Page 1




Editors Randy Johnson Kurt Repanshek art director Courtney Cooper


Essential Friends + Gateways Look at the vital role friends groups, trusts, foundations, cooperating associations, and gateway communities play in the national parks.


Trust for the National Mall Nothing better conveys the diversity of the park system, or its transcendent importance to the nation, than the National Mall and Memorial Parks.


editorial intern Haley Hepburn Contributing photographers Marco Crupi— Deby Dixon— Rebecca Latson— Stephen Brown— Mike Buchheit—


Grand Canyon Association Interpreting the Grand Canyon is no easy job, but the Grand Canyon Association carves out the task.


Technology in the Parks New and evolving technologies are bringing more enjoyment, and citizen support, to the national parks.

Where will you retire? Long for a national park in your retirement backyard? For many people, including Connie and Dave Hopkins, the perfect gateway to retirement is a national park gateway town.


Pigeon Forge, Tennessee What could be better than combining the Great Smokies, America’s most visited national park, with an iconic gateway to summer fun in the South?

Friends of Acadia National Park With the approaching centennials of the National Park Service and Acadia National Park, Friends of Acadia has an eye on the second 100 years.


Natchez Trace Compact From Nashville to Natchez, you’ll enjoy an incredible experience thanks to the Natchez Trace Compact.


Yellowstone Park Foundation Preserving ‘Wonderland’ is an on-theground, daily mission of the Yellowstone Park Foundation.


Campground Secrets in the Parks Snagging a campsite in a national park campground can be a challenge.


West Yellowstone For more than a century, this classic Montana town has been a key jumping off point for a once-in-a-lifetime visit to the world’s first national park.


Contributing Photographers



The National Park Service Randy Johnson— Kurt Repanshek—



16 founder, editor-in-chief Kurt Repanshek travel editor Randy Johnson

20 22

Kurt Repanshek

e d i t o rs’

Randy Johnson

Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation Innovations being introduced by the Foundation on America’s most scenic road are finding their way all over the nation. Boone area, North Carolina The scenery and attractions of the lofty Blue Ridge Mountain bastion called the High Country are a pinnacle of the Parkway experience. Glacier National Park Conservancy This year’s merger of the Glacier National Park Fund and the Glacier Association produced a stronger organization working on behalf of Glacier National Park.

n o te

Essential Friends + Gateways is a collaboration between National Parks Traveler and a core group of national park foundations, cooperating associations, trusts, friends groups, and gateway communities aimed at enhancing and furthering the now nationally significant role of these organizations and entities in the preservation and enjoyment of our parks. National Parks Traveler, published by National Park Advocates, LLC, takes to heart the mission of preserving and enjoying parks and promoting these groups. National Park Advocates, LLC, P.O. Box 980452, Park City, Utah, 84098. 2013 Essential Friends + Gateways. All rights reserved. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher.

on the cover Acadia National Park gets the country’s earliest sunrise much of the year. Marco Crupi captured that dazzling glow from Boulder Beach looking towards Otter Cove.


Support the National Parks

Essential Friends + Gateways Now is the Time to Savor, and Support, our National Parks Budgetary shortfalls loom like potholes on the road to the National Park Service’s 2016 centennial celebration. Campgrounds in the Smokies have closed, tours at Mammoth Cave canceled, and Yellowstone would have opened later than usual this spring— without the aid of its gateway towns.

Yellowstone National Park Yellowstone Park Foundation Headquarters in Bozeman, MT


hose are just a few examples of how the federal budget crisis has impacted the world’s greatest park system. Yet thanks to the sweat, ingenuity, and charitable dollars raised and distributed by friends groups from coast-to-coast, the parks are managing. Trail maintenance is being covered in some parks, youth programs taken care of in others and, despite the loss of more than 1,000 seasonal rangers and 900 permanent positions in the Park Service, the sheer inspiration of the park experience continues to be accessible and enjoyed throughout the nation. When the National Park Service can’t fully meet its commitment to preserve the parks due to budgetary duress, two essential supporters jump in to fill the void: the friends groups, cooperating associations, trusts, and foundations that bolster park funding and programs, and the gateway communities that support the parks and add to the national park experience in so many ways.

Glacier National Park

Acadia National Park

Glacier National Park Conservancy Headquarters in Columbia Falls, MT

Friends of Acadia Headquarters in Bar Harbor, ME

Pigeon Forge, TN Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains

National Mall

West Yellowstone, MT

Trust for the National Mall Headquarters in Washington, DC

Gateway to Yellowstone

Grand Canyon National Park Grand Canyon Association Headquarters in Grand Canyon Village, AZ

Blue Ridge Parkway Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation Headquarters in Winston-Salem, NC

Natchez Trace Parkway

Boone Area, NC

The parkway runs from Natchez, MS, to Nashville, TN Supported by the Natchez Trace Compact, Inc.

Gateway to the Blue Ridge Parkway

Where are all the other national parks? Visit to view a complete listing. 2


Friends Of The Parks Anyone passionate about our national parks knows that today is a time of national hardship for the National Park System. How timely it is that we’re simultaneously seeing the rise of what may be our “Second Best Idea” in the form of friends groups, cooperating associations, trusts, and foundations that support our parks. These “essential friends” have never served a more important role. Across the nation, millions of dollars are raised by these organizations and put to work in the parks to supplement, and complement, park efforts. Wildlife research is made possible in places such as Glacier and Yellowstone, trails are kept up in Acadia and the Grand Canyon, youth and teacher outreach is made possible along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Cooperating associations provide interpretive materials in the form of guidebooks, trail maps, and natural history publications. The work of these organizations is a nationally significant but largely behindthe-scenes story. National park friends groups are nothing less than a tapestry of “local” movements having nationwide impact. They’re the biggest national story many people don’t recognize...but one they benefit from on every park visit.

Essential Gateways The sad irony about ongoing national park budget cuts is the drain on local economies. Studies show every federal dollar spent on our parks generates $4 of economic impact in tourism, money drawn into often small gateway communities throughout the most rural and even isolated parts of our country. That economic impact has made a lot of news lately. But turn that around for a moment and consider the impact of gateway towns on national parks. Charming gateway communities play a tremendous role in the experience of national parks. In actuality, the better the gateway town, the better the national park experience. Gateway towns are essential parts of the park experience, not just as places to eat and sleep, but as destinations themselves, where an entire, unique spectrum of attractions and side trips expands a national park vacation. But that’s just how park gateways affect

visitors. These vibrant communities also step up for the parks, as hotbeds of support for park friends groups, and also by lending a direct hand, as Yellowstone’s gateways did to remove snow and open the park this spring. There’s a real experience waiting for you this summer—an essential, inspiring pairing of a great national park and its great gateways. In Essential Friends + Gateways, National Parks Traveler brings you that delightful combo, with a little help from locals who are passionate about their parks—and about protecting and preserving them.

Take The Next Step Park friends, trusts, and foundations all hold their parks in the highest esteem, but the importance of this work hits home when you read Steve and Macrina Galloway’s inspiring story on page 6. This husband and wife team of Vietnam veterans serve as volunteer docents for the Trust for the National Mall. As the Galloways interact with vets at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, or the WW II Memorial, it’s readily understandable why they might say they’re “deeply honored to do this work.” But there’s a larger truth in the Galloways’ work—and the efforts of anyone who volunteers for parks. Some might say the National Mall and its sacred monuments are not just “another national park”—but neither are all those other units of the National Park System. In reality, all lie at the heart of our heritage. The National Park System is full of national battlefields, military parks, historic, and other significant sites. Even “traditional” national parks are places of overarching national and natural significance. In these times of budgetary decline for “America’s Best Idea”—every American should feel moved to make a personal passion out of their favorite park, whether it celebrates our country’s natural beauty or bravery in the battle to protect our highest ideals. We owe preservation, and consecration, to both. In lieu of national consensus on funding for our parks, it is time to act as individuals. This summer, while you’re sampling the essentially American experience of our national parks,we urge you to join the ranks of their increasingly essential friends.

Every American should feel moved to make a personal passion out of their favorite park, whether it celebrates our country’s natural beauty or bravery in the battle to protect our highest ideals. We owe preservation, and consecration, to both.

Connect with National Parks Traveler on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter! Share how you experience our national parks by posting your favorite vacation story or sharing a photo. Join in the conversation and keep up-to-date on park news around the country. NationalParksTraveler @ParksTraveler National Parks Traveler NPT Flickr album


The Trust for the National Mall:

New Efforts to Save Our Icons


he term “national park” has a kneejerk meaning to many—only the clued-in know how diverse “units” of the park system really are. Towering Half Dome in Yosemite National Park isn’t the only grand granite monument protected by the National Park Service—and you don’t even need to look beyond the borders of Washington, D.C., to prove it. Nothing better conveys the diversity of the park system, or its transcendent importance to the nation, than the National Mall and Memorial Parks. This massive urban public space stretches two miles from the Lincoln Memorial to Union Square below the U.S. Capitol. It encompasses more than 700 acres and includes more than 150 specific memorials and historic sites. The stirring monuments in this park are visited by more than 25 million people a year. Half of all Americans will visit in their lifetime.

A Monumental Movement

The Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol are key focal points of the National Mall. Photo by Stephen R. Brown, whose poignant and inspiring images of the Mall can be found in his books, Jewel of the Mall, World War II Memorial Book, and DC Photo Book.



Even with global status, the Mall’s official “friends’ group,” the Trust for the National Mall, only got its start in 2007. “We’ve always envisioned a twofold mission,” says Trust President Caroline Cunningham, “working side by side with the National Park Service to restore and improve the National Mall, and education.” Both goals got off with a bang in 2007 when “we’d been in existence for six months and the Park Service asked if we could give $1.1 million to develop a new sign system for the Mall. At that point,” says Ms. Cunningham, “we had very few donors and didn’t even know if we could raise the money!” The project involved more than just replacing signs. “The Mall had become cluttered with signs from all these different agencies,” Ms. Cunningham says. “The idea was to take all that down, create an overarching approach with a single system that addressed the needs of the visitor, whether they were walking onto the Mall or whether they wanted to find something outside the Mall.” The Trust raised the money, and working with the National Park Service and other agencies, re-conceptualized the signage

by 2009. A year-and-a-half later the project was done.


A Mission From Sign Madness

Training is key. Each volunteer goes through a month-long program on four Saturdays for a total of 32 hours of instruction. Part of that is field training where docents interact with visitors. General safety training from the American Red Cross is another component. Representatives from the Smithsonian Institution and National Gallery of Art speak about art on the Mall and the symbolism of the iconic monuments. The Trust’s president is particularly pleased that “existing VIPs are invited to attend the sessions if they wish more training. We’ve actually had some cross-pollination between the longtime place-based volunteers and the new docents, and that’s been tremendously helpful,” she says. Best of all, the Trust has called on “one of our great sponsors,” Ritz-Carlton Hotels, “for customer service training,” says Ms. Cunningham. The upscale global hotel chain is renowned not only for its own cutting edge customer service—but also for the training that achieves it. Personalized contact with a Roving Docent is just the start of the Trust’s efforts to support the park in visitor contact and education. New efforts about to get underway are heading into cyberspace.

Looking back, it’s apparent one of the Trust’s first initiatives actually sparked one of its most innovative programs. “Maybe that’s why we’ve been successful,” Ms. Cunningham says. “Rather than dividing all the signs up between agencies, as in the past, we see things in an organic way, see things working together, through the lens of the visitor experience.” Anybody who’s stood on a street corner on the National Mall trying to orient a map knows just how confusing these hundreds of iconic acres of bustle can be. The National Mall’s streamlined signage has helped, but the real service is all “those wonderful, yellow-clad volunteers in parks who serve as roving docents the Park Service and the Trust have added, people the public can trust to give them accurate information, a map, and even some history,” says Ms. Cunningham.

A Flash of Insight The Trust knew the National Park Service already had a successful and robust Volunteers in Parks (VIP) program based at many popular sites on the Mall. “Given the fact that the Mall is so spread out and the number of visitors so high, we partnered with the park to expand volunteer interaction with visitors beyond the specific locations of monuments,” Ms. Cunningham says. The VIP Roving Docent Program was born early in 2012 with seed grants from the Boeing Corporation and the Bernstein Family Foundation. Taking a cue from the phasing out of agency-specific signs, the Trust and the park reasoned that “if we could train volunteers about the entire experience—the way the visitor actually interacts with the space—people would see it as one big place to enjoy,” Ms. Cunningham says. The Park Service targeted the expanse between 3rd and 14th streets where sitebased VIPs aren’t stationed. The docents “interact with guests at the Metro, where the majority of visitors arrive, and at bus drop-off areas. They’re greeting guests, sharing directions—or what’s going on at the Smithsonian.” Ms. Cunningham says the goal was to, “make the Mall a much more integrated experience by knitting together disparate parts of the park.” That’s a pretty lofty bar to set for volunteers but, says Ms. Cunningham, “The people we’re recruiting as docents are amazing, a tremendous group of dedicated

Five-Star Customer Service

A Park Service Birthday Initiative The Trust is aiming high to celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service in 2016. The Park Service prepared a National Mall Plan from 2006-2010 that selected five major areas in need of major improvement. The Trust has targeted two of those projects for restoration—Constitution Gardens and the Washington Monument grounds at Sylvan Theater. A design competition for the changes was completed in 2011, and in May of this year, “we’ll start moving forward trying to get one substantially completed by 2016,” says the Trust’s president. “It’s going to be a tall order, but as soon as we get one project completed, we’ll turn to the next.” Given that ambitious goal and the Trust’s youth, “we turned first to the places where it would be easiest to raise funds and connect donors to the park,” Ms. Cunningham says. “So far they’ve principally been corporations, foundations and people who have the wherewithal to contribute large sums to the park.” Early success, she says, stems from the Trust’s “credibility as a new organization—based not only on great support

Best Kept Secrets: If anybody has the inside track on doing the Mall right, it’s the Trust’s Roving Docents. Bus A Tour: “We always recommend what we do in Europe,” says Roving Docent Steve Galloway. “Take a sightseeing bus tour. They’re a great way to see the city, get oriented, and know how to budget your time later, especially in the heat of July and August.” Focus: Unless you run by each of them you’re just not going to see five museums on the Mall in one day. Each museum deserves a half-day. (Or, research ahead and go directly to the art or artifacts you must see in each.) Walk A Loop: The Mall is for walkers—and it is easy to craft a big loop walk past all the monuments you want to see. Connect the dots and go for it! Make It Metro: Parking can be a nightmare. Use the Metro to and from your hotel. from National Park Service but also from the highest levels of the Department of the Interior.”

