Saturday, February 28, 2015

Snowshoe Tour: RMNP Bear Lake to Mills Lake

Next month the Denver area REI's will be hosting two snowshoe tours in Rocky Mountain National Park. Participants will snowshoe past snow-covered waterfalls and over frozen lakes to grand views of Longs Peak. The hike will begin from Bear Lake, travel up Glacier Gorge, and then end at Mills Lake, situated in a beautiful alpine setting. REI guides will captivate you with information on the surrounding areas history and nature all while we take in the snowy sights of winter. Prior snowshoeing experience is recommended (Introduction to Snowshoeing Class or equivalent skills). This is not a skills class and students should be able to snowshoe for 5-6 miles.

These 5.5-hour programs will take place from 9:00 AM - 2:30 PM on March 7th and March 28th. A fee will be charged for each outing.

For more information, please click here.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Forest Service, Trout Unlimited partner to restore flood-damaged Lower Creek

The U.S. Forest Service and Trout Unlimited are partnering to stabilize and restore a half-mile section of flood-damaged stream in the Lefthand trails area on the Roosevelt National Forest northwest of Boulder. The popular trails system has been closed since September 2013 when a historic flood event washed out access roads and primary trails, saturated hillsides and permanently altered stream courses.

Lower Creek, an intermittent tributary of Left Hand Creek located near the entrance to the trails area, was severely scoured along the final half-mile stretch above its confluence. The creek bed alignment now runs through the bottom of a former road bed. Ongoing erosion and sedimentation issues along this stretch of Lower Creek are of real concern to the health of the watershed, according to Boulder District Ranger Sylvia Clark. The scouring of banks and movement of topsoil unearthed debris and trash left along the stream banks from a long history of recreational activities in the area.

“While this project addresses less than two acres in a much larger landscape of flood damage, it’s a very important half mile stretch of stream,” Clark said. “Stabilizing this area will help prevent sedimentation issues downstream and will be an important first step in getting this area reopened to the public.”

Through an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service, Trout Unlimited is beginning the task of hiring a specialized contractor to collect data in the Lower Creek area. The contractor will make recommendations on how to stabilize the stream to prevent further erosion and sedimentation, and will recommend the best course of action for addressing any contamination from the human debris and trash in the area. The overall focus of this work will be restoring the half-mile section of Lower Creek.

The U.S. Forest Service will evaluate the recommendations and, depending on funding, implementation could occur as soon as fall 2015.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Backcountry Skills: How To Cross a River

Spring hiking season is just around the corner for many areas in the lower 48. This means that snow in the higher elevations is beginning to melt, which usually results in high water in the creeks and streams along the slopes and valleys below. In many cases hikers won't have the option of crossing a stream via a footbridge, which means you'll have to get your feet wet. This can be a very dangerous situation for hikers, so you'll want to know how to do this without putting your life on the line. In this short video Backpacker Magazine offer several tips on how to cross a stream safely:


Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Teton Crest Trail Uncut

Is anyone else ready for hiking season? I know I am, but it looks like we may have at least a few more weeks of snow, cold and overcast skies. If you haven't decided where you're going to hike this summer, perhaps this video will provide some inspiration. In 2011 Dan McCoy hiked the Teton Crest Trail in the Grand Tetons, and came back with this wonderful video that highlights some of the incredibly beautiful scenery he saw along the way. His four-day, 42-mile route took him from the Rendezvous Mountain Aerial Tram to Marion Lake, across the Death Canyon Shelf to the Alaska Basin, over to Lake Solitude, and then after climbing Paintbrush Divide, he returned to civilization via the Paintbrush Canyon Trail.

This video clearly underscores why the Teton Crest Trail is one of the premier backpacking routes in America. For those that don't backpack, there are fortunately a handful of segments can be reach by day hikes, which are linked to in the above paragraph. Enjoy:


Friday, February 20, 2015

Browns Canyon Becomes Newest National Monument

Earlier this week a portion of the upper Arkansas River Valley became one of the newest national monuments in America. Along with Pullman National Monument and Honouliuli National Monument, the Browns Canyon National Monument in Colorado was introduced as the three newest national monuments yesterday.

