Thursday, March 31, 2016

1st Day of Summer - Grand Teton National Park

I realize that we're still a few weeks away from the 1st day of summer. I'm just reusing the name that Finley Holiday Films used for their outstanding short film highlighting Grand Teton National Park. The video shows what this beautiful park looks like in June as the snow melts, and the wildflowers and wildlife begin to emerge from a long winter.

With more than 200 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see Grand Teton National Park. Fortunately the park offers a wide variety of outstanding day hikes. If you do plan to visit Grand Teton this year, please note that our hiking website also offers a variety of accommodation listings and other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

6 Great Hikes in Colorado

With endless amounts of stunning mountain scenery, the State of Colorado arguably ranks as the top hiking destination in the country. Although I’m quite partial to the hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, there are many other places around the state that are on par with the national park. Here are six hikes that I think you’ll find to be quite amazing, and may want to consider for your hiking bucket list:

Ice Lakes
Ice Lakes, located just outside of Silverton in the San Juan National Forest, has the most intense cobalt blue color I’ve ever seen in nature. Combine this extraordinarily beautiful alpine lake with outstanding mountain scenery and several thousand wildflowers, and you have one of the best hikes found just about anywhere.

Blue Lakes
The Blue Lakes Trail travels to an extremely scenic glacial basin within the Mt. Sneffels Wilderness area. Although not a national park, the San Juan Mountains near Ouray could easily qualify as one, and would probably rank as one of the crown jewels within the entire national park system. You could also make a strong argument that the hike to Blue Lakes would rank high on the list of the best hikes among all of our national parks.

Black Face Mountain
Although Black Face Mountain may look fairly nondescript from the top of Lizard Head Pass just outside of Telluride, you shouldn't be deceived - the views from the summit are quite amazing. After a relatively easy climb hikers will enjoy stunning panoramic views of several 13 and 14,000-foot peaks, as well as the iconic Lizard Head.

Gilpin Lake Loop
The Gilpin Lake / Gold Creek Lake Loop in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness area near Steamboat Springs is an extremely popular hike. The trail visits waterfalls, broad glacially-carved meadows, and two scenic lakes. From the top of Gilpin Ridge you’ll enjoy absolutely stunning views of Gilpin Lake, a deep blue, alpine lake that lies below the gaze of Mt. Zirkel and Big Agnes Mountain.

Mt. Elbert
Why not just go to the top of Colorado? Not only is 14,440-foot Mt. Elbert the highest point in Colorado, it’s also the highest point between Mt. Whitney in California, Fairweather Mountain in Canada, La Malinche Mountain in Mexico, and Mont Blanc in France. From the “roof of Colorado” hikers will enjoy outstanding panoramic views. Moreover, as “fourteeners” go, the hike to the summit is relatively easy.

Quandary Peak
At 14,265 feet Quandary Peak ranks as the 13th highest mountain in Colorado, and is one of the more accessible fourteeners in the state. The trailhead is located only 8 miles south of Breckenridge, and doesn't require a 4-wheel drive vehicle to reach it. Moreover, the 6.75-mile roundtrip route has very little exposure to steep drop-offs, thus making this a great first mountain for novice peak baggers.


Saturday, March 26, 2016

On the Heels of Proposed Grizzly Delisting, Lawsuit Challenges Wildlife Management at Grand Teton National Park

Fighting a National Park Service decision to relinquish its authority to protect wildlife at Grand Teton National Park, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition filed a lawsuit earlier this week. The lawsuit stems from a decision by the National Park Service to turn over its authority to the State of Wyoming to oversee hunting on some lands within Grand Teton. The litigation also follows the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s recently released proposal to remove Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List. The ecosystem includes Grand Teton and would add these iconic animals to the many others put at risk by the Park Service’s actions. The two nonprofit groups are asking the court to require the National Park Service to reassert its authority over wildlife management everywhere within Grand Teton National Park.

