National Parks of the American West


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National Parks of the American West

  1. 1. Frommers® National Parks of the AmericanWest, 8th EditionTable of ContentsChapter 1: Planning Your Trip to the National Parks of the American WestThe Parks Without the Crowds: Some General TipsVisitor InformationA Word on Nature AssociationsPlanning a National Park ItineraryVisitor CentersFees & PermitsNational Parks/Federal Land PassesBackcountry PermitsOther PermitsNew Gun LawsGetting a Campsite at a National ParkMapsTips for RVersRenting an RVTips for Traveling with KidsTips for Travelers with DisabilitiesTips for Travelers with PetsHealth & SafetyHiking TipsAdventure ToursPlanning a Backcountry TripProtecting the EnvironmentChapter 2: Arches National Park, UTAvoiding the CrowdsEssentials
  2. 2. Getting There & GatewaysGround TransportationPark InformationVisitor CenterFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateExploring the Park by CarOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsPark AttractionsDay HikesShorter TrailsLonger TrailsExploring the BackcountryOther Sports & ActivitiesCampingInside the ParkNear the ParkWhere to StayNear the ParkWhere to EatNear the ParkPicnic & Camping SuppliesNearby AttractionsChapter 3: Badlands National Park, SDFlora & FaunaAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFees
  3. 3. Special Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsMotor Coach ToursRanger ProgramsDay HikesExploring the BackcountryOther Sports & ActivitiesCampingInside the ParkNear the ParkWhere to StayInside the ParkNear the ParkIn InteriorWhere to EatInside the ParkNear the ParkPicnic & Camping SuppliesChapter 4: Big Bend National Park, TXAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysPark InformationVisitor CentersFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateExploring the Park by CarOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsPark AttractionsDay Hikes
  4. 4. Shorter TrailsLonger TrailsExploring the BackcountryOther Sports & ActivitiesCampingInside the ParkNear the ParkWhere to StayInside the ParkNear the ParkWhere to EatInside the ParkNear the ParkPicnic & Camping SuppliesNearby AttractionsChapter 5: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, COAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateExploring the Park by CarOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsDay HikesSouth Rim TrailsNorth Rim TrailsExploring the BackcountryOther Sports & ActivitiesCamping
  5. 5. Where to StayNear the ParkWhere to EatNear the ParkPicnic & Camping SuppliesChapter 6: The Black Hills: Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Wind Cave National Park, JewelCave National Monument & Custer State Park, SDEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationSeasons & ClimatePlaster PortraitsAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsExploring the Park by CarOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsPark AttractionsDay HikesRock ClimbingVisiting Custer State ParkEssentialsExploring the Park by CarDay HikesVisiting Wind Cave National ParkAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsOrganized Cave ToursExploring the Park by CarRanger ProgramsDay HikesVisiting Jewel Cave National MonumentAvoiding the CrowdsEssentials
  6. 6. Organized Cave ToursRanger ProgramsDay HikesOther Sports & ActivitiesCampingInside Wind Cave National ParkInside Custer State ParkInside the Black Hills National ForestCommercial CampgroundsWhere to StayIn Rapid CityIn CusterIn DeadwoodInside Custer State ParkWhere to EatInside the ParksAt Mount Rushmore National MemorialIn KeystoneIn Hill CityIn Rapid CityIn PiedmontIn DeadwoodChapter 7: Bryce Canyon National Park & Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument, UTAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CenterFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateExploring the Park by Car
  7. 7. Exploring the Park by ShuttleOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsPark AttractionsDay HikesShorter TrailsLonger TrailsExploring the BackcountryOther Sports & ActivitiesCampingInside the ParkNear the ParkWhere to StayInside the ParkNear the ParkWhere to EatInside the ParkNear the ParkNearby AttractionsGrand Staircase–Escalante National MonumentEssentialsSports & ActivitiesCampingChapter 8: Canyonlands National Park, UTAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateExploring the Park by Car
  8. 8. Organized Tours & Ranger ProgramsFlying ToursPark AttractionsDay HikesIsland in the Sky DistrictNeedles DistrictMaze DistrictHorseshoe CanyonExploring the BackcountryOther Sports & ActivitiesOutfitters Based in MoabCampingInside the ParkNear the ParkChapter 9: Capitol Reef National Park, UTEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateExploring the Park by CarOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsPark AttractionsDay HikesShorter TrailsLonger TrailsExploring the BackcountryOther Sports & ActivitiesCampingInside the Park
  9. 9. Near the ParkWhere to StayNear the ParkWhere to EatNear the ParkChapter 10: Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NMAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CenterFees & ReservationsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateSeasonal EventsExploring the Park by CarOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsPark AttractionsCave ExplorationMain Carlsbad Cavern RoutesCaving Tour Programs in Carlsbad CavernOther Caving ToursWild CavingOther Sports & ActivitiesCampingNear the ParkWhere to StayWhere to EatInside the ParkNear the ParkNearby AttractionsChapter 11: Channel Islands National Park, CA
  10. 10. Flora & FaunaAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFeesSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateSeasonal EventsExploring the IslandsExploring AnacapaExploring Santa CruzExploring Santa RosaExploring San MiguelExploring Santa BarbaraThe Extra Mile: Exploring the Coastline & Waters off the Channel IslandsWhere to Stay in VenturaWhere to Eat in VenturaChapter 12: Crater Lake National Park, ORAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsPark AttractionsDay HikesShorter Trails
  11. 11. Longer TrailsOther Summer Sports & ActivitiesWinter Sports & ActivitiesCampingWhere to Stay & EatInside the ParkNear the ParkChapter 13: Death Valley National Park & Mojave National Preserve, CAFlora & FaunaAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFeesSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateSeasonal EventsExploring the Park by CarPark AttractionsDay HikesShorter TrailsLonger TrailsOther Sports & ActivitiesCampingWhere to StayInside the ParkNear the ParkWhere to EatInside the ParkNear the ParkPicnic & Camping Supplies
  12. 12. Mojave National Preserve: A Nearby Desert WonderlandFlora & FaunaEssentialsExploring the Preserve by CarOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsPark AttractionsDay HikesBikingCampingChapter 14: Devils Tower National Monument, WYGeologyAmerican Indian LegendFirst AscentOn Top of the TowerAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CenterFeesSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateClimbing the TowerOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsDay HikesCampingWhere to Stay & EatNear the ParkChapter 15: Glacier National Park, MT & Waterton Lakes National Park, ABAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & Gateways
  13. 13. InformationVisitor CentersFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateExploring the Park by CarOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsDay HikesLake McDonald AreaLogan Pass AreaMany Glacier AreaTwo Medicine AreaExploring the BackcountryKintla Lake AreaPolebridge AreaLogan Pass AreaTwo Medicine AreaOther Summer Sports & ActivitiesWinter Sports & ActivitiesCampingInside the ParkNear the ParkWhere to StayInside the ParkNear the ParkWhere to EatInside the ParkNear the ParkPicnic & Camping SuppliesWaterton Lakes National Park: A Side Trip to CanadaEssentialsA Brief HistoryExploring the Park
  14. 14. Day HikesCampingWhere to StayWhere to EatChapter 16: Grand Canyon National Park, AZAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationFees & PermitsVisitor CentersSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateSeasonal EventsExploring the Park by CarHermit RoadDesert View DriveNorth Rim: Cape Royal DriveExploring the Park by ShuttleOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsPark AttractionsDay HikesRim Trails: South RimRim Trails: North RimCanyon TrailsSouth Rim Corridor TrailsWilderness TrailsOther Sports & ActivitiesCampingInside the ParkNear the Park: South RimNear the Park: North Rim
  15. 15. Where to StayInside the ParkOutside the ParkWhere to EatSouth RimPicnic & Camping SuppliesChapter 17: Grand Teton National Park, WYAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateRoad OpeningsExploring the ParkJackson Lake & the North End of the ParkJenny Lake & the South End of the ParkThe East Side of the ParkOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsDay HikesColter Bay AreaTrails from the Hermitage Point Trail headJackson Lake Lodge AreaTwo Ocean & Emma Matilda Lake TrailsJenny Lake AreaExploring the BackcountryOther Summer Sports & ActivitiesWinter Sports & ActivitiesCampingInside the Park
  16. 16. Near the ParkWhere to StayInside the ParkNear the ParkWhere to EatInside the ParkNear the ParkChapter 18: Great Basin National Park, NVAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CenterFeesSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateExploring the Park by CarOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsPark AttractionsDay HikesShorter TrailsLonger TrailsExploring the BackcountryOther Sports & ActivitiesCampingInside the ParkNear the ParkWhere to StayNear the ParkWhere to EatInside the ParkNear the Park
  17. 17. Chapter 19: Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, COAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CenterFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsDay HikesOther Sports & ActivitiesCampingWhere to StayWhere to EatNearby AttractionsChapter 20: Guadalupe Mountains National Park, TXAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateSeasonal EventsPark AttractionsDay HikesShorter TrailsLonger TrailsExploring the BackcountryOther Sports & Activities
  18. 18. CampingInside the ParkNear the ParkChapter 21: Joshua Tree National Park, CAFloraFaunaAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFeesSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateSeasonal EventsExploring the Park by CarOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsPark AttractionsDay HikesShorter TrailsLonger TrailsOther Sports & ActivitiesCampingWhere to StayNear the ParkWhere to EatNear the ParkPicnic & Camping SuppliesSerious GearPicnic SuppliesChapter 22: Lassen Volcanic National Park, CAAvoiding the Crowds
  19. 19. EssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateExploring the Park by CarOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsDay HikesOther Sports & ActivitiesWinter Sports & ActivitiesCampingWhere to StayInside the ParkNear the ParkWhere to EatInside the ParkNear the ParkPicnic & Camping SuppliesChapter 23: Mesa Verde, Hovenweep, Chaco & Other Archaeological Sites of the Four CornersRegionAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFeesGetting AroundSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateExploring the Park by CarOrganized Tours & Ranger Programs