People, to Help the People’s Park The fundraising net will get wider in 2013. “It’s important to me personally to develop grass-roots giving,” Ms. Cunningham explains. “I very much believe this is the people’s park, so this fall, we’re going to launch a formal Friends of the National Mall program aimed at small donors.” Part of the impetus behind the effort is the size of the problem. “The last time the National Mall saw an infusion of capital for its restoration was 40 years ago,” says Ms. Cunningham. “Imagine not investing in your home for 40 years? That’s where the Mall is now. If you look closely you can see how much damage there is and how much work is needed.” The Trust for the National Mall has set out to both spotlight those problems and convince Americans how important it is to get involved and support the Mall’s restoration. “The time is now,” Ms. Cunningham says, “to be sure that the next generation has the benefit of these beautiful icons.”


Roving Docents Offer Insight and Inspiration on the National Mall


ou could say, I met my future wife courtesy of the 1968 Tet Offensive,” says Steve Galloway. “Steve was not my patient,” says his wife Macrina, then a nurse at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, where he was recovering from being wounded in the Mekong Delta. But, she says, “one day he said I failed to salute him when we passed in the hall. We knew each other just a few weeks before I was on my way to Vietnam.” They didn’t see each other again till 2-anda-half years later. Macrina says, “This marriage was meant to be.” Adds Steve with a laugh, “I offered to buy her a drink—and here we are 42 years later. That’s a pretty hefty bar bill!” Fast forward to 2013. The couple live in Stafford, Virginia, south of Washington, D.C., where they serve as Roving Docents for the Trust for the National Mall. “Having served in the Vietnam War and losing a brother there,” says Macrina, “the National Mall is a sacred place with a very special meaning for me.” The couple understandably gravitate to this iconic public space in Washington where so many monuments honor the fallen. Macrina finds herself talking to visitors at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (her brother, Captain Joseph Tomko, is listed on the memorial’s panel 21E). Steve usually goes to the World War II Memorial. The retired couple dodge the D.C. commute—“from 45 minutes to 3 hours”—by working from late morning to mid-afternoon.

Help For The Lost On the huge, destination-dotted expanse of the Mall, Steve’s and Macrina’s duties run the gamut, but a lot of it involves answering questions. “When you see somebody walking around with a dazed look,” he continues, “just ask and people will tell you what they need. Most just want help to get where they’re going.” Not surprisingly, says Steve, “we’re always asked the following questions, in order— where are the bathrooms, where can I buy batteries, where can I get something to eat, where do I get the Metro? But the real shocker is how many people are in search of the Einstein statue. I don’t know why that is,” he says. “We get that a phenomenal number of times.” Whatever the questions, the couple have answers, maps, and other materials to help. 6


Steve and Macrina Galloway serve as Roving Docents for the Trust for the National Mall, answering visitors’ questions, offering directions and giving tours. The docents are particulary easy to spot in their bright yellow jackets. Here, Macrina aids visitors.

Off the Beaten Path On the National Mall •

Visit the memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence on the small island in the lake in Constitution Gardens. The Galloways, Mall Roving Docents, say people walk right by the gardens “without knowing what they’re looking at.”

Visit the D.C. War Memorial (only monument to WWI on the Mall, and recently renovated.)

Fishing in Constitution Gardens lake. Be sure to bring your own pole.

A typo is visible in President Lincoln’s second inaugural address. While carving, the engraver accidentally chiseled an ‘E’ instead of an ‘F’ in the word “future.”

Kilroy was here. The popular cartoon graffiti from WWII—a sign that American soldiers had come through—appears in two inconspicuous places at the World War II Memorial.

NationalMall Tours And Inspiration

Steve often gives tours at the World War II Memorial. “This past weekend I led 60 kids and we did seven monuments in two hours, sort of like Europe in a day. If that’s what they want, that’s what we’re here for,” he says. There’s something special about interpreting the monument to the war fought by the Greatest Generation. “The WW II veterans are in their late-80s and diminishing daily,” Steve says. “The Honor Flight Network (that provides free commerical flights to World War II vets) makes it easy for them to visit. You may get one bus a day, but I’ve seen nine, 10 or 14 buses, all stacked up with veterans.” “One day,” says Steve, “a group of women arrived who’d been training pilots in WW II. Then a group of male pilots came in—and it turned out the women were the instructors who’d trained these guys! You don’t plan things like that. It was like watching 60 years disappear.” At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Macrina often sees, “someone, usually a guy, right at the wall and getting emotional, and I just kind of go up and start talking to them. I met a guy recently who was there

for the first time with his wife and a friend, and he found his buddy’s name on the Memorial. He’d been in the Air Force, calling in air strikes. When his buddy got shot, he carried him out a mile. That was an emotional situation. Meeting an Army nurse, they know I understand.” The Mall is a place of memories. “Every few years, my Vietnam hospital, the 95th Evac Hospital, has a reunion somewhere and we get about 70 people; doctors, nurses, corpsmen. For 2011, Steve and I thought we’d better get everybody back to D.C. for a reunion. We laid roses and wreaths at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and at the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. That’s why these monuments are here,” Macrina says. “So we can remember as individuals and as a nation. This place is the backdrop of our lives.”

It’s Your Turn To Make A Difference “These monuments are your history,” Steve says, “and they’re preserved for a reason. People need to understand that funding for the National Park Service is minuscule compared to the overall federal budget. If you think the park staffs are there for the money—think again. I see every day how important volunteers—and funding from groups like the Trust for the

National Mall, the official non-profit partner of the National Parks Service—are to that dedicated nucleus of park staff.” “You can’t replace the Mall or any other national park,” he says. “If you don’t get involved, don’t take an interest, our heritage will be gone and we’ll never get it back. You can wax philosophical all you want, but that’ll be how it is.” For Steve and Macrina, the sense of satisfaction gained from working as docents on the National Mall is undoubtedly different than it might be for someone else working in another kind of park. But a volunteer’s motives are pretty universal— and there are perks. “There’s nothing better than the Lincoln Memorial in the morning, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial after a rain or Iwo Jima after dark,” says Steve. “And did I mention those really, really bright canary yellow jackets we get to wear?” asks Macrina. “They’re worth the effort, alone. “But seriously,” she adds, “we’re here, and we’re honored to do this work. It’s fun, we enjoy it. We can still walk! And we want to make a difference while we’re young enough to do it.”

The Home of America’s History, Heroes and Hope Needs Your Help.

On the National Mall, weeds grow where dreams once flourished. Great memorials are poorly maintained. Steps are crumbling. Waters are polluted. And basic amenities are lacking. The Trust for the National Mall is the official non-profit partner of the National Park Service dedicated to bringing sustainable design, capital improvements, and 21st-century learning tools to America’s most-visited National Park. We’ve begun the first major restoration of the National Mall in nearly 40 years. Help us rebuild it for future generations.




Dave and Connie Hopkins enjoy the view from their “backyard,� Pray Lake in Glacier National Park. Photo courtesy of the Hopkins.


Just another beautiful day in your neighborhood...

Salt Pond Bay, Virgin Islands National Park / Kurt Repanshek

Grand Canyon / Rebecca Latson

Starry Acadia / Marco Crupi

Blue Ridge Parkway / Randy Johnson





f you’re enticed by retirement near a national park, your options swell to 401. But how do you decide which park is perfect for you? If you like geysers and bison, a home near Yellowstone in northwest Wyoming is for you.  Like to hike? Then Great Smoky Mountains, with some 900 miles of trails crisscrossing the park that straddles North Carolina and Tennessee, should suit you. Southern hospitality and a long strip of asphalt to cruise through the bucolic countryside? Locations abound along the 444-mile-long Natchez Trace Parkway. A mix of mountains and coastline? Look at the neighborhood surrounding Acadia National Park. But along with considering your preferred park, you must work through a host of other issues, from real estate and taxes to Internet service and cabin fever. Dave and Connie Hopkins, for example, were torn between Glacier National Park in northern Montana and Yellowstone in northwest Wyoming. They always knew they would retire in the Rockies somewhere, but filtering out the possibilities required homework. A lot of homework. Finding that perfect retirement home is one thing, says Connie, but when you’re living on a fixed income, rising or steep taxes can make that dream home unaffordable in the long run. “We both love the mountains and knew that one day we wanted to retire in a place where we could wake up each morning and look out the windows to magnificent views,” she says. “We wanted a small amount of property (under 5 acres) and lots of trees. Our two favorite national parks are Yellowstone and Glacier, so we wanted to move to an area where we could make the drive in a reasonable amount of time.” What else factored into their decision? They wanted a setting less crowded than what they knew in pre-retirement Texas, access to quality medical care, of course, a nearby population center for when they needed a dose of society, and reasonable taxes. Once they laid out their priorities, the couple did their homework. Five years be-

fore they settled on their dream home, they began searching the areas under consideration for property to build on as well as pre-existing homes for sale. “After investing a lot of time and energy looking at literally hundreds and hundreds of listings, we realized our dream of retiring out West wasn’t a whim; if it were, I would’ve stopped looking after the first year!” says Connie. Locating a realtor, one who understands your needs and wants, is a logical step in the process. The couple located one who both understood their desires and budget and was well-familiar with the area where they wanted to retire. “He was aware of potential property listings in the area that I was not, 1,800 miles away! He’s the hands-on-guy, doing the leg work that I was unable to do,” Connie explains. “A good realtor is an asset, helping you to make good decisions and ‘live the dream.’” If you’re considering park backdrops for retirement, the Hopkinses urge you to list the factors important to you. “What are the things that you will not be able to live without? You make absolutely, positively certain that ‘Gateway Town USA’ has those things that you cannot live without. Minimize the risk of unpleasant surprises,” says Connie. “When you use good judgment and make wise decisions when it comes to all the major issues, you’ll find it much easier to deal with the unexpected minor issues that will inevitably surface over the course of time.  “There’s the old adage, ‘luck favors the prepared.’ Do not leave things to chance; take all the time that is needed to complete your homework and be prepared.” A pleasant surprise for the couple was today’s mortgage climate. Their realtor found a home in foreclosure, held by a bank that wanted to “get it off their books.” They wound up paying roughly half what the house was appraised for in 2007, before the market crashed. After all that hard work, the Hopkins’ decision was easy: Columbia Falls, Montana, the proverbial stone’s throw away from Glacier National Park’s west entrance.

Either way you look at ‘retirement’–after a long career, or just a long year–national park gateway communities are an attractive, rejuvenating, secret setting. These are places where “a there” is definitely “there”–the park–and there’s an enviable lifestyle to go with it. Even a short-term vacationer can sink into a real experience–in the park and its gateway–if you take a hint from the locals. With so many units of the National Park System, we don’t have the space to tackle every possible gateway to retirement. But we offer the following considerations you should take to heart before closing on your “dream” property: • If you’re moving from a big city to a tiny town, brace yourself for culture shock. There might not be a Starbucks in the area, and high-speed Internet service could come at a premium, if it’s available at all. • Some folks set the stage for retirement by buying their retirement home before leaving work, which is the approach the Connie and Dave took. If you live close enough to your gateway goal, you can be paying for your house while the bucks are still flowing, getting settled in the local culture (making friends, building a future), and even realizing some vacation rental income. • Moving across the country could move you into an entirely different climate, such as going from moist, humid West Coast to the dry and high Rocky Mountains. That kind of thing takes getting used to in terms of the thinner air and lack of humidity. • If you’re hoping to work in semi-retirement, you might either be hard-pressed to find a job that suits you, or one that comes close to your previous income.

Part of your homework should include searching out magazines, such as Money and Forbes, that annually list best retirement locations. Those locations might not be near national parks, but the factors those publications raise can help you with your homework. Finally, see if you can find a copy of Small Town Bound by John Clayton. It addresses the big move from the big city to rural America, and just might help you narrow down the gateway towns best-suited for you.


Cobblestone beaches and gorgeous sunrises are hallmarks of Acadia National Park / Marco Crupi

Friends of Acadia:

Working On The Next 100 Years


etirement meant Cookie Horner could go back to work, for her favorite national park, Acadia. “I couldn’t wait to join the trail crew when I retired nearly seven years ago,” recalls Ms. Horner, a member of Friends of Acadia (FOA) who spends a good bit of her retirement in the park. “There is tremendous satisfaction in seeing what you have accomplished and made to look more beautiful, all while being out in the park.” It’s a never-ending yet always rewarding task, caring for a national park that is something of a cross between the sprawling landscape parks of the West and the somewhat smaller, more readily accessible Eastern parks. With its mixed pine and hardwood forests, cobbled shorelines, and granite outcrops on Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park offers visitors relaxing carriage paths and meandering footpaths, some of which date to the late 19th century. Charming towns that border the park complete this bucolic setting. “There is great camaraderie among the volunteers,



and we know how much our efforts are appreciated by the park. Acadia National Park staff are always willing to consider our suggestions about what we see that needs doing,” says Ms. Horner. “Volunteer crew leaders meet several times a season with park staff, including the superintendent, to discuss the park’s plans for projects we can help with, and we feel very much a part of the stewardship team.” That stewardship is vital every day, but takes on a somewhat higher profile as both the park and the National Park Service close in on their centennials in 2016. Birthday parties often quickly are forgotten once the cake is eaten and the presents opened, even if they’re in celebration of a centennial. That’s why Friends of Acadia already is looking toward Acadia’s second century. FOA’s goal is not merely to celebrate the centennial— though that will be a wonderful party—but to ensure the park continues to thrive through its second 100 years as one of the National Park System’s icons. That


Above from left: Mount Desert Island lupines / Kurt Repanshek; Acadian seascape / Marco Crupi; Inland waters / Marco Crupi

Friends of Acadia volunteers haul logs / Friends of Acadia

task is more complex than you might imagine. In 2012, more than 2.4 million visitors came to the park, which covers fewer than 50,000 acres. Working to help the park withstand the impacts of such crowds is key in Friends of Acadia’s planning. One of the most obvious solutions Friends of Acadia is working on concerns the sustainability side of park visitation. FOA long has supported the Island Explorer, the park’s propane-fueled shuttle bus system. The shuttles run from midJune through Columbus Day, offering rides not just to various stops in Acadia but also into Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor, and even to Winter Harbor, Prospect Harbor and Birch Harbor on the way to the park’s Schoodic Point. Building on the success of the Island Explorer, which has shuttled more than 4 million parkgoers over the years, Friends of Acadia has been a key partner behind the Acadia Gateway Center in Trenton on

the mainland just to the west of Mount Desert Island. The center ties in to the Island Explorer shuttle system, both as a stop and as the maintenance facility for the buses. Friends of Acadia and the Acadia Gateway Center partnership organizations currently are working on the second phase of this facility, which will feature a welcome center and staging area for the shuttle buses. Inside the park, Friends of Acadia continues to help the Park Service maintain the historic trails and carriage roads, relying on funds generated through its Carriage Road Endowment, the Acadia Trails Forever Program, and the sweat and determination of thousands of volunteers. The group also is working with teenagers in the surrounding communities to develop educational and conservation programs aimed at younger generations. Through the Acadia Youth Technology Team, Acadia Quest, and the Schoodic Education Adventures, Friends of Acadia

Tips to Avoid the Crowds: Getting out earlier in the morning is a great way to flee the pack. Often overlooked are the park’s Schoodic Peninsula and Isle au Haut. Visit those areas and solitude will surround you. Try walking into the park from Bar Harbor via the Great Meadow Loop and new Kebo Connector Trail. Best yet, visit Acadia during the off-season. It’s so easy to avoid crowds on the hiking trails if you get just a little off the “beaten path” in either trail choice or time of day. Try the “Triad,” the western side of Mount Desert Island, and any trails at Schoodic or Isle au Haut; pretty much all the trails early or late in the day.