“We are committed to ensuring Grand Teton National Park’s remarkable wildlife is managed consistently throughout the park and with the highest level of protection possible, which park visitors expect,” said Sharon Mader, Grand Teton Program Manager for National Parks Conservation Association. “For more than 65 years, the National Park Service rightfully and lawfully exercised authority to protect all park wildlife. It should continue to do so moving forward.“

Many inholdings, or land not owned by the Park Service, within Grand Teton National Park are near places that are enjoyed by the park’s 2.8 million annual visitors. A large number of visitors come to see the park’s wildlife. But under the Park Service’s decision, bison, moose, coyote, beaver, elk, and potentially in the future, grizzly bears that wander onto such inholdings could be shot and killed under Wyoming law. Park visitors’ experience will also be negatively impacted by the sights and sounds of such activity. Since the Park Service’s decision, a number of the park’s iconic bison have been killed by private hunters under state law within the park’s boundary.

“We find ourselves taking the National Park Service to court to force the Park Service to maintain Park Service authority over Park Service resources,” said Caroline Byrd, Executive Director for Greater Yellowstone Coalition. “After trying for months to convince them to reassert their long held authority over park inholdings, we were left with no choice but to go to court.”

The Greater Yellowstone Coalition and National Parks Conservation Association argue that the Park Service’s decision to turn wildlife management on inholdings over to the state violates federal law. The Park Service, which has the legal authority to prohibit hunting anywhere within the boundary of the park, has the responsibility under its governing statutes to exercise that authority to protect the park’s wildlife.


Friday, March 25, 2016

Annual Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex Public Meeting

The public is invited to the annual Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex (BMWC) Public Meeting on Saturday, April 2 starting at 10 AM at the Stage Stop Inn in Choteau, Montana.

“This is a great annual opportunity to meet with the National Forest Wilderness Managers and Montana Fish and Wildlife staff”, says Deb Mucklow, Spotted Bear District Ranger. “The challenges of managing wilderness are often not understood. Historically the participants at this annual meeting have helped with solutions or ideas that we as managers may be to incorporate. Specific updates will be shared from the Fire Season of 2015, the Wilderness Stewardship Performance program, and specific trail needs/projects, wilderness issues and more.” All of the participants will be encouraged to interact with the managers present and have time for one on one questions. We’ll also be asking how they value the wilderness we have today and what the expectations are for the future. In addition, updates will be provided on specific activities and projects, and ongoing monitoring across the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. The monitoring and actions are a piece of the Limits of Acceptable change for the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex (BMWC).”

The BMWC plan was developed by interested individuals, partners and agency representatives. The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex is comprised of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Great Bear Wilderness, and Scapegoat Wilderness and jointly they are an area of more than 1.5 million acres. This is the third largest wilderness complex in the lower 48 states. The complex is managed by four national forests (Flathead, Lolo, Helena, and Lewis & Clark) and five ranger districts (Spotted Bear, Hungry Horse, Seeley Lake, Lincoln, and Rocky Mountain).

Recently the Forest managers and Fish and Wildlife staff prepared the annual BMWC newsletter which is available on the Flathead National Forest Web page under Special Places. This newsletter gives background and highlights of information that may be shared at the public meeting.

For additional information, please contact the Spotted Bear Ranger District at (406) 387-3800.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hike to Charlies Bunion in the Great Smoky Mountains

Awhile back the Great Smoky Mountains Association published a video of the hike out to Charlies Bunion - arguably one of the best hikes in the national park. Charlies Bunion (the video explains the origins for this somewhat odd name) is a rock outcropping located along the Appalachian Trail that offers stunning views of the northern Smokies. For more information on this popular hike, please click here.

© GSMA 2010. All rights reserved.

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 Charlies Bunion, 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.


