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Best Things To Do in Mesa Verde National Park

Cliff Palace

Mesa Verde National Park was established in 1906 to preserve and interpret the archeological heritage of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from 600 to 1300 CE. Today, the park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.

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 Mesa Verde is a unique park, given its historical and archeological significance. I have explored most areas 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 Mesa Verde National Park!

Self-Guided Tours

Spruce Tree House – Best-Preserved Cliff Dwelling

Spruce Tree House
You can observe Spruce Tree House from viewpoints near the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum. Rangers are available at the overlook to answer questions and share information.

Mesa Top Loop Road – Auto Tour – 700 Years of Mesa Verde History

A 6-mile driving tour with short, paved trails. Twelve easily-accessible sites, including surface dwellings and cliff dwelling overlooks. Highlights include Square Tower House, Sun Point Overlook, and views of Cliff Palace from Sun Point and Sun Temple stops.

Far View Sites Complex – Five Mesa Top Villages & Far View Reservoir

Far View
Far View House plus four other villages and a dry reservoir on a level 3/4-mile (1.2 km) unpaved trail. Four miles north of the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum.

Step House – Pithouse, Petroglyphs and Cliff Dwelling

Step House
A 100 foot descent and ascent on a winding path. Total walking distance is about one mile (1.6 km) round-trip. Allow 45 minutes to one hour. Trail begins near the Wetherill Mesa Kiosk.

Badger House Trail – Trail to Four Mesa Top Sites

The 2.25 mile round-trip trail through Badger House Community surface sites begins at Wetherill Mesa Kiosk. Your walk through this area is a journey through 600 years of prehistory. Combination gravel and paved trail.

Cliff Dwelling Guided Tours

Cliff Palace, Balcony House, and Long House can only be visited by taking a ranger-guided tour which are very popular. A tour of Long House, on Wetherill Mesa, can be taken on the same day as a Cliff Palace or Balcony House tour. Tours can be strenuous.

There are no height or age restrictions for tours, but children must be capable of walking the extent of the trails, climbing ladders, and negotiating steps independently. All infants must be carried in backpacks while on tours and adults carrying children in backpacks must be able to maintain mobility and balance.

Tour tickets for Balcony House, Cliff Palace, and Long House must be purchased in person. Tour tickets sell out quickly, but can be purchased up to two days in advance.

Cliff Palace – Mesa Verde’s Largest Cliff Dwelling


This one-hour, ranger-guided tour involves climbing five, 8-10 foot ladders, on a 100 foot vertical climb. Total walking distance is about 1/4-mile, round-trip. The tour begins at Cliff Palace Overlook, an 23-mile, one-hour drive from the Visitor and Research Center.

Cliff Palace Twilight Tours

Enjoy an intimate, leisurely encounter with Mesa Verde’s largest cliff dwelling. Dramatic sun lighting will appeal to both amateur and professional photographers as well as those seeking a deeper connection with this extraordinary archeological treasure.

Balcony House – Adventurous Cliff Dwelling Tour

Balcony House
This one-hour, ranger-guided tour involves climbing a 32-foot ladder, crawling through a 12-foot long tunnel, and climbing up a 60-foot open rock face with two 10-foot ladders to exit the site. The tour begins at the Balcony House parking area, a 25-mile, 1-1/4 hour drive from the Visitor Center.

Long House – Mesa Verde’s Most In-Depth Tour

Long House
Starting at the Wetherill Mesa information kiosk, this two-hour ranger-guided tour involves hiking at least 2.25 miles round-trip, and climbing two 15-foot ladders within the site. The hike has an elevation gain of about 130 feet. The tour ends at the Long House trailhead, giving you the choice of returning to the kiosk or exploring more of Wetherill Mesa on your own. Allow about 2.5 hours (total) for tour and return to kiosk.

Half-Day Guided Bus Tours

Mid-April to mid-October
Mesa Verde National Park concessioner, Aramark Leisure, conducts guided bus tours that offer modern views of the Ancestral Pueblo people. Tours include the 700 Years and Far View Explorer Tours. Tickets may be purchased at the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center, Far View Lodge and Terrace, and Morefield Campground.

Balcony House Sunrise Tour

Rise before dawn, and experience the magic of Balcony House at sunrise! For centuries, Pueblo farmers have been observing the sky and the change of seasons. Take the Sunrise Tour of Balcony House at summer solstice or fall equinox and join in the long tradition of skywatching in Mesa Verde.

On this 90-minute tour, you will climb a 32-foot ladder, crawl through and 18-inch wide and 12-foot long tunnel, and climb up a 60-foot open cliff face with stone steps and two 10-foot ladders to exit.

Cliff Palace Early Bird Tour

Looking for an early morning adventure? This daily, early bird tour offers the benefits of a smaller group size, cooler temperatures, and the ability to reserve a tour of Cliff Palace in advance with online reservations!

On this 60-minute tour, you will descend uneven stone steps and climb four ladders, with an elevation change of 100 feet. Total walking distance is 1/4 mile.

