Friday, February 28, 2020

National Park Visitation Tops 327 Million in 2019

America’s national parks continue to be popular destinations. Visitation to national parks in 2019 exceeded 300 million recreation visits for the fifth consecutive year. The 327.5 million total is the third highest since record keeping began in 1904.

“The numbers once again affirm that Americans and visitors from around the world love the natural, cultural and historic experience provided by our nation’s national parks,” said Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.

“The 419 parks in the national park system provide a vast array of opportunities for recreation and inspiration for visitors of all ages,” said National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela. “With at least one located in every state, national parks offer nearby history, culture and adventure.”

Under President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt’s leadership, the National Park Service continues to expand recreational opportunities and accessibility for park visitors. During the prior year two new national parks were designated: White Sands in New Mexico, and Indiana Dunes in Indiana. In 2018 Gateway Arch in St. Louis was also designated as a national park. These three parks combined reported almost 4.8 million visitors in 2019.

Additional highlights from the 2019 visitation report include:

* Visitation in 2019 surpassed 2018 by more than 9 million recreation visits, a 2.9 percent increase.

* Recreation visitor hours have remained above 1.4 billion over the past four years.

* In the past five years there have been nearly two billion recreation visits to national parks.

* Thirty-three parks set a new recreation visitation record in 2019.

* Fourteen parks broke a record they set in 2018.

* There were two longstanding records broken in 2019: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, with 432,818 recreation visits, broke a record they set in 1976 and Capulin Volcano National Monument broke a 1968 record with 81,617 recreation visits in 2019.

* Golden Gate National Recreation Area remained the most-visited site in the National Park System ahead of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

* Great Smoky Mountains National Park (12.5 million) and Grand Canyon National Park (5.97 million) continue to hold the first and second most-visited national parks in the United States.

* Rocky Mountain National Park held on to third place and set a new visitation record at 4.67 million.

* Yosemite National Park recovered from a drop in 2018 visitation attributed to wildland fires and moved past Yellowstone National Park for fifth place.

The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) allows the NPS to collect and retain revenue and requires that fee revenue be used to enhance the visitor experience. At least 80 percent of the money stays in the park where it is collected, and the other 20 percent is used to benefit parks that do not collect fees. For information about your fee dollars at work, visit

Last year national park visitor spending contributed more than $40 billion to the U.S. economy. The 2019 report on the economic benefits from visitor spending is expected later this spring.

For an in-depth look at 2019 visitation statistics, including individual park figures, please visit the National Park Service Social Science website.

2019 by the numbers:
* 327,516,619 recreation visits
* 1,429,969,885 recreation visitor hours
* 13,860,047 overnight stays (recreation + non-recreation)
* Three parks had more than 10 million recreation visits – Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Blue Ridge Parkway, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park
* 11 parks had more than five million recreation visits
* 80 parks had more than one million recreation visits (21% of reporting parks)
* 25 national parks had more than 1 million recreation visits (40% of National Parks)
* 50% of total recreation visits occurred in 27 parks (7% of all parks in the National Park System)

Top Ten Most Visited National Parks:
1) Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 12.5 million
2) Grand Canyon National Park: 5.97 million
3) Rocky Mountain National Park: 4.7 million
4) Zion National Park: 4.5 million
5) Yosemite National Park: 4.4 million
6) Yellowstone National Park: 4 million
7) Acadia National Park: 3.4 million
8) Grand Teton National Park: 3.4 million
9) Olympic National Park 3.2 million
10) Glacier National Park: 3 million


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

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Historic Circle Tours of Glacier National Park

The following is an adaptation from my book, Ramble On: How Hiking Became One of the Most Popular Outdoor Activities in the World:

Almost immediately after Glacier was established as a national park, Louis W. Hill, president of the Great Northern Railway, began building a series of hotels, chalets and tent camps throughout the park. The buildings were modeled on traditional Swiss architecture, and were part of Hill's strategy to portray Glacier as the "American Alps" or "America's Switzerland." The accommodations would in-turn help the railway promote tourism to the new national park, while at the same time promote their rail line as the primary mode of travel to the park. This would also allow them to compete against their chief rivals; the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Northern Pacific Railway, who were already transporting tourists to Banff and Yellowstone.

