Friends of the Smokies Announces 2020 Classic Hikes of the Smokies Schedule

Monday, December 30, 2019

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The Friends of the Smokies has just announced the schedule for their Classic Hikes of the Smokies series in 2020. The year-long series will include 10 hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park this upcoming year, and will feature interpretation of the trail, history, and park projects supported by Friends of the Smokies. Moreover, these hikes will help support restoration and rehabilitation of some of the park's most impacted trails through the Trails Forever program.

Please note that pre-registration is required to participate. Here's a rundown of the hikes included in this year's series:

March 10 - Elkmont Loop

April 14 - Porters Creek to Fern Falls

May 12 - Chimney Tops

June 9 - Sugarland Mountain

July 14 - Catalooche Divide Trail

August 11 - Boogerman Loop

September 8 - A.T. to Mt. Cammerer

October 13 - Andrews Bald

November 10 - Lost Cove Loop (includes a visit to the Shuckstack Fire Tower)

December 8 - Smokemont Loop

For more information, and to register, please click here.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park
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USDA Forest Service surpasses goals and breaks records in 2019

Thursday, December 26, 2019

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The USDA Forest Service recently announced that 2019 was a historic year for America’s national forests and grasslands.

“In 2019, through Shared Stewardship agreements we forged new partnerships and built on existing ones to better collaborate and share decision space with states, partners and tribes,” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “We also opened hundreds of thousands of acres of national forests to visitor access and sold more timber in this year than we have in any of the past 21 years, providing a sustainable flow of forest products and supporting rural economies.”

Creating healthy, productive forests and supporting rural economies

The Forest Service surpassed expectations and sold nearly 3.3 billion board feet of timber in 2019—75 million board feet more than the 20-year high set in 2018. The agency also improved forest conditions and reduced wildfire risk on over 4 million acres through timber harvest, removing hazardous fuels like dead and downed trees, and combating disease, insect and invasive species infestations.

Timber harvest volume from projects under the Good Neighbor Authority, more than tripled in 2019 from 22 to 89 million board feet. This authority allows the Forest Service to enter into agreements with state forestry agencies to perform restoration work to improve health and productivity on national forests and grasslands. To date, projects under this authority have taken place in 38 states.

Sharing stewardship responsibilities and being better neighbors

So far, 12 states and the Western Governors Association have signed on to work alongside the Forest Service to set landscape-scale goals, as well as share resources and expertise. These Shared Stewardship agreements allow the Forest Service to better work with partners to address challenges such as wildfire, insect and disease infestations and improve forest and watershed conditions while adapting to user needs. Participating states include Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.

The Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership, a combined effort of the Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, treated 100,000 acres in 2019 to improve forest health where public and private lands meet and to protect nearby communities from wildfire.

The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, the National Forest Foundation and the Forest Service partnered to set up a $4 million grant program to improve watersheds and reduce wildfire risk.

The Forest Service launched a community-based prototype wildfire risk mapping tool in Washington State. This tool is the first of its kind and allows local, state and federal agencies to fight fire where it matters most and to build fire-adapted communities more strategically and collaboratively. A nationwide map based on the prototype will be available in 2020.

Increasing access and improving recreation experiences

More than 5.2 million hours of work were logged in 2019 as part of the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, a private-public partnership that engages more than 25,000 returning veterans and young Americans each year to strengthen America’s infrastructure and boost local economies. Participants helped to plant trees, reduce wildfire risk and improve forest conditions through vegetation management and hazardous fuels reduction projects, valued at $128 million.

Nearly 560,000 acres of national forests and grasslands were opened for access in partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation as part of their “Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt” initiative.

Access and recreation opportunities were improved through the National Forest and Grasslands Explorer and Digital pass applications. The Explorer app lets visitors know where to find points of interest on national forests and grasslands and how best to explore them. The Digital Pass app was developed in cooperation with to make purchasing day passes easier by selling them online.

“2019 was a banner year for us,” added Chief Christiansen. “Next year, we will continue to build on these successes to improve conditions on America’s national forests and grasslands to ensure they are healthier, more resilient and more productive.” “We will keep building on the partnerships that make these successes possible and commit to increasing access to better connect people to their natural resources, so these national treasures endure for generations to come.”

For more information about the Forest Service visit

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Last-minute gift idea - a virtual stocking stuffer

Monday, December 23, 2019

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Believe it or not, though Christmas is now only two days away, you still have time to order last-minute stocking stuffers from Amazon. If you're looking for one last gift for that happy hiker in your life, there's still plenty of time to download the Kindle e-book version of my book, Ramble On: A History of Hiking!

