Thursday, October 31, 2013

Governor Bullock Announces $500,000 in Grants to Support Montana Tourism

Last week, Montana Governor Steve Bullock joined Montana Department of Commerce Director Meg O’Leary to announce the award of $500,000 from Commerce’s Tourism Infrastructure Investment Program (TIIP) for eight tourism facility improvement projects in Bozeman, Browning, Fort Belknap, Hamilton, Malta, Poplar, Red Lodge and Terry.

“Tourism plays an important part in Montana’s economy. These grants are a reinvestment of Montana Lodging Tax funds back into tourism facilities across the state that are working to improve the quality of experiences they offer visitors and Montanans,“ Governor Bullock said of the grants. “These projects will strengthen our communities and attract more visitors to support Main Street Montana businesses.”

Montana Department of Commerce Director O’Leary noted, “the TIIP grant funds will help both established tourism attractions upgrade their facilities as well as give developing attractions a boost in their efforts to expand their appeal and services.” She added, “these projects also benefit Montana residents by bolstering the local economy and adding to their community’s quality of life.”

Director O’Leary approved the TIIP grant funding for the projects following recommendations made by Commerce staff and members of the state’s Tourism Advisory Council. The eight TIIP grant recipients were selected from 24 applications requesting $1.82 million in grant funds from the program. When completed, the eight projects will result in $1.3 million in tourism facility improvements. The $500,000 TIIP grant funds will leverage $768,848 from other private and public sector sources being invested in these projects.

This year the TIIP grant awards include:

1. $54,000 awarded to the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary in Red Lodge for improvements to their Montana native wildlife care and public education facility’s walkways, signage and grounds. Total Project Cost: $81,000.

2. $20,111 awarded to Hamilton Players, Inc. for the purchase and installation of updated theater technology and performance equipment in their live theater facility in Hamilton. Total Project Cost: $36,331.

3. $80,000 awarded to the Blackfeet Tribe for improvements and restoration of the Chewing Blackbones Campground near St. Mary on the east side of Glacier National Park. Total Project Cost: $191,200.

4. $34,266 awarded to the Fort Belknap Indian Community/Island Mountain Development group for the construction and installation of picnic tables and shades at public recreation and campground areas in or near Mission Canyon/Hays, Snake Butte, Lodgepole and the buffalo pasture viewing area/observation platform along MT Route 66, south of the Fort Belknap Agency. Total Project Cost: $51,400.

5. $132,586 awarded to Bridger Bowl, Inc. in Bozeman for construction of the Alpine Cabin, which will provide visitor services for those using two new ski lifts being constructed on the north side of Bridger Bowl Ski Area. Total Project Cost: $325,000.

6. $45,310 awarded to the Prairie County Museum for a water mitigation project in the basement of their historic building in downtown Terry. Total Project Cost: $81,500.

7. $20,000 awarded to the Judith River Foundation/Great Plains Dinosaur Museum in Malta for the purchase and installation of new hands-on learning stations, improved fossil storage and exterior dinosaur displays. Total Project Cost: $31,500.

8. $113,727 awarded to the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes to assist in the restoration of the historic Poplar Agency Indian Boarding School Dining Hall for use as a visitor information and tourism program facility. Total Project Cost: $472,107.

Since 1995, TIIP grants have provided $5.2 million in tourism lodging tax funds to 114 projects in 52 Montana communities. These TIIP-assisted projects represent $48.5 million in Montana tourism facility improvements financed with public and private funds.

TIIP grant funds are provided by the 4% Montana Lodging Facility Use Tax which is assessed on the lodging price of all accommodations across Montana, including campgrounds. The grants are awarded through a competitive process and require $1 match for every $2 provided by grant funds.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Last Chance to Drive To Old Faithful, Canyon Until Spring

The roads to many favorite Yellowstone destinations will close to automobile travel in the next few days as the park begins preparing for the winter season.

The only road in the park which is open to wheeled vehicle travel all year is the section from the North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana, through Mammoth Hot Springs, Tower Junction and the Lamar Valley on to the park’s Northeast Entrance and the communities of Cooke City and Silver Gate, Montana.

All other roads will close for the season at 8:00 a.m. Monday, November 4th, so park staff members can begin preparing the roads for limited, commercially guided snowmobile and snowcoach travel beginning December 15th.

At Mammoth Hot Springs, the Yellowstone General Store, Post Office, medical clinic, campground and visitor center remain open all year. Pay-at-the pump fuel is available 24 hours a day all year at all park service stations.

