Monday, April 12, 2021

COVID-19 Pandemic Causes Impacts and Opportunities for U.S. National Parks

National Park Service staff studying effects of the Coronavirus pandemic found wide variations in park visitation, fewer park programs, gaps in long-term monitoring of natural and cultural resources, and lost park-related employment across the U.S. in 2020.

“One of the greatest impacts of the pandemic for national parks is all of the lost opportunities for education and employment that national parks and partner organizations provide for people starting their careers,” said Abe Miller-Rushing, science coordinator at Acadia National Park and the lead author of a study recently published in the journal Biological Conservation.

Findings in the paper show that in the early stages of the pandemic in April 2020, visitation to U.S. national parks declined by about 87 percent. In some parks visitation rebounded quickly as the summer progressed, while in others it remained low. For example, Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska got less than 10 percent of its normal visitation in 2020.

Other parks, particularly those near urban areas, experienced increased numbers of visitors as people sought safe areas for recreation and exercise. At Indiana Dunes National Park, an additional 150,000 people visited in 2020 compared to the previous year. Park officials attributed at least part of the increase to beach closures in other public spaces.

Miller-Rushing said researchers are still evaluating how these changes in visitation and traffic affected wildlife, cultural resources, and environmental conditions like air quality and noise pollution. Many long-term research projects and management actions at national parks were delayed or cancelled due to COVID 19, which complicates the challenge of collecting adequate data for analysis. Limited staffing forced some parks to prioritize resource protection activities, such as at Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia, where only six of 33 active studies continued. Because they were unable to carry out fieldwork, many NPS scientific staff shifted to analyzing past data or relied on gathering data by automated monitoring equipment.

Parks and partner organizations hired fewer seasonal employees and cancelled many internship programs, creating hardships for those who rely on these opportunities to gain experience and skills. The authors estimated that these changes affected the careers of 47,946 youth volunteers, interns, and conservation corps members. “These lost opportunities will have cascading impacts on students and early career researchers, managers, and educators during the coming years,” Miller-Rushing said.

At the same time, other opportunities for education increased. Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Montana, and many other parks and partners, offered more online programs and content. Visits to these online education resources spiked when schools shifted to remote learning in the spring of 2020.

For more information, the pre-print of the paper can be found at:


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Friday, April 9, 2021

2021 Yellowstone road construction projects to improve visitor safety, access and experience; Tower-Roosevelt to Canyon Junction road closure

Three major road construction projects will occur in Yellowstone National Park in 2021. One project will have a complete closure between Tower-Roosevelt and Canyon Junction, while two projects will cause delays and/or traffic pattern changes (Old Faithful Overpass Bridge and North Entrance).

Tower-Roosevelt to Canyon Junction (Dunraven Pass)

* The road between Tower-Roosevelt and Canyon Junction will be completely closed for the 2021 season.

* There will be no access to the Mount Washburn trails. Yellowstone has 1,100 miles of hiking trails. In lieu of Mount Washburn, consider hiking Bunsen Peak near Mammoth Hot Springs, Purple Mountain north of Madison Junction or Avalanche Peak along the East Entrance Road.

* This is the second year of the project that will widen the road and provide additional/improved pullouts, create a larger, safer parking area at Tower Fall General Store and improve the Tower Fall’s trail and overlook.

* The project’s anticipated completion date is May 2022.

Old Faithful Overpass Bridge

* Expect delays up to 15 minutes to accommodate one-lane travel over the overpass bridge.

* Travelers will be able to access Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin, lodges, stores, clinic and gas station.

* The project will include several repairs to the bridge and approaches.

* The project’s anticipated completion date is fall 2021.

North Entrance

* Expect construction and traffic pattern changes around the North Entrance.

* The entrance station will be open.

* The project will improve infrastructure, safety for pedestrians and traffic flow for vehicles. It will also reduce lines at the entrance.

* The project’s anticipated completion date is fall 2021.