5 Overlooked Places Little Hunters Beach. We hate to spread word of this secluded spot on the park’s coast, just below the Outer Island Overlook roughly 12.4 miles down the Park Loop Road. While the Atlantic swells come ashore on the beach, pounding the round cobbles at high tide, spruce trees on the backing cliffs sway in the winds. Pretty Marsh Picnic Area. This is the smallest picnicking area in the park, with just 11 tables and eight fireplaces. Located on the western shores of Mount Desert Island, the heavily wooded setting overlooks Pretty Marsh and offers water access if you have a kayak or canoe. Wild Gardens of Acadia. Gardeners, botanists, and even birders love the Wild Gardens of Acadia. Though less than an acre, the landscape is lush with hundreds of plant species native to the park. The plants—Evening primrose, Trout Lily, Rosybells, Bog Orchids, Scullcaps and more—are labeled, too, for easy identification. The vibrant vegetation, and the tranquil stream, are a powerful lure for birds. Park Loop Road in Winter. The closed sections are great for bicycling or walking if no ice covers the road, and the raw, wintry look of the park and the Atlantic are unforgettable. If snow does intrude, simply don some cross-country skis and skim along. Wonderland. This overlooked stretch along the southern toe of Mount Desert Island features both forest running down almost to the water and rock aquariums—tidal pools that fascinate young and old.

FOA volunteers on the Duck Brook Village Connector Trail / Friends of Acadia

works throughout the year to nurture tomorrow’s national park stewards. Investments made in the park’s wild side by the Friends of Acadia can be seen through the Acadia Land Legacy partnership, which helps the Park Service acquire privately owned properties within Acadia’s boundaries; water-quality monitoring projects; and support of the peregrine and raptor monitoring programs. The work can be exhausting, but also inspiring. “As summer visitors join us, we often have as many as 40 people show up to work throughout July and August,” points out Ms. Horner. “The most amazing thing is the individuals and families who give one or more days of their vacation to volunteer in the park.”

Sweating And Having Fun For Acadia What do Friends of Acadia volunteers do? They dispense both sweat and information, work to maintain trails and nurture future advocates for the National Park System, and enjoy the sweet smell of pine forests and the refreshing splash of the Atlantic on hot summer days. While some volunteers work to keep hiking trails open and safe for visitors, others might tend to the Wild Gardens of Acadia or sit behind an FOA membership table at the Jordan Pond House to explain the group’s role and value to the park. “We pick up several hundred new members a year from the table!” says Ms. Horner, a member of FOA’s board of directors. “There is also opportunity for volunteers to work at the Wild Gardens of FOA volunteers at work creating a bogwalk / Friends of Acadia



Acadia as docents or gardeners, at the Acadia National Park sign shop making and painting signposts, signs, picnic tables, etc., in the Friends of Acadia office doing all kinds of things such as data entry and office mailings. “There are some in the core group of volunteers who have been at it for 20 years or more, and Friends of Acadia is going on 27!” Come the Fourth of July, the volunteers get to strut their stuff. “One of the most fun things is the volunteer trail crew leaders’ participation in the huge annual 4th of July parade in Bar Harbor. We have what we call the FOA ‘Imprecision Drill Team,’, and we march with our rakes, wheelbarrows, hoes, pole saws doing ridiculous ‘routines’ wearing bright orange T-shirts,” Ms. Horner says. “We are always a favorite of the parade watchers and receive huge cheers which again, reflects that visitors appreciate the park and see the results of the stewardship that a friends group can provide.”

Top 5 Trails-Less-Traveled: Perpendicular Trail: This 2-mile hike is not for those concerned about heights, as at times you’re negotiating iron rungs and steep granite steps. You are treated, though, to sweeping views of south end of Long Pond. Beachcroft Trail up to Champlain Summit: This trail starts on lovely granite pavingstones and ends on rocky, open slopes. Stop midway at Huguenot Head for a perfect hike for young children, or go all the way up for stunning 360-degree views. The roundtrip mileage is 2.4 miles. Homans Path on Dorr Mountain: Not quite 3 miles roundtrip, this challenging route dates to 1915. Along the way you’ll enjoy navigating the granite outcrops, ledges, and passages Acadia is famous for. North Bubble Mountain: The shy sibling of the Bubble Mountains, this moderate hike offers views of Acadia’s interior mountains. Head over the summit and down to the Eagle Lake carriage roads for a variety of loops. Acadia Mountain and Valley Cove Trail: This 2.5-mile roundtrip offers sweeping views of Somes Sound on the interior of Mount Desert Island. Hit this trail in midsummer and you just might find some ripe blueberries to power you on.

Preserving and protecting Acadia National Park for current and future generations

join, volunteer, make a difference

43 COTTAGE STREET, BAR HARBOR, MAINE | Roger Thompson photo


The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation: Long on Road, Innovation, and Impact


hen Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Phil Francis retired this year, he left after losing “25 percent of our staff in ten years” and sequestration chopping another 5 percent off his 2013 budget. Superintendent Francis said the National Park Service budget crisis would “require the federal government to rethink funding our parks—friends groups and foundations will need a new vision for a new role in the near future...” The superintendent might have left, but the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is still backing the Parkway and, in fact, inventing that new and innovative role he talked about. In 2012, the Foundation’s funding for park projects totaled $650,000 and included such innovations as a state-of-the-art Blue Ridge Parkway Communications Center that links national park offices with local law enforcement and emergency services along the 500-mile route long prone to radio dead zones. Other projects include historic restoration and fully accessible trail improvements. The Foundation’s giving for 2013 is up to $750,000—with a variety of innovative programs that flesh out Superintendent Francis’ prognosis for the future.

Blue Ridge Music Center

Evidence of early settlers is everywhere in the Parkway’s Doughton Park, just north of Boone, North Carolina. The Caudill family, Lenny, Larry, and Lenny’s son Alex (L to R), gaze at one of the chimneys in the area. Every year, they journey far into the park to Caudill Cabin, more than a century-old and still standing. Lenny and Larry’s great grandfather built the cabin and their grandfather was born there. Today, no one lives in this once busy valley below the Parkway / Randy Johnson



“The Blue Ridge Music Center is one of the most musical places on Earth,” says the Foundation’s Erynn Marshall. “It’s nothing less than an epicenter of traditional music.” This year, at the request of the former superintendent, the Foundation jumps in to support one of the Parkway’s most authentic cultural attractions. This landmark Music Center at Milepost 213 straddles the North Carolina-Virginia state line. It also lies at the crossroads of two heritage music trails in a region known as the birthplace of America’s traditional music. Spend any time here and you’ll quickly appreciate the Foundation’s commitment to keeping the center’s impressive musical

programming both stellar and sustainable. On the stellar side, Roseanne Cash and John Leventhaller are among big names in this summer’s world-class concert series, a series held in a beautiful, high-tech outdoor amphitheater prone to perfect sunsets. Every day, free sessions of Mid-day Mountain Music find local musicians serenading visitors in rocking chairs overlooking Chestnut Creek (Memorial Day to October, 27th, from 12-4 p.m.). “They’re all volunteers,” Ms. Marshall says, “and many are renowned musicians.” That includes regular performer Bobby Patterson, a Virginia Heritage Award winner and owner of Heritage Records, who sings, plays guitar and banjo. That’s just the start. Ms. Marshall orchestrates a complete schedule of music, dance, and special events featuring a wide variety of music styles and specialties from gospel to TradFest!, a celebration of young mountain musicians on May 25th. This entire facility is about engagement, starting with the Roots of American Music Museum where visitors hear the music, watch rare videos, and discover how the sound evolved through the merging of musical cultures.

The Plates for the Parkway event, June 10-13, 2013, permits Parkway supporters to dine at a variety of restaurants up and down the road and have part of their tab support the Foundation.

“People from the region often leave the museum a little teary-eyed,” Ms. Marshall says. “They tell me the center really offers insight into their own history.”

Parkway Weather Initiative For visitors and Parkway staff alike, “what’s the weather like up there” is the quintessential FAQ on this famously lofty,

Discover Your Journey... THEN HELP US PROTECT IT

climatologically complex arm of New England in the South. To address that, the Foundation is partnering with a North Carolina weather website called Ray’s Weather to bring the Parkway’s sunshine and storms as close as your computer. Ray Russell, a computer science professor at Appalachian State University and chief prognosticator at the Boonebased weather site, proposed the idea. The website launched this spring,, with 18 weather stations and webcams along the Parkway from Montebello, Virginia, to Balsam Gap, North Carolina. The service provides current conditions and custom forecasts all along the route. “The National Park Service is really excited about being able to sit at a desk and see what’s happening on the most isolated parts of the road,” says Liz Redding, the Foundation’s director of communications. “It’ll help visitors, too. Folks down in Asheville often get perturbed when they can’t get to Mount Mitchell because the Parkway is closed. At least now they can watch the blizzard on the website and say, ‘Wow, no wonder

The Blue Ridge Parkway is no ordinary road. With grand mountains on either side, rich Appalachian cultures along the way and stunning landscapes from beginning to end, this is a journey unlike any in the world. With more visitors each year than Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon combined, the Parkway operates on a fraction of their budgets – about $1 per visitor per year. With no entrance fee to offset costs and an aging infrastructure, the Parkway needs our support now more than ever to protect it for today and the future.

Join our Community of Stewards who are committed to preserving the past, enhancing the present and safeguarding the future of America’s Favorite Journey®.


5 Overlooked Spots Ever long to see the spots where few other people pull off the Parkway? Here are hidden gems. Yankee Horse Ridge Parking Area: It’s an odd name for inspiring insight. Take this short path at Milepost 34.4 to Wigwam Falls but pause to ponder the railroad tracks in the woods—one of innumerable logging railroads that carried away the virgin timber. Gwyn Memorial Trail: Pull off on the mysterious “US 221” exit at Milepost 298.6, then turn left into a parking slip for a 0.1-mile walk honoring Rufus Lenoir Gwyn, who helped choose the Parkway’s North Carolina route. You can’t even see this from the road. Great quiet picnic spot. Take the “Old Parkway”: Before the Grandfather Mountain stretch of the Parkway was finished, motorists took a winding detour around the peak between Parkway Mileposts 298 and 305 on US 221, a North Carolina Scenic Byway. You can still do it. In fact, a circuit of US 221 and the now complete Parkway is a nice loop. Orchard at Altapass: A lot of people sail by the Orchard at Altapass. But pull off the Parkway near Milepost 328 into a traditional family-owned heirloom apple business where live music and fun are a fall ritual. And, now there’s a TRACK Trail right on the premises. Side Trip: Flashing south near Pisgah Inn, FSR 816 just looks like a gravel side road. Make the detour at Milepost 420.2 to the border of Shining Rock Wilderness and just 0.4 mile from the first trailhead the Art Loeb Trail tops out at 360-degree views from Black Balsam Knob.


The staff of the Parkway’s Historic Preservation Workshop rebuilds stone walls enclosing the Heart Pond, one of many water features built by early 20th-century industrialist Moses Cone at his Blowing Rock estate / Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation

the road’s closed!’” There’s more than convenience at play here. The Foundation funded the startup cost of cameras, equipment, and installation, and after advertising on the site recoups the private partner’s costs the Foundation will receive an ongoing part of the profits.

Kids In Parks: Massive Track Trails Expansion A year ago, the Foundation’s innovative Kids in Parks program of self-guided TRACK Trails was singled out for a White House “Champions of Change” award. Where do you go from there? Well, you aim to double the number of trails in a single year, says Jason Urroz, who directs the program. Forty-one trails are in place now in North Carolina, Virginia, South Dakota, and Washington, D.C., with an additional 40 trails planned this year. That’s almost one new trail a week in 2013. The Foundation goes about this project by finding mostly existing trails where it installs signing tied to fun, selfguided brochures that entice families into the woods. There’s a website where kids can track their hikes, win prizes, and find other trails to try. The program is


attracting grants and support because the web data literally verifies the excitement and activity being generated by the trails. “The program really inspires travel,” Mr. Urroz says. The trails are aimed at city, state, national, and other parks so “after you’ve hiked a city trail, parents can say, ‘hey, there’s another trail in a state park nearby, let’s try that.’ Then they say, ‘Let’s try the national park next.’” TRACK Trails are what anyone would call an elegant idea. “Our prizes make the trails attractive to kids. They’re self-guided, so no ranger needed. And we collect data to assess success,” Mr. Urroz says. “It’s such a simple concept— but when you package it the way we do, it’s attractive for park users and managers.” Trails for bicyclists, canoeists, kayakers, Nordic skiers and snowshoers are next.

Shifting Strategies The Foundation is also refining its fundraising strategies. Its Parkway Plus Program, subheaded “Eat, Sleep, Donate,” permits guests at participating hotels and restaurants to add a dollar donation to their bill, but “that was really hard

BlueRidgeParkway for some restaurants, such as chains,” Ms. Redding says. So Plates for the Parkway is a four-day event, June 10-13, 2013, where restaurants up and down the road can donate a discreet percentage of their guests’ tab. Another insight surfaced with the Foundation’s effort to fund individual projects, such as resurfacing the boardwalks on the Rough Ridge Trail at Grandfather Mountain. “We used to donate the money and then invite donations on the website and with on-site signs,” says Ms. Redding, “but we’re changing that to make better use of our supporters’ money—and because we have so many great projects.” Now the Foundation will “directly fund the ‘invisible projects,’ the ones that

aren’t’ sexy,” she says. “And for projects that we think people would get excited about, we’ll ask for donations first. We’ve realized that the incentive to donate is less compelling if the project’s already done.” The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is as long on creativity and innovation as its park is long on road. These folks really seem to have it wired—as you’ll see if you call the group’s toll-free number. No, there aren’t 500 extensions for Foundation employees—they’ve each just chosen their favorite Parkway Milepost as their phone number. Whether that’s their favorite Parkway site, the exit they take to get home, or in one case, where a staffer grew up, it’s obvious that Foundation employees carry “America’s Favorite Journey” particularly close to their hearts.