Ramble On: A History of Hiking is a great gift idea for anyone who loves hiking, and wishes to learn more about the rich and amazing history of one of the world’s top pastimes.

For more information on the book, and to purchase, please click here.

Thank you very much, and hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas!

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White Sands Re-designated as a National Park

Saturday, December 21, 2019

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On Friday, December 20, 2019, President Donald J. Trump signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, which includes a provision that re-designates White Sands National Monument as White Sands National Park, making it the 62nd designated national park in the National Park System.

“Our staff are very excited for White Sands to be recognized as a national park and to reintroduce ourselves to the American public,” said White Sands National Park Superintendent Marie Sauter. “We are so appreciative of our partners, local communities, and congressional leaders who made this achievement possible and look forward to continued success working together.”

White Sands National Monument was established on January 18, 1933, by President Herbert Hoover to preserve, “the white sands and additional features of scenic, scientific, and educational interest.” Today’s re-designation recognizes the added significance of the park for its natural and cultural resources. In addition to containing the world’s largest gypsum dunefield, including gypsum hearthmounds found nowhere else on earth, the park is home to the globe’s largest collection of Ice-Age fossilized footprints and tells more than 10,000 years of human presence, all while providing memorable recreational opportunities.

Just so happens that my wife and I visited the park back in April. Here are a few photos from that visit.

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Tennessee State Parks Kick off New Year with First Day Hikes

Friday, December 20, 2019

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Tennessee State Parks will once again sponsor free, guided hikes to kick-off the New Year. Each state park will host its own special hike during the first few days of the New Year.

The First Hikes begin on December 31st, New Year's Eve, at Rocky Fork, Radnor Lake and Paris Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park, which will host midnight hikes. The First Hikes will continue throughout New Year’s Day with morning, afternoon and evening hikes.

“Our First Hikes have been very popular and we are excited to continue this series in the New Year,” TDEC Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill said. “The First Hikes offer a great way to get outside, exercise, enjoy nature and welcome the New Year with friends and family.”

From Reelfoot to Henry Horton to Roan Mountain and every state park in between, the 2020 First Hikes are designed for all ages and abilities. Some hikes will be approximately one mile in length and tailored for novice hikers, while others are lengthier and geared toward more experienced hikers. For a more in-depth look into planned First Hikes in your area, please click here.

The Tennessee State Parks’ First Hikes of 2020 are part of America’s State Parks First Day Hikes initiative in all 50 states.

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Smokies Hosts Holiday Homecoming at Oconaluftee Visitor Center

Thursday, December 19, 2019

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host a Holiday Homecoming at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on Saturday, December 21, 2019. Visitors of all ages will have the opportunity to experience a traditional Appalachian Christmas through hands-on crafts and activities from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and an old-time musical jam session from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

"Holiday Homecoming is about getting together, enjoying community, and reflecting on a shared past," said Park Ranger Michael Smith. “We welcome everyone to join us for this special annual event.”

The visitor center will be decorated for the holiday season, including an exhibit on Christmas in the mountains. Hot apple cider and cookies will be served on the porch with a fire in the fireplace.

The Oconaluftee Visitor Center is located on Newfound Gap Road, two miles north of Cherokee, NC. For more information call the visitor center at 828-497-1904. All activities are free and open to the public. Generous support of this event is provided by the Friends of the Smokies and Great Smoky Mountains Association

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North Carolina’s State Parks to Host First Day Hikes on New Year’s Day

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

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North Carolina’s New Year’s Day tradition of outdoor family adventure, exercise and exploring nature continues in 2020 with First Day Hikes throughout the state parks system. More than 45 guided hikes are scheduled for New Year’s Day, featuring educational programs led by park rangers along the way. All state parks will be open on the holiday.

In North Carolina, this popular tradition began at Eno River State Park more than 40 years ago. Eno River’s first day hike alone draws more than 800 visitors.

“For decades, First Day Hikes have served our citizens and out-of-state guests with a great start to the year,” said Dwayne Patterson, state parks director. “After some lazy days with our families, our parks offer a chance to put our electronics down, get moving, get some fresh air, and set good intentions for the year—all while in the most beautiful places in our state.”

Each state park and recreation area brings something unique to First Day Hikes. Learn about beavers on a hike at Lake Norman, meet the world’s oldest longleaf pine at Weymouth Woods, or hike along the Pamlico River and watch wintering waterfowl at Goose Creek. Follow up a strenuous hike at rugged Gorges State Park with hot chocolate and cookies, or take a 5.2 mile hike to Chestnut Knob at South Mountains.

