Nature Valley Trail View Adds Sequoia National Park To Virtual Hikes

Nature Valley Trail View now offers virtual hikes of Sequoia National ParkIn March of last year, Nature Valley launched their Trail View website, giving deskbound outdoor enthusiasts the opportunity to take a virtual hike through three of the most popular national parks in the U.S. The website employed technology similar to Google’s Street View to give us the opportunity to explore more than 300 miles of trails in the Grand Canyon, Great Smokey Mountains and Yellowstone. Now, just in time to celebrate National Park Week, the site is adding yet another spectacular park to the mix.

Nature Valley has announced that starting today an additional 50+ miles of trail located inside Sequoia National Park will be available to virtual explorers. Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Sequoia is of course best known for the trees from which it derives its name. The Giant Sequoias are known to grow to heights in excess of 200 feet, putting them amongst the largest living organisms on our planet. With the addition of the park to the Nature Valley Trail View site, you can now take a stroll amongst those magnificent trees directly from your favorite web browser.

Adding another park to the website isn’t the only upgrade to Trail View today. The site is also becoming more mobile friendly in an effort to accommodate smartphones and tablets as well. That will include the ability to download .pdf files with information about the parks and specific trails too. This could become a handy resource for travelers headed out to one of these destinations who might need a little help finding your way around.Nature Valley’s commitment to the national parks doesn’t end there, however. Over the past few years, the company has been a tireless advocate for the parks. Through its annual Preserve the Parks campaign they’ve managed to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to the National Parks Conservation Association. With another $500,000 donation this year, the four-year total will exceed $1.8 million. This is in addition to some fantastic park restoration projects that conducted with volunteers who are eager to help protect their favorite parks as well.

As a fan of the national parks, I truly appreciate the efforts that Nature Valley has put forth to help preserve some of our most amazing landscapes. Their work is helping to ensure future generations will have the opportunity to enjoy these places as well. And with their Trail View website, they allow me to take a virtual escape now and again, which certainly comes in handy when I’ve spending far too much time indoors.

[Photo Credit: Dcrjsr via WikiMedia]

National Park Week Begins Tomorrow!

National Park Week begins tomorrow!The National Park Service and the National Park Foundation will kick off their annual spring celebration of the parks tomorrow, as National Park Week officially gets under way. The event will run from April 20-28 and will feature a number of special activities throughout the parks, including free entry Monday through Friday of next week.

The national parks have long been favorite destinations for travelers who enjoy exploring the natural and historical settings that have earned the designation. All told, here are 401 total units that have been given the title of national park, monument, memorial, historic site or recreation area. They represent more than 17,000 miles of trails and 12,000 campsites spread out over a combined 84 million acres. Each of them has something unique to offer visitors and many of them are free all year long. There are so many park units in fact that every American lives within 100 miles of some type of national park experience. To find one near you, check out the complete list of parks here.As a big fan of the parks – and what they have to offer travelers – I am a major supporter of National Park Week and anything else that acknowledges these amazing places. But I do have to take the Park Service to task for skimping out on the fee-free days this time around. While I love that they’re allowing anyone to enter the parks without having to pay Monday through Friday, couldn’t they have found it in their hearts to extend the fee-free days to one or both weekends as well? After all, school is still in session and the summer vacation season hasn’t started yet, so how many people are actually going to get the opportunity to take advantage of the free entry? Perhaps they simply don’t want to give up the funds they bring in on weekends in the face of budget issues due to sequestration. Considering the NPS may even start charging seniors more for their lifetime passes, we may actually be on to something.

Regardless, spring is a great time to visit the national parks as everything is starting to come alive. In Yellowstone it will soon by calving season for bison and elk, while the wildflowers are already in bloom in the Great Smoky Mountains. In Yosemite, the spring thaws will swell the numerous waterfalls that dot the landscape and in Death Valley the cooler weather makes for a more comfortable experience all around.

Enjoy National Park Week and be sure to take advantage of any opportunity to explore “America’s best idea.”

[Photo Credit: National Park Service]


Yellowstone Avoids Delayed Opening Thanks To Efforts Of Wyoming Town

Yellowstone National ParkOver the past month or so we’ve all heard stories about the impact of sequestration on America’s national parks. Severe budget cuts, brought on by Congress’ inability to come to a fiscal compromise, have resulted in a loss of services in a number of parks across the country. In order to operate within its revised budget, this year the National Park Service has been forced to close visitor centers, cut back on staff and even delay the opening of some of the parks. One of those parks is Yellowstone, where the NPS decided to delay the spring opening by two weeks. That decision was made when park officials realized they could save as much as $100,000 by not having to plow snow from the roads following the scheduled May 3 opening. But thanks to the determination and generosity of one Wyoming town, the park will now open on schedule.

