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These U.S. Parks Require Winning the Lottery to Visit
Many of us may be feeling the itch to travel after staying home for almost a year as we continue living through a pandemic. When it is safe to travel again, it’s possible that our travel priorities have shifted. Maybe you prefer to spend more time outdoors. If you're wanting to get out more in nature and visit specific parks or recreation areas, you’re going to need to do some extra planning. Several U.S. parks require entering and winning a lottery to have the opportunity to visit, such as reaching the summit of Half Dome or rafting down the San Juan River. Implementing a lottery is one way to minimize human impact on fragile ecosystems by reducing crowds and traffic. Please make sure you check for any COVID-19 pandemic restrictions before you plan or depart on any trip. San Juan River, Utah Floating or rafting down the San Juan River in southeast Utah may be high on your list, especially if you want to traverse through splendid red rock canyons full of history and wildlife. A permit is required between Montezuma Creek and Clay Hills Crossing, comprising 102 miles of the river. Some sections of the river are known for being calm and mellow, while other parts of the river require boating and rafting skills to navigate Class II to III rapids. How to enter: Lottery opens from December to the end of January for trips launching April 15 - July 15. Applicants will be informed on February 16. Any cancelled or unclaimed trips are released to reserve online starting March 16. Trips from July 16- December 31 also become available for advanced reservation. Costs: A $6 non-refundable fee for lottery or advanced reservations. There are additional permit fees with varying prices, depending on the river segment, as well as if you camp or hike within the Navajo Nation section of the river. Rafts and kayaks descend the Snake River in Hells Canyon on the border between Idaho and Oregon. ©thinair28/Getty Images Snake River in Hells Canyon Oregon, Washington and Idaho The majestic Snake River ebbs and flows through the deepest river-carved gorge in North America, known as Hells Canyon. Nestled between eastern Oregon and Washington and western Idaho, Hell’s Canyon is popular for braving rapids from Class II to Class V. There are also sections of the river for relaxing float trips. With the help of binoculars, you can often spot the great blue heron or bighorn sheep. Three private launches are allowed per day with no more than 24 people per group or launch (depending on type of watercraft), as well as two commercial launches during the primary season, from the end of May through September 10th each year. How to enter: Lottery opens in December and the application closes at the end of January. On March 16, any permits unclaimed or cancelled are released to the public and are available to reserve online. Costs: A non-refundable $6 fee to enter the lottery. If awarded a permit, there are no (additional) entrance fees. Half Dome Cables, Yosemite California The striking granite dome that rises about 5,000 feet above Yosemite Valley is a symbol of this National park. For many hikers and mountain climbers, reaching the top is a rite of passage. But this 10-12 hour hike isn’t for the faint of heart; it’s a strenuous trail and requires hikers to be in good physical health. The last 400 feet may seem to be the hardest part requiring the famous cables to ascend to the summit but it’s only one of the many challenges. How to enter: The preseason lottery is open from March 1-March 31 with around 225 permits offered each day. Daily lotteries occur from May 31- October 13 (though dates subject to change) with a two day advanced window. So if you want to hike on a Tuesday, you need to apply on Sunday and hope you get lucky. Fifty permits are usually allotted per day. Costs: There is a $10 non-refundable fee to partake in the lottery. If selected, you will incur a $10 permit fee per person for a specific day. Rafting on the Colorado River in the Gran Canyon at sunrise. ©Jim Mallouk/Shutterstock Grand Canyon Rafting, Arizona Rafting down the Colorado River through the incredible Grand Canyon may be a dream come true. But you’re definitely going to need to plan in advance to have a chance at the unique view from the water. Self-guided tours, often referred to as private rafting, are available via the weighted