Parks | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com Trip Ideas, Itineraries, Maps & Area Experts Mon, 20 Nov 2017 21:56:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9 https://deathstar-650a.kxcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/cropped-moon_logo_M-32x32.jpg Parks | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com 32 32 125073523 Best Yosemite Winter Activities https://moon.com/2017/11/best-yosemite-winter-activities/ https://moon.com/2017/11/best-yosemite-winter-activities/#respond Fri, 10 Nov 2017 19:24:33 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=60381 Think you’ll miss out on Yosemite’s scenic beauty by visiting in the colder months of the year? Just take a look at some of Ansel Adams’s photographs and you’ll see that Yosemite in winter is incredibly beautiful. Here are a few of the highlights of a winter visit.

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Many seasoned Yosemite visitors insist that the best time to see the park is in winter. Rates drop considerably at park lodgings. Crowds are nonexistent. Think you’ll miss out on Yosemite’s scenic beauty by visiting in the colder months of the year? Just take a look at some of Ansel Adams’s photographs and you’ll see that Yosemite in winter is incredibly beautiful.

Half Dome reflecting on the merced river in Yosemite during winter

Winter on the Merced River in Yosemite. Photo © MBRubin/iStock.

Here are a few of the highlights of a winter visit:

Snowshoeing

No experience is required; snowshoeing is as easy as walking, and rentals cost only a few bucks an hour. Rent a pair of snowshoes at Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village) or Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area Ski Area. Beginners can snowshoe amid the giant sequoia trees at the Merced Grove, Tuolumne Grove, or Mariposa Grove (Note: Mariposa Grove is closed for a restoration project until spring 2018). More experienced snowshoers can head out from Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area to Dewey Point, a seven-mile round-trip, or follow one of several other marked snowshoe/cross-country ski trails from Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area or Crane Flat. If you don’t want to set out on your own, join a ranger-guided snowshoe walk.

Sledding and Ice Skating

Sled in the morning and ice-skate in the afternoon. Snow-play areas are located near Crane Flat (Highway 120/Big Oak Flat entrance). Bring along a garbage can lid or a cheap plastic saucer and for a few brief moments you’ll feel like a kid again. Then head to Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village) for an afternoon skate session, where you can practice your figure eights with a head-on view of Half Dome. Can’t skate? Then sit by the warming hut’s fire pit and treat yourself to a cup of hot chocolate while you watch other skaters perform triple camels, or just fall down.

Winter Walk

During most of the winter, the Valley is often snow-free. The Valley’s paved bike trails make easy walking paths even when they are covered with a few inches of snow. Get out and about before the sun gets too high and you may get to see the ice cone that forms around Yosemite Falls on cold winter nights. On most sunny days, the cone melts off completely by 9am or 10am, so an early start is critical.

Skiing and Snowboarding

Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area is one of the mellowest ski resorts in the entire Sierra. Lift lines? High-priced lift tickets? No such thing here. If you don’t feel like driving on snow-covered roads, you can take the shuttle bus to Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area from Yosemite Valley Lodge. If you don’t know how to ski or snowboard, Badger’s 85 acres of slopes are the perfect place to learn. Lessons are offered daily. Or, keep it simple—go “snow tubing” on the Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area hills. It’s just like sledding, only safer, because you are cushioned by a big, billowy inner tube.

Cocktails by the Fire

After a day playing in the white stuff, head to the Majestic Yosemite Bar for appetizers and a warming cocktail; then choose a comfy seat in one of the Majestic Yosemite’s public rooms and read a book by a blazing fire. Or, head to the bar at Yosemite Valley Lodge in Yosemite Valley for drinks, snacks, and a seat around the fire.


Excerpted from the Seventh Edition of Moon Yosemite, Sequoia & Kings Canyon.

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10 National Parks Gifts for the Holidays https://moon.com/2017/11/10-national-parks-gifts-for-the-holidays/ https://moon.com/2017/11/10-national-parks-gifts-for-the-holidays/#respond Fri, 10 Nov 2017 16:35:33 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=61341 The US National Parks System is truly America’s best idea. Here are 10 gifts that bring out the nature-lover in all of us.

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From the redwoods of Sequoia to the mists of Acadia, from the frozen landscape of Denali to the volcanic beauty of Hawaii, the US National Parks System is truly America’s best idea. Here are 10 gifts that bring out the nature-lover in all of us.

1. National Parks Scented Candles

national parks scented candle

Missing the sage-filled air of the Grand Canyon, or the scent of the evergreens in the Great Smoky Mountains? These Pendleton travel candles will bring back your favorite national park memories.

2. National Parks Journal

Leather-bound and filled with gorgeous maps and blank pages to record your explorations, an Orvis’ National Parks Atlas is the perfect companion on an outdoor adventure (and they can be personalized).

3. National Parks Posters

bryce canyon poster

Preserve the memory of your favorite national park with these beautiful minimalist posters from MMcKinney Designs (she has posters for 33 of the 59 parks!), or scratch off each park you visit on this poster from Uncommon Goods, creating a custom keepsake to hang on your wall.

4. Hiking Shoes

national parks hiking shoes

Get outdoors in style with Brooks’ Cascadia trail shoes, available for men and women. With styles inspired by four of the most beautiful national parks and designed with rocky trails in mind, 5% of each pair sold is donated to the National Parks Foundation. Happy trails indeed!

5. Classic Pocket Knife

opinel pocket knife

Be prepared for anything on your camping trips (and look fabulous doing it) with this classic, heirloom pocket knife by Opinel.

6. Native Seeds

heritage plant seeds

One of the most important reasons to protect our parks is their plant life. Native Seeds harvests and sells heirloom American plants to support indigenous peoples and their communities and to spread these beautiful Southwestern plants. Bring a little bit of the Southwest to your backyard!

7. Camera Strap

leather camera strap

Do you have a budding nature photographer in your life? Help inspire them with a handmade leather camera strap, embossed with delicate leaves and flowers.

8. National Parks Photo Book

ansel adams book

Explore the parks from your living room with photographer Ansel Adams, whose photos were instrumental to the expansion of our National Parks System. Choose from Ansel Adams in the National Parks and Ansel Adams in Yosemite Valley (or get both!).

9. National Parks Pass

nps annual pass

Give the gift of access to any park in the system, from Yosemite to Yellowstone, for an entire year with the America the Beautiful Annual Parks Pass.

10. Moon Travel Guides to the National Parks

What better way to plan your adventure (and make good use of your annual pass) than with one of Moon Travel Guides’ many National Park books. Each guide is filled with local insight, expert advice, and gorgeous maps and photos, preparing you to enjoy the trip a lifetime.


Got a national parks junkie on your holiday shopping list? Here are 10 gift ideas to satisfy their love of outdoors adventure!

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Grand Teton National Park Winter Activities https://moon.com/2017/11/grand-teton-national-park-winter-activities/ https://moon.com/2017/11/grand-teton-national-park-winter-activities/#respond Thu, 09 Nov 2017 23:54:25 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=61011 When snow settles on Grand Teton National Park, winter gear comes out. Snow-buried roads and trails turn into skiing and snowshoeing routes; with the snow, you can go anywhere.

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When snow settles on Grand Teton National Park, winter gear comes out. Snow-buried roads and trails turn into skiing and snowshoeing routes; with the snow, you can go anywhere.

man in denim snowshoeing in grand teton national park

Before heading out on skies or snowshoes, pack enough gear to survive an emergency or self-rescue. Remember: Snowshoers should travel parallel to ski tracks, but not on them. Photo © deluxeimaging/iStock.

