Monday, December 29, 2014

Amtrak Empire Builder Back To Normal Schedule

Amtrak announced last week that it will resume operating the Empire Builder (Trains 7/27 & 8/28) on its regular schedule and route in both directions, effective with the departures on January 12, 2015.

The return of the previous timetables from Seattle and Portland will offer more attractive arrival and departure times for the balance of the winter recreation season in the Flathead Valley of Montana, near Glacier National Park. Additionally, Leavenworth and Spokane, Wash., and Sandpoint, Idaho, passengers will again enjoy same-day round trips to Portland or Seattle. Three additional hours eastbound and 90 minutes westbound were added to the schedules in April west of St. Paul, Minn. This was done to accommodate $1 billion in BNSF construction projects to add capacity and to help improve service for all traffic on its route.

Amtrak and BNSF continue to work cooperatively on the operational and maintenance issues that affect Amtrak trains on this line. BNSF is committed to work to improve the performance of the Empire Builder going forward.

“Local community and business leaders depend on the Empire Builder and see Amtrak service as an important public transportation link,” said DJ Stadtler, Amtrak Executive Vice

Also effective with the schedule restoration, the Empire Builder will resume operating on its normal route in both directions in North Dakota. Amtrak will then discontinue the use of chartered buses to cover missed station stops in Grand Forks, Devils Lake and Rugby, N.D., which has been routine since May.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Grand Teton Lodge Company and Flagg Ranch Company Contribute $130,000 for Jenny Lake Project

The Grand Teton National Park Foundation has announced that the Grand Teton Lodge Company (GTLC) and Flagg Ranch Company, owned by Vail Resorts, have gifted a total of $130,000 in 2014 to support Inspiring Journeys, the multiyear restoration at Jenny Lake. This money was generated by an innovative lodging contribution program as well as a dollar-for-dollar match the organization created to incent their clients to contribute to this valuable improvement project that is restoring trails and resources around Jenny Lake. GTLC and Flagg Ranch Company have supported the Foundation’s work in the park since 1999, making the lodging group the largest and one of the longest running corporate partners in Foundation history.

Gifts from GTLC and Flagg Ranch Company properties (including Jenny Lake Lodge, Jackson Lake Lodge, Colter Bay and Headwaters at Flagg Ranch) originate through their Lodging Program, a voluntary program that allows guests to contribute $1 per night of their stay to the Foundation’s work in the park. Projects supported by GTLC have spanned a wide range of enhancements and educational initiatives that connect visitors to Grand Teton and improve resources.

“We are committed to sustaining our national park surroundings, and everything we do at GTLC is guided by our mission to Preserve, Protect, and Inspire,” said Alex Klein, Grand Teton Lodge Company and Flagg Ranch Company vice president and general manager. “We take our stewardship very seriously, and our guest donation program benefitting Jenny Lake restoration is one way that we can contribute to restoration of the majestic Grand Teton National Park for future generations.”

“Our longstanding relationship with Grand Teton Lodge Company continues to play a role in the success of our programming and improvements in Grand Teton,” Foundation President Leslie Mattson said. “In addition to this year’s gift, their combined support over the years has totaled more than $700,000, making GTLC one of our most loyal and generous partners. A special thanks goes to each and every guest who has contributed through the lodging program. It’s amazing to see so many visitors who are committed to improving and conserving Grand Teton.”

The lodging program originated in 1999 with Clay James, former president and general manager of GTLC, which was owned by CSX Corporation. Vail Resorts continued the program when it purchased the company in the latter part of 1999. James launched the initiative at Jenny Lake Lodge and Jackson Lake Lodge with the goal of educating visitors about the benefits of private support in parks while generating significant funding for on-the-ground projects in Grand Teton National Park.

By providing multiple opportunities for their employees to improve the park, GTLC continues to demonstrate its commitment to enhancing Grand Teton through volunteerism, a cornerstone of the company’s mission. In 2014, GTLC employees announced a goal of contributing 1,000 volunteer hours to Grand Teton over the next two years. Local employees chose to fulfill this challenge by completing trail work at various locations throughout the park, including brushing and clearing trails at Emma-Matilda Lakes, Phelps Lake, Death Canyon and Jenny Lake. Along with the work that was accomplished throughout the summer, GTLC employees participated in Vail Resorts’ annual Epic Promise Day in September. Vail Resorts’ Epic Promise Day is in its fifth season and is a one-day, employee volunteer event that features a service project in each of the resort’s communities. A total of 1,650 employees company-wide participated, volunteering a total of 6,600 hours in their communities.