As an added bonus, visitors involved with the North Carolina State Parks 100-Mile Challenge – to walk, hike, paddle, cycle or otherwise explore 100 miles in the state parks – can add First Day Hikes mileage to their totals. First Day Hikes are also a great time to get started on your own New Year’s resolutions with the 100-mile challenge or Passport challenge!

Nationally, the First Day Hikes program is promoted by America’s State Parks and the National Association of State Park Directors, with more than 400 hikes scheduled in state parks across the country. A complete list of First Day Hikes in North Carolina can be found at

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Hiking books make great last-minute gifts!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

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Christmas is just one week away. The good news is that you still have time to order last-minute gifts from Amazon and have them delivered to your home in time for Christmas - and you won't have to fight the crowds or the traffic! To help with last-minute gift ideas, I wanted to let you know that the paperback version of my book, Ramble On: A History of Hiking, is still available at 50% off the regular price. You can purchase the book on Amazon right now for only $9.95 (regular price is $18.95).

Ramble On: A History of Hiking is a great stocking stuffer for anyone who loves hiking, and wishes to learn more about the rich and amazing history of one of the world’s top pastimes.

For more information on the book, and to purchase, please click here.

Thank you very much!

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Smokies Hosts Annual Festival of Christmas Past Program

Friday, December 13, 2019

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host the annual Festival of Christmas Past celebration this Saturday, December 14, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Sugarlands Visitor Center.

The festival will include mountain music, traditional shape note singing, mountain craft demonstrations, carolers, and a living history walk. Visitors are encouraged to take part in mountain traditions including hands-on activities and make-and-take crafts. Hot apple cider will be served throughout the day. Park volunteers and staff have created a new, immersive experience where visitors are invited to journey through holiday traditions over the last 100 years. Creative displays and exhibits can be found throughout the visitor center representing several decades of Christmas toys, decorations, and pastimes. These displays will be on exhibit throughout the holiday season from December 12 to January 5, 2020.

“This year we wanted to connect our visitors to Christmas through the decades with the creative vision and talent of our staff, volunteers, and local decorators Barry Phillips and Tracie Story,” said North District Resource Education Supervisor Stephanie Sutton. “The Festival of Christmas Past allows us to pause and remember some of these valuable holiday traditions.”

As part of the event, the popular ‘Christmas Memories Walk’ will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 14. Costumed interpreters will bring the history of the Smokies to life as they shed light on significant moments leading to the park’s establishment. The park invites all to experience the spirit of the season in the mountains during this year’s Festival of Christmas Past. This event, sponsored by the Friends of the Smokies, is free to the public.

Program Schedule:

9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Traditional Shape Note Singing
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon Music by Boogertown Gap
12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m. Music by the Lost Mill String Band
1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Smoky Mountain Historical Society
1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Christmas Memories Walk
2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Music by Mike and Kathy Gwinn

Sugarlands Visitor Center is located on Newfound Gap Road, two miles south of Gatlinburg, TN. For more information, call the visitor center at 865-436-1291.

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Winter Activities in Rocky Mountain National Park

Thursday, December 12, 2019

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Summer isn't the only time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. Winter is also an absolutely wonderful time to enjoy the scenic beauty of the park. The park, as well as the area surrounding it, offers many outstanding outdoor opportunities, including snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, downhill skiing, wildlife watching, dog sled rides, fat biking, ice fishing and even hiking. Even if you don’t own your own equipment there are many outfitters in Estes Park and Grand Lake that will rent everything you’ll need to enjoy your adventures.

Winter in the Rockies can typically last from November through April. The lower elevations along the eastern slope of Rocky Mountain National Park are usually free of deep snow. However, at higher elevations, arctic conditions prevail. Sudden blizzards, high winds, and deep snowpack are common in these areas of the park. The west side of the park usually experiences more snow, less wind and clear cold days during this time period. Skiing and snowshoeing conditions are usually at their best in January, February, and March. Unpredictable weather alternates between warm and cold, wet and dry conditions during April.

Based on the latest ten years of precipitation data, Estes Park (7522 feet) receives approximately 34 inches of snow each year, while Grand Lake (8369 feet) receives roughly 147 inches annually.