The Belton Chalet in West Glacier, and the Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier Park were the first two hotels to be constructed by Great Northern. Both acted as gateways from railroad depots to the interior of the park. Between 1910 and 1915 the railway also constructed eight Swiss-style backcountry chalet complexes, each connected by a network of trails. The complexes were strategically located at Two Medicine Lake, Cut Bank, St. Mary, Sun Point, Granite Park, Many Glacier, Gunsight Lake and Sperry Glacier. Tent camps were also established at Red Eagle Lake, Cosley Lake, Fifty Mountain and Goat Haunt. The chalet and tent camps were located roughly 10-18 miles apart. During their prime most of the chalet camps could host between 100 and 150 guests per night. Hill would explain to newspaper reporters that the “lodges would be located only far enough apart so that the man on foot even could make the trip and obtain sleeping accommodations,” and that “hotel accommodations of a more prestigious type or tents for the most modest could also be furnished.”

As construction on the new chalets progressed through the early 1910s, the railway also constructed the trails that would connect each of them by foot or horse travel. Because of a lack of federal funds, the Great Northern Railway assumed financial responsibility for all trail construction during this time period, but was eventually reimbursed as funding became available. Some of the earliest trails developed by the railway included Swiftcurrent Pass, Gunsight Pass, Mt. Henry, Red Gap Pass, Gable Pass, Triple Divide Pass, Piegan Pass, Pitamakan Pass and the St. Mary Lake trails. Many of these early trails were routed along Indian paths, prospector trails or old game trails. Great Northern would continue to improve or construct new trails within the park into the early 1920s. As the network of trails expanded, organized tours by horse concessionaires began to emerge. In 1915 the Park Saddle Horse Company became the sole concessionaire for the park, and began organizing a series of guided tours that utilized the existing network of chalets and trails. This included the North Circle, South Circle and Inside Trail trips, which encompassed roughly 163 miles of trails, each of which is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The company also offered the Logan Pass Triangle Trail trip, which traversed across the heart of the park utilizing routes from the other tours, as well as the now abandoned Logan Pass Trail, which I discussed in detail yesterday. The concessionaire offered a variety of options, from half-day excursions to extended trips lasting up to two weeks. Most of the so-called circle tours, however, lasted between three and five days. During the 1920 season the company charged roughly $4.00 per person, per day to take one of its saddle-horse tours.

Although there were several variations of each of these trips, depending on the number of days tourists chose, the direction they wanted to take, as well as the evolution of routes over time, these are the routes described on the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form and various park brochures:

The North Circle: Connects Many Glacier with Cosley (aka Crossley) Lake; Cosley Lake with Goathaunt; Goathaunt with Fifty Mountain; Fifty Mountain with Granite Park; Granite Park with Many Glacier.

The South Circle: Connects Lake McDonald Lodge with Sperry Chalets; Sperry Chalets with Sun Point via Gunsight Pass; Sun Point with Many Glacier via Piegan Pass; Many Glacier with Granite Park via Swiftcurrent Pass; Granite Park with Going-to-the-Sun Road at Packer's Roost.

Logan Pass Triangle trip: Three-day trip made as follows: Many Glacier Hotel to Granite Park Chalets via Swiftcurrent Pass, thence along the west side of the Garden Wall through Logan Pass to Going-to-the-Sun Chalets, thence back to Many Glacier Hotel via Glacial Meadows and Piegan Pass. Rate for guide and horses, $12.50 per person. Going-to-the-Sun Chalets is also a point of departure for this trip.

Inside Trail: Guide and horses may be obtained for a five-day trip over the inside trail from Glacier Park Hotel, via Two Medicine Chalets, thence via Mount Morgan Pass (now known as Pitamakan Pass) to Cut Bank Chalets, thence via Triple Divide, Red Eagle Lake, to St. Mary Chalets, thence via boat across St. Mary Lake to Going-to-the-Sun Chalets, thence via Piegan Pass to Many Glacier Hotel, at the rate of $18 for each person, including boat fare, if five or more make the trip. This trip may be made in either direction.

The park visitors that took these tours were “guided by ‘cowboys,’ lunched near glacial lakes and then dined in comfort on Chinese linen and blue willow china”. Park rules dictated that the Park Saddle Horse Company had to furnish at least one guide for each ten tourists on a trip. Parties could reach as large as 180 people and 200 horses. It’s estimated that the concessionaire used more than 1000 horses during its peak, with at least one source estimating as many as 1500 head of horses. The 1922 park brochure bragged that there were "more saddle horses used in Glacier than in any other similar recreational area in the world". From everything I’ve read that record has never been surpassed.