lottery. Because the river is challenging and technical, the National Park Service requires that at least one person in the group has whitewater rafting experience and skills to navigate the river. How to enter: The lottery takes place for three weeks in February for the opportunity to choose up to 5 specific dates for the following year. If there are cancellations by winners or unclaimed trips, applicants can partake in additional lotteries. But hopefuls will need to be attentive to their email as extra lotteries have a super short window, usually two days, to enter. Costs: Applying to the lottery incurs a non-refundable $25 fee. If you win a launch date, you’ll be required to pay a deposit confirming your spot and will go towards covering additional expenses, including a park entrance fee and river permit per person. The Wave, located in the desert close the border of Arizona and Utah, is probably one of the most colorful and amazing sandstone rock formations in the world. Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Colorado Plateau, Coyote Buttes, Arizona. ©Jim Mallouk/Shutterstock Coyote Buttes North (The Wave), Utah Coyote Buttes North is most well-known for the The Wave, an impressive geological sandstone formation, located within the 112,500-acre Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. Permits are required to access this undeveloped area and is considered the backcountry—there are no designated trails or bathrooms. Permit-holders should be in good physical health to hike the challenging 6.4 round-trip trail. A maximum of 64 people are allowed to enter the park each day and in groups of up to six people. How to enter: The lottery opens on the first of each month for the chance to get a day use permit four months later. For example, if you apply during the month of April, if you “win” a permit, you’ll be given a date in August. There are two lottery systems: advanced online and walk-in. The advanced lottery awards permits for forty-eight people or 12 groups per day and up to sixteen people can get lucky in the walk-in lottery. Each person must be listed on the permit, including babies, and pay an entrance fee. Cost: The lottery costs a non-refundable $9 application fee. If you are granted a permit, the cost per person is $7. Havasu Falls, waterfalls in the Grand Canyon, Arizona. ©ronnybas/Shutterstock Havasupai Falls, Arizona Havasupai Falls is part of the Grand Canyon system in Arizona but it is technically outside the park in tribal land that belongs to the Havasupai tribe. It is a known bucket-list hike for hikers and campers who want to experience the beautiful blue water falling over the canyon. In order to hike the canyon, people are required to have a reservation of at least 3 nights, so people should be comfortable with distance hiking. How to enter: The lottery closes on February 1 each year, though it is closed in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Wild Side of Louisiana
If the word “Louisiana” makes you think only of Mardi Gras, we’ve got a whole new world of adventure for you to discover. In fact, the state’s nickname, “Sportsman’s Paradise” hints at what visitors have in store: state parks, miles of trails for hikers and cyclists, coastal wetlands, swamp tours, an array of colorful birds, and much more. Here, a walk on Louisiana’s wild side. STATE PARKS Louisiana makes it easy to “get wild” with endless state parks with opportunities for cycling, hiking, fishing, boating, paddling (on lakes, bayous, and swamps), and birdwatching. And if you want to spend the night out under the stars, Louisiana’s state parks offer camping and picnic areas, well-equipped cabins, and RV parks. We’ll share a few state park options, and we encourage you to explore further at louisianatravel.com. For visitors who truly want to experience wild Louisiana, Palmetto Island State Park, in the southern corner of the state, is an excellent choice, with native cypress and palmetto trees delivering that iconic swamp vibe. The Vermilion River and other waterways and bayous are perfect for exploring via kayak or canoe. Don’t miss the chance to hike a portion of the seven-mile Cypress Trail, stop by the excellent visitor center, or even spend the night in one of the park’s rental cabins. For a park experience a little closer to the city, we love Bayou Segnette State Park, in Jefferson Parish, just outside New Orleans. Kids and grownups alike will