Friday, January 31, 2014

Colorado Aerial Survey Shows Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic Declining; Spruce Beetle Numbers Escalating

The US Forest Service and Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) today released the results of the annual aerial forest health survey in Colorado, which indicate that the spread of the mountain pine beetle epidemic has slowed dramatically, while the spruce beetle outbreak continues to expand. Each summer the agencies work together to aerially monitor insect and disease-caused tree mortality or damage across Colorado forestland.

The mountain pine beetle epidemic slowed again in 2013, with the lowest acreage of active infestation observed in 15 years. Statewide, mountain pine beetle was active on 97,000 acres in 2013. This brings the total infestation to 3.4 million acres in Colorado since the first signs of the outbreak in 1996.

The spruce beetle outbreak was active on 398,000 acres across the state, expanding by 216,000 new acres in 2013, compared to 183,000 new acres in 2012. The total area affected by this beetle since 1996 has reached more than 1.1 million acres.

Conversely, aspen forest conditions in the state have continued to improve. The aerial survey indicates that although there is continued mortality following drought in the early 2000s, the decline has slowed, with only 1,200 acres impacted in 2013.

“Through our collaborative efforts we are improving the health of our public lands. Our continuing work on the land, together with other agencies, partners and the wood products industry will allow for the treatment of more acres in need of restoration at an increased pace,” said Dan Jir√≥n, Regional Forester for the Rocky Mountain Region of the US Forest Service. “Restoring forest health and resiliency is a top regional priority, and is guiding much of the work on the forests. In 2013, these National Forest projects in this Region led to enough timber harvested to construct 25,000 homes.”

The US Forest Service is taking action to address the bark beetle infestations. The Rocky Mountain Region is focused on increasing the pace and scale of active forest management across Colorado. Each National Forest is stepping up forest treatments, and many are working collaboratively to strategically plan and apply work to the areas that need it most. The US Forest Service now has four 10-year stewardship contracts to remove dead trees to restore forests and increase their resiliency. The US Forest Service has also awarded several short-term stewardship contracts aimed at improving forest health and adding to local economies.

One example is the recently operational Gypsum biomass plant. The plant converts wood chips from beetle-killed trees into enough electricity to run the plant and pump an additional 10 megawatts into the Holy Cross Energy Facility, which powers approximately 55,000 customers in Eagle, Pitkin, Garfield, Gunnison and Mesa counties. Much of the wood the plant will process will come from beetle-killed trees from the White River National Forest.

Forestry agencies have a key role in sustaining forest ecosystems, which provide many benefits to the people of Colorado and many surrounding states. Whether progress is measured by the reduction of large-scale wildfires, timber harvested or number of forest acres treated; the outcome is the same: healthy and resilient forests, and the protection of forested watersheds.

While the US Forest Service takes action on National Forest lands, the CSFS works with private landowners to help them meet their management objectives to achieve healthy forests. The agency will release a new quick guide on the spruce beetle by April, and in 2013 held educational public meetings about the beetle for citizens in Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, Huerfano, Lake, Las Animas, Pueblo and Saguache counties.

For further information on forest health conditions in the Rocky Mountain Region, click here.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Brins Mesa

For years my uncle raved about Sedona, telling me how beautiful the red rock landscape was, and every Christmas would encourage me to visit one day, saying that I would absolutely love the area. Well, that one day finally came. Two years ago my wife and I finally got the chance to visit Sedona. We spent the day hiking the Brins Mesa Trail, one of the more popular trails in the area. For details and photos from our hike, please click here. By the way, Sedona isn’t a bad place to visit for a mid-winter getaway!


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Study: Hikers are poorly able to recognize Lyme disease

According to an article recently published in Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, the official Journal of the Wilderness Medical Society, 46% of Appalachian Trail hikers are unable to recognize symptoms of Lyme disease (using photographs).

In the study conducted between June of 2011 and May of 2012, 379 hikers responded to a survey given by 4 researchers at 3 geographically separate locations at or proximate to the Appalachian Trail. Ten percent, or 37 of those hikers, stated that they had been diagnosed with Lyme disease as a result of hiking.