The saddle-horse tours were the dominant method of seeing the park until the Going-to-the-Sun Road was completed in 1933. Although the tours continued for another ten seasons, they came to a permanent end after the 1942 season when America became fully involved in World War II.

Ramble On: How Hiking Became One of the Most Popular Outdoor Activities in the World chronicles the history of the first hikers, trails and hiking clubs, as well as the evolution of hiking gear and apparel. The book is available on Amazon.

Other excerpts from Ramble On:

* How did hiking become so popular across the globe?

* Women’s Hiking Attire During The Victorian Era

* The Evolution of Hiking Boots


Ramble On (2nd edition book on the rich history of hiking)
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

What happened to the old Logan Pass Trail?

I recently finished reading Switchback, a book by William Yenne that chronicles his time working as a packer in Glacier National Park and the surrounding national forests during the 1920s and 30s. In the book he mentioned the Logan Pass Trail a couple of times, which piqued my curiosity as to where the old route tracked, and why it faded from existence.

During the early years of the park the trail played an important role in the Great Northern Railway’s growing system of trails, which allowed tourists to travel between their network of hotels, chalets and tent camps. The Logan Pass Trail became part of a tour known as the “Triangle Trip”, one of four tourist trails, or circle tours, which we will discuss a little more in-depth tomorrow (link here). Though many visitors hiked these trails on foot, most traveled them on horseback prior to World War II. Louis W. Hill, president of the Great Northern Railway, explained to newspaper reporters that the “lodges would be located only far enough apart so that the man on foot even could make the trip and obtain sleeping accommodations,” and that “hotel accommodations of a more prestigious type or tents for the most modest could also be furnished.”

Construction on the Logan Pass Trail began in 1917, and was completed during the summer of 1918. The 16.4-mile trail, named for William Logan, the first superintendent of Glacier National Park, connected the Going-to-the-Sun Chalets with Granite Park Chalets. In all likelihood the construction efforts were bankrolled by the Great Northern Railway, who built most of the trails during the early years of the park in order to connect their network of overnight facilities. Construction of the Granite Park Chalets was completed by the railway in 1915, and was already accessible to tourists via the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail, a route that was originally used by Native Americans. By 1915 the Great Northern had also completed construction of the Going-to-the-Sun Chalet complex at Sun Point. The complex, which remained in operation until 1942, included two large dormitories that could sleep up to 200 people, a large dining room, as well as laundry facilities. Until the Going-to-the-Sun Road was completed in 1933, the only way to reach the chalets was by boat or pack horse. The chalets were closed during World War II, fell into disrepair, and were eventually torn down in 1948. However, during their heyday, they were second only to the Many Glacier Hotel in terms of visitor traffic and as a hub of outdoor activities. To underscore their importance, serious consideration was given at one point for building a hotel on the site on the scale of the Many Glacier Hotel, which would’ve accommodated up to 500 guests.

In a letter to the Director of the National Park Service, dated September 24, 1917, a park civil engineer provided an update on new trail construction efforts within the park during the previous summer. Here are his comments with regards to the Logan Pass Trail:
“Logan Pass Trail: This trail, which extends from Granite Park along the west side of the Continental Divide through Logan Pass, thence down Reynolds Creek to a junction with the Plegan Trail, is under construction, about 12 miles of which is practically completed and about 4 miles more will be roughed out so that it can be used for travel. The grading on this trail varies from about 3 ft. in dirt to 6 or 8 ft. in the heavier rock work, quite a good deal of which was encountered. When completed the trail will be about 16 miles long and will be the most scenic trail and the trail of highest average elevation of any in the Park. It will also open to tourist travel the Twin Lakes and Hidden Lake regions which have heretofore been practically inaccessible except to foot tourists that were good climbers.”
A snippet in a pamphlet published by the United States Railroad Administration in 1919 provides a slightly more detailed description of the trail one year after its completion:
“Leaving Going-to-the-Sun Chalets, this trail branches to the left four miles out on the Piegan Pass trail and strikes up Reynolds Creek, past the shelf glacier which sprinkles its waters on a narrow fertile bench called the Hanging Gardens, on the east side of Mt. Reynolds, to a little plateau between Pollock and Oberlin Mountains. The summit of the pass and the approaches to it are literally covered with wild flowers. From the western slope the trail continues along the Garden Wall—a high, thin, saw-tooth ridge—to Granite Park Chalets.“
Below is a section of a park map from 1927 showing the new route (link to entire map). You should note that the red box above St. Mary Lake represents the location of the Going-to-the-Sun Chalets. You may also notice a red line extending up to Logan Pass from the west side of the park – this represents the portion of the Going-to-the-Sun Road that had been completed by that time. It would be another five years before the eastern segment of the road would be completed:

Though this map isn’t as precise as modern maps, the new trail appears to split-off from the Piegan Pass Trail just west of today’s Jackson Glacier Overlook along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and just east of the confluence of Reynolds Creek and Siyeh Creek. A map from the 1949 park brochure, however, shows a different route. The 1927 map clearly shows the trail ascending towards Logan Pass along Reynolds Creek, south of the present-day Going-to-the-Sun Road. However, the 1949 map shows it tracking north of the road:

It’s possible that the trail was rerouted between those two dates, but seems highly unlikely. Moreover, William Yenne confirms in his book that the trail tracked above the road when he relayed an incident that took place in 1932 “directly above the east side tunnel of the new road”. The photo below, published by the U.S. Railroad Administration in a pamphlet from 1919, also testifies to the trail passing along the steep slopes of Piegan Mountain, well above the east side tunnel, and the Reynolds Creek valley:

As mentioned throughout the pages of View With A Room, Louis W. Hill was very demanding and meticulous on how his chalets and hotels were to be built and designed. These traits obviously carried over to the trail system as well. In a letter dated July 21, 1923, Hill made these interesting, and rather pointed comments to J. R. Eakin, the Superintendent of Glacier National Park:
“After a few days' trip in Glacier Park, I feel I should write you very frankly my observations and impressions, I cannot help but be greatly interested in the development of the Park as we have a very large investment there - about $1,500,000 - in the hotels, camps, cost of roads, bridges, etc.

The Logan Pass Trail is not as wide nor in as good condition as when originally constructed. Certainly the two or three years’ maintenance, if properly maintained, would make it a better trail than when originally constructed. The only trail crew I saw consisted of three men on the west side of Logan Pass. The east side of Logan Pass needs cleaning out, which would widen the trail and, of course, the loose rocks would be removed. This is a very inexpensive piece of work. I would also suggest that this being a precipitous country for a trail, it would be in the interest of safety to put up a sign and instruct guides that all parties should arrive at Logan Pass summit before 12:00 o'clock noon and not leave before 1:00 PM. This would give an hour's leeway and permit stragglers to come in and prevent parties meeting and passing on the narrow dangerous portions of the trail. It will always be dangerous to pass horses on some parts of this trail. This should be a simple remedy, particularly if it were understood that guides or tourists who do not observe the regulations - should you put them in – might be asked to leave the Park. This precaution, I am sure, would be appreciated by the tourists as they are all fearful of meeting horses in the narrow places.”
The ultimate demise of the Logan Pass Trail came about for several reasons. Chief among them was the completion of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which allowed visitors to easily drive to Logan Pass, rather than spend a day or more on horseback to reach the higher elevations of the park. Moreover, visitation to the park plummeted during World War II. By 1945 nearly all of the tent camps and chalets had been abandoned, and were ultimately torn down. As result, the National Park Service cancelled the Park Saddle Horse Company concessionaire contract that year due to lack of support. By this time the eastern portion of the trail had become more or less obsolete.

There’s no record online of what eventually became of the Logan Pass Trail. It seems to have simply faded from memory. 1932 was the last year that the park brochure mentioned the Logan Pass Trail by name. The park continued to mention the route through 1939, but the trail was not named. In some cases it was referred to as the Garden Wall Trail, at least the western portion of the trail. The last reference to the “Logan Pass Trail” that I could find was made in a 1945 issue of National Parks Magazine. The last time the trail appeared on a map was in the 1960 park brochure. It appears that the trail was at last gone and forgotten with the onset of the new decade.

Although the eastern portion of the trail has long been abandoned, the western leg continues to live today, and is now known as the Highline Trail. The first segment of the Highline runs 7.6 miles from Logan Pass to Granite Park Chalet. It’s now connected with the “newer” section of the Highline, which was constructed between 1928 and 1929. This leg travels 14 miles from the chalet to Fifty Mountain, an expansive alpine meadow near the junction of the Highline, Flattop Mountain and Waterton Valley trails.


Ramble On (2nd edition book on the rich history of hiking)
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Public Scoping Begins for Glacier National Park’s Environmental Assessment on a Proposed Telecommunications Plan

Glacier National Park is initiating public scoping for an environmental assessment (EA) on a plan to improve telecommunications in the park. The proposed action would correct deficiencies in radio, phone, and computer or data-based communications that support park operations and would also develop guidelines for connectivity in developed areas for non-governmental end-users.