Visitors to the park should make note that the upper portion of Trail Ridge Road is closed during the winter. Depending on weather, the road usually closes for the season around mid-October or early-November, and reopens by Memorial Day Weekend. During the winter season, weather permitting, Trail Ridge Road is normally open to Many Parks Curve on the east side of the park, and to the Colorado River Trailhead on the west side. For the latest information on closures you can call the Trail Ridge Road Status Line at 970-586-1222, or visit the park website.

The following are a few of the winter adventures you can enjoy in and around the national park:

Snowshoeing – is one of the most popular ways to enjoy the park and surrounding areas during the winter. Basically, if you can hike, you can snowshoe! Within the park you can join a ranger-led snowshoe excursion. Several outings are offered throughout the winter. Participants will learn techniques to traverse various terrain as they explore the natural world of subalpine forests. No previous experience is needed for these programs. Outside of the park are several other areas you can explore. On the west side you may want to note that 70% of Grand County is public land. Therefore, snowshoers will have access to hundreds of miles of trails in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, Never Summer Wilderness, Arapaho National Forest, Arapaho National Recreation Area, Byers Peak Wilderness, Vasquez Peak Wilderness, Medicine Bow/Routt National Forest, Winter Park and Fraser Valley areas. You can find additional information on these areas, as well as equipment rental outfitters and various Nordic centers by clicking here. For information on equipment outfitters and snowshoeing opportunities in the Estes Park area, please click here.

Cross-country Skiing – is another popular winter sport in and around the park. On the west side of the park, Rocky Mountain National Park rangers offer the "Ski the Wilderness in Winter" program each winter. Cross-country skiers also have access to trails in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, Never Summer Wilderness, Arapaho National Forest, Arapaho National Recreation Area, Byers Peak Wilderness, Vasquez Peak Wilderness, Medicine Bow/Routt National Forest, Winter Park and Fraser Valley areas. You can find additional information about these areas, as well as equipment rental outfitters and various Nordic centers by clicking here.

Although the terrain and the amount snow on the west side of the park make for better cross-country skiing, the Estes Park area also offers many cross-country skiing opportunities as well. For additional information on these opportunities, as well as equipment rental outfitters on the east side of the park, please click here.

Hiking – Depending on the amount of snow on the ground, visitors can also enjoy hiking in the park, especially on the east side. Destinations such as Cub Lake, Chasm Falls, Deer Mountain, The Pool, Gem Lake and Upper Beaver Meadows are all great choices during the winter. For more information about these hiking destinations in winter, please click here.

Sledding - Hidden Valley is the one place in Rocky Mountain National Park where sledding is allowed. Please note that no tows are provided, and you must provide your own plastic sled, saucer, or tube (if you don't bring your own they can be rented in Estes Park at most outdoor shops). This gentle hill is at the bottom of the bunny slope of the former Hidden Valley Ski Area. On most weekends there's an attendant here. A warming room is also available. Winter winds can scour the area, causing conditions to vary, so you should call the park Information Office at 970-586-1206 for the latest information.

Wildlife Watching - Many park roads are usually open during the winter, which provide access for viewing park wildlife. Winter is an especially good time to look for elk, mule deer, moose, and other large mammals. Visitors should look for moose along the Colorado River on the park's west side. Elk and mule deer are most active at dusk and dawn, and are usually seen in meadow areas. Look for bighorn sheep along the Highway 34/Fall River corridor on the park's east side. Coyotes may be seen any time of day. Members of the Jay family, including Steller's jays, gray jays, Clark's nutcrackers, and the iridescent, long-tailed black-billed magpies are commonly seen in the winter as well.

Other Outdoor Activities – in addition to the winter activities already mentioned above, the Grand Lake area offers several other winter adventures, including downhill skiing, dog sled rides, fat biking, ice fishing, ice skating, sledding and snowmobiling, among many other options. You can click here for a full list of winter activities.

Before venturing into the park during the winter months be sure you’re properly prepared for cold and snowy conditions. Be sure to layer up with insulating, waterproof clothing, wear sunglasses, use sunscreen, carry water and carry a good topographical trail map.

Other info:

For the latest information on weather conditions, please click here.

* Current Bear Lake Snow Conditions

* Overall Trail Conditions

* Colorado Avalanche Information

If you do plan to visit Rocky Mountain this winter, or anytime of the 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.

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ATC Submits Brief to Supreme Court Providing Perspective on Upcoming Case

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

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On December 9, 2019, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) submitted a brief to the Supreme Court providing its unique and historically based perspective on Cowpasture River Reservation Association, et al. v. United States Forest Service, an important case involving the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). This brief highlights the importance of preserving the cooperative management system, which maintains and conserves the Trail. Confirmed by the National Trail System Act of 1968 (NTSA), this system is essential for protecting not only the Trail itself, but also the realm of surrounding lands, environments and hiking experiences that have characterized the A.T. for nearly a century.

