Thursday, January 18, 2018

Glacier National Park: A Day Hikers Overview

"Give a month at least to this precious reserve. The time will not be taken from the sum of your life. Instead of shortening, it will indefinitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal. Nevermore will time seem short or long, and cares will never again fall heavily on you, but gently and kindly as gifts from heaven."

- John Muir on his visit to Glacier National Park in the early-1890s
Encompassing more than a million acres, Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana is home to some of the most beautiful alpine meadows, lakes, pristine forests, rugged peaks and glacially-carved valleys in the world. Its diverse habitats support nearly 70 species of mammals, including grizzly bears, black bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose, wolverines, gray wolves and mountain lions. With more than 740 miles of trails leading to some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet, Glacier is also a hiker's paradise.

Considering its massive size, most people divide the park into sections in order to focus on one or two areas at a time. The four most popular areas in the park are West Glacier and Lake McDonald, Two Medicine, Logan Pass, and Many Glacier. The following are a few suggestions for day hikes in each of these areas.

Two Medicine

Although not quite as popular as some of the other areas in Glacier, the Two Medicine Valley in the southeast corner of the park still offers some incredibly beautiful scenery. One of the best hikes in this area leads to Scenic Point. This rock outcropping, which sits above an alpine tundra meadow, offers panoramic views of much of the entire Two Medicine Valley. On a clear day you can even see the Sweet Grass Hills rising above the Great Plains roughly 90 miles away!

The most well-known backcountry hike in the Two Medicine area is Dawson Pass. Although this route usually gets most of the attention, I think the views from Pitamakan Pass are much more dramatic. From the knife-edge ridge you can see five cobalt-blue lakes on either side of you. Can’t decide on which one to hike? The two passes can be combined to create one epic day on the trail.

Many Glacier

One of the most popular destinations in the park is Many Glacier. Classic hikes such as Iceberg Lake and Grinnell Glacier get most of the attention; however, there are two other destinations that shouldn’t be overlooked, especially if you’re seeking a degree of solitude in this stunning valley.

One of these is Ptarmigan Tunnel. The highlight of this hike is passing through a 240-foot tunnel that was cut through Ptarmigan Wall. The tunnel was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930's so that visitors on horseback could pass over into the remote Belly River area. After hiking all day in the Many Glacier Valley, walking to the other side of the tunnel is like walking into another world. The views from the other side are simply stunning.

The other destination, Cracker Lake, has to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. It has the most beautiful turquoise color you could ever imagine. If it were possible to ignore the magnificent scenery of the surrounding mountains, it would still be well worth the 12.6-mile roundtrip hike, just to see the amazing color of this lake. Cracker Lake’s deep shade of turquoise is the result of light refraction through its suspended load of glacial silt.

West Glacier / Lake McDonald

For more than a century one of the things that has made hiking in Glacier unique are its two Swiss-style backcountry chalets: Granite Park and Sperry. The Granite Park Chalet can be reached by taking the epic Highline Trail from Logan Pass, or by taking the 4.2-mile climb from The Loop area on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Unfortunately the historic Sperry Chalet dormitory building was severely burned during the summer of 2017. Fortunately the outer stone structure survived, and as of right now, the park is moving forward with the possibility of rebuilding the lodge. Moreover, the historic dining room survived, although it’s not clear as to whether that will reopen for lunch to day hikers in 2018, nor is it clear as to how far hikers will be able to travel along the Sperry Trail, as there will be several thousand dead fall trees that will need to be removed before the trail is reopened. When reopened, the 6.1-mile hike from the Lake McDonald Lodge passes through Glacier Basin where hikers will enjoy views of several waterfalls flowing hundreds of feet down the cliff walls that surround the alpine meadow.

From the same trailhead is the hike that leads to the historic Mt. Brown Fire Lookout. The trail climbs 4250 feet in only 5 miles, making it one of the toughest day hikes in the park. The elevation gain is similar to the amount gained on many of the trails leading to the summits of 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado. However, at a much lower elevation, hikers will have far more oxygen to breathe. From the lookout the views into the heart of Glacier are simply amazing.

