Shutdown Status: States Pay To Reopen Some National Parks

We’re going on two weeks of government shutdown, with tourists hoping to see national parks having to sneak in or go home. Thousands of park workers have been furloughed and local businesses who generate income from tourism are feeling the pinch. Several U.S. states are taking matters into their own hands, effectively paying the federal government so that they can reopen.

The status as of today:

Arizona: It’s costing $651,000 to open the Grand Canyon for a week, though no money is allotted past that time and some local businesses worry it won’t help them in the long run.

Colorado: Over 10,000 visitors went out the Rocky Mountain National Park this weekend after the state reached an agreement to pay over $40,000 per day to keep it open.

New York: The Statue of Liberty re-opened yesterday, costing New York $61,000 per day out of its tourism budget — but visitors generate an estimated $350,000 daily.

South Dakota: Mount Rushmore will cost over $15,000 a day to reopen, with corporate donors helping the state open the park again today.

Utah: 8 attractions will reopen today, including Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, at a cost of $166,000 per day.

See the status of all the national parks here.

Last Minute Labor Day Road Trip Ideas

If a Labor Day road trip sounds like a good idea, you’re not alone. Over 30 million Americans will be hitting the highways for the long weekend, traveling across town, from state to state or around the nation. Like that idea but have no plans? Here are some must-stay places along some of the best American scenic drives that are not just a place to park, but also a way to extend the journey and experience the destination.

Hana Highway in Hawaii is a winding path with ocean on one side and jungles on the other that leads to one of Maui’s best kept secrets of quintessential Hawaiian tradition and charm, the town of Hana. Warning: With over 600 curves in the road from just east of Kahului to Hāna, virtually all of it through lush, tropical rainforest, you may have a hard time keeping your eyes on the road.

Where to Stay: Travaasa Hana, an oceanfront resort that features experiential programming based on five pillars – adventure, culinary, culture, fitness and wellness – inspired by Hana tradition. Guests can partake in net throwing classes (a revered Hawaiian skill), traditional Hawaiian spa treatments and meals made with locally sourced ingredients.

Trail Ridge Road in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park is the highest continuously paved road in North America. With more than eight miles lying above 11,000 feet and a maximum elevation of 12,183 feet, Trail Ridge Road provides a stellar view of Rocky Mountain National Park’s golden aspen leaves and autumn mountain scenery.

Where to Stay: The Della Terra Mountain Chateau has 14 romantic suites, each with its own private balcony hot tub, amazing mountain view and warm breakfast for an authentic Colorado mountain experience.Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most visited sections of the National Park System, and features 469 miles of stunning views with old farmsteads, mountain meadows and one of the world’s most diverse displays of plants and animals. The parkway connects Shenandoah National Park near Waynesboro, VA (Milepost 0), with Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, NC (Milepost 469).

Where to Stay: The Carolina Inn is a historic property located on the campus of the University of North Carolina that allows guests to enjoy a variety of activities and experiences both on campus and in downtown Chapel Hill.

The Montana Scenic Loop spans the Northern Rockies in a nearly 400-mile long loop, featuring spectacular mountain vistas and abundant wildlife and wilderness within several National Forest lands. At the heart of the 400-mile loop is the Bob Marshall Wilderness flanked by the Great Bear Wilderness on the north and the Scapegoat Wilderness to the south.

Where to stay: Moonlight Basin in Big Sky, Montana, is a year-round resort in Montana’s Rocky Mountains located close to Yellowstone National Park. Moonlight Basin features a world-class spa, and a variety of dining options and luxury accommodations that are perfectly suited for families or couples to create a well-rounded Montana vacation.

Labor Day travel will see upwards of 33 million people hitting the road for the long weekend, noted AAA in a USA Today report this week. That’s an almost three percent increase from last year, the highest Labor Day road trip travel volume since 2008, and the trend is expected to extend through the fall and winter.

Flickr photo by Stuck in Customs

Canon Offers Free Photography Workshops In US National Parks

Camera manufacturer Canon has once again teamed up with the American Park Network to offer free photography and videography workshops in U.S. national parks. These workshops, which include video for the first time, will be available in a variety of locations and offer park visitors a chance to learn new skills, or hone existing ones, in some of the most photogenic environments on the planet.