Winter Sports in North Grand Teton National Park

Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing

Trails are not marked in winter, so you’re on your own for route-finding—don’t assume the previous ski tracks go where you want to go. Even roadways become backcountry in winter. Bring a map, GPS or compass, and know how to navigate.

Follow proper etiquette, and take along enough gear to survive an emergency or self-rescue. Snowshoers should travel parallel to ski tracks, but not on them. If skiing or snowshoeing where snowmobiles travel, stay to the right. If you are touring on closed roads, you won’t encounter much avalanche danger, but check conditions at Jackson Hole Avalanche Forecast (307/733-2664) to understand the snow surface.

Grand Teton has a brochure (www.nps.gov/grte) that shows popular ski and snowshoe routes, where to park vehicles, and winter wildlife closure zones. The nearest rentals and guides for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are in Jackson.

Inside the Park

From Signal Mountain Lodge, climb six miles and 800 feet in elevation on Signal Mountain Road to the summit of Signal Mountain for views of the Tetons. This intermediate tour requires the ability to ski downhill on the return trip; when the conditions are right, gravity does all the work. From the Colter Bay Visitor Center, the Swan Lake and Heron Pond Loop (2.6 miles round-trip) is more suitable for beginners. At Flagg Ranch, the Polecat Creek Loop (2.5 miles round-trip) and South Flagg Canyon Trail (5 miles round-trip) are easy routes with minimal climbing. You can also tour the Grassy Lake Road/Ashton-Flagg Ranch Road or the road into Yellowstone National Park, but you will encounter snowmobiles.

Outside the Park

Outside the park east of Moran Junction, Turpin Meadow Ranch (24505 Buffalo Valley Rd., 307/543-2000, 9am-5pm Tues.-Sun. winter, $15 adults, $5 kids) grooms 15 kilometers of trails for skate and classic skiing. Rentals run $10-30 per day.

Snowmobiling

Grand Teton National Park does not permit snowmobiling on snow-buried roads, but it does allow machines on Jackson Lake when it is frozen. All snow machines in the park must be BAT (Best Available Technology)-approved. Grassy Lake Road/Ashton-Flagg Ranch Road is a popular backcountry snowmobile route in winter. You don’t need a guide to snowmobile on Jackson Lake or Grassy Lake Road.

Guides and Rentals

Grand Teton National Park has no companies licensed to guide snowmobile trips in the park. However, snowmobiles are available to rent in Jackson to take out on your own. Headwaters Lodge at Flagg Ranch (800/443-2311, daily mid-Dec.-mid-Mar., $275-325 driver, $175 extra rider) serves as a jumping-off point for touring Yellowstone National Park by snowmobile in winter. Tours go to Old Faithful or Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Both rides demand stamina, as they last 8-12 hours. While you will stop for sightseeing, you’ll be straddling the machine for much of the day. Rates include snowmobiles, helmets, boots, winter suits, breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Park entrance fees are extra. Plan to tip your guide 15 percent.

skiers on the snowy slopes of the Tetons

Take proper winter precautions before hitting the slopes. Photo © Kevin Cass/iStock.

Winter Sports in South Grand Teton National Park

In southern Grand Teton National Park, winter sports consist of the silent sports: backcountry skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Snowmobiling on snow-buried roads is not permitted, and as of 2015 snowbikes are not allowed. The park closes several zones in winter to protect wildlife, including the Snake River bottom. Check on park closures online (www.nps.gov/grte) or in the winter edition of the park’s official newspaper. A good resource for snow conditions all over the park is compiled and updated periodically by the Jenny Lake climbing rangers.

Venturing into Grand Teton National Park in winter demands preparedness and attention to weather and snowpack. While most park roads convert to touring trails and are not in avalanche zones, they can see whiteouts, high winds, and frigid temperatures. Prepare accordingly to prevent exposure and hypothermia. Traveling into mountain canyons or skinning up peaks to ski down will increase exposure to avalanches. Take the appropriate survival and avalanche gear along and be prepared to self-rescue. Check for avalanche conditions updated daily through the Jackson Hole Avalanche Center (307/733-2664).

Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing

November-April some roads in the national park close to vehicles, which means they turn into cross-country ski and snowshoe routes. From the Taggart Lake Trailhead to Signal Mountain Lodge, Teton Park Road (14 miles) becomes a winter ski and snowshoe trail; it’s the way to ski to frozen Jenny Lake. The road is groomed twice a week mid-December-mid-March (call 307/739-3682 for current grooming conditions). Hit the trail on Friday and Monday for fresh-buffed tracks. Follow protocol on the groomed trail: Snowshoers should walk on the smooth grooming, not the tracks cut for skiing.

In winter, closed Moose-Wilson Road offers a road tour through a forest, but the road is not groomed. Be ready to break your own trail or follow previous tracks from skiers and snowshoers. From the Granite Canyon Trailhead, you can tour the road north to the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center (closed in winter) and circle Phelps Lake on trails. Park at the Death Canyon junction to tour south on the road. Antelope Flats Road also offers winter touring, although its wide-open plain can kick with wind. Taggart and Bradley Lakes make good trail destinations for those who want to get off the roads. Because it is one of the few trailheads that drivers can access in winter, the lakes are a popular destination.

Backcountry skiers and snowboarders can access Grand Teton National Park from the valley floor along Teton Park Road and the Moose-Wilson Road or from neighboring Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

Guides and Rentals

Several companies are licensed to guide winter tours in the national park and even instruct avalanche courses. Most trips are scheduled on demand (consider pairing up with other visitors to reduce rates). Hole Hiking Experience (866/733-4453) offers 2-6-hour cross-country ski and snowshoe trips, some in tandem with wildlife-watching, sleigh rides, or dogsledding. Teton Backcountry Guides (307/353-2900) leads full-day backcountry skiing, cross-country skiing, or snowshoe tours. Exum Mountain Guides (307/733-2297) leads one-day backcountry ski trips, ski mountaineering excursions, and ski camps. Jackson Hole Mountain Guides (307/733-4979) also leads one-day backcountry ski trips, ski mountaineering expeditions, and ice climbing in Death Canyon.

Dornan’s Trading Post (12170 Dornan Rd., Moose, 307/733-3307 or 307/733-2415, ext. 302, 9am-5pm daily Dec.-Mar., $18/day) rents cross-country skis and snowshoes by the day or week. You can also rent backcountry skis, cross-country skis, and snowshoes for adults and kids in Jackson and Teton Village.

When snow settles on Grand Teton National Park, winter gear comes out! Learn about accessible areas of the park for skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling, and get tips on staying safe while exploring the park in winter.


Excerpted From the Seventh Edition of Moon Yellowstone & Grand Teton.

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Yellowstone Winter Activities https://moon.com/2017/11/yellowstone-winter-activities/ https://moon.com/2017/11/yellowstone-winter-activities/#respond Thu, 09 Nov 2017 22:42:40 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=61009 Winter is a time when you can find solitude in Yellowstone with only a handful of people instead of a thousand at Old Faithful Geyser.

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Winter is a time when you can find solitude in Yellowstone and Grand Teton with only a handful of people instead of a thousand at Old Faithful Geyser. Most lodges inside both parks close for winter. Only Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Snow Lodge stay open in winter.

snowy path leading to Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone

Mammoth Hot Springs is a breathtaking sight, even in winter. Photo © kwiktor/iStock.

