Saturday, December 28, 2019

Glacier National Park Announces Fee-Free Days for 2020

Glacier National Park will waive its entrance fee on five days in 2020.The five entrance fee-free days for 2020 will be:

January 20 - Martin Luther King Jr. Day
April 18 - First Day of National Park Week/National Junior Ranger Day
August 25 - National Park Service Birthday
September 26 - National Public Lands Day
November 11 - Veterans Day

Glacier National Park normally charges $35 per vehicle in the summer, and $25 per vehicle in the winter. A full fee schedule for motorcycles, bicyclists, and pedestrians can be found on the park’s website. The entrance fee waiver for the fee-free days does not cover amenity or user fees for activities such as camping or special tours.

Information about summer and winter ranger-led activities can be found on the park’s website.

Glacier National Park is one of 115 national parks that has an entrance fee. The other 303 national parks do not charge an entrance fee. The National Park System includes more than 85 million acres and is comprised of 418 sites, including national parks, national historical parks, national monuments, national recreation areas, national battlefields, and national seashores. Last year, 331 million people visited national parks spending $18.2 billion which supported 306,000 jobs across the country and had a $35.8 billion impact on the U.S. economy.

Glacier National Park’s annual pass is $70 and provides valid entry for the purchaser and private vehicle passengers for one year. The annual $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass allows unlimited entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including all national parks. There are also free or discounted passes available for senior citizens, current members of the military, families of fourth grade students, and disabled citizens.

Passes are available for sale at park entrance stations and Monday-Friday 8 am – 4:30 pm at Park Headquarters in West Glacier, MT. The park is now also offering the Glacier National Park annual pass and the 7-day entrance pass online at

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, December 26, 2019

White Sands Re-designated as a National Park

On Friday, December 20, 2019, President Donald J. Trump signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, which includes a provision that re-designates White Sands National Monument as White Sands National Park, making it the 62nd designated national park in the National Park System.

“Our staff are very excited for White Sands to be recognized as a national park and to reintroduce ourselves to the American public,” said White Sands National Park Superintendent Marie Sauter. “We are so appreciative of our partners, local communities, and congressional leaders who made this achievement possible and look forward to continued success working together.”

White Sands National Monument was established on January 18, 1933, by President Herbert Hoover to preserve, “the white sands and additional features of scenic, scientific, and educational interest.” Today’s re-designation recognizes the added significance of the park for its natural and cultural resources. In addition to containing the world’s largest gypsum dunefield, including gypsum hearthmounds found nowhere else on earth, the park is home to the globe’s largest collection of Ice-Age fossilized footprints and tells more than 10,000 years of human presence, all while providing memorable recreational opportunities.

Just so happens that my wife and I visited the park back in April. Here are a few photos from that visit.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, December 23, 2019

Last-minute gift idea - a virtual stocking stuffer

Believe it or not, though Christmas is now only two days away, you still have time to order last-minute stocking stuffers from Amazon. If you're looking for one last gift for that happy hiker in your life, there's still plenty of time to download the Kindle e-book version of my book, Ramble On: A History of Hiking!

Ramble On: A History of Hiking is a great gift idea for anyone who loves hiking, and wishes to learn more about the rich and amazing history of one of the world’s top pastimes.

For more information on the book, and to purchase, please click here.

Thank you very much, and hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas!

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Saturday, December 21, 2019

USDA Forest Service surpasses goals and breaks records in 2019

The USDA Forest Service announced yesterday that 2019 was a historic year for America’s national forests and grasslands.

“In 2019, through Shared Stewardship agreements we forged new partnerships and built on existing ones to better collaborate and share decision space with states, partners and tribes,” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “We also opened hundreds of thousands of acres of national forests to visitor access and sold more timber in this year than we have in any of the past 21 years, providing a sustainable flow of forest products and supporting rural economies.”

Creating healthy, productive forests and supporting rural economies

The Forest Service surpassed expectations and sold nearly 3.3 billion board feet of timber in 2019—75 million board feet more than the 20-year high set in 2018. The agency also improved forest conditions and reduced wildfire risk on over 4 million acres through timber harvest, removing hazardous fuels like dead and downed trees, and combating disease, insect and invasive species infestations.

Timber harvest volume from projects under the Good Neighbor Authority, more than tripled in 2019 from 22 to 89 million board feet. This authority allows the Forest Service to enter into agreements with state forestry agencies to perform restoration work to improve health and productivity on national forests and grasslands. To date, projects under this authority have taken place in 38 states.

