10 Title-Holding National Parks In The United States

National parks hold some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in the country, and sometimes even the world. Not only do these destinations make for great hiking, biking and adventure sports, but they also allow you to view one-of-a-kind facets you can’t find anywhere else on the planet.

While Black Canyon of the Gunnison holds the title of being the country’s newest national park, Yellowstone was the world’s first, being established in 1872. Additionally, Sequoia National Park features the world’s largest tree; Great Sand Dunes National Park holds the highest sand dunes in North America; and Death Valley is said to be the hottest, lowest and driest place in the United States.

For a more visual idea of these title-holding national parks, check out the gallery below.


[Image above via Jessie on a Journey; Gallery images via Big Stock]

Celebrate National Park Week: 5 Luxe Places You Can ‘Camp’ Sans Tent

National Park Week has begun! Many travelers will be taking advantage of free access to our country’s best national parks but, if they’re anything like this writer, won’t want to sleep in a tent after.

So, instead of camping try “glamping” at some of these great hotels near national parks that let you enjoy nature without giving up your creature comfort – no camping required.

Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Just minutes from Grand Teton National Park and a short drive from Yellowstone National Park, Four Seasons Jackson Hole offers a famed wildlife safari program, complete with an in-house wildlife biologist. Can’t make it during National Park Week? Enjoy special backstage access to these National Parks through the hotel’s summer packages.

Moonlight Basin, Montana
Located just 18 miles from Yellowstone National Park, Moonlight is surrounded by Montana’s spectacular Rocky Mountains. Moonlight Basin’s Mountain Concierge Team can plan experiences from rafting on the Gallatin River to fly-fishing adventures and more.

Estes Park, Colorado
As a gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, the year-old Della Terra Mountain Chateau is one of the area’s most luxe boutique properties.

Terranea Resort, California
This Destination Hotels & Resorts property located on the Southern California coast in Rancho Palos Verdes offers a unique starting point for exploration of Channel Islands National Park.

Travaasa Hana, Maui
The closest lodging to Haleakala National Park, filled with beautiful hikes through bamboo forests, past towering waterfalls and the famous “Pools of Ōheo.”

[Image courtesy of Yellowstone National Park]

Win a year’s supply of beer at the Whitefish Winter Carnival

For more than five decades, the Whitefish Winter Carnival has been an annual tradition in Whitefish, Montana. The 2012 edition of the event takes place next weekend, and will once again feature parades, ski competitions, a dip in the frigid waters of the nearby lake, and prankster Yetis out to kidnap the Snow Queen. The Carnival will also play host to a unique, one of a kind, competition known as the Black Star Barter, which asks competitors what they would do – or trade – for a year’s supply of beer.

On Saturday, February 4th, a group of daring, wild, and downright crazy contestants will gather at the Great Northern Brewing Company, where they’ll be given a chance to convince a panel of judges that they deserve to win 52 cases of Black Star Beer. They’ll show off amazing hidden talents, offer up prized possessions, and generally try to charm the judges into awarding them the prize. Competitors will be rated on creativity, thoughtfulness, enthusiasm, and overall awesomeness.

Last year, more than 1000 spectators gathered to watch the Barter, which featured a five-year-old harmonica player and his singing dog, a man who turned his nose into a piggy bank, and a family of four who were willing to part with their two egg-laying chickens and a hog. In the end though, the year’s supply of beer went to a creative duo who came up with a series of hilarious radio commercials extolling the virtues of Black Star.

So, what would you be willing to trade or do to win a year’s supply of beer? Do you have an impressive talent or precious item you’d be willing to give up for 52 cases of Black Star? If so, there is still time to get yourself to Montana in time to compete in the 2012 edition of the Barter. You just might go home with enough beer to stock your fridge for months to come.

Epic Pass holders can ski Big Sky for free

The Epic Season Pass is an amazing deal for avid skiers. For one fee, it allows unlimited skiing and snowboarding in some of the best resorts in Colorado and the Tahoe region, including Vail, Breckenridge, Heavenly, Arapahoe Basin, and more. The trouble is, those resorts haven’t been getting their usual allotments of snow so far this winter, which has made for some less than ideal conditions on the slopes.

