Posted on

Best Things To Do in Zion National Park

Zion National Park

At Zion National Park, you can follow the paths where ancient native people and pioneers walked. Gaze up at massive sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, and red that soar into a brilliant blue sky. Experience wilderness in a narrow slot canyon. Zion’s unique array of plants and animals will enchant you as you absorb the rich history of the past and enjoy the excitement of present day adventures.

My name is Rob Decker and I’m a photographer and graphic artist with a single great passion for America’s National Parks! I’ve been to 47 of our 61 National Parks — and Zion is an amazing place and well worth the visit. I have explored almost every area of the park — so I’m ready to help! So if this is your first time to the park, or your returning after many years, here are some of the best things to do in Zion National Park!

Backpacking

The Zion Wilderness is a world-renowned destination that offers opportunities for solitude and adventure. With over 90 miles of trails, dozens of designated backpacking sites, multiple at-large camping areas, and 124,406 acres of designated wilderness, Zion National Park offers a variety of unique backpacking opportunities.

Bicycling

Bicycling is permitted on all park roadways and on the Pa’rus Trail. All other park trails, off-trail routes, and the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel are closed to bikes. The Pa’rus Trail and Zion Canyon Scenic Drive are accessible to bicycles. The park shuttles also have bike racks.

Birding

Zion is home to 291 species of birds. What is great about visiting Zion National Park is that the park has always been an important part of this vital recovery effort. The peregrine falcon, the California condor, the Mexican spotted owl, and the bald eagle are all found here. This place of protection and sanctuary harbored these birds with a safe haven where their needs for food, nesting, and habitat never changed. Bird checklists are available at the visitor centers.

Camping

Zion National Park has three campgrounds. South and Watchman Campgrounds are in Zion Canyon. The Lava Point Campground is about a 1-hour drive from Zion Canyon on the Kolob Terrace Road. There are no campgrounds in Kolob Canyons. Camping is permitted in designated campsites, but not in pullouts or parking lots. Camping is popular; all campgrounds are often full by mid-morning. From mid-March through late November the campgrounds are full almost every night. Reservations at South Campgroundand Watchman Campground (Call 877-444-6777 or visit www.recreation.gov) are recommended if you would like to guarantee a camping spot.

Canyoneering

Zion, Climbing
Canyoneering is an outdoor activity that combines route finding, rappelling, problem solving, swimming, and hiking. Zion National Park has become one of the premier places in the country to participate in this exciting activity. With dozens of different canyons to explore, some barely wide enough for a human to squeeze through, the park offers opportunities that range from trips for beginners to experiences requiring advanced technical skills.

Climbing & Bouldering

Zion National Park’s 2,000-foot sandstone cliffs are world renowned for their big wall climbs. Due to their difficulty, most routes in the park are not recommended for inexperienced climbers. There are few top roping and sport climbing areas.

There are two accessible bouldering areas in the main canyon. One is 40 yards west of the south entrance. This is a house sized boulder that poses a variety of options and problems. The other site is .5 mile north of the south entrance. Drilled Pocket Boulder is located on the west side of the road and is a slab with an obvious south facing crack.

Hiking

Zion offers many trails ranging from short walks to strenuous adventures. Hiking in Zion, even short hikes, requires advance planning. The group size limit for all wilderness trails, including The Narrows beyond Orderville Canyon, is 12 people.

Zion Canyon: Some of the most popular trails in the national park are located in Zion Canyon.

Kolob Canyons: Several hiking options are located at Kolob Canyons, the northwest corner of Zion National Park.

Wilderness: Much longer hikes are located in the Zion Wilderness. Overnight trips require a wilderness permit.

The Narrows

Zion, Hiking the NarrowsThe Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon. This gorge, with walls a thousand feet tall and the river sometimes just twenty to thirty feet wide, is one of the most popular areas in Zion National Park. You can see The Narrows by hiking along the paved, wheelchair accessible Riverside Walk for one mile from the Temple of Sinawava. If you wish to see more, you will be walking in the Virgin River. This can involve wading upstream for just a few minutes or it can be an all day hike.