Reliable and effective telecommunication systems are essential to the performance of park operations and maintaining employee and visitor safety. But radio, phone, and computer/data-based communications in the park are currently limited, unreliable, or unavailable in several areas. Issues include insufficient radio coverage, slow internet and network speeds, limited bandwidth, lack of phone or data access, and lack of or outdated equipment. A comprehensive, integrated plan is needed to improve the overall effectiveness of park communications and enable a flexible response to changing needs and technology.

A telecommunications plan is also needed to develop an appropriate strategy for expanding data and/or cellular connectivity for non-governmental use. There is an increased reliance on connectivity in developed areas among visitors and off-duty employees, and the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires the National Park Service (NPS) to consider applications from commercial providers who propose installing telecommunications infrastructure on park lands. The park’s telecommunications plan would establish parameters for telecommunications infrastructure, coverage areas, and other factors.

The proposed plan would include several site-specific actions, for which the full scope or design cannot be known until closer to the time of implementation. For this reason, the park is preparing a programmatic EA for the plan. The programmatic EA will analyze broad environmental impacts and defer site-specific issues to subsequent and additional project-level review, analysis, and compliance.

A scoping newsletter with more information is available on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website at Comments can be posted to this website, or sent by mail to Superintendent, Glacier National Park, Attn: Telecommunications Plan, PO Box 1, West Glacier, Montana, 59936. Public scoping is open for 15 days; comments are due by March 9, 2020.


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

Thursday, February 20, 2020

New eBook provides hikers with trail information while hiking in Glacier National Park

Are you planning to visit Glacier National Park this summer - or anytime down the road? I wanted to let you know that I just published a new eBook that provides hikers with access to detailed trail information while hiking in the park.

Exploring Glacier National Park is the mobile version of, the most comprehensive website on the internet for hiking trail information in Glacier National Park. This book was published to provide readers with convenient access to the information contained on while in the park, or on the trail, where internet access is most likely not available. Additionally, the format of this book will provide a much better experience for smartphone users.

Exploring Glacier National Park covers 68 hikes. Like the website, the book includes driving directions to each trailhead, detailed trail descriptions, key features along the route, difficulty ratings, photographs, maps and elevation profiles, which provide readers with a visual representation of the change in elevation they’ll encounter on each hike. Some hikes will also include historical tidbits related to the trail. Whether you're looking for an easy stroll in the park, or an epic hike deep into Glacier's backcountry, this book provides all the tools you'll need to make your hiking trip as enjoyable as possible.

As with our four websites, this book also contains several directories that will help you choose the best hikes suited to your preferences and abilities. This includes hikes listed by location within the park, hikes listed by key trail feature, and hikes sorted by difficulty rating. I’ve also included lists of our top 10 hikes, the best easy hikes, the top fall hikes, and the top early season hikes.

The book is now available on Amazon.


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

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Sperry Chalet Community Celebration

Next Wednesday the Glacier National Park Conservancy will be hosting a "Sperry Chalet Community Celebration" at the Red Lion Hotel in Kalispell. The event, which will celebrate the historic rebuild of Sperry Chalet, is free and open to the public. The Conservancy will provide light refreshments (coffee, tea, water, cookies, and brownies), with storied presentations by some of the many critical individuals involved in the restoration of the historic chalet.

The event will take pace on February 26th from 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm.


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

Monday, February 17, 2020

USDA Forest Service seeks help to expand access to national forests and grassland areas

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service is seeking public assistance to help identify national forest and grassland areas where the agency can provide greater access to hunting, fishing, and other recreational opportunities.

The agency today posted a draft list of about 90,000 acres of Forest Service land where hunters, anglers, and other recreationists are allowed but have limited or no legal access to the areas. The outreach is tied to agency efforts to implement the John D. Dingell, Jr., Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019 that mandates federal land management agencies work to evaluate how to expand access to public lands.

The Forest Service is seeking nominations that describe federal lands not on the list. The lands identified must be managed by the Forest Service, be a minimum of 640 contiguous acres, and be unreachable by foot, horseback, motorized vehicle or nonmotorized vehicle because there is no public access over non-Forest Service land, or the access is significantly restricted.