The town of Cody sits 52 miles outside of Yellowstone and serves as an access point for the park’s East Gate. As you can imagine, the sleepy little village sees a lot of traffic during the summer travel months with travelers stopping by on their way in or out of the park. Last year, over 11,000 visitors passed through the East Gate in the first two weeks of the season alone. The loss of that early season traffic this year was estimated to cost Cody more than $2 million in revenue.

Cody Chamber of Commerce executive director Scott Balyo saw the delayed opening as both a potential crisis and a major opportunity. He challenged the local citizens and businesses to raise the $100,000 necessary to pay the road crews to plow snow from Yellowstone’s highways, setting a deadline of April 1 to reach their goal. The response was overwhelming with contributions ranging from as little as $10 all the way up to $10,000. Together the citizens of Cody managed to complete their fund raising efforts well ahead of schedule.

Working in conjunction with Yellowstone superintendent Dan Wenk and officials from Wyoming, the town of Cody has now arranged for state vehicles to plow the roads inside the national park. The $100,000 raised will completely cover the costs, allowing the East Gate to open on schedule. That means anyone planning a visit to Yellowstone in early May will still have access to the park despite all of the on going sequestration drama.

This is good news for fans of Yellowstone and a job well done by the citizens of Cody.

Go On Safari In Yellowstone And Grand Teton National Park

Spot bears on a North American safariThe thought of going on safari generally conjures up mental images of driving across the African savannah dressed in khaki and wearing a pith helmet while spotting elephants and lions. But did you know that it is possible to get a true safari experience in North America, without having to endure a very long trans-Atlantic flight?

Luxury travel company The Clear Creek Group is now offering the Wolf and Bear Expedition, which promises to take adventurous travelers into Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in search of the two legendary predators. The three-day trip pairs visitors with a wildlife biologist who then guides them into the the famous Lamar and Hayden Valleys, which are often referred to as “the Serengeti of North America.” Those two destinations feature an incredible amount of wildlife, including bison, moose, elk and more, set against a dramatic backdrop of sprawling and beautiful landscapes.

The Wolf and Bear Expedition begins and ends in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, but while on safari, travelers will stay in the wonderfully quirky Montana town of Cooke City. Accommodations are included as part of the package, as are side visits to Old Faithful, the spectacular Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs.

Of course, the real highlight of the trip is the wildlife, which will take center stage thanks to the expert guides on these trips. They’ll know how to locate the predators in the wild and they’ll give travelers an opportunity to observe them in their natural settings.

Having visited Lamar Valley myself, I can tell you that it truly is a magical setting. I’ve seen the wildlife there and it is quite the experience. While I was there, I spotted a large moose, a pack of wolves and numerous elk and bison. Sadly, I didn’t get the chance to see a bear, although on this excursion it sounds like that is more likely to happen.

The four-night itinerary for the Wolf and Bear Expedition is packed top-to-bottom with activities for a very busy few days. Prices start at $3675 with bookings available in May, June, September and October.

[Photo Credit: Clear Creek Group]

Montana’s Moonlight Basin Mixes Luxury And Winter Adventure

Moonlight Basin offers winter adventure visitorsIf you’re looking for an adventurous, not to mention luxurious, winter escape, it’s tough to beat a visit to Moonlight Basin. Located in Big Sky, Montana, Moonlight is a beautiful and exclusive resort that offers guests world-class skiing, fine dining and a full-featured spa. The resort is a wonderful oasis of refinement in a spectacular mountain wilderness, and they’re currently offering travelers a winter adventure package that will provide memories for a lifetime.

The Montana Adventure Package includes lodging for two at Moonlight Basin, where guests will enjoy ski-in, ski-out accommodations for a minimum of four nights. The resort features some of the best skiing in all of North America, with more than 100 runs spread out across 1900 skiable acres. Those numbers expand to more than 230 trails and an astounding 5532 acres when you add in the interconnected routes that link Moonlight with nearby Big Sky Resort.

For many travelers, the skiing and snowboarding at Moonlight is quite the experience in and of itself, but the Montana Adventure Package offers even more opportunities to explore this impressive winter wonderland. Guests who purchase the package can also elect to go dog sledding or visit nearby Yellowstone National Park via either a snow coach tour or on a guided snowmobile excursion. Alternatively, they can also choose to take a romantic dinner sleigh ride after a long day on the slopes. Guest can pick any two of these experiences as part of the package.

Rates for the Montana Adventure Package start at $1509 per couple. This special is available by call-in only and Moonlight Basin can be reached at 877-822-0430. If you’re looking for a winter escape that will both thrill and pamper you, it’s tough to beat this option.

[Photo Credit: Moonlight Basin]