In this case, the Court will determine whether the U.S. Forest Service — or any land management agency aside from the National Park Service — can issue Mineral Leasing Act permits for pipelines to cross the A.T. Regardless of the final ruling, the ATC urges the Court to make a decision that ensures the cooperative management system remains intact, and that pipelines and other infrastructure are permitted in a way that preserves the A.T. realm. The ATC’s primary concern is the protection and enhancement of the Trail.

The A.T. cooperative management system is comprised of individual governmental agencies, Trail Maintaining Clubs, communities along the Trail and the Conservancy itself all united by a common purpose: to use their areas of expertise to ensure that the A.T. is protected for future generations. It is imperative that all members of this system are able to work together to achieve this goal.

To read the full brief provided to the Supreme Court, click here.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the Cowpasture decision in early 2020. The ATC will continue to inform its members, volunteers and A.T. lovers worldwide whenever there are important updates.

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National Park Service seeks public input to increase access to national park lands

Saturday, December 7, 2019

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The National Park Service (NPS) today announced it is seeking the public’s assistance to develop a list of national park lands that would benefit from new or increased access routes. This effort advances the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act (S.47), which was signed into law by President Donald Trump in March 2019.

“Increasing the public’s awareness and access to the more than 85 million acres managed by the National Park Service is one of our top priorities,” said National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela. “We’re looking forward to working with the public, partners, and stakeholders to identify areas with no or restricted access to national park areas and collaborate with landowners to establish avenues for public enjoyment of these lands.”

Section 4105 of the Dingell Act instructs the NPS and other federal land management agencies to develop a priority list of lands with no or restricted public access that meet a set requirements and considerations. In the coming months, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will also seek the public’s input to nominate lands within their jurisdictions under similar criteria.

NPS’s final priority list will be posted online by March 12, 2020, and updated biennially thereafter for 10 years.

Share Your Recommendations

Public comments will be accepted through January 4, 2020, via the NPS’s Planning, Environmental and Public Comments website at,

* Nominated lands must meet the following requirements and considerations:

* Must be managed by the NPS.

* Must be at least 640 contiguous acres.

* Must have significantly restricted or no public access.

* Potential for public access and the likelihood of resolving the absence of, or restriction to public access, are among other criteria for consideration.

For example, if a sizable parcel of NPS land is completely surrounded by privately owned land with no or restricted public access, the NPS may consider adding this to the priority list and begin working with states, local governments, nonprofit organizations and/or property owners to acquire land or other means of access to the NPS land, ensuring its long-term protection.

Recommendations must include the following information:

* Location of the land or parcel.

* Total acreage of the land or parcel.

* Description or narrative about the land’s restricted or complete lack of access.

* Any additional information the NPS should consider when determining if the land should be on the NPS’s priority list.

For additional information and a full list of required criteria for consideration as specified by the Dingell Act, visit

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The Top 5 Reasons to Visit Grand Teton National Park

Thursday, December 5, 2019

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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.

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“History of hiking” is now 50% off!

Monday, December 2, 2019

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Reminder: through Christmas, the paperback version of my book, Ramble On: A History of Hiking, is available at 50% off the regular price. Hiking enthusiasts can purchase the book on Amazon right now for only $9.95 (regular price is $18.95).

Additionally, the Kindle e-book version of my book will be sold for just $4.99 through Cyber Weekend. This special price will be offered for one week only, from November 27th through December 3rd.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking is an outstanding gift idea for anyone who loves hiking, and wishes to learn more about the rich and amazing history of one of the world’s top pastimes.

For more information on the book, and to purchase, please click here.

Thank you very much!

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Smokies To Close Park Roads This Afternoon Ahead of Storm

Sunday, December 1, 2019

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In anticipation of a significant snowstorm forecasted for East Tennessee tonight through tomorrow night, the Great Smoky Mountains has just announced several road closures in a series of Tweets:
US Hwy 441/Newfound Gap Rd from Gatlinburg TN to Cherokee NC will close this evening at 5:00 PM due to significant winter weather.
Foothills Parkway East at Cosby will be closing at 4 pm today due to approaching significant winter weather event.
Foothills Parkway West from Walland to Wears Valley (New Section) will be closing at 4 pm today due to approaching significant winter weather event.
Here's the latest Winter Storm Warning forecast from the National Weather Service:

.A storm system will produce widespread precipitation across the southern Appalachians Tonight through Monday night. Temperatures will be cold enough to produce significant snowfall over the higher elevations, especially in places above 3000 feet. In addition to snow, winds are expected to remain breezy in the mountains which will lead to hazardous driving conditions.