Lyme disease is an infectious disease that's transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks. Early symptoms of the disease may include fever, headache, and fatigue. A rash occurs in 70–80% of infected persons at the site of the tick bite, after a delay of 3–30 days (average is about 7 days), and may or may not appear as the well-publicized bull's-eye (erythema migrans). The rash is only rarely painful or itchy, although it may be warm to the touch. Approximately 20–30% of infected persons do not experience a rash. Left untreated, later symptoms may involve the joints, heart, and central nervous system. In most cases, the infection and its symptoms are eliminated by antibiotics, especially if the illness is treated early. Delayed or inadequate treatment can lead to more serious symptoms, which can be disabling and difficult to treat.

The disease has been reported in all states with the exception of Montana. However, 99% of all reported cases are confined to five geographic areas: New England, Mid-Atlantic, East-North Central, South Atlantic, and West North-Central.

The study (abstract) warns that with nearly 2,500 Appalachian Trail hikers entering the endemic area for as long as 6 months, exposure to the disease is likely.


The CDC recommends wearing protective clothing, including a hat, long-sleeved shirts and long trousers tucked into socks or boots. Light-colored clothing makes the tick more easily visible before it attaches itself. People should also use special care in handling and allowing outdoor pets inside homes because they can bring ticks into the house.

The CDC also recommends using insect repellents with Picaridin, IR3535, DEET or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus to repel ticks. Additionally, Permethrin sprayed on clothing kills ticks on contact.

After returning from a hike, or any area where you might have been exposed, closely check your skin and clothes for ticks. Immediately remove them from your body using fine-tipped tweezers. Grasp the tick firmly and as close to your skin as possible, and then pull the tick's body away from your skin with a steady motion. Make sure to clean the area with soap and water. Removing infected ticks within 24 hours reduces your risk of being infected with the Lyme disease bacterium.

For additional information on Lyme disease, please visit the CDC website. For a first hand account on what it's like contracting the disease, please click here.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Senator Udall Selected as Honorary Chair of Rocky Mountain National Park’s Upcoming 100th Anniversary

On January 26, 1915, Rocky Mountain National Park was established. Ninety-nine years later, Rocky Mountain National Park is pleased to announce that Senator Mark Udall has been named Honorary Chair of Rocky Mountain National Park's 100th Anniversary Celebration.

"As an avid outdoorsman as well as the chairman of the U.S. Senate National Parks Subcommittee, I'm thrilled to help mark the centennial of Rocky Mountain National Park. Countless international visitors, as well as generations of Coloradans — myself included — have come to Rocky Mountain National Park to take in the scenery along Trail Ridge Road, hike the Continental Divide, and see the hundreds of elk and big horn sheep that call the park home. Rocky Mountain National Park is a true treasure, and I encourage all adventurers, young and old, to participate in its centennial celebration by visiting the park," said Senator Udall.

Senator Udall's mother helped instill his great sense of adventure and love for the Colorado wilderness. Patricia "Sam" Udall, was a native Coloradan and avid outdoorswoman. Her father, Roe Emery, was the first concessionaire in Rocky Mountain National Park and part owner of the historic Stanley Hotel in nearby Estes Park. He played an important role in the growth of tourism and the promotion of Rocky Mountain National Park after its creation in 1915.

"Our parks are one of Colorado's best renewable resources, but we need today's youth to connect with places like Rocky Mountain National Park…to ensure they are there for future generations to enjoy," said Senator Udall.

The year-long Rocky Mountain National Park Centennial Celebration will kick-off on September 4, 2014, the 99th anniversary of its dedication as a national park. A Re-Dedication Ceremony will bring the celebration to an end on September 4, 2015. Special events and programs will be offered over the course of the year in the park and in the surrounding communities. For details on Centennial planning and events, please click here.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

58NationalParks produced this excellent overview of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If this video inspires you to visit the Smokies this year, the best way to explore this wonderful park is to hike along one of the many trails that meander throughout the park.