  20. 20. Day HikesShorter Trails on Chapin MesaLonger Trails on Chapin MesaTrails on Wetherill MesaTrails near Morefield CampgroundCampingWhere to StayInside the ParkNear the ParkWhere to EatInside the ParkNear the ParkNearby National Monuments & Archaeological SitesHovenweep National Monument, CO/UTUte Mountain Tribal Park, COCortez Cultural Center, COAnasazi Heritage Center, COCanyons of the Ancients National Monument, COChaco Culture National Historical Park, NMAztec Ruins National Monument, NMNavajo National Monument, AZCanyon de Chelly National Monument, AZChapter 24: Mount Rainier National Park, WATerrainFlora & FaunaAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFeesSpecial Regulations & Warnings
  21. 21. Seasons & ClimateExploring the ParkOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsDay HikesAll the Way Around Mount RainierLongmire AreaParadise AreaSunrise & Northeastern AreasOhanapecosh AreaNorthwestern RainierOther Summer Sports & ActivitiesWinter Sports & ActivitiesCampingWhere to StayInside the ParkOutside the Southwest (Nisqually) EntranceOutside the Northeast (White River) EntranceOutside the Southeast (Stevens Canyon) EntranceWhere to EatInside the ParkChapter 25: North Cascades National Park, WAAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersGetting Around Inside the ParkFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateSeasonal EventsExploring the Park
  22. 22. Organized Tours & Ranger ProgramsDay HikesRoss Lake National Recreation AreaLake Chelan National Recreation AreaNorth Cascades National Park—Southern UnitNorth Cascades National Park—Northern UnitOther Sports & ActivitiesCampingIn Ross Lake National Recreation AreaIn Lake Chelan National Recreation AreaAlong the North Cascades HighwayWhere to StayInside the ParkIn Rockport & MarblemountIn MazamaIn WinthropWhere to EatIn StehekinIn MarblemountIn the Winthrop AreaChapter 26: Olympic National Park, WAAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateSeasonal EventsExploring the Park by CarThe Rainforests & the Coast
  23. 23. The East Side of the ParkDay HikesCoastal AreaWestern Parklands & RainforestsNorthern Park RegionsHurricane Ridge AreaEastern & Southeastern SectionOther Sports & ActivitiesCampingNorth- & East-Side CampgroundsSoutheast-Side CampgroundsSouth- & Southwest-Side CampgroundsCoastal CampgroundsWhere to StayInside the ParkNear the Park in Port AngelesIn the Forks AreaSouth of the ParkWhere to EatInside the ParkIn Port AngelesIn ForksChapter 27: Petrified Forest National Park, AZAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateSeasonal Events
  24. 24. Exploring the Park by CarPark AttractionsDay HikesCampingWhere to StayNear the ParkWhere to EatInside the ParkNear the ParkChapter 28: Point Reyes National Seashore, CAAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFeesSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateSeasonal EventsExploring the Park by CarOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsPark AttractionsDay HikesBeachesOther Sports & ActivitiesCampingWhere to StayInside the ParkNear the ParkWhere to EatChapter 29: Redwood National & State Parks, CAAvoiding the Crowds
  25. 25. EssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateSeasonal EventsExploring the Park by CarDay HikesExploring the BackcountryOther Sports & ActivitiesCampingWhere to StayInside the ParkNear the ParkWhere to EatChapter 30: Rocky Mountain National Park, COAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateSeasonal EventsExploring the Park by CarPark AttractionsDay HikesShorter TrailsLonger Trails
  26. 26. Exploring the BackcountryOther Sports & ActivitiesCampingInside the ParkNear the ParkWhere to StayEstes Park Area (East Side of the National Park)Grand Lake Area (West Side of the National Park)Where to EatEstes Park Area (East Side of the National Park)Grand Lake Area (West Side of the National Park)Picnic & Camping SuppliesChapter 31: Saguaro National Park, AZAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateSeasonal EventsExploring the Park by CarPark AttractionsDay HikesTucson Mountain District (Saguaro West)Rincon Mountain District (Saguaro East)Exploring the BackcountryOther Sports & ActivitiesCampingInside the ParkNear the Park
  27. 27. Where to StayNear the ParkWhere to EatNear the ParkChapter 32: Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, CAAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateExploring the ParkSequoia National ParkKings Canyon National ParkOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsDay HikesNear Giant ForestNear Grant GroveNear Cedar GroveOther HikesExploring the BackcountryOther Sports & ActivitiesCampingInside Sequoia National ParkIn Kings Canyon National ParkOutside the ParksWhere to StayInside the ParksOutside the ParksWhere to Eat
  28. 28. Inside the ParksOutside the ParksPicnic & Camping SuppliesChapter 33: Theodore Roosevelt National Park, NDBadlands & BuffaloAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateExploring the Park by CarThe South UnitThe North UnitExploring the BackcountrySpecial RegulationsPark AttractionsDay HikesSouth Unit TrailNorth Unit TrailsCampingWhere to Stay & EatIn MedoraIn BelfieldIn BeachIn Watford CityChapter 34: Yellowstone National Park, WY & Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, MTAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & Gateways
  29. 29. InformationVisitor CentersFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateRoad OpeningsExploring the ParkWest Yellowstone to NorrisNorris Geyser BasinNorris to Mammoth Hot SpringsMammoth Hot SpringsMammoth Hot Springs to Tower JunctionTower-RooseveltFrom Tower Junction to the Grand Canyon of YellowstoneCanyon VillageCanyon Village to Fishing BridgeYellowstone Lake AreaGrant Village to the South EntranceWest Thumb to Old FaithfulOld Faithful Geyser AreaOld Faithful to Madison JunctionOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsDay HikesWest Yellowstone to MadisonNorris Geyser BasinMammoth Hot Springs AreaGrand Canyon of the Yellowstone River AreaYellowstone Lake AreaOld Faithful AreaExploring the BackcountryOther Summer Sports & ActivitiesWinter Sports & ActivitiesCamping
  30. 30. Inside the ParkNear the ParkWhere to StayInside the ParkNear the ParkWhere to EatInside the ParkNear the ParkA Side Trip: Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, MTEssentialsRanger Programs & Guided ToursExploring the MonumentChapter 35: Yosemite National Park, CAAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateSeasonal EventsExploring the ParkYosemite ValleyNorth of the ValleySouth of the ValleyOrganized Tours & Ranger ProgramsDay HikesIn & Near the ValleySouth of the ValleyNorth of the ValleyNear Hetch Hetchy
  31. 31. Overnight HikesOther Sports & ActivitiesCampingInside the ParkOutside the ParkWhere to StayInside the ParkOutside the ParkWhere to EatIn the ValleyElsewhere in the ParkNear the ParkPicnic & Camping SuppliesChapter 36: Zion National Park & Cedar Breaks National Monument, UTAvoiding the CrowdsEssentialsGetting There & GatewaysInformationVisitor CentersFees & PermitsSpecial Regulations & WarningsSeasons & ClimateExploring the ParkRanger & Educational ProgramsPark AttractionsDay HikesShorter TrailsLonger TrailsExploring the BackcountryOther Sports & ActivitiesCampingInside the Park
  32. 32. Near the ParkWhere to StayInside the ParkNear the ParkWhere to EatInside the ParkNear the ParkPicnic & Camping SuppliesNearby EntertainmentCedar Breaks National MonumentEssentialsExploring Cedar Breaks by CarSummer Sports & ActivitiesWinter Sports & ActivitiesCampingChapter 37: Field Guide to Western WildlifeCanyon CountryMammals & ReptilesBirdsThe RockiesMammalsBirdsThe Sierra NevadaMammalsBirdsOlympic & Sequoia National ParksMammals & Marine LifeBirdsChapter 38: Airline, Hotel & Car Rental Websites
  33. 33. National Parks of the American West8th Editionby Don & Barbara Laine
  34. 34. with Jack Olson, Eric Peterson & Shane Christensen
  35. 35. ABOUT THE AUTHORSResidents of northern New Mexico for more than 40 years, Don and Barbara Laine have traveledextensively throughout the Rocky Mountains and the Southwest, exploring the mountains and desertswith their always-curious dogs. The Laines have authored or contributed to a number of Frommerstravel guides, including Frommers Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks and Frommers Utah. Theyhave also written Little-Known Southwest, New Mexico & Arizona State Parks, and Best Short Hikes inArizona for The Mountaineers Books; and The New Mexico Guide for Fulcrum Publishing.A Denver-based freelance writer, Eric Peterson has contributed to numerous Frommer’s guidescovering the American West, and has written Frommer’s Montana & Wyoming, Frommer’s Colorado,Frommer’s Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks, and Ramble: A Field Guide to the U.S.A.Peterson also writes about travel and other topics for such publications as ColoradoBiz, Delta Sky, andthe New York Daily News. In his free time, he’s an avid camper and hiker, a lifelong Broncos fan, and apart-time rock star (at least in the eyes of his niece Olivia and nephews Mitch and Sam).Jack Olson, a longtime resident of Denver, wanders the Rockies and the entire country as a freelancephotographer and writer. He writes travel articles and supplies photographs for AAA magazines, and hisphotos have been seen in such publications as Backpacker, Audubon, Sierra, and National GeographicBooks.Shane Christensen has written extensively for Frommers, including in Latin America, Europe, and theUnited States. Originally from California, he knows the American Southwest well and returns each yearto the Grand Canyon to explore its wonders and ensure the accuracy of this guide. Shane has also helda variety of diplomatic assignments with the U.S. Department of State, and he is currently a researchscholar and faculty advisor at Columbia University.JOHN WILEY & SONS, INC.111 River St.Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey. All rights reserved. No part of thispublication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means,electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise, except as permitted underSections 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written permissionof the Publisher, or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee to the CopyrightClearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, 978/750-8400, fax 978/646-8600.Requests to the Publisher for permission should be addressed to the Permissions Department, JohnWiley & Sons, Inc., 111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, 201/748-6011, fax 201/748-6008, or online at