For a much easier hike, but one that still includes stunning scenery that Glacier is famous for, be sure to check out Avalanche Lake.

Logan Pass

To see the best of what Glacier National Park has to offer you have to go deep into the high country. One of the most popular hikes in the park is the Highline Trail. In fact, this world famous hike should be on the bucket list of every self-respecting hiker! The views, the wildlife and the wildflowers, all combine to make this a hike you'll remember the rest of your life. From Logan Pass, high adventure awaits from the start. Just beyond the trailhead hikers are forced to pass
over a six-foot wide ledge for roughly one-quarter of a mile. One false move and your next stop will be on the pavement of the Going-To-The-Sun Road - more than one hundred feet below. Fortunately the park has installed a hand cable along this stretch of the trail. My advice is to not let this deter you, as this is one of the most scenic trails in America. Almost 99% of the Highline passes through open country, so there's never any dull scenery on this hike. The trail is also famous for wildlife, especially bighorn sheep and mountain goats, which are frequently seen just off the side of the trail. Hikers will have the choice of taking the moderate hike to Haystack Pass, or the extremely strenuous hike up to an overlook along the crest of the Continental Divide which offers stunning views of Grinnell Glacier some one thousand feet below. This just might be the best view in the park.

Just a notch below the Highline Trail on the “awesome meter”, but far less crowded, is Piegan Pass. The trail offers mind-blowing views of mountains, glaciers, alpine meadows and an up-close view of the Garden Wall, a glacially-carved arĂȘte that marks the Continental Divide. Near Piegan Pass, and one of my absolute favorite areas in Glacier, is Preston Park. In the early summer, after the snow finally melts, this incredibly beautiful alpine meadow becomes a carpet of wildflowers.

For more information on all these hikes, and many others throughout the park, please visit HikinginGlacier.com.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
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Friday, January 5, 2018

Food-Conditioned Red Fox Killed in Grand Teton

A red fox, which had received numerous food handouts from people in Grand Teton National Park, was put to death recently. The fox exhibited bold behavior by approaching people and vehicles in search of food, and was killed out of concern for human safety. Visitors are reminded that feeding park wildlife is illegal, and may ultimately lead to the death of an animal or injury to park visitors.

“Destruction of a wild animal is one of the most difficult actions we have to take as park stewards,” said Superintendent David Vela. “Hopefully this can serve as a cautionary reminder. I encourage everyone to help protect wildlife by securing food sources, including dog food and fish scraps, and by using the ‘Scare, don’t stare’ tactic to discourage approaching foxes.” Vela added that visitors can help hold each other accountable and should immediately report incidents of animals being fed to Teton Interagency Dispatch Center at 307.739.3301.

Evidence suggests there has been a marked increase in the population of red foxes in recent years. Accompanying the apparent population increase, biologists have documented increasing numbers of habituated and food-conditioned foxes. The small native animals have been observed begging for food in developed areas and harassing ice fisherman on Jackson Lake.

The rise in human-fox encounters spurred biologists to begin a red fox research project in the winter of 2016-2017. The goal of the study is to improve understanding of red fox ecology and to address management concerns related to human safety and wildlife health. To date, 13 foxes have been captured and tested for disease prevalence, genetic lineage, and use of natural and human foods. Some of these foxes have been fitted with radio collars to track movements and habitat use, locate dens, document reproductive success, and follow other trends.

One of these collared foxes, a two- or three-year-old male, was known to frequent the Jackson Lake Dam and Signal Mountain areas. Reports involving this individual over the last year include lingering around ice fisherman and receiving fish scraps as well as getting into dog food left unsecured by visitors in a campground. In recent weeks, park staff received numerous reports of the bold fox approaching visitors in the dam parking lot, and in at least one instance jumping up on a vehicle to beg for food.

On December 28, park biologists observed the fox for two hours as it continually walked in front of moving vehicles, approached vehicles and people, and loitered in the roadway. The biologists were also told the fox had been fed grapes by a visitor the previous day.

