How to See Wildlife When Hiking

We’ve been hiking in the mountains for years and have been fortunate to see our share of wildlife. Even better, we haven’t seen any bears or mountain lions, but we’ve come across fresh tracks and have been pretty certain that they’ve seen us. They say that if you hike in the mountains of Colorado, on about one out of ten hikes, a mountain lion has seen you, even though you don’t see them. With that in mind, we thought we’d share some tips to help you see wildlife when you hike, but always put safety first.  Seasoned hikers will likely notice that most of these tips are in complete contrast to the tips for avoiding bears when hiking.  If you’re hiking in bear country, always talk to the rangers and find out where there have been recent sightings and where the bears are most likely to be active.  Never intentionally put yourself in harm’s way.

Black Bear
Black Bear in Yellowstone
Mule Deer next to Trail

1. Be extremely observant – This is probably the most obvious, but if you’re not constantly scanning the area around, you’re likely walking by animals without even knowing it.  It is always best if you see the animals before they see you, especially if there is even a remote chance that the animal could harm you, which is almost always the case.  Almost any animal when startled or threatened has the potential to attack, so seeing them first allows you to control the situation.

Wild Turkeys

2. Don’t make a lot of noise, talking in quieter voices – You don’t have to be completely silent, in fact we’d recommend that you make some noise and talk, just a normal pitch. If you’re making some noise, you’re less likely to startle an animal that perhaps you didn’t see, but still be quiet enough not to spook an animal that is farther away. There was one time when we were hiking near Beaver Creek, Colorado, when we ended up startling a young doe, even though we were talking and not being overly quiet. The deer literally ran into us as she made here escape, scaring us as much as we scared her.

Blending in with the Trees
Deer Checking Us Out

3. Hike in smaller groups, usually three or less – Pretty much for the same reason as number two, the larger the group, the more noise that you make. Also, the more people in the group, the more motion that you make, the more reflective surfaces to catch the sun, the more noticeable that you are. Remember, the animals are watching for you as much as you might be searching for them. Just as you are more likely to notice a herd of deer versus as single deer, so is it true of them seeing you.

Warning Sign
Mom with Baby Ducks

4. Watch for anything that moves – Being observant and scanning the horizon isn’t always enough, you need to pay attention to any motion that see. Sure, more often than not, it will be caused by the wind, but the animals are camouflaged, making them hard to see. What at first seems like the rustling of a leaf, might just turn out to be the wiggling of an ear. And if you see one animal, be extra careful, there are probably several more just out of sight.

Laying in the Grass
Trying to Hide

5. Hike more remote, less frequented, trails – It doesn’t do any good to do everything possible to see wildlife if there are a hundred hikers in front of you doing the exact opposite. Getting away from roads, towns, and most importantly other hikers, will definitely increase your chances of seeing wildlife. Be smart, though, carry bear spray, phone, flashlight, compass, and extra food if you’re heading into remote areas. We always stay on well-marked trails and don’t go venturing off into the woods. The national forest system in Colorado is huge and you could easily get yourself lost for days if decide to go trailblazing.

Big Horn Sheep Up Close
Majestic Moose in Yellowstone

6. Hike near dawn or dusk – Animals are always most active around these times, so be extra alert when hiking at these times of day. Light can be an issue as the shadows are longer and it isn’t as easy to see off into the distance. Take your time when hiking during these times so that you don’t startle an animal that you didn’t see as well as to give yourself time to truly see what is all around you.

Birds are Wildlife Too
Hard to See

7. Carry binoculars or camera with a telephoto lens – Obviously it makes it easier to see animals in the distance if you can zoom in and focus closer on them. It is also the safest way to observe animals without putting yourself at risk. We’re not professional photographers, but we did invest in a telephoto lens a few years ago and it was one of the best investments that we’ve made.

Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear Shot with Telephoto Lens
Adorable Chipmunk

8. Spend time in locations that are likely to draw animals – Sources of water and food are the most likely places to find animals, so spending time near those locations, especially at dusk or dawn, will increase your chances of seeing them. Animals also use the trails to get through the forest as much as hikers do, simply because it is easier for them to walk on the trails, so staying on the trails will increase your chances of seeing them. Sometimes the most likely place to see animals isn’t where you might expect it. One of our funniest stories about seeing animals in the wild was when we were in Estes Park, Colorado, many years ago. We had gone hiking at dusk and waited by an open field with a stream running through it and, after much waiting, a herd of elk finally appeared. It was autumn, so the temperatures quickly dropped and we were frozen by the time we got back to the car, but we were happy to have seen the elk. We drove back to our hotel and lo and behold there were hundreds of elk walking around the property nibbling on the fresh grass. It hadn’t crossed our minds that they would be drawn to the green grass of the hotel versus foraging for food in the wild.

Elk in the River
Eating Grass in Town

Hopefully you will have as much luck as we’ve had seeing wildlife by using these tips.  We can’t say it enough, though, be smart about it and don’t do anything too risky.  Always respect wildlife, some animals may look cute, but they are wild animals and therefore can be unpredictable.

Some of Our Favorite Memories from Dublin, Ireland

Dublin is definitely one of the friendliest cities that we have visited and there are several things that you should definitely do if you decide to go there. There are certainly more than five things to do in Dublin, but these were some of the ones that we found particularly interesting. As with most places that we visit, one key is not to put yourself on a tight schedule. If you take the time to sit and talk to the locals, you will enjoy the experience even more. In no particular order, here are some of our favorite things to do in Dublin.

Enjoying Dublin

Temple Bar District and the Viking Medieval Area – These two areas sit adjacent to one another in the heart of Dublin along the River Liffy. Our hotel was directly across the river from these areas and we enjoyed spending time walking these narrow historic streets. To be clear, there is a specific bar called Temple Bar, but we are referring to the general area that is considered the Temple Bar District. If you are wanting to do some souvenir shopping or listen to authentic Irish folk music, then this area is the place for you. If you decide to go at night, expect it to be very crowded as the area is quite popular and the bars can get very rowdy.

Temple Bar
Historic Church
Streets of Temple Bar District

Christ Church – This is the oldest medieval cathedral in Dublin and is certainly worth taking the time to visit. The exterior of the church is quite stunning and there are several features such as the statue of the Sleeping Jesus on a bench as well as the Armenian Genocide Memorial. The real highlight of touring the inside of the church is going to the tombs in the basement. Some of them are quite interesting, but the mummified cat and rat that were found together in one of the organ pipes is actually a little creepy.

Christ Church
Inside of the Cathedral
Armenian Genocide Memorial

Trinity College, the Book of Kells, and the Old Library – Although you can schedule your time to see a page turned in the Book of Kells, we just visited during another time of the day as we weren’t that interested in the ceremonial act. The book is fascinating to see, but we enjoyed the library even more. The end of each of the stacks of books has a bust of famous philosophers or other person of historical significance. Not only is it beautiful, but it is a working library for the students of the university. Even if you don’t decide to pay to tour the library and Book of Kells, the campus grounds are well worth taking the time to wander.

On the Campus of Trinity College
Aristotle Bust
The Old Library

Kilmainham Gaol – This prison turned museum is famous for having housed the prisoners of the Irish rebellions. Because of its distinct architecture in the general prison ward, it has also served as the set for several famous movies. It is important to understand that the prison is more of a symbol of national pride than anything else and taking the tour is about learning about the uprisings and the people who led them. The tours sell out well in advance, so be sure to buy tickets ahead of time if you are planning on visiting.