All communities near and on the way to Yellowstone are open all year, with local businesses offering a wide range of fall and winter recreation opportunities.

Visitors driving to and in the park during the fall and winter are encouraged to have flexible travel plans and be prepared for changing weather conditions. Temporary travel restrictions or closures can occur at any time without notice. Mud and snow tires or tire chains may be required. Updated information on road conditions in Yellowstone is available 24-hours a day by calling 307-344-2117.

Extensive information and assistance for planning a visit to Yellowstone is available on the park’s web site at

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Do Yosemite In One Epic Hike

Did you know that you can do one hike that encompasses nearly all of Yosemite’s iconic sights? This epic 12.6-mile hike includes a full view of Yosemite Falls from the only place in the park to see both the upper and lower falls in their full glory. You’ll also see El Capitan, Half Dome, Illilouette Fall and Nevada Fall.

The hike tops out at Glacier Point, the spot first made famous by the photo of John Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt standing together with the Yosemite Valley in the background. The hike also finishes with a trip down the famous Mist Trail where you’ll pass over Vernal Fall.

This epic one-way hike begins with a climb up the Four Mile Trail, and then travels back to the valley via the Panorama Trail, and is a must bucket-list item for every hiker.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Mountain: My Time on Everest

You could say there are two books in The Mountain: My Time on Everest. There’s chapter one, and then the rest of the book.

I have to say that I really struggled with the first chapter of The Mountain for some reason. To me it seemed unfocused and lacked flow. Author and world-class climber Ed Viesturs kept interrupting the narrative of the story of his first climb on Mt. Everest with anecdotes from other climbs and climbers, and from my standpoint, completely disrupted the flow of the read. I must confess I almost threw in the towel at that point.

Once I got past that first chapter, however, there was a noticeable difference in the flow and readability of the book.

Although Viesturs never intended to split the book into the two parts described above, he did intend to split it in another way. The book’s chapters alternate between his own personal experience with the mountain, and an historical overview of climbing on Everest. Viesturs discusses some of the early British attempts on the mountain, including George Mallory’s three expeditions. Subsequent chapters provide overviews of Edmund Hillary’s first summit, Reinhold Messner’s first Everest summit without bottled oxygen, the fatal debacle of 1996, as well as the first American summit in 1963, which included the daring attempt by Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld to scale the unclimbed West Ridge. Viesturs also discusses the highly controversial Chinese expedition of 1960 when one climber purportedly took his boots and socks off in order to gain traction up the Second Step - only a couple hundred feet below the 29,035-foot summit!

Viesturs also lays out his own personal history on the mountain, having made 11 attempts, and reaching the summit on 7 of those occasions. He provides insights into his first climbs as a guide, his inclusion in the 1990 international Peace Climb, his role in a couple of film making expeditions on Everest, as well as the compelling story of how his climbing buddy almost died as a result of a mucus plug.

Although the vast majority of the book was an interesting look into the history of the world’s highest mountain, there were a couple of occasions where Viesturs left his readers hanging. For example, in one case he mentions the “mysterious” death of Chantal Mauduit while she was in her tent at 21,500 feet on Dhaulagiri in 1998, but he provides no other details on why this was a mystery.

In 1997 Ed climbed Everest as part of a research team to find out what happens to the minds and bodies of climbers at extreme altitudes. However, he didn’t mention any of the scientific findings from this project.

I was also baffled by a passage regarding the 1960 Chinese expedition. Although the evidence is pretty overwhelming that the Chinese lied about their first summit, Everest historian Walt Unsworth still concluded that the Chinese story may have been factual. Viesturs states that he’s puzzled by this conclusion, which he absolutely should be. However, in the very next paragraph, Viesturs says, “It’s within the realm of the conceivable, as Unsworth states, that they did indeed make the first ascent of Everest from the north in 1960”.

Okay, so these might be a little bit nitpicky, I’ll agree. But overall The Mountain is a really good read, especially for those looking to discover a broader perspective on the history of Mt. Everest.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Sunday, October 27, 2013

National Parks Epic Challenge: Jimmy Chin on Grand Teton

The National Park Foundation is publishing a series of excellent videos they call the "National Parks Epic Challenge".

In this video, world-class climber, skier, and mountaineer Jimmy Chin scales Grand Teton and then skis down, showing why he is one of the most skilled and fearless adventurers on the planet. Jimmy has circled the globe as an elite athlete, explorer, photographer and filmmaker, but his home is in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, near the stunningly beautiful Grand Teton National Park. The majestic Teton Range is ideal for rock climbers and ski mountaineers, and the park protects a diverse array of wildlife, including herds of buffalo and elk. Jimmy talks about visiting the National Parks as a child, and how he felt when he first saw the Tetons at age 18. He is one of the few people in the world to have climbed and skied Mount Everest from the summit.