If you do plan to visit the Smokies this year, please note that our website offers a wide variety of accommodation listings to help with your vacation planning.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Boulder Ranger District to Host 2014 Projects Open House

The Boulder Ranger District (BRD) of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland will host an open house to discuss information about local forest management projects that will begin in 2014. The meeting will take place at the Nederland Community Center on Monday, Jan. 27 from 5 to 7 p.m. Representatives of the BRD will have maps and images projecting what the treatment areas will look like after cutting is complete and be available to answer questions.

The areas planned for cutting activities are in Boulder and Gilpin counties:

* near Nederland along Magnolia Road and Big Springs Subdivision

* near Gross Reservoir and Lazy Z Road

* near Rollinsville along Gilpin County Road 12 and Bobcat Trail

* near the Gold Hill Road and Switzerland Trail intersection

* near Pinecliff

Trees will also be planted at West Magnolia and Kelly Dahl Campground in follow-up to recent cutting activities in those areas.

For more information contact Maribeth Pecotte at or 303-541-2525.


Naches Peak

Although the Naches Peak Loop is considered to be a fairly popular hike, it doesn’t attract the crowds that some of Mt. Rainier’s star attractions see, such as in the Paradise or Sunrise areas. There are several reasons why you should put this gem on your hiking itinerary: it’s a relatively easy hike, it provides outstanding views of 14,410-foot Mt. Rainier, and it mostly travels through open country and lush meadows bursting with wildflowers.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Go west, young man

Take my advice, "go west, young man".

That famous quote is attributed to Horace Greeley, the influential 19th century author. Greeley, who was also the founder and editor of the New York Tribune, saw westward expansion as the ideal place for hard working people to find opportunities to succeed.

Today, the west symbolizes the place for adventurers and enthusiasts to enjoy and play in the great outdoors. One of the most iconic destinations in the west is Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Coincidentally, less than 50 miles away from the park is the small town of Greeley, which happens to be named after ole Horace.

So what does all this have to do with anything? Actually, it brings me to our newest hiking website, which we just launched in November of 2012. offers details on many of the trails throughout the park. In fact, you'll find quite a lot of information to help plan much of your trip.

First of all, trying to figure out where to hike can be challenging, especially if you're unfamiliar with the area. The park offers more than 350 miles of trails that lead to some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet. As a starting point you can check out our list of the Top 10 Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as our list of the Best Easy Hikes in the park.

Our website also offers many lodging options on our Accommodations page. Here you'll find a wide variety of overnight accommodations that offer a wide variety of amenities in the Rocky Mountain National Park area.

If you're looking for additional activities during your stay, besides hiking, take a moment to check out our Things To Do page. Then, take a day to go horseback riding, rafting, birding, photography touring, or maybe even take a hot air balloon tour of the Rockies!

If you're currently planning, or just considering a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park this summer, now's the time to begin making reservations before accommodations begin filling-up during the peak travel season.

Please know that by supporting one of our advertisers you help to support

Finally, if you know anyone else that's planning a trip to RMNP this year, we would really appreciate if you could forward this link onto them as well.

Thank you very much!


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rocky Mountain National Park Considers Allowing Bicycles on Section of East Shore Trail

Rocky Mountain National Park staff are considering whether to allow bicycle use on a two-mile section of the East Shore Trail within the national park. The East Shore Trail runs roughly parallel to the east shore of Shadow Mountain Lake, which is located near the town of Grand Lake, Colorado. The East Shore Trail area is not part of designated wilderness within the park.

The National Park Service has prepared an Environment Assessment (EA) to analyze the effects of allowing bicycle use on the northern two miles of the East Shore Trail within the park. Two alternatives are analyzed in the EA:

Alternative A – No Action / Continue Current Management: The National Park Service would manage the East Shore Trail as it is currently. Pedestrian use would continue to be allowed along the entire two-mile section of trail and livestock use would continue to be allowed on the East Shore Trail north of its intersection with the Ranger Meadows Trail. The use of bicycles would not be permitted anywhere on the trail within the park.

Alternative B – Allow Bicycle Use with Minor Trail Modifications: This alternative proposes minor improvements to a two-mile portion of the East Shore Trail within the national park to accommodate bicycle use and other existing trail uses. The proposed improvements include construction of a short reroute of the trail for the purposes of improving public safety, trail sustainability, and to avoid impacts to natural and cultural resources. A number of management strategies are included in this alternative to avoid conflicts among users.