Evening Programs

Morefield Campground Evening Program

In 1907, archeologist Jesse Fewkes began the first evening campfire talks in the history of the National Park Service at Mesa Verde. That tradition continues today. Enjoy a free, 45-60 minute presentation each evening by rangers at the Morefield Amphitheater (weather permitting). The amphitheater is located at the end of the road in Morefield Campground. Bring a flashlight. Program is free and offered each evening.

Bird Watching

Mesa Verde National Park is home to several distinct habitats. The types of species which you will encounter depends on the habitat present. If you are an avid birder, make sure to purchase a copy of the brochure, “Checklist of the Birds.” This will help you locate where species are found in the park. The listing of birds in this page will get you started as a bird watcher in Mesa Verde.

Take the Petroglyph Point or Spruce Canyon Trail and look for warblers, flycatchers, woodpeckers, jays, hawks, chickadees, titmice, and other species. The Knife Edge Trail also has good birding. If you are lucky, you may see a peregrine falcon or a golden eagle soar from its nest out across the Montezuma Valley.

During the summer months, you can walk the Soda Canyon Overlook Trail near Balcony House, or the short trail to the Park Point lookout. The Park Point area is a good place to see hawks, towhees, grouse and eagles, in addition to the many species listed above.

In the fall, you may want to take the Knife Edge Trail early in the morning to catch migrating warblers and hummingbirds feeding on the Indian Paint Brush.

During winter months, be on the lookout for chickadees, nuthatches, an occasional brown creeper, canyon wrens, woodpeckers, flickers, and jays during your Spruce Tree House tour. Turkey vultures usually arrive in late March and leave in early October, so the large black birds you see will likely be common ravens or the vivid black-billed magpie.

Photography

Picture Taking Tips

Some cliff dwellings are open only from late spring through early fall. During the off-season, photos may be taken from the overlooks above the cliff dwellings, weather permitting.

Most of the cliff dwellings are best photographed in mid-to-late afternoon.

If you have an adjustable lens we suggest you close your lens down at least 1/2 stop from what the photo meter indicates (spot meters excepted). For example, in black and white photography the front walls of Cliff Palace will give your meter a false light reading. We suggest you bracket your settings on Cliff Palace exposures.

If you are looking for pointers to help you make your summer snapshots look more like professional photographs, see the Amateur Photographer’s Guide to Mesa Verde National Park (pdf, 317 kb).

Best Times to Photograph by Season

June to September – 3:45 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
October to November – 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
December to March – 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
April to May – 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

During mid and late fall and early and mid spring the sun is lower in the southern sky and more light strikes the cliff dwellings. Winter light is generally less bright. On overcast days the soft light allows for photos to be taken that will show good details and subtle colors. During the winter months there is less vegetation obstructing views from the overlooks after the scrub oak has lost its leaves for the season.

Stargazing

While not offered as a guided activity, Mesa Verde National Park provides wonderful opportunities for stargazing. Since there are no large cities in the Four Corners region, there is very little artificial light to detract from the stars in the night sky. Most nights the skies are clear and full of stars. On a clear night, you can see the Milky Way. The locations recommended for stargazing in the park are listed below:

Far View Lodge

The only lodging available in the park from mid-April to mid-October. Each room has a balcony where guests can see for miles. For visitor safety, this area is well-lit. You may want to seek out a darker place, if this obstructs your view of the stars.

Morefield Campground

The only place to camp in the park from mid-May to mid-October. Located in the Morefield Valley, this is an especially place good for looking at stars since there is little artificial light. Join a ranger at the Morefield Amphitheater for the nightly (Memorial Day through Labor Day) campfire program. Bring a flashlight for the walk back to your campsite.

Montezuma or Mancos Overlooks

These are really the best areas in the park for stargazing. If you are staying outside of the park or want to get away from artificial lights, both of these overlooks along the Main Park Road provide views of the twinkling lights of the valley towns and the stars above. Unfortunately, these areas are not available for overnight camping.


Mesa Verde National Park

Click here to see the Mesa Verde 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!

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Best Things To Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses more than 800 square miles and is one of the most pristine natural areas in the eastern United States. There are many ways to enjoy the park — an auto tour, bicycling, hiking, horseback rides — and take in the panoramic views, tumbling mountain streams, weathered historic buildings, and mature hardwood forests stretching to the horizon.

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 48 of our 61 National Parks — and Great Smoky Mountains is one well worth the visit. I have explored many areas of the park — so I’m ready to help! 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 Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

Auto Touring

There are 384 miles of road to choose from in the Smokies. Most are paved, and even the gravel roads are maintained in suitable condition for standard passenger cars. Travel speeds on most of the park’s paved roads average 35 miles per hour.
Great Smoky Mountains - Cades Cove
Here are some of the more popular routes:

  • Cades Cove Loop Road
  • Cataloochee Valley
  • Newfound Gap Road
  • Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
  • Upper Tremont Road

Fishing

Great Smoky Mountains Fishing
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has about 2,900 miles of streams within its boundaries. Approximately 600 miles of stream contain fish, providing for an abundance of angling opportunities from high elevation trout streams to cool water low elevation streams.

