Thursday, April 9, 2020

Glacier’s Grand Loop Hike

Thanks to its topography, excellent trail system, and a favorable location of accommodations, hikers have the opportunity to experience an epic three-day loop in Glacier National Park that includes the absolute best scenery the park has to offer. And as a bonus, it doesn’t require lugging any backpacking equipment around, or camping under the stars. This “grand loop” starts from Logan Pass, visits Granite Park Chalet, drops down into the Many Glacier valley, climbs over Piegan Pass, and then heads back down to Siyeh Bend on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Every step along this trek offers awe-inspiring beauty!

The best way to do this hike is to park your car at Rising Sun on the east side, or at Apgar on the west, and take the free shuttle up to Logan Pass. From there you’ll hike 7.6 miles along the Highline Trail to the Granite Park Chalet. Due to its exceptionally beautiful views, the Highline Trail is likely the most popular backcountry trail in the park, and should be on the bucket list of any self-respecting hiker. With an elevation gain of only 975 feet, the hike to the chalet is also relatively easy.

If you feel this first leg of the loop is a little too easy, and you still have a little gas left in the tank, I highly recommend taking the 0.6-mile Garden Wall Trail up to the top of the Continental Divide. From this perch, 900 feet above the Highline Trail, you’ll enjoy commanding views of Grinnell Glacier lying on the other side of the divide.

That night you’ll stay at the historic Granite Park Chalet. The Chalet has 12 guest rooms, each with 2 to 6 bunks. Although very basic, and virtually no amenities, it’s still much better than camping if you’re not a fan of sleeping in tents. Be forewarned though, you will need to make a reservation several months in advance.

The next day you’ll make the short climb over Swiftcurrent Pass before making the 2300-foot descent down to Many Glacier. From the top of the pass, down to the head of Bullhead Lake, the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail drops nearly 2000 feet in just three miles. Once in the Swiftcurrent Valley the trail flattens out substantially. As you proceed down the valley you’ll pass Redrock Falls, Redrock Lake, Fishercap Lake, as well as several alpine meadows. In all, this leg of the trek covers 7.5 miles.

Before leaving Swiftcurrent Pass, however, you do have the option of visiting the Swiftcurrent Fire Lookout. The lookout is perched atop Swiftcurrent Mountain, which requires a climb of more than 900 feet in roughly 1.4 miles. As you might expect the panoramic views from this outpost are quite spectacular.

Once in Many Glacier you’ll have several options for overnight accommodations, including staying at the historic Many Glacier Hotel.

Your third day of hiking will be the longest and the toughest. Hikers will climb roughly 2700 feet as they make their way up to Piegan Pass, before dropping back down to Siyeh Bend on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The climb out of the Many Glacier Valley is 8.4 miles by itself, and then from Piegan Pass to Siyeh Bend is another 4.4 miles. Although Piegan Pass isn’t nearly as popular as the Highline Trail or Swiftcurrent Pass, it’s only because it’s overlooked by most people. If you still haven’t had enough of the mind-blowing scenery, I highly recommend taking the short and easy side trip out to Preston Park, located roughly 2.4 miles from your end point. I would have to rank this as one of the beautiful alpine meadows I’ve ever seen.

Upon returning to the Going-to-the-Sun Road simply take the shuttle to return back to your car.

The exceptionally beautiful views, the excellent opportunities for spotting wildlife, and the proliferation of wildflowers along most of the route, all combine to make this a hike you'll remember for the rest of your life.

The National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map for Many Glacier includes the entire route described in this posting. The sectional maps series for Glacier National Park have a scale of 1:50,000, and provide much greater detail such as backcountry campsites, footbridges, stream crossings, water and snow hazard locations, points-of-interest, as well as shuttle stops. All Trails Illustrated Maps are waterproof and tear-resistant.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Firefighters Respond to multiple wildfires, Camp Daniel Boone Fire burning in Shining Rock Wilderness

High fire danger and windy conditions across Western North Carolina and the NC piedmont led to multiple wildfires this week. US Forest Service firefighters are responding to two significant wildfires, including the Camp Daniel Boone Fire that is now burning into the Shining Rock Wilderness on the Pisgah National Forest.