To learn more about Grand Teton National Park Foundation, please visit

For more information on the hiking in the Grand Tetons, please visit our new hiking trail website.


Wyoming First Day Hikes Adds Door Prizes to Event

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 to celebrate the new year outdoors.

Nine New Year’s Day guided hikes held at 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.

Additionally this year, participants in this year’s hikes will have a chance at winning a Mountain Hardware Micro Ratio Down Jacket or State Parks and Historic Sites Annual Day Use permits. Each venue will give-away a day use permit, and names of all participants will be included in a January 15th drawing for the jacket.

This is the fourth consecutive year Wyoming is offering the First Day Hikes program. Adding a little spice to this year’s event is a friendly competition between the Wyoming and Arizona state park systems. The director of the state that registers the lower percentage of increased participation, compared to last year’s numbers, will take possession of and must wear the dreaded pink cowboy hat.

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 to find a First Day Hike nearest you.

In Wyoming, hikes will be offered at the following locations and times:

Bear River State Park - Short 2.5 mile nature hike along the Bear River. Hike distance will vary upon participant’s abilities. Meet at the Visitor Center. Begin at 10 a.m.

Curt Gowdy State Park – Up to four mile hike on a trail to be determined. Meet at Aspen Grove Trail head at 1 p.m.

Edness K. Wilkins State Park – There will be two walks. One will be wheelchair accessible and the other will be on natural surface on the nature trail. Each 2 miles. Begin at 10 a.m.

Fort Bridger State Historic Site – one mile hike/walk around the historic site. Meet at entrance booth at 1 p.m. The hike is mostly level with no inclines.

Fort Fred Steele State Historic Site – up to two-mile hike, meet at bridge tender’s house parking lot at 10 a.m.

Guernsey State Park – 1.5 – 2 mile hike, start at 10 a.m.

Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site - 1.25 mile hike on Nature Trail and park road. Meet in main parking area at 10 a.m. Sneak peak at new visitor center displays and exhibits.

Keyhole State Park - starting at the Headquarters building and hiking to the Tatanka group shelter and back (approximately 1 mile) 10 a.m.

Sinks Canyon - Sinks Canyon hike will start at the Nature Trail Parking Lot in the Popo Agie Campground and proceed approximately 2 miles along the Canyon Loop trail. The start time will 9 a.m. Refreshments will be served in the Sage Yurt in Popo Agie Campground upon completion.

Participants are urged to wear adequate clothing, coffee and hot chocolate will be provided, Bonn Fire at most locations, this is a kids and family friendly event, entry fee to participating parks will be waived. Leashed dogs are welcome. All events are subject to change.

RSVPs are requested but not required. Please RSVP by emailing

WYOutside, a coalition of public and private organizations with a shared stake in promoting recreation to children and families, is a sponsor of the First Day Hikes.


Meet the Grand Teton Wildlife Brigade

Have you ever been caught in a bear jam? Whether it's in Yellowstone, the Great Smoky Mountains, or the Grand Tetons, there are usually volunteers around to help manage any potential conflicts between the bears and park visitors. This summer the Grand Teton National Park Foundation published a short video that helps to explain what exactly the Grand Teton Wildlife Brigade does on a daily basis to prevent human-bear conflicts:

For more information on hiking in the Grand Tetons, please visit our new hiking website.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Yellowstone Geyser Eruption Predictions Now Available On Your Smartphone and Tablet

The largest concentration of active geysers in the world—approximately half of the world’s total— is found in Yellowstone.

You can now discover the natural wonder of the most famous geyser of all, Old Faithful, and other geysers with a free app that you can use during your visit to the park and at home. The new app will help you find out when Old Faithful and five other predictable geysers could erupt.

The app also features a link to a webcam so that you can view live eruptions of Old Faithful and other nearby geysers. The FAQ section provides answers to several of the frequently asked questions that explain how a few geysers can be predicted and other fascinating details about Yellowstone’s geysers.

You can follow the Social Media Feed and see what’s happening in Yellowstone by browsing the park’s Twitter, YouTube and Flickr sites. Because every eruption is different, the app’s Photo Gallery contains an array of geyser eruption photos.