Rainbow trout, brown trout, and the native brook trout are the fish that are primarily targeted by fisherman inside the park. However, the streams of the Great Smoky Mountains do offer other angling opportunities. Smallmouth bass are another native game fish species that can be found in a number of the large lower elevation streams in the national park.

Hiking


Hikers enjoy the Smoky Mountains during all months of the year with every season offering is own special rewards. During winter, the absence of deciduous leaves opens new vistas along trails and reveals stone walls, chimneys, foundations, and other reminders of past residents. Spring provides a weekly parade of wildflowers and flowering trees. In summer, walkers can seek out cool retreats among the spruce-fir forests and balds or follow splashy mountain streams to roaring falls and cascades. Autumn hikers have crisp, dry air to sharpen their senses and a varied palette of fall colors to enjoy.

Hiking with children? Kid-friendly hikes are an excellent way to learn and enjoy the outdoors. Check at the Visitor Center for your best options.

Horse Riding

Horseback Rides

Guided horseback rides are available at four concession horseback riding stables in the park from mid-March through late November. Rides on scenic park trails are offered lasting from 45 minutes to several hours. All rides proceed at a walking pace.

Hayrides

Cades Cove Riding Stables offers a 1.5 – 2 hour hayride around the Cades Cove Loop Road. Passengers sit on a bed of hay in a trailer pulled by a truck and enjoy an open air view of the scenery of Cades Cove.

Ranger-led hayrides are also offered on some evenings on a first-come, first-served basis. See the Schedule of Events for scheduled ranger-led hayrides.

Carriage and Wagon Rides

Carriage or wagon rides are offered at two of the horseback riding stables in the park. These rides provide an opportunity to experience a 20-30 minute horse-drawn carriage or wagon ride on a park trail.

Carriage Ride – Cades Cove, near Townsend, TN
Wagon Ride – Smokemont, near Cherokee, NC

Picnicking

Picnic areas are located at Big Creek, Chimneys, Cades Cove, Collins Creek, Cosby, Deep Creek, Greenbrier, Heintooga, Look Rock, Metcalf Bottoms, and Twin Creeks.

The picnic areas at Cades Cove, Deep Creek, Greenbrier, and Metcalf Bottoms remain open year-round. The remaining picnic areas are closed during the winter.

Picnic pavilions are available at Collins Creek, Cosby, Deep Creek, Greenbrier, Metcalf Bottoms, and Twin Creeks, Pavilions can be reserved for groups one year in advance.

Waterfalls

Great Smoky Mountains - Waterfall
Every year over 200,000 visitors hike well-worn trails to view Grotto, Laurel, Abrams, Rainbow, and other popular waterfalls in the park. Large waterfalls attract the crowds, but smaller cascades and falls can be found on nearly every river and stream in the park.

The Great Smoky Mountains abound with the two ingredients essential for waterfalls-ample rainfall and an elevation gradient. In the Smokies high country, over 85″ of rain falls on average each year. During wet years, peaks like Mt. Le Conte and Clingmans Dome receive over eight feet of rain. This abundant rainfall trickles and rushes down the mountain sides, from high elevation to low, sometimes dropping more than a mile in elevation from the high peaks to the foothills at the park’s boundary.

Waterfalls You Can Drive To

Meigs Falls

The pulloff to view Meigs Falls is along Little River Road, 13 miles west of Sugarlands Visitor Center (7 miles east of Townsend). The falls is tucked away on the far side of Little River and can be easily missed while driving.

The Sinks

This waterfall is short in stature, but its volume includes the entire flow of Little River. The parking area to view the falls is along Little River Road, 12 miles west of Sugarlands Visitor Center.

Place of a Thousand Drips

During wet periods, this waterfall is dramatic as the flow of water splits into numerous small channels cascading around rocks and creating “a thousand drips.”

Wildlife Viewing

Great Smoky Mountains Wildlife
Viewing wildlife in the Smokies can be challenging because most of the park is covered by dense forest. Open areas like Cataloocheeand Cades Cove offer some of the best opportunities to see white-tailed deer, elk, black bear, raccoon, turkeys, woodchucks, and other animals. The narrow, winding road of Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail encourages motorists to travel at a leisurely pace and sometimes yields sightings of bears and other wildlife. During winter wildlife is more visible because deciduous trees have lost their leaves.

Because many animals are most active at night, it can be advantageous to look for wildlife during morning and evening. It’s also a good idea to carry binoculars. Some people like to sit quietly beside a trail to see what wildlife will come out of hiding. And don’t forget to scan the trees—many animals spend their days among the branches.

So, if you’ve never been to Great Smoky Mountains National Park — put it on you bucket list! If you have been, you might enjoy my WPA-style poster for Great Smoky Mountains National Park to celebrate your adventures!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Click here to see the Great Smoky Mountains 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!