The Camp Daniel Boone Fire started on private property off Little East Fork Road in Haywood County Friday afternoon, April 3. The fire is now burning in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area on the Pisgah Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest. The fire is estimated at 50 acres and is located near the Art Loeb Trail west of Deep Gap. Approx. 40 firefighters are responding from the North Carolina Forest Service and US Forest Service. NC Forest Service helicopters and air tankers made multiple water drops yesterday to try to slow the spread of the fire. A US Forest Service helicopter is on scene again today. The northern Art Loeb and Little East Fork trailheads are closed due to the fire and hiking to Deep Gap or the peak of Cold Mountain is discouraged.

The Cals Creek Fire is burning in east of Highway 23/441 in Macon County near Otto, NC. The fire is estimated at 30 acres. The fire started on private property and is now also burning on US Forest Service land in the Nantahala Ranger District of Nantahala National Forest. Approximately 25 firefighters from the NC Forest Service and US Forest Service are responding. A NC Forest Service helicopter was used for water drops yesterday.

The cause of both fires is under investigation.

State and federal firefighters responded to multiple additional wildfire starts across Western NC yesterday. US Forest Service firefighters also responded to a small fire on the Uwharrie National Forest in the NC Piedmont.

Fire danger is expected to remain high through the weekend. The North Carolina Forest Service issued a ban on all open burning for 32 Western North Carolina counties due to hazardous forest fire conditions. The burning ban went into effect at 5 p.m. Friday, April 3, and will remain in effect until further notice. For more information, visit

The US Forest Service urges the public to practice caution this weekend. The national forests are experiencing very high levels of visitation. Visitors are asked to follow guidance under the burn ban and to consider postponing their camping trips. Several Western NC counties have implemented overnight camping restrictions. Stay up to date on current national forest closures at:


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Monday, April 6, 2020

National Park Service Proposes Regulations Governing the Use of E-Bikes

The National Park Service is seeking public input for a proposed regulation regarding the use of electric bicycles, or e-bikes, in national parks. This regulation aligns with the existing National Park Service policy that encourages park units to consider e-bike use where traditional bicycles are allowed.

“From urban areas to natural landscapes, bicyclists flock to national parks to exercise and soak in the scenery,” said National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela. “Allowing the use of e-bikes expands opportunities, especially to those with disabilities or other limitations, to access and enjoy the great outdoors.”

Currently, more than 380 national parks have evaluated e-bike use in response to the NPS policy. As e-bikes become more popular both on and off National Park Service managed lands, the agency has recognized the need to address this emerging form of recreation and active transportation in its regulations. The proposed regulation would define the term “electric bicycle” and allow superintendents to provide for e-bike use.

Visitors could use e-bikes in areas designated by the park superintendent where traditional bicycles are allowed, including public roads, parking areas, administrative roads and trails. Superintendents retain the right to limit, restrict or impose conditions on bicycle use and e-bike use in order to ensure visitor safety and protect resources.

The regulation would support Secretary’s Order 3376, from Aug. 29, 2019, that directed bureaus, including the National Park Service, to create a clear and consistent e-bike policy on all federal lands managed by the Department. The rule would also support Secretary’s Order 3366, issued April 18, 2018, that directed bureaus to increase recreational opportunities on public lands.

E-bikes have small electric motors (less than 1hp) that help to move the bicycle. The regulations would state that the operator of an e-bike may only use the motor to assist pedal propulsion, except in locations open to public motor vehicle traffic. E-bikes, like traditional bikes, would not be allowed in designated wilderness areas.