Park staff will host two public meetings to present the project and answer questions. The first meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 11th, at 7:00 p.m. at the Grand Lake Fire Station, located at 201 West Portal Road in Grand Lake. The second meeting will be held on Monday, February 24th, at 7:15 p.m. at the Alfalfa's Market Community Room located at 1651 Broadway in Boulder. Parking is available at the Boulder Public Library across the street. Participants may submit written comments at the public meetings.

Park staff welcome comments on this project. The EA is now available for public review and comment for 45 days. Comments must be received in writing by close of business on March 3, 2014.

The preferred method for reviewing the EA and submitting comments is to use the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website. A list of current planning projects will be displayed, including the "East Shore Trail Environmental Assessment."

Comments can also be submitted by mail to: Superintendent, Rocky Mountain National Park, 1000 U.S. Highway 36, Estes Park, Colorado 80517

Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment – including your personal identifying information – may be made publicly available at any time. Although you can ask the park in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, the park cannot guarantee they will be able to do so.


Highlighting the Highline Trail

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

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

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

If you do plan to visit Glacier this year, please note that our website offers a wide variety of accommodation listings to help with your vacation planning.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Rocky Mountain Nature Association: Classrooms Without Walls

The Rocky Mountain Nature Association is one of sixty-five cooperating associations nationwide that work with the national park system. Established in 1931, it's also one of the oldest cooperating organizations in the nation.

Rocky Mountain Nature Association's purpose is to support research, interpretive and other educational programs of the National Park Service and allied public agencies. To help accomplish these objectives the RMNA conducts educational seminars throughout the year. The funds raised from these activities go towards long-term improvement projects within Rocky Mountain National Park, including land acquisition, capital construction, restoration and preservation of historic structures, development of educational exhibits, construction of trails, and development of wheelchair accessible pathways.

Most of the seminars include field trips to experience Rocky Mountain National Park in an atmosphere of personal instruction. A wide range of topics are covered, including wildflowers, mammals, birds, cultural history, outdoor skills, photography, painting and writing. Most seminars require hiking, while some include an element of rigor due to high altitude and variable weather.

With their 2014 schedule now posted to their website, here's a small sampling of some of the programs that will be offered during the upcoming year:

* February 15: Winter Ecology: A Snowshoeing Trek for Kids & Families
* June 11: Plant & Wildflower Identification with a Naturalist
* June 20-22: Photographing Wildlife: When, Where, & How
* July 9: Rocky Mountain Trailblazers: Kid's Hiking Series
* July 12: North American Bears: Ecology, Behavior & Evolution
* July 15: Hummingbirds: Field Research
* September 5: Hike with a Naturalist: Ute Trail
* Late Sept thru mid-Oct: Elk Expeditions

For more information on these, and many other field seminars, please visit the Rocky Mountain Nature Association's website.

While planning your visit to Rocky Mountain National Park, please note that our website offers a variety of accommodation listings in both Estes Park and Grand Lake.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Fun Hogs

Viva Los Funhogs! That was the motto for five adventurers who traveled 8000 miles, from California to Patagonia, in a Ford Econoline Van during the summer of 1968. Their goal: to climb Fitz Roy near the southern tip of South America - and have a lot of fun along the way.

These weren’t just any five people. This crew included Doug Tompkins, the founder of The North Face, as well as Yvon Chouinard, who would go on to found Patagonia, a name that was inspired by this trip. The team also included Lito Tejada-Flores, a budding filmmaker who produced a movie about the trip, called Mountain of Storms, that went on to become a cult-classic.

In celebration of this epic road trip the climbers have published a new book to mark the 45th anniversary of their big adventure.

Climbing Fitz Roy, however, isn’t your ordinary climbing book. Its set-up is more like that of a slide show, the way climbers used to present their expeditions in order to raise funds to feed future adventures. Interspersed within the photos (slide show) are essays written by members of the Funhogs that provide insights on their thoughts and perspectives on the trip. There’s also an excerpt from the original 1969 American Alpine Journal article, the premiere journal of all things climbing.