Jimmy Chin in Grand Teton: National Parks Epic Challenge from National Park Foundation on Vimeo.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Contracts Extended for Guided Mountain Climbing & Climbing Schools in Grand Tetons

Earlier this week the National Park Service Acting Intermountain Regional Director, Laura Joss, announced that two offerors were selected to receive concession contracts to provide services for guided mountain climbing and climbing schools in Grand Teton National Park. The separate contracts each cover a term of ten years and have been awarded to Exum Guide Service and School of Mountaineering, Inc., doing business as Exum Mountain Guides, and The Mountain Guides, doing business as Jackson Hole Mountain Guides.

Guided mountain climbing and climbing schools services are currently provided at Grand Teton National Park by Exum Mountain Guides and Jackson Hole Mountain Guides. The present Exum Mountain Guides' contract became effective January 1, 2004, and will expire on December 31, 2013. The present Jackson Hole Mountain Guides' contract was effective as of January 1, 2003, expired on December 31, 2012, and was extended through December 31, 2013. The NPS determined that the existing concessioners were preferred offerors for these new contracts pursuant to the terms of 36 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 51.

"Exum Mountain Guides and Jackson Hole Mountain Guides have provided visitors with exceptional mountain climbing instruction and guide service in the park for decades and we look forward to continuing this long-standing tradition for another contract term," said Mary Gibson Scott, superintendent of Grand Teton National Park and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway.

The NPS Intermountain Region Office solicited proposals for these business opportunities through a prospectus issued May 1, 2013. Bid proposals were accepted through July 2, 2013. The proposals were evaluated under the provisions of the 1998 Concessions Management Improvement Act. The Act made a number of changes in how concession contracts are awarded with the intent of ensuring quality visitor services, protecting park resources, and enhancing the competitive contract process for NPS concession contracts.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Friday, October 25, 2013

US Forest Service Seeks Comments on Year-Round Recreation Activities at Ski Areas

The U.S. Forest Service recently published a Federal Register notice seeking public comment on proposed criteria to evaluate activities and facilities allowed at ski areas on Forest Service lands under the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act of 2011.

"This is another step forward in how the agency efficiently manages developed recreation areas, such as ski areas, to accommodate the increasing demand for outdoor recreation experiences from the public," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "It also opens the door for the prospect of a larger economic boost to forest-dependent communities and the nation."

Most of the 122 ski areas operating on Forest Service lands are authorized by the National Forest Ski Area Permit Act of 1986 for Nordic and alpine skiing. The Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act of 2011 expanded the Ski Area Permit Act to allow approval of additional seasonal or year-round recreation activities, including summer recreational activities where the ski area's developed infrastructure could accommodate an increasing demand for year-round recreation.

The revised law includes such activities as zip lines, mountain bike terrain parks and trails, disc golf courses, and ropes courses, which are generally natural resource based and encourage outdoor recreation and the enjoyment of nature. These types of activities fit well with the agency's mission in support of outdoor natural resource-based recreation settings and experiences, in contrast to theme or amusement parks where different customer expectations are accommodated.

This proposed rule change would establish criteria to guide the agency when evaluating proposals. New activities should be natural-resource based, encourage outdoor recreation and enjoyment of nature, and be consistent with the intent of the act. The rule also would address the types of facilities that would be permitted.

The agency also is proposing guidance on the management of other recreational uses within the operational boundary of ski areas by the non-paying public, such as snowshoeing and hiking. The proposed changes also include guidelines for development of aerial adventure courses at facilities other than ski areas.

The public has 60 days to comment from Oct. 2, 2013, the date the notice was published in the Federal Register. Instructions on how to comment are included in the notice.

The allocation of federal land for ski areas covers some 180,000 acres out of 193 million acres. The agency averages 23 million visits annually to ski areas, which has contributed $3 billion every winter to the economy and created approximately 65,000 full and part-time and seasonal jobs in rural communities. Under the new proposal, the Forest Service estimates roughly 600,000 more summertime visits would occur; that may create and sustain up to 600 more full or part-time and seasonal jobs with expanded recreation opportunities on ski areas. The addition of summer recreation is expected to infuse almost $40 million into local mountain communities near ski areas.