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Best Things To Do in Big Bend National Park

Los Chisos Mountains

Big Bend National Park offers nearly limitless opportunities for scenic driving, hiking, camping, backpacking, mountain biking, horseback riding, bird watching, wildlife observation, and stargazing. Additionally, the Rio Grande borders the park for 118 miles providing options for half-day floats to extended excursion by raft, canoe, or kayak.

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 Big Bend is one well worth the visit. I have explored many areas 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 Big Bend National Park!

Scenic Drives

Chihuahuan Desert
100 miles of paved roads and 150 miles of dirt roads connect the desert to the mountains and the river and offer exceptional ways to explore the park by vehicle.

Here are the top five scenic drives — on paved roads!

Chisos Basin Road – 6 miles

A drive to the Chisos Basin is an excellent way to experience the transition between arid desert and cooler mountain habitats. As this scenic, winding road rises over two thousand feet above the desert floor, it offers breath-taking vistas of the mountain peaks and the erosion-formed basin area. The Chisos Basin has a visitor center, campground, lodge, restaurant, camp store, and access to miles of hiking trails.

Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive – 30 miles

A trip along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive highlights the geologic splendor Big Bend is famous for, and offers many scenic overlooks and exhibits along the way. Sotol Vista, Mule Ears Overlook, and Tuff Canyon are all worthwhile stops. Continue the drive to the magnificent Santa Elena Canyon, where limestone cliffs rise 1,500′ above the Rio Grande. A short trail leads into the canyon.

Panther Junction to Rio Grande Village – 21 miles

The drive to Rio Grande Village traverses ancient limestone and has marvelous vistas across the river to the magnificent Sierra del Carmen escarpment. In twenty miles, the road descends nearly two thousand feet. There are several worthwhile stops and highlights along the way. Dugout Wells includes a desert nature trail and a shady oasis, nice for picnicking and birding. A soak in the Historic Hot Springs is also a popular activity.

Persimmon Gap to Panther Junction – 28 miles

This road connects the north entrance to park headquarters at Panther Junction. From Persimmon Gap, the road descends a long, gentle, gravel slope to Tornillo creek and Tornillo Flat. The Rosillos Mountains rise to the west; to the east the Dead Horse Mountains dominate the skyline.

Maverick Entrance Station to Panther Junction – 23 miles

This drive, through striking desert scenery, has excellent views of the surrounding mountains. Several roadside exhibits describe wildlife that might be seen along the drive. Junctions for the Chisos Basin road and Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive are located along this route.

Hiking

Day Hikes

Big Bend is a hiker’s paradise containing the largest expanse of roadless public lands in Texas. More than 150 miles of trails offer opportunities for day hikes or backpacking trips.

Desert Hikes

The Chihuahuan Desert covers about 80% of the park and surrounds the Chisos Mountains. Bare, rocky ground and sparse vegetation are hallmarks of the desert, but there is plenty of life here. Look for termite nests along plant stems, exoskeletons of millipedes, animal scat, and rodent and reptile tunnels. Bird life is plentiful, especially in the morning; look for nests hidden in yuccas and cacti. In the spring, bluebonnets, paintbrush, bi-color mustard, desert marigold, yucca, ocotillo, and cacti blossoms add color to the desert landscape.

Mountain Hikes

The Chisos Mountains contain some of the most rewarding day hikes in Big Bend, especially during the summer months when it is too hot to hike at lower elevations in the park. It is not uncommon to see tracks and scat of black bear, mountain lions, and gray fox along Chisos Mountains trails. Carmen Mountain white-tailed deer, rock squirrels, whiptail lizards, spotted towhees, tufted titmice, and Mexican jays are also common in these mountains.

River Hikes

The Rio Grande creates a distinct environment in Big Bend National Park. Countless bird species can be found in the riverbank vegetation. The river provides water for many desert animals; look along the muddy shoreline for tracks, signs, and scat.

Backpacking

Backpacking in the Desert

The most remote areas of Big Bend National Park are best left to experienced backpackers. Each year, park rangers respond to desert emergencies when hikers are not prepared for the heat and extreme conditions of the desert. Due to the complex topography and vague trails/routes, a topographic map and a compass/gps are necessary for some hikes. Not for novices, you will need to be fully equipped and physically prepared to pack your gear and water into the desert and camp primitively.

River Trips

Santa Elena Canyon

Floating the Rio Grande

Big Bend offers a variety of river adventures. Enjoy a day trip, or plan an extended float through spectacular limestone canyons. If you have the time and a spirit of adventure, you may want to consider a river trip. Seeing the park’s canyons from the middle of the Rio Grande can be an incredible experience. There are many possibilities including half-day floats or multi-day excursions.

Floating the Rio Grande can take you through miles of canyons up to 1,500 feet deep, where the sunlight may reach the bottom only briefly on winter days. As in other parts of the park, your ears may tell you more than your eyes. Listen for beavers crawling through the brush;you might catch a glimpse as one slides down the riverbank into the water. Turtles, especially red-eared sliders, often sun themselves on rocks and logs just above the waterline. Great blue herons and green kingfishers are just some of the many birds you may see flying along the river.

Bicycling

Lightly traveled roads and varied terrain make Big Bend a premier bicycling location. Over 100 miles of paved roads and 150 miles of backcountry dirt roads provide challenges for riders of all types and abilities. Bicyclists must be extremely cautious and well-prepared, but bicycling allows outstanding panoramic views unobstructed by a windshield. It also allows the bicyclist to see and hear some of the smaller wonders of Big Bend from a more intimate viewpoint.

Bird Watching

Big Bend’s position near the 100th meridian in the middle of the continent and along a migration route makes the park ideal for bird diversity throughout the year. Northern species migrate here for the warm winter climate, while birds from the tropics range this far north to breed in the spring. One of Big Bend’s highlights, the Colima warbler, is a predominantly Mexican species that only nests in the United States in the Chisos Mountains from April to September.

Fishing

Sometimes visiting a National Park can seem as though time is not on your side and the pace of “have to see everything” takes over. Perhaps fishing, which might seem unusual in a desert park, could be just what the “ranger” ordered. This activity is less harried, relaxing, and most of all, edible. Fishing the Rio Grande is something that is fun for visitors of all ages. And best of all it’s free, and requires no Texas fishing license. All that is required is a fishing permit which may be obtained at any open visitor center. So if a lazy day by the Rio Grande is something you might enjoy, ask a ranger about fishing opportunities here in the park.

Stargazing

El Capitan
On the clearest nights, more than 2,500 stars are visible to the naked eye! Big Bend is known as one of the outstanding places in North America for stargazing. In fact, it has the least light pollution of any other National Park unit in the lower 48 states. One factor that makes this possible is simply the sparse human occupation of this region.


I’ve created a WPA-style poster for Big Bend National Park to celebrate the 75th Anniversary!

Big Bend 75th Anniversary

Click here to see the Big Bend 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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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Best Things To Do In Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton - Moonset

Known for its winding Snake River, miles of hiking trails, lakes and abundant wildlife, Grand Teton National Park is a perfect travel destination. Grand Teton National Park has something for everyone — like Jenny Lake, the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center, and historic settlements like Menors Ferry and Mormon Row. If you’re adventurous and enjoy climbing, hiking, wildlife watching and touring, or if you just want to take in some of the most spectacular scenery in the world — this is a perfect place for you.

I’m a photographer and outdoor enthusiast and have been to more than 40 of our amazing national parks — including Grand Teton. I’ve explored many areas of the park — so I’m ready to help! Whether this is your first time to Grand Teton, 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!

Wildlife Viewing

Grand Teton - Moose

Grand Teton’s wildlife viewing regularly ranks among the best in the United States. Bears, bison, elk, pronghorns, eagles, and more are regularly seen in the park. Want to see bears? These places change regularly, so just ask at a visitor center or activity desk once you’re there. The Jackson Lake Lodge Activity Desk tracks the latest wildlife observations. Some of the best places are Willow Flats in front of the Jackson Lake Lodge, at Oxbow Bend or Elk Ranch Flats.

Take a Scenic Drive

Mormon Row

There are many places to take in the spectacular and epic views — and you can do it on Grand Teton National Park’s 42 Mile Scenic Loop Drive! If you’re short on time or wanting an easier way to see many of the diverse scenic landscapes of the park, then this might be a great way for you to see the park. The loop consists of Teton Park Road, Jenny Lake Scenic Drive and Route 89. On this route you can visit Jenny Lake, the Craig Thomas Visitor Center in Moose, Schwabacher’s Landing, Snake River Overlook, Cunningham’s Cabin, Oxbow Bend, Signal Mountain Summit Road and more. Get that engine going for the ride of a lifetime!

Go Fishing

Grand Teton - Oxbow Bend

Grand Teton National Park is world-renowned for it’s amazing fishing. Rivers, lakes and ponds sparkle on the landscape and you can fish for cutthroat trout (named for the red slash under the lower jaw), the Utah chub in warm, shallow, slow-moving water or the mountain whitefish, which prefers cold, deep, fast-moving water. Fishing is a great way to have fun while experiencing the park’s beauty. From Jenny Lake to the Snake River to Jackson Lake there are many opportunities for fishing — and you can choose between a guided fishing trips or solo adventures.

Hike the Grand Teton Trails

With more than 200 miles of trails for hiking, Grand Teton National Park provides the perfect opportunity for those who want to get out and experience the most beautiful lakes, towering peaks, and stunning scenery up close. Rugged landscapes and sudden weather changes sometimes can bring on unexpected challenges, but with them come amazing views! Grand Teton National Park hosts numerous trails for all kinds of hikers — beginners and experts alike. From easy, short hikes like Hidden Falls or Inspiration Point to more challenging ones like Death Canyon and Cascade Canyon — there’s a wide choice, but none will disappoint!