“National forests and grasslands play host to some 300 million hunters, anglers, and other recreationists each year,” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “The input we receive will go a long way toward helping the Forest Service provide even greater access and opportunity for the people we serve.”

The public nomination period to identify parcels for inclusion on the agency’s priority list will close on March 12, 2020. A final priority list will be published soon after and will be updated at least every two years until 2029.

To nominate a parcel of Forest Service land for consideration, email or write to Lands and Realty Management, ATTN: Access Nominations, USDA Forest Service, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20250-1111. Nominations must include the location of the land or parcel, total acreage affected (if known), and a narrative describing the lack of access.


The John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019 is a broad-based law that sets provisions for various programs, projects, activities, and studies in the management and conservation of federally managed natural resources. The law includes steps agencies must take on how federal acres that are now essentially inaccessible may be opened to the public. The collective work of the Forest Service and interested citizens will help the agency decide how to reasonably provide access through such measures as easements, rights-of-way, or fee title from a willing landowner.


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

Friday, February 14, 2020

Recreational Trails Program Seeks Public Comment on 2020 Grant Applications

Montana State Parks ( is seeking public comment on Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant applications for the current grant cycle which closed on January 31, 2020. Public comment on the RTP grant applications is open through Monday, March 9 at 5pm.

RTP is a federally funded program administered by Montana State Parks which provides funding for trail and trail related projects across the state. Eligible projects include development and rehabilitation work on urban, rural, and backcountry trails; planning and construction of community trails; snowmobile and cross-country ski trail maintenance and grooming operations; and a variety of trail stewardship and safety education programs.

This year, RTP received 70 grant applications requesting over $3.66 million. Approximately $1.5 million in funding is available this cycle.

A complete list of trails grant applicants under consideration is available online at: Recreation Trails Program Grants. Copies of individual RTP applications are available upon request at (406) 444-7642.

Public Comments must be received by 5pm on Monday, March 9, 2020. To comment online visit and click on Public Comment & Notices. Or send comments by email to

Comments by regular mail should be sent to: Michelle McNamee, Montana State Parks, PO Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701.


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

Thursday, February 13, 2020

USDA Forest Service announces challenge to increase focus on problems facing nation’s largest public trail system

USDA Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen emphasized the need to find innovative ideas to tackle the nearly $300 million maintenance backlog on the nation’s largest public trail system. Christiansen called on individuals and organizations to work with the agency to address trail maintenance and sustainability to improve access, keep people safe, and support local economies.

“In 2019, organizations and individuals contributed more than 1.5 million hours on the maintenance and repair of more than 28,000 miles of trail, and we are extremely grateful for their continued support and hard work,” Christiansen told trail advocates during a meeting at Forest Service Headquarters. “However, we must find more ways to erase the backlog. We still have much more work to do, and this is our call to organizations and individuals to share with us innovative ideas and boots-on-the-ground help.”

The agency hopes to expand its employee, grassroots, nonprofit and corporate support as part of a 10-Year Trail Shared Stewardship Challenge. Roughly 120,000 miles of the 159,000 miles of trails are in need of some form of maintenance or repair. Working within current appropriations, the agency has strategically focused its approach to trail maintenance, increasing trail miles improved from 48,800 miles in 2013 to 58,300 miles in 2019.

Christiansen shared the multi-layered challenge with agency partners visiting Washington, D.C., to attend the weeklong 23rd annual Hike the Hill, a joint effort between the Partnership for the National Trail System and the American Hiking Society. Hike the Hill helps to increase awareness and highlight other needs of the National Trails System. The National Trails System consists of 30 national scenic and historic trails, such as the Appalachian National Trail and the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail, both of which pass through lands managed by the Forest Service.

The agency manages about 10,000 miles of national scenic and historic trails that cross forests and grasslands. More than 32,000 miles of trail are in wilderness areas. The remainder range from simple footpaths to those that allow horses, off-highway vehicles, cross-country skiing and other types of recreation.

The trail maintenance backlog limits access to public lands, causes environmental damage, and affects public safety in some places. Deferred maintenance also increases the costs of trail repair. When members of the public stop using trails, there could be a residual effect on the economics of nearby communities. Recreation activities on national forests and grasslands support 148,000 jobs annually and contribute more than $11 billion in annual visitor spending.

In addition to trails, the agency is working to address more than $5.2 billion in infrastructure repairs and maintenance on such things as forest roads, bridges, and other structures that are critical to the management of agency lands and that benefit visitors and communities. The backlog on forest roads and bridges alone is $3.4 billion.