It’s a bit of luck that this book was even published. It was thought that all of the photos were lost in a wildfire that destroyed the home of Funhog photographer Chris Jones in 1996. Fortunately the fifth member of the team, Dick Dorworth, found copies he had kept in a storage locker some eight years later.

As the group made their way down through Central and South America, a journey that would take three months, they spent a great deal of time skiing and surfing along the way. Their ultimate goal, however, was to climb Fitz Roy, a daunting 11,289-foot granite spire on the Argentine-Chilean border. The Funhogs would become only the third team to climb the mountain. Despite its moderate height, it’s considered to be among the most technically challenging mountains on Earth.

Climbing the peak took a lot longer than they expected. The Funhogs were forced to wait through 60 days of storms before they could even attempt the climb. This included 31 days of living in ice caves. Finally, on December 20, 1968, they reached the summit during a 30-hour roundtrip trek.

Climbing Fitz Roy includes dozens of outstanding photos. Some of them you can tell have been scanned, while others look like they’ve been taken by modern-day digital cameras.

My only complaint with the book was with Dick Dorworth’s essay. I thought his re-hashing of the 60s (for the umpteenth time!) was mostly off topic. Speaking as a post-boomer, how many more times do we have to be told how great “their generation” was?

If you’re into climbing, or enjoy spectacular mountain photography (especially that of Patagonia, one of the most stunning mountain ranges in the world), this is a great pick.

For a little more perspective on the historical context of the adventure, here’s the original trailer from the film, Mountain of Storms:

Mountain of Storms (Trailer) from Patagonia on Vimeo.

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


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Getting High in Yosemite

The hike to Gaylor Lakes near Tioga Pass traverses one of the highest maintained trails in Yosemite National Park, and offers some of the most spectacular high-country views off Tioga Road. The hike visits two alpine lakes, and during the summer you’ll enjoy a profusion of wildflowers that grow in the surrounding meadows. You’ll also have the opportunity to visit the abandoned Great Sierra Mine where you’ll find the remnants of stone cabins, a powder house and a blacksmith shop. 


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Annual Pass Commemorating Upcoming Centennial Now Available At Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park turns 100 in 2015. Want to start celebrating, but don't want to wait until next year? Rocky's 2014 Annual Pass features the 100th Anniversary logo and a pika, one of the park's most popular residents that relies on the protected tundra of Rocky Mountain National Park for survival. This pass, which will be issued throughout 2014, is a fun way to commemorate the park's Centennial, which kicks off September 4, 2014.

An annual pass to Rocky is a great purchase for anyone who enjoys visiting the park or would like to visit more often. Pass holders are able to enjoy all the beauty and adventure the park has to offer during all seasons, and the park benefits greatly from the purchase as well. From enjoying breathtaking scenery to hiking, viewing wildlife and wildflowers to snowshoeing, the park has something to offer everyone, depending on their interests and what season they visit.

In the past 16 years, over $60 million from fees has been spent on campground improvements, new restrooms, trail maintenance, an updated park film, enhanced trailhead bulletin boards, critical hazard tree mitigation and much, much more. Fees at the park have added approximately 30 percent to the park's annual budget for important repairs, renovations, improvements, and resource restoration. Park staff sell approximately 32,000 annual passes a year.

The annual pass is $40 and can be purchased at any park entrance station, or by calling (970) 586-1206 to make a credit card purchase. The Rocky Mountain National Park annual pass is a great deal. If you visit twice a year it pays for itself," said Superintendent Vaughn Baker, "plus, eighty percent of those fees stay right here in Rocky Mountain National Park."

For general information about Rocky Mountain National Park, please contact the park's information office at (970) 586-1206 or visit the park's website.

Information about the park's upcoming 100th Anniversary Celebration, how to host an event, or how to use the 100th Anniversary logo can be found here.

For more information on hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, please click here.


Beyond the Bear

I just finished reading an outstanding book this past weekend called Beyond the Bear. It’s a first-person account by Dan Bigley who tells his story of being attacked by a grizzly bear in the Alaskan bush, and his long road to recovery.

