To Spot Birds—and a Polar Bear:
Patuxent Research Refuge
Distance: 20 miles of pathways
At this refuge, you can see nearly 250 species of birds, including bald eagles, great blue herons, wood ducks, geese, egrets, and the Baltimore oriole, Maryland’s state bird. Some 20 miles of pathways make it simple to explore. The self-guided 1.7-mile Forests of Patuxent Discovery Hike skirts Cash Lake to the Valley and Laurel trails, with numbered signposts corresponding to descriptions of the flora and fauna in a trail guide you can download ahead of time or pick up while there. The visitors’ center features interactive exhibits and even an immense stuffed polar bear, part of an exhibit on endangered species. For more, see fws.gov/northeast/patuxent/nwvctrails.html.