Sharing stewardship responsibilities and being better neighbors

So far, 12 states and the Western Governors Association have signed on to work alongside the Forest Service to set landscape-scale goals, as well as share resources and expertise. These Shared Stewardship agreements allow the Forest Service to better work with partners to address challenges such as wildfire, insect and disease infestations and improve forest and watershed conditions while adapting to user needs. Participating states include Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.

The Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership, a combined effort of the Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, treated 100,000 acres in 2019 to improve forest health where public and private lands meet and to protect nearby communities from wildfire.

The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, the National Forest Foundation and the Forest Service partnered to set up a $4 million grant program to improve watersheds and reduce wildfire risk.

The Forest Service launched a community-based prototype wildfire risk mapping tool in Washington State. This tool is the first of its kind and allows local, state and federal agencies to fight fire where it matters most and to build fire-adapted communities more strategically and collaboratively. A nationwide map based on the prototype will be available in 2020.

Increasing access and improving recreation experiences

More than 5.2 million hours of work were logged in 2019 as part of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, a private-public partnership that engages more than 25,000 returning veterans and young Americans each year to strengthen America’s infrastructure and boost local economies. Participants helped to plant trees, reduce wildfire risk and improve forest conditions through vegetation management and hazardous fuels reduction projects, valued at $128 million.

Nearly 560,000 acres of national forests and grasslands were opened for access in partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation as part of their “Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt” initiative.

Access and recreation opportunities were improved through the National Forest and Grasslands Explorer and Digital pass applications. The Explorer app lets visitors know where to find points of interest on national forests and grasslands and how best to explore them. The Digital Pass app was developed in cooperation with to make purchasing day passes easier by selling them online.

“2019 was a banner year for us,” added Chief Christiansen. “Next year, we will continue to build on these successes to improve conditions on America’s national forests and grasslands to ensure they are healthier, more resilient and more productive.” “We will keep building on the partnerships that make these successes possible and commit to increasing access to better connect people to their natural resources, so these national treasures endure for generations to come.”

For more information about the Forest Service visit

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Two Yellowstone wolf pups fatally hit by a vehicle

On Tuesday, November 19, 2019, two wolves from the Junction Butte Pack were fatally hit around sunset on the road between Tower Junction and the Northeast Entrance. A necropsy confirmed the black male and female pups died from a vehicle strike. Yellowstone law enforcement officers are investigating the incident.

The Junction Butte Pack is one of the most frequently observed packs in the park. Their territory ranges between Tower Junction and Lamar Valley.

During the summer of 2019, the pack of 11 adults attended a den of pups near a popular hiking trail in the northeastern section of the park. Wanting to keep visitors and wolves apart, the park closed the den and surrounding area to the public. When the pups approached the trail and were in proximity to hikers, most people quickly moved away. However, some people violated the required 100-yard distance from wolves and approached the pups when they were on or near the trail to take a photo. Other people illegally entered the closed area to get near the wolves. Having grown accustomed to hikers, the pups then came close to visitors along a road.

Yellowstone staff hazed the pups several times over the last five months in an attempt to make them more wary of people and roads. This effort was never fully successful and the pups continued to demonstrate habituated behavior due to continued close encounters with visitors.

“Having studied these pups since birth, I believe their exposure to, and fearlessness of people and roads could have been a factor in their death,” said Yellowstone’s senior wolf biologist Doug Smith. “Visitors must protect wolves from becoming habituated to people and roads. Stay at least 100 yards from wolves, never enter a closed area, and notify a park ranger of others who are in violation of these rules.”

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Hiking books make great last-minute gifts!

Christmas is just one week away. The good news is that you still have time to order last-minute gifts from Amazon and have them delivered to your home in time for Christmas - and you won't have to fight the crowds or the traffic! To help with last-minute gift ideas, I wanted to let you know that the paperback version of my book, Ramble On: A History of Hiking, is still available at 50% off the regular price. You can purchase the book on Amazon right now for only $9.95 (regular price is $18.95).

Ramble On: A History of Hiking is a great stocking stuffer for anyone who loves hiking, and wishes to learn more about the rich and amazing history of one of the world’s top pastimes.

For more information on the book, and to purchase, please click here.

Thank you very much!

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Yellowstone’s winter season starts today

On December 15th roads in Yellowstone National Park will open to the public for travel by snowcoaches and snowmobiles.

