Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Top 5 Reasons to Visit Grand Teton National Park

Rising more than 7000 feet above Jackson Hole, the high peaks of Grand Teton National Park provide one of the most dramatic landscapes in the world. Although many people seem to treat it as an afterthought, only visiting the park as a side trip while visiting its more famous neighbor to the north, more time and focus should be given to this stunning landscape. Within its 310,000 acres the majestic mountains of the Teton Range are home to a wide variety of wildlife, eight peaks that top out above 12,000 feet, more than 100 alpine and backcountry lakes, and more than 200 miles of trails that provide intimate access to all of this incredibly beautiful scenery.

Cascade Canyon
The Cascade Canyon Trail is widely touted as one of the best hikes in the entire National Park System. In addition to the stunning views of 12,928-foot Mt. Owen, the trail visits Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. The route is also known for the wide variety of wildlife that is frequently seen, especially bears and moose.

Lake Views
Lying along the eastern base of the Teton Range is a series of glacially-carved lakes. Rising sharply above their western shores, the views of the rugged mountains are stunning and dramatic. From the shores of Jackson, Leigh, Jenny, Phelps, Bradley and Taggart Lakes, hikers will enjoy some of the most striking views in the park.

Although Yellowstone rightfully receives a lot of attention for its wildlife viewing opportunities, the Grand Tetons are also known for its diversity of wildlife. The rugged mountains provide habitat to a wide variety of wildlife, including black bears, grizzly bears, elk, bison, bighorn sheep, moose, pronghorn, wolves, fox, lynx, bobcats and mountain lions. There are also more than 300 species of birds, including trumpeter swans, ospreys and bald eagles. A drive along Moose-Wilson Road is a popular way of spotting mega fauna such as bears and moose. However, hikes such as Amphitheater Lake, Hermitage Point, Moose Ponds and the Emma Matilda Lake Loop are all great choices for possibly seeing wildlife in the backcountry.

The abrupt rise of the Tetons from the valley floor arguably makes them one of the most photogenic mountain ranges in the world. As a result, professional and amateur photographers alike will enjoy a multitude of photo opportunities around the park. Some of the best spots for getting that perfect shot include Mormon Row, Oxbow Bend, Schwabacher’s Landing, as well as the Snake River Overlook, which was made famous by Ansel Adams' 1942 photograph. Of course all of the backcountry locations mentioned above will also provide outstanding photo opportunities.

Snake River Float Trip
The Snake River meanders along the sage brush flats below the Teton Range, and provides park visitors with the unique opportunity of enjoying the majestic mountain scenery from a raft. Although outfitters offer trips throughout the day, I highly recommend the morning trips, as the mountains typically look their finest when bathed in the glow of early morning sunshine. Morning is also the best time to view wildlife along the river banks, including bald eagles.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

America’s National Parks Report Record Number of Visitors in 2015

More than 305 million people visited national parks in 2015, eclipsing the all-time visitation record that the National Park Service saw in the previous year. The unofficial visitation numbers for 2015 were announced by National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, as the National Park Service (NPS) is celebrating its centennial year.

"The increasing popularity of our national parks comes as we are actively reaching out to new audiences and inviting them to explore the depth and breadth of the national park system," Jarvis said. "The 409 parks we care for preserve natural, cultural and historic landscapes across 84 million acres in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories, and they tell stories that reflect the great diversity of our nation."

Record visitation tests the capacity of the park system and challenges parks to continue to provide great experiences for all visitors. Jarvis said park managers are adjusting to make sure they have sufficient staff to provide interpretive programs, answer visitor questions, respond to emergencies and to keep restrooms, campgrounds and other facilities clean.

Park visitors can plan their trips to avoid peak crowds by visiting the most popular parks in spring and fall and by visiting early in the morning or later in the day. Visitors can also take advantage of shuttles and walking trails at some parks, including the Great Smoky Mountains, Glacier, Rocky Mountain and Grand Teton national parks.

"Even with record breaking visitation, visitors can still find quiet places in the parks for those willing to seek them out," Jarvis said. "I can take you to Yosemite Valley on the Fourth of July and within five minutes get you to a place where you are all alone."

Much of the increase in national park visitation is the result of the National Park Foundation's "Find Your Park" media campaign. The campaign has sparked interest from travelers and also from communities near national parks, state tourism agencies and Congress. In late December 2015, Congress approved a nine percent funding increase for the National Park Service, which will help the agency continue to provide excellent visitor services as visitation increases.

