Saturday, November 30, 2013

Never Stop Exploring

"Humans have always been driven by curiosity and fed by an innate need to explore. There is an allure in the pursuit of the unknown." Here's a pretty inspiring video from the North Face that I think you'll probably enjoy:

I don't know about you, but I think it's time to get out and explore:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Glacier National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park


Friday, November 29, 2013

A Wonderful World Awaits: Explore Rocky Mountain National Park this Winter

For many visitors, winter is their favorite season to enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park. The park is less visited but still very much open and alive with activity. Beautiful backcountry areas can be reached on snowshoes, skis, and at lower elevations - even with hiking boots! Elk, coyotes, deer, snowshoe hares, and other wildlife remain active through the winter. Their story is told by the tracks left in the snow. For those visitors who are prepared, winter is an enchanting time to explore the park.

Snowshoeing and skiing are excellent ways to experience the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park. The park will once again offer ranger-led snowshoe ecology walks for beginner-level snowshoers on the east side, and for beginner and intermediate-level snowshoers and cross-country skiers on the west side of the park. Reservations are required and there is no additional fee beyond the regular park entrance fee.

Snowshoeing is easy to learn and opens up a new way to see the beauty of nature during its quietest season. For beginners, the snowshoe program is a two-hour exploration of the natural world of the subalpine forest. No previous snowshoe experience is required. On the east side, this walk is held on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30 p.m. between January 4th and March 23rd. The beginner snowshoe tour on the west side is held on Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. between December 28th and March 8th. 

For more experienced snowshoers, a two-hour snowshoe walk is offered on the west side of the park on Sundays at 1:00 p.m. between December 29th and March 9th. Previous snowshoeing experience is recommended because of the elevation gain, mileage, pace and terrain covered in this program.

Ranger-led cross-country ski tours are also offered on the west side of the park on Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. between December 28th and January 25th. Participants ski a snow-draped landscape and learn about the Kawuneeche Valley.

All snowshoe walks and ski tours require reservations. Reservations can be made in advance, seven days or less prior to the desired program. Participants must furnish their own equipment, including poles with baskets, and be at least 8 years old. To make reservations for east side snowshoe walks, call the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1223 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. daily. To make reservations for west side snowshoe walks, call the Kawuneeche Visitor Center at (970) 627-3471 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily.

Frontcountry and backcountry camping take place in the winter too! Timber Creek Campground and designated sections of Moraine Park Campground are open all winter; the fee is $14 per site per night. Water and dump stations are not available in winter at the campgrounds. Self-registration permits for backcountry camping in winter zones are available. There is no charge in the winter for backcountry camping.

Sledding activities can be enjoyed in Rocky Mountain National Park at the Hidden Valley area. Hidden Valley slopes have been contoured to enhance the safety of sledding and other -more- snowplay activities. The gentle sledding hill is especially enjoyed by younger park visitors. Facilities at Hidden Valley include a warming hut, which is open weekends, and heated restrooms which are open daily. This area is also a good base location for visitors interested in backcountry skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing in the undeveloped areas in and around Hidden Valley.

Podcasts on Winter Recreation and Introduction to Snowshoeing can be found on the park website at, Backcountry users should be aware of avalanche conditions, always check the Colorado Avalanche Information Center website at before an adventure.

Full Moon Walks will be offered on November 17, December 17, January 15, February 14, and March 16.. Times and locations will vary each month. Reservations are necessary and may be made seven days in advance by calling (970) 586-1223.

If planning an overnight trip to Rocky Mountain National Park this winter, please visit our Accommodations page on to find a wide variety of lodging opportunities in Estes Park or Grand Lake.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Report Estimates Backcountry Winter Recreation Contributes $22.5 Million Annually to Teton-West Yellowstone Economy

A new study from Jackson economist Mark Newcomb estimates that human-powered backcountry winter recreation in Grand Teton National Park, parts of the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests, and the Rendezvous Ski Trails in West Yellowstone contributes $22.5 million annually to the region’s economy.

Newcomb and colleague Karl Meyer conducted random surveys over the course of the 2012-13 winter season of resident and non-resident backcountry visitors who participated in the activities of backcountry skiing and snowboarding (also known as alpine touring or AT), cross-country skiing both on and off groomed trails, snowshoeing, walking/jogging on groomed backcountry trails, and over-snow biking. The survey asked for data about annual expenditures on goods and services related to these forms of backcountry recreation as well as the location and frequency of backcountry visits.