Ranger-Led Activities

Enhance your understanding and enjoyment of Zion National Park by taking part in a ranger program. Limited programming may be offered throughout the year, but the full program schedule in Zion Canyon is from mid-April to mid-October. Topics include geology, plants, animals, human history, and more. All ranger-led programs are free and for all ages. Ranger led programs are required to earn a Junior Ranger Badge.

Sunset and Stargazing

Stay for sunset and epic views of Zion’s cliffs glowing vivid neon orange in the late day sun. Stay later, or spend the night in one of Zion’s campgrounds for an entirely different and memorable Zion experience: the dark night sky, filled with thousands of stars, above the jagged silhouette of cliffs. Zion is a great place to reconnect with the night sky, or maybe even get your first view of the Milky Way. Zion protects this dark sky resource for future generations by not lighting up the night. But this means that after sunset, the park is dark! Be prepared!

No matter what you decide to do, you can’t go wrong in Zion National Park. With it’s awe-inspiring views, water and wilderness, Zion has something for everyone!

I’ve created a poster for Zion National Park — one that features a view of the Watchman from the shores of the Virgin River.

Zion National Park

Click here to see the Zion National Park poster.

Rob Decker is a photographer and graphic artist who had the rare privilege of studying under Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park when he was just 19 years old. Now, Rob is on a journey to explore and photograph all 61 of America’s National Parks. He’s creating WPA-style posters to help people celebrate their own national park adventures — as well as encourage others to get out and explore!

Share this with Friends, Family & Followers
Posted on

Best Things to do in Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake

Crater Lake inspires awe. Fed by rain and snow, it’s the deepest lake in the United States and one of the most pristine on earth. Artists, photographers, and sightseers gaze in wonder at its blue water and stunning setting atop the Cascade Mountain Range.

Crater Lake is also one of the snowiest inhabited places in the US. Each winter, deep snow forces the closure of the park’s Rim Drive and North Entrance to cars — and Rim Drive becomes a trail for skiing and snowshoeing; the North Entrance road becomes a snowmobile trail. These roads close for the season with the first big October snowstorm, or on November 1, whichever comes first.

Plowing closed roads typically begins in mid-April. But it takes a long time to open them up and there are no set dates. The North Entrance and West Rim Drive can open as early as mid-May or as late as the end of June. The East Rim Drive fully opens sometime between mid-June and late July.

My name is Rob Decker and I’m a photographer and graphic artist with a single great passion for America’s National Parks! Crater Lake is an amazing place and well worth the visit. If you’re a winter sports enthusiast, then go early. Otherwise, I’d recommend that you go during the warmer summer months when all of the activities will be available to you during your stay — sometimes roads, trails and campgrounds are closed due to snow. So if this is your first time to the park, or your returning after many years, here are some things you should know about Crater Lake National Park!

Winter Activities

The park receives an average of 43 feet of snow each year, making the winter months challenging. However, if you’re prepared, the parks winter trails and unplowed roads provide skiers and snowshoers with access to open slopes, dense forests, and breathtaking views, making Crater Lake ideal for both day-trippers and backcountry visitors.

Ranger Led Snowshoe Walks

Snowshoe Hike

Ranger-guided snowshoe walks become increasingly popular each year. The walks generally last two hours, and cover 1 to 2 miles of moderate-to-strenuous terrain. The ranger determines the route but most walks begin at Rim Village and continue through the sub-alpine forests and meadows along the lake rim.

The park provides snowshoes at no cost or you are welcome to use your own. Previous snowshoeing experience is not necessary but coming prepared with warm clothing and water-resistant footwear is required. All participants must be at least 8 years of age.

Space on each tour is limited, and advance reservations are required. As winter approaches, call the park’s visitor center at 541-594-3100 for information on how to sign up. The visitor center is open daily from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm except on December 25. Organized groups may be able to arrange for a separate tour, if staff is available.

Sledding

Many opportunities for sledding can be found throughout the park but there are no designated sled hills or snow play areas. Select a location with a gentle slope that is free of trees and other obstacles. The slope should end with a flat landing for safe and easy stopping. One popular spot is the open meadow south of Crater Lake Lodge. For your safety, sledding, tubing, and tobogganing are prohibited in the caldera and on all roadways within the park where vehicle traffic may occur and in all parking lots.

Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding

Snowboarding and downhill skiing are allowed in the park but are absolutely prohibited in the caldera. The park does not have any chairlifts. All downhill skiers and snowboarders must hike up to a destination before riding down a slope. Be familiar with the up and down routes, and potential dangers. Know how to self-rescue. Assisted rescues in avalanche areas, and from places hard to reach may take more than 24 hours.

Avalanche terrain exists in the park but there is no formal avalanche forecasting. If you choose to be in avalanche areas carry probes, snow shovels, and avalanche transceivers. Taking an avalanche course is recommended.

Bicycling

Bicycling Crater Lake

Each year, increasing numbers of cyclists come to Crater Lake National Park to ride around the lake on the physically demanding, 33 mile Rim Drive. Steep hills at high elevation may encourage even the most fit riders to pause at many of the road’s thirty overlooks and pull-outs. The payoff however is spectacular scenery, viewed at a pace that few visitors choose to take enough time for.

Rules and Safety

Riders face many hazards including high speeds on steep downhill sections, rocks, animals, potholes and other road hazards as well as heavy traffic volume. Only cyclists experienced at riding with auto traffic should consider road biking at Crater Lake. Park roads seldom have shoulders and no bike lanes exist. Bicycles are not permitted on park trails. Water is available only at Rim Village, Park Headquarters, and Mazama Village.

Mountain Biking

Crater Lake has one dirt road where mountain biking is allowed. The Grayback Drive provides eight miles of unpaved and vehicle free roadway. Those seeking the thrill of single track trails will have to look outside the park. Crater Lake does not offer any single track mountain biking trails.

Winter Fat Tire Biking

The activity of fat tire biking is growing in popularity in many winter recreation areas. But current park regulation prohibit the use and operation of fat tire bikes on winter trails within the park.

Crater Lake Boat Tours

Crater Lake Boat Tours

The best way to see Crater Lake is by boat! For visitors seeking to explore Wizard Island, we offer either a boat cruise or a quick shuttle ride straight to the island. There is a 2.2-mile round-trip trail (down to the boat dock and back) that drops approximately 700 ft. Due to the strenuous nature of this trail, we do not recommend these tours to anyone with medical or physical issues. The hike down to the dock takes approximately 30-45 minutes.

Camping

Mazama Campground

Lost Creek Campground is a small, tents-only campground located on the road to Pinnacles Overlook, three miles from the rim of Crater Lake. It usually opens in early July and closes in mid-October. In July and August, the campground typically fills by mid-afternoon.  Each site has a picnic table and bear-resistant food locker.

Mazama Campground is located 7 miles south of Rim Village near Highway 62 in a forested setting. The campground is open only during the summer. Each site has a picnic table, fire ring, and bear-resistant food locker..

Backcountry Camping

Crater Lake National Park has over 90 miles of hiking trails that are accessible in the summer months, providing visitors a great way to discover the park. Come prepared to hike at elevations in changing weather patterns. Park elevations range from around 4,500 feet to almost 9,000 feet above sea level, and depending on the time of year, weather conditions can go from sunny and clear to heavy snow in just a few hours. If you’re new to backcountry camping and travel, seek the proper training and advice of an experienced friend or park ranger. Always tell a friend your plans and remember safety is your responsibility.

Backcountry Camping Permits

A backcountry camping permit is required year-round for all overnight trips in the backcountry. The free permit is only valid for the dates, locations, and party size specified. Permits are not required for day hiking; however, day hikers must observe all backcountry regulations.

All backcountry camping permits are issued free of charge and must be obtained in person, during business hours. You must have a valid park entrance pass for the entire length of your trip. For more information about backcountry camping permits, contact the backcountry office by phone at (541) 594-3060.

