Trip Coach: April 8, 2008
Kurt Repanshek, author of "National Parks With Kids," answered your questions about vacations in the National Parks with (and without) children.
Kurt Repanshek: Greetings Denver. Glacier's one of my favorites. In fact, I'm hoping to get back there this summer.
Here are a couple suggestions: I think the Hidden Lake Trail is one of the best in Glacier for just your mix of ages. Located at Logan Pass, the trail is not too steep, starts out with boardwalk before turning into a somewhat rougher trail, passes through some of the most beautiful alpine meadows you'll see when they're in bloom and which are a magnet for mountain goats that, I swear, making a living by posing for cameras.
Closer to Lake McDonald Lodge are the Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail and the Avalanche Lake Trail, two more of my favorites. The Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail is great for inquisitive children. Running just a quarter-mile along a raised boardwalk, the trail meanders through a lush, temperate forest of cedars, hemlocks, ferns, and mosses. The adjacent Avalanche Lake Trail runs 2.3 miles one-way to its namesake lake. The trail is not steep, quickly brings you to a moss-covered gorge cut by Avalanche Creek, and leads to a magnificent setting perfect for a picnic lunch. You can preview these two trails from this page.
Have a great trip!
Durham, N.H.: What lodging would you reccommend, please, inside or just outside Yellowstone for two couples in their 60's who enjoy mid-level activities?
Kurt Repanshek: Hi Durham, I'm afraid your question prompts more questions. What part of Yellowstone do you want to see? How far is too far to drive? What sort of activities are you interested in?
If geyser basins are a priority, West Yellowstone might be perfect for you. There's a wide range of lodging (price-wise and accommodation-wise), there's a variety of restaurants, and it's well-located in terms of the Upper, Lower, Midway and Norris geyser basins, there are some excellent hiking trails in this area of Yellowstone, and, if you like to fish, the Madison River is renowned for its trout fishery.
You can either rent a motel room or two or rent a house for a reasonable amount of money. We did the later last summer with three couples, and had a blast. If this sounds good, check with the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce for possibilities.
If you'd rather tackle more of the park, I love Lake Yellowstone Hotel. It's pricey, but you can save some money by looking into one of the Western Cabins at the adjoining Lake Lodge and then heading over to the hotel for meals. The location is great, as you're close (relatively speaking) to West Thumb, Old Faithful, the Hayden Valley, and Canyon, there's plenty of hiking, boating, angling, and wildlife viewing nearby as well.
And there's nothing like relaxing in the hotel's Sun Room with a drink before dinner while the string quartet is playing!
Old Bridge, N.J.: I'll be spending 3/4 of a day at Yosemite on May 14th. What is the most recommended way to get to see the big attractions in a short period: hike/walk, bike, etc?
Kurt Repanshek: Old Bridge, you need to squeeze in another day in the park!
That said, head to the Yosemite Valley. In mid-May the runoff is starting to peak and the waterfalls will be at full throttle. If you're in good shape and like to hike, I'd suggest you head up the Mist Trail. This hike takes you up past Vernal Fall to the top of Nevada Fall. Not only do you get some great exercise, but this is arguably the valley's 'classic' hike and the payoff, along with being cooled by the waterfalls' mists on warm days, is the view back down into the valley.
If you don't have time for the hike, after checking out the valley floor, head up to Glacier Point for a bird's eye view down into the valley.
Huntington, W.Va.: Kurt, My husband and I are in our 60's, and will reach the Great Smokey Mountains on April 19th via the Blue Ridge Parkway. Can you suggest lodging on that side of the park? Also, what do you consider to be the must see sights of the park? Thanks. Anne
Kurt Repanshek: Hi Anne. On that side of the park I like the Jonathan Creek Inn in Maggie Valley. There area is quieter than Cherokee and the inn is charming and has some nice amenities—some rooms have fireplaces and Jacuzzis in them, for example, and to stay in touch there's wireless Internet.
Must-see sights? I really enjoyed the Cataloochee Valley, which is not far from Maggie Valley. It's a smaller version of Cade's Cove but without the crowds. There are some nicely restored homesteads there, some decent fishing, a nice campground, and you might see elk in the valley's meadows early in the morning or around dusk. Plus, you can head over to Little Cataloochee, where there's a beautifully restored church and more remnants of the homesteads that used to dot the Smokies.
Back in the main part of the park, I think one should definitely climb to the top of the tower at Clingmans Dome for a view of this rumpled mountainscape. To learn more about the homesteaders, check out the Mountain Farm Museum behind the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, and to learn more about the Cherokee nation, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian is worth a visit. And then, of course, be sure to park the car and take a hike into the mountains!