Enter Big Sky Resort in Montana, where the snow has more than lived up to expectations so far. With a current base depth of 30-45 inches, Big Sky has more than 3000 skiable acres, and 131 of its 155 named runs, open to the public. That means plenty of great skiing on a mountain so large that you’ll often find yourself completely alone, even on a busy day.

Due to their relatively bountiful snowfalls, Big Sky has decided to share the wealth with less fortunate skiers living in other parts of the country. For the entire month of January, Epic Pass holder can ski Big Sky for free, provided they book lodging for the duration of their stay at the resort. They’ll even extend their “Bring a Buddy” program to allow non-Epic Pass holders to ski at discounted rates as well. Full details on the promotion can be found here.

I was lucky enough to be in Big Sky last January and it truly is a great place to ski or ride. There are tons of excellent trails, plenty of lifts, and wonderful snow conditions. So while you wait for winter to catch-up with the rest of the country, consider a visit to Montana for a little fun in the snow.

Great apres ski locations

While we love to enjoy the winter weather, our favorite part about a long weekend in a ski resort isn’t the slopes but the time spent apres ski. Here are a few of our favorite luxe locations around the western US:

Park Hyatt Beaver Creek

After taking in any of the 146 runs available in the area, unwind by sipping adult beverages in the Resort’s Antler Lounge or dine on authentic Colorado après fare, such as Smoked Trout Flatbread at 8100 Mountainside Bar & Grill. Heat things up at the daily S’mores Happy Hour, with handmade flavored marshmallows from the chef – vanilla, crème de menthe, Grand Marnier, M&M and toffee – the perfect after-ski sweet treat.

Fifty Two 80 Bistro & BarFour Seasons Resort Whistler
After experiencing the terrain of the 2010 Olympic Games, let the crew at the Resort’s lounge pour you a Mountain Mojito to enjoy on the heated terrace while the vibrant local talent entertains you. Also available in the spa, the Après Ski massage with a combination of much-needed stretching and hot-stone heat therapy to restore the body so you can hit the slopes again the next day.

Moonlight Basin
The Resort nestled in Montana’s Rocky Mountains is home of the Biggest Skiing in America, access to the Moonlight Basin – Big Sky Resort interconnect for 5,512 acres of downhill terrain, 4,350 feet of vertical, 27 lifts and over 220 trails. Back at the Resort, relax and take in the unforgettable views of three states while enjoying the warmth of the lodge’s classic stone fireplace and sipping winter libations from the bar, and on Saturdays – live music.

Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole
Located steps from the slopes of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and the surrounding Grand Teton National Park, the Resort is a haven for snow sport enthusiasts, offering Snow Cat Skiing, Backcountry skiing and heli skiing. Guests can chill out or heat up at The Peak in front of the fire place on the terrace while indulging in local craft beer, creative cocktails and wines by the glass.

Telluride Ski Resort
After a long day hitting the slopes at one of America’s most extreme skiing destinations, hop the free gondola to Allreds, the city’s most famous restaurant. Sitting 12,000 feet above sea level, the lodge-style restaurant offers hearty steaks and seafood dishes with magnificent views of the valleys and slopes below.

The Fitz
The laid back atmosphere at the lounge in Manor Vail Lodge is what makes it the locals best kept secret for après fare. Adventure enthusiasts find paradise in the seven back bowls and four terrain parks before taking in an evening of live entertainment, signature martinis and panoramic views of Ford Park, Gore Range and Gore Creek for an unforgettable and breathtaking mountain experience.

Stonebridge Inn
After a day adventure in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, retreat to this slope side, full service property for an Artisan lounge experience. The menu features light and vibrant twists on traditional dishes, including Tuna Tartar, a Maytag Blue Cheese Burger and Pastrami Sandwich; perfectly paired with handpicked wine selections from the Chef for a sophisticated and effortless après ski that will please any palette.