The NPS Geysers app was developed in partnership with Dr. Brett Oppegaard, Washington State University (Vancouver) and University of Hawaii, and the National Park Service, Yellowstone National Park and Harpers Ferry Center. The app was made possible, in part, by a donation from Canon USA, Inc., through the Yellowstone Park Foundation.

The NPS Geysers app is now available in the Google Play Store and in the Apple App Store.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Concession Contracts Awarded for Guided Backpacking Services

National Park Service (NPS) Intermountain Regional Director Sue Masica announced Friday, December 12, that two separate offerors were selected to receive concession contracts to provide guided backpacking services for youth within Grand Teton National Park. The two contracts were awarded to Wilderness Ventures, Inc. and The TVRC Education Foundation, doing business as Teton Valley Ranch Camp. Each contract will cover a term of ten years.

Guided backpacking for youth participants—including associated transportation and food service—is currently provided at Grand Teton National Park by Wilderness Ventures, Inc. and The TVRC Education Foundation. Both contracts became effective January 1, 2005, and will expire on December 31, 2014. The NPS determined that these two existing concessioners were preferred offerors for the new contracts, pursuant to the terms of 36 Code of Federal Regulations,Part 51.

"Wilderness Ventures and The TVRC Education Foundation have provided a quality outdoor educational and recreational experience to young people for decades, and both concessioners have given youth a unique opportunity to enjoy and appreciate lands within the park that are listed as recommended wilderness under the National Wilderness Preservation System," said David Vela, superintendent of Grand Teton National Park and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. "We look forward to working with these outstanding concessioners for another contract term."

The NPS Intermountain Region solicited proposals for these business opportunities through a prospectus issued August 13, 2014. Bid proposals were accepted through October 30, 2014. The proposals were evaluated and selected 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.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Time-lapse Video of Inversion at the Grand Canyon

A rare ground inversion last Thursday filled the Grand Canyon from rim to rim with a sea of clouds.

Ground inversions at Grand Canyon are a sight to behold – clouds fill the canyon with sunny, blue skies above the rims. The topography of Grand Canyon enhances the effect of inversions, creating the dramatic views of a sea of fog and clouds seemingly dense enough to walk out on.

Ground inversions occur when cold air is trapped by a layer of warm air. On clear, cold nights ground temperatures cool rapidly. Air in contact with cold surfaces cools and sinks. At Grand Canyon cold, moist air drops into the canyon forming cascading “waterfalls” of clouds pouring down the rim filling the canyon. Warm air above the rim holds the clouds in place until enough solar radiation is received to warm the surface of the rocks, heating the cold, dense clouds in the canyon and causing them to rise.

Visitors at Grand Canyon during an inversion are challenged to be patient. Waiting out the warming process is well worth the effort; when the clouds start to lift the currents of air swirl and turn on themselves parting like curtains to reveal bursts of color and light, a breathtaking spectacle.

Below is a one minute time-lapse video from the Grand Canyon National Park showing what happened last Thursday:


Usher in the New Year with "First Day Hikes" at Montana State Parks

Montana State Parks invites the public to usher in the New Year with "First Day Hikes" at Montana State Parks on New Year's Day, January 1, 2015.

Start your New Year off on the right (or left) foot with a "First Day Hike" at your local state park. Explore history, view winter wildlife, enjoy fresh air and connect with nature at this fun, family-friendly event. "First Day Hikes" are a healthy way to rejuvenate with family and friends after the long holiday rush.

These free, guided hikes are easy to moderate in difficulty and range from 1 to 3.5 miles in distance. Hikers should dress for the winter weather, wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots appropriate to the conditions, and bring water and snacks.

"First Day Hikes" is an annual, nationwide special event co-sponsored by America's State Parks. Last year, the event saw record participation with over 800 hikes and 28,000 participants across all 50 states.

First Day Hikes originated over 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Massachusetts. The program was launched to promote both healthy lifestyles throughout the year and year round recreation at state parks. Last year marked the first time all 50 state park systems have joined together to sponsor First Day Hikes.

To find a Montana State Parks' First Day Hike near you, please click here.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Monday Marks Start Of Yellowstone's Winter Season

Yellowstone National Park will open to the public for motorized oversnow travel as scheduled on Monday morning, December 15th.