  • Snowcoach Tours: Snowcoaches outfitted with special wheels, tracks, or skis take visitors into Yellowstone National Park’s interior in winter. They depart from Mammoth, West Yellowstone, and Flagg Ranch for day trips to Old Faithful and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Snowcoaches also convey riders from Mammoth or Flagg Ranch to Snow Lodge at Old Faithful for overnighting.
  • Snowmobiling: Snowmobile day tours go from West Yellowstone, Mammoth, and Flagg Ranch into Yellowstone’s interior to Old Faithful and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
  • Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding: Four downhill skiing and snowboarding areas are the big places to go in winter. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Grand Targhee Resort flank opposite sides of the Teton Mountains, while the smaller Snow King Mountain borders the town of Jackson. Northeast of Yellowstone, Big Sky Resort offers a home base for skiing and exploring Yellowstone.
  • Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing: Roads and trails in both national parks turn into cross-country ski and snowshoe trails. Rendezvous Trails in West Yellowstone Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky and Grand Targhee in Teton Valley groom trails for skate and classic skiing.
  • Wildlife Watching: Sure, some animals migrate, but many are still out and about in the parks and wintering in areas adjacent to the parks. See bison, elk, wolves, coyote, moose, and raptors. Many animals winter in the Paradise Valley north of Gardiner and Yellowstone, while others go for lower elevations around West Yellowstone. The National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole is home to thousands of elk in winter, plus other wildlife.
  • Sleigh Rides: You can bundle up and travel in old fashion style in sleigh rides. Find them in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Big Sky, Montana in winter.

Excerpted From the Seventh Edition of Moon Yellowstone & Grand Teton.

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Sledding in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Hidden Valley https://moon.com/2017/11/sledding-in-rocky-mountain-national-parks-hidden-valley/ https://moon.com/2017/11/sledding-in-rocky-mountain-national-parks-hidden-valley/#respond Thu, 09 Nov 2017 02:05:26 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=61273 In Rocky Mountain National Park, the place to slip-slide to your heart’s content is Hidden Valley, a now-defunct ski area that continues to entice powder enthusiasts.

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Sledding ranks high on my list of favorite winter activities for many reasons: it’s affordable to most, it’s relatively safe, there’s little skill involved, and it gets the blood pumping. Best of all, smiles and giggles are all but guaranteed. In Rocky Mountain National Park, the place to slip-slide to your heart’s content is Hidden Valley, a now-defunct ski area that continues to entice powder enthusiasts. The ski area closed for good in the spring of 1992, but a playful atmosphere remains alive and well on this bunny-slope-turned-sledding-hill.

woman laughing on a sled in snow

Kids and kids-at-heart enjoy Hidden Valley’s sledding hill. Photo © Erin English.

Who: Adults, teenagers, kids; family, friends—bring the whole gang. Just be sure that the youngest member of your group has the ability to steer their sled or tube. A note on the slope: it’s gentle, and therefore might not satisfy the desires of adrenaline junkies.

What: Glide down on your sled or tube, hike back up, and repeat. Find a soft patch of snow out of the way of sled traffic and make your best snow angel. Have a snowball fight. When your nose and toes need a break from the cold, head inside the warming hut (open on weekends, holidays, and weekdays during busy times). The hut—which was constructed using materials from the old ski lodge—is designed for brief warm-ups only. People tend to eat lunch in their vehicles or elsewhere in the park. Flush restrooms are located across from the hut and open daily.

When: Sledding season kicks off after a big snowfall that sticks. The first big pow day could happen in late October or well into November. For the most current conditions, call the park information line: (970) 586-1206. Be mindful that even mid-winter, atypical warm temperatures or high winds could temporarily transform the picture-perfect sledding hill into a grassy, slushy mess. In springtime, the snow could endure until April, or later.

Where: Hidden Valley is located on the east side of Rocky, off of Highway 34/Trail Ridge Road. Get there via the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station or Fall River Entrance Station. Ample parking is available. Hidden Valley is the only place where sleds are allowed in the park.

How: Purchase a one-day pass ($20) or seven-day pass ($30) for the park, or present your annual pass at the entrance. No additional fee is required. Bring your own sliding device and dress in insulating layers: long underwear, snow pants, fleece pullover, waterproof jacket, gloves, hat, socks and snow boots.

Why: Sledding is good old-fashioned fun, that’s why. You’ll whoop and holler, and get pink cheeks and windswept hair as gravity takes you down the hill. You’ll share memorable moments with friends and family, and feel like a kid again. What’s not to love?

Safety: Stay safe on the hill by being aware of the people around you. At the bottom of the sledding area, you’ll likely see backcountry athletes trekking from the parking lot to nearby terrain. People still hike up the old ski runs using climbing skins, then ski or snowboard down. It’s these folks’ responsibility to watch out for you, and your responsibility to watch out for them. On winter weekends, a volunteer crew called the Sled Dogs is stationed at Hidden Valley. These individuals monitor the hill for safety, and can radio protection rangers if needed.


Find more outdoor activities in Colorado with Moon Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Chile’s Parque Nacional Laguna San Rafael https://moon.com/2017/11/chiles-parque-nacional-laguna-san-rafael/ https://moon.com/2017/11/chiles-parque-nacional-laguna-san-rafael/#respond Sun, 05 Nov 2017 19:34:13 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=11051 Flowing ice meets frigid sea at Laguna San Rafael. Find out about the history, geography, and the flora and fauna in this UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

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Flowing ice meets frigid sea at Laguna San Rafael. Frozen pinnacles tumble from the crackling face of Ventisquero San Rafael, a 60-meter-high glacier that descends from the Campo de Hielo Norte, to become bobbing icebergs. Misleadingly named, Laguna San Rafael is really an ocean inlet, though its salinity is low as the icebergs slowly thaw and the receding glacier—a palpable victim of global warming that may no longer reach the sea within a few years—discharges freshwater into it.

One of Chile’s largest national parks with 1.74 million hectares of rugged terrain, Laguna San Rafael is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve for its extraordinary scenery and environments. While remote from any settlement, it’s a popular summer excursion for Chileans and foreigners and is accessible year-round.

a rainbow spans over monte san valentin in chilean patagonia

Monte San Valentín is the southern Andes’ highest peak. Photo © Dmitry Saparov/iStock.

History of the Park

For a place so thinly populated and rarely visited, Laguna San Rafael has an intriguing history. Its first European visitor was Spaniard Bartolomé Díaz Gallardo, who crossed the low-lying Istmo de Ofqui (Isthmus of Ofqui) from the Golfo de Penas. Jesuit missionaries visited in 1766 and 1767, bestowing its present name, but the Spanish king soon expelled them from the continent.

British naval officer John Byron, grandfather of poet Lord Byron, once spent a winter marooned here. During the voyage of the Beagle, Charles Darwin made extensive observations, while Chilean naval officer Enrique Simpson delivered the first official report in 1871. In 1940, the government began a canal across the isthmus to simplify communications with the far south but soon gave up the project. In 1959 it declared the area a national park, but as late as the 1980s it entertained proposals to build a road for cargo transshipments.

Geography and Climate of Parque Nacional Laguna San Rafael

Laguna San Rafael is 225 kilometers southwest of Puerto Chacabuco via a series of narrow channels, but only 190 kilometers from Coyhaique as the air taxi flies. To the east rises the rugged Patagonian mainland; to the west lie the myriad islands of the Archipiélago de Chonos and the Península de Taitao.

Elevations range from sea level to 4,058-meter Monte San Valentín, the southern Andes’ highest peak. Sea-level temperatures are fairly mild, about 8°C, with upward of 2,500 millimeters of rainfall per year. At higher elevations, precipitation doubles, temperatures are colder, and the snowfall feeds 19 major glaciers that form the 300,000-hectare Campo de Hielo Norte. Pacific storms can darken the skies for weeks on end, but views are stunning when the overcast lifts.