enjoy the wave pool, the chance to see (from a safe distance) alligators, bald eagles, and other swamp residents, and floating cabins right on the water. Fontainebleau State Park, outside the Northshore town of Mandeville (about an hour’s drive from New Orleans) combines paddling and hiking opportunities with local history — the park was once the site of a sugar mill, and the visitor center provides fascinating historical background. Fontainebleau also boasts a beach and water playground, a lovely place to relax. SWAMP TOURS Louisiana’s swamps have a mysterious allure thanks to their beauty, classic trees and moss, and, of course, the alligators we are all fascinated by and a bit wary of. One of the best ways to satisfy your thirst for a swamp adventure without getting too far out of your personal comfort zone is by taking a guided swamp tour. Your guide can introduce you to swamp wildlife and also to “secret” restaurants near the marshes where you can get the ultimate authentic taste of Cajun cuisine. Watercraft options range from tour boats, airboats, and kayaks. Reliable swamp guides can be hired at New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours; Atchafalaya Basin Landing & Marina in Henderson (gateway to the incredible Atchafalaya wilderness, the largest river swamp in the U.S.); and Dr. Wagner's Honey Island Swamp Tours, exploring the 108 square miles of the beautiful swamp. Don’t forget to pack your cameras or smartphones for shots of colorful birds, gators, deer, and azaleas in season. CANOEING & KAYAKING POVERTY POINT (Bonita Cheshier/Dreamstime)For a taste of Louisiana’s amazing array of paddling opportunities, the Bayou Macon Paddling Trail, which takes you from Poverty Point State Historic Site to Poverty Point Reservoir State Park, is a great choice. It delivers flowering plants, butterflies, egrets, herons, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, palmettos, cypresses, oaks, sycamore, and cottonwood, and also takes you back in time to Poverty Point, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was home to the earliest advanced society in America, dating back as far as 1650 BC. Choose between an 11.9-mile paddle, that can take most of the day for beginners, or a more manageable 6.5-mile paddle. CYCLING TAMMANY TRACE One of Louisiana’s finest places to cycle is Tammany Trace, with natural beauty around every bend in the trail. And the Tammany Trace trailhead is an excellent place to park your bike and enjoy fun activities with something for every family member in the small town of Abita Springs. Enjoy the impressive new Abita Springs playground, right near the trailhead, then make a pit stop at Abita Brew Pub for comfort food like poboys — and you must try the crawfish cakes for a true “taste of Louisiana.” CAMPING KISATCHIE NATIONAL FOREST We’ve already mentioned several amazing state parks where camping is not only affordable but also one of the best ways to get up close and personal with wildlife and nature. But Louisiana is also home to an incredible national forest that campers will love: Kisatchie National Forest, named for a local Native American tribe, comprises over 604,000 acres of bayous, cypress groves, old growth pine, gorgeous overlooks, and wild hiking trails. In one corner of the forest is the preserve where horticulturist Caroline Dormon lived and worked in the 1920s. Dormon was the first woman employed in forestry and convinced the US Forest Service to establish Kisatchie as a National Forest. Her cabin and her many plant drawings can be seen at the Briarwood Nature Preserve in April, May, August and November. BIRDING AND BEACHES ON GRAND ISLE (Shane Adams/Dreamstime)Traditional sandy beaches are not common in Louisiana, but Grand Isle, at the end of the state’s Highway 1, delivers sand dunes and the lapping waves of the Gulf of Mexico. The island’s state park is renowned for its pier, campground, and opportunities to collect unique seashells. But one of the main attractions is the vibrant variety of birds — both the natives and those that stop at Grand Isle in their migratory path. Keep your eyes (and cameras and binoculars!) peeled for waterfowl, songbirds, and raptors. Is it any wonder John J. Audubon spent so much time in Louisiana painting birds? Ready to plan your wild Louisiana getaway? We heartily recommend a visit to LouisianaTravel.com for trip inspiration and tips on lodging, food, and itineraries.
