The Best BLM Sites for Wildlife Viewing

Last updated on July 2nd, 2021 at 05:02 pm. Originally published on June 29th, 2021

There are lots of places to head outdoors to get a good nature fix. National and state parks are two of the best places to drink in the scenery and try to spot wildlife, but they’re not the only places!

There are plenty of city parks, greenbelts, open spaces, and other areas you can find plants and wildlife. But one of the best and often least-developed areas to search for wildlife is on Bureau of Land Management lands.

The Best BLM Sites for Wildlife Viewing

The Bureau of Land Management has a helpful search tool for the various activities people can participate in on BLM lands. If you head to their website, you can search for the activity you want to do, along with a region where you want to do it, and you’ll get results fitting your parameters.

The list of activities you can search is lengthy, and includes everything from swimming to winter sports to camping to berry picking. There’s a lot to choose from!

Of course, one of the listed activities is “Wildlife Viewing,” which is what we’ll be taking a look at today. If your favorite way to spend time in nature is by watching animals unawares, we’ve looked up some of the best bureau of land management sites for wildlife.

Here is some of the best wildlife and animal viewing at BLM sites.

a mule deer among trees and greenery

Red Hills Recreation Management Area

The Red Hills Recreation Management Area is east of Sacramento in El Dorado Hills, CA. The Red Hills are notable for their profusion of spring color, when wildflowers bloom all over the area. These same flowers and other vegetation also provide plenty of tasty meals for a variety of small animals. If you’re searching for wildlife at Red Hills, you may spot mule deer, jackrabbits, coyotes, and foxes. Birdwatchers can look for valley quail, mourning doves, ash-throated flycatchers, barn swallows, and birds of prey like red-tailed hawks and great horned owls. Great blue herons and roadrunners are also an exciting find in the area.

There are also rarer birds and animals that can be spotted at Red Hills. Bald eagles winter in the area by Don Pedro Reservoir, and up to twenty eagles have been spotted in one winter season.

If you’re headed to the Red Hills Recreation Management Area, pack your binoculars and a good camera. There are also hiking, cycling, and horseback riding trails in the area. The area is designated day-use only so you cannot camp there, but these Sacramento-area campgrounds are just a half-hour drive away.

a black bear near a tree, staring at the camera

North Bank Habitat Management Area

This Oregon BLM site has creeks, woodlands, and canyons for exploring. The site has plenty of places for visitors to hike, bike, and ride horses on the trails, and there is a pavilion, picnic tables, grills, and vault toilets if you plan to spend the day there. The area does not have potable water, so bring your own to drink.

If you’re looking for wildlife, the North Bank area has been preserved as a habitat for Columbian white-tailed deer. You may also spot black bears, mountain lions, and foxes in the region.

Camping is allowed in this region. Check here for more information about camping on BLM lands.

a mountain lion looking ready to pounce at the camera

Browns Canyon National Monument 

Browns Canyon lies almost exactly in the center of Colorado, and is home to many animals people associate with the state. You may spot mountain lions, bighorn sheep, elk, black bears, and coyotes in the area. Peregrine falcons, prairie falcons, and golden eagles all make their homes in the region’s cliffs, and birdwatchers will find plenty to record. The area is also home to many amphibians and reptiles including Woodhouse’s toads, chorus frogs, rattlesnakes, and short-horned lizards.

The monument can only be accessed by unpaved roads, and there are blind corners and other hazards for drivers. If you’re camping with a tow vehicle, it would be best to use this to get around the monument. There is a campground nearby at the Ruby Mountain Recreation Site, with restrooms, a boat ramp, and picnic sites.

North Fork American River

This is in the same general region as the Red Hills, but many people head to the North Fork American River for some serious whitewater rafting. The rapids in this section of river are Class V, so only experienced rafters should attempt the run, and only under certain conditions. Others head to the area for hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, and gold panning. You can expect to see much of the same native California wildlife that you would at Red Hills.

Sand Wash Recreation Area

This desert area near Price, UT is along the Green River, and many visitors stay at the primitive campsites, which have vault toilets and bug huts but no running water, before putting in at Desolation and Gray Canyons along the river the next day.

If the primitive campsites don’t sound like your cup of tea, you can also check our list of Utah campgrounds for one in Price or Vernal, UT that will likely have more amenities.

Pompeys Pillar National Monument

Pompeys Pillar is in Montana, and is made up of 51 acres along the banks of the Yellowstone River. A two-acre sandstone outcrop that juts up into the notoriously open skies of Montana is a showstopping element. Pompeys Pillar also has hundreds of markings, petroglyphs, and other inscriptions from visitors including William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Visitors enjoy picnicking and viewing native Montana wildlife. There is also a visitor center at the monument where you can learn more about this important cultural site.

A dragon fly at Cowiche Canyon

Cowiche Canyon Trail System

The Cowiche Canyon Trail System is near Yakima in the middle of Washington state. Warm weather guests can hike, trail-run, and mountain bike while those who visit in winter can cross-country ski or snowshoe in the area. Cowiche Canyon showcases two kinds of lava in the walls that rise up from the canyon floor, and the area above the canyon is awash in wildflowers each spring and provides amazing views of the city of Yakima and of Mt. Adams.

Birdwatchers will delight in searching for some of the 125 bird species that are known to live in the region, and native animals make wildlife watching a fun pastime as well.

The trail system is only available for day-use, but if you’d like to camp nearby, check out our list of campgrounds in Yakima, WA.

There are many more areas where you’ll find wildlife at Bureau of Land Management sites. If you’re looking for places to view wildlife on BLM lands, you’ll find that most options will be in the western states since that’s where most BLM land is situated. If you’re in an area that allows boondocking, be sure to follow the BLM’s Outdoor Ethics to take proper care of the area. If you’re not sure about living off the grid and prefer a campground with more amenities, many of these sites are near towns that offer several campgrounds where you can stay.

Finally, whether you’re watching wildlife while boondocking or staying at a high-end campground, check out RVshare for a motorhome or trailer to suit all your needs.

Happy exploring!

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