Thursday, December 31, 2015

GTNP Foundation Gives $2,780,000 to Grand Teton National Park in 2015

Grand Teton National Park Foundation, the primary fundraising partner for Grand Teton National Park, gifted $2,780,000 to the park in the past twelve months to fund projects and programming in Grand Teton. Through private support, the Foundation enabled an extensive list of visitor service, education, and improvement projects and assisted the park in offering high-quality interpretation, recreation, and education to visitors. The Foundation funded the work entirely through generous gifts from the organization’s national network of donors.

The projects spanned a wide range of enhancements and education that connect visitors to Grand Teton and improve resources:

· The Foundation celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Youth Conservation Program—nearly 200 students have participated on this teen trail crew.

· College interns gained park work experience through NPS Academy, a model career-prep program that began in Grand Teton and expanded across the country. 350 students and many national parks have participated to date.

· The Foundation’s Pura Vida program offered extensive outdoor learning, leadership training, and wilderness recreation to local Latino youth.

· Forty-six bear boxes were purchased for installation at various frontcountry campsites and picnic areas throughout the park.

· Construction at Jenny Lake as part of the Foundation’s Inspiring Journeys capital campaign is underway. Summer improvements focused on the trails and bridges between Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point.

· Money raised for Mormon Row funded the stabilization and repair of the T.A. Moulton Barn. In addition, a bus turnaround, improved parking, and a bathroom were added to enhance the visitor experience at this historic site.

· The Foundation contracted with a local private groomer to provide regular grooming of the Nordic ski trail between Bradley-Taggart Trailhead and Signal Mountain on Teton Park Road.

· Funding for the wildlife program supported mountain goat monitoring, wolf research, animal migration studies, black and grizzly bear conservation, wildlife habitat restoration, and native fish habitat improvements.

“It has been an incredible year for the Foundation and we are thrilled to fund work across many areas that are important to the park and to visitors,” Foundation President Leslie Mattson said. “It was exciting to witness the work at Jenny Lake this summer, and we were able to connect with many friends and partners. We are confident of good things to come in FY16, as we’ll also be celebrating the National Park Service centennial and the completion of Inspiring Journeys — our capital campaign for Jenny Lake.”

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


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Celebrate Winter Trails Day in the Flathead Valley on Jan. 9th

The Flathead Community of Resource Educators (CORE), a network of individuals and organizations working together to increase awareness and understanding about the natural, historical and cultural resources of the Flathead Region, is celebrating Winter Trails on Saturday, January 9 with several free outdoor activities.

These free activities are a great way to enjoy the outdoors in winter and discover the fitness and social benefits of snowshoeing in Northwest Montana. All activities are suitable for beginners and families. Be prepared with warm clothing and wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots.

A snowshoe walk on the Flathead National Forest, hosted by the Swan Lake Ranger District, Flathead Audubon and Foy’s to Blacktail Trails, will be held at the Blacktail Mountain cross-country ski trails near Lakeside, 10a.m. to Noon. Participants may bring snowshoes, or a limited number of children and adult shoes will be available by reservation. Please meet at the upper trailhead parking area. Reservations are not required. For more information or to reserve snowshoes, please contact the Swan Lake Ranger District at 837-7500.

Explore Lone Pine State Park on snowshoes. From 10a.m. to 5p.m., park visitors can borrow snowshoes and explore the many park trails. Adult and children’s snowshoes are available on a first-come, first-served basis. A ranger-led snowshoe walk takes place at 11am. Please contact the park at 755-2706 for more information and to reserve snowshoes for the 11am walk.

Ranger-led snowshoe hikes at Glacier National Park will take place at 10:30am and 2:00pm. Each hike will last approximately two hours and reservations are not required. Snowshoes are available for hike participants. Visitors need to purchase a park entrance pass. Please meet at the Apgar Visitor Center. Call 888-7939 for more information.

For more information about local events and Winter Trails visit,


Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Milford Track

As winter descends on the Northern Hemisphere, hiking season is just beginning to hit full stride for our neighbors to the south. Earlier this week one of our website visitors sent us a link to a video they published that documents their trek along the Milford Track in New Zealand.

Considered by many to be one of the "The Finest Walks in the World", the Milford Track traverses through the heart of New Zealand's wild fiord country. Over the course of five days trekkers will hike 34 miles through rain forests, wetlands, and over alpine passes, while spending evenings in comfortable, remote wilderness lodges.

Hope you enjoy this vicarious hike!


Friday, December 18, 2015

Glacier Implements New Backcountry Camping Reservation System

The advance reservation system for backcountry camping in Glacier National Park is being upgraded and changed for 2016. The new online application and payment system will replace the advance reservation lottery system that has been in place since 2003. The new system will offer earlier reservation submittal dates, more choices to customize itineraries, and a first-come, first-served reservation system.

The new online system is anticipated to go live on March 15th, 8 a.m. MST for groups of 1-8 campers. This is one month earlier than the previous system.

A separate application for large groups, 9-12 campers, will be available online with an anticipated March 1st start date. The park issues up to five large group reservations per year.

No applications will be accepted in January as the past system allowed. Applicants should expect a one month period of time between application submittal and notification of permit status.

The online reservation application will look similar to the old paper form, and will include links to application tutorials, park backcountry maps, and additional backcountry campground information.

All advance reservation applications and processing fees will be submitted using the Pay.Gov website. Each application will have a non-refundable $10 processing fee and each successful request will have a $30 fee. The camping fee per night has increased from $5 to $7 per night. All backcountry permit revenue is used to fund the management and staffing of the park's backcountry permit offices and program.

The new advance reservation system will be completely online and the backcountry office will no longer accept fax, mail, or in-person advanced reservation applications. Successful applicants will still be required to pick up their permit and view a backcountry orientation video before beginning their backcountry adventure.

Approximately half the backcountry campsites will still be available on a walk-in basis, up to 24 hours in advance.