Flora and Fauna

In areas not covered by ice, up to about 700 meters elevation, mixed Valdivian forest grows so dense that, wrote Darwin, “our faces, hands and shin-bones all bore witness to the maltreatment we received, in attempting to penetrate their forbidding recesses.” The main trees are two species of the southern beech coigüe, the coniferous mañío macho (Podocarpus nubigena), tepu, and other species, with an understory of shrubs, ferns, mosses, and vines. Above 700 meters, there is almost equally dense forest of the southern beeches lenga and ñire, with occasional specimens of the coniferous Guaitecas cypress.

Most of the easily visible wildlife congregates around the shoreline, beginning with eye-catching seabirds, such as the flightless steamer duck and Magellanic penguin, black-browed and sooty albatrosses, and various gulls. Marine mammals include the southern elephant seal, southern sea lion, and southern sea otter.

Forest-dwelling animals are harder to see, but pudú and huemul graze the uplands, while foxes and pumas prowl for prey.

ship approaching the san rafael glacier in patagonia

Ice meets frigid sea at Laguna San Rafael. Photo © SteveAllenPhoto/iStock.

Sights and Recreation in Parque Nacional Laguna San Rafael

Calving off the face of Ventisquero San Rafael, indigo icebergs bob and drift in the waters of Laguna San Rafael, an oval body of water measuring six to nine kilometers in width and connected to the southern canals by the narrow Río Témpanos. The world’s lowest-latitude tidewater glacier, Ventisquero San Rafael may not be so much longer. In continuous retreat since 1960, it could become a casualty of global warming.

Few visitors actually set foot in the park, as most arrive by ferry or catamaran, transferring to inflatables to meander among the bergs and approach the glacier’s face. Those who manage to land can hike through seven kilometers of evergreen forest on the Sendero al Ventisquero to a glacial overlook.

Accommodations

At park headquarters, Conaf’s three-site Camping Laguna Caiquenes (US$8 pp for up to 6 campers) allows no campfires. Contact Conaf’s Coyhaique Patrimonio Silvestre office (Los Coihues s/n, tel. 067/221-2125) reservations. Dome tents are also available via package excursions with Turismo Río Exploradores (tel. 09/8259-4017).

No supplies except potable water are available. Bring everything from Coyhaique or Puerto Chacabuco. Ferries and catamarans feed their passengers; the catamarans usually have an open bar and chill the whiskey with ice chipped off passing bergs.

Information

Conaf’s administration and ranger station is on Laguna San Rafael’s northeastern shore. Anyone who sets foot in the park pays a US$11 admission fee, but boat people do not, as offshore waters fall under naval jurisdiction. According to Conaf statistics, which exclude maritime passengers, the park received only 4,728 visitors in 2015.

Transportation

There’s no cheap and easy way of reaching the park. Air travel usually means only an overflight, while sea travel can be relatively fast (in a catamaran) or slow (on a cruise ship) but still expensive. Catamarans spend only a couple of hours at the glacier, while cruise ships spend longer but are even more expensive. From the town of Puerto Río Tranquilo, on the north arm of Lago General Carrera, a new gravel road has reached Bahía Exploradores, only about 65 kilometers north of the glacier. The road’s completion has not eliminated the need for boat travel, only shortened it.

Air taxis rarely land at the 775-meter gravel airstrip, but Coyhaique-based charters can carry up to seven passengers on overflights for a price that may be negotiable. The current option is Transportes Aéreos San Rafael (18 de Septiembre 469, tel./fax 067/257-3083).

September to May, Cruceros Marítimos Skorpios (Augusto Leguía 118, Las Condes, Santiago, tel. 02/2231-1030) offers six-day, five-night cruises from Puerto Montt on the 130-passenger Skorpios II (from US$1,400 pp low season to US$3,300 pp mid-Dec.-Feb.). Rates depend on the season and on the cabin. Some voyages include a side trip to hot springs in the Quitralco fjord.

From Puerto Chacabuco, the catamaran Chaitén offers day trips (US$200-285 pp) that include full meals and an open bar. For details, contact Loberías del Sur (Pedro de Valdivia 0210, Providencia, tel. 02/2231-1902 in Santiago; José Miguel Carrera 50, tel. 067/235-1112 in Puerto Chacabuco).

It’s possible for hikers to reach the park by sea for day trips and for one- to three-night packages with dome-tent camping. It’s not cheap—about US$220 for the day trip and US$350 for overnighting, not counting transportation from Puerto Río Tranquilo to the end of the Río Exploradores valley road—but the price compares favorably to the catamaran and cruise-ship excursions. For details, contact English-speaking Ian Farmer at Turismo Río Exploradores (tel. 09/8259-4017).


Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Patagonia.

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Rocky Mountains Winter Getaway: West Side and Grand Lake https://moon.com/2017/11/rocky-mountains-winter-getaway-west-side-grand-lake/ https://moon.com/2017/11/rocky-mountains-winter-getaway-west-side-grand-lake/#respond Thu, 02 Nov 2017 18:06:39 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=61124 The words “cold,” “snowy,” and “remote,” don’t exactly describe a dream vacation spot for everyone—but if they send happy shivers up your spine, then a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park’s west side belongs on your short list for winter vacation.

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The words “cold,” “snowy,” and “remote,” don’t exactly describe a dream vacation spot for everyone—but if they send happy shivers up your spine, then a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park’s west side belongs on your short list for winter vacation.

Tiny Grand Lake, Colorado, is just a short drive from the park’s west side entrance and your jumping off point for adventures in this itinerary. Booking accommodations ahead is advised, as some area hotels and lodges have variable winter hours.

snow blanketing trees and Rocky Mountains

Winter in Rocky Mountain National Park is full of beauty and many opportunities for outdoor activities. Photo © Erin English.

Day 1: Snowshoeing & Ice Skating

After a restful night’s sleep, you’re ready for an energizing snowshoe in Rocky. But first, drive to Rocky’s Kawuneeche Visitor Center to peruse the informative displays, browse regional books, and chat with a ranger about current conditions.

Next, it’s decision time. For a mellow snowshoe outing, keep your car parked where it is, and trek along the Tonahutu Spur Trail to join the Tonahutu Creek Trail. Simply reverse your direction whenever you’d like. For a more challenging adventure with varied terrain, drive north along Highway 34 to the Colorado River Trailhead, and tramp along the Colorado River Trail to Lulu City. The round-trip journey to Lulu City is 7.4 miles, but turning around at any point is always an option. Lulu City was a bustling mining town in the late 1800s, but don’t expect to see any relics upon arrival—just a sign identifying this historic site.

Upon arriving back in town, practice your figure eights at the small but sweet skating pond in Grand Lake Town Park.

Day 2: Cross-Country Skiing & Sledding

Today you’re headed back to Rocky for another romp in the white stuff—this time, the mode of transport is cross-country skis. Park at the Harbison Picnic Area and take the Sun Valley Trail for a 2.3-mile loop along mostly level terrain. Stop frequently to enjoy the deep silence of the winter landscape.

In the afternoon, head to the Grand Lake Nordic Center for some sledding fun. It’s free to slide down the Center’s tubing and sledding hill, and a limited amount of tubes are provided for visitors.

entrance to the Grand Lake Nordic Center

Grand Lake Nordic Center provides a limited amount of tubing gear. Photo © Erin English.

Day 3: Snowmobiling

It’s time to kick up the excitement a notch and find out why Grand Lake is dubbed the Snowmobile Capital of Colorado. You’ve made reservations for a snowmobile at On the Trail Rentals, and checked out the website’s trail report the night before. Now, get out there and explore the snowy woods until your fingers and toes start to protest. All of the essential gear you need is provided by On the Trail—just bring along your adventurous spirit.