The fox was captured, immobilized, and transported to a location away from visitors to be dispatched. The fox was of a normal healthy weight, and samples were taken to determine its dietary composition. Relocation of the fox was considered, but ultimately dismissed, as relocated foxes typically continue to beg for human food in a new area, return to their original territory, or die due to starvation or competition with other territorial foxes.

The “Scare, don’t stare” tactic includes yelling, clapping, stomping, and avoiding eye contact in an effort to dissuade foxes from approaching humans. The tactic should only be employed after attempts to maintain a minimum viewing distance of 25 yards have failed. It should not be used with foxes that behave naturally.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

Friday, December 15, 2017

Wyoming State Parks First Day Hikes Scheduled

In what is becoming an increasingly popular New Year’s Day activity, Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails provides “First Day Hikes” – a perfect way for Wyoming residents and out-of-state visitors to celebrate the New Year outdoors.

Sixteen New Year’s Day guided hikes and walks held at state park and historic site venues statewide will be held in conjunction with similar hikes held in all 50 states; a part of the America’s State Parks First Day Hikes initiative.

This is the seventh consecutive year Wyoming is offering free First Day Hikes. Last year, more than 500 people participated hiking more than 700 total miles.

“There is nothing more rejuvenating than sharing a brisk hike with Wyoming State Park staff in some of the most amazing parks and historic sites in the country,” State Parks Administrator Domenic Bravo said.

Park staff and volunteers will lead the hikes, which average one to two miles or longer depending on the state park or historic site. Details about hike locations, difficulty and length, terrain and tips regarding proper clothing are listed on the America’s State Parks website. Visit www.naspd.org to find a First Day Hike nearest you.

You can also view a list of hikes and events by clicking here.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
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TetonHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Becoming An Outdoors Woman Winter Workshop Set For Jan 26-28

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks' popular Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) program is hosting a winter skills workshop January 26-28, 2018, in Seeley Lake.

Registration is now open and women are encouraged to sign up with a friend and learn a new activity or improve existing skills. Participants choose three classes from these winter activities: avalanche awareness, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, sewing with fur, skinning and hide prep, and snowshoeing. Anyone 18 years of age or older may participate. The fee for the workshop is $115 and includes class instruction and some meals. Participants are responsible for their own lodging. This is a popular workshop and will fill quickly, so register today!

To download a registration form visit the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov, click "Education," then click "Becoming and Outdoors Woman. "For more information on the BOW Winter workshop, call Sara Smith, 406-444-9948 or email sarsmith@mt.gov.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
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TetonHikingTrails.com
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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

First Day Hike Events Coming to Montana State Parks - January 1, 2018

Montana State Parks (stateparks.mt.gov) is inviting the public to welcome in the New Year with First Day Hikes at Montana State Parks on January 1, 2018.

Start your New Year off on the right (or left) foot with a "First Day Hike" at your local state park. Montana State Parks will offer First Day Hikes at five locations across the state. Explore history, view winter landscapes and wildlife, and let the fresh air rejuvenate you. These 1 to 3-mile, easy to moderate hikes are the perfect means for individuals and families to welcome the coming year in the outdoors, exercising and connecting with nature.

‘First Day Hikes’ is an annual, nationwide special event sponsored by America’s State Parks. Last year nearly 55,000 people, from all 50 states, rang in the New Year, collectively hiking over 133,000 miles throughout the country on the guided hikes.

For a list of First Day Hike events, please click here.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com
HikingintheSmokys.com

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Citizen Advisory Committee Meeting to Highlight Moose Research

Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff will present highlights from a multi-year statewide moose research project at a public meeting this week.

Members of the public are invited to attend the Region One Citizen Advisory Committee meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 6 starting at 6:30 p.m. The meeting is at FWP’s regional headquarters at 490 N. Meridian in Kalispell.