Complete application instructions will be available on the park's website.


Wyoming State Park First Day Hikes partners with NPS to kickoff 100th Anniversary

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.

Eleven New Year’s Day guided hikes 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. Also, this year, First Day Hikes is a nationwide kickoff to the National Park Service’s 100 year anniversary. As part of that partnership, uniformed National Park Service staff will participate in some of the First Day Hike events.

Also this year, participants in this year’s hikes have an opportunity to win 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 15 drawing for the jacket.

This is the fifth consecutive year Wyoming is offering the First Day Hikes program. Last year, 327 people participated hiking more than 460 total miles.

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.

Glendo – Two mile hike beginning at the Dam Overlook Trail Head. Meet 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 10 a.m. Refreshments will be served in the Sage Yurt in Popo Agie Campground upon completion.

Trail End –Visitors and their leashed pets are invited to meet at the East Entrance to the Kendrick Mansion (400 Clarendon Avenue) for a brisk urban hike through Sheridan's historic Nielsen Heights neighborhood. The hike should take about an hour and will end at the Kendrick Mansion for hot beverages and light snacks.

Participants of all hikes 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.

For more information, please call the Wyoming Division of State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails at 307-777-6323.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Winter Season Activities Underway in Grand Tetons

Winter season operations have begun in Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. The winter season brings many unique opportunities for enjoyment of the park and parkway, which are open year-round, though visitors should be aware that most visitor services are closed for the season.

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are popular winter activities in both the park and parkway. Many winter trails are skier tracked, but not groomed. The Teton Park Road, Moose-Wilson Road, and Signal Mountain Summit Road become backcountry trails in winter and are open to non-mechanized use only. The Teton Park Road will be machine groomed from the Taggart Lake parking area to the Signal Mountain Lodge junction for cross-country and skate skiing approximately two times per week thanks to generous support from the Grand Teton National Park Foundation. Grooming is scheduled to take place each Tuesday and Friday through March 15, 2016, though this schedule is dependent on snow and weather conditions. For grooming updates, call the road condition information line at 307.739.3682.

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

To obtain trail maps and closure locations, click here.

Additionally, visitors to the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway are reminded that swimming or bathing in a thermal pool or stream that has waters originating entirely from a thermal spring or pool is prohibited. "Hot-potting" is permitted in any creeks or pools not solely of thermal origin such as Polecat Creek.

Ranger-led snowshoe hikes begin Saturday, December 26. The snowshoe tours begin at the Taggart Lake Trailhead at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, 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 historic wooden snowshoes are available for rent for a suggested donation of $5. 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 $10 per vehicle. The single day pass is valid only in Grand Teton and cannot be used for entry into Yellowstone. Winter visitors may also choose to purchase one of the following other options for entry:

• $30 Seven-day pass valid for single vehicle entry into Grand Teton only

• $60 Grand Teton Annual Pass valid for one year entry into Grand Teton only

• $80 Interagency Annual Pass valid for one year entry to all federal land management fee areas All park visitor centers are closed for the winter season until the Craig Thomas Discovery &Visitor Center reopens on March 4, 2016. 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 Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Another alternative for winter visitor information about the park, parkway, and greater Jackson Hole area is the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center in Jackson, Wyoming.

Backcountry users and mountaineers planning to stay overnight in the park must get a camping permit before their trip. Winter camping permits can be obtained in person at the front desk of the park headquarters building in Moose Monday through 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. The general permit information line, 307.739.3309, will be staffed Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For complete information about winter activities in the park and parkway, please click here.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Is a trek to Everest Base Camp in your future?

Is a trek to Everest Base Camp in your future? Perhaps after watching this short video you might be enticed to put this epic trip on your bucket list!

Ian Taylor, one of the newest advertisers on our Rocky Mountain, Glacier and Grand Teton hiking websites, recently sent me a link to one of his videos showing what it's like to trek to Everest Base Camp.

To date, Ian Taylor Trekking boasts a 99% success rate on this trek. That's important to know, especially when you consider that this round-trip trek takes 16 days to complete. No doubt, this trip isn't for everyone - trekkers will reach heights above 18,000 feet after ascending to the summit of Kala Pattar on day 11.

In addition to Everest Base Camp, Ian also offers guided climbs on peaks in the Mt. Everest region, as well as Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mont Blanc in France, Denali in Alaska, and Mt. Rainier in Washington, among many other trips.

For more information on this awesome trek, as well as all the other guided trips Ian offers, please click here.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Yellowstone's Winter Season Starts Today

Yellowstone National Park will open to the public for motorized oversnow travel this morning, December 15th.

Beginning at 8:00 a.m., visitors will be able to travel the park’s interior roads on commercially guided snowmobiles and snowcoaches from the North, West, and South Entrances. Visitors who have proper permits can also participate in the Non-commercially Guided Snowmobile Access Program. Travel through the park’s East Entrance over Sylvan Pass is scheduled to begin December 22nd.

The road from the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana, through Mammoth Hot Springs and on to Cooke City, Montana, outside the park’s Northeast Entrance is open to wheeled vehicle travel all year. The Geyser Grill, the Bear Den Gift Shop, and the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center open for the season on December 15. The Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins and the Obsidian Dining Room open on December 20.

The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, dining room, and gift shop will open for the season on December 18th. The Yellowstone General Store, medical clinic, campground, post office and the Albright Visitor Center at Mammoth Hot Springs are open all year, as are the 24-hour gasoline pumps at Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower Junction.

Communities surrounding Yellowstone are open year-round, and local businesses offer a wide range of winter recreation opportunities. Extensive information and assistance for planning a visit to Yellowstone during the winter can be found here.

Park staff members will continue to monitor road conditions and weather forecasts that can have an impact on roadways and guided oversnow travel operations. Weather during the winter season is extremely unpredictable in Yellowstone and road closures or delays can occur with little or no warning. Visitors should come prepared, carry personal emergency survival equipment in their vehicles, and dress appropriately for outside activities in extremely cold weather.