As an alternative to gasoline- or diesel-powered modes of transportation, e-bikes can support active modes of transportation for park staff and visitors. E-bikes would also decrease traffic congestion and reduce the demand for vehicle parking spaces.

After the proposed rule publishes, it can be found at by searching for “1024-AE61.” The public comment period will be open for 60 days.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Friday, April 3, 2020

Appalachian Trail Conservancy Requests Temporary Closure of the A.T.

On Wednesday, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and 29 of the 31 Appalachian Trail Maintaining Clubs formally requested the official closure of the 2,193-mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.) due to the growing risk of visitors spreading COVID-19 among other hikers, nearby communities and beyond. The ATC delivered a formal letter to the Secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture, the Deputy Director of the National Park Service (NPS) and Chief of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) recommending the Trail’s closure effective immediately until April 30, 2020, with intermittent convenings of the cooperative managers of the Trail to determine whether it is safe to reopen it again.

The request for closure came after the ATC instructed all staff and volunteers, as well as all visitors (both day and overnight hikers), to stay off the Trail, and the NPS office administering the Trail closed all shelters and privies it manages. The ATC coordinated the planning and construction of the Trail and is currently responsible for managing and protecting it. The maintaining clubs of volunteers built the Trail and are currently responsible for the day-to-day management and maintenance of the footpath. The administration of the Trail statutorily belongs to the Secretary of the Interior.

The unprecedented request from the ATC and clubs comes on the heels of a surge in visitor use despite multiple social-distancing guidance issued by state and local governments. The Trail, which spans 14 states and passes through 88 counties, is within a day’s drive for half of the U.S. population. Crowding at iconic and well-known A.T. locations — such as Blood Mountain in Georgia, McAfee Knob in Virginia, and Annapolis Rocks in Maryland — became unsafe as many believed they could avoid COVID-19 by journeying to public lands. As the ATC and clubs explained in their closure request to the federal government, the threat to government and ATC/club employees, other visitors and residents of gateway communities along the trail was heightened, rather than lowered, by the Trail remaining officially open.

“Since its creation in 1925, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy has always promoted the benefits of experiencing nature and hiking, both physically and mentally,” said Sandra Marra, President and CEO of the ATC. “However, the past few weeks have shown that the A.T. is no longer a place where effective social distancing can take place, and that drastic action must be taken to help limit the spread of this highly contagious virus both on and off the Trail.”

Several National Park Service units the Trail passes through have already closed as of the sending of the letter. Great Smoky Mountains National Park has closed all facilities and hiking trails, and the Blue Ridge Parkway, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park and Delaware Gap National Recreation Area have closed all buildings to the public. Shenandoah National Park is closed to all camping and is also seeking approval to close completely. Six of the eight national forests the Trail passes through had also closed their connecting Trails to the A.T. prior to the request, effectively removing access. The ATC’s guidance during this time is for trail users to stay at home and wait for it to be safe to no longer be socially distant, even in the great outdoors.

For more information on the guidance issued by the ATC and current park and business closures along the A.T., visit


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Update on seasonally-closed roads on Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests

Seasonally-closed roads on the Tusquitee Ranger District of the Nantahala National Forest reopened today, April 1. On the Nantahala Ranger District all seasonally-closed roads reopened as normal on March 15.

The Cheoah Ranger District of the Nantahala National Forest and all ranger districts on the Pisgah National Forest will delay the reopening of closed roads until at least April 30, 2020. Many of these roads have downed trees and other hazards that pose a threat to visitors.

Certain roads are seasonally closed to motorized vehicles to help protect wildlife habitat, decrease wildlife disturbance, reduce road maintenance costs, and in specific cases to protect public safety.

On all Forest Service roads, emergency closures due to weather or resource conditions can occur at any time. For current road conditions and status, contact the Ranger District.

Do not park vehicles in front of closed gates. Vehicles blocking gates may be ticketed and/or towed.