Topline findings include an estimated $12.5 million direct annual economic impact by nonresidents who participate in these activities while visiting the region and $6.5 million annual contribution from resident spending related to backcountry winter recreation. Newcomb estimates $3 million in annual wages to employees who work in jobs directly stemming from these forms of winter backcountry recreation and $1 million in tax revenues to state and local government. The geographic area of impact focused on the communities of Jackson, Driggs/Victor and West Yellowstone and includes Teton County in Wyoming, Teton, Bonneville, Fremont and Madison Counties in Idaho, and West Yellowstone, Montana.

“We know anecdotally that winter backcountry recreation is increasing throughout the study region,” said Newcomb who, in addition to experience in environmental economics and urban and rural planning, worked for 25 years as a backcountry ski guide and avalanche course instructor. “However, to date, there has been little information available about how these activities impact our economy.”

Newcomb added that the report takes a conservative approach both in its economic impact conclusions and in its estimate of total number of residents and nonresidents participating in backcountry winter recreation in the region. The report uses data from a combination of sources including National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, trail counts and concessionaire data to arrive at a population estimate of 7,419 residents and 41,336 nonresidents who participated in the above activities during the 2012-13 winter season.

“My intuition and my on-the-ground experience tell me the population numbers we arrived at are low,” said Newcomb, “and therefore, the economic impact is likely understated, but these are the best source numbers available so that’s what we went with.” Per person expenditure estimates are $803 spent annually by residents in-region and an additional $255 spent out-of-region on goods and services for backcountry winter recreation; and $273 per person per visit by nonresidents spent on backcountry winter recreation goods and services during their visit to the region.

The report incorporates data gathered in additional surveys: one of retailers in the area that sell gear, clothing and other goods and services related to backcountry recreation; and a second survey of organizations such as backcountry guide services and avalanche course providers, both for profit and nonprofit, that operate as authorized concessionaires on national forest or national park lands. This data provided information about employment and wages related to winter backcountry recreation and helped corroborate population estimates.

One surprise, according to Newcomb, is the significance of guided activity in the area. “While guided winter activity seems to have a relatively small footprint, our study found that the economic contribution is significant.” The study estimates that participants in guided activities and education programs spent 6,699 days in the backcountry and contributed $1.6 million in gross revenues and were responsible for $826,000 in wages.

The study also reinforced the quality of the winter backcountry opportunities in the region with 81 percent of nonresidents and 74 percent of residents who skied or snowboarded in the backcountry reporting they were "very satisfied" with their experience.

The report was commissioned by the Boise-based national nonprofit organization Winter Wildlands Alliance (WWA) and was funded through a grant from the LOR Foundation. “It’s a common refrain from land managers and decision makers that they need better and more economic data on our activities,” said WWA Executive Director Mark Menlove. “We chose to study the Teton-West Yellowstone area because it is renowned for its backcountry winter recreation, is well managed, and offers an excellent mix of recreational opportunities. This study verifies that backcountry recreation creates jobs and contributes significantly to the local economy. It’s hugely important for Winter Wildlands Alliance, both as a pilot project we hope to replicate in other regions and as a practical tool for land managers and planners in the region to use in resource allocation and management efforts.”

An executive summary and the full report, titled “Teton-West Yellowstone Backcountry Winter Recreation Economic Analysis,” are available at


Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Top of Texas

The highest point in Texas, Guadalupe Peak, is one of only four state highpoints to be located within a national park. Denali, Mount Rainier and Clingmans Dome are the other three. However, since Clingmans Dome is an easy walk of about a hundred yards, and Denali and Mount Rainier are probably out of the league of at least 99% of all park visitors, Guadalupe Peak is really the only state high point in a national park that most people can hike up to. From its 8749-foot summit you can see for at least a 100 miles in all directions. For more information on this excellent and surprisingly scenic hike, please click here.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Planning a visit to Rocky Mountain this Holiday Season?

Planning a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park this Holiday Season? Please help support by supporting the sponsors on our Accommodations page. Our website provides a wide variety of overnight options - from cozy cabins to luxurious resorts.

Thank you very much!


Introduction to Snowshoeing Class

Discover the joy of winter and the freedom of snowshoeing next month at Echo Lake! On this field outing, you'll learn snowshoeing techniques, ascending and descending hills, snow hazard awareness, and winter preparedness. Don't have snowshoes? REI will provide snowshoes, snowshoe poles and professional instruction on the proper use of equipment to ensure every trip a success.

Some of the skills you'll learn during this 4-hour class include:

* Learn appropriate technique to ascend, descend and break trail in snow.

* Learn local areas to take your family outside in the winter.

* Learn how to use and care for snowshoeing equipment.

* Learn basic skills for winter travel and hiking .

The class will be held on December 15th, from 9:00 am - 1:00 pm at Echo Lake. Cost for REI members is $65.00. For non-members it's $85.00.

For more information on the class, including required gear, registration and directions, please click here.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Top 10 Hikes in America (my list!)

While putting together our newest website, Discover the West, I couldn’t help realize how fortunate Kathy and I have been to be able to hike in so many beautiful places over the years. Over this past summer and fall, while I was piecing the website together, I started thinking about which of those hikes have been the most memorable, and which ones I would consider to be among my favorites. As a result of this thought process, I thought I would put together a list of my top 10 hikes.

The criteria I used in developing the list is based on what I enjoy seeing the most: expansive panoramic views, rugged peaks, lush alpine meadows, pristine wilderness, and the opportunity to see wildlife and wildflowers. Generally speaking, the more of those qualities included on a hike, the more I’m likely to enjoy it.

So, here’s my list. Maybe it will inspire you to discover new hiking destinations:

1) Highline Trail - This world famous hike in the heart of Glacier National Park should be on the bucket list of any self-respecting hiker. The absolutely incredible views along the entire route, the wildlife and the wildflowers, all combine to make this a hike you'll remember the rest of your life.

2) Swiftcurrent Pass - Although this is one of the toughest hikes in Glacier National Park, it includes tons of spectacular scenery. You'll pass by three gorgeous lakes and a waterfall while traveling up the Swiftcurrent Valley. Once above the valley floor the trail offers outstanding birds-eye views of six lakes, as well as Swiftcurrent Glacier. Then, at the pass, you'll have stunning views of Heavens Peak and Granite Park.

3) Skyline Trail Loop - John Muir once said that Mt. Rainier’s Paradise valley was "the most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings." I dare say you might have the same reaction yourself. The best way to explore the Paradise valley is to hike the Skyline Trail loop. This hike was so incredibly beautiful that it was the first time that I ever kept my camera in my hand for the entire trip. The amazing scenery never ended!

4) Blue Lakes - The Blue Lakes Trail travels to an extremely scenic glacial basin within the 16,566-acre Mt. Sneffels Wilderness area. Although not a national park, the San Juan Mountains near Ouray, Colorado are as spectacular as some of America’s most famous national parks. You could also make a strong argument that the Blue Lakes hike is as good as any of the best hikes in our national park system.

5) Hallet Peak - For those that feel that Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park is just a little too difficult, or maybe too dangerous, Hallett Peak just might be the perfect mountain to satisfy your big mountain, “summit fever”. Reaching a height of 12,713 feet, the mountain provides the perfect opportunity to feel like you’re on top of the Rockies, without being exposed to dangerous drop-offs.

6) Huron Peak - At 14,003 feet, Huron Peak just barely qualifies as a “fourteener”. However, that doesn’t mean the views are any less stunning than peaks that are hundreds of feet higher. The summit still offers mind-blowing views of Colorado’s Sawatch Range, including the Three Apostles.

7) Siyeh Pass Loop - This one-way hike offers visitors the chance to take-in some of the best of what Glacier National Park has to offer. Hikers will pass through the incredibly beautiful Preston Park, climb up to one of the highest maintained trails in Glacier, and then travel back down through the Baring Creek Valley where you'll have a relatively close-up view of Sexton Glacier.

8) Piegan Pass - Okay, so this is the 4th hike from Glacier National Park to make the list. You may think I’m a little biased, but I’ll make no bones about it, Glacier is definitely my favorite park. When compared to the other three Glacier hikes listed above, Piegan Pass is probably only a notch or two below those on the “awesome meter,” but is far less crowded. Big panoramic views await hikers along most of this hike.

9) Chasm Lake - Hands down this is the best lake hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. In addition to the outstanding panoramic views you'll have on the way up, you’ll also have a front row view of the famous “Diamond”, the impressive east-facing wall of Longs Peak which rises more than 2,400 feet above this incredibly beautiful alpine lake.

