Tag Archives: National Park

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?

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

Overview

Gustavus, Alaska (population 400) is the gateway to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, and can be accessed by air or ferry from Juneau.  Some large cruise ships include the bay on their Inside Passage itinerary, but to get closer and really hear the thunder of cracking Margerie Glacier it is better to take a daytrip aboard a smaller catamaran from the docks at Glacier Bay Lodge.  Guided multi-day kayaking trips are one way to have a wild experience more similar to John Muir’s 1879 exploration detailed in his book Travels in Alaska.  Learn more in our guidebook to the 62 National Parks, A Park to Yourself: Finding Adventure in America’s National Parks (available on Amazon).

Highlights

Sitakaday Narrows, Bartlett River Trail, Margerie Glacier, wildlife

Must-Do Activity

Vacation packages including boat tickets, meals, and a private cabin at the lodge are reasonably priced through the National Park Service (NPS) concessionaire.  Shortly after departing on your all-day boat tour you will see humpback whales in the Sitakaday Narrows, then up the bay are Steller sea lions, harbor seals, and a variety of seabirds.  By scanning the cliffs you might also spot mountain goats and brown bears.  The boat turns around at Margerie Glacier, a great place to witness the thunderous calving of a tidewater glacier, an experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list. 

Best Trail

On the days you are not on the boat, there are several trails around Glacier Bay Lodge or you can explore the shoreline at low tide to see an assortment of marine life. 

Instagram-worthy Photo

Lamplugh Glacier is not as active as Margerie Glacier, but may be more photogenic, which is why we chose to depict it in our logo for this National Park (see below).

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None for the park, but this is not a cheap place to visit.

Road Conditions

There are no roads to Gustavus, Alaska, which is only accessible by airplane or boat.  The NPS always sends a bus from Glacier Bay Lodge to pick up arrivals at the airport and ferry terminal.

Camping

There is a free NPS campground near Glacier Bay Lodge if you bring your own supplies. 

Related Sites

Sitka National Historical Park (Alaska)

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve (Alaska)

Kenai Fjords National Park (Alaska)

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

Explore More – Glacier Bay was named a National Monument in 1925 and was expanded to become the largest NPS site (at the time) in 1939, but when was it finally designated a National Park?

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Top 10 World War II Sites in the 62 National Parks

The official end of World War II occurred on September 2, 1945 on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri (now docked at Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Hawai‘i).  To celebrate the 75th anniversary of this event we previously assembled our Top 10 National Park Service (NPS) units dedicated to the war.  This list ranks the best sites within our 62 National Parks.  Click here to see all our Top 10 lists, including our favorite WWII books and films.

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. Yosemite National Park (California)

The “U.S. Naval Convalescent Hospital Yosemite National Park, California” opened in 1943.

9. Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)

Soldiers were sent to recreate at the caverns from Hobbs Air Field, located 100 miles away.

8. Olympic National Park (Washington)

Two of the park’s coast guard and aircraft warning stations still exist.

7. White Sands National Park (New Mexico)

In 1942, the U.S. military established a weapons testing range in the Tularosa Basin that still functions today.

6. Denali National Park and Preserve (Alaska)

Denali’s rugged terrain was a great place to test soldiers and equipment.

5. Redwood National Park (California)

The Klamath River Radar Station B-71 is a rare early-warning radar station.

4. Haleakalā National Park (Hawai‘i)

The numerous antennas atop Red Hill led locals to dub this WWII radar station “Haleakalā National Forest.”

3. Acadia National Park (Maine)

The park’s Big Moose Island was home to a U.S. Navy radio station during WWII.

2. National Park of American Samoa (American Samoa)

These islands hosted soldiers and provided essential communications operations in the Pacific.

…and finally, our #1 National Park dedicated to World War II:

1. Mount Rainier National Park (Washington)

The 10th Mountain Division tested their mountaineering skills and equipment at Mt. Rainier.

Honorable Mention

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park (Hawai‘i)

After Pearl Harbor, this federal land on the largest of the Hawaiian Islands held several military installations.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Top 10 National Parks for Social Distancing

With international travel limited in 2020, many Americans are looking to vacation this summer in the country’s amazing National Parks.  The best-known parks often concentrate people at a single attraction with crowded overlooks, so we chose 10 less busy National Parks where it is easy practice social distancing and explore at your own pace, but are also not too hot in the summer (sorry, Death Valley).  For ideas of how to avoid large groups even at the busiest parks, check out our travel guidebook to all 62 National Parks (available on Amazon).

Next week we will choose our Top 10 sites for social distancing from the other 357 National Park Service units (click here to see all our Top 10 lists).

10. White Sands National Park (New Mexico)

Bring your snow sleds and find a dune to play on at America’s newest National Park

9. Great Basin National Park (Nevada)

Cave tours may not be an option, but there are many trails in this seldom-visited mountain range

8. Badlands National Park (South Dakota)

You do not even need a trail to explore Conata Basin and other portions of this park filled with wildlife

7. Sequoia National Park (California)

Avoid the crowds at the General Sherman tree and instead wander trails through the Giant Forest

6. Voyageurs National Park (Minnesota)

You will need a boat to explore these beautiful lakes on the Canadian border

5. Congaree National Park (South Carolina)

This park has 20 miles of forested trails and a creek for canoeing (but prepare for bugs)

4. Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota)

You may see more bison than people on two scenic drives and several long trails

3. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (Colorado)

There are no official trails up this sand mountain (plus, pick up a free permit to camp on the dunes)

2. Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Texas)

Skip the trail to the peak and instead hike Dog Canyon and the Permian Reef Geology Trail

…and finally our #1 National Park for social distancing:

1. Capitol Reef National Park (Utah)

The numerous trails and canyons have encouraged us to return often to this isolated park

Honorable Mentions

Isle Royale National Park (Michigan)

Other than on the ferry or floatplane flight, there is plenty of room to explore this island

Everglades National Park (Florida)

Avoid the few trails and get into your canoe to experience the park (but prepare for bugs)

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve (Alaska)

It should be easy to find space in this rarely visited park where the sun never sets in summer

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.