Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Top 5 Reasons to Visit Grand Teton National Park

Rising more than 7000 feet above Jackson Hole, the high peaks of Grand Teton National Park provide one of the most dramatic landscapes in the world. Although many people seem to treat it as an afterthought, only visiting the park as a side trip while visiting its more famous neighbor to the north, more time and focus should be given to this stunning landscape. Within its 310,000 acres the majestic mountains of the Teton Range are home to a wide variety of wildlife, eight peaks that top out above 12,000 feet, more than 100 alpine and backcountry lakes, and more than 200 miles of trails that provide intimate access to all of this incredibly beautiful scenery.

Cascade Canyon
The Cascade Canyon Trail is widely touted as one of the best hikes in the entire National Park System. In addition to the stunning views of 12,928-foot Mt. Owen, the trail visits Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. The route is also known for the wide variety of wildlife that is frequently seen, especially bears and moose.

Lake Views
Lying along the eastern base of the Teton Range is a series of glacially-carved lakes. Rising sharply above their western shores, the views of the rugged mountains are stunning and dramatic. From the shores of Jackson, Leigh, Jenny, Phelps, Bradley and Taggart Lakes, hikers will enjoy some of the most striking views in the park.

Although Yellowstone rightfully receives a lot of attention for its wildlife viewing opportunities, the Grand Tetons are also known for its diversity of wildlife. The rugged mountains provide habitat to a wide variety of wildlife, including black bears, grizzly bears, elk, bison, bighorn sheep, moose, pronghorn, wolves, fox, lynx, bobcats and mountain lions. There are also more than 300 species of birds, including trumpeter swans, ospreys and bald eagles. A drive along Moose-Wilson Road is a popular way of spotting mega fauna such as bears and moose. However, hikes such as Amphitheater Lake, Hermitage Point, Moose Ponds and the Emma Matilda Lake Loop are all great choices for possibly seeing wildlife in the backcountry.

The abrupt rise of the Tetons from the valley floor arguably makes them one of the most photogenic mountain ranges in the world. As a result, professional and amateur photographers alike will enjoy a multitude of photo opportunities around the park. Some of the best spots for getting that perfect shot include Mormon Row, Oxbow Bend, Schwabacher’s Landing, as well as the Snake River Overlook, which was made famous by Ansel Adams' 1942 photograph. Of course all of the backcountry locations mentioned above will also provide outstanding photo opportunities.

Snake River Float Trip
The Snake River meanders along the sage brush flats below the Teton Range, and provides park visitors with the unique opportunity of enjoying the majestic mountain scenery from a raft. Although outfitters offer trips throughout the day, I highly recommend the morning trips, as the mountains typically look their finest when bathed in the glow of early morning sunshine. Morning is also the best time to view wildlife along the river banks, including bald eagles.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Many Glacier Campground Advanced Reservations Available Next Week

Advance campground reservations for the Many Glacier Campground in Glacier National Park will be available for the upcoming 2016 summer season beginning Wednesday, February 3 at 8a.m MST. Reservations will be available for approximately half the campsites through the on-line system. Previously, all the campsites were only available by first-come, first-served availability.

The Many Glacier Campground is located on the east side of the park, near the town of Babb, Montana. There will be 41 camp sites available for advance reservations and 62 sites on a first-come, first-served basis. The fee to camp at any camping site at the Many Glacier Campground is $23, an increase from the previous fee of $20. Reservations must be made three days prior to arrival and can be made up to six months in advance. The advanced reservations will be for camping between June 15 and September 4.

Campers are encouraged to create a profile account with prior to making a reservation. Advance reservations are also available through for the Fish Creek and St. Mary Campgrounds, and half of the sites at the Apgar Group Site. Camping at other park front-country campgrounds is first-come, first served availability.

At the Many Glacier Campground there are no electric, water or sewer hook-ups at individual campsites. Shared water spigots are located throughout the campground and a dump station is located nearby. Each campsite has a picnic table, fire ring and partial shade. Flush toilets are located at convenient locations throughout the campground. A wide variety of campsites will be available for advance reservations including limited sites for larger camping units, tent-only sites and generator-free sites. Most campsites are small and will not accommodate towed units over 21 feet. A limited number of sites can accommodate towed units that are 25 –30 feet in length. Campers with a camping unit that has a slide out are encouraged to make a reservation at St. Mary or Fish Creek Campgrounds in the park.

Food storage regulations are strictly enforced for visitor and bear safety throughout the park campgrounds. When not in immediate use, all food, beverages, coolers, cooking and eating utensils, toiletries, pet food or other attractants must be kept in a closed, hard-sided vehicle or secured in bear resistant lockers located throughout the campground.

