Top Five Ways to Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Bison and calf
Bison and calf at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Rich Keen/DPRA

June is Great Outdoors Month and #TeamPublicLands at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service presents our top five list to get you outside. There are so many great activities, we hope to pique your interest.

America’s public lands, including national wildlife refuges, national fish hatcheries, parks, and forests, offer tremendous opportunities to explore and enjoy the great outdoors, most from sunrise to sunset every day. Hike, fish, observe, and photograph wildlife! Studies show that spending time in nature benefits physical and mental health, academic performance, and overall quality of life.

These wonderful places offer unique opportunities to see wildlife, but it’s always important to remember your personal safety. Make sure your equipment is in good working order and take the possibility of severe weather into account before departing for the outdoors. Visitor safety and wildlife conservation are our top priorities. Have fun on your adventure!

#1 Watch Wildlife

Animals in national wildlife refuges, parks and public lands are wild. Visitors have the amazing opportunity to view mammals, sea turtles, birds, and many other species as they live and interact with each other in their natural homes. Just remember to keep your distance!

Visitors are responsible for their own safety and for the safety of the animals, too. Keep a safe and respectful distance from animals. No touching, no feeding, and no harassing.

No expensive equipment is necessary to enjoy wildlife watching.

All you really need is a good field guide for birding or butterflies and a decent pair of binoculars, smartphone, or camera. Even those aren’t necessary. Enjoy the experience of being out in nature!

At left: black bears at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS | At right: monarch butterfly on butterfly weed with a bumblebee at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS

#2 Get Moving

Horseback riders on the trail
Horseback riders on the trail at San Diego National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Ken Corey/USFWS.

Whether you like to walk, hike, ride horseback, or bike, there is a trail for you. We offer more than more than 2,500 miles of land and water trails at national wildlife refuges, national fish hatcheries, and wetlands.

Trails give visitors the chance to escape our modern world and experience new adventures. Be prepared for your walk or hike and know your limits. You can find a wide range of trails to accommodate different skills and capabilities.

You won’t miss out on the spectacular views, wildlife sightings, and connection with nature by choosing an easier trail for your adventure.

National Trails Day recognizes all the incredible benefits federal, state, and local trails provide for recreation and exploring nature.

Kayaker in water
Kayaker in water
Kayaker at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Keenan Adams/USFWS

#3 Water is Open

Whether you’re in a boat, canoe, a kayak, or a rowboat, moving through the water is spiritually exhilarating. It’s a wonderful way to spend a few hours outdoors with friends or by yourself.

National Fishing and Boating Week is the perfect time to grab your poles and head on out to your nearest lake or fishing spot and create some memories with friends and families.

Before heading to the water, don’t forget to check updates on closures, restrictions, regulations, and other information

At left: canoeing at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Vanessa Kauffman/USFWS | At right: birding by boat at Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS

#4 Celebrate a Tradition

At left: a family duck hunting on Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. Photo by Tim Miller/USFWS | Middle: fly fishing at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS | At right: little boy and girl going fishing at Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery. Photo by Brett Billings/USFWS

In the United States, hunting and fishing are outdoor traditions. With a few exceptions that vary by state, everyone must have the required state license(s) to hunt or fish. Fishing is one of the most accessible outdoor sports. Nearly anyone, no matter age, income level, or even fitness ability, can easily participate. Plus, when you buy or renew your fishing license, those funds go toward conserving our aquatic natural resources.

Hunting is a healthy, traditional recreational use of renewable natural resources deeply rooted in America’s heritage, and it can be an important wildlife management tool. As practiced on national wildlife refuges, hunting does not pose a threat to the wildlife populations, and in some instances it is necessary for sound wildlife management. Funds from licenses, federal Duck Stamps, and excise taxes on hunting equipment and ammunition help purchase and set aside millions of acres for wildlife.

#5 Recreate Responsibly

The great outdoors is a thriving place for a diversity of plant and animal life. Take an active part in making the outdoors safe and welcoming for people of all backgrounds and abilities. Be sure to leave no trace after a meal.

Take everything home, including trash. Trash pickup and restroom facilities may be limited in many areas.

You can also stop invasive plants and pests from spreading and protect our natural spaces while enjoying the great outdoors. There are simple steps you can take to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species.

At left: cleanup volunteers at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. | At right: trash collected at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum. Photos by USFWS

Being outdoors can improve your personal health and well-being. Findings of a major study show that Americans from all backgrounds understand that thriving wildlife populations and places dedicated to their conservation help them and their families live happier, healthier lives.

At left: kayaker at Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Kristine Sowl/USFWS | At right: fishing day at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS

Here are a few tips to follow while exploring wild places:

  • Be aware of your surroundings and what animals may be present that could pose a threat in that environment.
  • Never feed wild animals, even squirrels or chipmunks. Keep them wild and don’t risk attracting predators.
  • If you are camping, keep the area clean: wash all cooking and eating utensils after use and store left over food in airtight containers.
  • Report any wildlife attacks to 911.

Spending time outdoors is a great way to connect with nature, renew your spirit and gain a respect for wildlife.

2 bald eagles and 2chicks in big nest
2 bald eagles and 2chicks in big nest
National Conservation Training Center bald eagle cam. Photo by USFWS

You can continue to stay connected to nature through virtual experiences. Watch our bald eagle cam or California condor cam. There are plenty of fun activities for you and your families.

Great Outdoors Month reminds us to explore our abundant outdoor spaces and natural beauty.

The great outdoors is open to everyone!

4 big sea turtles on beach with rainbow in sky
Green sea turtles at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Daniel W. Clark/USFWS

Written by Vanessa Kauffman, public affairs specialist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service headquarters.

Updates from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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.

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We’re dedicated to the conservation, protection and enhancement of fish, wildlife and plants, and their habitats.

Updates from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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.