Drive slowly through road construction and be alert to workers, heavy equipment, wildlife and other hazards.

Visit park roads for the status of Yellowstone roads. Receive Yellowstone road alerts on your mobile phone by texting “82190” to 888-777 (an automatic text reply will confirm receipt and provide instructions). In addition, call 307-344-2117 for recorded information.

Select roads and services in Yellowstone National Park will open for the season, weather permitting, on April 16.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Park implements changes on Teton Park Road in response to expected busy spring

Enjoying the park and getting outside via non-motorized travel on the Teton Park Road between the Taggart Lake Trailhead and Signal Mountain Lodge is an incredible spring experience for many. Park visitors are reminded to recreate responsibly, especially during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, as they enjoy the outdoor opportunity.

The 14-mile section of the Teton Park Road is currently open to non-motorized travel through Friday, April 30, including walking, bicycling and rollerblading. The road will open to public motor vehicle traffic on Saturday, May 1.

Recent recreational use on the Teton Park Road has been very busy. Park staff anticipated a busy spring season on the road and implemented several changes. These changes include increased parking access between the Taggart Lake Trailhead and Cottonwood Picnic Area during peak use, a staffed mobile information trailer, and additional portable restrooms. There will also be increased signage to encourage speed reduction for everyone’s safety.

The mobile information trailer and National Park Service volunteers providing visitor information are supported through generous donations from the Grand Teton National Park Foundation.

Recreationalists on the Teton Park Road should use caution, as there may be snow and ice on some sections of the road creating slick conditions and be alert for park vehicles that periodically travel the road for administrative purpose. Road crews may be clearing auxiliary roads and wayside areas, and visitors are cautioned to stay away from rotary plows and other heavy equipment.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Glacier National Park Announces Going-to-the-Sun Road Temporary Ticketed Entry System

Glacier National Park announced yesterday the decision to implement a Going-to-the-Sun Road temporary ticketed entry system for the 2021 season. Going-to-the-Sun entry reservation tickets will be available at starting April 29, barring any unforeseen delays.

The system will require visitors to set up an account on and obtain a vehicle entry reservation ticket at ($2 nonrefundable fee) to enter the 50 mile long Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTSR) corridor at the West Glacier and St. Mary entrances between 6 AM and 5 PM from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.

Entry reservation tickets will not be required for those with lodging, camping, transportation, or commercial activity within the GTSR corridor. Landowners with property within the GTSR corridor and affiliated tribal members are also not required to have a GTSR entry reservation ticket.

Glacier National Park saw record numbers of visitors in the last few years. This season is predicted to be one of the busiest on record.

“We have the making of a perfect storm this season,” said Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “Not only do we have ongoing COVID-19 mitigations and reduced staffing, but we are also facing construction delays inside and around the park.”

In 2020, park officials implemented temporary closures 29 times in 25 days at the park’s West Entrance which at times resulted in backups along Highway 2. The ticketed entry system offers visitors increased certainty that they will be able to enter the park while reducing or eliminating the need for closures at the park’s west entrance.

“The goal is to maximize access while avoiding congestion that results in temporary closures of park entrance gates,” says Mow.

Numbers will be tracked each day and additional entry reservation tickets will be available if there is additional capacity. There will be fewer entry reservation tickets available prior to the full opening of GTSR. When the road opens, the number of entry reservation tickets available will increase. The date for GTSR opening is unknown at this time and subject to weather and plowing progress. The park plans to start plowing GTSR on April 5.

About two-thirds of the entry reservation tickets will be released for 60 days advance purchase on a rolling window, and the remaining entry reservation tickets will be released for 48 hours advance purchase, also on a rolling window. For example, on June 2 a visitor could purchase entry reservation tickets 48 hours in advance for entry on June 4. They could also purchase an entry reservation ticket 60 days in advance for entry on August 2.