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 take non-commercially guided snowmobile trips.

The East Entrance Road over Sylvan Pass will open for oversnow travel on Sunday, December 22.

The road from the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana, through Mammoth Hot Springs to Cooke City, Montana, is plowed and open to wheeled-vehicle travel all year.

Plan ahead for your winter adventure. In addition to unique winter travel opportunities, Yellowstone also offers a variety of activities such as ranger-led programs, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.

Weather is extremely unpredictable and road closures or delays can occur with little or no warning. Please come prepared. Carry personal emergency survival equipment and dress appropriately for outside activities in extremely cold weather.

Lodging and services are limited during winter. The following list highlights what winter visitor services are available and when they will open:

Old Faithful 
* December 15 - Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, Geyser Grill, and Bear Den Gift Shop and Ski Shop
* December 16 - Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins and Obsidian Dining Room

Mammoth Hot Springs 
* December 15 - Mammoth Hotel, Mammoth Hotel Map Room Barista/Bar, Dining Room, Terrace Grill, Mammoth Gift Shop and Ski Shop
* Open Year-round - Albright Visitor Center, Mammoth General Store, medical clinic, campground, and post office

Service Stations 
* Open Year-round - 24-hour gasoline pumps are available at Mammoth Hot Springs, Tower Junction, Canyon Village, Fishing Bridge, Grant Village, and Old Faithful

Additionally, warming huts at Canyon, Fishing Bridge, Indian Creek, Madison, Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful, and West Thumb provide shelter. Some huts are staffed during business hours. Food, restrooms, and water are available at some huts. All warming huts, except Mammoth Hot Springs, will open on December 15. Mammoth Hot Springs will open on December 16.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Over Snow Access and Grooming Begins in Grand Teton

Travel on the majority of the Teton Park Road, Moose-Wilson Road, and Signal Mountain Summit Road within Grand Teton National Park is now open to over-snow access only . The designated portions of these roads now accommodate winter recreation, and the use of wheeled vehicles is prohibited for the season.

Once snow begins to accumulate on the roadbeds, the status is changed to over-snow access and approved winter activities such as cross-country skiing, skate skiing, and snow-shoeing become possible. Bicycles, including, snow bikes, are not permitted on roads designated for over-snow access. Snow bikes are allowed on roadways open to motor vehicle use in Grand Teton National Park.

The 14-mile section of the Teton Park Road between the Taggart Lake Trailhead and Signal Mountain Lodge will be groomed approximately three times a week dependent on snow and weather conditions.

* Tuesdays- Four lanes groomed Taggart to South Jenny Lake

* Fridays- Two lanes groomed Taggart to Signal Mountain

* Sundays- Four lanes groomed Taggart to South Jenny Lake

Grooming began this week and will continue through mid-March. For grooming updates, call the park’s road information line at 307-739-3682.

Grooming is made possible through the financial support of Grand Teton National Park Foundation and a Federal Highway Administration Recreational Trails Program grant managed by the State of Wyoming.

Visitors may view a webcam showing the condition of the groomed road and prevailing weather conditions from the Cottonwood Creek Bridge in real time. The webcam is available through the support of the Grand Teton National Park Foundation and Jackson Hole Nordic in partnership with the park. Visit for the webcam and more information about cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the park.

Generally, pets are only permitted along park roadways open to motor vehicle use. However, pets are allowed on the over-snow access portions of the Teton Park Road and Moose-Wilson Road by special exception. For the safety of wildlife, pets, and visitors in wildlife habitat, pets must be leashed at all times. Pet owners are required to pick up waste. Dog sledding and ski joring are not allowed in the park.

Ranger-led snowshoe hikes begin December 26 and will continue through mid-March. The hikes begin at 1:30 p.m. every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and are supported by the Grand Teton Association. Reservations are required. Please contact the park at 307-739-3399 for more information.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, December 13, 2019

Major Construction Scheduled for Many Glacier Road 2020-21

A two-year road construction project on Many Glacier Road will begin April 1, 2020. Visitors to the park in 2020 through 2021 are encouraged to plan accordingly.

April 1 through May 17, 2020 and September 21 through December 16, 2020, the Many Glacier Road will be closed to visitor traffic at the park boundary due to large-scale road construction projects.

May 18 through September 20, 2020, large-scale road construction projects will significantly increase travel times to the Many Glacier area. Visitors should expect travel delays up to 40 minutes each way from Babb, MT, to the Many Glacier Hotel. Visitors are encouraged to explore other areas of the park if they wish to avoid significant delays.

