- Night events are scheduled in national parks and wildlife refuges through December
- Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is home to endangered red wolves
- Scorpions glow under ultraviolet light because of proteins in their exoskeletons
- Colonies of bats exit the Carlsbad Caverns caves together every evening to hunt
Mystery, moonlight and the sounds of bat wings flapping replace electricity and artificial sound during a night "off the grid" in nature.
Be it a safari through the endangered red wolf's habitat or stargazing from the highest mountain range in the United States, nighttime is the right time for outdoor adventures in national wildlife refuges and national parks.
Here are five places hosting nocturnal events from now through mid-December.
Howling safari night hikes
It is estimated that there are 110 to 120 red wolves left on Earth, according to the Red Wolf Recovery Program. The best chance to hear them is during Howling Safari night hikes at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in East Lake, North Carolina.
When: The hikes are every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. through the end of August. There are also hikes on October 12, November 16 and December 7. Be sure to check the website as the hike times change after August. Fall hikes offer the same red wolf program as Howling Safari hikes, and cooler temperatures and fall's season increase wolf activity.
Where: Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is on the Outer Banks, about a 20 minute drive from Manteo on Roanoke Island and about a three hour drive from Raleigh.
If you go: The hike costs $7 per person and children 11 and younger are free. Hikers should bring a flashlight and bug repellant and gather at the Creef Cut Wildlife Trail. The hikes last about two hours and pets are not allowed. For more information, call 252-216-9464.
Nights in the Nevada desert belong to scorpions and coyotes. Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge and Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge are hosting night hike scorpion hunts.
When: Pahranagat's night hike scorpion hunt is on September 7 at 8 p.m. and Moapa Valley's is on September 14 at 8 p.m.
If you go: RSVPs must be made to Timothy_Parker@fws.gov. There is no cost to attend, and all ages are welcome. Staff will provide ultraviolet flashlights to search for scorpions.
Rocky Mountain stargazing
With the ongoing discoveries of new stars, planets and constellations, Rocky Mountain National Park's 7,000-feet and higher elevations make it one of the best places in the Western Hemisphere for weekend warrior astronomers to stargaze.
When: There are program options for people staying near the east and west side of the park, which are a about two hours apart. "Astronomy in the Park" and "Celestial Wilderness" are similar events. Park rangers and local astronomers conduct a 30-minute program followed by sky-viewing.
"Astronomy in the Park" takes place on the east side. It starts at 8 p.m. on August 9 and 30 at the end of Upper Beaver Meadows Road. "Celestial Wilderness" takes place on the west side of the park. It starts at 8:45 p.m. on August 3 and 10 at the Harbison Meadow parking area.
"Stories behind the Moon and Stars" starts at 8 p.m. August 2 and 18 at the Estes Park Memorial Observatory, 1600 Manford Avenue. Guests can learn about the constellations, tour the Milky Way and gaze at the moon against a backdrop of local storytelling.
Where: The east entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park is about an hour and 15 minutes west of Fort Collins and two hours northwest of Denver. Estes Park Memorial Observatory is about 15 minutes east of Rocky Mountain National Park.
If you go: The programs are free, but park admission is $20 per vehicle. The pass is valid for seven days. Visitors are encouraged to dress in warm clothes, bring a flashlight and binoculars. For more information, call 970-586-1206.
Bryce Canyon National Park is home to hoodoos, those oddly shaped rock formations created by millions of years of erosion. The vistas are beautiful during the day, but the park also offers the chance to view them under the expanse of a Western night sky during full-moon hikes.
When: Hikes are scheduled each month now through December. Admission to the park is $25 per vehicle and $12 for individuals (bicycles, motorcycles and hikers) and is valid for seven days. Tickets for the hikes are free and distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. In-person sign-up begins at 8 a.m. (the line starts forming at 7 a.m.) at the visitor center on the day of the hike. Attendance is capped at 30 people per hike.
Where: Bryce Canyon National Park is in south-central Utah. The closest cities with major airports are Provo, about a three and a half-hour drive, and Las Vegas, Nevada, about four hours. While you're in the area, check out Zion National Park, which is less than two hours southwest; Grand Canyon National Park, which is five hours southwest. And Canyonlands National Park, which is five hours northeast.
If you go: The hikes are between one and two miles. Lug traction footwear is required and must be presented when signing up for tickets. Waterproof hiking boots are required during the winter. Also be sure to bring drinking water and a jacket. Flashlights are not allowed. Rangers may allow flash photography with certain restrictions. Children 5 or younger are not permitted.
The cave at Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a part-time home to Brazilian free-tailed bats. The bats swirl out of the cave just before dusk to hunt and return gorged with food before dawn. The park hosts nightly bat watches in the Bat Flight Amphitheater. Before the bats fly, park rangers give an interpretative program explaining why bats use the cave as a place to raise pups.
When: Programs take place between mid-April and late October, depending on when the bats migrate to and from Mexico. Carlsbad Caverns' bat population varies, but the best times to view them are generally in July and August.
Where: Carlsbad Caverns National Park is in the southeast corner of New Mexico, about a two and a half hour drive east of El Paso, Texas, and two hours south of Roswell. The programs are held at the Bat Flight Amphitheater, which is in front of the Carlsbad Cavern opening.
Start times vary with changing daylight times in the spring, summer and early fall. Call the Bat Flight information line 575-785-3012 for updates on start times. There is no cost to attend.
If you go: There is wheelchair access to the amphitheater. Use of cameras, including video and cell phones, is prohibited as the flashes and sounds can disturb these wild animals. Pets are not allowed.