"The increase in Congressional appropriations comes at a critical time for the National Park Service and will help us to serve the growing number of visitors,"Jarvis said. "We look forward to continuing to work with Congress as it considers additional legislation in support of the National Park Service Centennial, which would further improve the national parks by encouraging philanthropy and volunteerism, while also allowing us to improve visitor services and connect with a new generation of national park visitors."

By the Numbers: Unofficially, the NPS recorded more than 305 million visits during 2015. That is an increase of more than 12 million visits, and more than four percent, over the 2014 figure of 292.8 million visits. About 365 of 409 parks in the national park system record visitation numbers. The NPS has recorded more than 13 billion visits to parks since park managers began counting visitors in 1904, some 12 years before the NPS was created. Official statistics including the most-visited parks of the national park system and the most-visited national parks will be released in late February.


Never Underestimate the Smokies - Appalachian Trail Thru Hike 2015

Thru-hiker and videographer, Gator Miller, does an excellent job of showing what life is like as a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As the name of his video implies, "Never Underestimate the Smokies," the park can present a variety of challenges - from deep snow, fog and rain, to periods of boredom (his encounter with a deer). When the weather's good, however, the 71-mile section of the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies is quite spectacular.

With more than 800 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In addition to the Appalachian Trail, the park offers many other outstanding hikes. If you do plan to visit the Smokies this year, please note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings to help with all your vacation planning.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

RMNP Programs Highlight Wilderness And What Wild Places Mean To You

On August 25, 1916, the National Park Service was established to protect America's national heritage sites. To celebrate the National Park Service Centennial, Rocky Mountain National Park will be offering a series of truly unique Saturday evening programs held at 7 p.m. at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center throughout the winter.

This Saturday, January 30th, the ranger-led program will be about wilderness and what wild places mean in today's ever changing world. A short program will be followed by the opportunity for participants to share their own views on the value of wild places and take part in a facilitated discussion aimed to explore and share thoughts on the future of our wild lands.

Upcoming programs:

Saturday, February 13 - National Park Service Mission
Saturday, February 27 - Wildlife
Saturday, March 12 - Research

Please join the park for these special programs and be part of the National Park Service Centennial. For further information about Rocky Mountain National Park please call the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1206.


Friday, January 22, 2016

Body Of Missing Man Recovered Near Peacock Pool In Rocky Mountain National Park

Today, during ground and aerial search efforts, Ronald Webber's body was located at the base of a broken cliff band at Peacock Pool. This is roughly 1/2 mile east of Chasm Lake. Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue team members were flown to an area near Peacock Pool where they could more safely access his body. His body was flown from the scene to a landing spot at Upper Beaver Meadows and transferred to the Boulder County Coroner. It appears that he had an approximate 200 foot fall. The exact cause of death will be determined by the Boulder County Coroner's office.

Ronald Webber, 58 of Maitland, Florida, was reported overdue yesterday afternoon, January 21, from a reported mountaineering trek to Rocky Mountain National Park and was believed to be in the Longs Peak area. He left the trailhead on Tuesday morning, January 19. His vehicle was found at the trailhead. It was unclear where he was intending to go.

Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue team members searched a small segment of this large search area yesterday afternoon, January 21, including the Roaring Fork drainage and the east cirque of Longs Peak in the Chasm Lake area. Aerial search efforts also took place. Today, teams were continuing search efforts in this area when his body was found.


Search Underway In Longs Peak Area

Yesterday afternoon, January 21, park rangers were notified that Ronald Webber, 58, of Maitland, Florida was overdue from a reported mountaineering trek to Rocky Mountain National Park and was believed to be in the Longs Peak area. His car was located in the parking lot at the Longs Peak Trailhead. He reportedly left Tuesday morning, January 19, from the trailhead. It is unclear where he was intending to go. He was not prepared to spend the night. Mr. Webber has been to the Long Peak area before, but not in the winter.

Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue team members searched a small segment of the area yesterday, including the Roaring Fork drainage and the east cirque of Longs Peak in the Chasm Lake area. Today, teams will continue to search in this area as well as the Keyhole Route and along the Longs Peak Trail.

Weather since Tuesday has consisted of high winds and cold temperatures. Aerial search efforts took place today and if weather and conditions permit, will also occur tomorrow.

Park rangers would like to hear from anyone who was in the Longs Peak area on Tuesday, January 19 or Wednesday, January 20. Please call (970) 586-1204.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Colorado Governor Announces 16 Highest Priority Trail Projects

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper announced yesterday the state’s highest priority trail projects as part of Colorado the Beautiful’s “16 in 2016” initiative, which was highlighted in his State of the State address last week.

The projects represent the state’s 16 most important trail gaps, missing trail segments and unbuilt trails, and reach from the Front Range to southwestern Colorado. Identification of these 16 trails is designed to build upon strong existing support and partnerships to push them to completion.