For more information, and to comment, please click here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Discover the West

Regular readers of this blog are likely aware that Kathy and I spent several weeks traveling to various national and state parks across the west coast last month. As a result of this trip, as well as a similar trip we took across the southwest last year, we’ve decided to launch a new hiking website. The new site encompasses all of the trails we’ve hiked during those two trips, as well as many of the hikes we’ve done throughout the Rocky Mountain states over the last several years.

This new website includes a wide range of hikes from places like Yosemite, Mt. Rainier, Zion, Bryce, Arches, Grand Canyon, and many of the other parks across the west. It can be used as a tool to help you plan which trails you might like to tackle on an upcoming trip, or as a way of discovering new destinations for a trip down the road.

The link to the new site is:

Please feel free to provide any feedback that we could possibly use to improve the website.

Thank you very much!

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Kelly McGarry: Insane Downhill Biking POV Video

Okay, this just might be the most hair-raising bike video I've ever seen.

Speeding down the narrow sandstone ridge is pretty scary as it is, but when Diamondback athlete Kelly McGarry does a 72-foot-long back flip over a canyon - WOW!!!

This run earned McGarry the People’s Choice Award and a 2nd place finish at the Red Bull Rampage 2013 in Virgin, Utah earlier this month.

All of this was captured on McGarry's helmet-mounted, point of view camera:

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

National Park Service Releases New Rule for Winter Use in Yellowstone

The National Park Service has published a final rule to guide winter use in Yellowstone National Park following extensive public review and comment. The final rule authorizes oversnow vehicle (OSV) use in Yellowstone and contains provisions that allow greater flexibility for commercial tour operators, provides mechanisms to make the park cleaner and quieter than what has been allowed during the previous four winter seasons, rewards oversnow vehicle innovations and technologies that improve the Yellowstone experience, and allows for an increase in visitation. The final rule relies on impact analysis conducted through the 2013 Winter Use Final Plan/Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (final Plan/SEIS).

“This is a balanced and flexible plan that we believe will work for tour operators, for park visitors and for the iconic landscapes with which we are entrusted to protect,” said Superintendent Dan Wenk. “We appreciate the public comment and review that has gone into informing this science-based approach that will provide a safe and positive experience for the millions of visitors who come to Yellowstone every year.”

The 2013/2014 winter season will be a transition year to the new rule during which the park will allow snowmobiles and snowcoaches under the same conditions in place for the past four winters. The one-season transition period will also allow time for the NPS to advertise and award concession contracts and for commercial tour operators to adequately prepare for the new rule.

Beginning with the 2014/2015 winter season, the previous management approach of fixed maximum number of OSVs allowed in the park each day will be replaced with a more flexible concept of managing vehicle access by transportation events, defined as one snowcoach or a group of up to 10 snowmobiles, averaging seven seasonally. New best available technology standards will be required for snowmobiles no later than the 2015/2016 season, and for snowcoaches by the 2016/2017 winter season.

Commercial tour operators will be able to use their allocated transportation events for snowmobiles, snowcoaches, or a mix of both, as long as no more than 50 of the authorized 110 daily transportation events are snowmobile transportation events. This approach allows the proportion of snowcoaches or snowmobiles in the park each day to be adjusted, allows for an increase in the size of snowmobile groups to meet demand on peak days, and permits an increase in vehicle group size per transportation event if voluntary enhanced emission standards are met.

The plan also allows one non-commercially guided group of up to five snowmobiles to enter through each park entrance every day. The park will be working with interested stakeholders to develop the Non-commercially Guided Snowmobile Access Program, along with the Yellowstone Snowmobile Education Certification. The rule also continues to allow OSV use on the East Entrance road over Sylvan Pass.

To reinforce the central approach of the agency and a key tenant of this successful rule making, park managers will continue to collaborate with the public by implementing an Adaptive Management Program, which will combine science with public input, to ensure that OSV use impacts stay within limits predicted in the final Plan/SEIS. The kick-off meeting for this program is November 22, 2013 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on the campus of Montana State University in Bozeman, MT. Interested members of the public are encouraged to attend. More information can be found here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Montana State Parks Seeks Public Comment on Statewide Recreation Plan - Meetings Tomorrow

Montana State Parks has announced that public comment is being sought on the draft Montana Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP). The plan provides strategic recommendations to help maintain outdoor recreation as a priority in Montana because it benefits the quality of life for Montanans, and helps sustain economic vitality of our communities.

This plan, titled Creating a Vibrant Future for Montana’s Outdoor Recreation Heritage, provides a roadmap for recreation in Montana for 2014-2018. In Montana, demands for outdoor recreation are increasing. From 2008-2012, Glacier National Park visitation was up 16.4%, Montana State Parks visitation increased by 10%, Bureau of Land Management visitation is up 9%, and from 2000-2010, off-highway vehicle registration has tripled and fishing is up 5%.