To get involved with the Trail Challenge you may:

* Contact the nearest forest or grassland office to get more information on what they are doing locally.
* Join or organize a coalition of citizens and work with the agency to address the issues.
* Be mindful of how you use the trails by using Leave No Trace and Tread Lightly outdoor ethics standards.

For more information, email National organizations or corporations can get more information about becoming a Forest Service partner by contacting Marlee Ostheimer, National Forest Foundation Conservation Partnership Manager, at 406-542-2805 or


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

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Vandals Continue to Spray Paint Sites in Montana State Parks

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is seeking information on whomever is responsible for graffiti that continues to be spray painted on FWP sites and other public property near Great Falls.

The graffiti is mostly blue and red. In the past year it has grown from hearts sprayed on at least six sites, including Giant Springs, Sluice Boxes, and First Peoples Buffalo Jump state parks, to other symbols painted on rock face cliffs on U.S. Forest Service land and along highway rights of way.

Most recently the vandals painted what appeared to be a palm tree on a cliff face in Sluice Boxes.

FWP is asking anyone with information on the vandalism to call 1-800-TIPMONT or FWP Game Warden Kqyn Kuka, 406-750-3574. Callers are kept confidential and a reward is possible.


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

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

President Proposes $2.8 Billion FY21 Budget for National Park Service

President Trump has proposed a $2.8 billion Fiscal Year 2021 budget for the National Park Service (NPS) prioritizing core mission capacity, increasing recreational and public access and infrastructure improvement.

The Public Lands Infrastructure Fund would help address billions of dollars’ worth of backlogged maintenance, including structures, trails, roads, and utility systems across the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture. The proposal would allocate $6.5 billion over five years, supported by the deposit of 50 percent of all Federal energy development revenue that would otherwise be credited or deposited as miscellaneous receipts to the Treasury over the 2020–2024 period.

"President Trump’s budget supports our ongoing efforts to rebuild, restore, and reinvigorate park facilities and infrastructure for this and future generations,” said National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela. “The President’s request provides funding to modernize our aging facilities, increase accessibility to our public lands for all visitors, and improve our resilience and response to fires and natural disasters.”

Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee stated yesterday, “I am also glad to see the budget continues to include the president’s proposal to rebuild our national parks. The Restore Our Parks Act, legislation that I introduced with Senators Portman, Warner, and King, is based on the president’s proposal and will cut in half the maintenance backlog at our national parks. This legislation is the only way to address the deferred maintenance backlog in our 419 national parks, and the Trump Administration agrees."

Budget Highlights

The President’s budget continues to emphasize infrastructure and asset management. The NPS asset portfolio includes more than 5,500 miles of paved roads, 21,000 miles of trails and 25,000 buildings that serve more than 300 million annual national park visitors. To manage NPS assets, the budget proposes $844.2 million for facility operations and maintenance. Aging facilities and high visitation have created a significant need for infrastructure and facility recapitalization and modernization. To address those needs, the facility operations and maintenance funding includes $188.2 million for cyclic maintenance projects and $121.1 million for repair and rehabilitation projects.

In addition to operations funding, the President’s budget provides $192.6 million for the construction appropriation, which funds construction projects, equipment replacement, project planning and management, and special projects. This includes $127.8 million for line-item construction projects.

These discretionary fund sources are critical to help address the significant maintenance requirements across the NPS. Additionally, the recreation fee program allows the NPS to collect recreation fees at selected parks to improve visitor services and enhance the visitor experience. In 2019, NPS leveraged $175 million in recreation fees to address priority maintenance projects to improve the visitor experience. The NPS estimates that in FY 2020 and FY 2021, $200 and $205 million in fee revenues respectively will be utilized for similar facility and infrastructure projects.

Park Operations
The FY 2021 NPS budget requests $2.5 billion for park operations. The budget proposes $44.2 million to support and enhance diverse public access and recreational opportunities, including $1 million for the Veterans Trades Apprentice Corps, $7.5 million for trail rehabilitation and $1.2 million for family camping experiences and education. The budget also proposes $7 million for increases in operational funding for new and critical responsibilities, including $223,000 for the life home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and $300 thousand for Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home National Historic Site.

To mitigate wildfire risk to visitors, staff and park infrastructure, the budget proposes an increase of $3 million ($4 million in total) for infrastructure resiliency projects at the most urgent sites.