Browns Canyon National Monument will protect a stunning section of Colorado’s upper Arkansas River Valley. Located in Chaffee County near the town of Salida, Colorado, the 21,586-acre monument features rugged granite cliffs, colorful rock outcroppings, and mountain vistas that are home to a diversity of plants and wildlife, including bighorn sheep and golden eagles. Members of Congress, local elected officials, conservation advocates, and community members have worked for more than a decade to protect the area, which hosts world-class recreational opportunities that attract visitors from around the globe for hiking, whitewater rafting, hunting and fishing.

"Browns Canyon is a unique area with a rich cultural and recreational legacy. These lands have provided a home for people for 10,000 years, and the cultural and historical resources protected by this monument honor the area's Native Peoples. It is also a working landscape where ranchers have worked for generations," said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. "I am proud that we are conserving and managing landscapes that support important resources and support local economies, especially rural mountain communities."

The proclamation allows for continued historic uses of the area, including hunting, fishing, and livestock grazing, which will continue to be managed under existing rules and regulations. The designation does not alter or affect the valid water rights of any party and does not affect agreements governing management of the Arkansas River flows. It supports the ongoing cooperative management of the Arkansas Headwater Recreation Area by the BLM and the State of Colorado and preserves existing agreements for recreation uses and access.

Browns Canyon harbors a wealth of scientifically significant geological, ecological, cultural, and historical resources, and is an important area for studies of paleoecology, mineralogy, archaeology, and climate change. The area's unusual geology and roughly 3,000-foot range in elevation have given rise to a diversity of plants and wildlife, including a significant herd of bighorn sheep, golden eagles, and Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine.

The national monument designation will protect the outstanding opportunities to recreate, including hiking, hunting, horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing and rock climbing, as well as to experience the solitude and undeveloped beauty of this rugged landscape.

Browns Canyon is one of the most popular destinations in the nation for whitewater enthusiasts, totaling more than 90,000 user-days annually, according to the BLM. Commercial rafting on the Arkansas River contributes roughly $60 million to the local economy, according to the Colorado River Outfitters Association.

In addition to Browns Canyon, Colorado is home to seven other national monuments:

• Colorado National Monument
• Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
• Chimney Rock National Monument
• Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
• Dinosaur National Monument
• Hovenweep National Monument
• Yucca House National Monument

For more information on Browns Canyon, please click here.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

National Parks Draw Record-Breaking Crowds in 2014

Visitation at America’s national parks broke all-time records in 2014, as the National Park Service prepares to celebrate its centennial in 2016 with a major push to encourage more visitors to experience their national parks in 2016. In 2014, there were 292.8 million visits to national parks, breaking the previous record set in 1999 when parks saw just over 287.1 million visits.

“As the National Park Service strives to share a more inclusive and well-rounded version of the American story through the places we care for, it is gratifying to see more people than ever coming to their national parks to enjoy nature, learn about history, and spend time with their families,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “As we look ahead to our centennial in 2016, I am looking forward to announcing a new record-breaking number of visitors coming to experience national parks next year and beyond.”

The official number of recreational visits to national parks in 2014 was 292,800,082 – an increase of 19 million, or seven percent, from 2013 visitation of 273,630,895. Visitation in 2014 rebounded from a 2013 decline that included a 16-day government shutdown and many park closures for repairs after Superstorm Sandy hit the northeast in late 2012.

“Visitor spending in the communities near national parks supports hundreds of thousands of mostly local jobs in America year after year,” Jarvis said. “With this record visitation we should see something on the order of $15 billion in visitor spending, 250,000 or more jobs and a $28 billion effect on the U.S. economy when our annual economics of national parks report comes out in April.”

Several national parks saw record-breaking visitation in 2014, including Joshua Tree, Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton and Glacier national parks. The re-opening of the Washington Monument, some 21 months after it was rocked by an earthquake and repaired, also added to 2014 visitation numbers.