Outdoor recreation is defined as hiking, walking, biking, motorized use (off-highway vehicles and snowmobiles), wildlife-associated recreation, aquatic activities, and more. In 2012, 77% of Montana households reported participating in walking and biking.

This statewide draft plan was developed through a collaborative process with an advisory committee representing federal, state, and local recreation managers, and tourism partners, along with public surveys of Montana residents by the University of Montana Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research and additional national and state agency data collection.

The 2014-2018 SCORP key findings show that while Montana residents and more than 10 million out-of-state visitors, enjoy a diverse array of outdoor recreation opportunities on Montana’s 38 million acres of public land, each year, outdoor recreation managers and entities are struggling to accommodate the increased demand due to decreasing budgets, increasing maintenance costs and lack of coordination between federal, state, and local governments along with stakeholder organizations and associations.

SCORP offers a roadmap for the next 5 years recommending ways that outdoor recreation can be prioritized at a higher level, so that the capacity of agencies to manage recreation safely and adequately on public lands does not diminish. The plan looks at Montana’s existing outdoor recreation facilities and resources, growing demands for recreation activities, and evaluates national and state trends.

In addition to its value as a planning document, the completion of a SCORP continues Montana’s eligibility for the stateside Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grant program, a federally funded program that has supported community recreation projects in Montana communities since 1965 and is administered by Montana State Parks.

Today, Montana receives approximately $300,000 in federal funding per year for local community grants. Recent LWCF projects include the acquisition of park land on Mount Ascension in Helena and development of a city swimming pool in Malta.

This week, the Montana State Parks & Recreation Board proposed that the draft SCORP be made available for a 30-day public comment.

The 2014-2018 SCORP can viewed on the Montana State Parks website, public comment page.

The public is invited to review the draft plan and provide comments to Montana State Parks by Monday, November 18 at 5pm.

The public can also send comments by mail to: Montana Draft 2014-2018 SCORP Public Comment, PO Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701.

In addition, Montana State Parks will be hosting a statewide public meeting on Wednesday, October 23. The meeting will be from 6:30pm to 8:00pm at the following locations:

1. Kalispell – FWP Region 1 - 490 North Meridian Rd (contact: Dave Landstrom (406) 751-4578)

2. Missoula – FWP Region 2- 3201 Spurgin Rd (contact: Chet Crowser (406) 542-5517)

3. Helena – FWP HQ - 1420 E. 6th Ave (contact: Maren Murphy (406) 444-3750)

4. Bozeman – FWP Region 3 - 1400 South 19th Ave (contact: Jerry Walker (406) 994-3552)

5. Great Falls – FWP Region 4 - 4600 Giant Springs Rd (contact: Matt Marcinek (406) 454-5856)

6. Billings – FWP Region 5 - 2300 Lake Elmo Dr (contact: Doug Habermann (406) 247-2954)

The public is invited to attend the meeting to review and discuss the development of the 2014-2018 SCORP, the priorities and recommendations of the plan, and the value of the plan at the community level.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Sperry Chalet & Granite Park Chalet to begin accepting reservations next Monday

The Sperry & Granite Park Chalets have announced operating dates for 2014. They will begin accepting 2014 reservations on Monday, October 28th, and will be accepted online or by phone at 1-888-345-2649.

The chalet operating dates for 2014 are scheduled for:

Granite Park Chalet:
* June 30 Through September 7th.
* Closing after breakfast on September 8.

Sperry Chalet:
* July 10 Through September 7th.
* Closing after breakfast on September 8.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Elk Reduction Program Begins Today in Grand Teton NP

The elk reduction program in Grand Teton National Park begins today, October 19th. Several changes to the program go into effect this year including requiring hunters to use non-led ammunition, limiting the number of ammunition cartridges hunters may carry each day, and closing a portion of the Snake River bottom that was open in previous years to reduce the chance of grizzly bear-hunter encounters.

Under its 1950 enabling legislation, Grand Teton National Park is mandated by federal law to conduct an elk reduction program - when necessary - for conservation of the Jackson elk population. The legislation also directs Grand Teton to jointly develop this program with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and for the Governor of Wyoming and Secretary of the Interior Department to approve the annual plan. Biologists and administrators from both agencies have reviewed available biological data and concluded that the 2013 program is necessary to keep the Jackson elk herd at, or near, objective and to maintain a desired summer distribution of elk throughout their natural range.

