Thursday, March 31, 2016

1st Day of Summer - Grand Teton National Park

I realize that we're still a few weeks away from the 1st day of summer. I'm just reusing the name that Finley Holiday Films used for their outstanding short film highlighting Grand Teton National Park. The video shows what this beautiful park looks like in June as the snow melts, and the wildflowers and wildlife begin to emerge from a long winter.

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


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Available for Public Review: Reroutes and Repairs to Flood Damaged Trails Environmental Assessment

Rocky Mountain National Park staff have released an Environmental Assessment (EA) for public review for reroutes and repairs to five trails that were heavily damaged or lost during the September 2013 flood. The purpose of the environmental assessment is to address damaged portions of the trails, while protecting natural and cultural resources and preserving wilderness character.

The EA evaluated the park's preferred alternative, which is to maintain and establish a travel route for each of the trails and a no action alternative, in which damaged trails would not be substantially repaired and the park would continue the present level of trail management and maintenance. The park's preferred alternative for each of the trails is summarized below. The trails remain open to the public, but portions of the trails and bridges were washed out by flooding and landslides or are badly damaged.

Lawn Lake Trail
Three trail sections would be rerouted and an informal social trail would be improved for visitor travel. Pedestrian and equestrian use would be allowed.

Ypsilon Lake Trail
A new timber bridge across the Roaring River and new trail approaches on either side would be constructed. Pedestrian and equestrian use would be allowed.

Alluvial Fan Trail
A new accessible trail would be constructed between the existing east and west parking lots with a new bridge across the Roaring River. An accessible overlook trail to Horseshoe Falls would be constructed. A small portion of the accessible trail would extend into wilderness to reach the overlook. Only pedestrian use would be allowed.

Aspen Brook Trail
Four trail sections would be rerouted upslope from damaged trail sections and a trail extension would be constructed to provide a connection with an existing trail outside the park. Pedestrian and equestrian use would be allowed. An adaptive management option includes abandonment and restoration of the trail if funding, easements, and agreements for the trail extension outside the park are not secured.

Twin Sisters Trail
Existing social trails that connect portions of the trail not damaged by the landslide would be incorporated into the trail maintenance program. Only pedestrian use would be allowed on this trail. An adaptive management option includes construction of a new realigned trail if use of social trails results in resource damage or presents visitor safety concerns. Pedestrian and equestrian use would be allowed under the adaptive management option.

Park staff encourage public participation throughout the planning process. The park will host a public meeting. The meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 13, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Town of Estes Park Town Hall Board Room at 170 MacGregor Avenue in Estes Park. Information will be provided about the EA and park staff will be available to answer questions. There will be a short presentation at 5:30 p.m., and park staff will be available to answer questions about the EA until 7 p.m.

The EA is available for public review for 30 days, with comments accepted through Monday, April 25, 2016. The document is available electronically for review and comment online by visiting, the website for the National Park Service's Planning Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) system. Comments also may be sent to the address below:

Rocky Mountain National Park
Estes Park, CO 80517

Commenters should be aware that their entire comment—including personal identifying information—may be made publicly available at any time. While commenters can ask that their personal identifying information be withheld from public review, the NPS cannot guarantee that this will be possible.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

6 Great Hikes in Colorado

With endless amounts of stunning mountain scenery, the State of Colorado arguably ranks as the top hiking destination in the country. Although I’m quite partial to the hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, there are many other places around the state that are on par with the national park. Here are six hikes that I think you’ll find to be quite amazing, and may want to consider for your hiking bucket list:

Ice Lakes
Located just outside of Silverton in the San Juan National Forest, Ice Lakes likely has the most intense cobalt blue color I’ve ever seen in nature. Combine this extraordinarily beautiful alpine lake with outstanding mountain scenery and several thousand wildflowers, and you have one of the best hikes found just about anywhere.

Blue Lakes
The Blue Lakes Trail travels to an extremely scenic glacial basin within the Mt. Sneffels Wilderness area. Although not a national park, the San Juan Mountains near Ouray could easily qualify as one, and would probably rank as one of the crown jewels within the entire national park system. You could also make a strong argument that the hike to Blue Lakes would rank high on the list of the best hikes among all of our national parks.

Black Face Mountain
Although Black Face Mountain may look fairly nondescript from the top of Lizard Head Pass just outside of Telluride, you shouldn't be deceived - the views from the summit are quite amazing. After a relatively easy climb hikers will enjoy stunning panoramic views of several 13 and 14,000-foot peaks, as well as the iconic Lizard Head.

Gilpin Lake Loop
The Gilpin Lake / Gold Creek Lake Loop in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness area near Steamboat Springs is an extremely popular hike. The trail visits waterfalls, broad glacially-carved meadows, and two scenic lakes. From the top of Gilpin Ridge you’ll enjoy absolutely stunning views of Gilpin Lake, a deep blue, alpine lake that lies below the gaze of Mt. Zirkel and Big Agnes Mountain.

Mt. Elbert
Why not just go to the top of Colorado? Not only is 14,440-foot Mt. Elbert the highest point in Colorado, it’s also the highest point between Mt. Whitney in California, Fairweather Mountain in Canada, La Malinche Mountain in Mexico, and Mont Blanc in France. From the “roof of Colorado” hikers will enjoy outstanding panoramic views. Moreover, as “fourteeners” go, the hike to the summit is relatively easy.