8 Things to Do in Banff National Park, Alberta
Banff, Canada, has been a haven for adventurous travelers for more than 125 years. The earliest visitors came via the Canadian Pacific Railway to explore the newly minted Banff National Park, the first national park in Canada and third in the world. These days, the area is a reasonable 90-minute drive along the Trans-Canada Highway from Calgary’s International Airport. Lured by the rugged natural beauty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, backpackers, ski bums, camera-toting tourists, and royals alike have checked the Bow Valley town off their bucket lists, and iconic images of snow-capped peaks with the promise of expert skiing terrain should convince anyone to follow suit. The UNESCO World Heritage Site’s magnificent mountain panoramas and pristine glacial lakes will likely surpass even the most jaded traveler's sky-high expectations. Rolling into town, Mount Rundle, Sulphur Mountain, Mount Norquay, and Cascade Mountain are so close you can almost touch them—and that's just the first impression. Here are eight ways to get away from the crowds and bask in the wilderness of Banff, one of the most beautiful natural playgrounds on earth. 1. Linger Around a Lake Moraine Lake is one of several bodies of water not far from Banff. (Jtbob168/Dreamstime) Moraine Lake, Lake Minnewanka, Vermilion Lakes, and Lake Louise are all within a one-hour drive of the town of Banff. Whichever you choose, plan to arrive early to get a moment of quiet reflection and capture sunrise before the masses descend and parking spots disappear. Minnewanka is a prime spot to catch the Northern Lights, so check the aurora forecast (@aurorawatch on Twitter) to plan a late-night viewing, or cruise along the bike path that skirts the Vermilion Lakes—just make sure to keep an eye out for the moose, black bears, and elk that frequent this corridor. 2. Take a Hike or Two On Sulphur Mountain, a boardwalk connects to the gondola landing. (John6863373/Dreamstime) It’s not an insult—it’s expert advice, and the best way to get acquainted with the park and find solitude. There are more than 1,000 miles of hiking trails throughout Banff National Park, but most visitors stick to a handful of crowded routes. The longer—and yes, more strenuous—trails like Cory Pass and Mount Edith or Aylmer Lookout have less foot traffic, with beautiful unobstructed views as rewards for the exertion. As an alternative, Sulphur Mountain, right on the edge of town, boasts a renovated summit area complete with boardwalks and 360-degree panoramas. Consider giving your tired feet a rest and paying for the scenic Banff Gondola (banffjaspercollection.com/attractions/banff-gondola/experience) ride to the top. 3. Go Deeper with Guided Tours Ice climbing in Banff. (Franky/Dreamstime) Banff National Park’s wonderful hikes and vistas are available to all, but local tour operators open up the wilderness for a safe and memorable experience. For an adrenaline rush, ice-climbing trips with Banff Alpine Guides (banffalpineguides.com) in winter and Mount Norquay’s Via Ferrata (banffnorquay.com) assisted-climbing excursions in summer don’t disappoint. Both come with expert instruction and all the necessary safety gear, no experience required. Additionally, canoeing along the Bow River with The Banff Canoe Club (banffcanoeclub.com) seamlessly combines a history lesson and a leisurely journey. 4. Hit the Slopes in Spring Skiing near Lake Louise, Banff. (Sburel/Dreamstime) If you ask any local, they will recommend spring for skiing and snowboarding. Come April, there’s no shortage of fresh powder, the temperatures rise, and accommodations are plentiful and reasonably priced. Banff National Park is home to three ski resorts, Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Mount Norquay (us.skibig3.com), with ample terrain for every ability. The Canadian Rockies may be famous for heli-skiing and adrenaline-packed expert-only lines, but leisurely runs still afford spectacular views of the peaks. 5. Sip a Distinctive Après Ski or Hike Drink Hit the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise's Lakeview Lounge for post-hike refreshments. (Helena Bilkova/Dreamstime) All that activity is bound to make you thirsty, and Banff has a reputation as a party town, with lively drinking scenes on rooftop patios and alfresco tables. Your beverage comes with at least one mountain backdrop and, if you time it right, the sunset. The Bison Restaurant + Terrace (thebison.ca) has a carefully curated selection of British Columbian wines by the glass and by the bottle. When it comes to suds, a flight from Banff Ave. Brewing Co. (banffavebrewingco.ca) is a great way to sample the local craft scene. For teetotalers, Nourish Bistro (nourishbistro.com) offers kombucha on tap with flavors changing daily, and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise’s Lakeview Lounge (fairmont.com) uses Seedlip’s non-alcoholic distilled spirits for mix-and-match mocktails. 6. Savor Local Flavors Picturesque downtown Banff is home to restaurants and shops alike. (Helena Bilkova/Dreamstime) Thanks to the work-to-live regulations in Banff, locally owned restaurants flourish and have fueled adventurers for years. Start your day at Wild Flour (wildflourbakery.ca) with fresh-baked bread and pastries, local coffees, and lunch to go. Don’t leave without perusing the “vintage” basket, which holds day-old goodies like focaccia and scones, ideal trail snacks at $1 (Canadian) each. Its sister location, Little Wild Coffee (littlewildcoffee.ca), has an unbeatable daily happy hour with $1 drip coffees from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. In addition to a local wine list, The Bison Restaurant + Terrace serves elevated Canadian cuisine with dishes like elk tartare and bison short ribs. A map on the menu notes the origin of every ingredient, three walls of windows offer mountain views, and chefs cook in a copper-accented open-concept kitchen. For more casual fare, head downstairs to The Bear Street Tavern, a local favorite for pizza and homemade sauces. Down the street, Nourish Bistro manages to make meat-eaters crave its raw, vegan, and vegetarian fare, and its colossal veggie burger requires a knife and fork to conquer. 