Camping in the park is limited to a total of 14 days between July 1 and Labor Day, and 30 days between Labor Day and June 30.

For more information about camping in Glacier National Park, visit or contact 406-888-7800.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

America’s National Parks Report Record Number of Visitors in 2015

More than 305 million people visited national parks in 2015, eclipsing the all-time visitation record that the National Park Service saw in the previous year. The unofficial visitation numbers for 2015 were announced by National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, as the National Park Service (NPS) is celebrating its centennial year.

"The increasing popularity of our national parks comes as we are actively reaching out to new audiences and inviting them to explore the depth and breadth of the national park system," Jarvis said. "The 409 parks we care for preserve natural, cultural and historic landscapes across 84 million acres in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories, and they tell stories that reflect the great diversity of our nation."

Record visitation tests the capacity of the park system and challenges parks to continue to provide great experiences for all visitors. Jarvis said park managers are adjusting to make sure they have sufficient staff to provide interpretive programs, answer visitor questions, respond to emergencies and to keep restrooms, campgrounds and other facilities clean.

Park visitors can plan their trips to avoid peak crowds by visiting the most popular parks in spring and fall and by visiting early in the morning or later in the day. Visitors can also take advantage of shuttles and walking trails at some parks, including the Great Smoky Mountains, Glacier, Rocky Mountain and Grand Teton national parks.

"Even with record breaking visitation, visitors can still find quiet places in the parks for those willing to seek them out," Jarvis said. "I can take you to Yosemite Valley on the Fourth of July and within five minutes get you to a place where you are all alone."

Much of the increase in national park visitation is the result of the National Park Foundation's "Find Your Park" media campaign. The campaign has sparked interest from travelers and also from communities near national parks, state tourism agencies and Congress. In late December 2015, Congress approved a nine percent funding increase for the National Park Service, which will help the agency continue to provide excellent visitor services as visitation increases.

"The increase in Congressional appropriations comes at a critical time for the National Park Service and will help us to serve the growing number of visitors,"Jarvis said. "We look forward to continuing to work with Congress as it considers additional legislation in support of the National Park Service Centennial, which would further improve the national parks by encouraging philanthropy and volunteerism, while also allowing us to improve visitor services and connect with a new generation of national park visitors."

By the Numbers: Unofficially, the NPS recorded more than 305 million visits during 2015. That is an increase of more than 12 million visits, and more than four percent, over the 2014 figure of 292.8 million visits. About 365 of 409 parks in the national park system record visitation numbers. The NPS has recorded more than 13 billion visits to parks since park managers began counting visitors in 1904, some 12 years before the NPS was created. Official statistics including the most-visited parks of the national park system and the most-visited national parks will be released in late February.


Never Underestimate the Smokies - Appalachian Trail Thru Hike 2015

Thru-hiker and videographer, Gator Miller, does an excellent job of showing what life is like as a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As the name of his video implies, "Never Underestimate the Smokies," the park can present a variety of challenges - from deep snow, fog and rain, to periods of boredom (his encounter with a deer). When the weather's good, however, the 71-mile section of the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies is quite spectacular.

With more than 800 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In addition to the Appalachian Trail, the park offers many other outstanding hikes. If you do plan to visit the Smokies this year, please note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings to help with all your vacation planning.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Stunning Beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park

58NationalParks does an excellent job of showing why Rocky Mountain National Park is such a special place in this excellent visual overview of the park. From wooded forests to alpine tundra, the majestic mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park are home to some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth. This short video also shows why you might want to put this park on your bucket list:

With more than 350 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, and a wide variety of outstanding hikes, Rocky Mountain National Park is definitely a hikers paradise. If you do plan to visit Rocky Mountain this year, please 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.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Presidential Quotes: America's leaders reflect on America's best idea

To help celebrate its centennial this year, the National Park Service has published a short video that contains several famous quotes from American Presidents about our national parks:

So, will you be taking part in any of the celebrations this year? Which park(s) will you be visiting this year:

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Grand Teton Records Highest Visitation Counts in 37 Years

According to data collected by the National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics website, Grand Teton National Park recorded the highest number of visitors in the last 37 years in 2015. During this past year 3,149,920 people visited the park, compared to 2,791,393 in 2014, an increase of 12.8%. Although the highest in the last 37 years, this past years' figure is still well below the record that was set in 1970, when 3,352,500 people visited the park.

With the National Park Service celebrating its centennial this year, I wouldn't be surprised to see even more park visitors in 2016.