Of the 405 parks in the national park system, 369 of them track visitors, and the top 28 most visited parks accounted for half of 2014 visitation and half of the increase in visits between 2013 and 2014.

Grand Canyon National Park bumped Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area out of the top 10 most visited areas in the national park system. The list of top ten national parks remains unchanged, although Rocky Mountain and Olympic National Parks switched places.

Here are the top 10 most visited places in the National Park System:

Golden Gate National Recreation Area 15,004,420
Blue Ridge Parkway 13,941,749
Great Smoky Mountains National Park 10,099,276
George Washington Memorial Parkway 7,472,150
Lincoln Memorial 7,139,072
Lake Mead National Recreation Area 6,942,873
Gateway National Recreation Area 6,021,713
Natchez Trace Parkway 5,846,474
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park 5,066,219
Grand Canyon National Park 4,756,771

Here are the top 10 most visited national parks: 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park 10,099,276
Grand Canyon National Park 4,756,771
Yosemite National Park 3,882,642
Yellowstone National Park 3,513,484
Rocky Mountain National Park 3,434,751
Olympic National Park 3,243,872
Zion National Park 3,189,696
Grand Teton National Park 2,791,392
Acadia National Park 2,563,129
Glacier National Park 2,338,528


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Video of the Day: Cascade Canyon

The hike to Cascade Canyon in Grand Teton National Park is regularly touted as one of the top hikes in America. The hike includes a boat ride across Jenny Lake, as well as visits to Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point, and Cascade Canyon itself. The views of Mt. Owen looming more than a mile above the canyon are absolutely outstanding. The video below does a good job of showing exactly why this hike is so popular with hikers and pundits alike:

Hiking the Tetons - Day 1 - Cascade Canyon from Clark on Vimeo.

For more detailed information on this hike, please click here to visit our new hiking website for the Grand Tetons.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Jaw-dropping Glacier National Park

58NationalParks has produced another excellent overview of Glacier National Park. If this video inspires you to visit Glacier this upcoming season, the best way to explore this wonderful park is to take a hike along one of the many hiking trails that meander throughout the park.

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


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Rocky Mountain National Park Raises Backcountry Camping Fees

Effective for the 2015 summer season, the cost of obtaining a permit for backcountry camping in Rocky Mountain National Park will increase from $20 to $26 per trip. This administrative permit fee, established in 1995 and last increased to $20 in 2004, is necessary to recover the administrative costs associated with managing the program, including costs of a computerized permit and reservation system.

Permits for backcountry camping are an integral part of a program that rations and distributes use throughout the park's backcountry, intended to minimize impacts to resources, help provide a quality experience, and ensure that sites are available for those able to plan ahead and reserve a permit in advance. While an overnight permit is required for backcountry camping year-round, the fee for obtaining the permit only applies for camping that occurs during the months of May through October when demand typically exceeds availability in many areas of the park's backcountry. The six dollar increase for the non-refundable permit becomes effective March 1, 2015, for anyone making advance reservations or after May 1, for those obtaining a permit over the counter at one of the park's Backcountry Offices.

Different from an entrance fee or fee for camping in a developed campground, the backcountry permit is based on cost recovery and all funds are applied directly to the costs of administering the program. This past October, the park proposed a change in its current recreational use fees for entrance and developed campgrounds. A public comment period followed and the proposal is still under review. A decision on those recreational use fees is expected late winter or early spring.

According to Superintendent Vaughn Baker, "Rocky Mountain National Park retains one hundred percent of the administrative fees charged for backcountry camping permits. In addition to providing the opportunity to reserve and secure campsites in advance, funds recovered through the permit fee allow for staff to provide trip planning advice and information for a safe and enjoyable trip into the wilderness. Requirements for food storage necessary to protect bears and other wildlife, mountain weather, hazards, and Leave No Trace ethics are among the information received during the permitting process. Fees that we charge enable us to provide these services."