Ranger-Led Activities & Exhibits

The Sinnott Memorial Overlook, perched on a rock ledge behind the Rim Visitor Center, features an indoor exhibit room and an open parapet with spectacular lake views. The overlook has a relief model and exhibits on the park’s geology and lake research. The overlook is open daily (weather permitting) from late June through October. Hours are 9:30 am to 6:30 pm in July and August, 9:30 am to 5:00 pm in June and September, and 10:00 am to 4:00 pm in October. Unfortunately, the overlook is not accessible to people with limited mobility; it is located down a steep, historic walkway with stairs. Ranger talks are presented daily from late June to late September.

Crater Lake National Park

Click here to see the Crater Lake National Park poster.

Rob Decker is a photographer and graphic artist who had the rare privilege of studying under Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park when he was just 19 years old. Now, Rob is on a journey to explore and photograph all 61 of America’s National Parks. He’s creating WPA-style posters to help people celebrate their own national park adventures — as well as encourage others to get out and explore!

Share this with Friends, Family & Followers
Posted on

Best Things To Do In Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park’s 415 square miles encompass and protect some of the world’s most spectacular mountain environments. Trail Ridge Road – which crests at over 12,000 feet offers awe-inspiring overlooks to see these subalpine and alpine worlds. With more than 300 miles of hiking trails, and wildflowers, wildlife, and starry nights — in a world of superlatives, Rocky is on top!

My name is Rob Decker and I’m a photographer and national park enthusiast. In fact, I’ve been to more than 40 of our amazing national parks. Rocky Mountain National Park is literally in my backyard, and I have explored almost every area of the park — so I’m ready to help! Whether this is your first time to Rocky Mountain, or if you are returning after many years and would like to be re-introduced to the park — this list of the best things to do is just for you!

Hiking

Rocky Mountain National Park has 355 miles of hiking trails. They range from flat lakeside strolls to steep mountain peak climbs. If you are new to the park consult with rangers at the visitor centers and backcountry office. They can provide advice about trails which are appropriate to different fitness and experience levels.

As you plan your hike, keep in mind that park elevations range from 7,500 to over 12,000 feet. Even very fit individuals coming from lower elevations may experience altitude problems. Symptoms include headaches, shortness of breath, insomnia and rapid heartbeat. After a few days your body will have made some physiological adjustments to higher elevations, but full acclimation may take weeks. To minimize symptoms drink plenty of fluids, avoid alcohol, don’t skip meals and get plenty of rest.

If you have never hiked before or are traveling with children, check out the recommended accessible trails. Ranger-led walks are free and can increase your confidence while you learn more about the park. Rocky Mountain National Park is a great place to discover how traveling by foot brings you closer to nature.

Fishing

Lily Lake - Rocky Mountain National Park

Sport fishing is permitted in Rocky Mountain National Park. Fishing activities are balanced with efforts to restore and perpetuate natural aquatic environments and life. Fishing was popular with early settlers and visitors in the Rocky Mountains.

In an attempt to improve the sport, many streams and lakes were stocked with non-native species of trout. Waters with no sport fish were also stocked. The National Park Service stocked non-native Yellowstone cutthroat trout as late as 1969. The only trout native to the park are the greenback cutthroat and the Colorado River cutthroat. These efforts to enhance recreational opportunities in National Park areas were reconsidered in the 1970s. Since 1975, native greenback cutthroat and Colorado River cutthroat trout are being restored to park waters and exotic or non-native fish are being removed.

Wildlife Viewing

Rocky Mountain National Park visitors have a passion for viewing wild animals, especially the big ones. With an elk herd numbering between 600 to 800 in the winter, about 350 bighorn sheep, numerous mule deer and a small population of moose calling the park home, it’s no surprise that wildlife watching is rated the number-one activity by a vast majority of Rocky’s three million annual visitors.

Elk - Rocky Mountain National Park

Wildlife Viewing Tips

The park’s great large-animal population makes it one of the country’s top wildlife watching destinations. But there is much more to see than these so-called “charismatic megafauna.” Also found are nearly 60 other species of mammals; more than 280 recorded bird species; six amphibians, including the federally endangered boreal toad; one reptile (the harmless garter snake); 11 species of fish; and countless insects, including a surprisingly large number of butterflies.