Below is a graphical look at visitation counts since Grand Teton became a national park. Curiously, the park experienced a massive slump in the 1980s - unlike any of the other parks I track. If anyone has any insight as to why, or what happened during that time period, please feel free to leave a comment.

If you plan to visit the Grand Tetons this upcoming year, be sure to check out our new hiking website to help plan all your hiking adventures, as well as your accommodations and other things to do during your visit.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Glacier National Park Sets Record High Visitation in 2015

According to data collected by the National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics website, Glacier National Park has set another new record high for total visitation. The park set a record for highest annual visitation counts in 2014 when 2,338,528 visitors were recorded. However, that figure was broken last year when the park recorded 2,366,056 visits in 2015, a 1.2% increase over the prior year.

With the National Park Service celebrating its centennial this year, my guess is that Glacier will see even more park visitors in 2016.

Here's a graphical look at visitation counts since Glacier became a national park in 1911:

If you plan to visit Glacier this upcoming year, please 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.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Yellowstone Visitation Tops 4 Million for the First Time

In 2015, there were 4,097,710 “visits” to Yellowstone National Park, up 16.6% from 2014, making it the highest visitation year on record. The number of “visits” is always greater than the actual number of individuals who came to the park because people may enter and leave the park repeatedly during a stay in the area.

42.5% of the total visitation came into Yellowstone through the park’s West Entrance in 2015, which also saw the greatest percentage increase in visits among the park’s five entrance gates, up more than 21.2% from 2014 levels.

The National Park Service’s “Find Your Park” public awareness campaign, marketing and tourism promotions by the states of Montana and Wyoming, and lower gas prices contributed to the record number of visits.

The increase in visitation to Yellowstone this year brought an increase in demands on park staff, facilities and resources. Long lines to enter the park, traffic jams, and the resultant frustration of visitors and staff undoubtedly affected the visitor experience.

“Last year’s visitation tested the capacity of Yellowstone National Park,” said Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk. “We are looking at ways to reprioritize in order to protect resources, to provide additional ranger programs, and to keep facilities clean.”

Congress just provided an increase in funding for national parks in 2016, and that is going to help meet some needs related to increased visitation. Congress is also considering separate Centennial legislation which could provide additional temporary increases and permanent authorities that will encourage philanthropy, volunteerism, and allow us to directly improve services.

“We will be asking park visitors to pack their patience for the upcoming summer season, as we expect more record breaking numbers in 2016, the National Park Service Centennial year,” said Superintendent Wenk.


Friday, January 8, 2016

Montana State Parks Breaks Record Visitation in 2015

Montana State Parks has announced that 2015 annual visitation was over 2.48 million visits; setting a record for the third straight year.

According to the 2015 Annual Visitation Report, statewide visitation for Montana State Parks was up 11% from 2014 and up 34% over the last 10 years. A new trend in 2015 was increased visitation during the spring and fall shoulder seasons (February – April, October – November).

“We’re encouraged to see our State Park visitation continue to set record numbers in 2015,” said Chas Van Genderen, Administrator for Montana State Parks. “Increased park visitation is positive news for Montana’s families, communities and local economies as well. Montana’s residents and out-of-state visitors understand the value that our park system brings to our great state. Montana State Parks continues to be Montana’s leader in outdoor recreation and has been providing affordable and safe access for families to camp, hike, fish, and learn about Montana’s heritage for over 75 years”

Montana resident visitation remained strong in 2015 with over 1.9 million visits. Non-resident visits rose slightly to 21%; up from 15% in 2011.

Once again, the North Central Region (Great Falls area) had the highest annual visitation in the state with over 727,800 visits. Giant Springs State Park drew the highest visitation of all state parks with over 419,000 visits as well as the highest annual visitation for a single park in the last 10 years.

To view the complete report visit: 2015 Annual Visitation Report.

The top 5 Montana Parks for annual visitation are:

1- Giant Springs State Park, Great Falls - 419,800 visits (up 33%)
2- Flathead Lake State Park, Flathead Lake - 281,000 visits (up 4%)
3- Cooney State Park, Roberts - 184,790 visits (up 15%)
4- Lake Elmo State Park, Billings - 172,200 visits (up 5%)
5- Spring Meadow Lake State Park, Helena - 172,000 visits (up 21%)


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Grand Teton National Park From Above

In this short video, worldfromaboveHD presents Grand Teton National Park from Above: Unmissable Top Sights. The video montage shows stunning clips of the dramatic Teton Range from the air. As we wait for warmer weather to come back to the northern latitudes, this kind of makes one wish they were there right now....