Additional information:

* The entrance fee for Glacier National Park is $35.00 per vehicle ($30 for motorcycles) and is good for seven days. The nonrefundable $2.00 GTSR entry reservation ticket is in addition to the entrance fee and is also valid for 7 days. Both are required to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road. If you hold a valid Interagency Annual/Lifetime Pass or a Glacier National Park Annual Pass, you will only have to purchase the $2.00 nonrefundable GTSR entry reservation ticket.

* Visitors only need one entry reservation ticket per vehicle which will be valid for 7 days.

* Visitors who purchase a GTSR entry reservation ticket will receive an e-mail confirmation from with an attached entry reservation ticket. Print out a copy of your entry reservation ticket or download on your mobile device or on the mobile app prior to arriving at the park. All reservations are non-transferable and considered void if the reservation holder is not in the vehicle upon entering. A photo ID will be required by the reservation holder. If a visitor claims to have a valid Interagency Annual/Lifetime Pass or a Glacier National Park Annual Pass when making the reservation, the pass must also be shown at time of entry.

* GTSR entry reservation tickets are not required for any other portions of the park (for example Many Glacier, Two Medicine, North Fork, Cut Bank, Chief Mountain Highway), but visitors are still subject to the per vehicle entrance fee.

* Vehicles that arrive with reservations within the GTSR corridor such as at a campground, Lake McDonald Lodge, or a chalet do not need a GTSR entry reservation ticket for the dates listed on the reservation, but are subject to the per vehicle entrance fee Visitors who have reservations for commercial services such as a horseback ride, boat ride or guided hike or other permitted special use and commercial use also do not need a GTSR entry reservation ticket but are subject to the per vehicle entrance fee. Visitors must provide a copy of their reservation, along with a photo ID, as proof at the time of entry.

* If a visitor arrives at the West Glacier or St. Mary entrance without a GTSR entry reservation ticket, they will be turned away but can go online at to see if an entry reservation ticket is available for that day. This may be possible if entry reservation tickets are not sold out.

* GTSR entry reservation tickets will not be sold at the park, and are only available online at Visitors will still be able to pay per vehicle entrance fees at the park.

* A GTSR entry reservation ticket does not guarantee a parking space. Parking will continue to be in demand at popular locations such as Avalanche, Logan Pass and St. Mary Falls areas.

If you're planning 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 trip planning.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Sunday, March 28, 2021

A Statistical Analysis on Fatalities While Climbing Longs Peak

In 2014 Outside Magazine ranked the Keyhole Route on Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park as one of the 20 most dangerous hikes in the world. The article cited the peak's narrow ledges and its exposure to steep cliffs as some of the primary reasons as to why so many people have died while trying to reach its summit. Being located in a very popular national park, as well as being in close proximity to several major population centers, it's also one of the most popular fourteeners in Colorado. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 hikers and climbers reach the summit each year (compared to just 260 in 1915, or 623 in 1916). Although the standard route isn't a technical climb, as Outside points out, it's still relatively easy for inexperienced climbers to get in over their heads. All of this is a recipe for disaster, as many people have fatally discovered.

To put a finer point on this risk, park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson was quoted in the National Parks Traveler in 2018, where she stated that; "We are one of the busiest search-and-rescue operations parks in the National Park Service. Last year we were the third busiest. Approximately 20 percent of our overall SAR incidents this year have occurred in the Longs Peak/Mount Meeker areas."

Roughly eight years ago I published a blog that reviewed some basic statistics on the people who have died while climbing Longs Peak. That post was based on a list of all deaths on the mountain published in the Summer 2011 edition of Trail & Timberline, a quarterly publication from the Colorado Mountain Club. Since the publication of that article, and my blog post, the peak has claimed several more lives. In this blog post I wanted to provide an updated review of the general statistics, offer a few observations into recent trends, and see if there's anything prospective climbers can learn from them.