Some basic knowledge of animal habits and habitats greatly enhances prospects of spotting Rocky Mountain’s wild residents. A few park favorites:

  • Elk can be seen anytime, a popular viewing period being the fall rut, or mating season. Look for elk in meadows and where meadow and forest meet.
  • Bighorn sheep are commonly seen at Sheep Lakes from May through mid-August.
  • Moose frequent willow thickets along the Colorado River in the Kawuneeche Valley on the park’s west side.
  • Otters were reintroduced into the Colorado River area and are doing fairly well. These animals are difficult to spot.
  • Mule deer are common and can be seen anywhere. They are most often found at lower elevations in open areas.
  • Bats feed over lakes and ponds at dawn and dusk.
  • Marmots and pikas favor rocky areas. Marmots are best seen on the alpine tundra along Trail Ridge Road. Pikas – small, light-colored mammals – are common in rock piles. Listen for their sharp, distinctive bark and watch for movement.
  • Clark’s nutcrackers, Steller’s jays, golden eagles and prairie falcons can be seen along Trail Ridge Road.
  • White-tailed ptarmigans, some of the most sought-after birds in Rocky Mountain National Park, are common but difficult to spot. For best results, hike on the tundra and look carefully. Ptarmigans usually remain still, relying on their natural camouflage for protection.
  • American dippers, or water ouzels, can be found along most streams. Listen for their loud call, similar to the rapid clicking of two stones together, as they fly up and down their territories.

Despite their good intentions, some wildlife watchers are loving park animals to death. Feeding junk food to wildlife reduces its ability to survive the long mountain winter. When they panhandle by roadsides, animals fall easy prey to automobiles. As they become habituated to humans and lose their natural fear, the animals become aggressive and may be destroyed. Harassing or feeding wildlife is illegal in all national parks.

Horseback Riding

Horses have been part of Rocky Mountain Park’s tradition since its designation in 1915. Recreational pack animal use is balanced with other recreational uses such as hiking. Packing is managed to maintain the natural resources and unique ecosystems in the park. Horses, mules, ponies, llamas, and burros are allowed on park trails. No goats are allowed on park trails.

For overnight camping, stock is permitted at established backcountry campsites designated for stock use. There are two stables located within the park: Glacier Creek Stables and Moraine Park Stables. There are many stables outside the park. Find contact information for the various stables in the area.

There are two Estes Park stables open in the winter: Sombrero Stables and Aspen Lodge Stables. Approximately 260 miles of trails are open to commercial and private horse use, which makes up about 80% of the total trail network in the park.

Wilderness Camping

Rocky Mountain National Park offers some unique camping experiences and here are some things to consider when choosing your wilderness campsite. The first step in planning your trip: decide where you want to camp and for how long. I suggest purchasing a Rocky Mountain National Park topographic map to choose a destination and route. Then, use the Wilderness Campsite Map and Wilderness Designated Site Details to select wilderness campsites. Remember to consider the abilities of the least experienced member of your party and the distance and elevation gain from the trailhead to your destination.

Elevation

Rocky Mountain National Park is a high elevation park. If you live at sea level, it will take you several days to become acclimated. Most trails begin above 8,000 feet and climb abruptly higher. If you are not acclimated, you can get acute mountain sickness. Rangers recommend spending at least one night at 7,000–8,000 feet prior to setting out. This will allow your body to begin to adjust to the elevation.

Weather and Clothing

When you visit or call the park, discuss your plans with a ranger. Find out if snow has melted from the trails and destinations where you hope to hike. Check the weather forecast before starting your trip. Mountain weather changes very quickly. Within just a few hours, bright sunny skies may give way to raging storms. High winds often occur in the high country. Wind chill accelerates the lowering of body temperature which can result in hypothermia.

Proper clothing is your first line of defense against cold. Plan to dress in layers so you can regulate your temperature by bundling up or peeling down. Be sure to pack rain and storm gear. Remember, you assume complete responsibility for your own safety and that of your group while hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Ranger-Led Evening Programs

All evening programs are free and open to the public and are held at several locations throughout the park during evening hours. Both the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and Kawuneeche Visitor Center are in non-fee areas of the park.

East Side Locations:

Beaver Meadows Visitor Center Auditorium (Hwy 36) is located approximately three miles west of the town of Estes Park. Evening programs are held mid- May through mid-June and intermittently throughout the year.