The elk reduction program utilizes Wyoming-licensed hunters that apply for and receive a limited quota permit to hunt in designated areas 75 and 79: both of which are inside the park but east of the Snake River. A map showing locations open to these special permit hunters is available at the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center in Moose, and online.

The park's elk reduction program is an important management tool that differs somewhat from other elk hunting programs in the region. The use of archery, hand guns, or other non-center fire ammunition rifles is not permitted, nor is the use of artificial elk calls. In addition, hunters, regardless of age, are required to carry a hunter education card, and to carry and have immediately accessible bear spray as a non-lethal deterrent for use during potential bear encounters. Information packets accompanying each permit warn hunters of the risk of bear encounters and offer tips on how to minimize the probability of human-bear conflicts.

The need for this reduction program stems partly from an intensive management framework that includes annual winter feeding programs on the National Elk Refuge and in the upper Gros Ventre drainage. Feeding sustains high numbers of elk with unnaturally low mortality rates. A majority of elk that are fed on during the winter on the Refuge also summer in, or use migration routes through, Grand Teton National Park. Consequently, the reduction program targets elk from three primary herd segments: Grand Teton, southern Yellowstone National Park, and the Teton Wilderness area of Bridger-Teton National Forest.

Each fall, park rangers intensively monitor and patrol elk reduction areas to ensure compliance with rules and regulations, interpret the elk reduction program to visitors, and provide hunters with information on local conditions associated with this wildlife management policy. To reach the information line for the 2013 elk reduction program, phone 307.739.3681.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Glacier National Park Is Now Open / Park Updates

Glacier National Park is open and welcoming visitors after a 16-day Federal Government shutdown that closed all national parks across the country.

Approximately 250 park employees were furloughed during the shutdown. Approximately 20-30 park employees continued to work during the shutdown to manage the park closure and provide for protection of federal lands, waterways, buildings, equipment and other property owned within park.

Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow said, “We are pleased to have the park open for visitors and continue with our responsibilities of managing and protecting the resources.”

As of Thursday morning, the park’s website and social media sites were active, after being inactive or removed during the shutdown. Barricades at park entrances and throughout the park were removed early Thursday morning. Park road crews began monitoring roads, including conducting a sweep of the Going-to-the-Sun Road to clean debris/rocks from the road. When the road is clear of debris, public access will be available to Big Bend through Sunday, October 20.

Mow said, “Weather systems have been consistently bringing rain, snow, and winter conditions through the upper elevations of the park, including the alpine section of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.” The first seasonal closure of the Going-to-the-Sun Road due to poor weather conditions this fall was September 23 when the road was only accessible to The Loop. Between September 23 and October 1 ( Federal Government Shutdown and closure of the park), the Going-to-the-Sun Road was closed and reopened seven times due to weather conditions.

There is approximately two feet of snow in the Logan Pass Parking Area and snow slides of six to eight feet along the inside of the road in the Rim Rocks area located just below Logan Pass.

Park road crew employees are implementing winterization activities along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, including the removal of more than 400 guard rails and installation of approximately 600 snow poles. Implementing winterization activities along the Going-to-the-Sun Road is instrumental in protecting the historic road and numerous improvements made during the on-going road rehabilitation efforts. Proper and responsible winterization activities help maintain employee safety and aid in the opening of the road in the spring.

Apgar, Bowman Lake, Kintla Lake, Quartz Creek and St. Mary Campgrounds are open to primitive camping. Campgrounds in primitive status have pit toilets available, no potable or drinking water, limited number of sites, and fees are reduced to $10 per night. Visitors are encouraged to plan ahead and reminded that any water taken from streams or lakes requires treatment before use. Current campground status is available here.

The Apgar Visitor Center is open every weekend, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information about the park please click here or call 406-888-7800.

Glacier National Park is a great place to visit anytime of the year, but during the fall is an especially wonderful time. Hikers will have many options for viewing the beautiful fall colors, especially those of aspens and western larch. Here are a few great hikes to consider:

* Redrock Falls and Apikuni Falls in the Many Glacier area.

* Rockwell Falls, Running Eagle Falls and Firebrand Pass in the Two Medicine area.

* Virginia Falls and the Beaver Pond Loop near the St. Mary entrance.

* The Forest and Fire Nature Trail near the Camas Creek Entrance (just north of Apgar). Bowman Lake near the northwestern corner of the park is another great choice.