Visitors traveling through construction zones Monday through Friday between 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. may experience up to a 3-hour delay.

Due to the need to reduce congestion during construction, the entire Many Glacier Campground will transfer to “reservation only” for the duration of the project. All Many Glacier campsites will be available by reservation only for $23 per night on Half of the campsites will be available for reservations beginning December 13, 2019. The remaining sites will be released for reservation on in March 2020. Once construction is complete, a portion of Many Glacier campsites will revert back to “first-come, first-served” per usual.

In anticipation of long delays and congestion in the Many Glacier Valley in 2020 and 2021, backcountry campers are encouraged to select alternative hiking routes that do not begin or end in Many Glacier. Similarly, backcountry campers are encouraged to pick up their permits (advance reservations or walk-in permits) at one of four other permit issuing stations in the park including Apgar, St. Mary, Two Medicine, and Polebridge. Please visit the Backcountry Camping page on the park website for complete information on backpacking in Glacier.

Boaters are encouraged to boat on park waters other than waters around Many Glacier to avoid congestion due to construction. Please visit the Boating page on the park website for complete information on boating in Glacier National Park.

All commercial visitor services at Many Glacier, including lodging, food & beverage, retail, boat tours, and horseback rides, will be operating as normal during construction.

Visitors are encouraged to check the Glacier National Park road status webpage to find out the current conditions of park roads.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Winter Activities in Rocky Mountain National Park

Summer isn't the only time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. Winter is also an absolutely wonderful time to enjoy the scenic beauty of the park. The park, as well as the area surrounding it, offers many outstanding outdoor opportunities, including snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, downhill skiing, wildlife watching, dog sled rides, fat biking, ice fishing and even hiking. Even if you don’t own your own equipment there are many outfitters in Estes Park and Grand Lake that will rent everything you’ll need to enjoy your adventures.

Winter in the Rockies can typically last from November through April. The lower elevations along the eastern slope of Rocky Mountain National Park are usually free of deep snow. However, at higher elevations, arctic conditions prevail. Sudden blizzards, high winds, and deep snowpack are common in these areas of the park. The west side of the park usually experiences more snow, less wind and clear cold days during this time period. Skiing and snowshoeing conditions are usually at their best in January, February, and March. Unpredictable weather alternates between warm and cold, wet and dry conditions during April.

Based on the latest ten years of precipitation data, Estes Park (7522 feet) receives approximately 34 inches of snow each year, while Grand Lake (8369 feet) receives roughly 147 inches annually.

Visitors to the park should make note that the upper portion of Trail Ridge Road is closed during the winter. Depending on weather, the road usually closes for the season around mid-October or early-November, and reopens by Memorial Day Weekend. During the winter season, weather permitting, Trail Ridge Road is normally open to Many Parks Curve on the east side of the park, and to the Colorado River Trailhead on the west side. For the latest information on closures you can call the Trail Ridge Road Status Line at 970-586-1222, or visit the park website.

The following are a few of the winter adventures you can enjoy in and around the national park:

Snowshoeing – is one of the most popular ways to enjoy the park and surrounding areas during the winter. Basically, if you can hike, you can snowshoe! Within the park you can join a ranger-led snowshoe excursion. Several outings are offered throughout the winter. Participants will learn techniques to traverse various terrain as they explore the natural world of subalpine forests. No previous experience is needed for these programs. Outside of the park are several other areas you can explore. On the west side you may want to note that 70% of Grand County is public land. Therefore, snowshoers will have access to hundreds of miles of trails in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, Never Summer Wilderness, Arapaho National Forest, Arapaho National Recreation Area, Byers Peak Wilderness, Vasquez Peak Wilderness, Medicine Bow/Routt National Forest, Winter Park and Fraser Valley areas. You can find additional information on these areas, as well as equipment rental outfitters and various Nordic centers by clicking here. For information on equipment outfitters and snowshoeing opportunities in the Estes Park area, please click here.

Cross-country Skiing – is another popular winter sport in and around the park. On the west side of the park, Rocky Mountain National Park rangers offer the "Ski the Wilderness in Winter" program each winter. Cross-country skiers also have access to trails in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, Never Summer Wilderness, Arapaho National Forest, Arapaho National Recreation Area, Byers Peak Wilderness, Vasquez Peak Wilderness, Medicine Bow/Routt National Forest, Winter Park and Fraser Valley areas. You can find additional information about these areas, as well as equipment rental outfitters and various Nordic centers by clicking here.