“Our [TRACK Trail] prizes make the trails attractive to kids. They’re self-guided, so no ranger needed. And we collect data to assess success. It’s such a simple concept—but when you package it the way we do, it’s attractive for park users and managers.”

—Jason Urroz, TRACK Trails program director

Children help dedicate a TRACK Trail on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. / BRPF

Blue Ridge Music Center interpretive ranger Janet Bachmann and Erynn Marshall (L to R), the Center’s program manager, lean on each other to make the Center a moving musical experience. The roadside sign that announces mid-day musical concerts. Traditional musicians entertain at the Center’s amphitheater. Top and bottom / BRPF Middle / Randy Johnson


The Boone Area High Country:

A NC Parkway Gateway


he Blue Ridge Parkway is a legendary, and unusual, national park. There’s no better place to experience why than in the northwest corner of North Carolina known as the “High Country.” Here the Parkway, a pristine motor trail that meanders for 469 miles, weaves through a heavily forested mountainscape dotted with welcoming towns at almost any exit. If you tried to touch every town, you’d actually miss the Parkway experience. Reveling in the mile-after-mile meander of this narrow, non-commercialized scenic corridor is, after all, what the trip is all about. But when it is time to stop, pause where the scenery and attractions are as outstanding as the Parkway itself. That’s the perfect definition of the Boone area, the heart of the High Country where the best of the Southern Appalachians is on tap.

Number 1 On Parkway Nature Everything about the High Country is lofty, almost alpine, including spectacular Grandfather Mountain—one of Eastern America’s iconic summits. Grandfather Mountain is operated by a non-profit stewardship foundation. Its mountain climbing motor road leads to awesome views at the Mile-High Swinging Bridge. The Blue Ridge Parkway’s final section, completed in 1987, soars across the flank of Grandfather on the world-famous Linn Cove Viaduct. This span places you in the middle of the greatest vertical drop along the Blue Ridge escarpment, nearly a vertical mile above the Piedmont far below. A one-hour Parkway drive south of Grandfather is Mount Mitchell (6,684 feet), the East’s highest summit (Milepost 355).

A Multifaceted Destination Nature is everywhere, but there are two sides to the High Country. In the north, the Boone area Parkway is bordered by private land and popular resorts. In the south, national forests insulate the road. The High Country resort experience dates to the 1880s, when the lowland rich first fled the summer heat to spark tourism in the mountains. They came for the South’s coolest summer temperatures. A truly hot day in the High Country reaches the low 80s. Sweater weather evenings are the norm. Early hospitality traditions reign at popular century-old hostelries. The grande dame of Blowing Rock is the 1880s Green Park Inn. In Linville, at the base of Grandfather Mountain, the chestnut bark-covered luxury of the Eseeola Lodge is the heart of a national historic district and one of the United States’ first planned resort communities. The shops lining King Street in Boone and Main Street in Blowing Rock epitomize the appeal of the High Country tourist towns. Here “buy local” means handcrafted items, one-of-a-kind works of art, and quirkily curated collections of unique products found in galleries and specialty shops. 20


Canoeing on Price Lake / Randy Johnson

Five Overlooked Boone Area Attractions Wine Tour—The Boone area’s four wineries are winning awards—and sipping vintages beside a dancing stream or overlooking a sunset is a premier pastime, spring, summer, or fall. Take a taste of the High Country home with you—or just back to that cabin in the woods. Great State Parks—Ten minutes from Boone, Elk Knob State Park boasts a gradual trail to one of the best views in the North Carolina mountains. Drive to the top of Mount Jefferson State Park, or climb the South’s most alpine ridge at Grandfather Mountain State Park. Don’t miss New River State Park. Canoeing, tubing, kayaking are primo along this National Wild and Scenic River—and you camp along the river day-after-paddling day. Waterfall Walks—Some of the Appalachian’s best waterfalls are in the High Country. Linville Falls (Milepost 316.4) and Crabtree Falls (Milepost 339.5) are just the start. Wait for that crystal blue day after spring showers! Take a photo with Doc—“Doc” (Arthel) Watson was an icon of American roots and mountain music. He got his start playing for tips on the streets of Boone—and became a globally-recognized guitar master. His hometown loved him and his many local appearances. Have your photo taken with Doc on the downtown Boone bench where he sits, still strumming his guitar. Paddle Price Lake—Thankfully, this summer of sequestration has not claimed the canoe/boat rental concession at Price Lake (Milepost 296), the largest lake on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Rent a canoe, rowboat—or bring your own kayak—and get out there early or late. Grandfather Mountain towers in the distance, campground wood smoke curls along the shore, electric leaves flutter and float in the water while beavers duck into the shadows and disappear.

Museum-quality crafts are a staple. Between the Parkway Craft Center in Moses Cone’s Manor House (Milepost 294) and the stunning artworks at gallery-after-gallery, you’ll be astonished at the vibrancy of Appalachian craftsmanship. Environmental awareness is easy to cultivate on this stretch of the Parkway. The Museum of North Carolina Minerals (Milepost 330.9) is newly renovated and one of the best such exhibits anywhere. Mount Mitchell also has a new nature museum and a new wheelchair-accessible summit tower with horizon-identifying plaques. Just a few miles east of the town of Linville Falls on US 221 is Linville Caverns—North Carolina’s only commercial cavern and a year-round attraction. Blowing Rock’s namesake destination, the Blowing Rock, is a crag with a great view and an Indian legend. It bills itself as “North Carolina’s first travel attraction.” Nearby is Tweetsie Railroad, one of the state’s top family attractions. Bad guys in cowboy hats may rob the train—but this is a national historic landmark steam locomotive. Its tracks led the outside world to the High Country in the late 1800s. Early history is also the focus at Boone’s summer outdoor drama Horn in the West, the inspiring, little-known story of how High Country settlers marched down from their mountains to victory in one of the Revolutionary War’s pivotal battles, King’s Mountain. Blowing Rock’s Art and History Museum is a top-notch venue for local art and history. And yes—Boone town namesake Daniel Boone was an early frequenter of the area. Today Boone is an outdoor-oriented college town that’s home to Appalachian State University, a great greenway trail, and Rocky Knob, a brand new mountain bike park rated a top attraction by a national cycling magazine. The High Country’s strong suit of miles of scenic rural backroads, some of them official state scenic byways, compliment the Parkway and permit loop trips. One side attraction, the village of Valle Crucis, claims the Mast General Store (circa 1880). Charles Kuralt declared it was “America’s premier country store.” Nearby, the Mast Farm Inn is a “Historic Hotel of America” noted for gourmet country fare. Local gourmet food and luxe lodging are a Boone area trend, and they extend to spa hotels. One of them, Westglow, was named by Travel & Leisure magazine as a top destination spa. Factor in tours and tastings at award-winning local wineries and the sensual side of life has its place in the High Country. Shopping, skiing, hiking or biking, you will have an appetite and the Boone area’s diverse dining rivals sophisticated urban options “off the mountain.” Many of these restaurants serve traditional High Country fare, like locally-sourced vegetables, fruit, trout, herbs, even pasta, and grass-fed Watauga beef. Try the Dan’l Boone Inn, a “family-style” favorite.

Outdoor Adventure The High Country epitomizes outdoor adventure. Climb ladders up cliffs on Grandfather Mountain, climb rocks in Linville Gorge, zip-line above forests and meadows, and fish for trout in gushing streams. Appalachian spring fuels waterfalls, whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing and tubing on mountain streams. Fall hikes flame with color, then comes snow and skiing. Boone is a gateway town to the Parkway, but the High Country is such a special place you can almost say the Parkway is a gateway to the Boone area.



The Blue Ridge Parkway Come see why Boone has been a favorite Parkway destination for more than 75 years.


“This is one of the best books I’ve read all year.” –

Available wherever books are sold and at: MOUNTAINEERSBOOKS.ORG


Swiftcurrent Lake / Rebecca Latson

Merging Two Great Groups To Benefit

Glacier National Park


hough the names have changed, as has the logo, the merger of the Glacier National Park Fund and the Glacier Natural History Association creates an organization not only with a shared goal, but with more resources under one roof to reach that goal. Combined, the two non-profit organizations bring revenues from bookstore sales and charitable donations and grants into Glacier National Park for programs as diverse as developing ADA-accessible trails, underwriting wildlife research, and working with local schools to grow native vegetation for use in park restoration projects. The groups’ alliance brings into the new Glacier National Park Conservancy one organization with a largely educational and interpretive mission that dates to 1946, and another that has worked since 1999 to foster charitable giving to benefit the park’s landscape—human, and natural. But the merger, which was official this past January 1, doesn’t alter the organizations’ mission. “The big thing for us is to really focus on creating longterm vision and consistency with programs,” points out Jake Bramante, the Conservancy’s outreach coordinator. 22


“When the park is requesting grants from us each year, they’re not sure if they’ll get continued funding next year and that affects what they do. With some programs, such as a research program, that may be OK, but with education programs and trail maintenance, the program suffers when it changes every year.” To preclude that from happening, the Conservancy creates an endowment with a specific target in mind. Going into the merger, the Glacier Fund already had established endowments to help park staff maintain trails, fund the native plant nursery, and to keep Glacier’s famous “Red Jammers” on the road showing off the spectacular landscape to visitors. Building on those is one of the tasks the Conservancy now is working on. “We are really thinking long-term with ways to give such as endowments. You can set up an endowment to adopt trails or give annually to the citizen science program so that high school kids can learn about the scientific method by practicing it in the park as well as becoming better stewards for the future,” said Mr. Bramante. “You can set up an endowment for education


St. Mary Falls / Rebecca Latson

5 Overlooked Destinations Visit the Two Medicine Area in the park’s southeastern corner. You can drive to Two Medicine Lake for a night or two at the campground, or hike up to Firebrand Pass or Cut Bank Pass. The Belly River area in the park’s northeastern corner is often secluded as it doesn’t draw a lot of day traffic, instead luring mostly backpackers. Day trippers like the views of 9,080-foot Chief Mountain, sacred to the Blackfoot Tribe. Top: Grinnell Glacier Trail / Rebecca Latson Above: Highline Trail Goat / Rebecca Latson

Take a scenic boat ride on Lake McDonald, Swiftcurrent, Saint Mary, or Two Medicine lakes. Sit back, enjoy the scenery, and listen as naturalists provide a running narrative of the landscapes in front of you. Enjoy Glacier like they did in the 1920s heyday of rail travel…on horseback! Swan River Outfitters is the official horse concessionaire in Glacier National Park that can take you on day trips to Cracker Lake and around Apgar, or up to Sperry Chalet for an overnight stay. Want someone else to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road so you can take pictures and learn more about the park? Take one of the variety of tours in the historic “Red Jammer” buses operated by Glacier Park, Inc.


Hiking one of Glacier’s more than 700 miles of trail / Rebecca Latson

or citizen science, which is the primary vehicle for the high school students, but it also allows us to get continuing data on species such as mountain goats and pikas which helps us understand the role of climate change.” Under the newly created Conservancy, the Glacier Association brings its long-tested business model to the Glacier Fund’s mission in part through sales of educational and interpretive materials at visitor centers and ranger stations throughout the park, as well as from its headquarters bookstore at the Belton Depot in West Glacier. The Glacier Association also will continue to manage sales outlets elsewhere in Montana at the National Bison Range, the Flathead National Forest, the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, and the Big Hole National Battlefield. You can contribute to those efforts, and plan for your next visit to Glacier, without leaving home by ordering history books, videos, and field guides from the Conservancy’s website. Interested in backpacking? There’s a Backcountry User’s Package that includes topographic maps of the park, nature guides, and information on traveling safely through bear country. Curious what the song of a varied thrush sounds like? Consider the Birdsong Identiflyer that plays back digital bird songs at the push of a button. In the end, you’ll increase your knowledge of Glacier, and contribute to its needs. 24


Five Must-See Locations In Glacier National Park Take a Hike: The Highline Trail runs along the “Garden Wall,” the spine of the Continental Divide, bringing you close not only to sprays of colorful wildflowers in summer but also to shaggy mountain goats that at times travel the trail. A one-way hike from Logan Pass down to the “loop” along the Going-to-theSun Road runs not quite a dozen miles. Glacial Gazing: With glaciologists fearing the park’s rivers of ice will be gone by 2030, and possibly sooner, plan a hike to the Grinnell Glacier. It’s roughly 5 miles one-way from Many Glacier to Grinnell, named after one of the park’s earliest promoters, George Bird Grinnell, but you can shorten the hike with boat shuttles. Depending on winter’s snows, the trail might not be snow-free before late July. Water Works: Wispy cataracts plunge from on high down into Avalanche Lake, the payoff at the end of a gentle 2-mile hike that leads past Avalanche Gorge, a grotto the lake’s outlet stream has carved into the landscape. Filling the lake is snowmelt from the high country that plunges 4,000 feet. Keep your ears keyed to bird songs and you just might hear the distinctive trilling of the varied thrush Bobbing Icebergs: Spend a day on a 4.5-mile hike to Iceberg Lake in the Many Glacier area of the park. This lake, rimmed by a rib of mountains, is one of the park’s most picturesque. Get there early enough in summer and the lake might be filled with icebergs. Dippers: An easy hike with kids winds less than 4 miles from Sun Point to Virginia Falls. This walk leads through a thick pine forest to three waterfalls, the tallest a 35-foot cataract. This setting is perfect for a picnic and letting kids scout for “dippers,” a curious bird known as both the American Dipper and the Water Ouzel that goes under water to pluck meals from streambeds.