Recent warm weather and limited snowfall has resulted in very little snowpack on many of the park’s interior roads. Until appreciable snowfall is received and conditions on the park’s packed, groomed roads improve:

- Visitors will be able to take commercially and non-commercially guided snowmobile trips or travel by commercial snowcoach between the park’s South Entrance and Old Faithful.

- Commercial snowcoaches with rubber tracks or large oversnow tires or other high clearance commercial wheeled vehicles will be permitted to transport visitors between West Yellowstone and Old Faithful.

- Commercial snowcoaches with rubber tracks or large oversnow tires will be permitted to offer visitor travel on road segments linking Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris, Madison, Canyon, and the northern end of Hayden Valley.

The road from the northern end of Hayden Valley through Fishing Bridge Junction to West Thumb is not currently suitable for any type of guided visitor travel. Travel through the park’s East Entrance over Sylvan Pass to Fishing Bridge is scheduled to begin Sunday, December 22.

Park staff members will continue to closely monitor conditions and weather forecasts. Additional sections of the park will open to guided snowmobile and snowcoach travel as soon as enough new snow permits.

The road from the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Mont., through Mammoth Hot Springs and on to Cooke City, Mont., outside the park’s Northeast Entrance is open to automobile travel all year.

At Old Faithful, the Geyser Grill, the Bear Den Gift Shop, and the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center open for the season on December 15th. The Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins and the Obsidian Dining Room open on Thursday, December 18th.

The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, dining room, and gift shop will open for the season on Saturday, December 20th. The Yellowstone General Store, the medical clinic, campground, post office, 24-hour gasoline pumps, and the Visitor Center at Mammoth Hot Springs are open all year.

All communities around and on the way to Yellowstone are open year-round, with local businesses offering a wide range of winter recreation opportunities. Extensive information and assistance for planning a visit to Yellowstone is available on the park website.


Friday, December 12, 2014

$20,000 Matching Challenge to Fund High Priority 2015 Glacier Projects

Last month the Glacier National Park Conservancy announced an initial grant of $450,000 to be awarded to Glacier National Park for the 2015 season. This represents an increase of $100,000 over 2013 figures.

The National Park Service submitted a request for over 50 projects to the Conservancy for funding consideration, totaling $1.7 million. The Conservancy is now endeavoring to fund as many additional projects as possible between now and the end of the year to support high priority 2015 Glacier initiatives.

To help with the effort, the Windmill Foundation has stepped forward with a $20,000 matching challenge. All new donations to the Conservancy will be matched one to one up to $20,000, now through December 31, 2014.

“This represents a significant opportunity for our community to support projects and programs that are important for our families. Trail improvements, activities for children, and wildlife research are all possible with this matching challenge,” said Glacier National Park Conservancy President Mark Preiss.

In fact, just 400 people would need to donate $50 to help the Conservancy win the $20,000 matching challenge.

Since announcing the Glacier Champions campaign in the middle of November, the Conservancy has already brought in an additional $65,000, which will be directed to high priority projects that have not yet been funded, including popular visitor programs like Native America Speaks and project supplies for upcoming trail rehabilitation.

“In an era of flat public funding, private philanthropy provides for a margin of excellence beyond just the basics,” said Glacier Superintendent Jeff Mow. “Through Glacier Conservancy investment, the park is able to accomplish projects and launch new initiatives that benefit our visitors and park natural and cultural resources that would not otherwise be possible.”

Projects that still need funding include significant trail improvements to Avalanche Lakeshore and Trail Of The Cedars on the west side of the park, and upgrades to Iceberg Lake Trail and the trail system around St. Mary Lake on the east side. Each trail receives high visitation, and rehabilitation is necessary to make hiking experiences exceptional, and to restore areas that become damaged by increased foot traffic.

Other initiatives that still require support include an ambitious Crown of the Continent Wildlife study that would stretch beyond Glacier into neighboring states and across the border to Canada. Also requested are studies on Glacier’s wolf, chipmunk, and mountain goat populations.

For a full list of projects, and to donate, please click here.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Trails Forever Funding Needs in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park has recently submitted an ambitious $1.7 million funding request to the Glacier National Park Conservancy for 2015. This includes more than 50 project proposals in areas such research, education, and preservation. The Conservancy has already awarded an initial grant of $450,000 to the park for the upcoming season.