Although the terrain and the amount snow on the west side of the park make for better cross-country skiing, the Estes Park area also offers many cross-country skiing opportunities as well. For additional information on these opportunities, as well as equipment rental outfitters on the east side of the park, please click here.

Hiking – Depending on the amount of snow on the ground, visitors can also enjoy hiking in the park, especially on the east side. Destinations such as Cub Lake, Chasm Falls, Deer Mountain, The Pool, Gem Lake and Upper Beaver Meadows are all great choices during the winter. For more information about these hiking destinations in winter, please click here.

Sledding - Hidden Valley is the one place in Rocky Mountain National Park where sledding is allowed. Please note that no tows are provided, and you must provide your own plastic sled, saucer, or tube (if you don't bring your own they can be rented in Estes Park at most outdoor shops). This gentle hill is at the bottom of the bunny slope of the former Hidden Valley Ski Area. On most weekends there's an attendant here. A warming room is also available. Winter winds can scour the area, causing conditions to vary, so you should call the park Information Office at 970-586-1206 for the latest information.

Wildlife Watching - Many park roads are usually open during the winter, which provide access for viewing park wildlife. Winter is an especially good time to look for elk, mule deer, moose, and other large mammals. Visitors should look for moose along the Colorado River on the park's west side. Elk and mule deer are most active at dusk and dawn, and are usually seen in meadow areas. Look for bighorn sheep along the Highway 34/Fall River corridor on the park's east side. Coyotes may be seen any time of day. Members of the Jay family, including Steller's jays, gray jays, Clark's nutcrackers, and the iridescent, long-tailed black-billed magpies are commonly seen in the winter as well.

Other Outdoor Activities – in addition to the winter activities already mentioned above, the Grand Lake area offers several other winter adventures, including downhill skiing, dog sled rides, fat biking, ice fishing, ice skating, sledding and snowmobiling, among many other options. You can click here for a full list of winter activities.

Before venturing into the park during the winter months be sure you’re properly prepared for cold and snowy conditions. Be sure to layer up with insulating, waterproof clothing, wear sunglasses, use sunscreen, carry water and carry a good topographical trail map.

Other info:

For the latest information on weather conditions, please click here.

* Current Bear Lake Snow Conditions

* Overall Trail Conditions

* Colorado Avalanche Information

If you do plan to visit Rocky Mountain this winter, or anytime of the 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.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Glacier National Park Will Seek New Alternatives for Next Season’s Shuttle Service

Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow announced today that the park’s management is pursuing options for providing shuttle service during the 2020 summer season.

Flathead County Eagle Transit has been operating the shuttle service under a cooperative agreement with the park and the State of Montana since 2007. After two months of discussions with national, regional and local park officials, Flathead County Commissioners voted on December 11 to terminate their cooperative agreement to provide the service. The shuttle service typically runs in July and August, weather permitting.

“We take seriously Flathead County’s concerns and thank them for their hard work and dedication to partnering with us to provide the service for the past thirteen years,” said Mow. “Learning about the challenges our partner faced made us realize that we need to explore new models for our transit-system operations. The cancellation of the agreement provides us with an opportunity to develop the next generation of the system. Now is the time to reset and think about what makes sense for the future.”

The National Park Service established the park’s transit system to reduce vehicle congestion during the years-long rehabilitation of the Going-to-the-Sun Road that began in 2007. That rehabilitation is now complete. The park is currently engaged in a planning effort through its Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor Management Plan that explores opportunities to expand its shuttle system. This planning effort is an important incremental step in reviewing shuttle system operations and financial sustainability into the future.

Following their vote today, the Flathead County Commissioners sent a letter to Jeff Mow that cited several reasons as to why they will be discontinuing the shuttle service. This includes safety issues as a result of the age of the fleet, not enough buses to serve the demand, uncovered operating costs, and lack of any benefits to the Flathead communities. You can click here to read the full letter.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, December 9, 2019

Concessioner Selected for Guided Multi day Lake Trips in Grand Teton

The National Park Service has selected Rendezvous River Sports of Jackson, Wyoming, to provide guided multi-day lake trips on Jackson Lake as a park concessioner within Grand Teton National Park. The new 10-year concession contract will begin in January 2020. The contact authorizes multi-day trips for non-motorized watercraft, typically kayaks, on Jackson Lake, requires the upkeep of three lakeshore campsites and allows for guided float trips on the Snake River as part of a multi-day lake trip on Jackson Lake.