Between 1915, the year Rocky Mountain was established as a national park, and 2021, a total of 387 park visitors have died as a result of accidents, car crashes, heart attacks and various other reasons. Included within those statistics are 71 fatalities associated with climbing Longs Peak. The following are a few observations from the data collected by the national park:

* Among the 71 fatalities recorded on Longs Peak between 1915 and 2021, only 4 were women. This may have a lot to do with the ratio of men versus women climbing the mountain, but could also suggest that women take less risks or are much more careful. Unfortunately there's not enough data to make any solid conclusions regarding this. Interestingly, the first person to die on the mountain was a woman. After successfully reaching the summit on September 23, 1884, Carrie J. Welton died of exhaustion and hypothermia while descending the Keyhole Route. Ms. Welton also has the distinction of being the first known person to die within the boundaries of the future national park. No woman has died on the mountain since 1972.

* The average age for those that have died while climbing the mountain is 32.4 years of age. The oldest person to die was 75 when he slipped on ice along the Narrows section of the Keyhole Route. Throughout the lifespan of the park there have been two 16-year-olds that have perished on the peak; one in 1932, and the other in 1980. A total of 10 victims were teenagers, which represents roughly 14% of all deaths. Just over 59% of all victims were under the age of 30.

* Interestingly, however, during the eleven years between 1999 and 2009, the average age among the 11 climbers that died during that time period unexplainably jumped to 47. Since then, the average age among the 14 victims that have died since 2009 has reverted back to 33.0 years of age, which is roughly equal to the long-term average.

* During the second decade of the 21st Century the mountain claimed 13 lives, tying it with 1970s for two most deadliest decades on record.

* Just over 70% of all deaths were the result of a fall - most of them un-roped.

* The technical East Face route has witnessed 15 deaths over the lifespan of the park. The popular Keyhole Route, however, has reported the most fatalities during that same time period. Twenty people have lost their lives while climbing above the Keyhole. Nine of those deaths have occurred since 2009. Additionally, three other people have died at or near the Keyhole, while another died of hypothermia at the Boulder Field. An additional 4 other people have died while hiking on the Longs Peak Trail (below the Boulder Field) - all were heart attack victims.

* Both the Homestretch and the Ledges on the Keyhole Route have witnessed the most fatalities of any one location on the mountain. Both have recorded 6 deaths since 1915.

* 20 people have died on the mountain for reasons other than falls, including 8 from hypothermia, 6 from heart attacks, 3 by lightning, and 3 from exhaustion and exposure. Two people have died as a result of suicide, including one person who ingested anti-freeze at the Narrows in 1979. The young man was reported to be depressed over inadequate scores on his medical school entrance exams.

* As you might expect, the vast majority of deaths have occurred during the summer climbing months. 21 deaths, or nearly 30% of all deaths were recorded in the month of August. Nearly 65% of all fatalities occurred during the summer months of July, August and September. Surpringly, the month of January has seen the same number of deaths as June - 6 in each of those months.

* Perhaps the most famous person to perish on the mountain was Agnes Vaille. On January 25, 1925, Ms. Vaille became the first woman to climb Longs Peak in the winter. While making her descent along the Keyhole Route, Vaille slipped and fell about 150 feet. Spent with fatigue, Vaille insisted she needed a short nap, but froze to death before her hiking partner could bring back help. Today, just below the Keyhole, is the Agnes Vaille Shelter. Built as a memorial to Ms. Vaille, the rock shelter also serves as a refuge for hikers and climbers in need.

* One other notable death occurred in 1889 - prior to the park's establishment. Frank Stryker was descending along the Homestretch on the Keyhole Route (according to Death, Daring & Disaster he was still ascending) when a loaded pistol fell out of his pocket and discharged into his neck. You could say there was a bit of karma involved. The 28-year-old was taking pleasure in launching large boulders down the mountain. The newspaper account at the time said "he announced his intentions of sending off a particularly huge stone" just before the accident occurred. The man continued to cling to life for ten more hours while his companions attempted to transport him down the mountain on a makeshift litter.

