Tag Archives: North Cascades National Park

7 tips for celebrating an epic year in parks – Tip #1

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While its birthday is not technically until August, the National Park Service (NPS) is predicting this will be another recording-breaking year for people in parks. There was a 4.2 percent bump from 2014 to 2015, from 292.8 million to 305.2 million visitors and, like a geyser at Yellowstone, this year is expected to blow last year’s record sky-high.

With all those folks vying for a vantage point in front of Old Faithful, it can be challenging to feel like your having a special, once-in-a-lifetime experience. With over 150 national park units under my belt, I’ve jotted down some ways to get the most out of your park adventure:

TIP #1. Choose a lesser-known – but no less spectacular – park. 

Year after year, the A-list parks garner most of the public’s attention–Yellowstone, Yosemite, Arches and Zion among them. But there are over 400 national parks units, including many stunning understudies.

Explore Canyonlands NP with fewer than half the annual visitors at nearby Arches NP. Its red rock mazes and spires, and canyon-carving rivers and balanced rocks, will not disappoint. Capitol Reef NP, also in Utah, is another seldom-visited geological wonder.

Consider Shenandoah NP, with 1.3 million visitors compared to its neighbor, Great Smoky Mountains NP which annually greets more than 10 million people. While still within striking distance of most mid-Atlantic cities, the park’s 500 miles of trails on nearly 200,000 acres are a welcome slice of seclusion.

Longing to see and explore peaks, glaciers, waterfalls and alpine lakes? Think about North Cascades NP (fewer than 21,000 visitors in 2015 and more than 300 glaciers) as an alternative to the better-known Rocky Mountain, Glacier or Grand Teton national parks which, all totaled, had 9.6 million visitors last year.

Want to see some California parks that aren’t packed? Try Pinnacles NP, the volcanic, cave-studded landscape which is home to falcons, eagles and the phenomenal California condor. Another astounding CA park is Lassen Volcanic NP, which with its steaming fumaroles, snow-capped mountains and wildflower-carpeted meadows makes it a mini-Yellowstone and a mini-Rainier all rolled into one.

True, there’s only one Grand Canyon. But Colorado’s Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP is also truly spectacular, as is Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Similarly, there’s only one Denali NP but Wrangell-St. Elias NP (with 80,000 visitors to over 13 million acres, that’s 164 acres per person!) gives its northern neighbor a run for its money.

What it comes down to is, a little research and imagination may land you that once-in-a-lifetime journey you’ve been hoping for in this most-exciting NPS centennial year.



Photo of an oxbow on the Green River, Canyonlands courtesy of Neal Herbert, NPS.

Buy the book! Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service.

Fisher comeback in the North Cascades

traveltoparks ourbestplaces

Once found in forests throughout Washington state, fishers haven’t been seen there in decades. Excessive trapping and habitat loss is believed to have caused the population drop of this brown, bushy-tailed member of the weasel family.

Wildlife managers, including some with the National Park Service, are now turning back the ecological clock. In these final weeks of the year 40 fishers from British Columbia are being released in and near Mount Rainier National Park. Later on, North Cascades National Park will get a batch. Reintroduction efforts have proven successful in Olympic National Park, where 90 fishers were released over several years starting in 2008.

Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Buy the book! Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service.

North Cascades NP, Washington

With over 300 glaciers cloaking jagged peaks and fewer than 25,000 visitors each year, this is one park I can’t wait to return to. Attention waterfall junkies: the cataracts in North Cascades are among the most impressive I’ve seen in the world.

This is a mostly roadless park which, along with adjacent federal land, forms the core of the largest continuous wilderness area in the lower 48. The wild here is beckoning, beguiling.

Learn more about North Cascades.

Support your parks and the National Park Service.

Cascade pass” by Daniel Hershman – Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0