Guided multi-day lake trips are currently provided by OARS West, Inc. through a contract which became effective January 1, 2010, and will expire on December 31, 2019.

“This was a very competitive prospectus, through which the National Park Service received quality offers that bolstered measures for resource protection, the quality of visitor experience, and other factors complementary to our mission,” said Jennifer Parker, Chief of Commercial Services for the National Park Service Regional Office Serving Interior Regions 6,7 and 8.

Concessioners fill a vital role in helping the National Park Service carry out its mission by operating publicly owned facilities and offering high-quality commercial visitor services at reasonable rates. Grand Teton National Park has 27 concessioners and almost 120 commercial use authorization holders that provide a variety of visitor services in the park.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Saturday, December 7, 2019

National Park Service seeks public input to increase access to national park lands

The National Park Service (NPS) today announced it is seeking the public’s assistance to develop a list of national park lands that would benefit from new or increased access routes. This effort advances the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act (S.47), which was signed into law by President Donald Trump in March 2019.

“Increasing the public’s awareness and access to the more than 85 million acres managed by the National Park Service is one of our top priorities,” said National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela. “We’re looking forward to working with the public, partners, and stakeholders to identify areas with no or restricted access to national park areas and collaborate with landowners to establish avenues for public enjoyment of these lands.”

Section 4105 of the Dingell Act instructs the NPS and other federal land management agencies to develop a priority list of lands with no or restricted public access that meet a set requirements and considerations. In the coming months, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will also seek the public’s input to nominate lands within their jurisdictions under similar criteria.

NPS’s final priority list will be posted online by March 12, 2020, and updated biennially thereafter for 10 years.

Share Your Recommendations

Public comments will be accepted through January 4, 2020, via the NPS’s Planning, Environmental and Public Comments website at,

* Nominated lands must meet the following requirements and considerations:

* Must be managed by the NPS.

* Must be at least 640 contiguous acres.

* Must have significantly restricted or no public access.

* Potential for public access and the likelihood of resolving the absence of, or restriction to public access, are among other criteria for consideration.

For example, if a sizable parcel of NPS land is completely surrounded by privately owned land with no or restricted public access, the NPS may consider adding this to the priority list and begin working with states, local governments, nonprofit organizations and/or property owners to acquire land or other means of access to the NPS land, ensuring its long-term protection.

Recommendations must include the following information:

* Location of the land or parcel.

* Total acreage of the land or parcel.

* Description or narrative about the land’s restricted or complete lack of access.

* Any additional information the NPS should consider when determining if the land should be on the NPS’s priority list.

For additional information and a full list of required criteria for consideration as specified by the Dingell Act, visit

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, December 5, 2019

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 240 miles of trails that provide intimate access to all of this incredibly beautiful scenery. The following are among some of the top reasons why you should pay a visit to this amazing park:

1) 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.

2) 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.

3) Wildlife

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.

4) Photography

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.

5) 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.

With more than 240 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see Grand Teton National Park. In addition to the hikes listed above, the park offers a variety of other 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 as well as other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Wyoming State Parks Planning Series of First Day Hikes

In what is becoming an increasingly popular New Year’s Day activity – regardless of the temperature – Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails hosts “First Day Hikes,” a perfect way for Wyoming residents and visitors to celebrate the New Year outdoors.

This year, a record 17 New Year’s Day guided hikes and walks will be offered at state park and historic site venues statewide held in conjunction with similar hikes held in all 50 states; a part of the America’s State Parks First Day Hikes initiative.

This is the ninth consecutive year Wyoming is offering free First Day Hikes. Last year, despite below-zero wind chills, nearly 300 people participated.