In response to this additional funding request, the Glacier National Park Conservancy has launched a seven week Glacier Champions campaign to raise additional funds for 2015 projects that have not yet been funded.

Projects that still need funding include significant trail improvements to Avalanche Lakeshore, Trail of the Cedars, and the Iceberg Lake Trail, as well as the trail system around St. Mary Lake on the east side. Each trail receives high visitation, and rehabilitation is necessary to make hiking experiences exceptional, and to restore areas that become damaged by increased foot traffic. The following is a quick run-down on the hiking related improvement projects for 2015:

Rehabilitating The First Mile Of The Highline Trail - Work would include replacing hundreds of feet of worn cable and anchors that make up the safety line, to reworking switchbacks and widening narrow and difficult to hike areas near Rimrock. This project is currently fully funded for an estimated cost of $20,000.

Rerouting Iceberg Lake Trail - Approximately 1/8th of a mile up the trail is a steep section that is eroding into a gully. This project would build two switchbacks to decrease the trail grade and rehabilitate some trail segments by installing log checks. The new trail would be less steep, easier to maintain on a yearly basis, and elevate the hiking experience for thousands of visitors each summer. Funding needed = $12,000

Improve St. Mary Lake Trail Access - Portions of the trail to the St. Mary boat dock flood in the early summer, creating access challenges to St. Mary, Virginia, and Baring Falls. This project would repair 50 feet of trail down to St. Mary Lake, reconstructing a rock wall and elevating the trail above the high water line. The result would be a well-maintained trail to a popular location, accessible even during the high water periods in the spring. Funding needed = $6,000

Reconstruct Trail Of The Cedars - This project would reconstruct the trail surface (along the paved segment of the trail), laying down a “green” resin pavement, and would showcase sustainability and accessibility in our national parks. Funding needed = $30,000

Improve Avalanche Lake Shoreline Access - Access to the lake is currently not well defined in places, leading visitors to group in certain spots, or create their own trails to move further along the lake. This project would support walkways and other gravel surfaces along some portions of the trail, would define trail access along the lake, would replace the broken wooden walkway and handrails leading down to the lakeshore, and would rebuild benches from the head to the foot of the lake to allow hikers to spread out and find less congested spots to enjoy their visit. Funding needed = $24,000

Build A Raised Walkway To Two Medicine Pray Shelter And Boat Dock - In the early summer, the entire area at the head of Two Medicine Lake floods. This project would construct a 200 foot raised walkway to the Two Medicine Pray Shelter and Boat Dock. The raised walkway would allow visitors to travel to the boat dock and pray shelter, over the flooded area, and back to dry trail. It would also facilitate hikes to other locations up valley including Twin Falls and Dawson Pass. Funding needed = $15,000

Trail Use Study For All Trails Outside Of The Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor - The project would purchase trail counter and camera equipment to be placed in some or all of the following areas: North Fork, Many Glacier, Goat Haunt, Middle Fork, Two Medicine and Belly River. The study would analyze trail use over a two-year period, calibrating and refining data based on trail counter results. A basic equipment purchase, even without additional support to analyze the data would allow the park to immediately begin collecting some preliminary data, even if the whole project wasn’t entirely funded in 2015.

Trail use data allows the park to chart a sustainable path forward and make informed decisions about how best to direct visitors to the best places to visit, while preserving Glacier’s wild places. Funding needed = $14,000 - $64,000

For a full list of projects, and to donate, please click here.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Glacier Conservancy Announces 2015 Glacier Champions Campaign

The Glacier National Park Conservancy has announced that it will give an initial $450,000 in grant support to Glacier National Park, beginning January 1, 2015. The funds were raised through a series of community and national engagements in 2014, including One Day for Glacier and Backpacker’s Ball.

“This represents an initial grant to the park of nearly $100,000 more than last year,” said Glacier Conservancy president Mark Preiss. “Our community has stepped forward in a significant way, placing Glacier at the center of our philanthropic giving and our way of life.”

The funds will be applied to a suite of projects from Native America Speaks to rehabilitating the Highline Trail to developing an improved native plant nursery facility to welcome school children and volunteers.

The park submitted a $1.7 million funding request to the Conservancy for 2015, highlighting ambitious project proposals in research, education, and preservation.