For more information, see the National Forests in North Carolina website at and look for the Seasonal and Weather Road Closures under Quick Links.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Great Smoky Mountains Extends Closure to Support Regional COVID-19 Prevention Efforts

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that all park areas, except the Foothills Parkway and Spur, will remain closed until further notice. All access to the park, including trails and roads, were originally closed on March 24 through April 6, in alignment with efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 across the region. The park is extending the closure in response to Executive Order 121 issued by NC Governor Roy Cooper, Executive Order 22 issued by TN Governor Bill Lee, and ‘Stay at Home’ orders in local communities surrounding the park.

The National Park Service (NPS) is working servicewide with federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic. Park managers will continue to evaluate regional conditions and work with local communities to assess dates for an orderly reopening of park facilities in a manner that provides for the health and safety of employees, volunteers, partners, residents, and visitors. While park managers are prepared to act to reopen as quickly as conditions allow, the park is likely to remain closed at least through April 30. The park will notify the public when park operations resume through our website at and social media platforms.

During the closure period, visitors can experience the park using digital tools including our social media platforms and website where near real-time views can be seen via park webcams at Park rangers remain available to answer questions via email or phone during business hours at (865) 436-1291, (828) 506-8620, or


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

My Top 30 Hikes of All-Time

Looking back at my childhood, I would have to say that I was extremely fortunate to have grown up in a semi-rural area. Though it's more than likely you never heard of Mack, Ohio, you're probably well aware of our largest suburb just to our east - Cincinnati. The dead-end street that we lived on backed-up to a fairly large wooded area covering several hundred acres. No doubt this is where my love for the outdoors was ingrained into my soul. My friends and I spent countless hours in those woods; hiking, riding our Huffy bikes on trails created by us and older groups of kids, building tree camps, and camping around an open fire. After we learned how to drive we discovered the Red River Gorge in central Kentucky where we started taking our first real hikes. We later graduated to the Great Smoky Mountains where we had our first real taste of big mountains and expansive wilderness. Then in 1986, while enjoying a couple of beers in the basement of a friend, three of us came up with the wild-eye idea of taking a grand road trip out west. This trip took us to the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota, before reaching our ultimate destinations of Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Rocky Mountain National Park. The die was cast at that point, and I was forever hooked on the outdoors.

I was also very fortunate to have found a wife that enjoys hiking as much as I do. Together we have explored dozens of national parks, monuments and forests over the years. As a result of the hundreds, probably thousands of miles of hiking I've done over the years, I wanted to put together a list of what I consider to be my favorite hikes. Though I've attempted to rank them in order of best/most favorite, you may not want to assume that this ranking is absolute. I should admit that there may well be a great deal of recency bias, as I have tendency to think that my latest hike was the greatest. Ultimately, I hope that this list will inspire you, or provide you with some new places to explore in the future. Here are my top 30 hikes:

1) Lake O'Hara (Yoho National Park): Parks Canada limits the number of people that can visit this pristine area. In addition to the epic scenery the area has to offer, Lake O’Hara is also famous for its alpine circuit, a loop hike that traverses precipitous ledges with frightening exposure to steep drop-offs. However, there are many other options that hikers can take to enjoy this truly spectacular landscape.

2) Skyline Loop Trail (Mt. Rainier National Park): "Oh, what a paradise!" was Martha Longmire’s reaction upon seeing the lush meadows and spectacular wildflowers of Mount Rainier’s southern valley for the very first time in 1885. The description would stick, as the most popular area in the park is now known as “Paradise”. Once you set your own eyes upon it you’ll understand why. This hike was so incredibly beautiful that it was the first time that I ever kept my camera in my hand for the entire trip. The amazing scenery just never ended!

3) Grinnell Glacier Overlook (Glacier National Park): This hike travels along the world famous Highline Trail for much of its distance. The incredible views, the wildlife, and the wildflowers, all combine to make this a trek you'll remember the rest of your life. Though hikers will have a couple of options for enjoying the Highline Trail, I highly recommend taking the steep side trail that leads up to the spectacular Grinnell Glacier Overlook atop the Garden Wall.

