Thursday, February 25, 2021

Farewell Post

With great sadness, I am announcing that this will be my last post on this blog. Yesterday I finalized the sale of this blog and my website, HikingintheSmokys.com, to the owners of SmokyMountains.com. The good news for hiking enthusiasts is that SmokyMountains.com plans to continue operating this blog and HikingintheSmokys.com. Moreover, they will be making additional investments in design, video, and images to ensure a positive user experience for years to come!

Ever since launching HikingintheSmokys.com in 2008, I have fully enjoyed my pursuit of making the site the most comprehensive resource for trail information in the Great Smoky Mountains. The website gave me an opportunity to explore corners of the park that I otherwise probably would've ignored. In the process, I discovered many hikes that are just as scenic and enjoyable as Charlies Bunion or Alum Cave. Hopefully I've helped some of you discover new trails as well.

Having said all that, I want to thank you one last time for all your support over the years. Maybe we'll see you on the trail someday!


Jeff
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

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

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Headed to Glacier National Park This Year?

Are you planning to visit Glacier National Park this summer - or anytime down the road? I wanted to let you know about an eBook we published last year that provides hikers with access to detailed trail information while hiking in the park.

Exploring Glacier National Park is the mobile version of HikinginGlacier.com, the most comprehensive website on the internet for hiking trail information in Glacier National Park. This book was published to provide readers with convenient access to the information contained on HikinginGlacier.com while in the park, or on the trail, where internet access is most likely not available. Additionally, the format of this book will provide a much better experience for smartphone users.

Exploring Glacier National Park covers 68 hikes. Like the website, the book includes driving directions to each trailhead, detailed trail descriptions, key features along the route, difficulty ratings, photographs, maps and elevation profiles, which provide readers with a visual representation of the change in elevation they’ll encounter on each hike. Some hikes will also include historical tidbits related to the trail. Whether you're looking for an easy stroll in the park, or an epic hike deep into Glacier's backcountry, this book provides all the tools you'll need to make your hiking trip as enjoyable as possible.

As with our four websites, this book also contains several directories that will help you choose the best hikes suited to your preferences and abilities. This includes hikes listed by location within the park, hikes listed by key trail feature, and hikes sorted by difficulty rating. I’ve also included lists of our top 10 hikes, the best easy hikes, the top fall hikes, and the top early season hikes.

The book is now available on Amazon.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

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

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Smokies Announces 2021 Plan for Cades Cove Vehicle-Free Days

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are extending a pilot project in Cades Cove by continuing vehicle-free access on the Cades Cove Loop Road on Wednesdays from May 5 through September 1, 2021. Park managers implemented this weekly, full-day opportunity in 2020 in an effort to improve the visitor experience and to reduce congestion associated with vehicle-free mornings that were previously offered until 10:00 a.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The park received 47 comments through mail, email, phone, and comment cards regarding the vehicle-free day pilot project. More than 60% of these comments were extremely positive, however, some campers were still impacted by early morning parking congestion and some visitors were disappointed by the lack of vehicle access on Wednesdays. Overall, the full-day opportunity provided a more enjoyable and safe experience for the nearly 30,000 bicyclists and pedestrians who participated in the vehicle-free day opportunities. During the 2020 season, 25% more pedestrians and cyclists participated in vehicle-free access periods per week as compared to the 2019 season, with an average of 1,800 participants each Wednesday.

Park managers continue to be concerned about parking congestion and will monitor use levels, parking availability, visitor experience, and congestion throughout the second year of the pilot project. According to data collected in 2020, parking lots were full during 30% of the observation period and roadside shoulders along Laurel Creek Road were utilized for parking during 60% of the observation period. Staff and volunteers will implement some changes in parking access this season to ease pressure on campground and picnic area parking lots and to prevent roadside parking along Laurel Creek Road. Roadside parking damages shoulders and creates unsafe conditions for visitors walking from their car to their destination.

For more information about congestion monitoring in the park, please visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/management/ves.htm.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

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

Monday, February 15, 2021

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
Ice Lakes, located just outside of Silverton in the San Juan National Forest, 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.





Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

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

Saturday, February 13, 2021

North Carolina State Parks Report Record 19.8 Million Visitors in 2020

North Carolina state parks experienced a record number of visitors in 2020. State parks and recreation areas welcomed 19.8 million visitors last year — 400,000 more than any other year on record and 1.2 million more visitors than in 2019. The previous record for visitation was set in 2017 when the parks welcomed 19.4 million visitors.

Park staff attribute the increased visitation not only to public recognition that outdoor recreation promotes better health during the pandemic, but also to recently completed Connect N.C. Bond projects at parks across the state. These projects include improved and expanded campground facilities, new trails and visitor centers and improved parking and access.

Among 41 state parks and recreation areas, 28 reported increases in visitation in 2020, despite the majority of parks being closed for weeks at the outset of the pandemic. Jockeys Ridge State Park in Dare County reported the highest visitation at 1.9 million, and was among seven state park units that welcomed more than a million visitors. The others were Carolina Beach, Pilot Mountain, William B. Umstead, Fort Macon and Eno River state parks and Falls Lake State Recreation Area. Jordan Lake, Kerr Lake and Falls Lake welcomed fewer visitors than previous years due to several weeks of closed campgrounds, facilities and boat ramps.

Several parks experienced visitation increases in excess of 25 percent compared to 2019, including Carolina Beach (78 percent), Mayo River (92 percent), Raven Rock (32 percent) and Grandfather Mountain (32 percent). The month of December was the busiest December on record, with South Mountains up 98 percent for the month and William B. Umstead up 68 percent. Hammocks Beach welcomed 67 percent more visitors in December than the prior year, and Hanging Rock welcomed 57 percent more visitors.

With increased visitation also came challenges such as overflowing parking lots, litter on park grounds and damage to natural resources from heavier use of trails and popular sites. According to the Division of Parks and Recreation, visitors can help to reduce negative impacts in the parks by carrying a bag for their own litter; wearing a mask when they approach other visitors; staying on trails to avoid damaging natural resources; visiting less popular parks or less popular trails in parks; and visiting on weekdays or visiting earlier or later in the day to reduce crowding.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

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

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Smokies Announces Cades Cove Road Projects

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that the Cades Cove Loop Road will be fully closed for three weeks in September to resurface the popular roadway which is used by more than 2 million visitors a year. The one-way road will be closed to all motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, and horseback riders from Tuesday, September 7 through Monday, September 27.

The road was fully reconstructed and resurfaced in 2010. This preventive pavement treatment will maintain the heavily used road in good condition and extend the service life of the asphalt surface. A full closure is necessary to allow logistical movement of trucks and paving equipment along the narrow, one-way road.

While the contract duration is expected to be two months, the actual asphalt paving operation will occur over the three-week closure period. Work also includes resurfacing of the campground entrance road from Laurel Creek Road to the Cades Campground and the parking area adjacent to the Cades Cove Campground Store. The campground, picnic area, campground store, and horse stables will remain open and accessible throughout the duration of the paving project.

In addition, current roadwork occurring in Cades Cove along Forge Creek Road has been extended. Forge Creek Road has been closed to all use since November 2, 2020 to replace five bridges. The closure has been extended through Saturday, July 31, 2021. Due to the complete removal of the bridges and the use of large equipment to perform repair work, the road will continue to be closed to all use. The full closure prevents all access (by foot, bicycle, or horse) to the Henry Whitehead Place and Gregory Ridge, Gregory Bald, and Hannah Mountain trailheads. Gregory Bald is accessible from trails outside the Cades Cove area, including Wolf Ridge Trail, Long Hungry Trail, or a section of the Appalachian Trail. For more information about these routes, please contact the Backcountry Office at 865-436-1297.

For more information about temporary road closures, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/temproadclose.htm.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

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

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

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 240 miles of trails that provide intimate access to all of this incredibly beautiful scenery. The following are among some of the top reasons why you should pay a visit to this amazing park:

1) 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.


2) 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.


3) Wildlife

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.


4) Photography

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.


5) 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.


With more than 240 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see Grand Teton National Park. In addition to the hikes listed above, the park offers a variety of other 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 as well as other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

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