Discover the Joys of Winter Hiking

Many hikers tend to run from the woods as soon as the first snow flakes begin to fall. However, winter is great time to hit the trail. Not only are the crowds gone, but many parks show off their true beauty after a fresh snowfall. With just a little more attention to detail beforehand, anyone can have a safe and enjoyable hike during the winter.

Although it might feel quite frigid at the trailhead, your body will begin generating plenty of heat after just 10 or 15 minutes of walking. The best thing you can do to keep the cold out is to dress in layers: a base layer that wicks moisture off your body, a fleece jacket for insulating warmth, and a shell to keep you dry and to keep the wind from penetrating your core. Most importantly, dressing in layers allows you to adjust your attire as you heat-up or cool-off. When dressing for a winter hike, always remember the adage: cotton kills! Never wear anything made of cotton while hiking in the backcountry. Once wet, cotton no longer insulates you from the cold. Moreover, it wicks heat away from your body and puts you at risk of becoming hypothermic.

Some people are prone to cold feet in the winter. One of the keys to keeping your feet warm is to make sure they stay dry. Wear a good pair of hiking socks, made of wool blends or synthetic fabrics, that wick moisture away from your skin, retain heat when wet, and dry faster if they become wet. I always keep an extra pair in my pack in case the ones I’m wearing do get wet. (Expert Advice: How to Choose Socks) You should also wear above-the-ankle hiking boots which help to keep snow away from your feet. You may want to consider wearing gaiters, especially if there are several inches of snow on the ground.

To round-out your winter apparel, don’t forget about a good pair of gloves, a ski cap and maybe even a balaclava.

If the snow is too deep in the mountains, consider hiking at lower elevations, or even wearing snowshoes. If you expect a lot of ice, especially in areas where there might be steep drop-offs, consider bringing crampons specifically made for hiking. These are sometimes referred to as traction devices, or in-step crampons, which you can either strap-on or slide onto your boots.

Trekking poles are another excellent choice for helping to maintain your balance on sections of trail with slick ice and snow.

After outfitting yourself with the proper winter gear, hikers will then need to focus on staying hydrated and properly fueled while out on the trail. Hiking in the cold, especially in snow, burns more calories. By some estimates, hikers can burn as much as 50% more calories when compared to similar distances and terrain in the summer. By not consuming enough calories while on the trail you become prone to getting cold faster. Make sure you bring plenty of high-energy snacks with you to munch on periodically throughout your hike. Watch out for foods that can freeze solid, such as some power bars. Or, instead of storing in your backpack, put some snacks inside your fleece jacket. Your body should generate enough heat to prevent them from freezing.

Although it may sound counter-intuitive, it can actually be easier to experience dehydration in the winter, versus hiking in the summer. Dehydration can occur faster in cold weather because the air is much drier. Moreover, dehydration can be dangerous because it can accelerate hypothermia and frostbite. Make sure you bring plenty of liquids with you, and drink often while on the trail.

If you’re storing water bottles in your backpack during a very cold day, you may need to insulate them to prevent them from freezing. An old wool sock will work in this case. Also, you may want to turn the bottle upside down to prevent the water from freezing at the neck. If you plan to be out for several hours, consider bringing a thermos containing a hot drink, or even soup.

Other winter hazards hikers need to be aware of include hiking in steep terrain that’s prone to avalanches, or a storm that covers the trail with fresh snow, thus making navigation difficult. You should always carry a topographical map and a compass with you in case you ever need help finding your way back to the trailhead if you were to become lost.

Other gear to bring with you includes a first aid kit, firestarter, waterproof matches, a pocket knife, an emergency blanket and maybe even a bivy sack.

Finally, let someone know where you’re going, when you’ll be back, and who to call if they don’t hear back from you at a specified time.

With a little care and preparation up front, anyone can discover the joys of winter hiking.


Friday, December 11, 2015

Yellowstone Publishes 2014 Wolf Project Annual Report

Yellowstone National Park recently published the latest Wolf Project Annual Report for 2014 on their website.

According to the report, there were at least 104 wolves in 11 packs, including nine breeding pairs, living primarily in Yellowstone National Park during December 2014. From 2009 to 2014, wolf numbers have fluctuated between 83 and 104 wolves, and 6 to 9 breeding pairs. Pack size in 2014 averaged 9 wolves (range = 2 to 14). Forty pups survived to year-end, including 17 in northern Yellowstone and 23 in the interior of the park. An average of 4.4 pups per pack (82%) survived in the nine packs that had pups. For the first time, the size of a wolf pack was estimated via genetic sampling methodology, using scat samples from a den site.

The number of wolves in the park increased by 9 over the prior year, when 95 wolves were counted in 2013. Wolf numbers reached their highest count within the park in 2003, when roughly 175 wolves were identified.

Although wolf packs once roamed from the Arctic tundra to Mexico, loss of habitat and extermination programs led to their demise throughout most of the United States by early in the 1900s. In 1973, the US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the northern Rocky Mountain wolf as an endangered species and designated Greater Yellowstone as one of three recovery areas. From 1995 to 1997, 41 wild wolves from Canada and northwest Montana were released in Yellowstone.

