Yellowstone May Be Your Best-Ever Winter Break!
I'll admit it. When it comes to our national parks, I'm a fair-weather friend. I've lingered for days in Glacier at the height of its summer splendor, popped into Yosemite for a peep at its fall foliage—but when it comes to winter in the parks, I've only ogled the classic Ansel Adams photographs, sighed, and solemnly vowed that some day I'll get there in what is somewhat erroneously referred to as the "off-season."
This year, the Yellowstone Association Institute (YAI) proves that Yellowstone National Park does not go into hibernation mode with the first snowfall. YAI has put together a new slate of fall and winter field seminars, private tours, and "lodging and learning" programs that may actually get me out of New York and into the mountains.
With 35 field seminars, including eight brand-new programs, Yellowstone will be hopping all winter, putting up eager visitors at cabins and bunkhouses at the Buffalo Ranch in the Lamar Valley and at log cabins at the Overlook Field Campus in Gardiner, Mont. New programs include:
The Wildlife Weekend Escape. Spend two days (December 14-15) in the Lamar Valley searching for bison, elk, and Yellowstone's renowned wolves ($220).
Old Faithful Fall Photography. Shutterbugs will visit the area's rivers, geysers, geologic formations, and wildlife at dawn and dusk October 16-19 ($358).
Wildlife on the Hoof. Focusing on bighorn sheep, bison, elk, moose, and other hooved mammals, this program is held during migration and mating season, November 23-25 ($330).
Visitors can also book private tours tailored to families and small groups or "lodging and learning" programs offered in partnership with Xanterra Parks & Resorts.
To learn more, visit yellowstoneassociation.org.
You've Never Seen Anything Like This Yosemite Video!
One year ago, 30 filmmakers descended on Yosemite National Park, in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, and spread out to shoot the locations, people, and animals that make the park one of the most popular travel destinations in the U.S. The result is not just a solid, accurate depiction of what the park looks like on a beautiful day in early summer, but it also has something extra, an ineffable, tranquil beauty that is quite moving. Watch the video! TALK TO US! Have you visited Yosemite? Did this video bring back happy memories? Are you planning a trip to Yosemite? Did this video help inspire you?
A Great New Yosemite Guidebook
Though I'm something of a travel website and app junkie, I have to admit that one of the best travel resources I've come across lately is a good old-fashioned book. That's right—paper and ink and everything. The Road Guide to Yosemite, published by the Yosemite Conservancy, is the national park guidebook of my dreams. Designed to match up with newly placed markers throughout Yosemite National Park, the book takes you down all 200+ miles of the park's roads, noting not just what you'll see out your car window but also where you should stop, what you should do when you stop (including hiking trails and photo ops), and in many cases sharing tidbits of natural and human history along the way. Written by Master Interpretive Ranger Bob Roney, who has worked at the park since 1968, the book boasts full-color maps, illustrations that provide background on the landscape's geological and botanical variety, and a cast of characters that includes Sierra Club founder John Muir, photographer Ansel Adams (who made his first trip to Yosemite at the age of 14 and took his first images of the park with a Kodak No. 1 Box Brownie camera), and President Theodore Roosevelt. The Road Guide to Yosemite fulfills the wish of the park's earliest rangers, who hoped to teach the public to "read" the Yosemite's roadsides like a book. From iconic one-of-a-kind sights like Half Dome and El Capitan to lesser-known paths and meadows, this is the one book you'll want under your arm as you explore this gem in Northern California's Sierra Nevada Mountains. Spring is a great time to visit Yosemite National Park, with the park's waterfalls brimming over, most roads open, and mild temperatures during the day. Check out road conditions, weather, and any special seasonal considerations at nps.gov/yose. TALK TO US! We want to know: what's your favorite travel guide?
America's National Parks Go Online, Street-View Style
Nature Valley has teamed up with hikers and videographers to create the ultimate virtual tour of three iconic American Parks—the Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone National Park, and the Grand Canyon. The site, NatureValleyTrailView.com, which launched today, provides interactive maps of popular trails complete with videos of trail markers and points of interest. The result is 360-degree street-level imagery of over 100 miles in each park—as well as helpful information for each trail (distance, difficulty rating and elevation) for folks looking to embark on their own trekking adventure. To create the maps, eight hikers set out into the parks with an 11-lense, Dodeca 2360 camera, which captures video footage from every direction simultaneously (editors then stitch the images together to create an immersive experience). And while the team has only covered three parks so far, they have plans to expand into other parks. Hear about the team's experiences documenting the parks: The project calls to mind Google's efforts to bring street view into art museums and to document the remote villages of the Amazon River Basin, but Google had nothing to do with this project. The venture was sponsored by granola-bar company Nature Valley which has aligned itself with our national parks in an effort to preserve them. This project helps our parks in three ways—one, it provides much-needed cash to the park system, two it educates the public on these valuable natural resources, and three it digitally documents the land for eternity. Of course, the role of big business in preserving our parks is not without controversy. Critics worry that corporate sponsors will wield undue influence over parks. But before you start freaking out about advertisements cluttering our views of the Grand Canyon, keep this in mind—90 percent of our budget for the National Park Service comes from Congress. And, as Mother Jones reported in a recent article, there are plenty of rules that protect the parks from conflicts of interest and corporate pressure. As far as I'm concerned, I think it's cool—you can visit our nation's parks from the comfort of your couch, you can teach your children about the beauty and importance of our nation's natural resources, and when you're ready to visit you have a tool that can help you make the most of your experience. What do you think? SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Scalpers at National Parks? Best National Parks for Wildlife Viewing 7 National Parks You've Never Heard Of
Free Admission to National Parks This Weekend
In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the National Park Service has announced that all 397 national parks around the country will be offering free admission from Saturday, January 14th, to Monday, January 16th, 2012. “Dr. King’s story and those of so many others whose efforts changed our country are preserved in the national parks, places where history happened," said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. "I hope every American can take advantage of the upcoming fee free weekend and visit their parks to experience their history firsthand.” Those wishing to learn more about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., can pay a visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, Georgia, where both the home he was born in and his tomb with the Eternal Flame are on display. Follow in his footsteps along the National Historic Trail from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, now a designated historic byway. If you happen to be on the east coast, visit the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and sit on the steps from which Dr. King delivered his famous "I Have A Dream" speech, or visit the newly opened Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in the National Mall. Events commemorating Dr. King's life will also take place at Fort Donelson National Battlefield in Tennessee, while the MLK Film Festival will be held at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington D.C. from January 14-16. Not sure where the closest national park is? Use this tool to find a national park near you and see what activities and events are offered in each park. It should be noted that all National Parks will also be free on the following dates: April 21-29, National Park Week; June 9, Get Outdoors Day; September 29, National Public Lands Day; and November 10-12, Veterans Day Weekend. We want to know: What are your favorite National Parks? Are there certain ones you take your family to every year, or others you plan to visit in the future? Tell us all about it! MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: 7 National Parks You've Never Heard Of Quiz: Think You Know the National Parks? National Parks (Minus the Crowds)
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