Friday, March 18, 2016

Volunteer Hammer Corps to Begin Preserving Historic Structures in Tetons this Summer

This summer, Grand Teton National Park will launch a new volunteer program dedicated to the preservation of cultural sites throughout the park. The Grand Teton Hammer Corps will provide an opportunity for volunteers of all ages to learn about and connect with the park's historic buildings and cultural landscapes while working to preserve them.

The park manages 695 historic resources that are listed on or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Over the last 20 years, groups of dedicated volunteers have overcome challenges such as unstable funding, inadequate equipment, and informal organization to accomplish the preservation of cultural resources throughout the park. Notable achievements of these groups include the stabilization of the iconic T.A. Moulton Barn and the Lucas Fabian Homestead.

Beginning in 2016, the Hammer Corps will become the official volunteer program for historic preservation projects. With generous support provided by the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, the program will provide a formal avenue for returning volunteers as well as new volunteers looking to get involved. Volunteers will work on historic structures under the direction of an experienced volunteer group leader and be provided with tools, materials, and instruction in order to accomplish a variety of preservation projects at historic properties such as Hunter Hereford Ranch, Mormon Row, and Bar BC Dude Ranch.

Prospective volunteers have the opportunity to participate in both short-term projects of just a day or two as well as long-term projects comprising multiple weeks. All ages and abilities are encouraged to participate and no experience is necessary. Tasks will likely include removing deteriorated roofing materials, installing plywood, laying rolled roofing, repairing daubing, and stabilizing porch supports. Park housing may be available for volunteers who commit to at least a full week of volunteer work. There will be opportunities to volunteer from June through September.

In addition to the short-term volunteer opportunities with the Hammer Corps, the park is seeking a long-term volunteer that will lead volunteer groups in their preservation efforts this summer. Information on both of these opportunities and all volunteer opportunities at Grand Teton National Park can be found at


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Biologists Document New Mule Deer Migration Route over Teton Range

Grand Teton National Park biologists have detailed a new long-distance mule deer migration route that spans two states and traverses the Teton Range. The route was the latest of four long-distance migrations that park biologists have documented since 2013 in an effort to better understand mule deer, the routes they use to access winter ranges, and conservation risks along those routes.

Park biologists captured a female mule deer near Colter Bay last fall and fitted her with a GPS radio collar. Beginning in early November, the deer made her way around the north end of Jackson Lake and then west over the Tetons to winter range along the Teton River in Idaho. Her route crossed the Snake River near Steamboat Mountain then climbed the east flank of the northern Teton Range. She passed to the north of Mount Berry at an elevation of 8,900 feet and crossed the Teton crest near "Peak 8,456" before descending the west slope of the range. The data revealed that she traveled roughly 45 miles and more than 2,000 vertical feet over 4 days to get to winter range.

Prior to the study, park biologists were aware that deer wintering in at least three different areas in eastern Idaho make long-distance migrations to the Tetons thanks to research conducted by the Idaho Fish and Game Department. However, the exact migration routes those deer use were unknown. This study provided detailed information on one of those routes, which crosses multiple jurisdictions, for the first time.

Biologists were able to glean the data for this study quickly thanks to GPS radio collars which upload data via satellite uplink. The collars have revealed important wildlife connections between the park and public and private lands outside of park boundaries.

Earlier work in this study documented mule deer migrations from Grand Teton to three other distant wintering areas. The three migration routes used to access winter ranges on the east side of the Continental Divide include one through southeastern Yellowstone National Park to the North Fork of the Shoshone River, another through high mountain passes in the Teton and Washakie Wilderness areas and across the Absaroka Divide to the South Fork of the Shoshone River, and a third along the Gros Ventre River drainage and across the continental divide to winter ranges near Dubois.