10) Four Mile & Panorama Trail - Did you know that you can do one hike that encompasses nearly all of Yosemite’s iconic sights? This epic 12.6-mile hike includes a full view of Yosemite Falls from the only place in the park to see both the upper and lower falls in their full glory. Along the way you’ll also see El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, Illilouette Fall and Nevada Fall. The one-way hike begins from the Yosemite Valley, climbs up to Glacier Point via the Four Mile Trail, and then travels back down to the valley via the Panorama Trail and the famous Mist Trail.

Honorable mentions (in no particular order):

Gregory Bald and Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains, Bear Lake to Odessa Lake, Emerald Lake and the Old Ute Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Gilpin Lake Loop in the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness, Mt. Elbert near Leadville, Ptarmigan Tunnel, Pitamakan Pass, Gable Pass, Iceberg Lake and Cracker Lake in Glacier National Park, Avalanche Peak in Yellowstone National Park, Cascade Canyon Trail in Grand Teton National Park, Mt. Rogers in the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area, Grassy Ridge Bald in the Pisgah National Forest, and Observation Point in Zion National Park.


Join the Sulphur Ranger District's 12th Annual Christmas Bird Count

The U.S. Forest Service’s Sulphur Ranger District will host its 12th annual Christmas Bird Count in conjunction with the National Audubon Society on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013. Join tens of thousands of bird lovers and volunteers across the Americas in a holiday tradition that has taken place for more than 100 years. Families, birders and scientists, armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists help provide critical data on bird population trends from around the world. Audubon and other organizations use the data collected in this wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations.

Granby-area bird counters can choose to participate by motor vehicle, skis or snowshoes, and all birding skill levels are welcome. Other opportunities to contribute, for those who live within the count area, include: volunteering to count and report birds that visit home feeders on the day of the count; allowing access to private property for volunteers to count birds; or simply filling bird feeders that are visible from public roads on the day of the count.

Children and families can get involved by participating in the kids’ route. This short walking loop, ideal for children ages 2-10, follows the Fraser River in Granby’s Kaibab Park and includes a lesson in using binoculars (bring your own or use the ones provided) and clues to identifying birds, followed by warm drinks. The children’s bird count will begin at 10 a.m. Please dress warmly and wear snow clothes.

To participate or contribute in any of these events, please contact wildlife biologist Brock McCormick at 970-887-4108 or email

To learn more about the Christmas Bird Count, visit


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The tallest trees on the planet

The tallest trees on the planet are found along the coast of northern California and southern Oregon. Fortunately for today’s visitors, and generations to come, nearly half of all Coast Redwoods are under the protection of the combined Redwood National and State Parks. Walking through one of the old-growth groves in any of these parks is like walking into a cathedral.

The tallest redwood in the world, at almost 380 feet in height, is known as Hyperion. If you wish to visit this giant someday, you may want to note that its location is kept secret. However, there are many other areas where visitors can explore these ancient titans. One of the best places is the Stout Grove in Jedediah Smith State Park, considered by many to be the most scenic stand of redwoods in the world.

For more information on this truly remarkable stand of trees, please click here.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Eldorado Canyon State Park re-opens two more system trails

Colorado Parks & Wildlife announced yesterday the re-opening of two more system trails at Eldorado Canyon State Park: Fowler Trail and Eldorado Canyon Trail. These trails were closed in September due to flood damage. These system trails connect the state park to the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, and Boulder County Parks and Open Space public land.

While nearly 75% of Eldorado Canyon State Park has re-opened, areas that will remain closed, or are of particular concern, include:

- The main park road will remain closed to vehicles; however, visitors can hike up the road to get to the hiking trails.

- Rattlesnake Gulch Trail remains closed.

- The Visitor Center and upper parking areas will remain closed for some time to come.

With the opening of Highway 72, Coal Creek Canyon and Flagstaff Road to Gross Dam road, access has opened to Crescent Meadows and the Walker Ranch loop.

Park resource staffs from the City, County, State and community volunteers have worked extremely hard to re-open these trails over the past two months, however, visitors should be aware they will encounter different conditions than they have experienced in the past. These changed conditions include, but are not limited to: uneven trail surfaces, rutted trails, damaged water bars and steps, falling trees due to soil moisture, unstable slopes, and loose rock.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages 42 state parks, more than 300 state wildlife areas, all of Colorado's wildlife, and a variety of outdoor recreation. For more information, visit:


Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Affordable Footwear Act?

