easy to moderate
Wildlife to watch for: White-tail deer, black bear, beaver, wild turkey, vesper and savannah sparrow, American bittern. In late summer and early fall, see bog goldenrod and cottongrass.
Trail details: http://www.fws.gov/canaanvalley/CVNWR-trails.htm
Trail map: See link above. Also available at kiosk on A-Frame Road

This open trail on a low sandstone ridge near the Dolly Sods Wilderness offers solitude and excellent wildlife viewing. It goes through forests, grasslands, streams and wetlands, and past a massive complex of beaver lodges. The trail provides views of surrounding mountainsides that rise nearly 800 feet above the valley floor. Stream crossings along Sand Run and Glade Run may require wading, and beaver damming can sometimes flood trail segments. Wear blaze orange during deer-hunting season, Sept. 1 to Feb. 28, and during spring turkey-hunting season, usually in April and May. The trail is also used by horseback riders and cyclists.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information visit www.fws.gov. Connect with the Facebook page, follow  tweets, watch its YouTube Channel, and download photos from Flickr page.