Glacier’s Citizen Scientists Jake Bramante, the Conservancy’s outreach coordinator, spent time as a volunteer in the organization’s “citizen science” program. One aspect involved his research into pikas at Poia Lake in the Glacier National Park.


they are looking for and how ’m at Poia Lake, hunched to capture data, whether it inover a rock pointing my volves Common Loons, Mounflashlight under the boultain Goats, Pikas or invasive ders in search of stashes of weeds. The program coordinaleaves and pika scat that looks tors on the Glacier National just like peppercorns. I’m lovPark side then work with the ing every minute of it. When I volunteers to cover specified was a kid, I religiously read my areas during specified times. All Ranger Rick magazines. Ever of this data is then crunched since, I wanted to be a wildlife by the park staff to be able to biologist. understand what’s happening Jake Bramante However, a knack for comto specific species within the puters and a desire to make more money led me down the technology park’s amazing ecosystem. It was the prospect of helping with path. In 2011, after quitting my corporate job, I hiked all the trails in Glacier National Park this process that brought me to Poia Lake, and crossed paths with the Glacier National where I’m now surrounded by excited, Park Conservancy. I found that they fund a chirping pikas while I fill out my data project called “citizen science” that utilizes forms. Armed with pictures of some scat volunteers to get scientific data on restricted and hay piles, I head for home, excited to contribute to science that’s helping real budgets. It’s crowd-sourcing for scientists. The program works by having training wildlife biologists understand this species. classes for the volunteers so they know what

Tips to Avoid the Crowds: Get off the Going-to-theSun Road. Yes, it crosses the heart of the park and reveals jaw-dropping vistas. But come the high summer season, it’s jammed, and with more than Jammers. Park your car at the Apgar Visitor Center, jump on a shuttle, and get off at a trailhead and spend the day walking into this wondrous landscape. Spend a night. With a limited number of lodging rooms inside Glacier’s borders, when sundown nears day trippers flee out of the park, leaving many areas blanketed with quiet and peacefulness. It’s the perfect time to enjoy a book on a porch gazing at Lake McDonald, Swiftcurrent Lake, or St. Mary Lake, or reliving the day’s experiences with friends and family.

Honoring the legacy. Inspiring generations.

Exploring Glacier National Park’s incredible landscape by hiking the 700 plus miles of trails is a life changing experience. We invite you to assist us in our efforts to keep the trails open and safe for everyone to enjoy.

The Glacier National Park Conservancy works to assure the Glacier National Park experience by providing support for projects like trail rehab.



Let The Grand Canyon Association Introduce You To

Grand Canyon National Park

Sunrise in the canyon / Rebecca Latson





colorful rift in the earth millions of years—and immeasurable gallons of water—in the making, the jagged maw of the Grand Canyon draws crowds content enough to simply stare across this impressive cross-section of geology. And that can be enough for some firsttime visitors to Grand Canyon National Park. The rims have numerous vantage points from which to ponder the best morning and evening light, points of interest to gain some understanding of the human history that evolved with the canyon, and resting points to celebrate day’s end over meals and stories of wonderment. First-timers to this incredible setting can quickly be overwhelmed, and not just by the depth and breadth of this worldfamous canyon. Where do you begin to explore this wondrous landscape? While the National Park Service provides a good foundation of interpretive materials, it lacks the staff and resources to develop the robust array of materials that the Grand Canyon Association does. Stand in any of the park’s visitor centers and you’ll find GCA materials in just about any direction you turn: trail guides, field guides, kids books, CDs, posters. Putting these materials to use can lead to a more rewarding vacation in this park by helping you understand its history, its geology and wildlife, and what to look for. “Although the breathtaking vistas are what we love, those who take the time to walk along a trail away from the crowds may see a lizard scurrying across the trail or glimpse a condor flying overhead,” says Susan Schroeder, GCA’s executive director. “This is part of the Grand Canyon experience too. When you take the time to enjoy more of what the canyon has to offer, you gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the park.”

“When you take the time to enjoy more of what the canyon has to offer, you gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the park.” — Susan Schroeder, Grand Canyon Association executive director

Working On Behalf The Grand Canyon’s–And You GCA’s mission is similar to that of the dozens of other cooperating associations that work in the National Park System: Along with raising charitable dollars to be put to work inside the park in programs as diverse as wildlife research and trail maintenance, the association works with scientists, writers, artists, photographers and many others to produce interpretive items and offer educational opportunities, such as its field seminars, for parkgoers. These non-profit organizations are a vital

GCA field seminars can take you down to the river / Mike Bucheit


The GCA helped the Park Service improve the Bright Angel Trailhead / NPS

Above: Improvements to the Bright Angel Trail will allow safe journeys along the park’s South Rim / Rebecca Latson

extension of the Park Service’s interpretive and educational outreach. Cooperating associations help connect individuals to the national parks by selling educational and interpretive materials, providing information services, conducting educational programs and field institutes, and raising contributions to support a specific park’s mission. The Grand Canyon Association is one of the oldest cooperating associations in existence. “For 80 years, the Grand Canyon Association has been supporting Grand Canyon National Park and its visitors,” says Grand Canyon Superintendent Dave Uberuaga. “With financial support from GCA members and donors, we have been able to offer high-quality programs and services to millions of visitors throughout the years. Working together, we are making enduring connections to one of America’s most spectacular places—Grand Canyon.” No doubt the financial support is valuable, particularly in these challenging fiscal times for the parks. But GCA also exists to make your visit to the Grand Canyon the best it can be. While that is accomplished to a certain degree by its publications, such as the non-profit organization’s Grand Canyon Trail Guide series, its insightful geologic guides, and its trip-planning materials bundled into one package, it’s the field programs that really help you enjoy and marvel at this landscape.

Field Trips That Bring The Canyon Up Close Through the association’s Grand Canyon Field Institute you can take a day hike, a women’s only backpacking trek, attend a 28

Gatherings of artists are just one aspect of GCA’s field programs / Grand Canyon Association

plein air painting workshop, or have the Institute arrange a program specific for just about whatever in the park your family is interested in. Leading these programs are experts in their fields, such as Stewart Aitchison, a zoologist and geologist by training and a naturalist of the American Southwest by passion, and Wayne Ranney, a former park ranger, globe-trotting geologist, and multi-book author for GCA and other regional publishers. Along with helping others come to admire Grand Canyon National Park, GCA plays an integral role in striving to preserve this landscape, and your membership dues help realize that goal. For instance, each year tens of thousands of visitors come to explore the beauty of the canyon by hiking wilderness trails below the rim. All those feet pounding the landscape in this arid setting leads to problems that need to be fixed. Trail restoration work is essential because of the high use these trails get and because it helps keep visitors safe. Funding provided by the GCA covers both the labor and materials to install crucial features.


Currently the GCA has been supporting restoration of the Bright Angel Trailhead on the park’s South Rim. While millions of park visitors head down this trail each year, when it was designed a century ago that level of traffic wasn’t envisioned. As a result, much work needs to be done to enable the trailhead to stand up to the visitation. Among the improvements is a plaza area at the top of the trail to provide both shade, benches, and restrooms. Of course, Grand Canyon National Park is not within easy reach of everyone, particularly the youngsters who will be counted on to be tomorrow’s park stewards and advocates. To that point, the GCA has raised funds to support Virtual Field Trips to introduce school kids the country over to this spectacular chasm. Through these ranger-led presentations, produced in a studio just feet from the South Rim, youngsters not only get to experience the Grand Canyon in real time, but gain pride in learning about the national park movement and could even decide on a career with the National Park Service.

Nearly 5 million people visit Grand Canyon each year How does Grand Canyon National Park serve millions and protect this incredible landscape? With help from people like YOU Join Grand Canyon Association today and you can help: 路 Provide park information and educational programs 路 Fund visitor improvements 路 Improve trails and trail safety 路 Protect wildlife

Join at

Grand Canyon Association


High Tech

Means High Touch With National Parks By Haley Hepburn

As people become more and more wedded to mobile devices, the National Park System is trying to keep up—and so are its friends. To engage visitors and potential supporters, national park friends groups and foundations are enticing the public with high technology. Here are some savvy ways that’s happening. Friends of Acadia: Engaging Young People

Grand Teton National Park: Your Own Cyber-Guide

Yellowstone Park Foundation: Fundraising For Yellowstone

In 2011, Friends of Acadia created the Acadia Youth Technology Team, a combination of high school and college interns. The team works to implement technology in Acadia National Park in a way that engages youth without detracting from the visitor experience. “It’s been so wonderful to work with Friends of Acadia and Acadia National Park,” says Sophia Krevans, a paid intern who has been working with the team since its inception. “We’ve gotten to see first-hand all of the work that goes into the national parks and the impact that Acadia has on its visitors. It has been amazing to work on projects that could help connect kids to nature. We’ve been excited to be part of a pilot program.” The team spends time in the field, testing for cell phone service, and talking to rangers and parkgoers about what kinds of interpretation or information they would like to see in various locations. Then they brainstorm and develop prototypes for technologies that effectively feature Acadia’s offerings. “We want to ensure that it is effectively connecting youth to nature and that visitors to the park do not find it distracting” said Ms. Krevans. One prototype they’ve been working with is a “Digital Media Interpretive Kit.” This is a camera attached to a telescope and hooked up to an LCD screen. It is used to view nesting peregrine falcons so visitors with visual disabilities as well as young children can see the images.

 An app called TravelStoryGPS is your personal, and personable, invitation to Grand Teton National Park. Developed by the Grand Teton National Park Foundation and the Jackson Hole Land Trust, the app uses GPS points to trigger locationspecific audio presentations for your iPhone, iPad, or iPad Mini. Simply plug the device into your vehicle’s audio system, drive through Grand Teton, and listen to your personal tour guide. Two routes are currently available: Wyoming Highway 22, between Jackson, Wyoming, and the Idaho State Line, and Teton Park Road in Grand Teton National Park between Moose, Wyoming, and the Jackson Lake Lodge. “TravelStoryGPS was built to stimulate interest in Jackson Hole non-profit land conservation efforts by fostering a personal connection to the local landscape. We’re proud to be one of those non-profits,” said Elisabeth Rohrbach, development and communications officer for the Park Foundation. “It’s our hope that this application shares our work with the thousands of visitors who travel the park road.”

Fundraising for Yellowstone National Park is the focus for the Yellowstone Park Foundation’s use of technology. Through their “Become a Yellowstone Park Foundation Fundraiser” program, people who are passionate about Yellowstone can become direct fundraisers. Members can set up an online account, establish a goal, and email friends and family asking for support and explaining why donating to the Yellowstone Park Foundation is so important. The program offers substantial guidance to make raising money as easy as possible. Fundraisers are notified whenever someone donates and are provided with sample thank you notes to make acknowledging donors quick and easy. Activity can even be linked to Facebook to expand the reach of each fundraiser. For more information about this great way to support the park, visit the Foundation’s website, and click on the “How To Help” button.




By pairing GPS locations with site-specific narration, the Grand Teton National Park Foundation and Jackson Hole Land Trust have worked with TravelStoryGPS, LLC, to create a self-guided audio tour for parts of Grand Teton National Park.

Trust for the National Mall: Digital Scavenger Hunts

Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation: Wrapping a Road in the Web

As a relatively new organization, the Trust for the National Mall is actively working to build its support base. It is doing this through email newsletters and active participation on social media platforms like Twitter. Most importantly though, the Trust is working to discover the best ways to use technology to educate people, especially children, about our nation’s history. “The way I learned about Lincoln and the way kids today learn about Lincoln are very, very different,” says Caroline Cunningham, president of the Trust. “I’ve gone out onto the National Mall and watched wonderfully educated guides talking to kids and the kids are just in a different space... They learn on their devices, they’re more connected to the cloud and technology world than with the direct interpretation that’s standard in the NPS and with most guides.” One of the projects the Trust is working to implement is a kind of digital scavenger hunt. Families would use a device to go from one location to the next using clues and learning about the National Mall as they go. The Trust hopes to implement this technology at either the Washington Monument or Constitution Gardens.

For a road-based park like the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Foundation is aiming at mobile technology says Communications Director Liz Redding. “We’ve begun to solicit new members and donations at many places along the Parkway using QR codes on donor boards,” she says. “It seems logical to encourage mobile giving while the potential donors are actually still mobile!” The Foundation is also using the Internet to pierce the veil that bad weather can throw over a Parkway meander. By working with a local North Carolina mountain weather website, the Foundation has launched, a site with webcams at 18 locations along the road to let motorists or potential visitors assess current conditions and check the forecast. As with QR codes, cell phone dead zones along the Parkway may limit access to the weather site, but the service may be “more valuable for people thinking about driving on the Parkway than for motorists already on the road,” Ms. Redding says. “That’s a big plus. It lets the visitor have a far more accurate expectation that they’ll have a good experience.” And a good experience, after all, is what national parks are all about. With creative use of new technology, national park friends groups, foundations, and trusts are hoping to better connect the public to both the park experience, and the experience of supporting the parks.

Haley Hepburn, an editorial intern at National Parks Traveler, is a 2013 professional writing graduate of Appalachian State University in Boone, NC.


Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

A Great Gateway To The Smokies Five Great Overlooked Aspects of Pigeon Forge No more country cooking! Delete the focus on down-home fare. Try aptly-named Bullfish Grill for delicious Black Angus beef and seafood served in the mountains— but flown-in fresh.

Visit the Old Mill or board the Titanic replica ship docked on the Parkway / Pigeon Forge Tourism


o wonder Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the country’s most visited national park. This temperate rainforest, a UN-designated International Biosphere Reserve, is one of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. And at 800-square-miles, the Smokies is one of the largest natural areas in the East. That’s a lot of natural beauty—but here’s another side to the Smokies. The gateway town of Pigeon Forge perches on the park’s western doorstep, and it’s one of the top resort towns that people think of when they conjure summer fun in the South. Before or after you’ve explored the park, Pigeon Forge and its amazing assortment of dining, lodging and family-friendly vacation attractions are ready to entertain everyone. Climate is a winner. Despite the Smokies’ southerly location, Pigeon Forge has a box seat to the park’s four distinct seasons. Luckily, the town’s warmer location below the park really ramps up the warm weather list of options. The park beckons just minutes away. Grab a lull in the in-town action, and it’s a short drive to the whispering cool of the Canadian Forest Zone. A huge section of the Smokies soars above 4,500 feet to more than 6,600 feet where cool summers and deep-snow winters prevail. During April and May as warm weather returns, the wildflower show is explosive in Pigeon Forge and lower parts of the park. It’s a perfect time to stroll the town’s inviting, ever-lengthening greenway path along the


Little Pigeon River. High up, spring hasn’t sprung till very late May or June. Imagine—a few minutes away from summertime fun in Pigeon Forge—the beauty of Appalachian Spring continues at the top of the Smokies. June, July, and August bring the warmest weather—a great time to raft a local river, tube a mountain stream, or take in River Rush, a water coaster new for 2013 at Dollywood’s Splash Country waterpark. Splash Country and Dolly Parton’s primary theme park, Dollywood, lead the list of Pigeon Forge entertainment. By late August, temperatures in the park start to dip toward autumn. Autumn color is everywhere by mid-to-late October.