Day 4: Ice Fishing

The fact that Grand Lake’s namesake body of water ices over in the winter is no deterrent for die-hard fishermen and fisherwomen. Even if you’ve never cast a line in the summer, you should try the winter version, just for kicks. Contact Rocky Mountain Outfitters to arrange a fully-guided ice fishing trip. Bundle up and pack a thermos of coffee or cocoa to sip while you wait for that big one to bite.

two people out on a frozen over lake in Colorado going fishing

Bundle up and head out on an ice fishing excursion. Photo © Arina Habich/iStock.

Essential Info

Rocky Mountain National Park is open 365 days a year, rain, shine, snow, or wind. Admission is $20 for one day, $30 for seven days, or $60 for an annual pass. When visiting in the winter, stay safe by dressing properly in waterproof/wicking fabrics, using good eye protection, hydrating frequently, and carrying a topographic map. A four-wheel drive vehicle and/or good snow tires are recommended for winter travel around Grand Lake and Rocky’s west side. Rent your skis and snowshoes from Never Summer Mountain Products; get your ice skates from Grand Lake Center.

If cold and snowy describe your perfect getaway, enjoy a Rocky Mountains winter and try these fun activities on the West Side and Grand Lake, CO.


Explore more of the Rockies with Moon Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Day Trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park https://moon.com/2017/10/day-trip-great-smoky-mountains-national-park/ https://moon.com/2017/10/day-trip-great-smoky-mountains-national-park/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 17:42:41 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=60504 If all you have is one day to spend in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, don’t sweat it. You can still see a lot (and plan a return trip as soon as you can) on a day trip.

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If all you have is one day to spend in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, don’t sweat it. You can still see a lot (and plan a return trip as soon as you can) on a day trip.

Start the day in Gatlinburg with a stop at Sugarlands Visitor Center to pick up maps and find out about special events. Follow Little River Gorge Road west toward Cades Cove. You never move too fast on this curvy road, so slow down and take your time to soak up the views.

fields surround an unpaved road leading to the mountains in Cades Cove

Cades Cove is the picture of calm, rural beauty. Photo © Sean Pavone/123rf.

At Cades Cove, grab a map and a driving guide for the scenic 11-mile Cades Cove Loop, one of the most popular drives in the park (so you’ll find you’re not alone). Though there may be company—crowds even—this wide, verdant valley ringed by tall peaks is the very picture of calm, rural beauty. Stop for a walk to John Oliver Place, the Methodist or Primitive Baptist Church, or one of the many cabins that showcase the history of settlement here.

At the midpoint of Cades Cove Loop, stop for a hike to Abrams Falls, a pleasant 5-mile round-trip hike to a 20-foot waterfall. The entire hike should take 3 hours or less to complete, giving you plenty of time to complete the Cades Cove Loop before returning to grab lunch in Gatlinburg.

Abrams Falls tumbles into a creek surrounded by trees

Take a hike to Abrams Falls. Photo © Jim Vallee/iStock.

Newfound Gap Road connects Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to Cherokee, North Carolina. Follow Newfound Gap Road south up and over the Smokies. In 23 miles, you’ll reach the turnoff to Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in the park. If the weather is good, you’ll be able to see the observation tower at the summit as you drive up Newfound Gap. After the 8-mile drive to the parking area, make the short, steep hike to the top. If the summit is shrouded in clouds (and it may well be), continue south along the crest of the Smokies.

Stop at Newfound Gap to check out the Rockefeller Memorial, the place where president Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated the park in 1940. As you continue east toward Cherokee, stop at any of the scenic overlooks along the way—you can’t go wrong.

The ramp to the viewing platform on Clingmans Dome

The ramp to the viewing platform on Clingmans Dome. Photo © Jason Frye.

You’ll draw close to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in North Carolina by the end of the day. Perfect timing, as every evening elk make an appearance in a field adjacent to the visitor center and the Mountain Farm Museum. While checking out the collection of historic structures at Mountain Farm, keep an eye out for elk; they will often cross right through the middle of this re-created farmstead on their way to dinner.

Spend your day trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park driving through peaceful valleys, taking in scenic mountain views, and visiting historic sites from Tennessee to North Carolina with this travel itinerary.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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Things to Do in Vancouver’s Stanley Park https://moon.com/2017/09/things-to-do-in-vancouvers-stanley-park/ https://moon.com/2017/09/things-to-do-in-vancouvers-stanley-park/#respond Mon, 18 Sep 2017 17:50:20 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=12834 A dense rainforest at the end of the downtown peninsula, Stanley Park is a green refuge, incorporating First Nations culture and heritage, woodland and waterfront trails, the city’s aquarium, and spectacular urban and harbor views.

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A dense rainforest at the end of the downtown peninsula, Stanley Park is a green refuge, incorporating First Nations culture and heritage, woodland and waterfront trails, the city’s aquarium, and spectacular urban and harbor views.

sunset on the water by the Stanley Park Seawall promenade in Vancouver

The Seawall Promenade at sunset. Photo © jamesvancouver/iStock.

Sights in Stanley Park

The Seawall, a 5.5-mile (9-kilometer) walking and cycling path, circles the perimeter of Stanley Park and passes many of the park’s attractions. You can also follow the park’s outer edge by car along Stanley Park Drive. It’s also worth exploring the park’s interior trails, many of which pass through old-growth rainforest.

Among Stanley Park’s highlights are the totem poles at Brockton Point and Siwash Rock, an offshore rock formation that figures in First Nations legends. A family-friendly stop is the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre (845 Avison Way, 604/659-3474; 9:30am-6pm daily July-early Sept., 10am-5pm daily early Sept.-June; adults $36, seniors and students $27, ages 4-12 $21), which is Canada’s largest aquarium.

On a finger of land jutting into the harbor on Stanley Park’s east side, the red and white Brockton Point Lighthouse was built in 1914. The Seawall travels under the lighthouse, through archways that support the lighthouse tower.

From Prospect Point, the highest spot in Stanley Park, you have great views of the Burrard Inlet, the North Shore mountains, and the Lions Gate Bridge, one of the world’s longest suspension bridges.

A giant western red cedar, roughly 800 years old, is one of Stanley Park’s best-known landmarks and the source of much controversy. Known as the Hollow Tree, the massive cedar on the park’s west side stopped growing in the 1800s and was essentially a 42-foot-tall (13-meter) tree stump. A 2006 windstorm damaged the tree, causing it to lean precipitously. The historic tree was eventually stabilized with a steel core and a foundation of underground steel “roots.” The tree is along Stanley Park Drive, north of Third Beach.

view of the Vancouver skyline and Lions Gate Bridge

Head to Prospect Point for panoramic views of Vancouver. Photo © Ronnie Chua/iStock.

Tours in Stanley Park

The park has a long and rich First Nations heritage. Several First Nations, including the Burrard, Musqueam, and Squamish people, made their home in the park for several thousand years. To learn more about the park’s aboriginal connections, take the 90-minute guided Talking Trees Walk with First Nations’ owned Talaysay Tours (604/628-8555 or 800/605-4643; 10am and 12:30pm daily May-Sept.; adults $35, ages 4-18 $28).

One option for getting around Stanley Park is on a trolley tour. The Vancouver Trolley Company (604/801-5515 or 888/451-5581) runs a year-round hop-on hop-off tour (one-day pass adults $45, seniors and ages 13-18 $42, ages 4-12 $28) that takes visitors to eight stops within the park and to 27 other locations throughout the city. From late June through early September, the company also operates the Stanley Park Shuttle (11am-6pm daily late June-early Sept.; adults, seniors, and ages 13-18 $10, ages 4-12 $5), a narrated ride that makes 15 stops within the park.

