When our family needs some fresh air and to stretch our legs, we head south to the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge. Located just 12 miles south of Salem, it’s a quick drive.
Our very favorite spot in the refuge is the Rail Trail Boardwalk off Wintel Road. It’s about a mile and a half round trip and completely flat so no problem for little legs. A short walk on a packed gravel trail from the parking lot leads to a wooden boardwalk out into the riparian area/marsh/duck pond. Don’t worry it’s well fenced the entire length so kids can’t fall in!
Depending on the season, the land under the boardwalk is either dry or completely flooded. The kids have spotted newts, frogs, nutria, deer and all sorts of birds. There is a large wooden observational blind to explore (and good spot to break for a snack) and several informational signs along the way. At the end of the boardwalk, you can loop around through the prairie back to the parking area or explore an extra loop through the woods.
We’ve taken a jogging stroller on the boardwalk with no problem, although had to do an out-and-back to avoid mud on the full loop. There’s no restroom at the Rail Trail Boardwalk so plan accordingly. (There is one on the other side of the refuge at the Ankeny Hill Overlook area.)
Check it out and I think you’ll agree that the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge is a special place to explore nature close to home!
What’s your favorite local hike?