With more than 200 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see Grand Teton National Park. The park offers a wide variety of outstanding hikes. If you do plan to visit Grand Teton this year, please 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.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Grand Teton Releases Historic Properties Management Plan for Public Review and Comment

The public is invited to review and comment on the Historic Properties Management Plan /Environmental Assessment (HPMP/EA) that evaluates present conditions and future uses for the 44 historic properties located within Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. The HPMP/EA public comment period runs from January 5, 2016 through February 17, 2016. The public is also invited to meet with park staff regarding the plan at an open house on January 19, 2016, at St. John's Episcopal Church Hansen Hall, 168 North Glenwood Street in Jackson, WY, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.

The park and parkway contain 695 cultural resources listed, or eligible for listing, in the National Register of Historic Places. Individual resources may be historic sites, buildings, structures, or objects. As these resources are found in 44 discrete locations they are referred to in the plan as "historic properties." The purpose of the HPMP/EA is to define management direction for these historic properties. Its proposals would improve cultural resource preservation; initiate appropriate uses that support park operations; protect human health and safety; improve visitor enjoyment and access;and emphasize proactive rather than reactive stewardship.

The HPMP/EA evaluates three alternatives: a no-action and two action alternatives. The no-action alternative describes existing management. The action alternatives focus on the future of 11 properties that are currently unused or underused. Properties currently in use—such as the lodges at Jenny Lake and Jackson Lake and the cabins at Highlands and Lupine Meadows—were reassessed and will continue to be used as they are today. Modifications to previously approved plans for Mormon Row and White Grass Dude Ranch are also presented.

Alternative B (the NPS preferred alternative) proposes to focus funding on rehabilitating up to four properties for adaptive reuse, while improving care for most of the other properties. The properties for adaptive reuse are 4 Lazy F Dude Ranch, the former Snake River Land Company Office, the historic park headquarters at Beaver Creek, and Mormon Row. Alternative B also recommends removal of three properties that have low cultural significance, poor access in terms of proximity to a park operations base or visitor services area, and limited potential for use. Those properties are Aspen Ridge Ranch, the McCollister Residence, and Sky Ranch.

Alternative C would continue to care for most properties as well or better than they are now but, in order to retain all historic properties, the park would spread its future preservation efforts more thinly across the underused properties.

The HPMP/EA can be found at Comments can be made on the website, hand delivered to park headquarters in Moose, Wyoming, or mailed to: HPMP Planning Team, Grand Teton National Park, PO Box 170, Moose, WY 83012. Anyone choosing to submit a comment is advised that their name, hometown, and the content of their comments could be made public at any time in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Guided Snowshoe Walks Offered Again in Glacier National Park

Beginning this weekend, Glacier National Park will once again be hosting Winter Snowshoe Walks every Saturday and Sunday this winter, at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., through March 20th.

The public is invited to join the two-hour, ranger-led snowshoe excursions of the winter environment. The program is free. Participants are encouraged to bring snowshoes or they are available to rent for a nominal fee at the Apgar Visitor Center. It's recommended that participants wear sturdy winter boots and dress in layers for a variety of winter conditions, and bring water and snacks. The snowshoe walks are suitable for all ages and abilities.

The walks begin and conclude at the Apgar Visitor Center. There is no group size limit and no reservations are taken. In the event of severe weather or insufficient snow, individuals should contact the visitor center at 406-888-7939 on respective weekend days, between 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to confirm that day's outings. Please contact the park headquarters at 406-888-7800 for general information regarding the walks, or visit

Park entrance fees are required. The park's winter entrance fee is $20 for vehicles and $10 for single entrants (hiker /bicyclist /motorcyclist) for a seven-day pass.

If planning to visit Glacier this winter, please 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.


Friday, January 1, 2016

The National Park Service Celebrates 100 Years

As America ring's in the new year today, 2016 marks a major milestone in the history of this country. Almost 100 years ago the National Park Service was created. On August 25, 1916, Congress passed the National Park Service Organic Act, which established the NPS to "promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations .... which purpose is 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 the enjoyment of future generations."

National Park Centennial celebrations will be held throughout the year, beginning with today's Tournament of Roses Parade. The theme for today's parade is “Find Your Adventure”.

The Centennial, however, isn't just about celebrating history. The National Park Foundation notes on their website that:
The Centennial will celebrate the achievements of the past 100 years, but it is really about the future. It’s about kicking off a second century of stewardship for America’s national parks and for communities across the nation.
Below is a video trailer from Finley-Holiday Films' Centennial Edition of "America's National Parks". Maybe this will inspire you to begin plans for a trip to a national park this year:

So, which park(s) will you be visiting this year: