Thursday, May 21, 2015

Celebrate National Trails Day 2015 at Shenandoah National Park

Celebrate American Hiking Society's National Trails Day® in Shenandoah National Park on Saturday, June 6, 2015. In partnership with Shenandoah National Park, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) invites new hikers and experienced backpackers to learn new trail skills at PATC Trail Patrol's "Beyond the Trailhead" event at Byrd Visitor Center (milepost 51 on Skyline Drive) from 9:15 am to 3:30 pm. Come join guided hikes and hands-on demonstrations throughout the day.

With over 500 miles of trails, Shenandoah is a paradise for hikers. There are trails for every goal, from a stroll on the Limberlost Trail to an excursion on the Appalachian Trail. Enjoy the rewards and challenges of hiking to mountain summits and cascading waterfalls, while reconnecting with family, friends and yourself.

The National Trails Day® event is designed to give novice hikers the information they need to leave their cars behind and venture beyond the trailhead to enjoy Shenandoah National Park's numerous hiking trails. Experienced hikers can discuss new ideas with PATC members at displays on Leave No Trace outdoor ethics and wilderness first aid techniques. Everyone can participate in a hands-on demonstration of the traditional tools used to maintain trails in wilderness, such as crosscut saws, provided by the Shenandoah National Park trail crew throughout the day.

A variety of hikes guided by experienced Trail Patrol members will be offered for people of all ages and experience levels: hikes suitable for families with children as well as easy, moderate, and advanced hikes for adults. Hikers will need to meet at the registration table at Byrd Visitor Center 15 minutes before the hike time to sign in. Hikers should wear appropriate footwear and clothing for the season, and bring food and plenty of water for all hikes and a trail lunch for the advanced hikes.

The following hikes will meet at Byrd Visitor Center. Vehicle shuttles may be involved.

* Story of the Forest Trail / Easy / 1.8 miles / 10:00 a.m.

* Appalachian Trail Ramble / Easy / 2.0 miles / 10:45 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

* Dark Hollow Falls Hike / Moderate / 2.0 miles / 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

* Rose River-Dark Hollow Falls / Advanced / 4.0 miles / 10:00 a.m.

* Rapidan Camp National Historic Landmark / Advanced / 4.0 miles / 9:45 a.m.

Pre-registration is encouraged but you may also register on June 6 at Byrd Visitor Center. To pre-register, send an email to by June 3. Please include your name and which hike you wish to join.

PATC and Trail Patrol are charging no fees to attend or participate in any hike, workshop, or demonstration connected with the event;however, there is a $20-per-car entrance fee to the park (good for seven days). Byrd Visitor Center lies within the park at milepost 51 on Skyline Drive. For more information about the event, visit the PATC website at or contact Trail Patrol at For more information on the park, visit the park's website at To see a list of scheduled ranger programs, please click here.

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Big South Fork Presents Healthy Hike on May 29th on the Middle Creek Trail

In celebration of the National Park Service's upcoming centennial, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area will host a Healthy Hike on Friday, May 29, on the Middle Creek Trail. Participants should meet at 9:30 a.m. (EDT) at the Middle Creek Trailhead off the Divide Road. This ranger-led hike of 3.5 miles will traverse mild to moderate terrain on one of Big South Fork's first trails. Middle Creek holds some of the park's most beautiful rock shelters and some threatened plant species. Participants should wear weather appropriate clothing and bring plenty of water. Well-behaved dogs on leashes are always welcome.

Healthy Hikes provide the public with ranger-led activities that will allow park visitors to improve their fitness and provide the opportunity to further discover national parks. For more information, please contact the visitor center at (423) 286-7275.

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Throwback Thursday

At one time (and may continue today) there was an old Swiss custom of placing bells on mountain tops and passes in order to allow hikers and horseback riders to ring loud bells in the mountains. During the early years of the park, Glacier National Park was promoted as the answer to Americans leaving the country to vacation in the Swiss Alps. In addition to building several Swiss style chalets around the park, the Great Northern Railway and the Glacier Park Hotel Company requested permission to place locomotive bells on the summits of several passes in Glacier. In September of 1926 the request was finally granted to place bells at Swiftcurrent Pass, Piegan Pass and Siyeh Pass. Three years later a fourth bell was added at Scenic Point. The bells remained in place until the fall of 1943, at which point they were removed by the hotel company and donated to a World War II scrap metal drive. Today, each of those four passes remain as some of the best hiking destinations in the park.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Aggressive Bear Forces Closure of Mt. LeConte Backcountry Shelter and Cliff Tops Trail

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have closed Mt. Le Conte Backcountry Shelter and trails to the popular Cliff Tops area due to bear activity until further notice. At this time, trails leading to the summit of Mt. Le Conte remain open, but hikers are strongly encouraged to hike in tight groups of three or more and carry bear spray. Park wildlife staff are currently stationed onsite to monitor the situation.

On Sunday, May 17, one of the park's Wildlife Technicians encountered an aggressive bear near the trail to Cliff Tops that persistently approached and followed him for 0.3 mile. Loud noises and attempts from the trained ranger to scare the bear did not deter the bear’s repeated threatening advance. The bear followed him to the LeConte Lodge area before retreating into the forest.