Quandary Peak
At 14,265 feet Quandary Peak ranks as the 13th highest mountain in Colorado, and is one of the more accessible fourteeners in the state. The trailhead is located only 8 miles south of Breckenridge, and doesn't require a 4-wheel drive vehicle to reach it. Moreover, the 6.75-mile roundtrip route has very little exposure to steep drop-offs, thus making this a great first mountain for novice peak baggers.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hike to Charlies Bunion in the Great Smoky Mountains

Awhile back the Great Smoky Mountains Association published a video of the hike out to Charlies Bunion - arguably one of the best hikes in the national park. Charlies Bunion (the video explains the origins for this somewhat odd name) is a rock outcropping located along the Appalachian Trail that offers stunning views of the northern Smokies. For more information on this popular hike, please click here.

© GSMA 2010. All rights reserved.

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 Charlies Bunion, 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.


Monday, March 21, 2016

Mesa Verde Offers Free Moon Light Hike on March 22

Park rangers will be leading a moon light guided hike focusing on what night and darkness means to humans and animals at Mesa Verde National Park on Tuesday, March 22, beginning at 7 p.m. The guided hike is free, but advance sign-up is requested. Children should be at least 7 years old to join the hike. Participants will meet at the Morefield Village parking lot, and then explore the hillsides around the Morefield Campground, learning about how darkness affects wildlife and humans, including adaptations, circadian rhythms, and other processes. 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. A flyer with more information can be found at:


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Day Hike up to Hallett Peak

Back in 2014 David Socky and friends took a hike up to 12,713-foot Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. The video below shows some of the highlights from that trip - one of my favorite hikes in the park. Round trip, the hike is 10.3 miles in length, and climbs roughly 3240 feet. But as you can see from this film the spectacular views make it all worthwhile. You can find additional information on this hike by clicking here.

In addition to Hallet Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park has many other outstanding hikes that take-in the best scenery the park has to offer. 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.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Taking the Highline

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.

With more than 740 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see Glacier National Park. In addition to the Highline Trail, the park offers many other outstanding hikes. If you do plan to visit Glacier 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.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Yellowstone In Winter

A visit to Yellowstone National Park during the dead of winter has been on my bucket list for a long time now. This outstanding video by one of our website visitors underscores my need to get out there sooner, rather than later:

Yellowstone In Winter - 2016 from Jerry King on Vimeo.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Rocky Mountain National Park is Seeking Volunteers for 2016

What an exciting year to be part of the action at Rocky Mountain as the National Park Service (NPS) celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2016! Rocky Mountain National Park is home to one of the most dynamic and hard-working volunteer programs in the National Park Service. Each year, Rocky enlists individual and group volunteers to assist paid staff on various projects. In 2015, nearly 2,200 volunteers served over 110,000 hours in the park, making it one of the largest volunteer programs in the NPS.

The park is currently recruiting for over twenty individual volunteer opportunities for this summer. Duties range from providing visitor information at various trailheads and information stations to working on the road crew, doing bird research, camp hosting or swearing in Junior Rangers, among other positions. The majority of these opportunities are suitable for those within commuting distance of the park, as most do not come with housing. Volunteers may serve anywhere from one day per month to five days per week.

The park also has a robust group volunteer program, offering various opportunities to organized groups ranging in size from two to sixty! These projects vary from working with the trails or firefighter crews to restoration projects with our vegetation staff. Organized groups (scouts, school groups, corporate groups, families, etc.) may volunteer for a day or more in the park. Depending on availability, these groups may be eligible for free camping.

To learn more about the volunteer program and to get involved as a volunteer in the park, join park staff for an informative session hosted by the park's Volunteer Coordinator in the Estes Valley Library's Hondius Room on Thursday, March 10 at 6:30 p.m. For more information, see the park's volunteer website or call the park's Information Office at 970-586-1206.


Grand Teton's Epic Loop Hike

It seems that many national parks have at least one loop hike that takes in the best of what that park has to offer in terms of scenery. Grand Teton National Park is no exception to that rule. In fact, the Paintbrush Canyon-Cascade Canyon Loop can probably be described as being "epic". At roughly 20 miles in length, it's quite a long hike to do in one day - though there are many people who still tackle it in one fell swoop. With several backcountry campsites located in both canyons, backpackers can easily hike this loop at a much more relaxing pass by taking two, or even three days, to complete it.

Below is an excellent video by Grand Teton rangers that highlights the stunning scenery hikers will see on this route. It takes hikers up to Holly Lake in Paintbrush Canyon, over the spectacular Paintbrush Divide, down to Lake Solitude, and then finishes off with a walk through the extremely popular Cascade Canyon. If the idea of backpacking or doing this route in one day isn't your cup of tea, fortunately you can see much of the route by doing two separate day hikes.

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


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Temporary Closures For 2016 To Protect Nesting Raptors in Rocky Mountain National Park

Each year to protect raptor nesting sites, Rocky Mountain National Park officials initiate temporary closures in the Lumpy Ridge and Sheep Mountain areas of the park. To ensure that these birds of prey can nest undisturbed, specific areas within the park are closed temporarily to public use during nesting season and monitored by wildlife managers. All closures begin on March 1 and will continue through July 31, if appropriate. These closures may be extended longer or rescinded at an earlier date depending on nesting activity.

Closures include Checkerboard Rock, Lightning Rock, Batman Rock, Batman Pinnacle, Sundance, Thunder Buttress, The Parish, Alligator Rock, Sheep Mountain, and Twin Owls, Rock One. These closures include the named formations. Closures include all climbing routes, outcroppings, cliffs, faces, ascent and descent routes and climber access trails to the named rock formations. Check the park's website for updated information on raptor closures.

The National Park Service is committed to preserving birds of prey. The same cliffs that are critical for raptors also appeal to climbers.The cooperation of climbing organizations and individuals continues to be essential to the successful nesting of raptors in the park.