How To Start a Fire With Your Cell Phone

Did you know that you can start a fire with your cell phone? With nearly everyone owning one, and taking them into the backcountry, this is a good skill to know in case you're ever caught in an emergency situation. Backpacker Magazine shows exactly how to do this in the video below:


Monday, February 9, 2015

Aerial Survey Shows Spruce Beetle Activity Escalating, Mountain Pine Beetle Declining in Colorado

The U.S. Forest Service and Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) have released the results of the annual aerial forest health survey in Colorado. Each year the agencies work together to aerially monitor insect and disease-caused tree mortality or damage across 28 million acres of Colorado forests. Results for 2014 indicate that the spruce beetle epidemic continues to escalate, while the mountain pine beetle epidemic has slowed dramatically.

The spruce beetle outbreak was detected on 485,000 acres in 2014, compared to 398,000 acres across the state in 2013. The epidemic expanded to 253,000 new acres, as compared to 216,000 new acres in 2013. The spruce beetle epidemic is expanding most rapidly in southwestern Colorado’s forests, and the total area affected by this beetle since 1996 has increased to almost 1.4 million acres statewide. Windthrow events, combined with drought stress, warmer temperatures and extensive amounts of older, dense spruce, have contributed to this epidemic.

The mountain pine beetle epidemic declined further in 2014, with surveyors recording the lowest acreage of active infestation observed in 17 years. Statewide, mountain pine beetle was active on 15,000 acres in 2014, compared to 98,000 acres in 2013. Only 3,000 acres of new infestation were detected in 2014, versus 9,000 acres of new infestation in 2013. Active acres are those that may be impacted over multiple years, while new acres are those not previously impacted in the current epidemic. Approximately 3.4 million acres in Colorado have been affected by mountain pine beetle since the first signs of the outbreak in 1996. Reduced beetle activity in many areas is due to extensive mortality of the larger host trees necessary for beetle populations to maintain epidemic levels.

Additionally, aspen defoliators, such as the western tent caterpillar, were detected on 78,000 acres in Colorado in 2014. This caterpillar defoliates aspens and can lead to tree mortality if present over several consecutive years. Affected aspens typically regrow new leaves during the summer; however, drought conditions can increase mortality.

The USFS 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. In addition to dozens of shorter-term stewardship contacts, the USDA Forest Service has four 10-year stewardship contracts to remove dead trees to restore forests and increase their resiliency. The agency also has awarded several short-term stewardship contracts aimed at improving forest health and contributing to local economies.

Forestry agencies have a key role in sustaining forest ecosystems, which provide many benefits to the people of Colorado and 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.

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


Backpacking Basics

Let the Denver area REI stores help take the mystery out of backpacking with an overview of planning, preparation and gear. Participants in the 1.5-hour program will learn how to choose a pack, and select proper clothing and footwear. REI will also give you important notes on trail etiquette and Leave No Trace principles. In all, REI will help you understand what you need to reach your destination.

The 1.5-hour program will take place from 6:30 - 8:00 PM next month at several Denver-area REIs. You can choose from these dates and locations:

March 3rd: Lakewood

March 10th: Boulder

March 12th: Denver

March 17th: Englewood

March 18th: Westminster

For more information, please click here.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Forest Service in the Rocky Mountain Region Recruiting for more than 500 Seasonal Positions

The Rocky Mountain Region of the USDA Forest Service has announced that it will begin advertising for more than 500 temporary positions throughout the Region’s National Forests and Grasslands. The current recruitment primarily is for seasonal forestry, range, recreation, visitor information, engineering, fisheries, wildland fire, archaeology and wildlife technician positions. The Region comprises 17 national forests and seven national grasslands, located in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Applicants interested in these jobs will be able to locate opportunities at Interested applicants will need to apply through

The openings for applicants to apply for Rocky Mountain Region Forest Service temporary positions will begin Feb. 3, 2015, for recreation, fisheries, forestry and other temporary positions. Job announcements are open for 7-days.

Candidates can find current temporary listings and more information about temporary employment in the Rocky Mountain Region by visiting Individuals interested in finding more information about specific positions are encouraged to contact the National Forest that hosts the position of interest. All applicants will use USAJOBS.GOV to apply for the seasonal positions.