Cheaper hiking boots could be coming to an outdoor retailer near you in the future! Members of Congress are apparently working on a piece of legislation, known as the Affordable Footwear Act, that could significantly lower the cost of hiking boots and other outdoor footwear.

Bi-partisan legislation from Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) would suspend import duties on outdoor footwear for five years. Also co-sponsored by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Mike Johanns (R-ID), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO), the bill would lower consumer costs, promote jobs and drive innovation in domestically produced outdoor footwear.

While the average U.S. tariff on consumer goods is 2%, tariffs on outdoor footwear products are as high as 37.5%. In fact, many of the high tariffs on outdoor footwear exceed federal taxes on cigarettes, a striking disparity which would be corrected by the Affordable Footwear Act’s passage.

The U.S. Treasury collects $2.3 billion in import duties on outdoor footwear each year. With mark-ups at the wholesale and retail level, those $2.3 billion in duties amount to a $7 billion tax on American consumers. The Affordable Footwear Act seeks to target $800 million of that $2.3 billion in import duties. This effectively translates into a savings of $2-3 billion for consumers each year.

The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) is working closely with its members to ensure that none of the products covered by the bill are produced in the U.S. Additionally, the limited duration of the bill will allow Congress to remove any products that may be made in the U.S. in the future.

Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) introduced the House version of the bill – HR 1708 – last spring. It currently has a bi-partisan group of 48 co-sponsors.

“This common sense piece of legislation will benefit consumers and businesses,” said Kirk Bailey, vice president of government affairs of Outdoor Industry Association. “By eliminating disproportionally high tariffs, this bill will fuel innovation in the outdoor domestic shoe industry and help create new jobs in the U.S. By lowering costs for consumers, the Affordable Footwear Act of 2013 will make outdoor recreation and outdoor products more affordable for more Americans.”

OIA is asking its members to urge their Senators to become co-sponsors on the bill.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Multnomah Falls

You’ve probably seen Multnomah Falls before. It’s been featured in many television and print ads over the years.

In fact, Multnomah Falls is likely one of the most famous and most photographed waterfalls in the entire world. In addition to dropping more than 600 feet, the view of the falls is enhanced by the iconic footbridge that spans just above its lower tier. It’s an easy hike to reach the bridge, but did you know that you can go all the way to the top for a birds-eye view of the waterfall as it plunges over the cliff?

Please click here for more information on this hike and traveling along the Columbia River Gorge.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Show Your Support for Rocky Mountain National Park with a new License Plate

Colorado residents can now show their support for the creation of a brand new Rocky Mountain National Park Group Special License Plate. The Rocky Mountain Nature Association (RMNA) is collecting signatures on a petition that will bring the bill for this special plate honoring Rocky Mountain National Park to the Colorado legislature in January 2014.

The unique plate design features a magnificent bull elk under a starry sky with alpine tundra flowers and reads, “Rocky Mountain National Park”.

The Rocky Mountain Nature Association, in partnership with Rocky Mountain National Park, will introduce this special license plate that will be available to Colorado registered vehicle owners. The plate will be available by 2015 to coincide with Rocky Mountain National Park’s Centennial celebration. It will remain available as long as 3000 plates are purchased each year.

Proceeds generated by the project will directly support Rocky Mountain National Park.

First, RMNA needs 3000 Colorado registered vehicle owner signatures in support of this initiative in order to bring a bill to a vote in the Colorado state legislature in January 2014. Signatures will also be considered as a pledge to purchase a plate (if the bill is approved by the Colorado state legislature). Once approved, a minimum of 3000 plate sets will need to be requested annually or the plate will be retired.

For information and to sign the petition, please click here.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests Releases Initial Flood Assessment Findings

The Flood Incident Assessment Team on the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, established following the September floods, has completed the draft initial assessment providing a snapshot of the scope and scale of flood damage and risks to Forest facilities and infrastructure. The assessment is the initial step to determine long-term repair and rehabilitation needs on the Boulder and Canyon Lakes ranger districts.

The assessment report covers approximately 609,000 acres that were preliminarily surveyed by both land and air as access allowed. The Forest cooperated with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) during this assessment to produce Damage Survey Reports (DSR) for roads under the Emergency Relief for Federally Owned Roads (ERFO) program.