According to the park website, an estimated 400–450 wolves live within the entire Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

To read the full report, please click here.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Glacier Backcountry Chalet Reservations to Change in 2016

For those of you who are wishing to stay at either the Sperry Chalet or Granite Park Chalet in Glacier National Park this upcoming summer, you may want to note that the reservation system will be changing this year. A recent posting on their blog states that the chalets will only accept reservations through their website from now on:
Longtime fans and friends of the chalets will notice some changes in how we take reservations for the 2016 season. We are working with the National Park Service to make sure the process is as fair and accessible as it can possibly be. The chalets are small and popular hotels in Glacier and there is sure to be a high demand. Here is some info that can help you out:

January 11 is the date we begin accepting 2016 reservations. The office will open at 8:00 AM mountain time zone. Any early requests will be discarded.
You may also want to note that reservations are on a first come first served basis:
First come first served will be strictly enforced. The order requests are put into our database is the order we will process them. Using the form on our website will be the fastest and easiest way to get onto that list.
For more information on this new process, I highly recommend reading the entire blog posting. Hikers may also want to note that both chalets are outstanding destinations for day hikes. Also, both chalets offers snacks and water for day hikers.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Moose-Wilson Corridor Draft Plan-EIS Public Review and Comment Period Extended Through January 30th

Grand Teton National Park Service has extended the public review and comment period for the Moose-Wilson Corridor Draft Comprehensive Management Plan / Environmental Impact Statement (Draft Plan/EIS) through January 30, 2016. The comment period, which began on October 29, was initially scheduled to end on December 29. The extension brings the total public review and comment period to 93 days.

While the NPS is working to complete the planning effort in an accelerated timeframe, the planning team determined that it was important to allow additional time at this step in the process. "We are looking for substantive and thoughtful feedback that will help us make a well informed final decision," said Superintendent David Vela. "This extension beyond the upcoming holiday season will help support these interests."

The planning team will host an informational and interactive public open house tomorrow, December 9th, from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Teton County Library in Jackson, Wyoming. Those attending will have the opportunity to learn more about the Draft Plan/EIS, ask questions about the alternatives and the analysis used to identify the preferred, and provide feedback.

While all public comments are informative, the planning team is particularly interested in feedback regarding the accuracy and adequacy of the information and analysis presented in the Draft Plan/EIS. The planning team is looking for any new information, suggestions, or ideas that will improve the analysis and ultimately strengthen the Plan/EIS. Once a Record of Decision is signed in the fall of 2016, the document will guide future management of the corridor.

Hikers could be directly impacted, depending on which plan is ultimately adopted by the park. In particular, three of the four options under consideration could impact the current location of the Death Canyon Trailhead. I spelled out those plans in a post published on 10/30/15.

The Draft Plan/EIS is available for viewing and download on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website at under the "Documents" tab. Those wishing to comment can provide their thoughts electronically by selecting "Open for Comment" on the website. Comments can also be submitted by standard mail to Grand Teton National Park, ATTN: Moose-Wilson Planning Team, PO Drawer 170, Moose, WY, 83012-0170, by hand delivery to park headquarters in Moose, or during the open house event. Public comments and the names of those making them may be released to the public at any time in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act.


National Parks Announce Free Admission on 16 Days in 2016

The National Park Service turns 100 years old in 2016 and wants everyone to celebrate! To help with the centennial celebration, all national parks will be waiving their entrance fees on 16 days in 2016. The 16 entrance fee-free days for 2016 will be:

• January 18 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
• April 16 through 24 – National Park Week
• August 25 through 28 – National Park Service Birthday (and following weekend)
• September 24 – National Public Lands Day
• November 11 – Veterans Day

To honor the National Park Service’s centennial, the National Park Foundation has joined the National Park Service to launch a public engagement campaign called Find Your Park to help all Americans discover all the things that national parks can be. Visit for a list of Centennial special events across the country and to learn how to discover, explore, recreate, be inspired, or simply have fun in national parks.

Usually, 127 of the 409 National Park Service sites charge entrance fees that range from $3 to $30. The entrance fee waiver for the fee-free days does not cover amenity or user fees for things like camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

To continue the national park adventure beyond these fee free days, the $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass allows unlimited entrance to more than 2,000 sites, including all national parks, throughout the year. There are also a variety of free or discounted passes available for senior citizens, current military members, fourth grade students, and disabled citizens.

On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the act that created the National Park Service “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for future generations.”

Today, the National Park System includes more than 84 million acres and is comprised of 409 sites with 28 different designations, including national park, national historical park, national monument, national recreation area, national battlefield, and national seashore. Collectively, these sites contain more than 18,000 miles of trails, 27,000 historic and prehistoric structures, 247 species of threatened and endangered species, and 167 million museum items.

Last year, almost 293 million people visited national parks. Those visitors spent $15.7 billion in local communities which supported 277,000 jobs and had a $29.7 billion effect on the economy.

The fee free days gives hikers the chance to visit several of the crown jewels in our national park system, including Rocky Mountain, Glacier, or Grand Teton National Park.Of course the Great Smoky Mountains, the most visited national park, never charges a fee.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Congress Passes Funding Increase For National Park Roadways

National park roadways are slated to receive an 18% increase in funding from the recently passed Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), a non-profit advocacy group, praised Congress for including the increase, which will help fund the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges, and transportation systems within America’s national parks.

“Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains and so many national parks need substantial funding to maintain and improve their roadways. This bill takes a major step forward toward repairing important roads, bridges, and transit systems to ensure visitors can enjoy national parks with their families for years to come,” said Laura Loomis, NPCA’s Deputy Vice President of Government Affairs. “Congress is heading in the right direction toward addressing the costly backlog of road projects.”

The FAST Act authorizes federal highway programs for five years and during the life of this law ramps up the annual funding guarantee to the National Park Service from $268 million to $300 million through the Federal Lands Transportation Program. Overall, the National Park Service will receive an additional $220 million over the span of the five-year bill. Under the previous law, the National Park Service received an annual funding guarantee of $240 million.

Additionally, the new legislation authorizes up to $100 million annually for the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects Program designed to address exceptionally large repair projects such as replacement of the Grand Loop Road in Yellowstone National Park.

In total, the National Park Service manages roughly 10,000 miles of roadways, which is a greater distance than a roundtrip drive between Washington, DC and Anchorage, Alaska.