Park staff and volunteers will lead this year’s hikes, which average one to two miles. 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 – Approx. 1-2-mile hike in the park on easy terrain, meet at Bear River State Park Visitor Center, 11 a.m., 307-789-6540

Boysen State Park – two-mile hike through moderate to difficult terrain, meet at park headquarters, 10 a.m., 307-876-2796

 Buffalo Bill State Park – four-mile hike on easy terrain, meet at Hayden Arch Bridge (1.5 miles out of town on Old Yellowstone Hwy.), 9 a.m., 307-587-9227

 Curt Gowdy State Park – two-mile hike on easy to moderate terrain, meet at Curt Gowdy Visitor Center, 11 a.m., 307-632-7946

 Edness Kimball Wilkins State Park – two-mile hike on easy terrain, meet at Park Headquarters Shop, 10 a.m., 307-577-5150

 Fort Bridger State Historic Site – one-mile hike on easy terrain, meet at Post Trader’s Store, 1 p.m., 307-782-3842

Fort Fetterman State Historic Site – 1.2-mile hike, moderate difficulty, meet at Fort Fetterman parking lot, 10 a.m., 307-358-9288

Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site – strenuous 2.5-mile hike round trip, meet at Interpretive Center, 12 noon, 307-745-3733

Fort Fred Steele State Historic Site – one-mile hike, meet at Post Trader’s House, 1 p.m., 307-320-3013

Guernsey State Park – 2.5-mile hike, start and end at the Guernsey Museum, 10 a.m., 307-836-2334 

Historic Governor’s Mansion – ½-mile hike through a city neighborhood, meet at Historic Governors’ Mansion (300 E. 21st St., Cheyenne), 10 a.m., 307-777-7878

Hot Springs State Park – Easy ½-mile or more difficult one-mile hikes, meet at Kiwanis Washakie Shelter, 11 a.m., 307-864-2176

Keyhole State Park – 1.3-mile hike on paved walking path, meet at Park Headquarters, 11 a.m., 307-756-3596

Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site – one-mile hike over easy terrain, meet in main parking lot, 10 a.m., 307-469-2234

Sinks Canyon State Park – one-mile hike on easy to moderate terrain, meet at Nature Trail parking lot, 1 p.m., 307-332-6333

South Pass City State Historic Site – two-mile hike, meet at Dance Hall, 11 a.m., 307-332-3684

Trail End State Historic Site – gentle 2.5-mile hike, meet at the Kendrick Mansion, 10 a.m., 307-674-4589

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, December 2, 2019

FWP looking to the future of state parks with revised fee schedule, classification policy

Even though the summer season at Montana State Parks is over, plans for the management of those parks is really hitting its stride.

It’s been a busy 18 months for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and state parks. Gov. Bullock’s Parks In Focus commission issued its final report in 2018 making several recommendations about funding and management of state parks. A legislative audit was completed with several recommendations for oversight and funding.

“We made a commitment to the public in 2017 that we would put parks on the right path to ensure their management and future,” said FWP Director Martha Williams. “We’ve had a lot of help along the way in making these changes and now we’re beginning to see the pieces fall into place.”

Earlier this year, Gov. Bullock signed Senate Bill 24, a bipartisan effort to raise the voluntary light vehicle registration fee from $6 to $9. This optional fee supports not only state parks, but fishing access sites, recreational trails and historic properties in Nevada and Virginia Cities.

This funding was critical for parks management and to make progress toward a backlog of maintenance needs.

This past summer, FWP finalized its revision of the parks classification policy, which will give the department clearer direction on how to manage parks based on the type of experience and level of services provided. The new Classification and Investment Strategy Policy will ideally make it easier for visitors to distinguish between the wide array of options that the park system offers.

“We recognize that visitors want a range of experiences and with this new system of designations, members of the public, current and prospective partners, and other important constituencies will be able to better understand what to expect and how we are managing each site, now and into the future,” said Parks Division Administrator Beth Shumate. “This policy will also help guide our decisions around resource allocation and serve as a framework for better investing in parks across the state.”

FWP regularly reviews fees charged at parks. Approximately 25% of the overall state parks operations budget is derived from user fees. Park entrance fees which are paid by non-residents, but waived for residents through their vehicle registration, are an important part of helping state parks keep pace with rising costs of pumping toilets, fuel, utilities and supplies to keep parks running smoothly.

Modest increases for some of those fees are proposed to address rising operations costs and improve visitor experience.

Annually, Montana State Parks sees more than 2.5 million visitors from all over the world. They come to visit developed parks, like Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, or more remote experiences like Brush Lake State Park in the far northeastern part of the state.

The proposed fee increases will not impact camping fees, but rather are focused in other areas, including non-resident annual passes, RV dump fees, and non-resident daily entrance fees. The proposed increases will bring in about $200,000 for parks operations.

“Our visitors have come to expect a great level of service at Montana State Parks,” Williams said. “Our commitment to them is to continue to provide amazing opportunities outside with exceptional facilities, infrastructure and service.”

Ramble On: A History of Hiking