"Hiking in bear country requires caution at all times," said Deputy Superintendent Clay Jordan. "We seldom fully close trail areas, but the unusually aggressive behavior exhibited by this bear warrants action by staff and special precautions by hikers."

Park officials urge everyone to exercise caution while hiking, camping, and picnicking to ensure their personal safety and to protect bears. Black bears in the park are wild and unpredictable. Though rare, attacks on humans do occur, causing injuries or death. Hikers are always encouraged hike in groups, closely control children, and carry bear spray. Taking these precautions become especially important when a notably aggressive bear is identified by park officials in an area.

Bears should never be fed and all food waste should be properly disposed to discourage bears from approaching people. Feeding, touching, disturbing, and willfully approaching wildlife within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces wildlife, are illegal in the park. If approached by a bear, visitors should slowly back away to put distance between the animal and themselves, creating space for the animal to pass. If the bear continues to approach, rangers recommend that you stand your ground together as a group and do not run. Hikers should make themselves look large and throw rocks or sticks at the bear. If attacked by a black bear, rangers strongly recommend fighting back with any object available and remember that the bear may view you as prey.

For more information on what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking, please visit the park website. To report a bear incident, please call 865-436-1230.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Celebrates National Trails Day

Join park staff and partners on Saturday June 6, to celebrate National Trails Day with a volunteer opportunity to participate in an Appalachian Trail Work Day. The national park is once again working with the Friends of the Smokies, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Regional Office, and the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club to host this large volunteer event.

This work day event has taken place in the park for the last 19 years and highlights the importance of trails for recreation, education, and physical fitness as well as recognizes the important work performed by trail volunteers. The Appalachian Trail Work Day provides an opportunity for the public to help the Appalachian Trail Maintainers with important trail projects that might not otherwise get accomplished. The work done on the Appalachian Trail during National Trails Day provides hikers with a safe, enjoyable trail experience and protects the resources around the trail.

“We are excited to partner with these great trails groups for National Trails Day,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “This event provides a great opportunity for park supporters to help maintain the park’s trail system and learn about the park’s many volunteer opportunities.”

Volunteers will assist with a variety of projects, from cleaning and replacing water bars, rehabilitating steps and turnpikes, to improving trail tread on sections of the Appalachian Trail between Icewater Springs Shelter and Silers Bald.

The work day concludes with a picnic at Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area for all registrants who will also receive a commemorative t-shirt. The registration fee for this event will support trail projects in the Smokies. Participants should wear sturdy shoes, dress appropriately and bring lots of water and a lunch for the day.

For more information and to register for this work day, visit the Friends of the Smokies website or contact Phyllis Henry at 865-577-2604.

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Ranger-led Hike to Yahoo Falls This Sunday

The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area announces a one hour ranger-led interpretive hike to 113 foot tall Yahoo Falls on Sunday, May 24th. Please come and enjoy a hike with Ranger Karen Thompson starting from the Yahoo Falls parking area to learn more about the natural and geological features of Big South Fork, and to experience Yahoo Falls, a large rock cave and towering sandstone cliffs. This fun, fact-filled hike begins promptly at 11:00 a.m. (EDT) on May 24 at the Yahoo Falls parking area located on Yahoo Falls Road off Highway 700 near Whitley City, Kentucky.

This ranger-led hike is free of charge. Please wear weather-appropriate clothing and footwear. The trail is considered to be moderately difficult because it does contain a long set of stairs. Everyone is welcome.

For further directions or additional information, please call the Blue Heron Interpretive Center at (606) 376-3787.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

“Get Your Kids Hiking!" in Shenandoah National Park

The Shenandoah National Park Association and Shenandoah National Park are delighted to once again host a special program featuring Jeff Alt, renowned author of Get Your Kids Hiking: How to Start Them Young and Keep it Fun, who will inspire families to enjoy and care for nature and the outdoors. On Saturday, June 13, 2015, 11:00 a.m. join Mr. Alt, as he teams up with Shenandoah National Park Rangers to lead kids and accompanying adults on a short hike loaded with hands-on family hiking tips and ways to explore the outdoors. This short family stroll turns a walk in the park into a fun filled multi-dimensional adventure. Learn how a few simple techniques and some basic equipment can turn any walk in the woods into a safe, fun-filled adventure that kids of all ages and parents will enjoy.

The program will be held at Byrd Visitor Center at milepost 51 on Skyline Drive and is free for children and adults of all ages. Come prepared for a short walk. Jeff Alt will be available to sign copies of his books at Byrd Visitor Center following the program. This program will be presented again on Saturday, July 11, 2015.In addition, Mr. Alt will present his A Walk for Sunshine Appalachian Trail Program at 4:00 p.m., Saturday, June 13 in the Great Room at Big Meadows Lodge.

Jeff Alt is an expert hiker and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA). Mr. Alt is the author of the award-winning books, A Walk for Sunshine, Four Boots One Journey and Get Your Kids Hiking: How to Start Them Young and Keep it Fun. His adventures and hiking expertise have been featured in national media including:, ESPN, Hallmark Channel, the AP, CNN-Radio, New Dimensions National Public Radio, Scholastic Parent and Child and more.

There is a $20-per-car entrance fee to Shenandoah National Park which is good for seven days. For more information about these events and other park programs, click here.

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