Dan survived a horrific mauling by a grizzly sow while fishing on the Russian River on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula in 2003. The attack was probably about as much as a person could take without actually dying, and left the 25-year-old badly disfigured and permanently blinded.

Although what he experienced was horrendous, his story is extremely inspiring. The book describes how Dan would overcome the attack. It all started at the Russian River that evening. While lying in a pool of blood, and almost drifting off forever, he remembers making the conscious decision to live. Dan discusses how he survived with the help of his friends, medics and doctors, what he had to do to reclaim his life, and how he refused to allow his blindness to stop him from enjoying life.

Interwoven in this story is a woman whom he had just met weeks before, and more or less fell in love with on the night before his attack.

Although you might think this could be a pretty heavy read, the opposite is true. Dan comes across as having a great sense of humor, and it’s obvious he was able to move forward with a mostly positive, can do, attitude.

All in all I thought this was a great read, and highly recommend it. For more information on the book, please click here.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

18th Annual Eagle Days return to Lake Pueblo State Park

The bald eagles are back! Come celebrate this magnificent bird of prey at Colorado Parks and Wildlife's 2014 Eagle Days Festival. The event features eagle-viewing opportunities, hands-on activities for the kids, live bird programs and educational presentations by raptor experts.

This year's festival runs from January 31st thru February 2nd at the Lake Pueblo State Park Headquarters. Each year the event draws hundreds of visitors from across the state who wish to learn more about these unique birds of prey.

"Eagle Days is a great opportunity to learn about these majestic birds and get the entire family outdoors," Darcy Mount, a ranger at Lake Pueblo State Park, said.

Numerous bald eagles spend the winter at Lake Pueblo State Park and the Pueblo Reservoir State Wildlife Area. They roost in the large trees and dine on fish from the large expanse of open water.

The area around Pueblo Reservoir offers excellent opportunities to view a variety of birds of prey year-round, but during the winter months the bald eagles are the star attraction.

Programs at the Park Visitor Center and entry to the Visitor Center from Hwy. 96 are free, but vehicles are required to have a Park's Pass if they drive into other portions of the park.

The festival kicks off at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 31 at the Lake Pueblo State Park auditorium with the announcement of the winners from this year's photo contest and a slideshow by professional wildlife photographer Debbie Barnes. Activities continue from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

For more information about Pueblo Eagle Days visit or call Colorado Parks and Wildlife at 719-561-5300 or 719-561-9320.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Full Moon Snowshoeing and Cross-country Skiing at State Forest State Park

Colorado Parks and Wildlife invites the public to the snow-covered winter woods at State Forest State Park for two 'Full Moon Open House' events on Saturday, January 18th and Saturday, February 15th.

Arrive at the park before dusk, and once the moon rises, enjoy a unique, nocturnal winter experience snowshoeing or cross-country skiing the six-mile Gould Loop that starts at the park's Moose Visitor Center. Everyone is encouraged to bring a snow buddy along for a fun evening.

"The route will be studded with glow sticks to guide skiers and snowshoers," said Park Manager Kent Minor. "Along with the 'glow-in-the-dark' jewelry that we provide, it creates a neat, almost mystical visual experience for participants."

State Forest State Park will provide hot chocolate and cookies along the trail at the Chocolate Cabin. In addition, visitors are invited to bring food for the potluck at the Moose Visitor Center after the evening's trek.

"The open house provides a break from cabin fever and an opportunity to discover the magic of moonlight on snow," added Minor. "You may even catch a glimpse of wildlife, including a moose or two."

Participants are reminded to bring all necessary equipment and dress for winter conditions.

State Forest State Park is located on Hwy 14, 75 miles west of Ft. Collins, or 25 miles east of Walden. For more information you can call 970-723-8366.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Explore Rocky Mountain 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 fun ways to experience the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park. The park offers 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 Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30 p.m. through March 23rd. The beginner snowshoe tour on the west side is held on Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. through 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. through 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 offered on the west side of the park on Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. through 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) 586-1206 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 the east side of the park on January 15th, February 14th and March 16th. Times and locations will vary each month. Reservations are necessary and may be made seven days in advance by calling (970) 586-1206.