  36. 36. and the Wiley logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. and/or itsaffiliates. Frommer’s is a trademark or registered trademark of Arthur Frommer. Used under license. Allother trademarks are the property of their respective owners. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. is not associatedwith any product or vendor mentioned in this book.ISBN 978-1-118-11802-3 (paper); ISBN 978-1-118-22454-0 (ebk); ISBN 978-1-118-23782-3 (ebk);ISBN 978-1-118-26263-4 (ebk)Editor: Linda BarthProduction Editor: Erin GeileCartographer: Elizabeth PuhlPhoto Editor: Richard FoxProduction by Wiley Indianapolis Composition ServicesFront cover photo: Sunrise Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, UT. ©Kenny Williams / AlamyImagesBack cover photo: Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, WA. ©Dennis Frates / Alamy ImagesFor information on our other products and services or to obtain technical support, please contact ourCustomer Care Department within the U.S. at 877/762-2974, outside the U.S. at 317/572-3993 or fax317/572-4002.Wiley also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats. Some content that appears in print maynot be available in electronic formats.Manufactured in the United States of America5 4 3 2 1List of MapsArches National ParkBadlands National ParkBig Bend National ParkBlack Canyon of the Gunnison National ParkThe Black HillsMount Rushmore National MonumentWind Cave National ParkBryce Canyon National ParkCanyonlands National ParkCapitol Reef National ParkCarlsbad Caverns National ParkChannel Islands National Park
  37. 37. Anacapa IslandSanta Cruz IslandSanta Rosa IslandSan Miguel IslandSanta Barbara IslandCrater Lake National ParkDeath Valley National ParkMojave National PreserveDevils Tower National MonumentGlacier National ParkGrand Canyon National ParkGrand Canyon VillageGrand Teton National ParkGreat Basin National ParkGreat Sand Dunes National Park × PreserveGuadalupe Mountains National ParkJoshua Tree National ParkLassen Volcanic National ParkMesa Verde National ParkArchaeological Sites of the Four Corners AreaMount Rainier National ParkNorth Cascades National ParkOlympic National ParkPetrified Forest National ParkPoint Reyes National SeashoreRedwood National ParkRocky Mountain National ParkSaguaro National ParkSequoia × Kings Canyon National ParksTheodore Roosevelt National ParkYellowstone National ParkOld Faithful AreaLittle Bighorn Battlefield National MonumentYosemite National ParkYosemite ValleyZion National ParkNote About MapsThis guide contains dozens of maps of varying sizes and complexity. If you find it hard to read a map on yourdevice, use the zoom function to enlarge. You can also download and/or printout PDFs of all of the maps in this
  38. 38. guide. Go to and click on the title of your guide.
  39. 39. ACKNOWLEDGMENTSThe authors offer sincere thanks to all the rangers and other employees of the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management,state agencies, and various businesses who have reviewed chapters, provided information and tips, answered questions, and generally helped us assurethe accuracy of this book.HOW TO CONTACT USIn researching this book, we discovered many wonderful places—hotels, restaurants, shops, and more. We’re sure you’ll find others. Please tell us aboutthem, so we can share the information with your fellow travelers in upcoming editions. If you were disappointed with a recommendation, we’d love to knowthat, too. Please write to:Frommer’s National Parks of the American West, 8th EditionJohn Wiley & Sons, Inc. • 111 River St. • Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774frommersfeedback@wiley.comAN ADDITIONAL NOTEPlease be advised that travel information is subject to change at any time—and this is especially true of prices. We therefore suggest that you write or callahead for confirmation when making your travel plans. The authors, editors, and publisher cannot be held responsible for the experiences of readers whiletraveling. National parks are, by their very nature, potentially dangerous places. In visiting any of the places or doing any of the activities described herein,readers assume all risk of injury or loss that may accompany such activities. The publishers and the authors disavow all responsibility for injury, death,loss, or property damage that may arise from a reader’s visit to any of the places or participation in any of the activities described herein, and the publisherand that authors make no warranties regarding the competence, safety, and reliability of outfitters, tour companies, or training centers described in thispublication. Your safety is important to us, however, so we encourage you to stay alert and be aware of your surroundings. Keep a close eye on cameras,purses, and wallets, all favorite targets of thieves and pickpockets.FROMMER’S ABBREVIATIONSThe following abbreviations are used for credit cards:AE American Express DISC Discover V VisaDC Diners Club MC MasterCardTRAVEL RESOURCES AT FROMMERS.COMFrommer’s travel resources don’t end with this guide. Frommer’s website,, has travel information on more than 4,000 destinations. Weupdate features regularly, giving you access to the most current trip-planning information and the best airfare, lodging, and car-rental bargains. You canalso listen to podcasts, connect with other members through our active-reader forums, share your travel photos, read blogs from guidebookeditors and fellow travelers, and much more.
  40. 40. Chapter 1: Planning Your Trip to theNational Parks of the American WestThe National Park Service walks a tightrope, with two missions that often seem tobe in conflict. Its first job is to preserve some of America’s most unique andimportant natural areas for future generations; the second is to make theseplaces available for the enjoyment of all Americans. Because the number ofvisitors to our national parks has grown tremendously over the years, some of thebusiest parks, including the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Zion, and Yellowstone, areconstantly searching for ways to make both of these goals a reality.Park Service officials have often said that the real source of congestion in the most heavilyvisited parks is not the number of people, but rather the number of cars. (You don’t go to anational park to get caught in a traffic jam, do you?) As a result, those parks with yearlyattendance in the millions are now putting together plans to limit vehicle traffic within theirboundaries.If all this leads you to despair that you can’t have a true “wilderness” experience at anational park in the American West, banish the thought! Even in a park as crowded asYosemite, there are places where you can completely escape the crowds, where you’ll be ableto walk among the trees and hear nothing but the sound of your own footsteps. All it takes isa little effort and planning, and that’s where this book can help.Our authors have talked to the rangers, hiked the trails, and taken the tours, all the whileasking, “How can our readers avoid the crowds?” In each of the following chapters, you’llfind a section giving you straightforward, practical advice on just how to do this. Sure, ifyou’re an outdoors ironman or woman you can avoid the crowds by taking off on the moststrenuous backcountry hikes, but not everyone can manage that. So we’ve searched forsecluded trails that can be hiked by the average person (not just the ones you see on thecovers of Outside magazine), scenic drives where you won’t get caught in bumper-to-bumpertraffic, and points where, with only minimal effort, you’ll be afforded spectacular viewswithout feeling as if you’re packed into Times Square on New Year’s Eve.We’ve also discovered that when you go is as important as where you go. Since most of theWest’s national parks and monuments are busiest in July and August, you can avoid many ofthe crowds by going in April or September, especially if you go just before students’ summervacation or just after classes resume. Most national parks are open year-round, thoughservices are sometimes limited during the off season. In fact, many of the national parks aregreat places to go in winter for cross-country skiing and exploring, and you’re less likely tofeel mobbed. The hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, for example, are strikingly beautiful whenthey’re capped with snow, and you won’t be jostling with nearly as many people at the viewpoints as you would in summer.To preserve and protect . . . and to provide for the enjoyment of park visitors.—National Park Service Organic Act, 1916
  41. 41. Another thing we’ve discovered (though it’s not a big secret) is just how many hiddengems can be found among the national parks and monuments of the American West.Everyone knows about Mount Rainier and Carlsbad Caverns, but not always about the less-visited parks, such as Great Basin in Nevada, Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, the ChannelIslands in California, Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana, Jewel Cave in the Black Hills ofSouth Dakota, and Guadalupe Mountains in Texas (which contains the highest peak inTexas). These are places of great beauty or historical significance, but they’re oftenoverlooked because of their remoteness or simply because they’re relatively new to thenational park system.As we all explore these parks and monuments, we should remember that they have beenset aside not only for our enjoyment, but also for future generations. Let our gift totomorrow’s park visitors be that we have almost no impact on the beauty around us and, ifanything, we leave it cleaner than we found it.In this chapter, we give you the most useful general information you will need to help planyour trip to the national parks of the western United States. The individual park chaptersthat follow will answer your more specific questions.The Parks Without the Crowds: Some General TipsIt’s not easy to commune with nature when you’re surrounded by hordes of fellow visitors.For each park, we discuss the best times of year to go and listed certain areas, trails, and sitesthat are less visited than others. For specific information (such as a breakdown of the numberof visitors to a particular park by the month), you can find park-use statistics Beyond that, here are a few general guidelines.• Avoid the high season. For most parks in the West, this means July and August, butanytime schools are not in session, parks are crowded with families. Spring and fall inmany of these national parks offer mild weather, vibrant plant and animal life, andrelatively empty trails and roads. The exception (at least, regarding crowds) is collegespring break, which is usually in March or April. Some parks, such as Big Bend, getextremely crowded at that time.• Walk away if you find yourself in a crowd. It sounds simple, but often when a scenicoverlook is crowded, you’ll find an equally good view in a completely empty spot just ashort stretch down the road or trail.• Visit popular attractions at off-peak hours, especially early in the morning or late in theafternoon. You’ll be surprised at how empty the park is before 9 or 10am. Dawn and duskare also generally the best times to see wildlife. Eat at off-peak hours—try lunch at 11amand dinner at 4pm. Campers using public showers will often find them jammed first thingin the morning and just before bedtime, but deserted the rest of the day.• Don’t forget winter. You may not see wildflowers, and some roads and areas may beclosed, but many national parks are wonderful places to ski, snowshoe, snowmobile, or justadmire the snowy landscape.• Remember that some parks are rarely crowded, and we’ve made a special effort to includeinformation about them in this book. Generally, the more difficult a park is to get to, thefewer people you’ll encounter. And many of the smaller parks remain essentiallyundiscovered while offering scenery and recreation opportunities that rival or even
