Best Way to Spend a Weekend at the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon
Markusnl via Flickr

The Grand Canyon astonishes even the most seasoned travelers, but a visit here offers far more than a jaw-dropping view across a 6000-foot-deep, vermilion-streaked chasm. Park staffers point out that a significant number of visitors simply drive into the park, walk up to the canyon rim, snap a few photos and speed away. Don’t be that tourist. Give yourself 48 hours, and you’ll have the opportunity to examine fascinating exhibits on the region’s impressive human and natural history, embark on a light (or strenuous) hike and feast on local elk and trout in a grand dining room perched on the canyon’s rim. So grab your camera (and at least a 16-gig memory card) and spend some time getting to know the country’s second-most-visited national park.

See the full itinerary on MapQuest Discover>>

Help The National Park Foundation Fill Its Summer Scrapbook For A Chance To Win A National Park Adventure

Yellow Stone National Park
Kraig Becker

Now that summer is officially here, the National Park Foundation is opening up its Summer Scrapbook and they’re asking us to help them fill it. The NPF is inviting the public to share their favorite photos, videos and travel tips from America’s national parks and in exchange, they’re giving us a chance to win one of two trips to two of the country’s most iconic national parks.

The contest is a simple one. All you need to do is visit the Summer Scrapbook page and share your photos in one of several categories that includes such subjects as sunrise/sunset, wildlife, history and culture and more. There is also a category for short videos and one for posting helpful tips for visiting the parks. You can enter as many as ten items between now and Sept. 8 with each entry increasing your chance to win. On Sept. 10, the Park Foundation will announce ten finalist in each category and the general public will be asked to vote for their favorites. Voting closes on Sept. 30 and everyone who casts a vote will be automatically entered to win a trip through the Grand Canyon by train.

The person who wins the overall popular vote for the best photo, video or travel tip will also win a trip to Yosemite National Park, one of the most spectacular destinations in the entire U.S. park system. Meanwhile, the individual winners of each of the categories will also receive a National Park Explorer Pack that includes outdoor gear from L.L. Bean and Marmot, as well as gifts from the National Park Foundation and several of the parks themselves.

So, if you’ve got some great park photos in your collection, add them to the Scrapbook and see if you can’t win a trip to make even more great national park memories.

2013 Grand Canyon Star Party Begins Today

Grand Canyon Star Party begins today!
Photo Courtesy of Tyler Nordgren

The 23rd annual Grand Canyon Star Party begins today and will run through Saturday, June 15. The annual event, which draws amateur astronomers from across the country, is a celebration of the incredible night skies that can be found above the national park. For each of the next eight evenings, many of those astronomers will be camped out on both the North and South Rims helping other visitors to take notice of amazing display overhead.

Because of its remote location, the Grand Canyon is one of the best places in the U.S. to observe the night sky. The clean air and very dark skies make it possible to see far more stars, planets, galaxies and other celestial bodies than are typically visible in other parts of the country. Each night of the Star Party will feature organized astronomy programs and telescope viewings that will give those in attendance the opportunity to view such sights as Saturn and its iconic rings, enormous star clusters, mysterious nebulae and so much more. Venus and Mercury will also be on display, but visitors who want to catch a glimpse of those planets will need to observe them during the day, or very shortly after sunset.Events on the South Rim are being organized by the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association and include nightly green laser constellation tours, slide shows and at least one telescope. On the North Rim, an array of telescopes will be set up on a porch at the lodge each evening courtesy of the Saguaro Astronomy Club of Phoenix. A bulletin board outside the visitor center will list any additional programs, such as slideshows and lectures, for each of the nights.

The Grand Canyon Star Party is completely free although a $25 park entry fee (good for seven days) is required. Visitors are encouraged to bring a flashlight but organizers of the event request that they be red flashlights in order to cut down on the amount of light pollution.

‘Sesame Street’ Explores The National Parks

Sesame Street Explores The National Parks
National Park Service

The creative minds behind the long-running PBS children’s television series “Sesame Street” have joined forces with the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation to produce a series of videos designed to connect young children with nature. The six videos, which can be found on YouTube, star popular characters Elmo and Murray who are joined by Park Rangers from Grand Canyon National Park and Gateway National Recreation Area. Those rangers help teach viewers about such topics as natural habitats, seasons and animal families.