The “16 in 2016” initiative was created to start a more focused, coordinated conversation to support trails and promote outdoor recreation across Colorado. Moving these projects forward means a better connected network of trails statewide, improved links to expanded outdoor recreational opportunities, safe alternative transportation routes and economic development opportunities for adjacent communities.

The initiative is a key component of Colorado the Beautiful’s broader goal to ensure, within a generation, every Coloradan will live within 10 minutes of a park, trail or vibrant green space.

Projects were selected based on several criteria, including their economic development potential, their proximity to underserved communities, the need for new paved and natural surface multi-use trails, the potential for greater partnerships across all levels of government, nonprofits and the private sector, and the project’s ability to support environmental stewardship. Most of the selected projects have been under development for years and already benefit from local support and partnerships. Some trail projects are larger and will need significant additional investment; others are more localized and need a push to get over the finish line. The “16 in 2016” initiative is intended to focus attention and resources on those projects.

The initiative is only the first step in a public process to develop a statewide plan for trails. Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is undertaking a strategic planning effort for their Trails Program that will set values and goals for expanding and maintaining recreational trails across Colorado. Additionally, CPW will publish a statewide trail map this spring, making it easier for Coloradans to plan and experience an outdoor recreational activity.

While no new state dollars are tied to these projects, Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) is investing $30 million in trails over the next four years as part of its Connect Initiative that will improve walkable and bikeable paths and trails for projects across the state. This special initiative is part of GOCO’s new five-year strategic plan to protect land for people and wildlife, connect people to trails and other outdoor opportunities, and inspire kids to get outside more often. GOCO has dedicated the first $10 million of funding for Connect in 2016; these 16 priority projects, along with other qualifying projects, are eligible to apply for funding. Additional trails funding is available to eligible entities through other competitive sources, including Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Department of Local Affairs and Colorado Department of Transportation.

A list of the 16 trail projects identified in the “16 in 2016” initiative is available on the Colorado the Beautiful page of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources website. This includes the cross-state, Colorado Front Range Trail, the Fremont Pass Trail, the 74-mile Crested Butte to Carbondale Trail, and the Ring the Peak trail, which will circumnavigate Pikes Peak. The list includes a brief summary of each proposal and a map locating each project.


The Stunning Beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park

58NationalParks does an excellent job of showing why Rocky Mountain National Park is such a special place in this excellent visual overview of the park. From wooded forests to alpine tundra, the majestic mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park are home to some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth. This short video also shows why you might want to put this park on your bucket list:

With more than 350 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, and a wide variety of outstanding hikes, Rocky Mountain National Park is definitely a hikers paradise. If you do plan to visit Rocky Mountain this year, please note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings and other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Presidential Quotes: America's leaders reflect on America's best idea

To help celebrate its centennial this year, the National Park Service has published a short video that contains several famous quotes from American Presidents about our national parks:

So, will you be taking part in any of the celebrations this year? Which park(s) will you be visiting this year:

Friday, January 15, 2016

Explore Rocky Mountain National Park During The Winter - Expect Busy Weekends

For many visitors, winter is their favorite time to enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park. The park is less visited but still very much open and alive with activity. Weekends are much busier than weekdays. 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. This winter, join a park ranger on a wintry excursion! Rocky Mountain National 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 Ecology Walk 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. through March 19. The Beginner Snowshoe tour on the west side is held on Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. through March 5.

For more experienced snowshoers, a two-hour Intermediate Snowshoe tour is offered on the west side of the park on Sundays at 1:00 p.m. through March 6. Previous snowshoeing experience is recommended because of the elevation gain, mileage, pace and terrain covered in this program.

A Ranger-led cross-country ski tour, Ski the Wilderness in Winter, is offered on the west side of the park on Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. through January 30. 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 (970) 586-1223. To make reservations for west side snowshoe walks and ski tours, call the Kawuneeche Visitor Center at (970) 627-3471. Please call between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. daily.

Camping takes place in the winter too! Moraine Park Campground is open all winter; the fee is $18 per site per night. Water and dump stations are not available in winter. 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 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 flush restrooms which are open daily. This area is also a good base location for those interested in backcountry skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing in the undeveloped areas in and around Hidden Valley.

Backcountry users should be aware of avalanche conditions; always check the Colorado Avalanche Information Center website before an adventure.

Full Moon Walks will also be offered on the east side of the park on January 23, February 22 and March 23. Times and locations will vary each month. Reservations are necessary and may be made seven days in advance by calling (970) 586-1223.