  42. 42. surpass the big-names. Consider parks such as Great Basin, as well as one of America’snewest national parks, Black Canyon of the Gunnison.Useful URLs for planning your tripIn each of the following chapters, we include pertinent websites, but here are a few for overall planning:The National Park Service’s website,, has general information on national parks, monuments,and historic sites, as well as individual park maps that can be downloaded in a variety of formats. The site alsocontains a link to every individual park’s website, and those often contain links to nearby attractions and otheruseful information. Unfortunately, the official national park websites are not as user-friendly as we would like,but you’ll find most of the information you want if you’re willing to do some searching. A good first step on theindividual park websites is to look over the latest park newspaper, if it’s available online.Another useful website is, a partnership of federal agencies that can link you toinformation on national parks, national forests, Bureau of Land Management sites, Bureau of Reclamationsites, Army Corps of Engineers sites, and National Wildlife Refuges. You can make reservations at campsites,book tours, and either apply for or purchase various permits here.Finally, those who like to travel with an animal companion should check out, a sitethat provides tips on traveling with pets, as well as lists of lodgings that accept pets, kennels for temporary petboarding, and veterinarians to call in an emergency.Visitor InformationDoing your homework can help you make the most of your trip; it can also help you avoidcrowds. For park brochures and general planning information, contact each park directly, atthe addresses included in each of the following chapters.Another good source of information—and an important nonprofit advocate for America’snational parks—is the National Parks Conservation Association, 777 6th St., NW, Ste. 700,Washington, DC 20001 ( 800/628-7275 or 202/223-6722; Word on Nature AssociationsThroughout this book, you’ll read that a certain nature association or organization operates aparticular park’s bookstore. Practically every national park has a bookstore, and some haveseveral. Bookstores are excellent sources for maps, guidebooks, videos, postcards, posters,and the like. Most of the nature associations offer memberships (usually $25–$35 per year forindividuals) that entitle the member to discounts of 15% to 20% on all purchases. You’ll alsousually get a regular newsletter. Some of the larger nature associations also sponsorworkshops and field trips, and membership usually gets you a discount for those as well.For frequent travelers, here’s the really good news: Membership in one nature associationalmost always entitles you to a 15% to 20% discount at other nature association bookstores atnational parks, monuments, historic sites, and recreation areas. For those of us who like tocollect books, topographical maps, posters, and so on, the savings add up quickly. And wecan also feel very smug about what a good deed we’re doing in supporting these nonprofitgroups.Planning a National Park ItineraryEven though distances seem vast in the western United States, it’s possible to visit more than
  43. 43. one of the region’s national parks in a single trip. In fact, people often combine visits toYellowstone with Grand Teton, Yosemite with Sequoia, and Zion with Bryce Canyon.You can knit the parks of the California desert (Death Valley, Joshua Tree, and MojavePreserve) into an itinerary that might even leave you time to stop off in Palm Springs. Apopular trip for families is a drive through Badlands National Park and the Black Hills ofSouth Dakota, on through Devils Tower, to Yellowstone. It’s not a small stretch, but it’sdoable if you have more than a week.Although it can be a lot of fun to combine several national parks in your vacation trip, trynot to make the all too common mistake of attempting to see everything there is to see in tooshort a period of time. Be realistic about how much you want to see at each park, and createan itinerary that lets you thoroughly enjoy one or two aspects of a park rather than justglimpsing every corner as you speed by. And try to schedule a little relaxation time,especially for trips of more than a week—perhaps loafing in the campground one afternoon,or lounging by the motel swimming pool.The following are two of our favorite park tours.The Southwest Circle ItineraryThis long circle drive hits five states and involves a lot of driving (or flying regional airlinesand renting cars), but it takes you to a fantastic variety of parks—desert, cave, mountain, anddeep canyon, plus one of the world’s most fascinating archaeological preserves. We beginand end in Phoenix, Arizona, where almost all major airlines serve the airport, and car andRV rentals are available. We’ve laid it out for just under 2 weeks, but allowing more timewould make it more satisfying.Day 1: Phoenix, AZAfter arriving and picking up your rental car or RV, Phoenix is a good spot to stock up onsupplies. The city is also famous for its golf resorts, so you may want to hit a few balls beforeheading south.Day 2: Saguaro National Park, AZThis is one of America’s few national parks dedicated to protecting a single plant: thesaguaro cactus. You will see forests of them here. But you’ll also see a variety of other plantsand animals, such as javelinas—odd piglike animals with mouths so tough they can bitethrough prickly pear cactus pads. The park has two good scenic drives, as well as trailsthrough the Sonoran Desert, including the Valley View Overlook Trail, which provides aclose-up view of the desert, and the Signal Hill Petroglyph Trail, where you’ll get a goodlook at some ancient petroglyphs. See chapter 31.Days 3–5: Carlsbad Caverns, NM & Guadalupe Mountains, TX, National ParksOne of the largest and most spectacular cave systems in the world, Carlsbad Caverns insouthern New Mexico has numerous cave formations, ranging from the fantastic to thegrotesque. Take the Big Room Self-Guided Tour and the King’s Palace Guided Tour. For a
  44. 44. genuine caving experience, get your clothes dirty on the Slaughter Canyon guided tour. Justover the state line in Texas, Guadalupe Mountains is a rugged wilderness of tall Douglas firs,offering panoramic vistas and the highest peak in Texas. Recommended for experiencedhikers is the trek to the top of Guadalupe Peak. Everyone can enjoy the colors in McKittrickCanyon—either the trees in fall or the wildflowers in spring. See chapters 10 and 20.Day 6: Santa Fe, NMIt’s a long drive from Carlsbad Caverns to Mesa Verde National Park, so break it up with anovernight stop in Santa Fe, famous for its art, history, picturesque adobe buildings, andexciting New Mexican cuisine.Days 7–9: Mesa Verde National Park, COThe largest archaeological preserve in the United States, Mesa Verde contains intriguing,well-preserved cliff dwellings, plus mesa-top pueblos, pit houses, and kivas, built by theancestral Pueblo (Anasazi) people hundreds of years ago. Recommended stops here are CliffPalace, the largest cliff dwelling in the Southwest, and Balcony House. See chapter 23.Day 10: Petrified Forest National Park, AZEspecially colorful after a rainstorm has washed away the dust, this park is a fascinating lookat an unreal world of wood turned to stone. Take the 28-mile scenic drive, stopping at thepullouts and walking some of the short trails. We recommend the Giant Logs Trail, whereyou’ll see some of the park’s largest petrified logs, and Blue Mesa Trail, one of the prettiestand most otherworldly hikes in the park. At Newspaper Rock, early inhabitants peckeddozens of petroglyphs into the dark stone, including an image of the famous humpbackedflute player, Kokopelli. See chapter 27.Days 11–12: Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim, AZThe Grand Canyon truly is grand, and no matter how many photos you’ve seen, being therein person is an awe-inspiring experience. After stopping at the information center for a quickgeology lesson, take the shuttle to some of the South Rim view points, and perhaps walk theRim Trail a bit. Then, if you’re physically able, walk down Bright Angel Trail at least a littleway, watching the vegetation and rock layers change as you descend. Unless you are in verygood condition, however, it is probably best to not go beyond the One-and-a-Half-MileHouse, which has restrooms and drinking water, before heading back up to the rim. Seechapter 16.Day 13: Back to Phoenix, AZBack in Phoenix, you can practice your golf swing or visit some of the city’s excellentmuseums before catching your plane for home.The Grand Circle
  45. 45. Southern Utah has five delightful national parks and several national monuments; the NorthRim of the spectacular Grand Canyon is just over the border in Arizona, and perched alongthe state line is the awe-inspiring Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Together they forma somewhat circuitous loop. This jaunt begins and ends in Las Vegas, Nevada, which isaccessible by almost all major airlines and has car and RV rentals. You can complete this tourin 2 weeks, but it is much more satisfying in 3 weeks, as described here.Day 1: Las Vegas, NVFly in, pick up your rental car or RV, lay in some supplies, and maybe try the slot machinesfor a half-hour or so. Then hit the road and head northeast into the mountains of southernUtah.Days 2–4: Zion National Park, UTFamous for its mammoth natural stone sculptures and unbelievably narrow slot canyon, thispark begs to be explored on foot. Hop on the shuttle bus that runs the length of the ZionCanyon Scenic Drive, getting off to take trails. We especially recommend the easy RiversideWalk, which follows the Virgin River through a narrow canyon past hanging gardens, aswell as the Emerald Pools Trail. Especially pleasant on hot days, this walk through a forest ofoak, maple, fir, and cottonwood trees leads to a waterfall, a hanging garden, and ashimmering pool. See chapter 36.Days 5–6: Grand Canyon National Park’s North Rim, AZThe North Rim of the Grand Canyon receives far fewer visitors than the South Rim, but thatdoesn’t mean it’s any less spectacular. The North Rim (which is open in summer only)provides views of and access to the same overpowering canyon as the South Rim does, justfrom the other side. You’ll want to stop at the Grand Canyon Lodge, listed on the NationalRegister of Historic Places, and then hike a few of the rim trails. If you’re in good enoughphysical shape, you might want to hike partway down into the canyon on the North KaibabTrail. See chapter 16.Days 7–8: Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, UTAlthough not a national park, this Navajo Tribal Park is well worth a stop (and it’s on yourway). Monument Valley is, to many of us, the epitome of the Old West—we’ve seen itdozens of times in movies and on television. On the Utah/Arizona border, and part of thevast Navajo Nation, the park has a 17-mile self-guided loop road that lets you see most of themajor scenic attractions, or you can get a personalized tour with a Navajo guide. Either way,you’ll see classic Western scenery made famous in movies such as 1939’s Stagecoach, the filmthat started John Wayne on the road to stardom. Note: Federal passes, such as the Americathe Beautiful pass, are not valid here.Days 9–12: Arches & Canyonlands National Parks, UTFamed for its massive red and orange rock formations, this area is home to two nationalparks and the lively town of Moab. Canyonlands National Park (see chapter 8) is a greathikers’ park. Make sure you stop at the Grand Viewpoint Overlook, in the Island in the SkyDistrict, and hike the Grand View Trail, especially scenic in the late afternoon. Arches