Stanley Park Beaches

Along the Seawall on the west side of Stanley Park, you can swim or sun at busy Second Beach. This sandy cove is also a pretty spot to watch the sunset. There’s a seasonal snack bar and a children’s playground near the beach. Third Beach at Ferguson Point on the west side of Stanley Park is a quiet stretch of sand with views toward the North Shore.

Water Sports on Stanley Park

A unique way to explore Stanley Park is from the water. Rent a kayak from Ecomarine Paddlesports Centre (1700 Beach Ave., 604/689-7575 or 888/425-2925; 10am-dusk Mon.-Fri., 9am-dusk Sat.-Sun. late May-early Sept.) on the beach at English Bay, paddle past Second and Third Beaches, and see Siwash Rock from the water. If you don’t want to navigate the route on your own, take their 2.5-hour guided kayaking tour (9:30am Thurs. and Sat., June-early Sept., $69 pp).

Hiking in Stanley Park

Some of the park’s interior trails include Tatlow Walk, which cuts across the southwest corner of the park, between Third Beach and the north side of Lost Lagoon; Rawlings Trail, open to cyclists and pedestrians, which parallels Park Drive on the west side of the park and takes you past the Hollow Tree; and the Beaver Lake Trail, which circles the lake of the same name near the center of the park.

The City of Vancouver publishes a Stanley Park trail map on its website (http://vancouver.ca). Don’t hike alone on these interior trails, as they can be surprisingly secluded even when the Seawall and beaches are busy.

Cycling in Stanley Park

Vancouver’s most popular cycling route runs along the Seawall, and the most scenic section of the Seawall is the 5.5-mile (9-kilometer) loop around Stanley Park. The paved path passes many landmarks, including the totem poles at Brockton Point, Prospect Point, and Siwash Rock.

The Mobi bike share program (778/655-1800) has a number of locations that are convenient to Stanley Park. You can also rent bikes from several West End shops, just outside the park’s boundaries:

Map of Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC

Stanley Park

Practicalities

All of the parking lots are fee-based ($3.25/hour Apr.-Sept., $2.25/per hour Oct.-Mar.). If you purchase a daily pass, you can use it at any parking lot within the park. You can enter Stanley Park on two sides: from West Georgia Street, near Coal Harbour, or from English Bay, near the intersection of Denman and Davie Streets.
Just above Third Beach, the Teahouse in Stanley Park (Ferguson Point, Stanley Park, 604/669-3281) serves a crowd-pleasing menu of west coast favorites, from smoked salmon and Pacific sablefish to burgers and steaks. The patio is particularly lovely on a sunny day or at sunset.

A dense rainforest at the end of Vancouver's downtown peninsula, Stanley Park is a green refuge, incorporating First Nations culture and heritage, woodland and waterfront trails, the city’s aquarium, and spectacular urban and harbor views. Plan your perfect day in the park with this visitor's guide to the sights and activities in Stanley Park.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Vancouver.

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Death Valley Camping for Tents and RVs https://moon.com/2017/08/death-valley-camping-for-tents-and-rvs/ https://moon.com/2017/08/death-valley-camping-for-tents-and-rvs/#respond Wed, 30 Aug 2017 17:09:50 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=58471 Between the hidden springs, salt flats, and ghost towns, a whole desert is waiting to be explored. Plan your Death Valley camping trip at one of these campsites.

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There are 12 campgrounds in Death Valley National Park; with the exception of Furnace Creek Campground, all are first-come, first-served. Finding an open site is rarely a problem; however, Texas Spring Campground in Furnace Creek may fill during spring weekends. There are also primitive campgrounds and many opportunities for backcountry camping.

Campgrounds are open seasonally (either Oct.-May or May-Oct.) depending on their elevation. Check the National Park Service website for seasonal alerts prior to heading out on a Death Valley camping trip.

bathrooms and a tent in Furnace Creek

Texas Spring Campground is tucked into the hills above Furnace Creek. Photo © Jenna Blough.

Furnace Creek Campgrounds

There are four campgrounds clustered around Furnace Creek, all with their pros and cons. Furnace Creek Campground is the only campground open in summer. Texas Spring and Sunset Campgrounds are open October 15 to May 1. Furnace Creek and Sunset Campgrounds both sit at 196 feet below sea level, making them oppressively hot in summer, and Texas Spring, at sea level, is not much higher or cooler. Site passes for Sunset and Texas Spring are sold at automated kiosks that take major credit cards and cash. Passes are for general overnight admission but do not specify sites.

Summer at Furnace Creek can create its own kind of ghost town due to the excessive heat at lower elevations. If you are planning to camp in Death Valley in summer, you would be wise to camp at higher elevations in other sections of the park.

Tip: All campgrounds can get very windy at night regardless of the time of year or the temperature. If you are tent camping, make sure you have your tent properly staked, and make sure everything that could be blown away is secured (camp chairs love to catch air when you’re not watching). If you’re relying on RV electric hookups, don’t be surprised by electricity surges.

Furnace Creek RV Park and Fiddlers Campground

Located at Furnace Creek Ranch, the privately run Furnace Creek RV Park and Fiddlers Campground (760/786-2345 or 800/236-7916, $18-38) offers 36 RV sites with full hookups and 35 RV or tent sites (no hookups). While not the place for those seeking desert solitude, it does include amenities such as wireless Internet and access to Furnace Creek Ranch’s pool, showers, and sports facilities. Communal picnic tables and fire pits are available within the campground but not at individual sites. Sites can be reserved year-round through Furnace Creek Ranch.

Furnace Creek Campground

The Furnace Creek Campground (877/444-6777, year-round, $18) is an RV and tent campground with 136 sites. It’s the only public campground that takes reservations (Oct. 15-Apr. 15) in Death Valley, so for busy weekends in spring or on holidays, or for travelers who like to have a set itinerary, this is a good option. From mid-April to mid-October, sites are first-come, first-served; reservations are not accepted and the fee is reduced to $12. The campground is right next to Furnace Creek Ranch, so while it’s easy to walk to dining and amenities, it also means this is not the serene desert escape you might be looking for. The surrounding valley and hills provide a beautiful setting, but the campground itself can be crowded and disorderly. There are some walk-in tent sites, which afford slightly more serenity. Day passes ($5) are available for the Furnace Creek Ranch pool and showers. This might be a selling point if you’re staying for several days or are visiting in the hotter parts of the year.

Sunset Campground

Sunset Campground (first-come, first-served, Oct.-May, $12) is across the road from Furnace Creek Campground and conveniently located near the services at Furnace Creek Ranch. With 270 sites, it caters mainly to RVs and is peaceful but spare, meaning it is basically a very scenically located parking lot. Amenities include water, flush toilets, and a dump station. It’s useful as an overflow if Furnace Creek Campground is full or to avoid some of the congestion there.

Texas Spring Campground

Texas Spring (first-come, first-served, Oct.-May, $14) shares an entrance with Sunset Campground, but it is a little more scenic, tucked farther into the hills with tamarisks offering shade at a few of the sites. This also means that it is the most popular campground in the area, and its 92 tent and RV sites fill up quickly. Amenities include water, picnic tables, fire pits, flush toilets, and a dump station.