Initial Assessment Findings:

* A total of 232 roads (382 miles), 70 trails (236 miles), 4 bridges, and 42 facilities were damaged by flooding.

* Multiple debris slides exist throughout the flood area with at least one covering two miles and crossing several land ownerships and roads.

* Piles of flood debris are deposited in streams and culverts and lands throughout the forest, many of these debris flows and piles may contain hazardous materials.

* Many roads, trails, and recreation areas are unrecognizable with ground cover washed away to bedrock.

* Due to access loss, fire suppression assets need to be reconfigured in order to respond to wildfires that could threaten values at risk located in inaccessible areas.

* Annual run-off and snow melt is expected to result in additional damage over the next one to three years. Alth

ough the full extent of damage across the forest is unknown, the infrastructure damage estimates in the report are considered a good initial assessment. Investment needed in roads, trails, facilities, ecosystems, and personnel may increase as more thorough assessments are completed and if additional damage is sustained over the winter to infrastructure compromised by the floods.

There is clearly much work to be done on National Forest System lands. Next steps for the Forest include providing an organization to address these needs, identifying additional assessment work that is needed, continuing work with the FHWA and setting priorities of the work that needs to be done. The timeframe for addressing all of these needs will take years.

Many roads and trails remain closed. Please use caution in all rain affected areas. Information about road status, closures and the assessment is posted here.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Canyon Lakes Recruiting Nordic Rangers for 2014 Season

The Canyon Lakes Ranger District is looking for volunteers to ski or snowshoe this winter in the busy Cameron Pass area, where 32 miles of trail can see over 300 skiers a day on a weekend.

This popular area includes trails that border Highway 14 between Chambers Lake and Cameron Pass. The area receives enough snow to ski before many others and snow often remains after other areas have lost their snow cover. For this reason, the number of winter recreationists at Cameron Pass continues to grow.

Volunteers ski or snowshoe “with a purpose,” helping the Forest Service educate winter visitors and provide winter use statistics. To volunteer, participants will take part in a minimum of four days patrolling and attend Forest Service-provided training. The kick-off meeting is Nov. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at 2150 Centre Ave., Building E, in Fort Collins. The required classroom training is Dec. 4, 6-9 p.m. and the required field training is Dec. 7 from 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. For more information or to RSVP, call Kristy Wumkes at 970-295-6721 or email

Along with a general introduction to the program, the kick-off also introduces potential new members to many of the partner-organizations, such as Jax Outdoor Gear and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and to some of the returning Nordic rangers.

The Cameron Pass Nordic Ranger program began in 1992. Volunteers assist the Forest Service by skiing or snowshoeing area trails to provide safety, trail, and low-impact backcountry use information to winter enthusiasts; help maintain area ski trails and trailheads for safety; and gather visitor use information to aid in Forest Service planning. Some of the Nordic rangers work as a winter trail crew to help keep the trails cleared of downed trees and limbs, install signs, and shovel paths to the restrooms.

Many of the trails are in the Rawah and Neota Wilderness areas, where routes can be challenging. Backcountry skiing also includes risks inherent with winter conditions in the mountains, including extreme cold. These are some of the key reasons volunteers in the area are so valuable to its many users, especially those with little winter sports experience.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Paradise Found: The Skyline Trail

"... the most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings."

That was John Muir’s reaction upon seeing the Paradise valley for the very first time in 1889. I dare say you might have the same reaction yourself. The best way to explore the Paradise valley below the southern slopes of Mt. Rainier is to hike the Skyline Trail loop. This hike was so incredibly beautiful that it was the first time that I ever kept my camera in my hand for the entire trip. The amazing scenery never ended!

For more information and photos on this outstanding hike (now one of my all-time favorites), please click here to visit our new Discover the West website.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Rocky Mountain National Park Announces Winter 2013-2014 Pile Burning Operations

Fire managers at Rocky Mountain National Park plan to take advantage of potential upcoming winter weather conditions to burn piles of slash. Approximately 1,000 piles are from several hazard fuels and hazard tree mitigation projects on the east side of the park. Slash has been cut and piled by park fire crews and contractors during the last two years. When winter conditions finally arrived in April, nearly 800 piles were burned.