Friday, December 4, 2015

State Trails Advisory Committee Meeting - Open to the Public

Montana State Parks announced yesterday that the citizen Montana State Trails Advisory Committee (STAC) will hold a meeting on Wednesday, December 9th, from 1:00-5:00 in the Fish, Wildlife & Parks Regional Office, located at 3201 Spurgin Road in Missoula.

The committee will advise staff on a number of trail issues, including FY2016 Recreational Trails Program guidelines; reauthorization of Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21); alternative funding sources for development and maintenance of trails; and miscellaneous trail-related topics. State Trails Advisory Committee members represent both motorized and non-motorized trail user groups and provide advice and assistance for the Recreational Trails Program.

The meeting is open to the public. For more information contact: Beth R. Shumate, Trails Program Manager at (406) 444-4585 or

The Montana Recreational Trails Program provides grant funding to support trail construction, trail maintenance and grooming efforts, as well as trail-related education so enthusiasts can enjoy trails throughout Montana.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Montana State Parks Celebrates the New Year with First Day Hikes Across the State

Montana State Parks will sponsor free, guided hikes in 8 state parks across the state on New Year’s Day 2016 as part of America's State Parks First Day Hikes initiative. America’s State Parks First Day Hikes offer individuals and families an opportunity to begin the New Year rejuvenating and connecting with the outdoors by taking a healthy hike on Friday, January 1, 2016 at a state park close to home. First Day Hikes offer a great way to get outside, exercise, enjoy nature and welcome the New Year with friends and family.

“Last year, we hosted a record-breaking 41,000 people who hiked 72,442 miles in our state parks across the country when we launched America’s State Parks First Day Hikes,” said Priscilla Geigis, President of the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD). “Think of it as the start of a new and healthy lifestyle, for the whole family. Whether you’re staying close to home or traveling, join us at one of America’s State Parks on New Year’s Day.”

Montana State Parks boast a variety of beautiful settings for year-round outdoor recreation, and each First Day Hike will offer an opportunity to explore the unique natural and cultural treasures close to home. Park staff and volunteers will lead the hikes, which average one to two miles or longer depending on the state park.

This year, participants can enjoy hikes at Cooney State Park, First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park, Missouri Headwaters State Park, Lone Pine State Park, Makoshika State Park, Milltown State Park, Placid Lake State Park and Travelers’ Rest State Park. For more details about First Day Hikes at a Montana State Park near you visit:

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. For more information about First Day Hikes throughout the United States, visit


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Trail Restoration Between Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point Near Completion

Below is a short video from the Grand Teton National Park Foundation that announces the near completion of the trail restoration project between Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point in Grand Teton National Park. According to the Foundation website, crews have built over 1,300 square feet of stone masonry dry-stacked walls, 628 lineal feet of single tier wall, and 224 steps along this stretch of trail that was originally built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

According to GTNPF spokesperson, Maddy Jacobson, there's still a little bit more work that has to be completed on this section of trail, however, pending winter and spring snowfall amounts, the trail should be open to hikers by late June 2016.

During the 2016 season, backcountry construction efforts will focus on restoration of the trail on the south side of Cascade Creek that leads to Hidden Falls, the Hidden Falls viewing area, as well as improvements to the west boat dock area. At this point the park is still finalizing plans with regards to closures, as well as possible ideas for alternative viewpoints. Hikers will continue to have access to the popular hike into Cascade Canyon from the west boat dock next year.

The on-going rehabilitation and construction work is part of the Jenny Lake Renewal project. The project is funded through a public-private partnership initiative with the Grand Teton National Park Foundation.


Friday, November 27, 2015


Below is a short film by a rising 20-year old professional photographer by the name of Andrew Studer. The film, called "Restless", was made with 85,000 photos shot over the course of 2 years while Studer hiked throughout the Pacific Northwest. This is from his website:
"Restless" explores the Pacific Northwest's dramatic and diverse locations through the art of timelapse. I decided to name the film what it is not only for the dynamic change a timelapse video is able to display, but also because of how it affected my lifestyle. Working on this film, I myself became 'restless.' I spent just about every weekend and often times school days backpacking, camping and exploring some of the most incredible places the Pacific Northwest has to offer. Shot in a little over two years, countless all nighters, camping trips and spontaneous trips to the mountains and an estimated 85,000 photos were put into to this film to make it what it is. I began filming just after I graduated high school and completed it shortly after deciding to leave college and devote myself to working full time as a freelance photographer/videographer. I know for a fact that working on this helped me see where my true passions lied and was key in giving me to confidence to enter full time into the freelance world.

RESTLESS from Andrew Studer on Vimeo.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Help Count Birds for Science During Audubon's Annual Christmas Bird Count

Now in its 116th year, the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count will take place from December 14 through January 5. During the count, more than 72,000 volunteers from 2,400-plus locations across the Western Hemisphere record sightings of bird species with the data collected and submitted to Audubon for research on bird populations and environmental conditions.

For more than 100 years, Audubon's Christmas Bird Count, the longest-running wildlife census, has fueled science and conservation action. Each winter, citizen scientists gather in 15-mile-wide circles, organized by a count compiler, and count every bird they see or hear. Their hard work provides valuable insights into population trends for many species that would otherwise go unnoticed and undocumented.

“New tools, including apps, smartphones and map-based technologies, are making it easier than ever for anyone to be a citizen scientist,” said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold. People who watch birds are seeing changes. By recording all those observations, they're contributing the information that's needed to make a difference. I couldn’t be prouder of the volunteers who contribute each year.”

Last year’s count shattered records. A total of 2,462 counts and 72,653 observers tallied over 68 million birds of 2,106 different species. Counts took place in all 50 states, all Canadian provinces and over 100 count circles in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands. Four counts took place in Cuba and new counts in Mexico, Nicaragua and Colombia partook for the first time.

