Grand Teton National Park

Overview

Just south of Yellowstone National Park, is one of the most recognizable skylines in the United States, topped by 13,772-foot tall Grand Teton Peak.  The Teton Mountains were established as a National Park in 1929, but the rest of the park has a strange history.  Land in the Jackson Hole valley was bought up by the Rockefeller family and attempted to be donated to the U.S. government for decades.  In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Jackson Hole National Monument under the Antiquities Act, but it did not include the Rockefeller holdings.  It was not until 1950 that a deal was struck merging everything into Grand Teton National Park as we know it today.  Part of that negotiation was a requirement that in the future no land in Wyoming would ever be established as a National Monument under the Antiquities Act.

Highlights

Jenny Lake, Inspiration Point, Jackson Lake Lodge, Oxbow Bend Turnout, Mormon Row

Must-Do Activity

One of our favorite places in the park is Jenny Lake, which sparkles below 12,325-foot Teewinot Peak.  This is the trailhead for Cascade Canyon, but there are plenty of activities other than hiking, which include boating, horseback riding, mountain climbing, whitewater rafting, or cross-country skiing in the winter. 

Best Trail

You can hike around Jenny Lake to the lake to Hidden Falls and the waterfalls of Cascade Canyon, or you can take the shortcut aboard a shuttle boat (fee).  This popular trail can get very busy in the summer, which is true of most of the trails in the park.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Oxbow Bend Turnout is found along Highway 89/191/287, north of Moran Junction Entrance Station.  It overlooks a curve in the Snake River towards the Teton Mountain Range, which is why we chose it for our original logo design (see below).

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$35 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

The only main road that are not paved is the short segment that connects Phelps Lake with Jackson Hole Ski Area, but there are other rough gravel roads that follow the Snake River.

Camping

The first-come, first-served tent-only campsites at Jenny Lake or Signal Mountain are usually full, so you can always try Gros Ventre Campground which has 350 sites and rarely fills up.  Reservations for sites with hook-ups are accepted at Colter Bay RV Park and Headwaters at Flagg Ranch, which is just north of the park boundaries on the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway.

Related Sites

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming-Montana-Idaho)

Fossil Butte National Monument (Wyoming)

Devils Tower National Monument (Wyoming)

This design we created to celebrate Grand Teton National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – How did the valley of Jackson Hole (and the city of Jackson) get its name?

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Top 10 Waterfalls in the 62 National Parks

Who doesn’t love a beautiful waterfall?  America’s 62 National Parks are full of some of the prettiest examples of flowing water in the world (dry Death Valley even has Darwin Falls).  A few can be seen from drive-up overlooks, while others require a hike, but they are all worth the effort.  Niagara Falls is in the nation’s oldest State Park and photogenic Havasu Falls is actually outside of Grand Canyon National Park, so they did not even make the list.  We will release a ranking of the other 358 National Park Service units, but first check out our Top 10 National Parks for waterfalls (click here to see all our Top 10 lists).

For more information on visiting all 62 National Parks, check out our travel guidebook, A Park to Yourself: Finding Adventure in America’s National Parks (available on Amazon).

10. Rocky Mountain (Colorado)

Not known for its waterfalls, this park has Alberta Falls, Calypso Cascades, Ouzel Falls, Fern Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and many others.

9. Katmai (Alaska)

Brooks Falls is not the highest waterfall, but it does bring together brown bears and salmon.

8. Mount Rainier (Washington)

Silver, Cougar, Narada, and Comet Falls are just some of the countless cascades fed by melting glaciers.

7. Cuyahoga Valley (Ohio)

Brandywine Falls is the most spectacular, but don’t miss Blue Hen or Bridal Veil Falls either.

6. Haleakalā (Hawai‘i)

180-foot tall Falls at Makahiku and 400-foot Waimoku Falls are both seen along the Pīpīwai Trail.

5. Shenandoah (Virginia)

A hike is required to access any of the park’s cascades, including the numerous falls along the 8.2-mile Cedar Run/Whiteoak Circuit.

4. Kings Canyon (California)

Mist Falls lives up to its name and is worth the hike, plus check out Roaring River Falls at the end of a half mile trail.

3. Great Smoky Mountains (Tennessee-North Carolina)

Ramsey Cascades tops our list of the numerous falls you can hike to in this incredible park.

2. Yosemite (California)

There are countless massive waterfalls in Yosemite Valley, plus a couple great ones in Hetch Hetchy.

…and finally our #1 waterfall in a National Park:

1. Yellowstone (Wyoming-Montana-Idaho)

Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River is our favorite waterfall, whether viewed from the brink or Artist’s Point.

Honorable Mentions

Olympic (Washington)

You might expect bigger waterfalls in the wettest place in North America, but Sol Duc Falls and Elwha Falls are still worth checking out.

Grand Teton (Wyoming)

Hidden Falls is a great stop on the popular hike to Inspiration Point and into Cascade Canyon.

Glacier Bay (Alaska)

Summer snowmelt feeds the numerous unnamed cascades in Glacier Bay, much like Kenai Fjords National Park.