The President’s budget also proposes $11 million to support large-scale wildlife conservation efforts focused on leveraging collaboration between parks and neighboring communities, tribes and states with the goal of implementing all state and local conservation Action Plans.


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

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Yellowstone Road Construction Projects in 2020

Yellowstone National Park has announced that there will be three major road construction projects within the park during the 2020 season. One project will have a complete closure between Tower Fall and Chittenden Road, while two projects will cause delays (North Entrance and Fishing Bridge to Indian Pond). The following are a few details:

1. Tower Fall to Chittenden Road

The road between Tower Fall and Chittenden Road will be completely closed until April 2022. Specific areas on each side of this closure will be open for select time periods.

2. North Entrance

Beginning in early summer, expect delays around the North Entrance. The entrance station will be open. More details, including dates, will be available after a construction contractor is selected. This project will start in 2020 and will take two years to complete.

3. Fishing Bridge to Indian Pond

From May 4 to October 30, 2020, expect delays along the East Entrance Road between Fishing Bridge and Indian Pond. This project will be completed in 2020.

For more details, please click here.


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

Friday, February 7, 2020

Public Comments Encouraged for Potential Concession Services Improvements with Upcoming New Contract

Grand Teton National Park is developing an environmental assessment to address proposed improvements to a concessions contract which provides visitor services at Colter Bay Village, Jackson Lake Lodge, Jenny Lake Lodge, and other locations in the park. The park is encouraging public comment on the proposed improvements by March 5, 2020.

The National Park Service has identified several proposed changes to a new concession contract, including accessibility enhancements, infrastructure improvements, structural fire protection and additional employee housing. The purpose of this environmental assessment is to analyze the impact of these potential changes to the upcoming prospectus and future contract, which are consistent with the National Park Service Concessions Management Improvement Act of 1998. Identifying potential changes in advance will ensure that any projects included in the prospectus will have sound environmental planning and compliance in place prior to the issuance of the contract.

The National Park Service is developing a prospectus to solicit offers to provide lodging, food and beverage, activities, and other services required to conduct business in Grand Teton National Park under concessions contract CC-GRTE001. This is the largest concessions contract in the park. This prospectus will be a public solicitation for offers and will available be available in early 2021. This contract is currently held by Grand Teton Lodge Company and expires on December 31, 2021.

At this time, during the scoping period, the National Park Service seeks input from the public on the components of the proposed improvements.

A scoping newsletter and other information is available at A copy of the newsletter can be downloaded through this website and comments can be provided electronically online.


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

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

West Glacier Community Vision Project Meeting

Glacier National Park posted this on their Facebook page yesterday:
The West Glacier Community Vision Project Team will be hosting a special focus group discussion and listening interview.⠀ ⠀

The goal of this project is to create a shared community vision for the West Glacier area which will provide a roadmap for the future in a manner that does not diminish the aesthetic consistencies, historic character and unique setting while addressing increased visitation and development changes on the doorstep of the gateway. ⠀

Focus group discussions for Emergency Services, Transportation and other County services are scheduled for:⠀ ⠀

Room 206, Flathead Valley Community College, Arts & Technology Building, 3:00-4:30 pm, Wednesday February 12th⠀ ⠀

Through stakeholder interviews, public meetings and an online engagement website (, RTCA and project partners will gather the community’s input on how best to celebrate and maintain all of West Glacier’s best natural, historic and aesthetic qualities and sense of place while meeting the increased safety and tourism challenges.⠀ ⠀

There will be additional meetings and opportunities to participate in late spring.


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Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Monday, February 3, 2020

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks seeks comments on rules for public land access program

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public comment on proposed administrative rules pertaining to implementation of public access land agreements.

The 2019 Legislature passed Senate Bill 341, codified in 87-1-295, 87-1-296, and 87-1-297, MCA, which allows the issuance of public access land agreements. The program allows FWP to enter into voluntary agreements with landowners to provide access across a landowner’s private land to reach public land in exchange for an annual payment.

FWP is proposing to adopt rules that are necessary to implement the program. The proposed rules include the application requirements; terms of the agreement, should it be issued; and clarification on landowner compensation.

On Feb. 25 at 6 p.m., FWP will hold a public hearing at its headquarters building, 1420 E. 6th Ave. in Helena, to consider the proposed adoption of the rules.

Written comment may also be submitted to: Jason Kool, FWP, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, MT, 59620-0701; or e-mailed to Comments must be received by Feb. 28, 2020.

To view the proposal notice or submit written comments online, go to


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