The Smokies—More Than A Walk in the Woods For the serious explorer, Great Smoky Mountains National Park contains entire watersheds devoid of trails, but hikers can delve into that inspiring wilderness on even short walks. Anyone visiting the Smokies should seek out easy, inspiring nature trails that lead through towering groves. The tallest trees, often yellow poplar, rise high above the deep soil valleys of the parks’ cove hardwood forests. The Smokies are the perfect place to take a history hike. Evidence of times past is everywhere—especially from late fall to spring when retreating vegetation reveals walls, steps, and foundations.


Grab A View: The Smokies are all about views, so take-off at Wonders of Flight. The new tethered balloon ride floats 400 feet in the air to really show off the scenery. To the east, the entire Great Smoky Mountains juts a jagged vertical mile into the sky! Wilderness Wildlife Week: Avoid the crowds by visiting midweek— or off-season. The mid-January Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge has a full Saturday to Saturday program of wonderful natural heritage hikes, lectures, and a photography contest. Bring your cross country skis—the gated Clingmans Dome Road makes a great ski tour. Pose With The Rich and Famous: The fun Hollywood Wax Museum has 105 celebrities, most positioned so you can take your own pictures standing next to them. Savor Sugarlands: If you do nothing else in the national park, go to the newly renovated Sugarlands Visitors Center on Newfound Gap Road and watch the movie about America’s most visited national park. Not far away, stroll the inspiring Sugarlands Nature Trail where plaques describe the sights, including the ubiquitous icon of the Appalachians—stone fireplaces, standing stark in the misty, streamside woods.

Native American lore and legend wrap like mist around these mountains, the once-idyllic realm of the Cherokee. The arrival of later settlers is reflected at sites where interpretive programs inform the lives of those whose early cabins, farms, mills, and later churches and houses still remain. The Smokies is still one of the nation’s premier places to see the iconic, early settler style of structure called the log cabin.

Historic Past, Modern Appeal Log cabins are still a favorite vacation accommodation in Pigeon Forge and the Smokies. Many visitors opt for the rental cabin or condo, where family meals take center stage. Family attractions come first here. At nationally-known Dollywood, worth an entire day, the fare runs to down-home and wholesome. Chow down on a fried chicken dinner at Miss Lillian’s Chicken House (named for Dolly’s mother). The entertainment leans to pop and show tunes, but country, gospel, and mountain music are all appropriate to the Southern Appalachians, home of America’s traditional music. Dolly’s a local—and she serves up bonafide insight into mountain culture. Ride the roller coasters—among the best in the country. There’s the new Wild Eagle winged coaster—or just take a 5-mile scenic trip on a steam train. Mystery Mine is a great ride, an adventure through an abandoned mine that kicks off with a 95-degree, 85-foot plunge into darkness. Thunderhead may be the park’s top thrill ride, a wooden roller coaster that drops riders 100 feet and hits a top speed of 55 mph. If sinking a whole day into Dollywood doesn’t appeal—board the Titanic! A massive replica of the ship is docked right on the Parkway. Actual artifacts and great interpretation inform the endlessly fascinating tragedy that occurred a century ago last year. Don’t miss Old Mill Square. The historic cornerstone of Pigeon Forge is an 1830 grist mill on the National Register of Historic Places. Explore the Old Mill, meet the miller, buy freshly ground PFT3595_Mrr_EssntlFriends_NatlParkTravel.indd cornmeal, flour, grits, and more. Next door, Pottery House Café and Grille, serves a tempting fried green tomato BLT. Then watch potters at Pigeon River Pottery—you just ate on their plates! That explains the Cafe’s menu admonition: “If you go somewhere else to eat, ask them if they bake their own bread. If they say yes, ask them if they grind their own grains. And if they say yes, ask them if they make their own plates!” Catch a show—there are a dozen theaters in Pigeon Forge with a variety of entertainment. The Comedy Barn is a blast for families; Country Tonite is a solid country revue; and the Smoky Mountain Opry’s name might imply pure country but it’s a largescale variety production (country, Broadway, gospel, comedy). Or just ply the Parkway strip—so glittering that overnight guests at LeConte Lodge, high up on a dark summit in the Smokies, can see Pigeon Forge sparkling far below. The main drag through town is populated with thrill rides and restaurants. Where else can you race go karts at midnight! Strolling along the Parkway is a real family treat. And if you haven’t done all the hiking you wanted to, check out the pool, health club, and bowling at the Pigeon Forge Community Center. It’s open to the public. Better yet, go take that hike in the park! All the glitz of Pigeon Forge is only icing on the real cake—Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When it’s time to head into the park for the classic visit to scenic Cades Cove—a truly spectacular and very popular 11-mile, one-way loop—take Wears Valley Road from Pigeon Forge. A left on Lyon Springs Road leads you through a best-kept-secret back door into the park’s rural valley surrounded by summits.



2/20/13 4:10 PM


Take A Long, Slow, Ride Along

The Natchez Trace


ur penchant for long, leisurely drives is uniquely American. Extended drives rich with scenery, history, and charming communities transformed post-World War II America. Today, many of these routes are cherished destinations. For residents and visitors to the Southeast, the Natchez Trace Parkway is one such drive. You won’t get anywhere fast along the Parkway, at least not by today’s interstate speeds. And that’s one of the enviable pleasures of following this 444-mile-long byway that runs and flows through the pastoral countryside and by the many small towns that dot its path from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee. Travel along the Natchez Trace arrived long before the 20th century; it was designated a national postal road back in 1801 by Thomas Jefferson, and long before that sections of the route had been followed by the Natchez, Chickasaw, and Choctaw tribes. Today the Trace, with its 50 mph speed limit in most places, offers an escape from getting from here to there as quickly as possible. Such a leisurely pace encourages you not only to notice this countryside, but to stop and enjoy it. In a very real sense the Trace, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, preserves “Americana.” There are stately antebellum mansions such as Stanton Hall and Rosalie Mansion in Natchez, distinctly American blue grass concerts, and, for the architecturally inclined, the country’s first double-arch bridge. You can explore by car or park, get out, and enjoy the fresh air, hiking trails, and gurgling streams. An afternoon spent fishing along the Parkway definitely is not wasted. Along much of the Trace there’s a peacefulness that epitomizes the allure of backroads. You’ll find gleaming Corvette car shows, the sweet sounds of dulcimer festivals, tractor pulls, art and photography shows, flea markets, antique shows, and bucolic settings perfect for picnics. You don’t even need your car, as the route ranks as one of America’s Top 10 for cyclists, who benefit from five bicycle-only campgrounds along the route. You can explore the Trace in bites, traveling, for instance, the 170 miles from 34

Five Must-See Attractions Along The Natchez Trace Parkway Mount Locust: Milepost 15.5, Natchez, Mississippi – Take a guided tour of historic Mount Locust, the only surviving “Stand,” or inn, on the Natchez Trace, that dates to the late 1700s. Parkway Visitor Center & Headquarters: Milepost 266, Tupelo, Mississippi – Visitors find exhibits and a park orientation film. There is the opportunity to collect national park Passport stamps, and you’ll find a bicycle-only campground here.

Biking along the Trace / Natchez Trace Compact

Ridgeland, Mississippi, to Tupelo, Mississippi, to take in the home of Elvis Presley and Cypress Swamp. Or head along the 112-mile jaunt from the Shoals of Alabama to Nashville with its canoeing opportunities and musical heritage. Whichever route you choose, if you embark on the entire drive on one vacation or split it up in sections over the years, you’ll come across history from pre-Revolutionary War days up through the Civil War and happen upon great art galleries, local talents, and relaxing meadows, forests, and riverine settings. You’ll likely find yourself sharing parts of the Trace with wildlife. If you’re in the right place at the right time, you might even spot some rare Whooping cranes along the Trace, as several stopped there earlier this year during their migration. You can make a connection with the past, and the present, along the Trace. If your schedule allows, join in the 75th anniversary celebration on May 18 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Parkway Visitor Center near Tupelo, Mississippi. Festivities include live music, children’s activities, classic cars, and more.


Colbert Ferry: Milepost 327.3, Colbert County, Alabama – Today a spectacular bridge takes you across the Tennessee River, but in the early 1800s George Colbert operated a ferry from this point. Now picnic by the river or use the boat launch to paddle the river. Cyclists enjoy the campground reserved just for them. Meriwether Lewis: Milepost 386, Hohenwald, Tennessee – Find a newly renovated visitor center as well as new exhibits on half of the Lewis and Clark duo. There also are walking trails, restrooms and campgrounds. Nearby is where Lewis died in 1809 of a gunshot wound. Was it suicide, or murder? The debate continues. Birdsong Hollow: Milepost 438, Williamson County, Tennessee – The nation’s first double arch bridge spans 1,648 feet and stands 155 feet tall.



Five Overlooked Aspects of the Trace From majestic Indian mounds to authentic villages, the traditional homelands of the Natchez, Choctaw, Chickasaw and their ancestors, the Trace is abundant with Native American history awaiting your exploration.





A Unique Journey from Natchez to Nashville. w w w. s c e n i c t r a c e . c o m 1- 8 5 5 - 56T- R AC E (1- 8 55 - 5 6 8 - 72 23)

Through the blaze of re-enactors muskets and historyrich towns, the Trace and communities along its path preserve some of the most exciting Civil War history in America. For Pulitzer-prize winning novelist Eudora Welty, the Natchez Trace inspired the dramatic tale of Robert Bridegroom, a handsome highwayman who disguised his hair with berry juice and stole his maiden as he galloped past on horseback, sweeping her off her feet in a heart-pounding ride to his lair. While Welty’s story was a fairy tale, it should be noted that the romance of the Natchez Trace is not mere fiction, it is also historic fact. Along the Trace, love blooms as easily as the trees and wildflowers linking its route. Meander along this byway as your own love for the Trace blossoms. Tread a portion, or all, of the 65 miles of Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail that runs along the Trace. This is a pathway perfect for foot traffic and horses.  Along the way you might spot some of the nearly 160 bird species, enjoy, waterways, 12 state parks, and numerous golf courses adjacent to its path.   The Natchez Trace connects great Americans with great American culture, from W.C. Handy, “Father of the Blues,” Elvis Presley and Helen Keller to the Grand Old Opry, American arts and museums galore.

Be a discriminating explorer. Read National Parks Traveler daily.


Great Fountain Geyser / Deby Dixon

Preserving Wonderland

Yellowstone Park Foundation “The Haynes Studios have experienced photographers, prepared at all times to photograph stage parties, groups and individuals at the chief points of interest in the Park. The photographs are made on the finest paper and are put in artistic folders, making very desirable souvenirs.” — Haynes Official Guide, Yellowstone National, 1914




hotographs capture a place in time, one that might remain untouched for our lifetimes, or which is altered by the passage of time along with natural and human events. The rich photographic history of Yellowstone National Park frames the early explorations that led to the park’s designation, the hardships and adventures of early parkgoers, and more recent settings reflective of both the park’s growth and that of our changing recreational habits. A broad swath of that history can be seen at the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center in Gardiner, Montana, where approximately 90,000 photographic prints and negatives have been collected.


The historic Haynes Photo Shop received a front porch addition after being moved to its permanent location at Old Faithful. The interior was completely redesigned and upgraded to become the second LEED-certified historic building in the NPS / Tom Porter

Photography is a serious business to many Yellowstone visitors / Deby Dixon

While relatively few visitors see and enjoy those collections, that’s about to change. Through the good work of the Yellowstone Park Foundation (YPF), a few of those images will be on display daily to park visitors in the Old Faithful Haynes Photo Shop. This beautiful log structure dates to 1927, when Jack Ellis Haynes received permission to build the structure for his photographic and postcard business. More recently, the building has been used for a variety of purposes, including staff housing and storage. The Yellowstone Park Foundation, through a $4 million campaign, is refurbishing the shop to make way for exhibits celebrating both the work of Frank and Jack Haynes as well as some of the many photographs currently stored in the Heritage and Research Center. Part of the job required a redesign of the building’s interior, which was done with an eye toward restoring its historic character as well as making it environmentally

sustainable, enough so to land a LEED certification. Such a designation would make the Old Faithful Haynes Photo Shop the only LEED-certified historic building in the National Park System outside of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California. The photo shop, which is on track to reopen to the public this summer, is just one unique aspect of the Old Faithful Area Historic District. Other remarkable buildings there include the Old Faithful Inn, of course, as well as its companion Old Faithful Lodge, the Lower Hamilton Store, the Nez Perce Creek Wayside, and the Howard Eaton Trail. YPF’s efforts to see the photo shop restored and reopened for visitors’ enjoyment is just one aspect of the organization’s efforts in the historic district. The non-profit also has underwritten the rehabilitation of the Lower Hamilton Store’s “Million Dollar Room,” an office whose

walls are covered with canceled checks stemming from Hamilton Store transactions totaling nearly $2 million. The room once was the office of Charles A. Hamilton, who played a significant role in the development of concessions in Yellowstone. These are just some recent examples of how the Yellowstone Park Foundation has come to the rescue of park resources. In the past the organization created a halfmillion-dollar fund to help park staff preserve several million rare items in its museum collection, items such as a Thomas Moran sketch journal, one-of-a-kind maps, biological specimens, and prehistoric tools found in the park. And, of course, it also played a key role in underwriting the Old Faithful Visitors Education Center with a $15 million campaign. As federal budget dollars become more and more scarce, the determined and dedicated efforts of the Yellowstone Park Foundation become ever so vital to the park’s future.