  46. 46. National Park (see chapter 2) is a bit more user-friendly, but also more crowded. Take thescenic drive and walk a few trails—on the Devils Garden Trail, you can see more than adozen arches, including picturesque Landscape Arch.Days 13–14: Capitol Reef National Park, UTRelatively unknown, this park offers brilliantly colored rock formations and a bit of history.The Fremont River created a lush oasis in this otherwise barren land, and 19th-centurypioneers found the soil so fertile that they established the community of Fruita, named forthe orchards they planted. Today you can explore the buildings and even pick fruit in season.Hikers can examine Pioneer Register, a rock wall where traveling pioneers “signed in,” andexplore canyons where famed outlaw Butch Cassidy is said to have hidden out between trainand bank robberies. See chapter 9.Days 15–18: Scenic Utah 12 & Bryce Canyon National Park, UTFrom Capitol Reef, go south on Utah 12 over Boulder Mountain and through GrandStaircase–Escalante National Monument, possibly stopping for a short hike to Calf CreekFalls, before heading to Bryce Canyon National Park. Spend the night in the park or nearbyso you can be on the rim of Bryce Amphitheater at sunrise, the best time to see the colorfuland often whimsically shaped rock formations called hoodoos. Top hikes here include thecolorful Queen’s Garden Trail, named for a formation that resembles Britain’s QueenVictoria. See chapter 7.Days 19–20: Cedar Breaks National Monument, UTThis small, high-altitude park has an amphitheater reminiscent of Bryce Canyon’s, as well asa 5-mile road that offers easy access to the monument’s scenic overlooks and trail heads.Hike Spectra Point Trail along the rim for changing views of the colorful rock formations.The trail also takes you through fields of wildflowers, which are especially colorful in lateJuly and August, and past bristlecone pines that are more than 1,500 years old. See chapter36.Day 21: Back to Las Vegas, NVBack in Sin City, you can catch a show or feed the one-armed bandits before flying home.Visitor CentersYour first stop at any national park should be the visitor center. Some large parks have morethan one, and we list the location of each. Not only will you learn the history of the park, butyou’ll also get timely information such as road and trail closures, updates on safety issues,and the schedule for ranger programs. Visitor center hours usually vary by season; most areopen daily from 8am until 6 or 7pm in summer, closing earlier at other times. Many parkvisitor centers close for New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, even though theparks themselves, especially those with camping, usually remain open.Fees & Permits
  47. 47. Though fees have increased in the past few years, visiting a national park is still a bargain—asteal compared to the prices you’d pay for a theme park or even a movie. Entry fees, rangingfrom free to $25, are usually charged per private vehicle (for up to 1 week), regardless of howmany visitors you stuff inside. Those arriving on foot, motorcycle, or bicycle usually paylower per-person fees. Some parks offer passes good for unlimited visits to the same park, ora few nearby parks, for 12 months.National Parks/Federal Land PassesThose who enjoy vacationing at national parks, national forests, and other federal lands haveopportunities to save quite a bit of money by using the federal government’s annual passes.The America the Beautiful—National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass costs $80for 1 year, from the date of purchase, for the general public. It provides free admission forthe pass holder, and those in his or her vehicle, to recreation sites that charge vehicleentrance fees on lands administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation. At areasthat charge per-person fees, the passes are good for the pass holder, plus three additionaladults. Children 15 and under are admitted free.The passes are also available for U.S. citizens and permanent residents ages 62 and older fora lifetime fee of $10—the Senior Pass—and are free for U.S. residents and permanentresidents with disabilities—the Access Pass. The Senior and Access passes also provide 50%discounts on some fees, such as those for camping and ranger-guided tours in some parks,including Carlsbad Caverns.The Senior and Access passes can be obtained by mail with an application form availableonline (see below) with a $10 processing fee, or without the processing fee in person atnational parks, U.S. Forest Service offices, and other federal recreation sites.The general public version (the $80 one) can be purchased in person, by phone ( 888/275-8747, ext. 1), or online at, a website that also provides completeinformation about the passes.Backcountry PermitsAt most national parks, it is necessary to obtain a permit to stay overnight in the park’sundeveloped backcountry. Some parks have even more restrictions. To be safe, if you intendto do any backpacking, look in the individual park chapter or contact the park’s backcountryoffice in advance. In some cases, it may be possible to obtain a permit online or by mail; insome cases, you must appear in person. Some parks charge for backcountry permits, whileothers do not; some restrict the number of permits issued and also the number of people in agroup.Other PermitsHunting is generally not allowed in national parks, but fishing often is. You will usuallyneed a state fishing license. Licenses are generally available at local sporting goods stores andstate game and fish department offices. Fees vary for state residents and nonresidents, forvarious time periods, and sometimes by location within the state, but you can usually get anonresident 1-day license for $5 to $15 and a 5- to 7-day nonresident license for $15 to $25.In some parks (Yellowstone and Grand Teton, for example), you will need a special permitto go boating. In others, you may need a permit for cross-country skiing. Check individual
  48. 48. park chapters for details on other required permits.The Federal Lands name gameThroughout this book, you’ll read about America’s most spectacular public lands, most designated as nationalparks and managed by the National Park Service (NPS). But you will also learn about national monuments,historical parks, and other public lands, also run by the NPS, as well as areas managed by other agencies. Sowhat’s in a name?Although Yellowstone, America’s first national park, was established by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872,President Theodore Roosevelt is generally credited with spearheading the movement to preserve America’smost beautiful scenic areas as public lands in the early 1900s. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed anact creating the National Park Service as a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Today the NPSincludes nearly 400 areas of public land covering more than 84 million acres in every state (except Delaware),as well as in Washington, D.C., and American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.These NPS properties go by a variety of names. Generally, a national park is the best of the NPS properties,covering a fairly large area and containing a variety of attributes. Traditionally, these parks have been set asideto be preserved and visited by the public, so mining, oil and gas drilling, hunting, cattle grazing, and otheractivities that would change the areas are not permitted. National monuments, which many consider “junior”national parks, are usually smaller and with fewer attractions than national parks; they still must include at leastone feature considered nationally significant, and they are often managed with similar practices to nationalparks. National preserves, which are sometimes adjacent to national parks, are like national parks, except thatthey often allow mineral exploration, hunting, and other activities prohibited in national parks.There are also national historic sites, which usually contain a single historical place of note; nationalhistorical parks, which include more than one historic site; national memorials, which are designated tocommemorate a historic event or person; and national battlefields, which contain the sites of historicbattlefields, usually from the Revolutionary or Civil wars. The NPS’s 14 national cemeteries are significanthistoric cemeteries that mostly date to the Civil War era and are not the same as the national cemeteriesmanaged by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that contain the graves of more recent military veteransas well as veterans from earlier times.National recreation areas are lands set aside primarily for recreation, such as boating or hiking; and nationalseashores, lakeshores, rivers, and wild rivers are usually scenic areas that include water sports and relatedactivities. A national trail is a long-distance scenic or historic hiking trail, and a national parkway is a roadwaythrough a scenic area.Other departments and agencies also administer federal lands. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management(BLM), a separate division of the Department of the Interior, manages a lot of public land, almost always asmultiple-use areas where recreation, cattle grazing, mining, and oil or gas drilling can go on side by side. Whilemany national monuments are managed by the National Park Service, some are under the BLM. Anotherdivision of the Department of the Interior is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages America’snational wildlife refuges. In addition, national forests, which abound throughout the American West, areunder the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. National Forests are also multiuse areas butoften have a greater emphasis on recreation than BLM areas. Maybe that’s because they usually have moretrees!New Gun LawsFor years, guns have been forbidden in most national parks, but that changed in February