In response to this funding request, Glacier National Park Conservancy is kicking off a seven week Glacier Champions campaign to raise additional funds for 2015 projects that have not yet been funded.

This campaign will endeavor to support initiatives like a ground breaking research project to study wildlife connectivity across the Crown of the Continent, looking at Glacier’s role within this ecosystem and how animals use wild places across Montana, neighboring states, and up into Canada. Other projects include improvements to the popular Trail of the Cedars, launching an expanded GIS Field Study program with area high schools, and next fall’s education programming.

Visitors to Glacier next summer will feel Glacier National Park Conservancy donations in nearly every aspect of their visit.

When they arrive at the entrance station, they will be given a free park newsletter, made possible solely by Conservancy donors. Whether arriving at the west entrance and heading to the newly renovated Apgar Visitor Center, a Conservancy supported project, or the east entrance at St. Mary to enjoy an updated amphitheater in the campground area, donor dollars will be hard at work making the visitor experience exceptional.

School children will arrive on Conservancy grant funded buses, and will be greeted by National Park Service education rangers and interns funded by the Conservancy. Visitors to campgrounds and picnic areas will enjoy additional food storage boxes to help keep wildlife wild, and out of eating areas. Native America Speaks will continue in 2015, its 31st year, financially supported entirely by Conservancy donors.

Behind the scenes, scientists and citizen science volunteers will be busily monitoring mountain goats, pika, and loons in order to ensure that ecosystems remain healthy for the years to come. Grizzly bears will be studied in greater detail, including advanced DNA analysis tied to movement patterns. Up in the North Fork region of the park, a new fish barrier will be constructed at Akokala Lake to preserve native bull trout and keep out invasive species. Intrepid park visitors who make the journey to Belly River Ranger Station will notice that significant improvements made to that historic structure to preserve it for future generations.

The Glacier Champions campaign will run through December 31, 2014. “We invite everyone to give,” said Preiss. “Last year, over 65% of our donors gave under $100. These are folks who don’t have thousands to donate financially, but want to express their love of the park in a way that makes sense for them.” This year, those that want to be a Glacier Champion by participating in this campaign can choose to direct their gift to the program they find most compelling. For a full list of projects, and to donate, please click here.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Winter Season Activities & Operations Get Underway in Grand Tetons

The winter season officially begins Monday, December 15 in Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway (JDR Parkway). New this winter in the JDR Parkway is the availability of overnight lodging, dining, and saloon. These services will be provided by Headwaters Lodge & Cabins at Flagg Ranch from December 18 through March 2, 2015. In addition, the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center will be closed through March 1, 2015. In the absence of a winter visitor center, park staff will be available to answer questions and provide park information by phone at 307.739.3399, Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

An alternative for winter visitor information about the greater Jackson Hole area—including Grand Teton and the JDR Parkway—is the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center on North Cache Street in Jackson, Wyoming. This interagency visitor center is open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and offers educational and interactive displays that highlight the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and its many features. Wintering elk can be observed on the nearby National Elk Refuge from a wildlife observation deck equipped with spotting scopes. Click here for more information.

Ranger-led snowshoe hikes begin Saturday, December 2 7 from Taggart Lake trailhead on the Teton Park Road, three miles north of the park's Moose HQ campus. The snowshoe tours take place at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday each week. The two-hour guided walks offer an opportunity to learn about snow science and winter ecology. Previous experience is not necessary, and snowshoes are available for a rental fee of $5 for adults and $2 for children, 8 years or older. Reservations are required and can be made at 307.739.3399.

A Single Day Pass is available to winter visitors at the Moose, Moran and Granite Canyon entrance stations. This winter-season permit allows a one-day entry into Grand Teton at a cost of $5 per vehicle. The single day pass is valid only in Grand Teton and cannot be used for entry into Yellowstone. Winter visitors may choose to purchase one of the following other options for entry:

$25 Seven-day Pass valid for single vehicle entry into Grand Teton and Yellowstone
$50 Grand Teton/Yellowstone Annual Pass valid for one year entry into both parks
$80 Interagency Annual Pass valid for one year entry to all federal land management fee areas

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are popular winter activities. Most winter trails are skier tracked, but not groomed. The Teton Park Road becomes a backcountry trail in winter and is open to non-mechanized use only. In past winters, grooming operations on the Teton Park Road have been intermittent due to budget and personnel limitations. During winter 2015, however, this winter trail will be machine groomed from Taggart Lake parking area to Signal Mountain for cross-country and skate skiing twice a week thanks to generous support from the Grand Teton National Park Foundation. Grooming will take place each Friday, and whenever weather and staffing allows on Mondays. For trail condition updates, phone 307.739.3682. Important reminder: Snowshoers should walk adjacent to the groomed ski trail, as snowshoe treads ruin the grooved track set for skier use.