Enjoy Horseback Riding

Grand Teton - Horseback Riding

One of the best alternatives for hiking — and a unique way to soak up those breathtaking views — is to saddle up and spend an amazing morning or afternoon on horseback. Horseback riding is a great way to simply take it slow and let the joy and scenic views fill your soul. Horseback rides starting at Jackson Lake Lodge let you spend a morning or afternnon in the Grand Tetons — and enjoy the same view as the early explorers. The Jackson Lake Lodge offers one-hour and two-hour horseback riding with breathtaking views of the Teton Range, Oxbow Bend, and the Snake River.

Conquer the Mountains with Climbing

The famous Grand Teton mountain range has been luring countless visitors and climbers from all over the world for generations. The park presents opportunities to conquer these magnificent peaks — or just to learn more about the sport of rock climbing. While the experienced climbers are rubbing their hands together for an opportunity to reach the sky by climbing these iconic peaks, other groups like families, kids, and inexperienced climbers shouldn’t shy away from participating. Various guides and experienced climbers are here to offer guided climbs, classes and easy daily climbs!

Engage in Water Activities

Grand Teton - Jenny Lake

With all those enchanting lakes and beautiful rivers flowing through the park, most of these waterways of wilderness are accessible for travelers and visitors. One of the most popular, Jackson Lake, offers a stunning mountain backdrop and an excellent opportunity for those interested in sailing, water skiing, and even windsurfing. With dozens of lakes within the park and rivers like the Snake River, opportunities abound. From kayaking and canoeing, to paddle boarding, drift boats and raft tours, your water adventure awaits.

Grand Teton - Boating

You can also go on a Jackson Lake Cruise and enjoy delicious breakfast or dinner excursion. The Colter Bay Marina offers breakfast and dinner cruises to Elk Island — a unique and exclusive Grand Teton activity. There is a hot buffet on the island. Breakfast includes trout, pancakes, pastries, potatoes, eggs, fruit, cowboy coffee, yogurt and more. Dinner features steak and trout with a variety of sides. Enjoy your meal with Mount Moran rising over the lake. After your meal, take your time to explore the island and take a short hike.

Cycle The Grand Teton’s Roads

Grand Teton - Roads

Biking enjoys its fair share of popularity and fame in the park, especially when the multi-use pathway was introduced. For thrill seekers, dirt roads and bike trails such as Two Ocean Lake and Grassy Lake Road will be your escape and create an exciting mountain biking adventure. But road bikers, there’s plenty for you, too! Over 100 miles of paved roads — with an extensive bicycle pathway system — let bike lovers enjoy the views while comfortably riding below the breathtaking Grand Teton Range.

Now, that the best activities have been unveiled, it is safe to say that Grand Teton is simply heaven for outdoor recreation and wildlife discoveries. With its sheer size of more than 300,000 acres, let it become the playground that will give you the memories of a lifetime!

I’ve created two posters for Grand Teton National Park — one that features a view of the famed mountain range from the Snake River Overlook. The other is of Jenny Lake after a fall snowstorm.

Grand Teton National Park - Jenny Lake

Click here to see the Grand Teton National Park, Jenny Lake poster.

Grand Teton National Park

Click here to see the Grand Teton National Park, Snake River Overlook 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!

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Best Things to do In Yosemite National Park

Yosemite - Tunnel View

Charming meadows, stunning valleys, mountains and waterfalls with magnificent beauty that will strike awe in everyone who visits this amazing place. It is hard to describe how incredible the Yosemite National Park is, that’s why it’s easier to quote the man whose writings helped to preserve and establish the Yosemite National Park that can be visited today.

“It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.” Words that still ring true, written by legendary naturalist and mountaineer John Muir. If a sentence like this describes the Yosemite National Park, you know you are up for something truly special! Let’s wait no more, and discover the best things to do in one of the most famous and beautiful national parks of them all, the Yosemite.

Hiking & Backpacking

Yosemite - Falls
When you visit a national park with such diversity like Yosemite, there is no doubt that hiking and backpacking will be your best bet to experience the epic natural surroundings. And Yosemite is simply outstanding for hiking and trekking lovers! The park hosts all kind of trails from strenuous and challenging treks to moderate and easy walks. Every single one of them has their own distinctive rewards. But only for those who dare to step foot into the wild! Striking mountains, breathtaking vistas, spectacular waterfalls, and marvelous lakes. Hiking and backpacking will reveal all the gems and jewels that Yosemite has to offer. With 95% of protected wilderness and more than one thousand square miles of pristine nature, the trails of Yosemite National Park will show you how beautiful this part of the Sierras can be!

Rock Climbing

Yosemite - Clouds
From the legendary El Capitan to the iconic Half Dome, there’s no secret that Yosemite National Park is one of the best playgrounds on the planet for rock climbing enthusiasts. Rock climbing is a year-round activity in the park, with various programs from Yosemite Mountaineering School to help achieve a great experience regardless of your ability. From half-day and full-day climbs to multiple-day and overnight sessions and adventures, Yosemite has it all for climbing lovers, world-class athletes, and aspiring beginner climbers. The choice is yours in the unlimited climbing arena that is Yosemite National Park!