Hayden Valley Buffalo / Deby Dixon

Five Overlooked Attractions in Yellowstone Enjoy the wilderness setting of Imperial and Spray Geysers. A towering, wispy waterfall, one of Yellowstone National Park’s tallest, and two backcountry geysers via the same trail? That’s what you get when you leave the Fairy Falls Trailhead a little over 1 mile south of the turnoff to the Midway Geyser Basin. This hike can be done in as few as two hours and rewards you not only with that nearly 200-foot-tall waterfall, Fairy Falls, but with relative solitude (relative when compared to the park’s front-country geyser basins, that is) to enjoy Spray and Imperial geysers. Enjoy the view from Observation Point. Often overlooked, perhaps because of its short distance or the many other opportunities in the Upper Geyser Basin, the Observation Point Trail offers a quick, relatively low-effort hike that rewards with a grand view of Old Faithful. It’s perfect for youngsters still developing their hiking legs. The trailhead lies just beyond the apron surrounding the Old Faithful Geyser. Trek to the Monument Geyser Basin. Most visitors to Yellowstone National Park are familiar with the Upper, Lower, and Midway geyser basins, but how many have made the trek to a basin that at one time, thanks to its oddly



shaped spires and acidic hot springs, was another must-see attraction for park visitors? Today the Monument Geyser Basin is largely overlooked, as the park’s other geyser basins lure most visitors with their readily accessible boardwalks, deep and colorful hot springs, curious mudpots, and erupting geysers. If you’re looking for a short, but strenuous, hike to a basin of spindly spires in a most unlikely spot, the trail to the Monument Geyser Basin waits for you. Visit the junction of the Gibbon and Firehole rivers, which form the Madison, and ponder whether this was the spot where the idea of a “national park” was born in 1870 by early Yellowstone explorers. Today’s historians say that’s just myth, but the setting certainly is glorious. Explore the Bechler. Located in the park’s southwestern corner, this is one of the least-visited areas of Yellowstone, in large part because you have to walk or ride a horse to visit. But the region, also known as “Cascade Corner” for its many waterfalls, is an excellent early fall destination if you enjoy hoisting a pack on your back and heading down a trail.

Grand Prismatic Spring / Deby Dixon

Five Must-See Attractions In Yellowstone The restored Old Faithful Haynes Photo Shop. Soon to be handsomely restored and open to the public, this building in the Old Faithful Historic District will showcase the work of YPF and interactive exhibits including a photo opportunity to have your picture taken in front of a giant Haynes postcard, enter the “Capturing Wonderland” photography contest, and send your Park photos to family and friends in real time. It will also allow you to explore the history of the Park through photographs. Those put on display will come from the roughly 90,000 photographic prints and negatives currently held in the Yellowstone National Park Heritage and Research Center in Gardiner, along with current photographs taken by renowned photographer, Tom Murphy. Lone Star Geyser. While the many geysers and other geothermal features of the Upper Geyser Basin can be hard to pull yourself away from, the not-quite-5-mile roundtrip walk to this geyser is worth your time. The paved trail parallels the gurgling Firehole River, and is suitable for bikes. The payoff is a 12-foot-tall geyser cone that erupts every three hours or so. The Norris Soldier Station. The Museum of the National Park Ranger stands near the Norris Geyser Basin. Located in the original Norris Soldier Station near the entrance to Norris Campground, this museum offers exhibits that depict the development of the park ranger profession from its roots in the military traditions through early rangers and to the present array of NPS staff specialized duties. Visit Artist Point. From here you can take in the expansive views of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River that so inspired Thomas Moran more than a century ago. The point, which the Foundation raised nearly $1 million to restore back in 2008, provides one of Yellowstone’s most famous vistas: Its promontory juts out above the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and offers unobstructed views of the Lower Falls. This stunning panorama inspired Mr. Moran’s paintings that were presented to Congress and helped convince lawmakers to establish Yellowstone as the world’s first national park in 1872. Enjoy the Lamar Valley in the park’s northeastern corner. Head here in early summer (mid-June) and you’ll find elk, coyotes, bighorn sheep, bison, wolves, and possibly even grizzly bears if you train your eyes on distance ridges. The rich wildlife assemblage is why Yellowstone has been called North America’s Serengeti!


Secret Sleeps Tips for Snagging a National Park Campsite

There is nothing as traditional as camping out in the national parks for summer vacation. Reserving a campsite on can lock in a site long before you hit the road, but sometimes you just don’t get around to doing that. So what to do?

Overlooking Horseshoe Canyon, Canyonlands National Park / Kurt Repanshek



Price Park Campground / Randy Johnson

Denali National Park Not surprising, in light of its location in Alaska, Denali isn’t as crowded as many of the other parks. But…the campgrounds that can be booked in advance, such as Wonder Lake, Teklanika River, Savage River and Riley Creek, are definitely the busiest and quickest to fill. One recommended alternative is the Igloo Creek Campground located 34 miles down the park road. It and the Sanctuary River Campground cannot be reserved online, but are available for walk-in reservations up to two days before your trip. They are both tent-only campgrounds with just seven sites each. They both have vault toilets, but you’ll need to get your water from the creek.

Blue Ridge Parkway Acadia National Park With only two campgrounds, Seawall and Blackwoods, competition in Acadia can be brutal. Blackwoods, on the park’s east side, is closer to the carriage roads and Park Loop Road, so it might tend to be busier than Seawall even though it has more than 300 sites. But Seawall has 100 fewer sites than Blackwoods, so if you show up in July or August without a reservation (all sites at Blackwoods can be reserved, only a portion of those at Seawall) your best option would be to start looking early in the day, or head for one of the commercial campgrounds outside the park. A limited number of RVs can be accommodated at each campground.

The long and winding road of the Parkway has its popular campsites, usually near major resort areas, such as Mount Pisgah Campground south of Asheville (also the Parkway’s highest) and Price Park Campground near Blowing Rock (with its beautiful lake). Though Price Park is the largest campground, it’s highly popular, so reserve online or get there early. If you want the best camping experience on the entire Parkway, keep in mind that only A loop, mostly reserved for tents, has sites by the lake. It’s a real treat to pull your kayak up by your tent. Other best bets near the Boone area for fewer crowds and reservable sites are Linville Falls and Doughton Park—both with excellent trail systems, cool elevation, and easy access to High Country attractions. RV enthusiasts have numerous opportunities to choose from along the 469-mile Parkway. A quick search on points them out.

Ocracoke Island / Randy Johnson

Cape Hatteras National Seashore If you desire to fall asleep in your tent or RV to the sound of the pounding surf, your best bets on the spur of the moment would be either the Ocracoke or Frisco campgrounds, as they’re farther removed from civilization, or at least as further removed as possible on the Outer Banks. Ocracoke is more difficult to access because it entails a ferry ride to the island. From downtown Ocracoke the campground is three miles to the east and ten miles west of the Hatteras Inlet ferry terminal. Walk across the dunes to the campground and you’ll find grills, flush toilets, potable water, and cold-water showers. There are some spots for RVs, but no hookups. Oregon Inlet Campground is close to Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk and so is usually filled to capacity every night once the summer season gets under way.


Desert View Campground NPS photo

Glacier National Park Glacier can be tricky to snag a campsite without a reservation nailed down long before your trip. But there is a strategy that will help narrow your search and ease your nerves before you start driving to a specific site: the park’s website. Visit the Campsite Status page of their website, and not only can you see where all the campgrounds are located, but the tools allow you to see when a specific campground filled up on a specific date last year. That said, the further you get from the Goingto-the-Sun Road and Many Glacier the better odds you’ll have of laying your head down at a reasonable hour. Some campgrounds have limits on the length of RVs, or no room for RVs, so double-check the website.

Grand Canyon National Park Sadly, this park does not feature any “least-crowded” or underutilized campgrounds during the busy summer season. Mather Campground is full almost every night during June, July and August, and all holidays and weekends. Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance and they fill up very fast. Arriving without a reservation during those times is not advised. When the main campgrounds do fill up, you’ll be directed to the park’s Desert View Campground, where the 50 sites are first-come, first-serve. Most summer nights that campground is full by 3 p.m. or so. While this campground is 25 miles east of Grand Canyon Village, you’ll enjoy the added solitude. RVs up to 50 feet in length can be handled in the Trailer Village on the South Rim. Full hookups— including 50 amp service and Cable TV—are available. Thinking the North Rim might be an option? Not only is it a long, long drive from the South Rim—212 miles—but it’s smaller with fewer sites and park officials say not only do they fill every day of their season, but the occasional cancellation is resold immediately. They turn away many people every day who do not have reservations.

Bear claw marks near Cosby Campground in the Great Smokies / Randy Johnson

Grand Teton National Park There are two great options for snagging a campsite in this park with the breathtaking topography: the Lizard Creek and Gros Ventre campgrounds. The 350-site Gros Ventre Campground along the park’s southeastern edge is huge, and it is the last to ever fill up and generally is a good bet if you’re arriving late in the day and worried about available spots. It’s quiet with big cottonwoods and the soothing sounds of the lazy Gros Ventre River. Lizard Creek with its 60 sites is on the far northern end of the park on the shore of Jackson Lake. True, you’re 32 miles north of Moose, but the peace and quiet in the spruce and fir forest and the starry skies overhead are worth the separation. RVers should head to either the Colter Bay RV Park, or a bit farther north to the Headwaters Campground and RV park at Flagg Ranch. Both offer full hookups, Headwaters has 50-amp service.



Great Smoky Mountains National Park The nation’s most visited national park not only has bears, but it can also be a bear to get into one of the most popular campgrounds in summer and fall. Luckily, you can land a spot in an extremely popular, though out of the way, campground like Cataloochee with an advanced online reservation. Other popular sites such as Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont—all near or on the park’s main drag, Newfound Gap Road (US 441)—permit reservations during much of the season, too. Cosby Campground, a best bet for seclusion in the northeastern corner of the park not far from Pigeon Forge, permits reservations during the entire camping season. It’s generally less visited than the most popular sites. It’s also the park’s third-biggest campground with 157 sites and one of the loftiest in the park. In recent years stimulus funding has nicely upgraded this campground for the first time in decades, so it’s in good shape. It also has one of the park’s best “big timber” nature trails and access to a variety of nice hikes. Last plus, it’s pretty accessible from I-40 near the Tennessee/ North Carolina state line. RVs can be handled at all but the Big Creek Campground, although check the park’s website for length restrictions.

Cottonwood Campground / Kurt Repanshek

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Longs Peak Campground / NPS

Natchez Trace Parkway Three free, first-come, first-served campgrounds along the Parkway are managed by the National Park Service, and many more state and commercially run campgrounds can be found along the Parkway’s 444 miles. If you like to mix history with scenery, grab a spot at the 32-site Meriwether Lewis Campground at Milepost 385. Some wonderful hiking trails lead out of the campground, nearby you’ll find some interesting history and the gravesite of Meriwether Lewis, who died here in 1809 under mysterious circumstances. The campground is set within hardwood forest, which is spectacular when the trees are adorned in their colorful fall foliage. Cyclists have five campgrounds reserved just for them, at Mileposts 159, 234, 266, 327, and 408.

Rocky Mountain National Park The park’s close proximity to Colorado’s Front Range ensures stiff competition for campsites in the five campgrounds. And, unfortunately, one of those—the Glacier Basin Campground—will be closed this summer due to Bear Lake Road reconstruction. Three campgrounds, Moraine Park, Glacier Basin, and Aspenglen, take reservations. Aside from booking a reservation, you might eye the Timber Creek Campground with its 98 sites on the west side of Rocky Mountain. You can find it in the Kawuneeche Valley on U.S. Highway 34 approximately 10 miles north of Grand Lake. RVs are allowed at the Moraine Park, Aspenglen, and Timber Creek campgrounds, but there are size limits and no hookups. Check the park’s website.

While your odds of landing a spot in either the Cottonwood Campground in the park’s South Unit or the Juniper Campground in the North Unit are good in general, your odds go up if you head for Juniper. And, frankly, it’s a little quieter and this end of the park is less busy than the southern end, which picks up highway sounds and crowds from Interstate 94. Both Cottonwood and Juniper can handle tents or RVs, and are first-come, first-served. Both have beautiful river views, and at Cottonwood Campground you might find yourself sharing the grounds with bison that meander through the area. Remember, they are wild animals and not bashful about defending their ground.

Yellowstone National Park Even though Yellowstone has more than 2,000 campsites spread across a dozen campgrounds, if you don’t land a reservation before you reach the park, you’re not likely to be a happy camper come sundown. Every campground in the park fills every night at peak season. The somewhat-off-the-population-hub campgrounds are Slough Creek (23 sites near the northeastern entrance to the park), Pebble (27 sites, also near the northeast entrance), and Tower Fall (32 sites.). While they will be “less crowded” than, say, the 430-site Grant Village Campground, if you don’t show up early in the day you’ll be shut out. RVs will find the only hookups at the Fishing Bridge Recreation Vehicle Park on the north shore of Yellowstone Lake. There are more than 325 sites there.

Obviously, your best bet is to reserve a site at a national park campground. The best way to do that is visit, find your preferred park, and start choosing and booking as early as possible. It’s also possible to reserve by phone: 877-444-6777


Yellowstone Historic Center in the original Union Pacific Depot / Donnie Sexton, Montana Office of Tourism

West Yellowstone, Montana

A Gateway Town Worth Hanging Around


or more than a century, West Yellowstone has been the jumping off point for travel to Yellowstone National Park. At the turn of the 20th century, when fewer than 200 people called this town home, stagecoaches pulled by horse and trains by Union Pacific engines brought a good portion of the 15,000-20,000 visitors who toured Yellowstone each year. While there are no trains or stagecoaches to give you a ride into town, this gateway to Yellowstone exudes an honest and sincere Western charm, an easiness, comfort, and lack of pretentiousness that makes you say, “Yeah, I could live here.” There are other gateways to the national park, but West Yellowstone is the only one that shares its name with the park, a particularly binding connection. Not only do you drive down Yellowstone Avenue to enter the park’s West Entrance, but you can even walk or mountain bike a short way into the park along the Riverside



Trail. The trailhead is on the east side of Boundary Street, which, of course, is named for running along the park boundary. This trail offers a peaceful meander through lodgepole pines down to the bending Madison River and its trout fishery. (Biking is only allowed on some parts of the Riverside Trail and not all the way down to the river) With fewer than 1200 residents, and surrounded on three sides by national forests and the park on the fourth, West Yellowstone today isn’t too far removed from the outpost that welcomed UP trains in 1908. You can even spot a few bears in town, and some wolves, but they are safely housed at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, an educational facility that takes in grizzlies that otherwise might have been put down due to their encounters with people. Open 365 days a year, the center lets you safely view grizzlies and wolves and provides great interpretation on how they survive in the wild. Time has brought changes, welcome ones at that, to


West Yellowstone. Gateway towns play a key role in national park vacations—they offer lodging, eateries, souvenirs, and outfitters with the skills and experience to lead you on adventures into the parks—and West Yellowstone has mastered that hospitality. Drive slowly through town and you’ll spot the usual collection of chain hotels. By-and-large, most retail businesses and restaurants are locally owned, unique, and with personality, not antiseptically cast from a Wharton School of Business mold. We’re not talking a big town, either. You can walk from end to end in less than half-an-hour. And yet, West Yellowstone manages to offer something for just about everyone, whether blue-collar, white-collar, gray-hairs or Gen-Yers. When you grow hungry there are both fast-food and high-end eateries, when you need a room there are both inexpensive chain motels and stately guest ranches, and when you’re looking for something to do there is a range of both challenging and relaxing activities. The rich trout streams in the area—the Madison, Gallatin, Yellowstone, Henry’s Fork and Firehole—rightly earned West Yellowstone distinction as one of the country’s top 10 towns for anglers. Hebgen Lake, just north of town, is one of the top stillwater lakes in the Rockies. The Gallatin, Targhee, and Beaverhead national forests complement the national park with even more lakes and rivers for fishing and boating, trails for hiking, and gorgeous settings for simply relaxing with a good book. And if you’d like to have one of the locals help you explore these landscapes, West Yellowstone is home to a good many outfitters and guiding services that can craft an itinerary just for you.