Skiers and snowshoers are not restricted to established trails. However for protection of wildlife, park visitors are required to observe the following public closures during winter:

Closed December 1 to April 1—Static Peak, Prospectors Mountain and Mount Hunt (see the park's cross-country ski brochure for area descriptions).

Closed December 15 to April 1— Snake River floodplain from Moran to Menor's Ferry near Moose, Buffalo Fork River floodplain within the park, Kelly Hill and Uhl Hill.

To obtain maps and closure locations, click here.

Backcountry users and mountaineers planning to stay overnight in the park must get a camping permit before their trip. Permits are not required for day users. Winter camping permits can be obtained in person at the front desk of the park's HQ building in Moose Monday—Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. During weekends and holidays, persons wishing to get a permit must call 307.739.3301. A general permit info line (307.739.3309) will be staffed Monday—Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This line will not be staffed on weekends or holidays, and only voice messages will be accepted.

To obtain weather forecasts and backcountry avalanche hazard information, click here, or phone the avalanche hotline at 307.733.2664.

Leashed pets are allowed on the park's plowed roads and turnouts, the unplowed Moose-Wilson Road, and the Grassy Lake Road. Pets are not allowed in the backcountry, which includes all other park areas beyond the plowed roadways.The unplowed Teton Park Road (TPR) is open to visitors who wish to walk, snowshoe or ski with their leashed pet. Dogs are restricted to the TPR, and must be restrained at all times on a leash no longer than 6-feet in length. Dogs must also be leashed while in the parking areas at Taggart Lake or Signal Mountain. Please keep dogs off the groomed ski tracks as a courtesy to other trail users.

Dog sleds are not allowed on the Teton Park Road or on Grassy Lake Road in the JDR Parkway.

Snowmobilers may use the frozen surface of Jackson Lake for the purposes of ice fishing only. A Wyoming State fishing license and appropriate fishing gear must be in possession. On Jackson Lake, snowmobiles must meet National Park Service requirements for Best Available Technology (BAT). Before operating a snowmobile, review approved BAT machines here.

Snowmobiles may also use the Grassy Lake Road in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. The BAT machine requirement does not apply to snowmobile access on Grassy Lake Road between Headwaters Lodge & Cabins at Flagg Ranch and the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. For more information on snowmobiling, click here. New this year, Flagg Ranch Company will have a limited number of snowmobiles to rent for use on the Grassy Lake Road.

For complete information about winter activities in Grand Teton National Park or the JDR Parkway click here. Visitors can also obtain information on the park's website or through the information line at 307.739.3399, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Trail Work in Grand Teton: Youth Conservation Program 2014

Work on the Jenny Lake trail system wasn't the only trail project in the Grand Tetons this past summer. The Youth Conservation Program also helped out with several important trail projects as well.

During the Foundation’s ten-week Youth Conservation Program, students are challenged to work as a team, develop leadership skills, and see the results of their own conservation efforts during a summer on the trails of Grand Teton National Park. Moreover, they are offered a unique opportunity to experience firsthand what it’s like to work for a national park. Here's a video recap of the 2014 season to see crew members and staff recount their experiences:

For more information on the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, please click here.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

AT&T Supports Jenny Lake Renewal Project through Technology-Focused Grant

The Grand Teton National Park Foundation has announced that AT&T has recently awarded them with a $250,000 contribution toward Inspiring Journeys: A Campaign for Jenny Lake, a comprehensive restoration of the park’s most popular destination, in honor of the National Park Service centennial in 2016. The contribution will be used to create technological tools that will advance traditional interpretive techniques in the soon-to-be renovated plaza at South Jenny Lake. This technology will enrich the visitor experience by greatly expanding interpretive offerings.