7. Recover in Mountain Style A thermal pool inside Banff's Cave and Basin National Historic Site. (Jairo Rene Leiva/Dreamstime) Banff was founded after three railroad workers discovered natural hot springs at the site now known as Cave and Basin. Today, the healing waters of Banff Upper Hot Springs and other local pools remain popular antidotes to mountain adventures. Try a soak in the mineral pool at the Grotto Spa at Delta Hotels Banff Royal Canadian Lodge (deltahotels.com), or one of the rooftop pools at the Moose Hotel & Suites (moosehotelandsuites.com) or Mount Royal Hotel (banffjaspercollection.com). 8. Get Cultured Indoors If the weather doesn’t cooperate, it’s not a total loss. Make the most of a stormy day with a visit to the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies (whyte.org), Banff Park Museum (pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/ab/banff), and Banff Centre (banffcentre.ca). The museums chronicle the fascinating cultural and natural history of the Rockies, and the Banff Centre brings it to life through art, performances, and an annual film festival. The Details Accommodations range from campsites and hostels to luxurious rooms with exquisite views. Summer is high season, with the most visitors coming in July and August. As a result, late winter and early fall are the best bets for scoring a deal, while nearby Canmore has even more budget-friendly lodging.
Summer Trips You Need to Start Planning for Now
The temperatures are brisk. Your gloves and scarves are still in rotation. That must mean it’s time to start thinking about summer? No, not just wistfully, but seriously. As crazy as it may seem, the annual deadlines for summer hiking and rafting permits are upon us and now is the time to secure your spot for summer fun. The rules for permits vary depending on what where you want to go and what you want to do. To help you plan, here is what you need to know. Start by shopping around and learning about your options. A good place for that is recreation.gov, which is a single point of access for gathering information and making reservations for multiple federal agencies. Once you know what you’re interested in, get your ducks in a row by checking the individual park’s website and familiarizing yourself with their application rules. Then make sure you’re in the right place at the right time to make your reservation. 4 popular permit deadlines to write on your calendar: Here are a few popular permit deadlines that are coming up. Many places offer both pre–reserved lottery permits and last–minute permits, but we recommend trying for a spot in advance. All charge application fees in addition to the permit fees themselves. Half Dome, Yosemite (California): The application process for climbing the iconic granite monolith’s cables gets an update this year when a lottery system replaces the first–come, first–served format that was abused by scalpers last year. Permit window: March 1–31 Submit: Visit recreation.gov. Mount Whitney (California): The highest summit in the Lower 48 at 14,505 feet elevation, Mount Whitney has good reason to be popular, and this is the first year that applications are online rather than snail mail. Deadline: March 15 Submit: Visit recreation.gov. Coyote Buttes North, Paria Canyon/Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Arizona/Utah): The photogenic "Wave" is a popular destination for photographers, but permits restrict the number of people in the area to 20 per day to accommodate the limited number of people who can comfortably fit there at one time. Deadline: 4 months in advance of desired dates. The most difficult months are April, May, September, October, when chances of winning lottery are 10%. Submit: Visit BLM.gov. Four Rivers—Salmon River (Wild), Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Selway River, Snake River (Idaho): Even though the original lottery deadline ended on January 31, any reservations unconfirmed by March 15 will become available again on March 16. Deadline: March 16 Submit: Visit or 877/444-6777" target="_blank">recreation.gov. Camping Camping reservations can be extremely competitive in the most popular parks during the summer. In Yosemite, reservations open up four months in advance on the 15th of the month on recreation.gov, and are usually filled within minutes on the first day they become available! Yellowstone Park, however, is one park that doesn’t offer campground reservations on recreation.gov—it runs its own reservation system through Xanterra Parks & Resorts. Apply online or call 866/439-7375. It can feel like a lot of work to plan this far ahead for summer, but before you get frustrated by the application process, keep in mind that permits are just a part of what keep the beautiful scenery beautiful. Anthony Bobo, Acting Deputy Division Chief, National Recreation and Visitor Services of the Bureau of Land Management, explains it this way: "Permits are used to protect natural resources and to insure high quality recreational experiences for public land visitors. They are a necessary tool for managing use in popular places." Once the dates are set, the months leading up to your trip are invaluable for other reasons, such as training, budgeting, and catching the off–season equipment sales—not to mention the daydreaming that gets you through the rest of the winter. Do you have any summer travel planning tips? Share them below! —Alison Brick MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL National Parks (Minus the Crowds) 7 National Parks You've Never Heard Of Quiz: Think You Know the National Parks?