  49. 49. 2010, when a new federal law went into effect that allows people who can legally possessfirearms to have those firearms with them in most national parks. Guns are still prohibited incertain places, such as visitor centers, which are posted with firearms prohibited signs; andthose going into national parks with firearms must comply with all state and local lawsregarding firearms. Individual park websites now include links to their state’s firearms laws.north to alaska! The 49th State’s Great National ParksAlthough this book looks closely at the national parks in the American West of the continental United States,we must point out that some of the country’s most beautiful and pristine national parks are in a destination a bitfarther north: Alaska. In fact, more than two-thirds of America’s national park acreage is in our northernmoststate, encompassing huge areas of wilderness and near-wilderness, with few roads, buildings, or even airplanelanding strips.Most of the Alaska parks are challenging, both to get to and to explore. One exception is Denali National Park( 907/683-2294;, which provides visitors with easy access to genuine wilderness. Denalihas sweeping tundra vistas, abundant wildlife, and North America’s tallest mountain: 20,320-foot MountMcKinley. But what makes this park unique is that its accessibility hasn’t spoiled the natural experience. That’sbecause the only road through the park is closed to the public. To see Denali, you must ride a bus. The grizzlybears and other animals are still visible, and their behavior remains more normal than that of the animals seenin the more visited, vehicle-intensive parks such as Yellowstone and Yosemite.Another recommended Alaska experience is Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve ( 907/697-2230;, a rugged wilderness the size of Connecticut that can be seen only by boat or plane.Created by a receding glacier, this bay is a work in progress, where you’ll see a vast variety of flora and fauna,including grizzly bears, mountain goats, seals, and especially whales, including humpback whales breaching(leaping all the way out of the water).Other national parks in Alaska include Katmai National Park & Preserve ( 907/246-3305;, the site of a phenomenal volcanic eruption in 1912 and now an excellent place to seerelatively close up the huge Alaska brown bear as it devours a seemingly endless supply of salmon. KenaiFjords National Park ( 907/422-0500;, a remote area of mountains, rocks, and ice, is thespot to see a vast array of sea lions, otters, seals, and birds. And Wrangell–St. Elias National Park (907/822-5234;, which, at over 8 million acres, is by far the largest unit in the National ParkService system, consists of numerous rugged mountains and glaciers, plus some fascinating history from itsearly copper mining days.The above parks, plus a number of other national parks, monuments, and preserves, are explored fully in themost recent edition of Frommer’s Alaska (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), by Kris Capps, Mike Dunham, CharlotteGlover, and Dave Kiffer.Getting a Campsite at a National ParkAlthough a growing number of national park campgrounds accept campsite reservations,many still do not. If you plan to camp and are heading to a first-come, first-servedcampground, the first thing to do upon arrival is to make sure a site is available. Campsites atmajor park campgrounds fill up early in summer, on weekends, and during other peak times,such as school holidays (try to avoid college spring breaks, often in Mar or Apr). Areservation or an early morning arrival (sometimes as early as 7 or 8am) is the best defenseagainst disappointment. In each chapter, we indicate whether a campground tends to fill up
  50. 50. especially early and whether reservations are accepted.Reservations for many National Park Service campgrounds, as well as national forest andother agency campgrounds, can be made through one central reservation center ( 887/444-6777; TDD 877/833-6777; Fees—usually an $8 or $9 booking feeregardless of how many nights—are charged.Each chapter also includes information on nearby commercial campgrounds (both tent andRV) and other public lands campgrounds.MapsWhen you arrive at a national park, you’ll receive a large, four-color brochure that has a goodmap of the park in it and in many cases, a park newspaper that also has maps; of course, youalso have the maps in this book. If you plan to do some serious hiking, especially intobackcountry and wilderness areas, you’ll need detailed topographical maps.Topographical maps can usually be ordered in advance from the individual parkbookstores, which we list in the following chapters, and we suggest that you check with parkpersonnel to see which maps they recommend. Maps can also often be purchased inelectronic form and carried with you, or you can print out the sections of the areas you needto carry on the trail.Tips for RVersMany people prefer to explore the national parks in an RV—a motor home, truck camper, orcamper trailer—especially in the warm months. One advantage to this type of travel is thatearly morning and early evening are among the best times to be in the parks if you want toavoid crowds and see wildlife. Needless to say, it’s a lot more convenient to experience theparks at these times if you’re already there, staying in one of the park campgrounds.Carrying your house with you also lets you stop for meals anytime and anyplace youchoose, and makes it easy to take care of individual dietary needs. RVing also means youdon’t have to worry about sleeping on a lumpy mattress, and you won’t need to spend timesearching for a restroom—almost all RVs have some sort of bathroom facilities, from a fullbathroom with tub/shower combination to a Porta Potti hidden under a seat.There are disadvantages, of course. If you already own an RV, you know what you had topay for it. And even if you rent, you may not save a lot of money. Depending on the rate youget (and the cost of fuel at the time), renting a motor home could end up costing almost asmuch as renting a compact car, staying in moderately priced motels, and eating in family-style restaurants and cafes. That’s because the motor home will go only one-quarter to one-third as far on a gallon of fuel as your compact car will, and they’re expensive to rent. Someof the fancier private campgrounds now charge as much for an RV site with utility hookupsas you’d expect to pay in a cheap motel.Other disadvantages include the limited facilities in national park campgrounds (althoughthey are being upgraded to the point where camping purists are starting to complain). Evenin most commercial campgrounds, the facilities are less than you’d expect in moderatelypriced motels. And parking is often limited in national parks, especially for motor homes andother large vehicles. However, since most people are driving in the parks between 10am and5pm, the solution is to head out on the scenic drives either early or late in the day, when
  51. 51. there’s less traffic. It’s nicer then, anyway.If you’ll be traveling through the park in your RV and want to make it obvious that yourcampsite is occupied, carry something worthless to leave in it, such as a cardboard box with“Site Taken” clearly written on it.Many national park campsites are not level. If your RV does not have built-in levelers, carryfour or five short boards, or leveling blocks, that can be placed under the wheels. You’lldiscover that not only will you sleep better if your rig is level, but your food won’t slide offthe table and the refrigerator will run more efficiently.You might consider purchasing as a companion to this book Frommer’s Exploring America byRV (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), by Shirley Slater and Harry Basch, which includes five roadtrips in the West (including one in Alaska) that pass through many national parks. There arealso chapters on RV basics that people renting a vehicle for the first time will find useful.What should i take?In packing for your trip, keep in mind that much of the West is a land of extremes, with an often-unforgivingclimate and terrain. Those planning to hike or bike should take more drinking water containers than they thinkthey’ll need—experts recommend at least 1 gallon of water per person per day on the trail—as well as good-quality sunblock, hats, and other protective clothing, and sunglasses with ultraviolet protection.Summer visitors will want to carry rain gear for the typical afternoon thunderstorms, and jackets or sweaters forcool evenings. Winter visitors will not only want warm parkas and hats, but lighter clothing as well—the brightsun at midday can make it feel like June.Take a first-aid kit, of course, and make sure it contains tweezers—very useful for removing cactus spines fromyour flesh if you should make the mistake of getting too close. Hikers will appreciate having a walking stick.Renting an RVIf you’re flying into the area and renting an RV when you arrive, choose your starting pointcarefully; not only do you want to keep your driving to a minimum—you’ll be lucky to get10 miles per gallon of gas—but rental rates vary depending on the city in which you pick upyour RV. Do some research before you commit to a starting point. Rates are generallyhighest, between $1,000 and $1,500 per week, in midsummer. The country’s largest RV rentalcompany is Cruise America ( 800/671-8042;, with outlets in mostmajor western cities. RV rentals are also available in many western states from El Monte RV( 888/337-2214; and Camping World ( 877/297-3687; Information on additional rental agencies, as well as tips on renting, canbe obtained online from the Recreation Vehicle Rental Association ( See“Tips on Renting an RV,” on Renting an RVShirley Slater and Harry Basch have been traveling the U.S. and Canada in their RV (and writing about it,authoring Exploring America by RV and RV Vacations For Dummies [John Wiley & Sons, Inc.]) for years; here,they offer some tips on what to look for, and where to look if you’re thinking of renting an RV for a nationalparks trip. Harry and Shirley say:A great many rental RVs are booked by European and Australian visitors to the United States who want to see
  52. 52. our national parks, or drive along the coast of California. The most common unit available for rental is themotor home, either the larger type A or the type C mini–motor home, which accounts for 90% of all rentals.Prices begin at around $975 a week.Use of the generator is not usually included in the fee. You would need it only for operating the ceiling air-conditioning, microwave, and TV in a place without electrical hookups. The dealer will know how much timeyou’ve logged by reading the generator counter, usually located by the on/off switch.If you’re looking to rent a travel trailer (which you pull behind another vehicle), you’ll find they usually requirethat you furnish your own tow vehicle, hitch, and electrical hookups on the tow vehicle.Some companies offer a furnishings package with bedding, towels, dishes, cooking pots, and utensils for aflat price of around $100 for kitchen needs and $50 for bedding per trip. Other add-on kits are those containingpower cords and hoses, plastic trash bags, toilet chemicals, and a troubleshooting guide. Remember to get adetailed list of what furnishings are included in your rental so you’ll know what necessary items you have tosupply. It may be easier to bring things from home than to spend vacation time searching for them on the road.Be sure you’re provided with a full set of instruction booklets and emergency phone numbers in case of abreakdown. The best thing to have is a 24-hour emergency toll-free number in case of a problem. When indoubt, ask fellow RVers what to do. They’re always glad to help, but sometimes hesitant to offer for fear ofoffending. No matter how much you bustle around like you know what you’re doing, the veterans in thecampground can spot a goof-up a mile away.Before setting out, be sure the dealer demonstrates how to operate all the components and systems of yourunit. Take careful notes and, just as with rental cars, check for dents and damage from prior use before leavingthe lot.Another important detail you need to take care of when you rent before you leave: Make sure your rentalvehicle is insured. Normally, insurance on a rental RV is not covered on your personal automobile insurance,so ask your agent for a binder that extends your coverage to the RV for the full rental period. Many dealersrequire the binder before renting you a vehicle.Once you’ve made arrangements to rent an RV, if you’re flying into the region to pick up your RV, many rentalcompanies offer free airport pickup and return, if you notify them ahead of time.Finally, if you fall in love with your rental vehicle (as we did our first one), you might be able to negotiate apurchase price that would subtract your rental fee from the total. If the vehicle is a couple of years old, the priceshould be even lower, since most dealers get rid of vehicles after 2 or 3 years.Tips for Traveling with KidsMost parks offer Junior Ranger programs that give kids the chance to earn certificates,badges, and patches for completing certain projects, such as tree or animal identification, oranswering questions in a workbook. It’s a good way to learn about the national parks and theresources that the Park Service protects. Also, many parks offer special discussions, walks,and other ranger-led activities for children.For a complete list of national parks that offer Junior Ranger programs, WebRangers is an online component of the JuniorRanger program, and kids of all ages can play dozens of National Park–based games, look atand share photos in a web community, and even earn WebRanger patches for Travelers with Disabilities