Funding for this project was provided by the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, including a leadership grant from the Knobloch Family Foundation in 2015. This ongoing study is part of a long-term migration initiative started by the park in the 1990s. Other migrations studied include those of bison, elk, pronghorn, red-tailed hawks, osprey, and rough-legged hawks. Collaborators in this work include the Wildlife Conservation Society, Craighead Beringia South, Teton Raptor Center, National Elk Refuge, and Wyoming Game and Fish Department.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Day Hike up to Hallett Peak

Back in 2014 David Socky and friends took a hike up to 12,713-foot Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. The video below shows some of the highlights from that trip - one of my favorite hikes in the park. Round trip, the hike is 10.3 miles in length, and climbs roughly 3240 feet. But as you can see from this film the spectacular views make it all worthwhile. You can find additional information on this hike by clicking here.

In addition to Hallet Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park has many other outstanding hikes that take-in the best scenery the park has to offer. 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.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Road Crews to Begin Spring Snow Removal on Teton Park Road

On Wednesday, March 16, 2016 Grand Teton National Park road crews will begin their annual spring plowing of the Teton Park Road from Taggart Lake trailhead to Signal Mountain Lodge. As plowing operations get underway, over snow access and recreation on this section of road will cease for the season. Visitors may continue to use other areas for skate-skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing until conditions are no longer favorable.

For safety reasons, visitors may not access the section of Teton Park Road between Taggart Lake trailhead and Signal Mountain Lodge beginning on March 16. Rotary snow removal equipment and plows may be working at any time, and the roadway is therefore closed to all users at all times until further notice. Park rangers will enforce the temporary closure to ensure safe conditions for plow operators and visitors. Skiers and snowshoers using areas adjacent to the roadway are cautioned to avoid the arc of snow being blown from the rotary equipment because pieces of ice and gravel can be thrown great distances.

Depending on weather, snow conditions and plowing progress, the roadway may become accessible to springtime activities such as cycling, roller skating, skateboarding, roller skiing, walking, jogging, and leashed pet-walking by late-March or early-April. This change in road status will be announced and signs posted at the road gates will be updated as appropriate. The road will open to vehicle traffic on Sunday, May 1, 2016.

Other park roads such as Moose-Wilson Road, Signal Mountain Summit Road, Antelope Flats Road, River Road, East Boundary Road, Mormon Row Road, Two Ocean Road, and Grassy Lake Road remain closed when posted or gated in the spring. The opening date of these roads varies from year to year and is dependent on weather, snow conditions, plowing progress, wildlife activity, and road conditions.

The paved multi-use pathways in the park are open whenever they are predominately free of snow and ice.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Human Remains Found Within Yellowstone National Park

On Wednesday, March 2, 2016, visitors snowshoeing within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park, near the town of West Yellowstone, came across the partial remains of an individual in the snow.

The following day park rangers and volunteers found more remains heavily scavenged by animals; however, there is no evidence that this death was the result of an animal attack. Indications at the scene suggest the individual died within the park sometime in January and there are no signs of foul play.

The National Park Service is working with the Montana Crime Lab to determine the identity of the individual.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Taking the Highline

Below is an excellent "hikelogue" from The West is Big! Travel Guides. The film highlights one of the best hikes in America. This epic starts from Logan Pass in the heart of Glacier National Park, and takes hikers along the famous Highline Trail to the Granite Park Chalet. From the Chalet the filmmakers take you up to the Continental Divide at Swiftcurrent Pass, and then down the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail and into the Many Glacier area. In all, this quintessential Glacier trip covers roughly 15 miles!

Although this might be a fairly difficult hike for most people to do in one day, hikers still have several options for enjoying this spectacular scenery. You could plan to stay overnight at the Granite Park Chalet, thus breaking the hike into two relatively easy days. However, reservations are usually needed several months in advance to stay at this popular backcountry inn. You should also note that you'll need to have two cars, or hire a shuttle to do this one-way hike.

Another option is to take the one-way, 11.8-mile hike from Logan Pass to the Loop. This option takes hikers along the Highline Trail to the Granite Park Chalet, and then travels west bound down the mountain to a spot on the Going-to-the-Sun Road known as the Loop. Hikers can take the free park shuttle back up to Logan Pass (actually, it's better to park your car at the Loop, and then take the shuttle to Logan Pass first thing in the morning). If this still seems like too many miles, you'll also have the option of hiking out to Haystack Pass. This moderate 7.2-mile out and back hike still offers hikers a lot of world-class mountain scenery.