Water Play

Yosemite - Merced River
From tubing on the Merced River to fishing and exploring, you must take advantage of the great water activities at Yosemite! You can do some amazing fishing for rainbow and brown trout in the lakes, streams and rivers at Yosemite National Park — but you’ll want to make sure you follow all the rules and regulations! The season for stream and river fishing begins on the last Saturday in April and continues through November 15. All lakes and reservoirs are open to fishing year-round. Fishing supplies are available in Yosemite. Fishing licenses (for those over 16) are available at the Mountain Shop at Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village) and the Pioneer Gift & Grocery in Wawona.

Birdwatching

Yosemite - Bird Watching
Whether it’s a crisp mountain breeze, a lovely stream or powerful waterfall, nature sounds are always soothing and harmonious. But here, in Yosemite National Park one of the most melodic notes comes from one of the most lovely inhabitants of the park. With nearly 200 species of birds migrating, breeding and wintering in Yosemite, birdwatching is one of the essential activities that combines educational and adventurous aspects to create an unforgettable experience! From the Acorn woodpecker, American robin to Ravens and beautiful Western tanagers, to mention a few, Yosemite National Park is home to birds worth discovering and admiring.

Ranger & Other Programs

Whether its for you or maybe your curious kids, consider participating in one of the Yosemite’s programs to tackle the informative side of Yosemite. For the little ones keen on becoming real explorers and rangers, the most notable program is Junior Rangers where kids aged 7-13 take a one-hour Junior Ranger Walk while completing activity book and picking up litter to keep the park clean.
Yosemite - Ranger
If you are up for packing in some knowledge too, opt for simple programs to spice up your stay and make your other activities much more interesting. Participating in free programs like the Naturalist Stroll, you’ll only spend an hour, while the naturalist will shed some light on Yosemite’s trees, John Muir and more. Or be entertained by listening to stories about native people, early settlers, geology and nature with Yosemite Ranger Walks & Talks. All kinds of programs are available in the park, and are easy to fit in your adventurous schedule!

Winter Activities

Yosemite - Winter
Winter is where a national park like Yosemite turns into something special and magical with plenty of different activities to tackle. This is where you will find even more tranquility and solitude. While some trails are accessible during the winter and snowshoeing is available, the most fun attractions are winter sports like cross-country skiing, snowboarding and ice skating. Take a look at the snowy Half Dome while ice skating at Half Dome Village Ice Rink or visit the oldest downhill skiing area in California, the Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area. Other opportunities like snow tubing or sledding are also available in the park. Winter is a wonderful time of year to experience nature from a different perspective and conquer the Yosemite National Park with new challenges.

There you go! All you need now is to embrace the opportunities and beautiful adventures Yosemite National Park has to offer. With so many different activities and attractions combined with the vastness of the park and not-to-be-missed marvels of nature, consider planning extensively beforehand to make sure you’re ready and good to go once you arrive!

Glacier National Park

Click Here to See the Yosemite National Park Poster

Rob Decker is a photographer, artist and craftsman who is passionate about preserving the nostalgic style of the WPA-era. Rob had the rare privilege of studying under renowned photographer Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park when he was just 19 years old. Now, Rob’s creating WPA-style posters of our national parks. He’s picking up where the masters from that time left off, building on what they began to create a whole new body of National Park poster art for today’s generation. Every Limited Edition poster, Artist Proof and postcard he produces is printed in the USA on “Conservation” a 100% recycled, domestically produced stock with soy-based inks. And they are printed by one of the greenest printers in America, right here in Colorado.

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Best Things to do in Glacier National Park

Glacier - Lake McDonald - Winter

Are you ready for something extraordinary and spectacular? Located in Montana‘s Rocky Mountains, Glacier National Park will dazzle you with its mirror lakes, jaw-dropping scenery, wild nature, and picturesque snow-capped peaks. With over one million acres, you could spend a lifetime exploring and experiencing this unbelievable spectacle of nature. Read on to discover the best things to do in Glacier National Park.

I’m a photographer and outdoor enthusiast and have been to more than 40 of our amazing national parks — including Glacier. I’ve explored many areas of the park — so I’m ready to help! Whether this is your first time to Glacier, 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!

Drive Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road

Connecting east and west side entrances, the Going-to-the-sun road is one of the most popular and iconic attractions in Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park - Going to the Sun Road

Sit back and enjoy the 50-mile ride enchanted in sweeping views of nature with mighty mountains, snowy peaks, sparkling glacier lakes, and beautiful waterfalls. I recommended holding your breath — because the amazing views along this road just might take it away!

Go Hiking

Venturing out on the picturesque trails and camping in the heart of nature is hands down, one of the best things you can do in Glacier National Park.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Glacier offers something for everyone. Short hikes or long, Glacier sports more than 700 miles of trails for all comers. Overnight trips provide the perfect opportunity for camping . It’s clear why more than a half of the park visitors decide to embark on a journey through these epic trails. Yes, the views from a car window are just as spectacular, but don‘t limit yourself because the wild & marvelous world can only be truly discovered through the pathways of nature!