Backcountry Camping in Furnace Creek

Furnace Creek has the most restrictions on where backcountry camping is allowed. Camping is not allowed on the valley floor from Ashford Mill in the south to two miles north of Stovepipe Wells. Camping is also not allowed directly off the West Side Road, but it is permitted along some of the Panamint Mountain canyon roads that are accessed by the West Side Road. To camp off the canyon roads, such as Johnson and Hanaupah Canyons, you must drive at least two miles in along any of the canyon roads from the West Side Road. (Pay attention to any posted signs, as the two-mile mark is a general rule of thumb, and some canyon roads may require you to go farther from the West Side Road.)

Backcountry sites are unmarked and have no amenities; look for spots that are flat, have easy turnouts, or look like they have been camped in before. The roads in this area become increasingly rough farther toward the canyon; if you’re driving a basic, high-clearance vehicle, such as a city SUV, you might not want to venture much past the two-mile mark. If you do snag one of these canyon spots, they can be austere and quiet with views of Badwater Basin glowing in the distance; however, they can be very windy, especially at night.

Amenities sign at Stovepipe Wells

The campgrounds at Stovepipe Wells feature views of the Cottonwood Mountains. Photo © aiwells/flickr, licensed CCBY.

Stovepipe Wells Campgrounds

The campground at Stovepipe Wells (190 sites, first-come, first-served, Sept. 15-early May, $12) has tent sites and RV sites with hookups. This is a central location for exploring a big swath of Death Valley. Beyond the prime location, the campground mostly resembles a parking lot, although the surrounding desert and Cottonwood Mountains are lovely in their austerity. The campground sits right at sea level, and the sites are completely exposed, which means it can be blazingly hot, and there is no privacy. Prepare to become friends with your neighbors. Amenities include picnic tables, potable water, and flush toilets. There is access to the Stovepipe Wells Hotel pool and showers ($4 per day).

Stovepipe Wells RV Park (14 sites, year-round, $32.75) shares space with the Stovepipe Wells campground; sites are located next to the General Store. RV fees include access to the swimming pool and to Wi-Fi in the hotel lobby.

Backcountry Camping in Stovepipe Wells

If you’re adventurous and prepared, backcountry camping might be a better and certainly more scenic option than the developed campground at Stovepipe Wells.

Backcountry camping is not allowed off Titus Canyon Road, Mosaic Canyon Road, Grotto Canyon Road, the first eight miles of Cottonwood Canyon Road, or on the valley floor from two miles north of Stovepipe Wells down to Ashford Mill in the Furnace Creek region. This list limits your options since it covers most of the roads that enter the region’s mountains and scenic bypasses.

Cottonwood Canyon makes a fine camp, as long as you camp beyond the first eight miles; it is scenic and has a water source. Chloride City, in the Nevada Triangle area, offers backcountry options in a scoured landscape with the Funeral Mountains as the backdrop. You’ll have no problem finding a place all to yourself out here.

picnic table and campfire in Death Valley

Campsites at Mesquite Spring are tucked along low hills. Photo © Jenna Blough.

Scotty’s Castle and Eureka Valley Campgrounds

There are no services in the Eureka Valley region—no hotels, restaurants, or gas. The park hubs of Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek are one to three hours’ drive south, and the closest services are in Big Pine, about 50 miles (two hours) west. Scotty’s Castle offers some bottled drinks and premade sandwiches, but hours are limited, and there are no other supplies. Bring your own food and water, make sure you have enough gas, and be prepared to camp.

Mesquite Spring Campgrounds

Mesquite Spring (30 sites, first-come, first-served, year-round, $12) is the only developed campground in the region. It’s a pretty campground, dotted with mesquite bushes and set along low hills less than five miles west from Scotty’s Castle. At an elevation of 1,800 feet, the temperature is bearable most of the year, except summer. Sites are exposed, but spaced far enough apart that you get some privacy. Though reservations aren’t accepted, it’s very likely you’ll get a spot, even in the busy spring season. Stop to reserve a spot first thing in the morning; pay via an automated kiosk, which takes credit cards and cash, and put your receipt on the site marker. Amenities include picnic tables, fire pits, and access to flush toilets and water; there are no RV hookups, but there is a dump station.

Directions

The turnoff to Mesquite Spring is located 0.6 mile south of the intersection of Scotty’s Castle Road and Highway 190; from the turnoff, continue 1.9 miles south to the campground.

Eureka Dunes Dry Camp

Eureka Dunes Dry Camp (first-come, first-served, free) is a small, primitive maintained campground. A stay here puts you within easy distance of the remote Eureka Dunes. Sites have fire pits and sturdy cement picnic tables; there is no water and no electric hookups, but there is a pit toilet. If all the sites are full, there are backcountry camping spaces just beyond the campground off Eureka Road. The only thing that distinguishes them from the official campsites is their lack of a picnic table and a fire pit.

Directions

To get here from the intersection of Scotty’s Castle Road and Highway 190, head north for 2.8 miles and continue on Big Pine-Death Valley Road for 21.8 miles. At Crankshaft Crossing, marked by a sign and rusted crankshafts, turn left (southwest) to stay on Big Pine-Death Valley Road. The turnoff to Eureka Dry Camp is 12.2 miles farther. Turn left onto the South Eureka Road and drive 9.6 miles to the campground at the base of the dunes. Big Pine-Death Valley Road, as well as Eureka Dunes Road, are graded dirt roads usually suitable for passenger cars and good enough to bring a camper or RV to this spot.

Homestake Dry Camp

In Racetrack Valley, your best bet is Homestake Dry Camp (first-come, first-served, free), a primitive maintained campground. Four camp spaces have been graded so that you can comfortably park and pitch a tent. In the highly unlikely event that these sites are full, simply set up camp nearby. The only amenity is one decrepit pit toilet, and there are no fire pits provided, so fires are not permitted. Bring your own water. Despite the lack of amenities, the campground serves as a good base to explore the surrounding area—Ubehebe Peak, the Racetrack, Lippincott Mine, Ubehebe Lead Mine, and Corridor Canyon.

Directions

To reach Homestake Dry Camp, access the Racetrack Valley Road from where it leaves paved Highway 190 and drive 19.4 miles south to Teakettle Junction. Continue south on the Racetrack Valley Road for eight miles to the southern end of the Racetrack playa. Continue two miles south beyond the playa, a total of 29.4 miles from Highway 190, to a small campground sign and the graded camping spaces that mark Homestake Dry Camp.

Backcountry Camping near Scotty’s Castle and Eureka Valley

Only a few roads traverse this region, so it’s important to know where backcountry car camping is allowed. The main dirt road, Racetrack Valley Road, is tempting, but there is no camping between Teakettle Junction and Homestake Dry Camp.

Instead, consider turning left at Teakettle Junction and heading south along Hidden Valley Road toward Hunter Mountain. The road is passable in a high-clearance vehicle for 13 miles to the area around Goldbelt Spring, at the base of Hunter Mountain. Beyond Goldbelt Spring, the road becomes 4WD-only as it climbs Hunter Mountain.

If you plan to rock-climb or explore the Cottonwood Mountain Canyons, camp in the vicinity of White Top Mountain. White Top Mountain Road is located off Hidden Valley Road; take the left turn at the junction 3.2 miles south of Teakettle Junction. The road begins as passable for high-clearance vehicles, then requires a 4WD vehicle after about five miles. There is no camping allowed at the Ubehebe Mine or the Lost Burro Mine.

tent cabin in Death Valley

Panamint Springs Resort offers tent cabins. Photo © Jenna Blough.