With more than 740 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see Glacier National Park. In addition to the Highline Trail, the park offers many other outstanding hikes. If you do plan to visit Glacier 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.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Yellowstone In Winter

A visit to Yellowstone National Park during the dead of winter has been on my bucket list for a long time now. This outstanding video by one of our website visitors underscores my need to get out there sooner, rather than later:

Yellowstone In Winter - 2016 from Jerry King on Vimeo.


Friday, March 4, 2016

Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center Opens for the Season

The Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center at Moose in Grand Teton National Park will open on Friday, March 4, with operating hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The center is closed from late fall to early spring each year.

Park visitors are encouraged to explore the engaging exhibits about the people, wild communities and preservation of the park, as well as enjoy a breathtaking view of the Teton Range from the lobby. The park's 24-minute interpretive film, "Grand Teton National Park: Life on the Edge" will be available for viewing upon request.

The bookstore located in the visitor center will be open beginning Sunday, March 13. The store, managed by the Grand Teton Association, provides materials to increase public understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of the park.

The 22,000-square-foot Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center opened in 2007 as a partnership project by the National Park Service, Grand Teton National Park Foundation and Grand Teton Association. Approximately 2.75 million individuals have visited the center since it opened.


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Tauck Grant to Help Preserve Iconic Mormon Row Structures in Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park Foundation has announced a major grant provided by Tauck, a leader in premium quality guided tours and cruises, that will help preserve the historic buildings and landscapes at the park’s Mormon Row. A homesteaders’ settlement inside Grand Teton National Park dating back to 1890, Mormon Row is home to a number of structures including the iconic T.A. Moulton barn, an unofficial symbol of the park that attracts photographers from around the world.

The Tauck grant will fund a total of three different initiatives within Grand Teton. The first project is the creation of a comprehensive Historic Structures Report, which researches and details the cultural history and current physical condition of four prominent Mormon Row buildings. A Historic Structures Report is the critical first step that must be completed before any work (other than emergency stabilization measures) can be initiated. The Historic Structures Report will be the basis for all subsequent work performed on the four Mormon Row buildings included in the study, paving the way for their eventual preservation and protection.

In addition to helping care for the barns and other buildings at Mormon Row, the Tauck grant will also fund enhancements to the culturally-rich properties surrounding the structures at several homestead sites, including the T.A. Moulton barn. In particular, sections of historic irrigation canals – part of an intricate system once used by the homesteaders to divert water to their crops – will be cleared of vegetation and other obstructions, foot bridges will be restored, and the canals’ head gates will be repaired to preserve their capacity to flow with water.


The third initiative funded by the Tauck grant is the establishment and operation of The Grand Teton Hammer Corps, a formalized program that will recruit, equip and oversee the efforts of volunteers performing preservation and repair projects throughout the park. The Tauck grant will fund The Hammer Corps in both 2016 and 2017. In 2016 efforts will focus on establishing the program, hiring a seasonal, full-time program coordinator, and completing an initial round of projects. 2017 plans include the full deployment of The Hammer Corps and the completion of more ambitious projects, to perhaps include work at Mormon Row as determined by the findings of the Historic Structures Report funded by the Tauck grant.

“The landscapes and structures of Mormon Row together tell the unique story of the area’s homesteaders, and the preservation of these incredible cultural assets is critical to keeping the homesteaders’ story alive,” said Tauck CEO Dan Mahar. “At Tauck we consider ourselves storytellers, with our journeys telling the rich cultural stories of the places we visit, so helping preserve the legacy of Mormon Row has great appeal to us. We’ve been bringing generations of Tauck guests to the national parks since our very first tour in 1925. With the National Park Service marking its Centennial this year, and having just celebrated our own 90th anniversary, we’re thrilled to help ensure that the story of Mormon Row endures to inspire future generations of travelers.”