When recreating in the park in the winter always be prepared for the possibility of snow, freezing temperatures, short winter daylight hours, cold winds and changing winter weather. Navigating in winter conditions can present difficult challenges. Many park trails are not marked for winter use. Signs and the summer trails can be buried beneath snow and difficult to follow. Following other people's tracks could get you lost, so having a topographic map and compass or a Global Positioning System (GPS) is strongly recommended. Parking lots at Bear Lake, Glacier Gorge and Hidden Valley fill early on weekends. Planning ahead is critical!

Whenever visiting Rocky Mountain National Park to snowshoe, ski or hike, stop by a park visitor center or call the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1206 for current road and snow conditions. You can also check out the park's winter newspaper.

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


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Rocky Mountain National Park Smashes Annual Visitation Record

As a result of it celebrating its Centennial in 2015, Rocky Mountain National Park has smashed the record for the most visitors in one year.

According to data collected by the National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics website, visitation to the park increased by a whopping 21% in 2015, when compared to the prior year. In total, the park recorded 4,155,916 visitors last year, versus 3,434,754 in 2014, which set the previous record high.

With the National Park Service celebrating its centennial this year, it's very possible that the park could see even more visitors in 2016.

Here's a graphical look at visitation since Rocky Mountain became a national park in 1915:

If you plan to visit Rocky Mountain National Park this upcoming year, please note that our hiking website offers a wide variety of accommodation listings in both Estes Park and Grand Lake. Also, don't forget to check out our other Things To Do page to help with your trip planning.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

RMNP License Plate Now Available

The new, much-anticipated Rocky Mountain National Park License Plate is now available to Colorado residents. The certificate for the issuance of the plate, which was approved by the Colorado General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper this past spring, will be available exclusively through the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. A minimum $30 one-time donation to the Conservancy’s License Plate Fund is required to qualify for this plate.

The Rocky Mountain Conservancy, Rocky Mountain National Park’s official nonprofit philanthropic partner, will administer the donation program for this new plate, which is available only to Colorado registered vehicle owners. 100% of the funds generated, estimated at more than $100,000, will directly support Rocky Mountain National Park. Use of these funds will be determined jointly by the Conservancy and Rocky Mountain National Park. Since 1985, the Conservancy has raised over $23 million for the park and supports trail construction and maintenance, land and historic preservation, education, publications, and more.

The new plate, designed by the Conservancy, features a bull elk under a starry evening sky with alpine sunflowers and reads, “Rocky Mountain National Park”. It will not replace the standard Colorado state license plate, but will be available as a voluntary fundraising option through the State’s Group Special Plate program.

To qualify a set of these plates, you must make a minimum $30 donation to the Rocky Mountain Conservancy’s License Plate Fund. Donations will be accepted beginning on January 1, 2016 at the Conservancy’s web site ( License plate donations cannot be combined with gifts to other funds, prior donations, or Conservancy membership dues.

After a qualifying donation is received by the Conservancy, a license plate certificate will be mailed to the donor. To obtain your plates, present this certificate to your local county motor vehicle office. They will assess a $50 one-time fee in addition to other standard registration fees. All fees are due at the time of registration. Plates will be printed on demand and will be mailed directly to the donor, conveniently eliminating the need for a second visit to your county motor vehicle office.

For more information about the license plate program, including a handy list of Frequently Asked Questions, please visit the Rocky Mountain Conservancy’s website.


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Grand Teton National Park From Above

In this short video, worldfromaboveHD presents Grand Teton National Park from Above: Unmissable Top Sights. The video montage shows stunning clips of the dramatic Teton Range from the air. As we wait for warmer weather to come back to the northern latitudes, this kind of makes one wish they were there right now....

With more than 200 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see Grand Teton National Park. The park offers a wide variety of outstanding hikes. If you do plan to visit Grand Teton this year, please note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings and other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.


Friday, January 1, 2016

The National Park Service Celebrates 100 Years

As America ring's in the new year today, 2016 marks a major milestone in the history of this country. Almost 100 years ago the National Park Service was created. On August 25, 1916, Congress passed the National Park Service Organic Act, which established the NPS to "promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations .... which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

National Park Centennial celebrations will be held throughout the year, beginning with today's Tournament of Roses Parade. The theme for today's parade is “Find Your Adventure”.

The Centennial, however, isn't just about celebrating history. The National Park Foundation notes on their website that:
The Centennial will celebrate the achievements of the past 100 years, but it is really about the future. It’s about kicking off a second century of stewardship for America’s national parks and for communities across the nation.
Below is a video trailer from Finley-Holiday Films' Centennial Edition of "America's National Parks". Maybe this will inspire you to begin plans for a trip to a national park this year:

So, which park(s) will you be visiting this year: