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Meet the World's Newest National Park

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello
November 9, 2015
El Cono, in Sierra del Divisor National Park, Peru
Foreign Policy

Peru has announced the establishment of Sierra del Divisor National Park, a 3.3-million-acre reserve in the Amazon that will protect endangered wildlife and indigenous communities.

Some are celebrating the new park by dubbing it the “Yellowstone of the Amazon,” but in fact Sierra del Divisor is bigger than Yellowstone and Yosemite put together, and is the final link in a much bigger chain of protected areas, the Andes-Amazon Conservation Corridor, which will now cover 67 million acres.

Reflecting nine years of work by nonprofits such as Rainforest Trust and the Center for the Development of an Indigenous Amazon and the Peruvian government, the new park is, according to Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust, “one of the greatest refuges for biodiversity on Earth.”

The area, which, thanks to this national park designation, is now protected from logging, oil exploration, coca cultivation, and other deforestation activities, is home to 21 indigenous groups, and animal species that include giant armadillo, jaguar, the unusual bald uakari monkey, and others.

Budget Travel will keep an eye on new opportunities for U.S. travelers to responsiby (and affordably) explore the Amazon region in light of this new park designation. If you've got the Amazon on your to-do list, we’ve recently recommended Friendly Planet’s Exotic Ecuador and Peru tour.

TALK TO US! We want to know: Have you visited the Amazon? Are you planning a visit in 2016?

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National Parks

How To Visit U.S. National Parks For Free

Happy 99th Birthday, National Park Service. You Look Great! In case you hadn't noticed, the U.S. is home to some of the greatest national parks in the world. The best part: if you do your homework, you can visit them for free. Here's how. Enroll in the Every Kid In A Park program Get ready for the ultimate family national parks road trip adventure! Starting in September 2015, 4th grade students around the country can sign up through the Every Kid In A Park website to receive a voucher for free entry until Aug. 31, 2016 to U.S. national parks and public lands for the student and up to a carload of people. Translation: you and your family will get the chance to see wildlife and spectacular natural wonders up close—just remember to stay in your car when the urge to take that perfect bison photo suddenly hits. Visit during free admission days The good news in case you didn't get a chance to visit your favorite national park today during the 99th anniversary of the National Park Service, you can still take advantage of free entrance days on Sept. 26th (National Public Lands Day) and Nov. 11th (Veterans Day). Next year, you'll also be able to score complimentary admission on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Presidents' Day weekend, National Park Week's opening weekend, and on Aug. 25th, the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. Free annual passes are available for certain groups Current military members and their dependents, families of deployed service men and women in the U.S. Navy, Army, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard, and most members of the U.S. Reserves and National Guard can pick up a free annual pass at any federal recreation site by showing a valid current military ID. U.S. citizens with permanent disabilities are eligible for the Access Pass, a free annual pass that must be obtained in person at any federal recreation site or you can pay a $10 processing fee to submit your application online. Have you volunteered with a federal agency (ie. the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, or the Bureau of Reclamation) for more than 250 hours? You can apply for a free Volunteer Pass by applying through the Interagency Pass Program or by visiting Volunteer.gov for more information. Seniors get in for (almost) free If you're over the age of 62, you can pay just $10 for a Lifetime Pass if you apply in person at any federal recreation site, or $20 for a processing fee if you choose to apply via mail. The pass also includes a 50 percent discount on certain fees that are normally charged by the parks for camping, boat launches, swimming, and other activities. Please note that Golden Age Passports are no longer being sold, but will be honored if they've already been purchased. Need more ideas? Find Your Park. At Budget Travel, we're huge fans of our national parks and try to visit them as much as possible. In Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, I had the chance to view lava from the visitor center, walk through the dormant Thurston Tunnel, and hike along a path that looked down onto active steam vents. In South Dakota's Badlands National Park, my other favorite, each stop at one of the "scenic overlook" markers becomes a scene you'll never forget, a postcard with every view. Want to visit a handful of amazing national parks and monuments in one road trip? Try Southern Utah's National Park circuit through Capitol Reef, Bryce, Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands—with a stop at Monument Valley in Northern Arizona—for the summer road trip of a lifetime. We want to know: which national park is your favorite? Is there a certain one you keep going back to? Which ones are still on your travel bucket list? Sound off below!

National Parks

WATCH! Yellowstone Bison Surprises Motorists

We were sorry to hear that a teen visiting Yellowstone National Park was gored by a bison on Friday after posing for a photo near the animal. Her injuries were deemed serious but not life-threatening. I must admit, though, the animal encounter reminded me of the video above, shot by my wife Michele when she and our daughter Rosalie were visiting Yellowstone last summer. The gigantic bison that huffs and puffs past Michele and Rosie's rental car has become a bit of a video "star" with Budget Travel readers. The bison attack last week is also an opportunity to remind travelers, as the National Park Service does, that you should never get within 25 yards of bison or other park denizens. (The teen who was gored on Friday was reportedly standing wtihin 6 feet of the bison.) Yellowstone National Park is home to up to 5,000 bison by some estimates, and despite their massive size, they can run three times faster than you can. Stay safe.

National ParksBudget Travel Lists

BT Staff Picks: 8 National Parks We Love!

Visiting a U.S. national park is a bargain no matter what day it is, but this weekend, on April 18 and 19, admission to every park is free in celebration of National Park Week. Can't decide which one to visit? Take the National Park Service's quiz on FindYourPark.com to find out which of the U.S.'s 407 parks you should explore first. (The Statue of Liberty is one of them!) The site and social-media hashtag #FindYourPark is part of a public awareness campaign for the service's centennial anniversary in 2016. We want to guide you in the right direction too. Asking the BT staff members to choose a favorite national park is a little like asking us to choose a favorite child, but we sifted through our best travel memories and each picked one that's special to us. We hope our stories help inspire your next adventure. BT staffers weigh in: What's your favorite national park, and why? "Glacier National Park, in Montana, is not just my favorite national park, but also my favorite place on earth. Pristine mountain lakes, easy hikeable trails, mountain goats greeting you at the continental divide at Logan Pass, plus huckleberry ice cream." —Robert Firpo-Cappiello, editor in chief "Badlands National Park, the first place I visited during a road trip through the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota. The landscapes were like nothing I'd ever seen before, and I kept pulling over at every sign that said 'scenic overlook' because I knew there was another amazing view behind it. If you go, give yourself plenty of time to sit back, enjoy the scenery, and listen to the sounds of nature around you. Just remember to stick to the walking paths—those are rattlesnake rattles you're hearing!" —Kaeli Conforti, digital editor "Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Enveloping the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, the park is unparalleled in the fall. The specks and flecks of warm-colored foliage are painted throughout the layered mountain range as its signature fog hangs between peaks, making any view of this park a remarkable one." —Whitney Tressel, photo editor "Arches National Park, near Moab, Utah, is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to. It's what I imagine being on Mars would feel like: The landscape is an incredible, fiery ochre, and delicate rock formations defy gravity. Basically, you'll spend the day here picking your jaw up off the ground." —Sophie-Claire Hoeller, contributor "Haleakala National Park, on Maui, is amazing and one of the most unusual parks in the USA. You can explore lush rain forest and the colorful crater of a volcano all in one park, a trip that will definitely earn you bragging rights." —Darley Newman, contributing editor "If you want to guarantee a wildlife encounter during your national park visit, it's impossible to beat the Florida Everglades. From the second you enter the park, you're bombarded with more than 350 bird species—plus alligators and crocodiles out catching rays. And you can skip the binoculars; you'll practically be tripping over wildlife during your entire trip." —Nicholas DeRenzo, contributor "I've always loved this quote by John Muir: 'The mountains are calling, and I must go.' To me, Yosemite, in California, is the most beautiful national park, from the first moment you see the incredible vistas at Tunnel View to the stunning reflections of the immense mountains in the valley streams. I'll never forget hiking to Vernal Falls with my best friend and how we were both in awe once we got to the top." —Jennifer O'Brien, marketing manager "Putting the unique beauty of Joshua Tree National Park into words is nearly impossible, but I still try to describe the feeling I had when I first saw it for myself. I've told people the towering boulder piles, spiny trees, and arid desert floors are 'otherworldly,' 'alien,' or 'incomparable,' but 'spiritual' is probably the best term for Joshua Tree, as the park will speak directly to your soul." —Jamie Beckman, senior editor

National Parks

Yellowstone in Winter

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK -November 13, 2014 - Even for people who have been to Yellowstone National Park many times in summer, a winter trip is like visiting a whole new park. But unlike a summer trip, a winter visit requires more preparation with roads open only to over-the-snow vehicles and just two of the nine lodges open. That is why Xanterra Parks & Resorts' Yellowstone National Park Lodges, the operator of lodging, restaurants and activities in Yellowstone, offers packages designed to showcase the park's winter offerings while minimizing the planning. "A winter visit to Yellowstone can be like visiting another amazing world," said Rick Hoeninghausen, director of sales and marketing for Xanterra in Yellowstone. "While obviously all the natural features enjoyed during summer can be seen in winter, a blanket of snow and winter temperatures seem to transform the park, especially geyser basins, into other-worldly snowscapes.  And the opportunities to view wildlife, especially wolves, is excellent during the winter season." Xanterra offers a lineup of winter-season multi-day packages that help visitors focus on their interests. These packages include "Lodging & Learning" packages in partnership with the Yellowstone Association Institute (YAI), self-guided winter "Getaway Packages" and a guided snowmobile "Adventure Package" as well as lodging and transportation options for those who want to customize their own experiences. The park's winter season begins Dec. 20, 2014 with the opening of Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel opens Dec. 21. The lodges provide the only wintertime accommodations within the park. Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel will close for the season March 2, 2015, and Old Faithful Snow Lodge will close March 1, 2015. The popular Winter in Wonderland Lodging & Learning package features a comprehensive overview of the winter experience while additional packages focus on specific interests with titles like Yellowstone on Skis, Winter Wolf Discovery, Winter Wildlife Expedition, Old Faithful Winter Expedition and YNot Winter, a package developed to teach participants the basics about winter-season experiences in Yellowstone. Each program includes expert guides, accommodations, in-park transportation, some meals and Xanterra's "Snow Card" good for 10 percent off meals, in-park transportation, tours, ski shop services and most retail items. Introduced last winter, an airport shuttle from Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport provides a convenient and cost-saving option for traveling to/from the park. Package participants receive a special rate of $42 (plus applicable taxes/fees) each way, a savings from the regular rate of $53.50 plus tax each way. Except for the road from Gardiner, Mont. to Cooke City, Mont. via Mammoth Hot Springs, transportation within the park is limited to snowmobiles and enclosed heated snowcoaches during the winter. Snowcoach transportation is available daily to a variety of park locations. Xanterra also offers a wide range of half- and full-day snowcoach, ski and snowshoe tours as well as ski and snowshoe rentals and instruction. Winter packages can be booked by calling (1) 307-344-7311 or toll-free 866-GEYSERLAND (866-439-7375) or by submitting the secure online package reservation request form found on the website www.YellowstoneNationalParkLodges.com.

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