Tag Archives: National Park

Katmai National Park and Preserve

Katmai National Park and Preserve

Alaska

Managed by National Park Service

Established 1918 National Monument, 1980 National Park

3,674,529 acres

Website: nps.gov/katm

Overview

Katmai National Monument was created after the Novarupta Volcano erupted in 1912 (an event recorded in the skinny tree rings grown throughout Alaska that year).  Ash fell in Seattle (1,500 miles away) and piled up to 700 feet deep in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.  The valley is no longer smoking, but it is there are still 15 active volcanoes within the park’s boundaries.  This remote park on the Alaska Peninsula has few roads and is only accessible by airplane (typically equipped with floats for water landings).  Oh yeah, and there are lots of grizzly bears, or brown bears as they are called in coastal areas of Alaska.

Highlights

Brooks Falls, North Arm of Naynek Lake, Hallo Bay, Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, Baked Mountain Huts, Savonoski Loop

Must-Do Activity

The grizzly/brown bears of Brooks Falls are celebrities due to the annual Fat Bear Week vote for the chunkiest bear on social media.  Less famous are the bears that hang out around Hallo Bay on the coastline, eating grass and shellfish until the salmon arrive.  Regardless of your destination, flights from road-accessible portions of Alaska (like Homer and Kenai) can be quite costly.  Most of the approximately 50,000 annual visitors come only for a day trip, although there are three expensive lodges and a campground in the park.

Best Trail

Brooks Falls Trail connects the Lower River Bear Viewing Platform 1.2 miles to the Falls and Riffles Platforms at Brooks Falls.  Near the visitor center, the short Cultural Site Trail visits a prehistoric camp and reconstructed dwelling.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Brooks Falls is a world-class destination for wildlife photographers from around the world, so you might want to bring along a camera with a good zoom lens if you pay to get there during the peak months of July and September. This photo is from Scott’s father: Bruce Sink.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

The National Park Service does not charge an entry fee, but it is very expensive to fly to Brooks Camp or Hallo Bay.

Road Conditions

There is a 23-mile long road that leads from Brooks Falls to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes and a daily eight-hour ranger-guided bus tour is available in the summer.  Backpackers can buy one-way tickets and explore the area, with the Baked Mountain Huts a popular destination 12 miles away across two difficult river crossings.

Camping

There are 60 sites at Brooks Camp Campground (reservations required prior to arrival), which is surrounded by an electric fence to keep bears out.

Related Sites

Kenai Fjords National Park (Alaska)

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve (Alaska)

Denali National Park and Preserve (Alaska)

Explore More – How many grizzly/brown bears are estimated to live within Katmai National Park and Preserve?

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Top 10 Blog Posts from Our Fourth 100

To celebrate reaching the milestone of our 400th blog post, we are linking to our top 10 posts from 301-400 based on number of likes.  Please check out our Top 10 from the first 100, 200, and 300 (or click here if you want to see all of our Top 10 Lists, including our meta Top 10 of Our Top 10 Lists).  Thank you to our readers for inspiring us to continue traveling and to share the wonders with you all.

When we last posted we were starting work on our guidebook for the 155 U.S. National Forests, which is now published on Amazon.  We had no idea we would write four articles for our local newspaper (and be interviewed for another), give a presentation at our library on National Forests, or publish a coloring book based on illustrations from our first guidebook to the National Parks.  Who knows what we will do between now and our 500th post?

10. Canaveral National Seashore (Florida)

9. Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (Georgia)

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument (New Mexico)

7. Kenai Fjords National Park (Alaska)

6. Arapaho National Recreation Area (Colorado)

5. Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)

4. Crater Lake National Park (Oregon)

3. Pinnacles National Park (California)

2. Colorado National Monument (Colorado)

…and finally our #1 blog post from our fourth 100:

1. Arches National Park (Utah)

Honorable Mentions

Minidoka National Historic Site (Idaho)

The new visitor center is open where you can watch an excellent film on the internment of U.S. citizens during WWII

Channel Islands National Park (California)

We added photos from our kayaking trip around Santa Cruz Island from November 2021

Indiana Dunes National Park (Indiana)

We visited the eastern parts of this new National Park after visiting it in 2016 as a National Lakeshore

Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota)

We backpacked around the park’s Petrified Forest Trail in July 2022 and saw an awesome double rainbow and woke up 50 feet from a sleeping bison

Learn more about finding solitude in the National Parks in our guidebook:

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Top 10 National Parks for Winter Recreation

Most of the 63 National Parks in snowy areas close their roads over the winter, but this allows for a variety of different recreation opportunities, including snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, and snow biking.  There are several National Parks that are actually best to visit in winter to avoid the heat (like Everglades and Saguaro), but this ranking focuses on those where snow adds to the experience.  Click here to see all of our Top 10 Lists.