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 when Dr. Frank Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore – which evolved into Audubon magazine – suggested an alternative to the holiday “side hunt,” in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds. 116 years of counting birds is a long time, but the program somehow brings out the best in people, and they stay involved for the long run. Remarkably the entire existence of the program can still be measured with the involvement of two ornithologists—Chapman, who retired in 1934, and Chan Robbins, who started compiling in 1934 and still compiles and participates to this day. The old guard may someday move on, but up-and-coming young birders will fill the ranks. And so the tradition continues.

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count is a citizen science project organized by the National Audubon Society. There is no fee to participate and the quarterly report, American Birds, is available online. Counts are open to birders of all skill levels and Audubon’s free Bird Guide app makes it even easier to chip in. For more information and to find a count near you visit


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Grand Teton Rangers Investigating Illegal Take of Moose

Park rangers are working in partnership with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and conducting an investigation regarding an illegal take of a moose within the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park.

Wyoming Game and Fish Wardens were contacted over the weekend by a participant of the park's elk reduction program who reported a calf moose was mistakenly shot. State game wardens seized the meat, cited the individual for taking a moose without a license, and contacted park rangers. The meat was donated to local families in need.

Park rangers are following up on the incident and conducting an investigation.

Park visitors and neighbors are encouraged to report any information that may be connected to poaching or other wildlife-related incidents happening within the park boundaries. Information may be reported to:

• Teton Interagency Dispatch Center 307-739-3301 or 911, OR

• Wyoming Game and Fish Department Poaching Hotline 1-877-WGFD-TIP (1-877-943-3847) or 1-307-777-4330 for out-of-state calls.

Park rangers and state game wardens follow up on all information received and many times the information may lead to successful prosecution of violators. Individuals submitting information can remain anonymous, and may be eligible for a reward.

Park rangers continue to intensively monitor and patrol elk reduction areas within the park to ensure compliance with rules and regulations, interpret the elk reduction program to visitors, and provide participants with information on local conditions associated with this wildlife management program. Failure to comply with the elk reduction program rules and regulations may result in a fine, confiscation of a harvested animal, forfeiture of permit, and possible denial of future participation in the program.

An information line for the 2015 elk reduction program is available at 307.739.3681. A brochure on elk ecology and a map showing locations open to these special permit hunters is available online.


Friday, November 20, 2015

National Park Service Unveils 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Designs

Designs for commemorative coins honoring the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service (NPS) were unveiled today during a ceremony at the Department of the Interior. NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis and National Park Foundation (NPF) President and Chief Executive Officer Will Shafroth joined Treasurer of the United States Rosie Rios for the unveiling.

Public Law 113-291 authorizes a three-coin program of $5 gold, $1 silver and half-dollar clad coins with designs emblematic of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

Pricing for the National Park Service Commemorative Coins will include surcharges—$35 for each gold coin, $10 for each silver coin, and $5 for each half-dollar clad coin—which are authorized to be paid to the NPF. The funds are to be used for projects that help preserve and protect resources under the stewardship of the NPS and promote public enjoyment and appreciation of these resources.

"When fully realized, the potential impact derived from the commemorative coin sales will be tremendous," said Shafroth. "The funds will improve trails, introduce more young people to the parks, and connect our citizens to the history and culture of our nation."

The gold coin obverse (heads side) features John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt with Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome in the background. Inscriptions are "LIBERTY," "2016" and "IN GOD WE TRUST." United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart designed and sculpted the obverse.

The gold coin reverse (tails side) features the NPS logo, with the inscriptions "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," "E PLURIBUS UNUM" and "$5." Everhart also designed and sculpted the reverse.

The silver coin obverse features Yellowstone National Park’s Old Faithful geyser and a bison, with the inscriptions "LIBERTY," "NATIONAL PARK SERVICE CENTENNIAL," "IN GOD WE TRUST" and "1916-2016." United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Joseph Menna designed and sculpted the obverse.

The silver coin reverse depicts a Latina Folkl√≥rico dancer and the NPS logo, representing the multi-faceted cultural experience found in America’s national parks. Inscriptions are "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," "E PLURIBUS UNUM," "$1" "HERITAGE," "CULTURE” and "PRIDE." The reverse was designed by Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) artist Chris Costello and sculpted by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Jim Licaretz.

The clad half-dollar obverse features a hiker discovering the majesty of the wilderness and a small child discovering a frog hiding in ferns, celebrating the diversity and breadth of the NPS. Inscriptions are "LIBERTY," "2016," "IN GOD WE TRUST," "1916" and "NATIONAL PARK SERVICE." The reverse was designed by AIP artist Barbara Fox and will be sculpted by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Michael Gaudioso.

The clad half-dollar reverse features the NPS logo, with the inscriptions "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," "E PLURIBUS UNUM," "HALF DOLLAR," "STEWARDSHIP" and "RECREATION." The reverse was designed by AIP artist Thomas Hipschen and sculpted by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Charles L. Vickers.

The United States Mint will announce the coins’ release date and additional pricing information prior to their release in 2016. The commemorative coin is one of many incredible ways to celebrate the 2016 centennial.

Sign up to receive information about the coin sales kick off and view the coin designs at


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Glacier's Early Days

Below is a video clip from Finley-Holiday's Centennial Edition Glacier National Park DVD. This short video of the early days of Glacier National Park combines some very cool historical photos and video clips, as well as some contemporary views of the park:

If this video has inspired you to visit Glacier next year, you should note that the best ways to see the park is to take a hike along one of the many hiking trails that meander throughout the park. Prospective visitors may also want to note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings and other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

National Parks Adventure - The Movie Trailer

Coming to a theater near you.... This is from the movie website:
As America gets ready to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service next year, National Parks Adventure takes audiences on the ultimate off-trail experience into America’s great outdoors. Immersive IMAX® 3D cinematography takes viewers soaring over red rock canyons, up craggy mountain peaks that touch the clouds and into other-worldly realms found within America’s most legendary outdoor playgrounds. Join world-famous climber Conrad Anker, adventure photographer Max Lowe, and artist Rachel Pohl as they hike, climb and adventure across America’s majestic and treasured parks in an action-packed celebration of the wild places that belong to us all.
National Parks Adventure opens February 12, 2016 in select IMAX®, IMAX 3D® and other giant-screen theaters. Looks to be a pretty awesome movie!