4) Wenkchemna Pass (Banff National Park): The hike to Wenkchemna Pass begins from Moraine Lake, which sits at the foot of the Valley of the Ten Peaks. Both the lake and the valley were featured on the reverse side of the Canadian twenty dollar bill between 1969 and 1979. At the foot of the lake is a large pile of boulders and rocks, leftovers from the glaciers that retreated thousands of years ago. A climb to the top of the rock pile is a popular destination for photographers. The view there of the lake and the valley is considered to be one of the most photographed scenes in Canada, and is now known as the "Twenty Dollar View".

5) Swiftcurrent Pass (Glacier National Park): Although this is one of the toughest hikes in Glacier, it includes tons of spectacular scenery. You'll pass by three lakes and a waterfall while traveling up the Swiftcurrent Valley. Once above the valley floor the trail offers outstanding birds-eye views of six glacial lakes, as well as Swiftcurrent Glacier. At the pass you'll enjoy stunning views of Heavens Peak and Granite Park.

6) Iceline Trail (Yoho National Park): While ascending the avalanche path hikers will enjoy views of Takakkaw Falls across the valley. Once at the top the trail begins crossing over the broken terrain of ancient glacial moraines. From this point forward you’ll enjoy epic alpine scenery, including outstanding views of Emerald Glacier, several small tarns, as well as the spectacular surrounding mountains within Yoho National Park.

7) Mt. Ida (Rocky Mountain National Park): Hands down this is the best hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. The views from the summit are simply epic. In fact, hikers will enjoy outstanding panoramic views along much of the route. Although the terrain becomes fairly rugged on the final leg to the summit, you'll have very little exposure to steep drop-offs. If this still sounds like this might be a little bit out of your comfort zone, you could simply end your hike atop Peak 12,150, a sub-peak along the ridge approaching the summit.

8) Siyeh Pass Loop (Glacier National Park): This one-way hike offers visitors the chance to take-in some of the best of what Glacier has to offer. Hikers will pass through the incredibly beautiful Preston Park, climb up to one of the highest maintained trails in Glacier, and then back down the Baring Creek Valley where you'll have a relatively close-up view of Sexton Glacier.

9) Static Peak Divide (Grand Teton National Park): Cascade Canyon gets all the accolades whenever outdoor media types discuss hiking in the Grand Tetons. However, in my humble opinion, the pundits simply haven't done their homework. I'll admit this is an extremely tough hike, but the alpine scenery is simply epic, and easily makes this the best hike in Grand Teton National Park.

10) Ice Lakes (San Juan National Forest): Ice Lakes just might have 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.

11) Dragon's Tail (Glacier National Park)

12) Lake Solitude (Grand Teton National Park)

13) Blue Lakes (Uncompahgre National Forest)

14) Mt. Elbert (San Isabel National Forest)

15) Grinnell Glacier (Glacier National Park)

16) Hallet Peak (Rocky Mountain National Park)

17) Chasm Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

18) Mt. Rogers (Grayson Highlands State Park)

19) Lake Josephine Loop (Glacier National Park)

20) Gregory Bald (Great Smoky Mountains National Park)

21) Emerald Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park)

22) Grassy Ridge Bald (Roan Mountain - Cherokee National Forest)

23) Rocky Top (Great Smoky Mountains National Park)

24) Parker Ridge (Banff National Park)

25) Avalanche Peak (Yellowstone National Park)

26) Panorama Trail (Yosemite National Park)

27) Wheeler Peak (Carson National Forest)

28) Horsethief Trail (San Juan National Forest)

29) Gilpin Lake / Gold Creek Loop (Mt. Zirkel Wilderness)

30) Skyline Trail (Cape Breton Highlands, Nova Scotia)


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park