10. Lassen Volcanic (California)

Winter lasts so long in this park, you might find you need snowshoes in July

9. Grand Teton (Wyoming)

When the park roads close, they become cross-country skiing and moose traveling routes

8. Mount Rainier (Washington)

Plows make sure the popular snow play area at Paradise is always accessible

7. Bryce Canyon (Utah)

It snows often at 7,000 feet in elevation, making the hoodoo formations even more beautiful

6. Denali (Alaska)

Dog sledding is how the National Park Service (NPS) rangers get around during the long winter

5. Voyageurs (Minnesota)

Ice fishing is such a draw when these lakes freeze over that the NPS even maintains an ice road

4. Rocky Mountain (Colorado)

It is possible that the trailhead at Bear Lake is actually busier in the winter (also try the Wild Basin area)

3. Crater Lake (Oregon)

The lake is never prettier than when surrounded by snow and the entry road is plowed year round

2. Sequoia (California)

The orange bark of giant sequoia seems to glow when surrounded by snow

…and finally the #1 National Park Service site for winter recreation:

1. Yellowstone (Wyoming-Montana-Idaho)

Take a snow coach or snowmobile to the Winter Lodge at Old Faithful for a “bucket-list” experience

Honorable Mentions

Acadia (Maine)

The park’s 45 miles of carriage roads are ideal cross-country ski routes

Mesa Verde (Colorado)

Tours end in the winter, but we included it specifically for the one night in December when the NPS lights luminaries in the ruins

Kenai Fjords (Alaska)

There is a public use cabin located down the road to Exit Glacier open to snowmobilers by reservation

Badlands (South Dakota)

Nothing in this park really closes in the winter, but we think the formations are even prettier in snow

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Crater Lake National Park

Overview

Formed by a cataclysmic volcanic eruption about 8,000 years ago, Crater Lake National Park protects a nearly round caldera about five miles in diameter.  It is the deepest lake in the country at 1,943 feet, which is a major reason why in 1902 it was named the sixth National Park in the U.S.  When we first visited back in July 2010 most of Rim Drive was still closed due to snow, but in July 2014 there was little snow to be found anywhere.

For Learn more in our guidebook to the National Parks, A Park to Yourself: Finding Adventure in America’s National Parks (available on Amazon).

Highlights

Rim Village, Cleetwood Trail, Cloudcap Overlook, Castle Crest Wildflower Trail, Mount Scott

Must-Do Activity

That very first view you get from the rim is so overwhelming that it is worth whatever effort you have to put in to arrive there.  Bring a coat, though, since at this high elevation we are pretty sure it can snow any month of the year.  Crater Lake has no inlets or outlets and its crystal-clear waters were fish free until some were introduced in the early 1900s.  The only way to get on the water is to hike down the steep one-mile Cleetwood Trail to a boat run by a park concessionaire.  Make sure you have purchased your ticket beforehand or you will be hiking back up to get one. 

Best Trail

We enjoyed the short but colorful Castle Crest Wildflower Trail, as well as the Pinnacles Overlook Trail where fossilized fumaroles mimic the conical shape of conifers.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Pictures truly do not do Crater Lake justice, but stop along Rim Drive to get a closer look at Wizard Island and the Phantom Ship, the only two islands that emerge from the lake.

Peak Season

Late summer

Hours

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

Fees

$30  per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass, but no entry fee in winter

Road Conditions

While some roads are closed most of the year, the National Park Service (NPS) plows the main entry road year round.  Bring your snowshoes!

Camping

The NPS manages two campgrounds in summer (although smaller Lost Creek only allows tent camping), or you can head to the neighboring National Forests for developed and dispersed campsites.

Related Sites

Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve (Oregon)

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument (Oregon)

Mount Rainier National Park (Washington)

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

Explore More – What was the name of the vast volcano that existed here before it collapsed nearly 7,700 years ago?

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We released our new National Parks coloring book!

Just in time for the holidays—we released our first coloring book available on Amazon.com! It is based on the 50 logos we created for our National Parks guidebook, many of which can be seen on our Shop page. It also includes the overview and wildlife information from the guidebook. It would make a great gift for any age!

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