* WHAT...Heavy snow expected. Total snow accumulations of 5 to 9 inches. Winds gusting as high as 45 mph.

* WHERE...Far east Tennessee Mountains.

* WHEN...From 7 PM this evening to 7 AM EST Tuesday.

* IMPACTS...Travel will be hazardous due to the falling snow and windy conditions. The hazardous conditions will impact the morning and evening commute.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS...Blowing snow will cause reduced visibilites and drifting of snow. Cold temperatures and strong winds will cause wind chill temperatures to drop into the teens to single digits.
To stay on top of all road closures in the Smokies, please visit their Twitter page:

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Is June a good time to visit Glacier National Park?

Monday, November 25, 2019

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Shhh! Don't tell anyone, but June is really a great time to visit Glacier National Park! Obviously July and August are by far the most popular months for visiting the park; however, if you wish to avoid the crowds, you may want to check-out the month of June. Sure, the Going-to-the-Sun Road likely won't be open all the way to Logan Pass until later in the month, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of things to do. In fact, all of the services outside of the park, as well as almost all of the concessioners within the park, will already be open.

So why visit in June? For one, June is an absolutely great time for observing wildflowers. Whitewater rafting is also at its best during this time period. Other popular activities include horseback riding, fly fishing, and as a result of far fewer motorists on park roads, June is also a great time for cycling. And there's nothing like taking a cruise on one of Glacier's lakes to soak in the splendid beauty of the snow-capped mountains. For more information on many of these activities and others, please visit our Thing To Do page.

Although the nights are still relatively cool, temperatures usually reach into the 70s during the day, which makes for nearly perfect hiking conditions. While trails in the higher elevations will still be closed due to snow, there are still a ton of great hiking opportunities around the park. Here are just a couple of suggestions (many of which are normally part of the June ranger-led hikes program - which, by the way, are free):

West Glacier / Lake McDonald Area:

* Avalanche Lake

* Apgar Lookout

* Johns Lake Loop

* Rocky Point Nature Trail

* Upper McDonald Creek Trail

St. Mary Area:

* Beaver Pond Loop

* St. Mary Area Waterfalls Hike

* Sun Point Nature Trail

* Virginia Falls

Many Glacier Area:

* Apikuni Falls

* Belly River Ranger Station

* Grinnell Lake

* Lake Josephine Loop

* Redrock Falls

* Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail

Two Medicine Area:

* Aster Park Overlook

* Rockwell Falls

* Running Eagle Falls

And in case you need one more reason to visit in June: rates on accommodations are much lower when compared to peak season! If you do plan to visit Glacier this June, or anytime throughout the year, please note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings to help with all your vacation planning.

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Audubon Invites You to Celebrate 120 Years of the Annual Christmas Bird Count

Saturday, November 23, 2019

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For the 120th year, the National Audubon Society is organizing its annual Christmas Bird Count. Between December 14 and January 5, tens of thousands of bird-loving volunteers will participate in counts across the Western Hemisphere. The twelve decades’ worth of data collected by participants continue to contribute to one of only two large existing pools of information notifying ornithologists and conservation biologists about what conservation action is required to protect birds and the places they need.

Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count is one of the longest-running wildlife censuses in the world. Each individual count takes place in a 15-mile-wide circle and is led by a compiler responsible for organizing volunteers and submitting observations directly to Audubon. Within each circle, participants tally all birds seen or heard that day—not just the species but total numbers to provide a clear idea of the health of that particular population.

When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count provides a picture of how the continent's bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years. The long-term perspective is vital for conservationists. It informs strategies to protect birds and their habitat, and helps identify environmental issues with implications for people as well. For example, earlier this year, Science published a study using decades of Audubon Christmas Bird Count data to describe a grim picture: a steady decline of nearly three billion North American birds since 1970, primarily as a result of human activities. Christmas Bird Count data have been used in more than 300 peer-reviewed articles.

A brand new feature for this year’s 120th Christmas Bird Count will be “CBC Live”, a crowd-sourced, hemisphere-wide storytelling function using Esri mapping software. This “story-map” will ask users to upload a photo taken during their Christmas Bird Count as well as a short anecdote to paint a global picture of the Christmas Bird Count in real time.

