Header Image

I know people who have lived in the Adirondacks their entire lives and have never seen a bobcat. I also know people who have caught fleeting glimpses of the creature while going about their business. Just the other day, a friend was telling me about the bobcat he saw while driving home from work along Adirondack Loj Road in the High Peaks. It was winter, and he came around a bend to find the animal hunched over in the middle of the road. It quickly moved as his vehicle approached, and it was gone as suddenly as it appeared. He's spent his life working in the woods, and only has one bobcat to show for it.

Adirondack Loj Road is home to at least one bobcat sighting.
Adirondack Loj Road is home to at least one bobcat sighting.

Bobcats are graceful, stocky, magnificent animals. The closest I've come to seeing one in the wild was on Little Crow Mountain. I had rounded the summit and was descending the other side, heading toward Big Crow, when the snowsoe hare tracks I was following suddenly ended in disrupted snow and spots of blood. A distinct set of large feline tracks approached and left the scene.

To the refuge

Chances are, you won't catch a glimpse of a bobcat in the woods here no matter how many hikes you go on. I know a secret, though. If you want to find a bobcat in the Adirondacks, you need look no further than the Wilmington Wildlife Refuge, on Springfield Road in WIlmington. But just because they have a bobcat doesn't mean you'll see it.

I visited the refuge a few weeks ago with my wife and her family, and the resident bobcat was out and on the move. It circled the inside of its enclosure and leapt from the ground to the platform and back. But when I visited last week, the bobcat was nestled in its little shelter, completely obscured from view.

A close-up look at a turkey vulture.
A close-up look at a turkey vulture.

That's too bad, but there are a lot of other Adirondack animals to see at the refuge, and most of them were not feeling shy the day I visited. The only exception was Shmendrake the porcupine, a personal favorite of mine who is usually curled up in his little house. 

His nearby neighbors, the turkey vultures, were particularly mobile, though, and I stood and watched them hopping from branch to branch for awhile. The snowy, barred, and great-horned owls were also out.

A beautiful barred owl.
A beautiful barred owl.

A place of healing

The Adirondack WIldlife Refuge is open to the public, but it's not a zoo. The staff there takes in animals with the intention of releasing them back into the wild. Sadly, some animals, like the young bald eagle whose wing was ruined by a bullet, would never survive if released. In cases like that, the animal is kept at the refuge, where it is used for educational purposes. You can read more about their healing and educational efforts here.

A young bald eagle with an injured wing now calls the refuge home.
A young bald eagle with an injured wing now calls the refuge home.

When you arrive you'll be greeted by some of the refuge's most prolific denizens, the wolves. Their brethern no longer inhabit Adirondack forests, but this pack now resides in a large enclosure that's near the parking area. From there you'll walk past the coyote pen and down a new path to the rest of the refuge. While you're there, be sure to talk to the staff to learn the story behind why each animal is there. A word of warning: Most of the tales are heartbreaking, but the bright side is they can teach us a lot about how we interact with the environment and the animals that live there.

The refuge has a network of nature trails that are fun to explore.
The refuge has a network of nature trails that are fun to explore.

More to explore

And speaking of interacting with the environment, there is now a network of trails on the refuge's property. My favorite follows the shore of the Ausable River, affording stunning views of Whiteface Mountain before it plunges into a grove of ironwood trees that's right out of a fantasy story. The trees, which are uncommon in the Whiteface region, grow with several smooth, gray trunks emanating from the same point on the ground. They make for a mysterious looking, open forest with a low canopy that's fun to walk through.

Maps and interpretive signs are scattered throughout the trail network, so it's difficult to get lost but easy to learn as you enjoy the woods. That doesn't mean there aren't any surprises, though. I rounded a bend to find one of the refuge's staff members walking Wobbles, a fisher with a brain disease that causes it to have poor balance. Although he'll never function like a healthy fisher, Wobbles' daily walks do help improve his balance.

A refuge staff member walks Wobbles the fisher.
A refuge staff member walks Wobbles the fisher.

The Wilmington Wildlife Refuge is close to plenty of hiking and dining opportunities. Be sure to make a full day out of it!

Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?

Panthers on the prowl

5 Reasons Dogs Win

Purrfect getaway

The truth about Lyon

CATS without claws

Belly rubs welcome


Explore More in the Whiteface Region

The Very, Very, Amazingly Great, Best Family Summer Ever

When it comes to traveling with the kids, a trip to the Whiteface Region and all its attractions, activities, and delights is the recipe for an amazing summer vacation.

Explore More in the Whiteface Region

Where Every Day is Merry and Bright

Treat kids of all ages to the joy of the Christmas season at Santa's Workshop, home to Santa, his reindeer, and holiday magic!

Explore More in the Whiteface Region

Honey Holes and Watering Holes

We paired up our favorite honey holes with our favorite water holes to take the guesswork out of your next fishing adventure. Mix and match, or try them all yourself. Either way, you won’t go wrong!

Explore More in the Whiteface Region

Make a Day of the Whiteface Veterans' Memorial Highway

What to expect when you drive the Whiteface Veterans'Memorial Highway and hike to the Whiteface summit.


You have successfully entered this contest. Be sure to check your inbox for your customized travel inspiration.

Success! Message Sent.

Thanks for being awesome. We have received your message and look forward to talking with you soon.

Thank you!

Thanks for being awesome. You can now download the guide.