Want more? Here's another clip from the movie:


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Scrambling: Risk Assessment

Yesterday we published a video that discusses managing objective hazards that are found while scrambling, a backcountry skill that every hiker should understand. Today, in the final video in this week's series on scrambling, discusses risk assessment:


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Scrambling: Objective Hazards

Yesterday we published a video that demonstrated proper foot placement while scrambling, a backcountry skill that every hiker should understand. Today we post the third video in this week's series that discusses managing objective hazards that are found while scrambling. This short video was produced by out of the United Kingdom:


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Foot Placement While Scrambling

Yesterday we published an introduction to scrambling, a backcountry skill that every hiker should understand. Today we post the second video in this week's series that discusses proper foot placement while scrambling - using techniques called smearing and wedging. This short video was produced by out of the United Kingdom:


Monday, November 9, 2015

An Introduction to Scrambling

What is scrambling? According to Wikipedia,
"scrambling is a walk up steep terrain involving the use of one's hands. It is an ambiguous term that lies somewhere between hiking, hillwalking, mountaineering, and easy rock climbing." 
Though most hikers tend to stay on the trail, there are many times when a trail passes over terrain that requires some scrambling. There are other times when hikers will choose to go off-trail in order to reach a vantage point that requires a bit of scrambling. Below is a video by that provides an introduction to scrambling. Over the next couple of days I'll be publishing subsequent videos that highlight various aspects of scrambling, with the intent of building or reaffirming skills that are necessary for safe hiking.


Friday, October 30, 2015

Moose-Wilson Corridor Draft Plan Would Impact Death Canyon Trailhead

The National Park Service (NPS) has developed a vision for the future of the Moose-Wilson corridor in Grand Teton National Park. The Moose-Wilson Corridor Draft Comprehensive Management Plan/ Environmental Impact Statement (Draft Plan/EIS) is available for public review and comment for 60 days through December 29. An informational and interactive public open house will be held on December 9 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Teton County Library in Jackson, Wyoming.

The Draft Plan/EIS is comprised of four alternatives, a no-action alternative (Alternative A) and three action alternatives (Alternatives B, C, and D).The 674 page document was developed by an interdisciplinary team of NPS managers, scientists, and staff in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, State of Wyoming, Teton County, and Town of Jackson.

The planning team relied on a broad array of scientific research and public feedback to produce the document and identify the NPS preferred alternative (Alternative C). During the public scoping and preliminary alternatives stages of the planning process, the planning team received 1,007 and 2,605 individual comments, respectively. In addition to this public input, the planning team reviewed scientific studies of cultural landscapes, human-bear interactions, visitor use and experience, archaeology, road safety, and other topics to develop the Draft Plan/EIS. This background research, much of which has been publicly released over the last year, is available for review here.

The NPS preferred alternative is the alternative that the NPS has identified to best fulfill the mission of the NPS as well as the purpose and need for the plan. "We believe Alternative C provides for the greatest protection of fundamental park resources and values—from wetland ecosystems, to the heritage of our affiliated tribal communities, to grizzly bears and moose—while allowing for appropriate opportunities to enjoy and recreate in this special area," said Superintendent David Vela.

Key components of the preferred alternative include realignment of the northernmost 0.6 miles of the road, paving the unpaved portion of the road, use of timed sequencing to establish a maximum number of people in the corridor at any one time during peak use periods, establishing pullouts, relocation of the Death Canyon Trailhead, and continued shared use of the road by both motor vehicles and bicycles. The preferred alternative includes a number of actions that will improve the safety and experience of bicyclists including a reduction in the speed limit, paving the unpaved section of the road, managing traffic volumes, and improving the road surface and edge.

As a result of the relocation of the Death Canyon Trailhead the NPS preferred alternative (Alternative C) would impact hikes to Phelps Lake Overlook, the Death Canyon Patrol Cabin, as well as Static Peak Divide by adding another 0.4 one-way miles to each hike. The plan newsletter states:
The Death Canyon trailhead would be relocated to a site near White Grass Ranch, approximately 0.4 mile from its current location. A parking lot would be provided for 60 vehicles, serving both the trailhead and visitors to White Grass Ranch. The abandoned section of the trailhead access road would be converted to a trail. The remaining unpaved portion of Death Canyon Road would be improved to a single lane, gravel surface with turnouts for passing.
As mentioned, Alternative A would essentially leave everything as is. Alternative B would relocate the trailhead to the current end of pavement on the existing access road (i.e., the junction with White Grass Road). Parking would be provided for 60 vehicles. The existing 1.0-mile unpaved portion of the trailhead access road would be converted to a trail. Alternative D would reconfigure and expand trailhead parking area in its current location to accommodate 60 vehicles. The 0.4-mile segment of Death Canyon Road between the trailhead and White Grass Ranch would be improved. A new road segment between Death Canyon Road and White Grass Road would be constructed. White Grass Road would be improved to allow for one-way traffic with staggered pullouts. The remaining portion of Death Canyon Road would be removed and the area restored to natural conditions.

While all public comments are informative, the planning team is particularly interested in feedback regarding the accuracy and adequacy of the information and analysis presented in the Draft Plan/EIS. "We have identified a preferred alternative so the public knows which direction we are headed and has a robust opportunity to comment," said Superintendent David Vela. "The preferred alternative reflects current information and science, and at this point we are particularly interested in any new information, questions, or ideas that will improve the Final Plan/EIS." After the public comment period is complete, the planning team will carefully review those comments and address them as necessary. Those comments and their responses will then be incorporated into the Final Plan/EIS which will be completed by summer 2016. A Record of Decision will be signed in the fall of 2016 and the document will then guide management of the corridor for the future.