Last year, the 119th Christmas Bird Count included a record-setting 2615 count circles, with 1975 counts in the United States, 460 in Canada and 180 in Latin America, the Caribbean, Bermuda and the Pacific Islands. This was the ninth-straight year of record-breaking counts. In total, 79,425 observers out in the field and watching feeders tallied up over 48 million birds representing more than 2600 species different species—more than one-quarter of the world’s known avifauna. Approximately 5 percent of the North American landmass was surveyed by the Christmas Bird Count. Last year included two new species for the Christmas Bird Count list of birds seen in the United States: a Little Stint in San Diego and a Great Black Hawk in Portland, Maine.

The Northern Bobwhite, the only native quail in the eastern United States, continues its downward spiral. This species has essentially disappeared from the Northeast and faces massive declines due to loss of shrubland habitat exacerbated by increased droughts. On the flip side, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Purple Finches staged major irruptions southward during the 119th CBC.

Beginning on Christmas Day in 1900, Dr. Frank M. Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore – which evolved into Audubon magazine -- proposed a new holiday tradition that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them. Conservation was in its beginning stages in that era, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. So began the Christmas Bird Count. 120 years later, the tradition continues and still manages to bring out the best in people and contribute valuable data to the worldwide scientific community.

To sign up for a Christmas Bird Count and ensure your bird count data make it into the official Audubon database, please find the circle nearest you and register with your local Christmas Bird Count compiler on this map here. All Christmas Bird Count data must be submitted through the official compiler to be added to the long-running census.

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count is a community science project organized by the National Audubon Society. There is no fee to participate. Counts are open to birders of all skill levels and Audubon’s free Bird Guide app makes it even easier to learn more. For more information and to find a count near you visit

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Shining Rock Wilderness Temporarily Closed to All Visitors Due to Wildfire

Friday, November 22, 2019

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A wildfire was reported at approximately 3:00 am Thursday morning near Cold Mountain in Haywood County on the Pisgah Ranger District. Currently the fire is at approximately 106 acres.

The wildfire is burning within the Shining Rock Wilderness on the Pisgah Ranger District. The U.S. Forest Service has implemented a forest closure order for the entire wilderness area which prohibits all recreational uses, including the use of 53 miles of trails.

There are 30 firefighters working on the fire today and a crew will continue working throughout the night.

There will be heavy smoke in the area throughout Thursday night as a result of smoldering in the burn area. There is no imminent threat to structures at this time. Crews have been performing structure protection activities and this work will continue through Friday.

Agencies involved in the response include USDA Forest Service, NC Forest Service Haywood County Emergency Management, Cruso Fire Department, and National Park Service.

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“History of hiking” 50% off

Thursday, November 21, 2019

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As you're likely already aware, Black Friday is next week. As a result, I wanted to let you all know that my book will be on sale throughout the upcoming holiday season. Beginning today, and continuing through Christmas, the paperback version of Ramble On: A History of Hiking will be sold at 50% off the regular price. During this timeframe hiking enthusiasts will be able to purchase the book on Amazon for only $9.95 (regular price is $18.95).

Additionally, the Kindle e-book version of my book will be sold for just $4.99 on Black Friday and throughout Cyber Weekend. This special price will be offered for one week only, from November 27th through December 3rd.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking is an outstanding gift idea for anyone who loves hiking, and wishes to learn more about the rich and amazing history of one of the world’s top pastimes.

Thank you very much!

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National Take a Hike Day

Sunday, November 17, 2019

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Did you know that today is “National Take a Hike Day”? Each year, on November 17th, National Take a Hike Day is observed by hikers across the country. Though the origins of this day seem to be a little murky, it appears that it may have been started by the American Hiking Society. Whenever and whoever started the day, hiking has its roots firmly planted in many of the same societal trends that shaped our country. According to the National Today website:
Hiking, while a major part of our culture today, wasn’t always the ubiquitous weekend warrior activity is today. Before Walden, Thoreau, and John Muir there was Romantic and Transcendentalism movement, art and cultural shifts to the natural order and time spent being outside. A reaction to the Industrial Revolution, train schedules, 90 hour work weeks and more.

The idea of taking a hike turned romantic and peaceful.
If you can’t actually make it onto a trail today, you can still download a copy of my book, “Ramble On: A History of Hiking,” to learn about the rich and amazing history of one of the world’s top pastimes, which will help to explain why today is now recognized as a "national holiday".

Happy Take a Hike Day!