Whenever visiting Rocky Mountain National Park to snowshoe, ski or hike, stop by a park visitor center or call (970) 586-1206 for current road and snow conditions.

Finally, if you do plan to visit Rocky Mountain National Park this winter, please note that our website offers a variety of accommodation listings in both Estes Park and Grand Lake.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Another SAR in Flattop Mountain Area of Rocky Mountain National Park

On Wednesday, January 8th, at approximately 4:30 p.m., two lost hikers contacted park rangers by cell phone. The 23-year-old male and female, from out of state, had reached the summit of Flattop Mountain (12,324 feet elevation) and became lost when hiking back down.

Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue (SAR) personnel began an immediate search for the two in the Flattop Mountain and Mill Creek Basin areas. The two were located above the "Banana Bowls" at an elevation of roughly 10,600 feet at approximately 8:00 p.m. The SAR team reached the Bear Lake Trailhead with the two hikers at 9:45 p.m.

The two hikers did not have snowshoes or backcountry gear and were not prepared for the freezing temperatures or to be in the backcountry after dark. Due to "post-holing" in deep snow the man's jeans, cotton socks and leather work boots were frozen solid when searchers found them. Rescuers used a backpacking stove to thaw the man's boots so he could walk out.

This search could easily have had a tragic ending and serves as an important reminder that preparedness is critical when exploring Rocky Mountain National Park. Frostbite and hypothermia present a clear and present danger. If going into the backcountry – visitors should plan their trip well and be prepared for the possibility of bitter cold winter conditions. Becoming lost or receiving a minor injury can be life threatening if not prepared, especially in winter. Most trails are not marked for winter use, so navigation can be challenging. Visitors should not rely on cellphone service as many areas of the park have no service. It is critical to check current weather and avalanche forecasts before venturing out.

At a minimum, winter backcountry visitors should carry water/ wind proof outerwear, whistle, topographic map, compass, flashlight or headlamp, matches or other fire starter, extra high energy food and water, extra layers of clothing and insulation, emergency bivy sack, and a first aid kit. Adequate winter footwear is essential - waterproof / insulated footwear with gaiters and snowshoes are needed.

Last Thursday a man had to be rescued after becoming disoriented while snowshoeing by himself near Flattop Mountain.


Public Input Sought for West Side Snowy Range Travel Management Project

The U.S. Forest Service, Brush Creek-Hayden (BCH) Ranger District, is seeking public input to help develop future proposals for the West Side Snowy Range Travel Management Project.

The analysis area for the project is located on the west side of the Snowy Range and encompasses approximately 210,000 acres on the Medicine Bow National Forest.

The purpose of this project is to provide safe motorized access to and through the National Forest, minimize user conflicts as well as travel and recreation impacts to natural resources, and to provide additional ATV-only designated trails.

Also, there is a need to address increasing demand for a wide variety of recreational opportunities while recognizing limitations in the amount of roads and trails that can be maintained.

It is important to note that no finalized proposals or determinations have been made by the BCH District on this topic. The hope is for substantive comments from the public regarding specific access needs or resource concerns on the Forest. Those comments will be combined with upcoming Forest Service assessment to determine future proposed actions.

Preliminary proposed actions include determining where existing roads/maintenance levels can be sustained, designation of ATV/UTV-only trails, changing maintenance levels of some Forest roads to better reflect current and future use, seasonal closures on some roads to prevent resource damage, decommissioning roads that are causing resource damage or are duplicative, and possibly adding select user-created (unauthorized) roads into the official (authorized) road system.

Comments will be most useful if received by January 31, 2014. Please be as specific as possible with comments or in expressing concerns so that they can be effectively addressed. This is not the official comment period, as the public will be provided an official 30-day comment period after the proposed action is sent out. During the official comment period any proposed actions will be fully developed for public comment. If you wish to receive project updates as they becomes available, please state such and provide either your mailing or email address.