More Places to go
Acadia Parish (French: Paroisse de l'Acadie) is a parish located in the U.S. state of Louisiana. At the 2020 U.S. census, the population was 57,576. The parish seat is Crowley. The parish was founded from parts of St. Landry Parish in 1886, and later an election was held to determine the parish seat, ending when Crowley beat Rayne and Prairie Hayes. Acadia Parish is included in the Lafayette metropolitan statistical area.
Lafayette (, French: [lafajɛt]) is a city in the U.S. state of Louisiana. The city is the most populous and parish seat of Lafayette Parish, and is located along the Vermilion River. It is Louisiana's fourth largest incorporated municipality by population and the 234th-most populous in the United States, with a 2020 census population of 121,374; the consolidated city–parish's population was 244,390 in 2019. The Lafayette metropolitan area was Louisiana's third largest metropolitan statistical area with a population of 489,759 at the 2020 population estimates program, overtaking the Shreveport–Bossier City metropolitan area in 2015.Originally established as Vermilionville in the 1820s and incorporated in 1836, Lafayette developed as an agricultural community until the discovery of oil in the area in the 1940s; since the discovery of oil, the city and parish have had the highest number of workers in the oil and natural gas industry in Louisiana as of 2018. With the establishment of the University of Louisiana System's Lafayette campus, and the diversification of its economy, Lafayette and its metropolitan area have experienced population growth and became nicknamed "The Hub City". Culturally, the city and parish of Lafayette are also known as the "Heart of Acadiana".The city, metropolitan area and Acadiana region are major centers for the technology industry, and home to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the second largest public research university in Louisiana. Lafayette is also a major center for health care and social services, aerospace, banking and retail. Notable corporations with headquarters or a large presence in the Lafayette area include the Ochsner Health System, IberiaBank, Rouses Market, Petroleum Helicopters International, Amazon, Brookshire Grocery Company, JP Morgan Chase, Albertsons, Perficient, and CGI. The Lafayette area is home to a diverse population from Louisiana Creole and Cajun backgrounds, and was named the "Happiest City in America" in 2014.
Jeff Davis Parish
Jefferson Davis Parish (French: Paroisse de Jefferson Davis) is a parish located in the U.S. state of Louisiana. As of the 2010 census, the population was 31,594. The parish seat is Jennings. Jefferson Davis Parish is named after the president of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, Jefferson Davis. It is located in southwestern Louisiana and forms a part of the Acadiana region. In 2005, the parish was damaged significantly by Hurricane Rita, which caused much wind damage and flooding in the western part of the parish. The storm also caused Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge to be affected by saltwater intrusion.
Breaux Bridge (; French: Pont-Breaux; Cajun French: Pont-(de)-Breaux pronounced [pɔ̃ndbʁo]) is a small city in St. Martin Parish, Louisiana, United States. The population is 8,139 as of the 2010 census, up from 7,281 in 2000. It is part of the Lafayette Metropolitan Statistical Area. Originally dubbed "La Capitale Mondiale de l’Écrevisse," Breaux Bridge was officially designated the Crawfish Capital of the World by former Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives Bob Angelle. Breaux Bridge hosts an annual Crawfish Festival, and is regionally noted for listing nicknames in its telephone directory.