The Draft Plan/EIS, as well as an informative newsletter that summarizes the plan and its alternatives, is available for viewing and download on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website under the "Documents" tab. Those wishing to comment can provide their thoughts electronically by selecting "Open for Comment" on the website. Comments can also be submitted by standard mail to Grand Teton National Park, ATTN: Moose-Wilson Planning Team, PO Drawer 170, Moose, WY, 83012-0170, by hand delivery to park headquarters in Moose, or during the open house event. Public comments and the names of those making them may be released to the public at any time in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Citations Issued for Illegal Take of Bull Elk in Grand Tetons

Grand Teton park rangers responded to an incident over the weekend involving an illegal take of a bull elk near the Schwabacher Road, outside the designated elk reduction program areas within the park. Four citations were issued to Robert Baltensperger of Wilson, Wyoming in response to the incident. Mr. Baltensperger will be required to appear before the Federal Magistrate next month. No further details are releasable with this ongoing criminal investigation.

Park visitors and neighbors are encouraged to report any information that may be connected to poaching or other wildlife-related incidents happening within the park boundaries. Information may be reported to: Teton Interagency Dispatch Center 307-739-3301 or 911, OR Wyoming Game and Fish Department Poaching Hotline 1-877-WGFD-TIP (1-877-943-3847) or 1-307-777-4330 for out-of-state calls.

Park rangers and state game wardens follow up on all information received and many times the information may lead to successful prosecution of violators. Individuals submitting information can remain anonymous, and may be eligible for a reward.

The 2015 elk reduction program in Grand Teton National Park began October 24. Authorized through the park's enabling legislation of 1950, the program allows for the proper management and conservation of the Jackson Elk Herd.

The areas open to the program, Wyoming Game and Fish Department Elk Hunt Areas 75 and 79, are generally located on the east side of the park, and north of the Gros Ventre River. The Snake River Bottom, between Deadman's Bar access road to Ditch Creek west of US Highway 26/89/191 is closed to the program. The Antelope Flats area is closed to the program after November 30, and the entire program ends December 13.

Elk reduction program participants are reminded that they are responsible for knowing and complying with the rules and regulations that apply to the program, including the boundaries of the area they are using, and only take an animal that is within a legal zone.

The areas remain open to park visitors, and the wearing of orange or other bright colors is highly recommended during this time.

Park rangers will intensively monitor and patrol elk reduction areas to ensure compliance with rules and regulations, interpret the elk reduction program to visitors, and provide participants with information on local conditions associated with this wildlife management program.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Montana State Parks Proposes Policy for Classifying and Prioritizing Park Resources

Montana State Parks presents a proposed policy for classifying and prioritizing park resources. The proposed policy identifies the approach that State Park Staff and the Montana State Parks & Recreation Board (Park Board) will use for allocating staffing, funding, and capital development resources at sites across the system. Comments are accepted through Friday, November 20th at 5pm.

The policy is an outcome of the Montana State Parks 2015-2020 Strategic Plan, Charting a New Tomorrow, which the Park Board adopted at the end of 2014. The Strategic Plan directs staff to complete several analyses to align investment in parks with the most significant, relevant, and accessible sites while improving visitor experiences and expectations based on a range of site types and experiences.

The proposed policy presents a systematic direction to guide future funding and staffing decisions. In addition, the policy contains a proposed classification grouping of current parks that reflects the level of investment based on the significance, relevance and accessibility of the site.

“Instead of being all things to all people, the policy presents a differentiated approach that sets priorities and better aligns with the public expectation of what a state park is,” says Chas Van Genderen, Montana State Park Administrator. “The aim is to prioritize investment of available resources and make the priorities transparent to the public.”

From the viewpoint of hikers, MSP wants to:
* Lead by example on nationwide initiatives such as National Public Lands Day and First Day Hikes.

* With dedicated sources in place, the Montana State Parks & Recreation Board will establish a state grant program to supplant federal funding for use in renovation and replacement of facilities and resources in parks, recreation and trails for city, county, state, school districts, Tribal lands and others as a means of supporting communities, our tourism economy and assuring all providers have a stable, supported program.

* Operations and Recreation Program Staff will revise and update the Montana State Trails Plan by 2020 through a collaborative process with partnering agencies and user groups. Improve the availability, usability, and awareness of trails data on public lands around the state.
To view the proposed Classification and Resource Allocation Policy, click here. Additional information about the Strategic Plan and the classification process can be found online here.

To comment online, click here.

The public may also send comments by email to

Or by regular mail to Montana State Parks Classification Policy, c/o Maren Murphy, PO Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701.

Public comments will be accepted for 30 days. Comments must be submitted by Friday, November 20th at 5pm.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Waterton Lakes National Park to Open Backcountry Hut This Winter

This past June Parks Canada announced approval for the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) to operate its first facility in Waterton Lakes National Park. The Parks Canada warden cabin at Cameron Lake will be converted to an ACC backcountry hut providing overnight accommodation during the winter.

The ACC is widely respected for the consistently high quality of its system of backcountry huts and cabins throughout Canada’s mountain national parks. The Cameron Lake Cabin will provide accommodation for up to six guests in an area that is easily accessible by people of all ages on snowshoes or skis. Renovations for this project, which will protect the oldest surviving backcountry cabin in Waterton Lakes National Park, will be fully funded by the ACC.

The approved 2010 Waterton Lakes National Park Management Plan identified the Cameron Valley as a focal point of visitor use during the winter months. The plan further calls for enhanced and expanded winter recreational opportunities, and identifies the renewal of overnight backcountry accommodation as an important objective. The project was well received by the public during a consultation held earlier this year.

The cabin was renovated over the summer to accommodate up to six guests, and will operate only between December 1 and April 30 each year, starting this December. The Cameron Lake area of Waterton has some of the deepest snow pack in Alberta, receiving between 3 and 4 metres (10 to 13 feet) annually.