When fighting the Fern Lake Fire, firefighters were able to take advantage of previous and existing prescribed fire and hazardous fuels treatment areas that provided a buffer between the fire and Estes Park. Prior hazard fuels projects were instrumental in stopping the fire from jumping Bear Lake Road. Because of the reduced fuel loading in those treated areas and the fire lines that had already been created in some locations, firefighters had confidence they could directly, and safely, attack the fire in places like the Upper Beaver Meadows area if the fire had moved there.

Pile burning operations will only begin when conditions allow. The piles are located in a variety of locations on the east side of the park including but not limited to areas east of Glacier Basin Campground, the north slope of Deer Mountain, the Lily Lake area, Moraine Park Administrative area, Sprague Lake, along US 36 to Deer Ridge Junction, along Wild Basin Road and power line, Beaver Mountain.

Safety factors, weather conditions, air quality and environmental regulations are continually monitored as a part of any fire management operation. For more information please contact the park's Information Office at 970-586-1206.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Winter Landscape Photography at Echo Lake

It's cold outside, but that doesn't mean you have to stop taking pictures. Next month, join an REI Expert Outdoor School Instructor to help you unlock that great winter landscape photo! This course is designed for customers with a basic understanding of how to use their camera. With special access to beautiful locations to inspire you, you'll learn how to capture amazing winter landscape photography. REI will teach you how to use settings on your camera to capture the best results - even in wet conditions! This course is appropriate for beginners to intermediate photographers using any kind of camera.

Skills you'll learn:

• Learn how to use settings on camera to get best results

• Learn how to capture amazing color, even in winter

• Learn about great outdoor locations for photos in your region

• Learn how to optimize your photos in different light and weather conditions

• Have fun learning tips for winter landscape photography

The class will be held on December 8th, from 9:00 am - 1:00 pm at Echo Lake. Cost for REI members is $55.00. For non-members it's $75.00.

For more information on the class, including required gear, registration and directions, please click here.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Walk in the footsteps of the ancients

Just north of Santa Fe is a relatively unknown and detached unit of Bandelier National Monument known as Tsankawi. Although this area is easy to overlook, park visitors shouldn’t pass up a chance to visit this gem. The primary attraction at Tsankawi is the short loop trail which provides access to numerous unexcavated ruins, cave dwellings carved into the soft volcanic tuff, as well as several petroglyphs from the Ancestral Tewa Pueblo that lived here until the 16th century. The trail offers hikers the opportunity to literally walk in the footsteps of the ancients. Generations of use have carved trails into the soft volcanic tuft:

For more information on this unique hike, please click here to visit our new Discover the West website.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Online Lottery Applications Coming for River Permits in Dinosaur National Monument

Changes are coming to the river permit lottery at Dinosaur National Monument. Starting with the 2014 season, if you want to participate in the lottery for a high season permit to take a multi-day float trip on the Yampa or Green Rivers, you can apply online through for your permit. This change is part of our effort to better serve our visitors and to go "green" by incorporating a paperless online system.

From December 1, 2013 to January 31, 2014, applicants can apply online instead of filling out a form and mailing it in with a check to the monument's river office. Through the online system, applicants can also pay using a credit or debit card. does require each applicant to register and create a profile with their unique email address and a password so that they can process payments.

Previously, a potential river user could file only one application for only one possible launch date on one river. For the 2014 season, applicants can still file only one application, but they may choose up to four possible launch date/river choices on the application. The Yampa and Green Rivers are still combined in one drawing system.

"This quadruples the number of launches you can ask for," stated Kelly Kager, Dinosaur National Monument's River Office Manager. "That's a real plus for putting the lottery online. You also won't have to write a check or rummage around for a stamp. A similar lottery has been run successfully online for the Four Rivers in Idaho for several years. With the new system, we anticipate that we will be able to let people know the lottery results much faster. Lottery applicants will receive a notification by email."

During the open period, applications can be submitted online any time of day, and the fee remains the same as previous years at $15 per application. Permit fees are also the same as last year: $185 for a multi-day permit and $20 for a single day permit.

The Dinosaur National Monument lottery for 2014 permits opens December 1st at and closes on January 31, 2014. This year, only the lottery application process is moving online. Dinosaur National Monument's River Office will continue the processing of all permits for successful lottery applicants. Reservations for the pre/post season launches or one day permits in Dinosaur National Monument will be also processed through the river office beginning March 1, 2014 at 8:00 am Mountain time, as they have been in the past.

For more information, go to or call the Dinosaur National Monument river office at (970) 374-2468 Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to Noon.