The Photography in the Parks program has already been wrapped up in the Grand Canyon, Zion and Yosemite National Parks this year, but new opportunities begin in other parks as early as today. For example, workshops in Yellowstone run from July 21-31 and are held three times daily. Anyone wishing to participate can join in the fun at 8:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. at the Old Faithful Lodge. Participants are encouraged to arrive 15-30 minutes early. Other upcoming workshops will be held in Grand Teton National Park (August 1-2), Rocky Mountain National Park (August 5-11) and Acadia National Park (August 18-29).

Instructors will be on hand to provide tips on how to get the most out of your digital camera or camcorder. They’ll also have a variety of Canon products available to test as well, including their wonderful EOS DSLR cameras, EF lenses, PowerShot point and shoot and Vixia camcorders. Those expert photographers will demonstrate fun and creative ways to capture the exact photo you’re trying to achieve.

For more information check out the Photography in the Parks website and start making your plans to sit in on one of these classes soon. This is a great opportunity to get a free workshop that could improve your travel photography skills.

Summer Challenge: Bag A ’14er’ In Rocky Mountain National Park

For outdoor enthusiasts and adventure travelers, Rocky Mountain National Park happens to be 415 square miles of paradise. Featuring more than 350 miles of hiking trails, a half-dozen campsites, excellent fishing and miles of scenic cycling routes, the park is an alpine playground set in the Front Range of Colorado. It also happens to be home to one of the most well known and accessible “14ers” in the entire state.

What’s a 14er you ask? Good question! In Colorado a 14er refers to any mountain that is 14,000 feet in height or taller. The state has 53 of them and they are a source of considerable pride amongst the very active outdoor community there. Many climbers even make it a goal to stand at the summit of each and every one of those peaks, including the only 14er located inside Rocky Mountain National Park itself, Longs Peak.

Named after Major Stephen Long, who explored the region back in the 1820s, Longs Peak stands 14,259 feet in height. During the winter months it presents a fairly significant technical climbing challenge that requires the use of crampons, ice axes and other specialized gear. But in the summer the trails are cleared of snow and ice, removing most of the technical obstacles and allowing just about anyone in reasonable physical condition to hike to the top.The most popular and accessible path to the summit is known as the Keyhole Route. This tough but manageable trail starts at about 9400 feet and winds its way to the top along a path that is well marked with a series of bull’s-eyes. Along the way hikers will need to negotiate a large boulder field and scramble up to a rock landmark known as the Keyhole, which is located at about 13,000 feet and gives the route its name. From that point on the climb gets a bit more harrowing as exposed ridges and rocky outcroppings add a new element to the trek, but hikers that take their time and attempt the final push to the top in good weather should have little difficulty in reaching the summit.

Those that do make the hike are rewarded with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. Longs Peak is the tallest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park and from the summit you can see for miles in all directions. That view is not only well worth the climb, but it will also make you forget about all the hard work it took to get to the summit in the first place.

Despite the fact that Longs Peak is very accessible to non-climbers there are a few things to keep in mind before attempting the climb. First, the trail is about 15 miles in length round trip, so be prepared to start early and expect a long day. The route features approximately 5000 feet of vertical gain as well, which means climbers will be working hard – at altitude no less – while on the ascent. Additionally, the thin air can cause all kinds of issues including shortness of breath, headaches, nausea and so on. For many hikers this isn’t a major issue, provided they go slow, take breaks and don’t overexert themselves.

The weather conditions on Longs Peak can also have a major impact on the hike. When the route is dry it is a fairly straightforward ascent, but in the summer, late afternoon thunderstorms are not uncommon and can cause the rock to become quite slippery, greatly increasing the overall level of difficulty. Also, due to the high altitude, it is possible for it to get cold, or even snow – even at the height of summer. Climbers should be sure to dress appropriately and bring extra clothing just in case.

The best time to hike Longs Peak is between July and September. During that period the mountain is at its safest thanks to warm and predictable weather. The route can get a bit crowded at times, particularly on weekends, but that adds a level of camaraderie to the trek and makes it a bit easier to follow the path to the summit.

If you decide to add Longs Peak to your Summer Bucket List, I’d recommend making nearby Estes Park your base camp. The town has surprisingly diverse options for both dining and accommodations and serves as a gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. In fact, after you’re done conquering the mountain, spend a few extra days in town enjoying whitewater rafting, mountain biking, kayaking or simply lounging about and enjoying the fantastic scenery.

If you’re looking for a great summer adventure and you’ve always wanted to climb a mountain, then a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park should be on your list of must see places. Longs Peak provides a great challenge with a fantastic payoff and when you’re done, you’ll have just 52 more 14ers before you’ve bagged them all.

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]