If you're considering a hike to the Keyhole or Chasm Lake, or even a climb to the summit of Longs Peak, it's always a good idea to know your limits and to respect the mountain. The park website warns that the Keyhole Route "is not a 'walk in the park.' This is much more than a hike. This is a climb, a classic mountaineering route that should not be underestimated."

* For more information on hiking to the Keyhole, please click here.

* For more information on hiking to Chasm Lake, please click here.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Friday, March 26, 2021

Teton Park Road open to non-motorized recreation Saturday

The Teton Park Road between the Taggart Lake Trailhead and Signal Mountain Lodge is cleared of snow and open to non-motorized recreational uses such as walking, bicycling, and rollerblading beginning Saturday, March 27.

Please use caution, as snow and ice may persist on some sections of the roadway creating slick conditions. Recreationists should also be alert for park vehicles that periodically travel this roadway for administrative purposes as spring opening operations continue. Road crews may be clearing auxiliary roads and wayside areas, and visitors are cautioned to keep a safe distance from rotary plows and other heavy equipment.

Restrooms are located at the Taggart Trailhead, Cottonwood Picnic Area and Signal Mountain Lodge. Dogs are permitted on the Teton Park Road. Dog owners are required to use a leash no longer than six feet in length and are required to clean up after their dogs. Waste disposal bag stations are located at each end of the road.

This 14-mile section of the Teton Park Road will open to public motor vehicle traffic on Saturday, May 1, 2021.

The Moose-Wilson Road, Antelope Flats Road and Signal Mountain Summit Road remain closed to vehicle use. All park visitors should respect road closures and look for signs posted near the road regarding any recreational use or access. For information on park roads call 307.739.3682 or visit

The paved multi-use pathways in the park are open whenever they are predominately free of snow and ice. Use of the pathway in the park is prohibited from ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise. Pets are not permitted on the pathway.

The Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose will open Saturday, May 1. It will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Glacier National Park and Killarney National Park in Ireland Sign Sister Park Agreement

An agreement signed yesterday in a virtual ceremony establishes Glacier National Park in Montana, USA, and Killarney National Park in County Kerry, Ireland, as “sister parks”. The arrangement furthers international cooperation between the two countries and facilitates collaboration related to the management of these cherished, protected places.

Killarney National Park, managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of Ireland’s Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, and Glacier National Park, managed by the U.S. National Park Service, have common issues including heavy visitation, controlling exotic and invasive species, outreach with local communities, ecological monitoring, and partnership agreements. The parks will share best practices through the exchange of technical and professional knowledge, data, technology, training, and possible site visits.

“I am delighted that my Department – through the National Parks and Wildlife Service – is entering into a Sister Parks arrangement with U.S. National Park Service by developing best practices and establishing closer links between Killarney National Park and Glacier National Park, Montana. In doing so we will enrich the experience and capacity of the personnel of both Parks through exchanges of staff and best practices,” said Ireland’s Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien.

“The collaborative nature of this partnership provides an excellent opportunity to exchange lessons learned related to recreation, preservation and resource management,” said Shawn Benge, Deputy Director of the National Park Service, exercising the authority of the Director. "We are excited about the possibilities to work together and learn from each other.”

“From today, both Killarney National Park and Glacier National Park will aim to capitalise on the significant networking knowledge and sharing opportunities this agreement supports. Given the natural and cultural resources protected and presented by both organisations, as well as our respective mandates, it is my hope that we use our arrangement as a joint and thus stronger voice to highlight the challenges not only in these two parks but across our nations,” said Ireland’s Minister of State for Heritage at the Department Malcolm Noonan.

“As the world’s first international peace park with Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada, Glacier National Park has a proud history of working with partners beyond our borders to exchange best practices and to learn from one another,” said Jeff Mow, Glacier National Park Superintendent. “We look forward to adding to our history and collaborating with Killarney National Park.”

The agreement lasts for five years and may be extended or modified by the participants. The new sister park relationship joins more than three dozen that exist between U.S. national parks and national parks and protected areas in other countries.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park