According to Leslie Mattson, President of Grand Teton National Park Foundation, the story of Mormon Row is unique to the region, where most homesteads were isolated from each other by considerable distances. “Rather than establish themselves individually, the Mormon settlers who gave the area its name decided to create a settlement that allowed them to work together cooperatively and share the benefits of a community,” said Mattson. “I think that’s a fitting metaphor for the generous support that Tauck is providing. In working cooperatively with the foundation, Tauck is doing their part as members of America’s National Parks community to protect and preserve the treasures at Mormon Row.”

The Tauck grant to Grand Teton National Park Foundation is just the latest example of the company’s support of the U.S. National Parks. Over the years Tauck has provided more than a million dollars in additional grants to various efforts protecting the parks. From 2003 through 2014, the company operated a volunteer program, first in Yellowstone and later in Grand Teton National Park, that allowed over 17,000 Tauck guests visiting the parks to participate in beautification and preservation projects there. The program was honored with preservation awards by both the White House and the U.S. Department of the Interior.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Grand Teton's Epic Loop Hike

It seems that many national parks have at least one loop hike that takes in the best of what that park has to offer in terms of scenery. Grand Teton National Park is no exception to that rule. In fact, the Paintbrush Canyon-Cascade Canyon Loop can probably be described as being "epic". At roughly 20 miles in length, it's quite a long hike to do in one day - though there are many people who still tackle it in one fell swoop. With several backcountry campsites located in both canyons, backpackers can easily hike this loop at a much more relaxing pass by taking two, or even three days, to complete it.

Below is an excellent video taken by Grand Teton rangers that highlights the stunning scenery hikers will see on this route. It takes hikers up to Holly Lake in Paintbrush Canyon, over the spectacular Paintbrush Divide, down to Lake Solitude, and then finishes off with a walk through the extremely popular Cascade Canyon. If the idea of backpacking or doing this route in one day isn't your cup of tea, fortunately you can see much of the route by doing two separate day hikes.

With more than 200 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see Grand Teton National Park. Fortunately the park offers a wide variety of outstanding day hikes. If you do plan to visit Grand Teton this year, please note that our hiking website also offers a variety of accommodation listings and other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Bears Already Emerging From Dens in Yellowstone

Grizzly bears are emerging from hibernation in the Greater Yellowstone Area, so hikers, skiers and snowshoers should stay in groups of three of more, make noise on the trail, and carry bear spray. Bear spray is a good last line of defense, if kept handy and used according to directions, when a bear is approaching within 30 to 60 feet.

The first confirmed report of grizzly bear activity in the Park was February 22. Wolf biologists observed a large grizzly bear in the Nez Perce drainage.

Bears begin looking for food soon after they emerge from their dens. They are attracted to elk and bison that have died during the winter. Carcasses are an important food source, so bears will sometimes react aggressively while feeding on them. The park implements seasonal bear management area closures to reduce encounters between bears and humans in areas where there is a high density of elk and bison carcasses. Click here for a listing of bear closures.

Yellowstone regulations require visitors to stay 100 yards from black and grizzly bears at all times. The best defense is to stay a safe distance from bears and use binoculars, a telescope or telephoto lens to get a closer look.

While firearms are allowed in the park, the discharge of a firearm by visitors is a violation of park regulations. The park’s law enforcement rangers who carry firearms on duty rely on bear spray, rather than their weapons, as the most effective means to deal with a bear encounter.

Visitors must keep food, garbage, barbecue grills and other attractants stored in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes. This helps keep bears from becoming conditioned to human foods, and helps keep park visitors and their property safe.

Visitors should report bear sightings to the nearest visitor center or ranger station as soon as possible. Updated bear safety information is available on the Yellowstone bear safety webpage and in the park newspaper available at all park entrances.