The meeting agenda includes a presentation by FWP research technician Jesse Newby, who has been studying Montana’s moose population. Newby will provide an update from FWP’s 10-year statewide research project as it finishes its fifth year. The presentation will include updates on efforts to develop a cost-effective statewide monitoring program for moose, as well as updates on field research into moose population dynamics.

Concern has emerged in recent years over widespread declines of North American moose populations along the southern extent of their range. Populations in Montana appear to have declined since the 1990’s, as evidenced by aerial survey trends and hunter harvest statistics

In 2013, FWP began a 10-year study designed to help the department better understand the status and trends of moose populations across Montana and identify the most cost-effective means to monitor those populations and maximize hunter opportunity.

The Region One Citizen Advisory Committee is comprised of local residents who help FWP achieve its goals by serving two main functions: providing the agency with information, ideas, emerging trends and initiatives from the public in a setting that welcomes diverse interests, and providing a vehicle for FWP to inform citizens.

For more information, visit http://fwp.mt.gov/regions/r1/cac/.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

National Park Service Extends Public Comment Period for Proposed Peak-Season Entrance Fees at 17 Parks

The National Park Service has extended the public comment periods for the proposed peak-season entrance fees at 17 national parks and revised fees for road-based commercial tours and will accept comments until December 22, 2017. If implemented, the increased fees would generate needed revenue for improvements to the aging infrastructure of national parks.

The deadlines, originally scheduled for November 23, have been extended to accommodate interest in this issue from members of Congress and the public. Already, more than 65,000 comments have been received on the proposals.

Under the proposal, peak-season entrance fees would be established at 17 highly visited national parks. The peak season for each park would include its busiest contiguous five-month period of visitation. The peak season entrance fee for a seven-day pass to each park would be $70 per private, non-commercial vehicle, $50 per motorcycle, and $30 per person on bike or foot. A park-specific annual pass for any of the 17 parks would be available for $75.

The cost of the annual America the Beautiful- The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, which provides entrance to all federal lands, including all national parks for a one-year period, would remain $80. Entrance fees are not charged to visitors under 16 years of age or holders of Senior, Military, Access, Volunteer, or Every Kid in a Park (EKIP) passes. The majority of national parks will remain free to enter; only 118 of 417 parks have an entrance fee.

The proposed new fee structure would be implemented at Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion National Parks with peak season starting on May 1, 2018; in Acadia, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, and Shenandoah National Parks with peak season starting on June 1, 2018; and in Joshua Tree National Park as soon as practicable in 2018.

Fees have long been an important source of revenue used to improve the visitor experience and recreation opportunities in national parks and on other federal lands. Estimates suggest that the peak season price structure could increase national park revenue by $70 million per year. The funds would be used to improve roads, bridges, campgrounds, waterlines, bathrooms, and other amenities which enhance the visitor experience. Under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, 80% of entrance fees remain in the park where they are collected. The other 20% of the revenue is distributed to other national parks.

Access to the vast majority of National Park Service sites remains free; only 118 of 417 National Park Service units charge an entrance fee.

The public can comment period on the peak-season entrance fee proposal until December 22, 2017, on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website https://parkplanning.nps.gov/proposedpeakseasonfeerates. Written comments can be sent to 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, DC 20240.

The public comment period for proposed entry and permit fee adjustments for commercial tour operators has also been extended until December 22. The proposal would increase entry fees for commercial operators and standardize commercial use authorization (CUA) requirements for road-based commercial tours, including application and management fees. All CUA fees stay within the collecting park and would fund rehabilitation projects for buildings, facilities, parking lots, roads, and wayside exhibits that would enhance the visitor experience. The fees will also cover the administrative costs of receiving, reviewing, and processing CUA applications and required reports.

The proposal also includes a peak-season commercial entry fee structure for the 17 national parks referenced above. All proposed fee adjustments for commercial operators would go into effect following an implementation window.

Information and a forum for public comments regarding commercial permit requirements and fees is available until December 22, 2017 on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/commercialtourrequirements. Written comments can be sent to National Park Service, Recreation Fee Program, 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, DC 20240.



Jeff
HikinginGlacier.com
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