Current and upcoming Forest Service job opportunities across the nation can be found online at:


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

MTJP: A Visually Stunning Journey Through Great Smoky Mountains National Park During Peak Fall Color

This just might be the best video of the Great Smoky Mountains I've ever seen. It was produced last fall by a small start-up known as "More Than Just Parks". This spectacular 4-minute film is the culmination of two weeks spent extensively filming some of the most incredible parts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

More Than Just Parks has set the goal of producing similar films for all 59 national parks. They hope that this will encourage folks to get out and have one-of-a-kind experiences of their own in our national parks! They also hope that these videos will help to build a greater awareness for all of the breathtaking natural wonders protected by our national park system.

MTJP | Smoky Mountains from More Than Just Parks on Vimeo.

For more information on the MTJP project, please click here.

If this video has inspired 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. With over 850 miles of trails, the park is without a doubt a hikers paradise!

While making your plans, please note that our hiking website offers a wide variety of accommodation listings to help with your vacation planning.


Monday, February 2, 2015

Incident Near Black Lake In Rocky Mountain National Park

At 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 31st, park rangers were notified of a spot tracker device that had been activated. Soon after, rangers received their first 911 call regarding an incident near Black Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. Fifty-year-old, Jason Brooks, from Wheat Ridge was solo climbing when he reportedly took an approximate 100 foot tumbling fall on to soft snow. Solo climbing means a climb is done unroped. The fall was witnessed by visitors who were at Black Lake. The location was roughly 5.5 miles from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. Rangers were on scene 2.5 hours from the initial call.

Brooks received numerous injuries but was ambulatory and with assistance from rangers was able to move down to an area where an air ambulance was able to land. Flight for Life transported him to Medical Center of the Rockies at 4:15 p.m.

Fortunately, weather conditions and the location were conducive for assistance from a helicopter. Teams of Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue personnel, assisted by Larimer County Search and Rescue and Rocky Mountain Rescue, were preparing for the potential of a lengthy rescue operation.


Trail Ridge Road Walker Rescued

The search for a New York man who disappeared while attempting to walk over the Rockies on Trail Ridge Road last week came to a successful conclusion late last Thursday when rangers found him lying on a rock along the road’s shoulder.

Jay Starr, 34, of Cohoes, New York, was found in poor condition and was initially uncooperative. He was nonetheless provided care and assistance, and, because he’d been exposed to the elements above tree line over several days, was flown by Flight for Life to the Medical Center of the Rockies. As this is a continuing investigation, no further information is currently being released.

On Monday, January 26th, rangers contacted Starr, who had entered the park on foot and said he was planning to walk westbound over Trail Ridge Road. Rangers advised him against this based on his behavior and his lack of preparedness for winter alpine conditions. Starr was wearing tennis shoes, jeans or tan canvas pants, and a black/blue jacket. He had neither hat nor gloves, and was carrying a plastic grocery bag.

Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in the United States, with its highest point reaching 12,183 feet. Over ten miles of the road are above 11,500 feet. The road closed to vehicles for the season last November and is not maintained during the winter. Conditions on the road range from bare windblown asphalt to deep snow drifts.

Rangers on skis contacted Starr above Many Parks Curve on last Tuesday afternoon. They were concerned for his welfare and were attempting to assist him. Starr fled from rangers up a dry section of the road and continued to elude rangers until darkness fell.

Beginning early on Wednesday, two teams of rangers again attempted to locate Starr. One team came from the east side of the park and the other team came from the west side of the park. Rangers faced wind gusts of 50 to 60 miles per hour; these high winds and blowing snow hampered their efforts to follow Starr’s footprints. Aerial operations were not possible due to high winds. The entire road corridor was checked

Rangers were assisted by a Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer with an ATV equipped with snow tracks and by an over-snow tracked vehicle and operator from Estes Park Light and Power. The motorized equipment was only used on Trail Ridge Road.