The videos are obviously aimed at small children but if you’re a fan of the national parks you’ll probably still find them enjoyable as well. They offer a nice glimpse inside the two featured parks while also providing some good information about the natural world around us. So, gather up the kids, crowd around the computer and load up the clips. Who knows, you might even learn something while watching them too!

Summer Travel: Luxe Hotels In Or Near National Parks

grand canyon
Flickr user YoTut

Planning a trip this summer? Why not make it family friendly with at trip to a national park? While we love spending our days hiking, biking or riding the river, we’re not always about camping out or grabbing the nearest roadside motel after a long day outside. Here are some of our favorite luxe hotels in or near national parks:

Budget Tip: Time it right by visiting a National Park in the US on August 25th (National Park Service Birthday), September 28th (National Public Lands Day) or Veterans Day Weekend (November 9-11th), the parks won’t charge admission!

Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park
Yellowstone National Park is the world’s first national park with 2.2 million acres of natural wonders and wild animals. Top sights include the Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake, the Grand Prismatic Spring on the Lower Loop, Mammoth Hot Springs on the Upper Loop and Yellowstone Falls near the shared section of the two. At the southern edge of Yellowstone Park lies Grand Teton National Park, which boasts majestic views of the jagged peaks of the Teton Ranges and miles of hiking and wildlife watching by Snake River.

Stay here:
Hotel Terra Jackson Hole (Jackson Hole, Wyoming)
Located at the gateway to Grand Teton National Park and a short one hour drive to the southern entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the LEED-Silver Certified and AAA Four Diamond luxury Hotel Terra Jackson Hole’s has a special “Passport to the Parks” package that offers three nights lodging, a seven-day park pass and more.

Or Try:
Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa (Teton Village, Wyoming)
The AAA Four Diamond Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa is also steps from the entrance to Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park and one hour south of Yellowstone. Their “National Park Explorer” package includes a $50 gas voucher and daily breakfast credit for a three-night stay, as well as a seven-day park pass.

Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and has a depth of over a mile. Known for its visually overwhelming size and intricate and colorful landscape, the Grand Canyon boasts some of the world’s most jaw-dropping and dynamic views.

Stay Here:
L’Auberge de Sedona (Sedona, Arizona)
Situated just 45 minutes south of The Grand Canyon in Sedona, Arizona, this luxurious hotel offers a special package that helps guide travelers to and from the canyon named one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The two-night package offers a day-long tour and breakfast credit.

Saguaro National Park and Coronado National Forest
Divided into two sections, called districts, Saguaro National Park is 91,442 acres, 70,905 acres of which are designated wilderness. The park gets its name from the saguaro, a large cactus, which is native to the region. Close by is the Coronado National Forest, which is spread throughout mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. Divided into five ranger districts, each consist of multiple “ski island” mountain ranges.

Stay here:
Tanque Verde Ranch (Tuscon, Arizona)
Tanque Verde translates as the “green pool,” a name given by the Pima Native Americans due to the seasonal river that runs through the land to create a mountainous desert oasis of vibrant cacti and various unique plants. All-inclusive rates mean that three meals daily are covered, and the resort offers a number of activities, including guided hikes, biking and horseback riding.

Banff National Park
Spanning 2,564 square miles of valleys, mountains, glaciers, forests, meadows and rivers, Banff National Park is one of the world’s premier destination spots and one of the most visited national parks in the world.

Stay here:
Fairmont Banff Springs (Alberta, Canada)
Nestled in Canada’s first national park and the world’s third, the Fairmont Banff Springs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built in 1888 as a Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) hotel.

Shenandoah National Park
This 200,000-acre park is haven to deer and songbirds and is an ideal location for outdoor activities for the whole family. It’s also an easy drive from major cities like Washington, D.C., and Richmond. If we were planning a day trip, we’d do the challenging yet manageable hike called “Old Rag” along Skyline Drive and take a pre- or post-trip visit to nearby Charlottesville.

Stay here:
Salamander Resort & Spa (Middleburg, Virginia)
Salamander Resort & Spa is set to open this August in the heart of Virginia wine and horse country in the quaint 18th-century village of Middleburg and a short two-hour scenic drive along Virginia’s Skyline Drive to Shenandoah National Park. Set on 340 acres of farmland, the brand new resort offers a culinary program led by Chef Todd Gray of Equinox Restaurant in D.C., including two restaurants, a wine bar, a cooking studio and a two-acre culinary garden; a world-class spa with 14 treatment rooms and an onsite equestrian program to rival any other in the world.