A Blend Of The Past And Present Back in 1988 West Yellowstone had a frontrow seat to watch the wildfires that blazed across Yellowstone National Park. Smokejumpers and fire-retardant-dropping planes took off from the town’s airport, and firefighting equipment and the U.S. military passed through en route to the West Entrance and the park’s fire lines. Through it all, the town played the congenial host for both the flow of tourists that continued to explore Yellowstone as well as the fire bosses and their crews. You can read up on the fires of 1988, as well as West Yellowstone’s earlier history, right downtown in the Yellowstone Historic

This whimsical poster was created in 1946 by Walter Oehrle, a commercial artist for the Union Pacific Railroad, to promote West Yellowstone as the best entry point for visiting Yellowstone National Park. The history of railroads and national parks is explained in Trains of Discovery, Railroads and the Legacy of Our National Parks by Alfred Runte, an expert on both national parks and railroads. / Poster from Mr. Runte’s collection To learn more about the history of West Yellowstone and how this tiny rail town grew up alongside Yellowstone National Park, pick up West Yellowstone, Images of America, by Paul Shea. It contains some great early-day photographs of West Yellowstone and its visitors.


Five Overlooked Aspects Of A West Yellowstone Stay Madison-Hegben Lake area. Between these two bodies of water, one a river, the other a lake, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for kayaking, fishing, mountain biking, guided wildlife watching, even paddle boarding. You can rent kayaks from several businesses in West Yellowstone or a fishing boat from Kirkwood Marina. The annual West Yellowstone to Old Faithful Cycle Tour. This, the only fully supported bicycling tour permitted in Yellowstone Park, runs from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful and back, with feed stations and sag wagons (repairs and rides) along the way. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and perfect for families. The tour is limited to just 350 riders and it always fills by mid-summer. Registration opens June 15th at Enjoy a great family-friendly 4th of July starting with the local Fireman’s Bar-B-Cue at the Visitor Center followed by a small but mighty parade. What’s unique about the annual parade is that anyone can participate! Each year, families from throughout the USA and Canada get involved. In early evening, relax to free music in the City Park followed by a fireworks display. It’s a small town celebration at its best! Watch history come alive with a trip down Trader’s Row at the Annual Smoking Waters Rendezvous encampment the first ten days of August. A full trapper’s camp is set up at the west edge of West Yellowstone. You can watch craftsmen in period dress card and spin wool, make butter, or do leather work. There are seminars on Native American culture and the fur trade. Lectures and competitions include cowboy poetry, storytelling, black powder shoots, and knife and tomahawk throws. The Rendezvous is free to the public. Travel to Hebgen Lake to see the aftermath of a 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck on August 17, 1959. The quake released an 80-ton landslide that traveled 100 mph down Sheep Mountain. Nearby geysers in Yellowstone erupted and the water in hot springs became muddy. Many homes and cabins were destroyed and 28 people lost their lives to this great natural disaster. You can see the earthquake’s lasting effects in the huge boulders that were carried by the landslide. One boulder has a plaque honoring the 28 people killed by the quake. Just 8 miles north of West Yellowstone on Highway 287 you’ll find information signs that detail the aftermath of the quake. You also can walk to a ghost village that was submerged by flooding after the earthquake.



West Yellowstone remained open for business throughout the 1988 wildfires, providing shelter for visitors forced out of the park and a logistics point for firefighters headed into the park / Jeff Henry, NPS

Center. Within this beautifully restored log-and-stone building, once the Union Pacific Depot, you can envision what it must have been like to ride dusty stagecoaches through town and into the park, trace the railroad’s history with West Yellowstone, and gaze in wonder up at Old Snaggletooth, a Dumpster-diving grizzly renowned for coming to town for his meals. The museum offers special activities and events from Train Day in early June, “Pie on the Porch” on July 4th, to a “Night at the Museum” full of spooky stories and tours by flashlight in early October. Those kernels of history add some interesting and helpful perspective to your travels into the park, particularly when you head to Old Faithful 30 miles from town and think what the trip must have been like in a jouncing stagecoach. Today you avoid the bouncing and the dust thanks to the smooth pavement that allows you to quickly make the trip. How soon you reach Old Faithful, of course, depends on the rush you’re in, for there are some great places to stop along the way. You can meander along the Madison River and look for bald eagles that nest in the area, or you can take a side-trip along the Firehole Canyon Drive to view 40-foot-tall Firehole Falls. Fountain Flat Drive is a great place to stop for a picnic lunch, and Firehole Lake Drive not too much farther down the road takes you to the colorful Fountain Paint Pot basin and Great Fountain Geyser. Between there and Old Faithful stand the Midway Geyser Basin with iconic Grand Prismatic Spring as well as a nice hike to Fairy Falls, a hike to Mystic Falls, and Black Sand Basin with its colorful hot springs. There also are the unexpected delays: the band of elk grazing along the Madison River, the bison congregating in the grassy flats anywhere between West Yellowstone and Old Faithful, and the occasional bears that turn up and create “bear jams” as motorists stop in the middle of road for pictures. This part of the park is most famous for bright red baby bison calves in spring, elk calves that cavort in meadows along the Madison River during dusk in June, and the September sound of battling bugling elk along the Madison. Using West Yellowstone as a base-camp for your exploration of the national park brings all these attractions, and more, into reach.

Madison River sunrise / Deby Dixon

Five Don’t Miss Attractions In West Yellowstone

Hebgren Lake / Mike Polkowske Photography

The rich trout streams in the area—the Madison, Gallatin, Yellowstone, Henry’s Fork and Firehole—rightly earned West Yellowstone distinction as one of the country’s top 10 towns for anglers. Hebgen Lake, just north of town, is one of the top stillwater lakes in the Rockies.

Visit The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center at 201 South Canyon Street to learn about the ecology of these animals. While you might not spot a wolf or a grizzly during your travels in Yellowstone, here you can watch them upclose in natural settings. The bears actually earn their keep by testing Dumpsters, garbage cans, and even backpacker food containers to ensure they’re bear-proof. Along with viewing the wildlife, you and your family can take in naturalist talks. Don’t forget to sign up early for “Keeper Kids,” where kids get a chance to learn more about what grizzlies eat and then have a chance to hide food in the bear area, while the bears take a break inside. Junior Smoke Jumper Program. Youngsters can meet with actual smokejumpers to learn about their important role in battling forest fires in Yellowstone National Park and surrounding national forests. The Junior Smoke Jumper Program includes lessons on fire ecology and how to prevent forest fires, as well as a chance to try on smoke jumper equipment and dig a fire trench line. This program is offered every morning Monday through Saturday during the summer months at the historic Madison Ranger District buildings located at the east end of the Visitor Center parking lot, just before entering Yellowstone’s west gate. Wild West Yellowstone Rodeo. A taste of the cowboy West can be gleaned at the Wild West Yellowstone Rodeo held Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings in summer. Kids get their own chance to participate in the “Calf Scramble.” Take in a play. The Playmill Theatre on Madison Avenue offers shows as well as a Youth Summer Camp. Catch a movie on a rainy day. If rain interrupts your plans, stop by the Yellowstone IMAX Theater at 101 South Canyon Street to catch the latest film on Yellowstone and its wonders.


contributing photographers Marco Crupi

Deby Dixon

Connecticut-born and raised in Rome, Italy, Marco is a veteran artist who has worked in the creative sector for the past 20 years. As an outlet for his creativity and passion, Marco directs his artistic talent towards photography. He travels across the United States in constant search of its overwhelming beauty. His photo “Fall Flames” shot in Acadia National Park, was selected and featured as Photo of the Week on the prestigious Nature’s Best Photography.

“My love for national parks began with a trip to Mount Rainier National Park during the reopening of the Paradise Lodge in 2008 and grew until I no longer could stay home in the city. After a month-long camping trip to Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, I sold everything and moved into a 1970s model, 17-foottravel trailer (since upgraded to 21’ and newer) and left on a journey to see the parks. During the past 27 months I’ve visited several parks and have volunteered at Yosemite and North Cascades national parks. Currently, the trailer is parked and I’ve found warm winter accommodations just outside the North Gate to Yellowstone, where I plan to stay until May 2013.”

In 2012, Marco’s photo “Witness” was selected as a finalist in Photographer’s Forum Best Photography of 2012. His work is now part of the annual publication available for purchase, and shared among colleges, schools, libraries, and photographers. Pictures from his portfolio have been displayed among the online pages of Nature’s Best Photography, Photographer’s Forum Best Photography of 2012, Intelligent Travel Magazine, Your National Parks, and Outdoor Photographer. Some of his photographs have appeared in National Parks Traveler’s Park Photos of the Week block on the homepage. You can find more of Marco’s photographs at

Late in 2012, Deby started sharing her insights on photography and the national parks with National Parks Traveler readers in bimonthly photography columns. You can find more of her words and images at

Rebecca Latson

Stephen Brown

“I’m a Montana girl. I was born about 20 miles outside the western entrance to Glacier National Park. Over the years, I have migrated from Montana to Kentucky to Louisiana to Washington State to Idaho back to Montana and now down here to Texas. Someday, I’ll be back out in the mountains.

Stephen R. Brown is a professional photographer, writer and publisher based in Washington, D.C. for 35 years. His images and articles on photography have appeared in Smithsonian, Life, Newsweek, Time, Fortune, The New York Times, National Geographic books, Broadcasting & Cable, American Photo, Photo Techniques, etc.

“My father was a photographer. He used his Mamiya twin lens camera to take awesome black and whites of the Montana landscape. I inherited my love of the medium from him, and began my photography career in earnest with a Pentax SLR purchased while still in high school. I bought my first digital camera (an HP 2MP point-and-shoot) back in 1999. After that, I never looked back to film. “I’m a full-frame kind of gal as most of my prints are enlargements of 16 x 24 or larger. I also do a fair bit of cropping with some of my photos, so I want that extra resolution which a full-frame camera can provide.” Along with Deby Dixon, Rebecca began sharing her insights into photography with National Parks Traveler readers in bimonthly columns. You can find more of her images at 48


His photographs have been exhibited in solo shows throughout the world. Most notably, they were featured in “Indelible Images: 100 Years of War Photography” and “Odyssey: 100 Years of NGS Photography,” both of which were initiated at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and traveled around the world. More than a few of Stephen’s photographs have turned up in his own books, such as Jewel of the Mall, and Tidewater: Chesapeake Bay in Photographs. A contributing photographer for National Parks Traveler, you can find more of Stephen’s work on

resources Support Your Favorite National Park’s Friends Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation • Stay with a Foundation lodging partner. Visit the list. • The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation takes pride in being the only Parkway partner organization that allows for maximum flexibility in the use of each donated dollar, regardless of donor interests. See all the options. • Join the Andre Michaux Society, the French explorer who thought he’d climbed the “highest peak in all North America” when he looked down across the future Parkway route in 1794. • Give to the Foundation’s honors and memorials program.

Friends of Acadia • Join Friends of Acadia. Let them put your membership dues to work across the park to support the Island Explorer shuttles, organize volunteers, and fund the Acadia Youth Conservation Corps. • Walk in the footsteps of park founders—Dorr, Eliot, and Rockefeller—and contribute cash, appreciated stock, or other assets to support special projects like the Acadia Youth Technology Team. • Give a gift of membership to a friend or family member so they, too, can enjoy Acadia and work on its behalf.

Glacier National Park Conservancy

Keep national park friends groups, cooperating associations and communities in mind the next time you head out to visit a national park. They provide a vital and indispensable service to the parks that benefits us all. Their fundraising ads are now being featured on National Parks Traveler. If you can’t make it to your favorite one of these parks in 2013, consider a visit of financial support! Acadia National Park Friends of Acadia Big Bend National Park Friends of Big Bend Blue Ridge Parkway Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation The Boone Area High Country of North Carolina Great Smoky Mountains National Park Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

• Cash donations of any size are always welcome. • Help explain the wonders of Glacier by contributing to the conservancy’s “Discover Glacier” fund, which supports educational and informational projects around the park. • Help plant a forest! Through the conservancy’s Trees of Remembrance program native trees are nurtured for reforestation projects in Glacier. • Consider volunteering. Gardeners wanted! Trade your plot beside the driveway with a setting in Glacier and restore the park by pulling non-native weeds.

Grand Canyon Association • Become a member: By joining GCA, you become part of a community of people who care deeply about the future of Grand Canyon National Park. • Support a Park Project: Grand Canyon Association works with Grand Canyon National Park to identify programs that preserve this magnificent place and share its wonder with visitors. • Take a Grand Canyon Field Institute Class: The Field Institute offers fun and informative educational classes and tours for everyone, from seasoned backpackers to families with children on their first visit to Grand Canyon.

Trust for the National Mall • Individual donations go a long way on the Mall.

Glacier National Park Glacier National Park Conservancy Grand Canyon National Park Grand Canyon Association Grand Teton National Park Grand Teton National Park Foundation Natchez Trace Parkway Natchez Trace Compact National Mall and Memorial Parks Trust For the National Mall Yellowstone National Park Yellowstone Park Foundation

• Plan on attending the Trust’s annual ball or luncheon.

Yellowstone Park Foundation • Cash contributions of all sizes are greatly appreciated. Consider signing up for a monthly giving program and join the ranks of Stewards of Yellowstone.

West Yellowstone, Montana

• Collar a wolf. For $2,500 or $5,000 you can put a VHF or GPS collar on one of the park’s wolves for tracking. For $50, you can help contribute to the purchase of a VHF or GPS collar.

Holiday River Expeditions

• Join the Old Faithful Society by designating the Foundation as a beneficiary in your will. You can assign qualified retirement plan assets, such as IRAs, or life insurance benefits, to the Foundation.

Mountaineers Books Seawolf Adventures

Join the Essential Friends + Gateways Movement Essential Friends + Gateways is an annual publication of National Parks Traveler. In 2014, let us tell your group’s or community’s story. Or let us feature your destination or business advertisement in support of these groups.




Essential Friends & Gateways 2013  

Celebrating national park friends groups and gateway communities.