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Temporary Closures on Park Roads for Tree Removal Work

Saturday, November 16, 2019

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that single-lane and full-lane closures will affect several park roads beginning Monday, November 18 through Friday, March 31 for tree removal work. Closures are necessary to ensure the safety of motorists and tree-removal crews along the park’s narrow roadways during the work.

The Cades Cove Loop Road will experience periods of full closure and partial closures from December 2 through December 19 on Mondays through Thursdays. Cherokee Orchard Road, beginning just beyond the Noah Bud Ogle Cabin, will be fully closed from December 2 through December 20 on Mondays at 6:00 a.m. through noon on Fridays. During the work periods, roads will be closed to all vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists. The Noah Bud Ogle Cabin and parking area will remain accessible to visitors throughout the closure period. Wears Cove Gap Road will be fully closed from January 29 through January 30. Single-lane closures will be implemented on the Spur from November 18 through November 22, and again from December 2 through December 20. Beginning November 18 through March 27, single-lane closures will be implemented for short durations on Newfound Gap Road, Little River Road, Foothills Parkway West, and Lakeview Drive as well as the developed areas in Deep Creek, Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont.

All tree removal work involving single-lane closures will occur from 6:00 a.m. on Mondays to noon on Fridays throughout the work period, excluding federal holidays and the holiday period between December 23 and January 5. The work schedule is subject to change due to weather or other unplanned delays.

For more information about temporary road closures, please visit the park website at or follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on Twitter.

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Blue Ridge Parkway Invites Public Input on Proposed Special Events Involving Temporary Closures

Thursday, November 14, 2019

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The National Park Service announced today the opportunity to provide input on two proposed Special Use Permits which could include temporary, full closures of sections of the Parkway motor road near Roanoke, Virginia and Asheville, North Carolina, in the spring and summer of 2020.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is reviewing a permit request from Revel Race Series to allow for a portion of a running event on the Parkway motor road on Saturday, May 2, 2020. The proposed permit would include a temporary, full closure of the Parkway motor road in both directions from Milepost 377 to 383, in Asheville, North Carolina, for all or a portion of the day.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is simultaneously reviewing a permit request from The Ironman Group to allow for a part of the cycling portion of a triathlon on the Parkway motor road on Sunday, June 7, 2020. This proposed permit would include a temporary, full closure of the Parkway motor road in both directions from Milepost 91 to 112, near Roanoke, Virginia, for all or a portion of the day.

These proposed events would bring recreational users to the park as part of larger regional events, while at the same time temporarily limit access to portions of the Parkway for the safety of event participants and park visitors. Any additional management costs incurred by the National Park Service would the responsibility of the event organizers, per National Park Service policy.

The public is invited to provide comments related to impacts of potential temporary road closures associated with each of these events on the National Park Service’s Planning, Environment and Public Comment Site. Comments related to the Asheville area running event can be entered at; and comments related to the Roanoke area triathlon should be entered at The comment period for both proposed events is open through Friday, November 22, 2019. The National Park Service appreciates the public’s input, which will be one of many factors considered in the final permit decision.

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Phase 1 of the Trillium Gap Trail Rehabilitation Project is nearing completion!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park has announced that the first phase of the Trillium Gap Trail Rehabilitation Project will be completed later this week. On their Facebook page this morning, the park stated that ⁣Thursday, November 14th, will be the last day of the closure for the 2019 season.⁣ According to the post:⁣
The first phase of the project focused on the rehabilitation of the trail starting from the Trillium Gap Trailhead up to Grotto Falls. The project involved the removal of hazard trees along the trail corridor, the restoration of the trail tread, and the construction of new stone and timber structures to help combat erosion and provide a safer, more sustainable trail. The work was performed by the Smokies Trails Forever Crew, along with an ACE AmeriCorps Crew. ⁣

⁣Phase 2 of the project will begin in the spring of 2020. During the second phase, the upper section of the trail from Grotto Falls to Mt. LeConte is expected to be closed from mid-May through mid-November. The actual dates for the closure will be announced next spring. The lower part of trail from the Trillium Gap Trailhead up to Grotto Falls will remain OPEN throughout the closure, providing visitors access to the falls.
⁣The photo below shows a side-by-side comparison of the trail approaching Grotto Falls (photo courtesy of Great Smoky Mountains National Park):

The rehabilitation project is supported by Friends of the Smokies, a nonprofit partner of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For more information about Friends of the Smokies visit: ⁣ ⁣

For information regarding the Smokies Trails Forever Program and Volunteering with Trails, please visit:

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