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John Muir National Historic Site

Overview

Martinez, California is now a bustling suburb of San Francisco, but it was once home to a fruit ranch managed by the famous 19th-century preservationist John Muir.  The house where he did most of his writing between 1890 and his death in 1914 is now backed by a freeway.  Classic non-fiction accounts of his outdoor adventures are still in print and include The Yosemite, Travels in Alaska, and Our National Parks.  His work as co-founder of the Sierra Club helped inspire elected officials to preserve huge sections of public land for the enjoyment of future generations.

Highlights

House tour, film, Mount Wanda, Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail museum

Must-Do Activity

Start your visit by watching the well-produced interpretive film A Glorious Journey (20 minutes).  Ranger-guided tours are the only way to step inside Muir’s 14-room Victorian house (free ticket required).  After the tour you can walk through what remains of the fruit orchards.  Also check out an adobe house on the property that is now a museum dedicated to the 1,200-mile Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail.

Best Trail

Off site is located a 326-acre portion of John Muir National Historic Site around Mount Wanda, named for one of Muir’s daughters.  A one-mile trail leads to the summit and full-moon hikes are guided by park rangers in the summer months.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Muir planted a giant sequoia tree from the Sierra Nevada here and it is quite large after a century of growth.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/jomu/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads are paved, though there is limited parking in the small NPS lot.  Be aware that traffic can be heavy in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Camping

There is no camping nearby, but perhaps you can follow in Muir’s footsteps and head for Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada.

Related Sites

Muir Woods National Monument (California)

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve (Alaska)

Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park (California)

Explore More – What did John Muir call his second-floor writing room where he composed some of the most influential works of his time?

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Top 10 Civil War Non-Fiction Books

This past summer, we covered the many National Park Service (NPS) sites dedicated to remembering the Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in American history with the greatest outcome (freedom for the country’s enslaved people).  We previously ranked our Top 10 novels and films about the war, but for the non-fiction list we widened the time frame to include antebellum and postbellum works (click here to see all our Top 10 lists).

10. Raising the Hunley: The Remarkable History and Recovery of the Lost Confederate Submarine by Brian Hicks and Schuyler Kropf (2002)

The discovery of the wreck of the world’s first submarine is a fascinating story.

9. Andrew Johnson by Annette Gordon-Reed (2011)

After Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, President Andrew Johnson had impossible shoes to fill.

8. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs (1861)

One of many heart-wrenching, first-hand accounts of slavery published by abolitionist groups before the Civil War.

7. West from Appomattox: The Reconstruction of America after the Civil War by Heather Cox Richardson (2007)

An in-depth look at the history of the country after General Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House.

6. Black Reconstruction in America by W.E.B. DuBois (1935)

A seminal work on the period of Reconstruction following the Civil War.

5. Company Aytch by Samuel Watkins (1882)

An interesting autobiography from a soldier in the Confederate Army.

4. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave by Frederick Douglass (1845)

Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave who became an impassioned voice for freedom before and after the war.

3. A Diary from Dixie by Mary Chestnut (1905)

A lengthy narrative of one woman’s experiences living in the south during the Civil War.

2. Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington (1901)

Autobiography of Booker T. Washington, the founder of Tuskegee Institute who was born into slavery.

…and finally our #1 non-fiction book about the American Civil War:

1. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2005)

One of the best history books ever written, it tells the story of the competing egos within President Lincoln’s Cabinet.

Honorable Mentions

Southern Lady, Yankee Spy: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Union Agent in the Heart of the Confederacy by Elizabeth R. Varon (2003)

There are so many excellent histories of this period, but this biography is especially interesting.

Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom by Catherine Clinton (2004)

Any biography of Harriet Tubman is worth reading.

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Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site

Overview

After the tragic “Long Walk” to Bosque Redondo, New Mexico, the Navajo Nation was officially recognized by the U.S. government in 1868 and trading posts were established throughout the reservation.  One near Ganado, Arizona was purchased by John Lorenzo Hubbell in 1876.  He and his sons established a network of 30 trading posts with a wholesale warehouse in Winslow.  Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site is still an active store (run by a nonprofit organization) with an adjacent National Park Service (NPS) visitor center. 

Highlights

Historic trading post, Hubbell Home, museum, farm animals

Must-Do Activity

This is a unique NPS site with livestock (sheep, horses, turkeys) and a hands-on play area for children, as well as the original dusty store which allows visitors to travel back into the late-1800s.  There are frequent Navajo rug weaving demonstrations and tours inside the Hubbell Home are available for a fee.  The area has seen many changes over the years, including an 1883 smallpox epidemic that killed thousands of locals, the building of Fred Harvey Company hotels, a 1915 grant of a 160-acre homestead to Hubbell, and the discovery of oil then uranium on the reservation. 

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

Livestock maintained on site include horses, chickens, turkeys, and sheep, significant for the wool that was such an important trade item when weaved into world-famous Navajo rugs.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

Note: the Navajo Nation and this NPS site practice Daylight Savings Time while the rest of Arizona (including Grand Canyon National Park) does not

https://www.nps.gov/hutr/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None, except for the house tour

Road Conditions

The access road is a well-maintained gravel road that can accommodate large RVs.

Camping

None on site, but there is a large NPS-managed campground 40 miles north at Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

Related Sites

Chaco Culture National Historical Park (New Mexico)

Homestead National Monument of America (Nebraska)

Navajo National Monument (Arizona)

Explore More – In the 1920s American Indians were finally permitted citizenship, but Arizona tribes were still not allowed to vote until when?