Written comments should be sent to Brian Waugh, Recreation Program Manager, Brush Creek/Hayden RD, PO Box 249, Saratoga WY, 82331. Comments may also be hand delivered to the BCH office at 2171 Highway 130 during regular business hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday, excluding federal holidays. Electronic comments should be sent to: (acceptable format for electronic comments: rtf, pdf, word).


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Snowshoer Dies Of Heart Attack in Rocky Mountain National Park

The NPS Morning Report is reporting that a 74-year-old man from Fort Collins suffered a cardiac emergency while snowshoeing near Mills Lake this past Tuesday, January 7th. The man’s friends contacted park rangers by cell phone and began CPR, but were unable to revive him. He was pronounced dead around 1 p.m.

Mills Lake is located roughly 2.6 miles from the trailhead, and sits at an elevation of roughly 9940 feet.

Park staff, assisted by Larimer County Search and Rescue, recovered the man's body and reached the Glacier Gorge Trailhead at approxmiately 4:30 p.m. His body was then transferred to the Larimer County Coroner's Office.

Last week a snowshoer was rescued from the Mill Creek Drainage after becoming disoriented while snowshoeing by himself near Flattop Mountain.


Hike Report: Humphreys Peak

Are you a peak bagger, state high pointer, or just looking for something additional to do while in the Grand Canyon or Flagstaff areas? Take the opportunity to hike above the tundra and stand atop the highest point in Arizona…or even sit on the bench at the 12,633-foot summit of Humphreys Peak:


Monday, January 6, 2014

Snowshoer Rescued in Rocky Mountain National Park

A 24-year-old man from Florida was found last Thursday night by park staff in the Mill Creek Drainage of Rocky Mountain National Park.

The man had contacted rangers via cell phone early that afternoon, at around 2:30 p.m., reporting that he’d become disoriented while snowshoeing by himself near Flattop Mountain. At that time he was not asking for assistance, but seeking directions and guidance from rangers. Weather conditions consisted of sunshine, high winds, blowing snow and temperatures ranging in the mid-20s.

The man continued down from above tree line, remaining in contact with rangers. When it became dark, he stopped moving and asked for assistance, as he was not prepared to spend the night in the backcountry.

Three park search teams began looking for him, focusing their efforts mainly in the Mill Creek Drainage. One team followed fresh snowshoe tracks and located the man in thick timber along Mill Creek at approximately 8:45 p.m.

Rangers assessed his condition and then snowshoed out with him.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mesa Verde Offers Free Winter Ecology Hike

Mesa Verde Park Rangers will be leading a guided hike exploring the amazing ways that animals and plants survive in the cold winter environment of Mesa Verde National Park. The hike will tour the winter habitats of plants and animals in the Morefield Campground Area on Saturday, January 11, beginning at 9 a.m. The guided hike is free, but advance sign-up is required. Children should be at least 7 years old to join the hike.

Participants will meet at the Morefield Village parking lot located four miles from the park entrance and then explore the area around Morefield Campground, looking for signs of wildlife and observing adaptations of plants and animals in the winter months. Be prepared to be outdoors for 2 – 3 hours with extra layers of clothing, water, and snacks. There is a limit of 20 adults and children. If needed, snowshoes will be provided, or you may bring your own. To sign up, for weather conditions, and for more information on the hike, please call the Chapin Mesa Museum at 970-529-4631. For more information about Mesa Verde National Park, please visit


Friday, January 3, 2014

A Walk Amongst the Mighty Redwoods

Arguably one of the best hikes in Redwood National Park to enjoy the grandeur of the tallest trees on Earth is the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Nature Trail. This 1.4-mile loop trail takes hikers through an old-growth forest of ancient redwoods. While the trees tower more than 300 feet above, the forest floor is painted lush green with ferns, evergreen huckleberry and rhododendron.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Delicate Arch

You probably recognize this famous landmark:

If not the best known arch in the world, Delicate Arch certainly qualifies as the most iconic rock formation in Arches National Park. There’s more to this relatively easy hike than just the arch: hikers will also pass by an old settler’s home, as well as a petroglyph panel left by Ute hunters several hundred years ago. For more information on this outstanding hike, please click here.