Distinctive Prison
Inside of the Prison Walls
Prison Hallway

Create Your Own Pub Crawl – If you are going to go to Dublin, you are going to have plenty of opportunities to sample alcohol. It isn’t just about the pubs, though. There is also the Guinness Storehouse where you can get a perfectly poured pint, the Irish Whiskey Museum where you can get a delicious Irish Coffee or simply sample some local whiskies, and the Teeling Whiskey Distillery. Any pub crawl has to include The Brazen Head, which is the oldest pub in Ireland and is also a restaurant serving traditional Irish food. We enjoyed sitting by the fireplace, having a couple of beers and talking about the wonderful time that we were having in Dublin. There are also a couple of unique pubs, such as a converted bank and a converted church (Called the Church Bar) that has a self-guided tour of the remaining church features.

Inside of the Brazen Head
Ceiling of the Converted Bank
Converted Church

Like many cities, Dublin also has a Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour that is actually quite good and is an excellent way to see the sites around the city. As it can rain quite often in Dublin, it also provides a convenient way to get around while still staying dry. Dublin is such a wonderful city with so much to see, but these were some of the things that we truly enjoyed. Whatever you do, though, don’t just stay in the city. The countryside of Ireland, with its unforgettably green grass and herds of sheep, will let you know why it is called the Emerald Isle.

Sleeping Jesus
Tomb in Christ Church
Statue at Trinity College
Mummified Cat and Rat from the 1860’S

Staying in an Ecolodge Doesn’t Mean Lack of Comfort

Ecolodges are environmentally friendly places to stay and we have had the opportunity to stay in two different ones, both in South America. Since both of these were in isolated locations in the jungle, there were practical reasons for being self-sufficient other than just reducing their impact to the earth. Whether it is through the use of solar panels, rain water collection systems, or wastewater treatment systems, these lodges make sure that they make the most efficient use of every consumable resource. As eco tourism grows in popularity, these lodges will likely spread to more places than just remote locations like the Amazon jungle.

Napo Wildlife Center in Ecuador
Eco Lodge Room in Bolivia
Sunset from the Eco Lodge in Ecuador
Restaurant in the Napo Wildlife Center

Just because a lodge is eco friendly doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice all luxury though. There is usually electricity and internet connectivity, although it may not work all of the time. There is also hot water, although we have had mixed results as to how hot or how long it stays hot, but it is good enough. They also have full service kitchens and we had wonderful meals in both of the lodges that we stayed at. Considering how long our days were in the jungle and how tired we were, having any hot meal was a welcome end to the day. And for those of us who like to unwind with a glass of wine at the end of the day, they also offer a limited bar selection.

Grounds of the Eco Lodge in Bolivia with the Rain Barrel
Room in the Lodge in Ecuador
View from the Top of the Lodge Deck in Ecuador
Front Porch of our Hut in Ecuador

What you gain by staying in these remote locations is a level of serenity that you just don’t find in too many places these days. Instead of hearing the sounds of cars, televisions, or even other people for the most part, you are rewarded with the true sounds of nature. As the lights go out, it is a darkness that you can usually only imagine. Especially at night, you quickly realize that you are just a guest in the homes of the wildlife that surround you. The animals will wander through the manicured landscape with little regard to the fact that you are sleeping inside of the huts on the grounds. Since the lodges are open, you need to be aware that you might share your bedroom with all sorts of bugs and spiders, but that is just part of the experience.

Standing on the Porch in Bolivia
Relaxation Deck at the Lodge in Ecuador
Large Caiman by the Lodge in Ecuador
Keeping the Bugs Out

Staying in an ecolodge is not only a wonderful experience, but one that will make you feel good about yourself for not impacting the environment. We wish that we would have had time to just sit on the porch of our huts and just relax while watching all of the nature that surrounded us, but we were there to explore the amazing environment. If you have never stayed at an ecolodge, we would highly recommend that at some point you take the opportunity to do so. It is an experience that you will treasure forever and might even enjoy more than staying at a five-star resort.

Arriving Back to the Lodge at Dusk
Lodge with Rain Barrel in Bolivia
Standing on the Shore of the Lake
Decorations in the Main Lodge