* Avalanche Lake, Rocky Point and the Johns Lake Loop in the Lake McDonald area are some other great choices. Any of the trails on southern end of the park, such as Loneman Lookout, Scalplock Mountain Lookout or the South Boundary Trail, are all excellent options as well.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

National Parks Epic Challenge: Rangers Rappel Rushmore

The National Park Foundation is publishing a series of excellent videos they call the "National Parks Epic Challenge".

In the latest video, National Park Rangers descend over Mount Rushmore's enormous mountain sculpture to do preservation work on Lincoln’s face… in other words, to give Old Abe a facelift. The rangers protect Rushmore from erosion, patching cracks and attaching sensors that are connected to strain gauges that monitor rock movement. Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota was featured in the Hitchcock movie North By Northwest. While the characters in this film appear to climb on the sculpture, in reality only rangers are allowed to do this. Visitors who see Rushmore are inspired by one of the world’s most spectacular works of art:

Rangers Rappel Rushmore: National Parks Epic Challenge from National Park Foundation on Vimeo.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Video Montage from Glacier National Park

In case you weren't able to make to Glacier National Park this past summer, well, here's what you missed:

Glacier National Park from Jason Benton on Vimeo.

The good news is that there's always next year! And you can start planning your hiking itinerary now by clicking here.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Glacier National Park loses 60,273 visitors / $3,076,712 in first 10 days of shutdown

As the 10th day of the government shutdown begins this morning, more than seven million Americans have been kept out of national parks and $750 million in visitor spending has already been lost, with huge repercussions for the economies of gateway communities and entire states that depend on national park tourism, according to a report published by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR).

CNPSR-gathered figures show that the shutdown is resulting in:

• 715,000 visitors lost daily (based on October 2012 national park attendance numbers).

• $76 million in lost visitor spending per day.

• $450,000 in lost revenue each day that would go directly to the National Park Service ($300,000 in entrance fees and $150,000 in other in-park expenditures, such as campground fees, boat rentals, etc.)

CNPSR Chair Maureen Finnerty, former superintendent of Everglades and Olympic National Parks, said: "These figures are mind boggling and they only begin to capture the full economic shock of locking up the crown jewels of America – our national parks. Towns, cities, and even whole states that depend on park tourism are feeling an increasingly strong pinch. And if Congress continues to hold our national parks hostage, these communities will soon be reeling from what is in many cases the main driver of their economies." The following is CNPSR-gathered data for the lost visitors, visitor spending, and jobs at risk for 12 leading national parks across the U.S.:

• Acadia National Park (Maine) – 68,493 lost visitors in first 10 days, $5,263,013 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 3331 total jobs at stake, including 3147 local/non-NPS jobs.

• Badlands National Park (South Dakota) – 26,767 lost visitors in first 10 days, $656,986 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 475 total jobs at stake, including 375 local/non-NPS jobs.

 • Boston National Historic Park (Massachusetts) – 54,794 lost visitors in first 10 days, $2,032,876 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 1019 total jobs at stake, including 904 non-NPS jobs.

 • Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio) – 68,219 lost visitors in first 10 days, $1,545,205 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 819 total jobs at stake, including 599 local/non-NPS jobs.

 • Everglades National Park (Florida) – 25,083 lost visitors in first 10 days, $3,857,534 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 2364 total jobs at stake, including 1951 local/non-NPS jobs.

• Gettysburg National Military Park (Pennsylvania) – 27,397 lost visitors in first 10 days, $1,796,712 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 1141 total jobs at stake, including 1051 local/non-NPS jobs.

• Glacier National Park (Montana) – 60,273 lost visitors in first 10 days, $3,076,712 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 1994 total jobs at stake, including 1632 local/non-NPS jobs.

• Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona) – 120,000 lost visitors in first 10 days, $11,750,684 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 6825 total jobs at stake, including 6167 local/non-NPS jobs.

 • Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina and Tennessee) – 257,534 lost visitors in first 10 days, $23,123,287 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 11,766 total jobs at stake, including 11,367 local/non-NPS jobs.

 • Olympic National Park (Washington) – 77,808 lost visitors in first 10 days, $2,912,328 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 1673 total jobs at stake, including 1395 local/non-NPS jobs.

 • Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado) – 80,821 lost visitors in first 10 days, $4,821,917 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 3033 total jobs at stake, including 2641 local/non-NPS jobs.

• Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho) – 98,630 lost visitors in first 10 days, $9,452,054 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 5572 total jobs at stake, including 4481 local/non-NPS jobs.

• Yosemite National Park (California) – 106,849 lost visitors in first 10 days, $10,021,917 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 5607 total jobs at stake, including 4602 local/non-NPS jobs.

