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.

National Park App Maker Back With Better, Free Offer

national parkLast year, in celebration of National Park Week, Chimani Apps gave away their suite of National Park apps. Normally, the apps sell for between $4.99-$9.99 each with an average rating of 4 1/2 stars, but the company gave away one million downloads. Now, Chimani is back with five new national park apps that feature an augmented reality viewer, crowd-sourced maps and a social sharing tool enabled with Near Field Communications (NFC) technology. Better yet, they are all free.

“Chimani users are now able to actively contribute to the national park community and help build better geo-spatial data for each of the parks,” said Kerry Gallivan CEO/Co-Founder in a NationalParksOnline article.

The company is releasing a new app on each of the five days of National Park Week. New parks added are Grand Teton National Park, Glacier National Park, Olympic National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and Bryce Canyon National Park. These, and all other Chimani apps, will be available for free starting Monday, April 22.

The apps have constantly updated maps, event schedules, points of interest, hiking details, as well as sunset and sunrise times for scenic overlooks. Users can access tide schedules along the coast, review lodging options and more on the apps, all designed to work without a cellphone signal.

We like that Chimani does not just throw their apps out there and hope for the best. Their users actively contribute to the national park community by helping build better geo-spatial data for each of the parks.

“A great example of this is Openstreetmaps.org’s user Tomthepom who spent the winter meticulously editing the park data within Grand Canyon. Thanks to Tom, the data found within the Chimani maps is the most detailed and up-to-date available anywhere – digital or print,” said Gallivan.

The Chimani apps are available for the iPhone, iPad, Amazon Kindle and Android devices. They can be downloaded directly from Apple’s iTunes App Store, Google Play and Amazon AppStore.


[Photo credit – Flickr user Dark_muse]

VIDEO: Prehistoric Art Of Panther Cave Reproduced In 3D


Panther Cave in Seminole Canyon, Texas, has some of the country’s best-preserved prehistoric cave paintings. A colorful frieze of leaping panthers, feathered shamans and strange abstract shapes have puzzled researchers for decades. It appears to be telling a story of some sort, but what does that story say?

Now this new 3D video allows you to study it for yourself. Color enhancement brings out details hard to see with the naked eye. It also brings the cave (really a rock shelter) to the general public. Panther Cave is only visible from the opposite bank of the river or by a specially scheduled boat trip with a park ranger.

The paintings date to the Archaic period, a vague label stretching from 7,000 B.C. to 600 A.D. Judging from the condition of the paintings and the relatively shallow depth of the rock shelter, this former archaeologist thinks they must date to the last few centuries of that period. Take that with a grain of salt; my specialty was the Anglo-Saxon migration period.

The site is managed by Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site and Amistad National Recreation Area. Sadly, Past Horizons reports that the site is now endangered by flooding related to the construction of Amistad Reservoir. As prehistoric art across the nation falls prey to “development,” vandalism and time, these detailed videos become important records of our past.

For a look at some cave paintings from the opposite side of the globe, check out my post on the painted caves of Laas Geel in Somaliland.

New National Park In The Congo Will Protect Lowland Gorillas

Lowland gorillas get a new preserve in the Republic of CongoThe Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is hailing the creation of a new national park in the Republic of Congo as a major step towards protecting western lowland gorillas. The park, which was officially created on December 28 of last year, is believed to be the home of more than 15,000 of the creatures, which have been on the “critically endangered” list for many years.

Located in the northern region of the country, the Ntokou-Pikounda National Park spreads out over 1765 square miles. The interior of the forest is said to be so dense that explorer J. Michael Fay, who spent 455 days walking across the region back in 1999, once called it a “green abyss.” The lush rainforest is the perfect place for the gorillas to make their home, however, and they share the new preserve with an estimated 8000 elephants and nearly a thousand chimpanzees – two other species who face extinction as well.

Because the park is still so new, there isn’t a significant tourism infrastructure built up around the destination just yet. But the region is home to a number of small villages and towns, which hope to see a boost to the local economies in the future. Tourism dollars have been used effectively in nearby Rwanda and Uganda to not only improve conditions for the people that live there, but also fund conservation efforts for gorillas and other animals.

When the WCS visited the Republic of Congo back in 2008 they were surprised to find a population of 125,000 gorillas living in remote regions there. But the species continues to come under threat from increased deforestation, illegal poaching and the Ebola virus, which has been known to decimate gorilla populations. The creation of this new park should help ensure that the lowland gorillas that live there will have a measure of protection for the future.

[Photo Credit: Fred Hsu via WikiMedia]

Rafter Mysteriously Goes Missing In Grand Canyon

The Grand CanyonThe National Park Service has a mystery on their hands and it is proving to be a difficult one to solve.

Twenty-one-year-old Kaitlin Kenney was part of a month-long private rafting party in the Grand Canyon when she mysteriously went missing last week. Kenney was last seen on Friday, January 11, in a camp near Tapeats Creek along the northern bank of the Colorado River. What happened to her after that is still open for speculation, as no trace of the young woman has been found since.

Other members of the rafting group used a satellite phone to contact the Park Service over the weekend and the NPS scrambled search parties to go looking for Kenney. Searching from both the air and on the ground, teams have combed the area where she was last seen and so far have come up empty. The Park Service says that they spent two days checking every accessible trail, beach, drainage and backcountry area in the vicinity to no avail. The search is ongoing, although efforts have been scaled back.

What might have happened to the missing rafter is open to debate. Other members of her party say that she would never have tried to climb out of the canyon on her own and speculation is that she may have accidentally fallen into the water sometime in the night. At this time of year the Grand Canyon can be a cold place and the waters of the Colorado are frigid, making hypothermia a real danger. SAR teams have combed the river looking for Kenney, however, and still haven’t found any clues.

[Photo Credit: National Park Service]