Aspenglen Campground Amphitheater is located at the Fall River Entrance (Hwy 34) approximately 4 miles from downtown Estes Park. Evening programs will resume mid-June, 2019.

Glacier Basin Campground Amphitheater is located along Bear Lake Road approximately 8 miles from downtown Estes Park.Evening programs will resume mid-June, 2019.

Moraine Park Campground Amphitheater is located along Bear Lake Road approximately 5 miles from downtown Estes Park. Evening programs will resume mid-June, 2019.

West Side Locations:

Kawuneeche Visitor Center Auditorium is located approximately one mile north of the town of Grand Lake (Hwy 34). Evening programs are held on Saturday nights throughout the summer. Please stop at a the visitor center for more information on specific topics.

Timber Creek Campground Amphitheater is located in the Kawuneeche Valley (Hwy 34) approximately eight miles from the Grand Lake Entrance. Evening programs are held throughout the summer and into September. Please stop at a the Kawuneeche visitor center for more information on specific topics.

Kids Activities

Bear Lake - Rocky Mountain National Park

Kids are born naturalists. They access the natural world by asking questions, which sometimes come in bunches. Introducing children to the outdoors can begin at any time, but why not begin early? And why not start them out in Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the country’s premier outdoor wonderlands.

Infants can be carried in a front pack, which can be tucked inside the jacket if it’s chilly. Hike anywhere. Your kids will be enthralled by the stunning scenery and the fresh mountain air, so enthralled that he or she will fall asleep in short order.

When they reach the toddler stage, children begin to more actively interact with nature. It is a time of observation, of making initial connections and stockpiling notes. It is a wonderful time to introduce them to one of the many discovery trips found around the park. A few suggestions.
Explore the edges of Bear Lake while enjoying the guidebook-guided trail tour that explains the area’s natural and human history. Water holds an amazing variety of plant and animal life that will pique a child’s curiosity.

Discover Rocky Mountain’s amazing array of wildlife. At particular times during the summer (ask a park ranger), the bighorn sheep come down to Sheep Lakes. Kids especially enjoy watching them cross the road after the lambs are born. Find a ponderosa pine forest and watch for Abert’s squirrels. Their dark color and busy activities catch a toddler’s eye for contrast and movement.

Kids that are a bit older develop a more complex understanding of the world around them. While some children might enjoy expending energy hiking along a trail, most seem happiest thoroughly exploring a smaller area. On any hike with three to five year olds, it’s a good idea to include a magnifying glass in the backpack. Textures of trees, plants, bugs and rocks are exciting close-up.

In the early summer, enjoy the amazing floral colors found along the trail to Cub Lake. Have the youngsters keep an eye out for hummingbirds that may be visiting the flowers. Watch for beaver along the way in the Cub Creek drainage. Beaver dams are easy to spot in this area and stream banks are ideal places to look for animal tracks.

The park has a “Rocky’s Junior Ranger Program” for children in kindergarten through eighth grade. Emphasis is placed on park preservation, flora and fauna facts, and environmental education. When kids complete the Junior Ranger booklet, they earn a badge. Check at a visitor center for information.

These are but a few of the things you can do at Rocky Mountain National Park. Check with the park rangers when you arrive to see what activities are available, what wildlife might be easiest to see, or where the wildflowers are blooming.

I’ve created three posters for Rocky Mountain National Park — one that features a view of Moraine Park, one for Cub Lake, and one for the iconic Longs Peak.

Rocky Mountain National Park Moraine Park

Click here to see the Rocky Mountain National Park, Moraine Park poster.

Rocky Mountain Cub Lake

Click here to see the Rocky Mountain National Park, Cub Lake poster.

Rocky Mountain Longs Peak

Click here to see the Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak poster.

Rob Decker is a photographer and graphic artist who had the rare privilege of studying under Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park when he was just 19 years old. Now, Rob is on a journey to explore and photograph all 61 of America’s National Parks. He’s creating WPA-style posters to help people celebrate their own national park adventures — as well as encourage others to get out and explore!

Share this with Friends, Family & Followers