Drift On The Glacial Waterways

Whether its canoeing, kayaking, rafting or simply taking a boat tour, drifting along the magical lakes of Glacier National Park is simply a must!

Glacier National Park - Glacial Waterways

After all, the park hosts more than 700 bodies of water within its territory and they are nothing short of spectacular. The biggest, Lake Mcdonald, leads the way and draws countless visitors. Enjoy the crisp air and sparkling waters while taking a look and soaking up the experience from a different angle while drifting peacefully along the pristine glacial lakes.

Participate in Guided Tours

Feeling like learning while doing something fun or maybe you found yourself simply looking for more alternatives?

Glacier National Park - Lake McDonald - Kayak

Another great way to enjoy and experience the stunning park is participating in one of the many guided tours. Glacier National Park offers a great variety of quality guided tours for any type of traveler and adventure seeker! From educational Field Courses to backpacking and Horseback Riding to traditional guided affairs like boat tours, guided hikes and more — you’ll find it in this beautiful corner of the world!

Glide & Ski On Snow-White Blankets

Known for record-breaking amounts of snow, there is good news for winter and snow activity lovers as well!

Glacier National Park - Deer in Snow

While the majority of visitors come in summer, especially for the drive-through opportunity, winter time in the park becomes one big moment of tranquility. Glacier National Park presents great opportunities for backcountry skiing, snowboarding or downhill skiing at one of the nearby resorts. Take the opportunity to see the park when it’s dressed in white, avoid the crowds and have the adventure of a lifetime while gliding along its snowy trails.


As you can see, Glacier National Park doesn‘t shy away from hosting many wonderful opportunities for those seeking to experience it. If Glacier National Park wasn‘t on your bucket list, make sure to put it in there because this place will turn you into a storyteller and bring out the adventurer you never thought you knew!

Glacier National Park

Click Here to See the Glacier National Park Poster

Rob Decker is a photographer, artist and craftsman who is passionate about preserving the nostalgic style of the WPA-era. Rob had the rare privilege of studying under renowned photographer Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park when he was just 19 years old. Now, Rob’s creating WPA-style posters of our national parks. He’s picking up where the masters from that time left off, building on what they began to create a whole new body of National Park poster art for today’s generation. Every Limited Edition poster, Artist Proof and postcard he produces is printed in the USA on “Conservation” a 100% recycled, domestically produced stock with soy-based inks. And they are printed by one of the greenest printers in America, right here in Colorado.

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Devils Tower National Monument

Devils Tower National Monument

Devils Tower was the first United States National Monument, established on September 24, 1906, by President Theodore Roosevelt. An astounding geologic feature, Devils Tower protrudes out of the prairie surrounding the Black Hills. Hundreds of parallel cracks make it one of the finest crack climbing areas in North America. Devils Tower entices us to learn more, explore more and define our place in the natural and cultural world and is considered sacred by Northern Plains Indians and indigenous people.

Devils Tower (also known as Bear Lodge Butte) is a laccolithic butte composed of igneous rock in the Bear Lodge Mountains — part of the Black Hills — near Hulett and Sundance in Crook County, northeastern Wyoming, above the Belle Fourche River. It rises 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River, standing 867 feet from summit to base. The summit is 5,112 feet above sea level.

The landscape surrounding Devils Tower is composed mostly of sedimentary rocks. The oldest rocks visible in Devils Tower National Monument were laid down in a shallow sea during the mid- to late-Triassic period, 225 to 195 million years ago. This dark red sandstone and maroon siltstone, interbedded with shale, can be seen along the Belle Fourche River. Oxidation of iron minerals causes the redness of the rocks. This rock layer is known as the Spearfish Formation.

In recent years, climbing Devils Tower has increased in popularity. The first known ascent of Devils Tower by any method occurred on July 4, 1893, and is accredited to William Rogers and Willard Ripley, local ranchers in the area. The first ascent using modern climbing techniques was made by Fritz Wiessner with William P. House and Lawrence Coveney in 1937. Wiessner led almost the entire climb free, placing only a single piece of fixed gear, a piton, which he later regretted, deeming it unnecessary.

In 1941 George Hopkins parachuted onto Devils Tower, without permission, as a publicity stunt resulting from a bet. He had intended to descend by a 1,000 foot rope dropped to him after successfully landing on the butte, but the package containing the rope slid over the edge. The weather deteriorated, and a second attempt was made to drop equipment, but Hopkins deemed it unusable after the rope became snarled and frozen due to the rain and wind. Hopkins was stranded for six days, before a mountain rescue team finally reached him and brought him down.

Today, hundreds of climbers scale the sheer rock walls of Devils Tower each summer. The most common route is the Durrance Route, which was the second free route established in 1938. There are many established and documented climbing routes covering every side of the tower, ascending the various vertical cracks and columns of the rock. The difficulty of these routes range from relatively easy to some of the most challenging in the world. Climbers are required to register with a park ranger before and after attempting a climb.

Devils Tower National Monument

Click here to see the Devils Tower National Monument poster.

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