  53. 53. The National Park Service has come a long way in the past 25 or 30 years in making the parksmore accessible for visitors with disabilities. Most parks have accessible restrooms, and manyhave at least one trail that is wheelchair accessible—the Rim Trail at Bryce Canyon is a primeexample. Several parks with sandy conditions, such as Great Sand Dunes, offer free use ofspecially designed wheelchairs with balloon tires for travel over sand.In addition, as campgrounds, boat docks, and other facilities are upgraded, improvementsare being made to make them more accessible. Many parks now have campsites designedspecifically for travelers in wheelchairs, most in-park lodging offers accessible rooms—somewith roll-in showers—and park amphitheaters can usually accommodate wheelchair users.But perhaps just as important as upgrades in facilities is the prevailing attitude of NationalPark Service personnel that these parks are for the public—the entire public—and they aregoing to do whatever it takes to help everyone enjoy his or her park experience. People withspecial needs are encouraged to talk with park workers, who can usually assist, openinglocked gates to get vehicles closer to scenic attractions, or simply by pointing out trails withthe lowest grades or with portable toilets that are accessible.One note on service dogs: Seeing Eye and other service dogs are not considered pets andare legally permitted anywhere in the parks. However, because of potential problems withwildlife or terrain (sharp rocks on some trails can cut dogs’ paws), it’s best for people takingservice dogs into the parks to discuss their plans with rangers beforehand.Many of the major car-rental companies now offer hand-controlled cars for drivers withdisabilities and can provide those vehicles with advance notice. Wheelchair Getaways (800/642-2042; rents and sells specialized vans withwheelchair lifts and other features for visitors with disabilities. It has outlets in most westernstates.And don’t forget your National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass (see “Fees &Permits,” above). It is free and will grant you free admission to most national parks and a50% discount on many park services and facilities.Tips for Travelers with PetsMost national parks, as well as other federal lands administered by the National ParkService, are not pet-friendly, and those planning to visit the parks should consider leavingtheir pets at home. Pets are usually prohibited on hiking trails, especially in the morepopular parks, in the backcountry, and in buildings, and must always be leashed. Essentially,this means that if you take your dog or cat into the parks, the animal can be with you in thecampgrounds and inside your vehicle, and you can walk it in parking areas, but that’s aboutall. It’s no fun for you or your pet.Aside from regulations, you need to be concerned with your pet’s well-being. Pets shouldnever be left in closed vehicles, where temperatures can soar to over 120°F (49°C) in minutes,resulting in brain damage or death. No punishment is too severe for the human who subjectsa dog or cat to that torture.The Inside Scoop for pet ownersAlthough pets are not permitted on the trails or backcountry in most national parks, those traveling with their
  54. 54. dogs can hike with them over trails administered by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management,as well as some of the state parks that are adjacent to many national parks.Those who do decide to take pets with them despite these warnings should take the pets’leashes, of course; carry plenty of water (pet shops sell clever little travel water bowls thatwon’t spill in a moving vehicle); and bring proof that the dogs or cats have been vaccinatedagainst rabies. Flea and tick spray or powder is also important, since fleas that may carrybubonic plague have been found on prairie dogs and other rodents in some parks, such asMesa Verde and Bryce Canyon.So You Like a Mystery? national parks Set the Scene forNevada Barr’s BooksAuthor Nevada Barr ( spins a good yarn. A former National Park Service ranger, shewrites what she knows—the settings for her mysteries are national parks, and her detective, Anna Pigeon, is aranger. Anna’s backstory is that she joined the Park Service after her actor husband was killed in New YorkCity, and she finds safety in solitude. But occasionally someone breaks into her aloneness, such as the timeshe enjoyed a brief liaison with an FBI agent during a murder investigation at Lake Superior. Anna loves thewild country, and her work often takes her into strange situations. It’s fascinating to see the parks throughAnna’s eyes, in the series’ inaugural volume, Track of the Cat (Berkley, 1993), as she patrols the backcountryof Guadalupe Mountains National Park on horseback—is the killer a mountain lion, as the tracks imply, orsomething more sinister?—or when she strives to uncover the cause of inexplicable deaths amid the ruins atMesa Verde National Park in Ill Wind (Berkley, 1995). The “accident” that befalls a spelunker in the depths ofCarlsbad Caverns in Blind Descent (Berkley, 1998) takes the reader into subterranean territory, and the tensesituation that develops among the small group of isolated firefighters during the aftermath of a forest fire atLassen Volcanic National Park in Firestorm (Berkley, 1996) is riveting. In High Country (Berkley, 2004), set inYosemite National Park, Anna goes undercover to find four missing seasonal workers. Ms. Barr makes Annathe new District Ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park in Hard Truth (Putnam, 2005), where a 6-week-oldmystery seems to be winding down . . . until the disembodied voices start and small slayings turn intosomething bigger. In Borderline (Putnam, 2009), Anna and her new husband, Paul, head down the Rio Grandeon a raft in Big Bend, but the relaxing jaunt takes on nightmare proportions when their raft gets lost in rapids.Taking the reader back to 1995, when Anna Pigeon was just starting out in the Park Service, the 17th book inthe series, The Rope (Putnam, 2012), takes place in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Fresh from NewYork City, Anna signs on as a seasonal employee and takes a workman’s holiday on her day off to go hiking.When she doesn’t return and her cabin is stripped of her belongings, everyone assumes she’s simply movedon. How Anna Pigeon not only survives being trapped at the bottom of a dry well with no clothes or supplies,but also pieces together the why and who of her predicament, is the story her fans have been awaiting. Don’tmiss it.Health & SafetyBears, rattlesnakes, and lightning can be dangerous, but that driver heading for you on a parkroad can be even more dangerous. In fact, motor vehicle accidents cause more deaths in theparks every year than anything else. Scenic drives are often winding and steep; take themslowly and carefully. And no matter how stunning the snowcapped peak you may glimpseis, keep your eyes on the road.
  55. 55. When out on the trails, even for a day hike, keep safety in mind. The wild, untouchednature of these parks is what makes them so exciting and breathtakingly beautiful—butalong with wildness comes risk. The national parks are neither playgrounds nor zoos. Theanimals here are truly wild and sometimes dangerous. This doesn’t mean that disaster couldstrike at any time, but visitors should exercise basic caution and common sense at all times,respecting the wilderness around them and always following the rules of the park.Never feed, bother, or approach animals. Even the smallest among them can carryharmful, sometimes deadly, diseases, and feeding them is dangerous not only to you, but alsoto the animals, who (like us) will eat what their bodies can’t handle. In addition, wildanimals’ dependence on handouts can lead to unpleasant confrontations, which often resultin rangers having to relocate or kill the animal. As the Park Service reminds us, “A fed bear isa dead bear.”In some parks where there are bears and mountain lions, it’s often a good idea to makenoise as you hike, to make sure you don’t stumble upon and frighten an animal intoaggression. Also, follow park rules on food storage when in bear country. Photographersshould always keep a safe distance when taking pictures of wildlife—the best photos are shotwith a telephoto lens.It’s equally important for your safety to know your limitations, to understand theenvironment, and to take the proper equipment when exploring the park. Always stop at thevisitor center before you set out on a hike. Park staff there can offer advice on your hikingplans and supply you with pamphlets, maps, and information on weather conditions or anydangers, such as bear activity or flash flood possibilities on canyon hikes. Once out on thetrail, hikers should always carry sufficient water and, just as important, remember to drink it.Wear sturdy shoes with good ankle support and rock-gripping soles. Keep a close eye onchildren in your group, and never let them run ahead (especially in bear or mountain lioncountry).Since many park visitors live at or near sea level, one of the most common health hazards isaltitude sickness, caused by the high elevations of many of the parks in this book. Symptomsinclude headache, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, muscle pain, and lightheadedness.Doctors recommend that until you are acclimated—which can take several days—you shouldconsume light meals and drink lots of liquids, avoiding those with caffeine or alcohol. It’s agood idea to take frequent sips of water as well.One proven method of minimizing the effects of high altitudes is to work up to them. Forinstance, on a visit to southern Utah, go to lower-elevation Zion National Park for a day ortwo before heading to the higher mountains of Bryce Canyon. Those concerned aboutaltitude sickness might also consult with their doctors before leaving home; there are drugsthat can be taken beforehand that may minimize the risk.A waterborne hazard is Giardia, a parasite that wreaks havoc on the human digestivesystem. If you pick up this pesky hanger-on, it may accompany you on your trip home. Thebest solution is to carry all the water you’ll need (usually a gallon a day). If you needadditional water from the parks’ lakes and streams, it should be boiled for 3 to 6 minutesbefore consumption.Health experts also warn outdoor enthusiasts to take precautions against hantavirus, a rarebut often fatal respiratory disease, first recognized in 1993. About half of the country’sconfirmed cases have been reported in the Four Corners states of Colorado, New Mexico,