The Foundation’s Inspiring Journeys campaign is focused on creating a cohesive, durable, and timeless complex of trails and visitor facilities at one of Grand Teton’s most visited destinations. As part of the campaign, the Foundation will expand offerings in the current visitor plaza to include a comprehensive interpretive component. Through AT&T’s support, the Foundation will design and develop a new digital guide as an integrated package of digital and wireless resources available to visitors. While the idea is in a conceptual phase now, the Foundation envisions a suite of apps and interactive digital resources such as flora/fauna guides and walking tours that make use of augmented reality.

“We’re excited by the introduction of technology to the project,” says Leslie Mattson, president of Grand Teton National Park Foundation. “This digital guide will greatly enhance the visitor experience by delivering a wealth of educational and interactive material to the people who visit Jenny Lake.” By sharing technology-focused educational content at the interpretive plaza, the park will augment traditional waysides and gain richer, more complete interpretive information, providing a well-rounded experience for everyone including those with limited time or ability.

The Foundation and the park see this project as an opportunity to use technology to advance visitor experiences and rethink traditional interpretive techniques widely used by Grand Teton and other national parks. Currently, there is very little information specific to Jenny Lake on-site beyond a few maps and details ranger share verbally. Expanding educational content will transform a visitor’s time at Jenny Lake into an informative and enjoyable one. The guide will deliver a large volume of content and interactivity that will feel modern, relevant, and appealing to a younger audience.

With one million visitors exploring the Jenny Lake area each year, the Foundation believes technology is the key to reaching greater numbers of people with quality content and providing a wide variety of mechanisms for learning. AT&T’s support is a critical piece to this puzzle and the Foundation looks forward to collaborating with the organization to make these ideas a reality.

Inspiring Journeys: A Campaign for Jenny Lake is a $16.4 million public-private collaboration that will transform Jenny Lake’s trails, bridges, key destinations, and visitor complex. The much needed upgrades will improve the experience of hikers as they explore Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point, Cascade Canyon, as well as the loop trail around Jenny Lake. Additionally, the project will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and create an inviting trail system and captivating experience for the 21st century visitor.

For more information on the project, please visit the Grand Teton National Park Foundation website.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Improvised Explosive Device Found In Redwood National and State Parks

A Redwood National and State Parks maintenance employee unknowingly collected an improvised explosive device (IED) at an illegal dump site on state park lands on the morning of Monday, December 1st, according to the NPS Morning Report.

The device was transported to the park’s Northern Operations Center, where it was quickly identified as an IED. Rangers were notified, responded and immediately evacuated employees from the facility. The entire operations center, surrounding area, and entrance road were also secured.

Rangers then coordinated with personnel from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, Humboldt County Bomb Squad, Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office, NPS Fire, Crescent City Fire and Del Norte Ambulance to aid in scene containment and ensure safety. The Humboldt County Bomb Squad employed a mobile robot to render the device safe.

Due to the remote location of the operations center, there was no direct threat to public safety and the area was reopened for normal operations by 6 p.m. Rangers are working with ATF agents and the incident is under active investigation.

This report comes just one month after an improvised explosive device was found near a trail in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Georgia. An FBI investigation continues into that incident as well.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Winter Storm Causes Damage in Glacier National Park

A winter storm with very strong winds and large amounts of snow moved across Glacier National Park late Friday night. Park crews are assessing the impacts and damage from the storm.

Park access is limited at this time due to down trees and snow fall. The Apgar Visitor Center was closed through the weekend, and the Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed at the foot of Lake McDonald.

Visitor access is very limited, and visitors are encouraged to postpone their visit to the park, specifically through the West Glacier entrance, until access can be restored, and safety concerns are addressed.

Numerous trees fell on approximately 20 structures in the park housing area near park headquarters on the west side of the park. Six residence structures sustained structural damage, and one park employee family has been displaced from their home. A government vehicle was severely damaged from tree fall as well. No injuries have been reported.

The full extent of the impacts from the winter storm are unknown at this time. Park crews are prioritizing their response as there is damage due to tree fall, inaccessible roads due to snow, blowing snow and down trees, electrical power outages, and continued winter weather conditions.

Snow accumulation on the east side of the park is believed to be approximately two feet at St. Mary, and approximately 18-20 inches at East Glacier. Snow accumulations are high and blowing snow conditions are reported in the North Fork and Many Glacier areas as well.