 • Zion National Park (Utah) – 72,876 lost visitors in first 10 days, $3,495,890 lost visitor dollars in first 10 days, and 2401 total jobs at stake, including 2136 local/non-NPS jobs.

Visitation, economic impacts, and job numbers for the 12 parks are drawn from Headwaters Economics, "Land and Communities, National Parks Service Units, Economic Impacts of Visitation and Expenditures". Topline numbers for NPS daily visitation provided by Coalition of National Park Service Retirees using National Park Service data.

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Titanic Battle Between Two Bull Elk Caught on Film

Check out this heavyweight bout between two bull elk. Would you say the photographer got just a little too close?

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Glacier National Park: Embracing the Unknown by Foot, Horse, Rail and Auto

The Continuing Education Center at Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell will host a free community lecture, “Glacier National Park: Embracing the Unknown by Foot, Horse, Rail and Auto,” on October 15th.

Presented by Sharon Randolph, the evening will offer an overview of the connections early travelers experienced crossing geographic landscapes, developing communities and creating Glacier National Park.

Randolph is the author of the four volume series, “Connecting Us to the Sun.” She has taught classes on Glacier National Park history through FVCC’s Senior Institute and Continuing Education Center.

The lecture will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in room 144 inside the Arts and Technology Building on the FVCC campus. For more information, contact the Continuing Education Center at 406-756-3837 or email

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Waterton Lakes National Park – The Crown of the Continent

The following is a guest blog by Angie Picardo:

As a part of the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, the Waterton Lakes National Park covers 195 square miles in southwest Alberta, Canada. Featuring rugged mountains and panoramic prairie views, the park is home to incredibly diverse wildlife and plant life, and offers a wide variety of activities for visitors to enjoy.

Geological Significance

Located at the southern portion of the Rocky Mountains Natural Region, Waterton Lakes National Park is situated at the ancient mountain range’s abrupt end as they meet the prairie regions to the south. Because of the Lewis thrust fault’s geologic influence on the landscape, Waterton Lakes National Park boasts some of the oldest exposed sedimentary rock in the Canadian Rockies – some dating back as far as 1.5 billion years ago. The iron-rich rock layers – called argillite – create vivid green and red bands resulting from various levels of oxidation.

Plant and Animal Life

Waterton is especially important as a wildlife refuge due to its location and inclusion of a wide variety of ecosystems – prairie, Rocky Mountain, and coastal zones all overlap within the park’s borders. Forty-five different habitat types are represented, including grasslands, shrub lands, wetlands, lakes, spruce-fir, alpine areas, and pine and aspen forests. Many of the park’s thousand-plus vascular plant species are rare or threatened, and the vegetation provides homes for over 60 species of mammals and 250 species of birds. Large predators native to the park include wolf, cougar, coyote, grizzly bear, and American black bear.

Things To Do

Three campgrounds are operated by the Parks system within Waterton, including Townsite Campground, Crandell Campground, and Belly River Campground. A number of scenic parkways wind through the Park that can be explored by bike or by car. Red Rock Parkway offers some of the best views of Waterton’s mountains rising out of the prairie, lined with spectacular wildflowers in early summer months. Akamina Parkway cuts through mountain passes and ends at Cameron Lake, a beautiful destination that offers boat rental and interpretive exhibits. For visitors interested in seeing bison herds, Bison Paddock Loop Road cuts through the animals’ natural grassland habitat. Park rangers recommend that visitors stay inside their vehicle when bison are present.

A number of activities are available for the adventurous traveler. Waterton includes some fantastic opportunities for mountain biking, kayaking, tubing, canoeing, ice and rock climbing, horseback riding, and windsurfing. Hikes range from easy strolls to more strenuous climbs – an easy walk through Blakiston Falls is a favorite, as is the Alderson-Carthew Trail.

With its incredible range of wildlife, unique ecosystems, and stunning landscapes, Waterton Lakes National Park is well worth a visit. Spring brings beds of wildflowers, with over 30 species covering the hillsides and prairies. Bertha Trail is especially stunning for its variety and vibrancy of flowers. Late summer and fall are especially good wildlife viewing times, and birds are most numerous in late fall when large numbers of migratory birds pass through the park. For those looking to avoid the crowds, the park is busiest in July and August – but ample space guarantees a relaxing escape regardless of the season.

Angie Picardo is a staff writer, financial analyst, and content manager at, a site dedicated to empowering consumers to save money and make smarter decisions about their personal finances, travel plans, or higher education.

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