  56. 56. Arizona, and Utah. The droppings and urine of rodents usually spread the disease, andhealth officials recommend that campers and hikers avoid areas with signs of rodentoccupation. Symptoms of hantavirus are similar to flu, and lead to breathing difficulties andshock.Hiking TipsDon’t venture off on any extensive hike, even a day hike, without the following gear: acompass, a topographical map, bug repellent, a whistle, a watch, and sufficient water. Inmany western parks, sunglasses, sunscreen, and wide-brimmed hats are also consideredessential. To be on the safe side, you should keep a first-aid kit in your car or luggage andhave it handy when hiking. At a minimum, it should contain butterfly bandages, sterilegauze pads, adhesive tape, antibiotic ointment, pain relievers, alcohol pads, and a knife withscissors and tweezers (tweezers are especially useful for removing those nasty little cactusspines that seem to attack from the side of the trail). In many national parks, cellphoneservice is spotty or nonexistent, so don’t depend on being able to call for help in anemergency unless you have a satellite phone (which is rather expensive to own but can berented for your stay in a remote area).America’s New Celebrities: the national parksKen Burns and Dayton Duncan’s six-part, 12-hour 2009 documentary series, The National Parks: America’sBest Idea, told the dramatic story of the origin of the National Park system. Starting with “The Scripture ofNature,” it focused on the early appreciation (in the 1850s) of the areas that became Yosemite and Yellowstonenational parks, followed by “The Last Refuge,” depicting the ongoing battle between the preservation of theparks, starting in the 1890s, and industrialization and commercialization of the lands. “The Empire of Grandeur”profiled the formation of the National Park Service in 1916, spearheaded by wealthy, charismatic businessmanStephen Mather, who returned again and again to nature to restore his own health. “Going Home” featuredpeople following in the footsteps of Mather in the 1920s and ’30s to create more parks and protect the naturalwonders all over the country, including John D. Rockefeller, Jr.’s, purchase of land to donate to the U.S. toexpand Grand Teton National Park. “Great Nature” told the story of how the parks survived and changed in theDepression, with the creation of the WPA, and how President Franklin Roosevelt resisted pressure to use theirnatural resources during World War II. Set in the postwar years through about 1980, “The Morning of Creation”told how the parks have developed the balancing act between being cherished and visited by millions eachyear, and protecting the environments from being overrun and permanently altered. You can watch scenes fromthe series at or purchase the DVDs, companion book, and soundtrack CD.Adventure ToursA number of nationally recognized companies offer guided trips to many of the parks in thisbook and surrounding areas. In most cases, all you do is pay, and then the outfitters arrangeeverything, including lodging, meals, transportation, and equipment such as mountain bikesand rafts. Offerings range from fairly standard biking, hiking, or boating trips to luxuryadventure vacations, where you spend your days hiking or biking and your evenings beingpampered with gourmet meals, hot tubs, and first-class hotels. You’ll want to contactcompanies as far in advance as possible, as reservations are required and group sizes are
  57. 57. limited. The adventure tour operators generally specialize in small groups and have trips forvarious levels of ability and physical fitness.A good online source for a variety of outdoor adventure trips offered by various outfittersis the great United States of America is not so poor we cannot afford to have these places, nor so richwe can do without them.—Newton Drury, National Park Service Director, 1940–51Here are some of the West’s most respected adventure tour operators:• Austin-Lehman Adventures, P.O. Box 81025, Billings, MT 59108-1025 ( 800/575-1540 or406/655-4591;• Backroads, 801 Cedar St., Berkeley, CA 94710-1800 ( 800/462-2848 or 510/527-1555;• Bicycle Adventures, 29700 SE High Point Way, Issaquah, WA 98027 ( 800/443-6060 or425/250-5540;• REI Adventures, P.O. Box 1938, Sumner, WA 98390 ( 800/622-2236 or 253/437-1100;• The World Outdoors, 2840 Wilderness Place, Ste. D, Boulder, CO 80301 ( 800/488-8483 or303/413-0946; a Backcountry TripHere are some general things to keep in mind when planning a backcountry trip:• Permits. In many parks, overnight hiking and backcountry camping require a permit.• Camping Etiquette & Special Regulations. Follow the basic rules of camping etiquette:Pack out all your trash, including uneaten food and used toilet paper. Camp in obviouscampsites. If pit toilets are not available, bury human waste in holes 6 inches deep, 6 inchesacross, and at least 200 feet from water and creek beds. When doing dishes, take water anddishes at least 200 feet from the water source, and scatter the wastewater. Hang food andtrash out of reach of wildlife, use bear-proof containers, or follow other park rules to keepwildlife from human food.• Footwear. Be sure to wear comfortable, sturdy hiking shoes or boots with good anklesupport that will resist water, if you’re planning an early season hike.• Sleeping Bags. Your sleeping bag should be rated for the low temperatures found at highelevations. Most campers are happy to have a sleeping pad.• Water. If you’re not carrying enough water for the entire trip, you’ll also need a goodpurifying system, because that seemingly clear stream is filled with bacteria likely to causeintestinal disorders.• Your Pack. The argument rages about the merits of old-fashioned external-frame packs andnewer internal-frame models. Over the long run, the newer versions are more stable andallow you to carry greater loads more comfortably; however, they also cost more. The keyissue is finding a pack that fits well and has plenty of padding, a wide hip belt, and a goodlumbar support pad.Protecting the Environment
  58. 58. Not long ago, the rule of thumb was to “leave only footprints”; these days, we’re trying to dobetter and not leave even footprints. It’s relatively easy to be a good outdoor citizen—just usecommon sense. Pack out all trash; stay on designated trails; be especially careful not topollute water; don’t disturb plants, wildlife, or archaeological resources; don’t pick flowersor collect rocks; and, in general, do your best to have as little impact on the environment aspossible. Some hikers go further, carrying a small trash bag to pick up what others may haveleft. As the Park Service likes to remind us, protecting our national parks is everyone’sresponsibility.
  59. 59. Chapter 2: Arches National Park, UTby Don & Barbara LaineNatural stone arches and fantastic rock formations, sculpted as if by an artist’shand, are the defining features of this park, and they exist in remarkable numbersand variety. Just as soon as you’ve seen the most beautiful, most colorful, mostgigantic stone arch you can imagine, walk around the next bend, and there’sanother—bigger, better, and more brilliant than the last. It would take forever tosee them all, with more than 2,000 officially listed and more being discovered, or“born,” every day.Note About MapsThis guide contains dozens of maps of varying sizes and complexity. If you find it hard to read a map on yourdevice, use the zoom function to enlarge. You can also download and/or printout PDFs of all of the maps in thisguide. Go to and click on the title of your guide.
  60. 60. Arches National ParkJust down the road from Canyonlands National Park (see chapter 8), Arches is more visitor-friendly, with relatively short, well-maintained trails leading to most of the park’s majorattractions. It’s also a place to let your imagination run wild. Is Delicate Arch really sodelicate? Or would its other monikers (Old Maid’s Bloomers and Cowboy Chaps) be moreappropriate? And what about those tall spires? You might imagine they’re castles, giantstone sailing ships, or the petrified skyscrapers of some ancient city.Exploring the park is a great family adventure. The arches seem more accessible and lessforbidding than the spires and pinnacles at Canyonlands and most other western parks.Some think of arches as bridges, imagining the power of water that literally cuts a holethrough solid rock. Actually, to geologists there’s a big difference. Natural bridges areformed when a river cuts a channel; the often bizarre and beautiful contours of arches resultfrom the erosive force of rain and snow, freezing and thawing, as it dissolves the “glue” that
  61. 61. holds sand grains together and chips away at the stone.Although arches usually grow slowly—very slowly—occasionally something dramatichappens, like that quiet day in 1940 when a sudden crash instantly doubled the size of theopening of Skyline Arch, leaving a huge boulder lying at its feet. Luckily, no one (that weknow of) was standing underneath at the time. The same thing happened to themagnificently delicate Landscape Arch in 1991, when a slab of rock about 60 feet long, 11 feetwide, and 4 1/2 feet thick fell from its underside. Today, it’s hard to believe that such a thinribbon of stone can continue hanging on at all.Spend a day or a week here, exploring the terrain, watching the rainbow of colors deepenand explode with the long rays of the setting sun, or glimpsing ribbons of moonlight on tallsandstone cliffs. Be on the lookout for mule deer, cottontail rabbits, and bright-green collaredlizards as they go about the task of desert living. And let your imagination run wild amongthe Three Gossips, the Spectacles, the Eye of the Whale, the Penguins, the Tower of Babel,and the thousands of other statues, towers, arches, and bridges in this remarkable sandstoneplayground.Avoiding the CrowdsThis is a popular park, attracting about one million visitors annually. Expect to find crowdedparking areas and a full campground daily from March through October, with the peakmonth being August. The quietest months are December, January, and February, but it canbe cold then. Those wanting to avoid crowds might gamble on Mother Nature and visit inNovember or late February, when days can be delightfully sunny and just a bit cool, orbitterly cold, windy, and awful. As with most popular parks, avoid visiting during schoolvacations, if possible.EssentialsGetting There & GatewaysThe entrance to the park is 5 miles north of Moab, Utah, on U.S. 191. To get there from SaltLake City, about 240 miles away, follow I-15 south to Spanish Fork, take U.S. 6 southeast to I-70, and follow that east to Crescent Junction, where you’ll pick up U.S. 191 south. FromGrand Junction, Colorado, take I-70 west until you reach Crescent Junction, and then gosouth on U.S. 191.The Nearest Airport Located 16 miles north of downtown Moab, Canyonlands Field ( 435/259-4849; has daily scheduled flights between Moab and Denver andMoab and Las Vegas on Great Lakes Airlines ( 800/554-5111 or 435/259-0566; and car rentals from Enterprise ( 435/259-8505; Shuttle service into Moab is also available from several companies,including Roadrunner Shuttle ( 435/259-9402; and MoabLuxury Coach ( 435/940-4212; closest major airport is Grand Junction Regional Airport, about 112 miles east inGrand Junction, Colorado ( 970/244-9100; It has direct flights orconnections from most major cities on Allegiant, American/American Eagle, Continental,Delta, United, and US Airways. Car rentals are available at the airport from Alamo (970/243-3097), Avis ( 970/244-9170) , Budget ( 970/244-9170) , Enterprise ( 970/254-1700),Hertz ( 970/243-0747), and National ( 970/243-6626). Website listings for airlines, hotel