Panamint Springs and Saline Valley Campgrounds

Panamint Springs Resort

The Panamint Springs Resort Campground (40440 Hwy. 190, 775/482-7680, 7am-9:30pm daily year-round, $10-65) has a total of 76 accommodations, including tent cabins (1-5 people, $35-65), RV sites (30- and 50-amp hookups, $20-35), tent sites (1 tent, 1 vehicle, $10), and one group site. All sites have fire pits; most have picnic tables. Amenities include drinking water and flush toilets. Best of all, they have hot showers (free with a site, fee for nonguests), a rarity in Death Valley campgrounds (Furnace Creek, the crowded hub on the other side of the park, is the only other campground with showers). The campsites can fill quickly, so make reservations well ahead of time. There is a surcharge of $5 for pets in RV and tent sites.

Emigrant Campgrounds

Emigrant Campground (10 sites, first-come, first-serve, year-round, free) is a tiny tent-only campground located at the junction of Highway 190 and Emigrant Canyon Road. It’s a pretty spot that more closely resembles a day-use area. Sites are small, close together, and exposed to the open desert. It’s too small to serve as a base camp for several days, but it will do in a pinch. At 2,100 feet elevation and with no shade, it can be uncomfortably hot in summer, although cooler than the valley floor (but almost any place is cooler than the valley floor). Amenities include picnic tables, drinking water, and restrooms with flush toilets.

Directions

Emigrant is located directly off paved Highway 190, approximately 21 miles east of Panamint Springs, so it’s easy to access and centrally located.

Wildrose Campgrounds

Cheerful and sunny Wildrose Campground (23 sites, first-come, first-served, year-round, free) is tucked away at the lower end of Wildrose Canyon. At 4,100 feet elevation, the camp sits at a good mid-level point to avoid the scorching temperatures of the valley floor in summer and the snow of the higher elevations. Unlike the seasonal campgrounds located at the higher elevations of the canyon, Wildrose is open year-round and rarely fills up. Its level sites don’t offer privacy or shade, but it’s a peaceful campground in a quiet and lovely section of the park. It’s a great place to set up a base camp for exploring the Emigrant and Wildrose Canyon areas, with easy access to Skidoo, the Charcoal Kilns, Wildrose Peak, and Telescope Peak. Amenities include picnic tables, fire pits, potable water, and pit toilets; the campground is also accessible to small trailers.

Directions

To get here from the north, take Emigrant Canyon Road south toward Wildrose Canyon from Highway 190 for approximately 21 miles, to the end of Emigrant Canyon Road. From the south, Trona Wildrose Road veers past it approximately 46 miles north of Trona. Trona Wildrose Road is prone to washouts, and the road was closed for most of 2014. Pay attention to park alerts, and check for road closures before planning your route.

Thorndike Campgrounds

Rocky and remote Thorndike Campground (6 sites, first-come, first-served, Mar.-Nov., free) is perched between the canyon walls high up in Wildrose Canyon. This campground lies between Wildrose Campground, downcanyon, and Mahogany Flat, at the top of the canyon, which means it can get overlooked. Since it’s lightly visited, you should have no problem getting a spot; you might even have it all to yourself. The combination of steep canyon walls, a perch off the winding canyon road, and winds whipping downcanyon through gnarled juniper trees gives this place a wild and forgotten feel. However, the sheerness of the canyon walls cuts in on the daylight hours, so when the sun dips, it can get chilly. Bring firewood, as the nights can get surprisingly cold, even in summer. However, this can be a welcome relief when it’s too hot at lower elevations.

Almost all campsites are shaded—a rarity in Death Valley. Amenities include picnic tables, fire pits, and pit toilets; there is no drinking water available (the closest drinking water is at Wildrose Campground, about eight miles downcanyon). If you want to hike both Telescope Peak and Wildrose Peak, this is a great home base.

At 7,400 feet elevation, snow can make access impossible to vehicles from November to March.

Directions

To get here from the north, take Emigrant Canyon Road south toward Wildrose Canyon from Highway 190 for approximately 21 miles, to the end of Emigrant Canyon Road at Wildrose Campground. At Wildrose Campground, take Wildrose Canyon Road another nine miles up the canyon. The pavement ends at seven miles, at the Charcoal Kilns. The gravel road is steep and rocky from here. A high-clearance vehicle is necessary; a 4WD vehicle is preferable when navigating snow, ice, or washouts. The road is not accessible to trailers. From the south, drive Trona Wildrose Road 46 miles north of Trona to the Wildrose Campground, and then drive an additional nine miles up Wildrose Canyon Road. Keep in mind that Trona Wildrose Road is prone to washouts. If the road is closed, you might have to bypass it.

Mahogany Flat Campgrounds

Perched at the top of Wildrose Canyon, Mahogany Flat Campground (10 sites, first-come, first-served, Mar.-Nov., free) offers cool temperatures, sweeping views, and access to Telescope Peak, the highest mountain peak in the park. At 8,200 feet elevation, expect cool nights, which can be a lifesaver in the summer. Many people use this campground as a jumping-off point to hike Telescope Peak, since the trailhead starts just outside the campground. It gets some traffic because of the popularity of Telescope Peak, but you are still likely to find a spot.

Amenities include picnic tables, fire pits, and pit toilets; there is no drinking water available (the closest water is at Wildrose Campground, about nine miles down canyon). Snow may make the campground inaccessible November through March.

Directions

To get here from the north, take Emigrant Canyon Road south toward Wildrose Canyon from Highway 190 for approximately 21 miles, to the end of Emigrant Canyon Road at Wildrose Campground. At Wildrose Campground, take Wildrose Canyon Road another 11 miles up the canyon to the end of the road at the campground. The road gets slightly steeper and rockier past Thorndike Campground. A high-clearance vehicle is necessary; a 4WD vehicle is better when navigating snow, ice, or washouts. From the south, drive Trona Wildrose Road 46 miles north of Trona to Wildrose Campground, and then drive an additional 11 miles up the Wildrose Canyon Road until it ends at the campground.

Backcountry Camping in Panamint Springs and Saline Valley

Depending on where you go, backcountry camping could be your only option—or your best option.

In the Emigrant Canyon and Wildrose Canyon areas, developed campgrounds are the best bet; the most tempting backcountry choices here are off-limits. Backcountry camping is not allowed off Skidoo Road, Wildrose Canyon Road, or Aguereberry Point Road. These are all considered day-use only roads and are some of the only roads in the area.

Western Panamint Canyons Campgrounds

When exploring the western Panamint Canyons, backcountry camping is the only choice, unless you commute from Panamint Springs or Wildrose Canyon for day explorations only. Of course, this limits your fun. The Western Canyons, including Surprise Canyon and Jail Canyon, are popular backpacking and 4WD trails. Many of these canyons begin on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and cross into the jurisdiction of Death Valley National Park. When camping on BLM land, or for any backcountry camping, camp in a site that has already been disturbed (sometimes called a dispersed site or dispersed camping). To locate dispersed sites, look for pullouts or spurs off the road that are hard-packed and devoid of vegetation. These are not labeled as campsites, but if you know what to look for, you can have an enjoyable backcountry experience.

If you want to set up a main base camp or give yourself a fresh start for backpacking or exploring the 4WD trails in the canyons, the ghost town of Ballarat is a good place to start. There are no supplies aside from the cold soda and beer in the caretaker’s icebox, but you will be strategically located to get your fill of old mining camps, rocky creeks, and sculpted canyon walls.

Saline Valley Campgrounds

Saline Valley Warm Springs has semideveloped camping spots. These sites are used primarily by people visiting the springs. There are well-maintained pit toilets and outdoor shower stations with water piped from the hot springs. There are no fees for camping, and drinking water is not available. From Saline Valley Road, the primitive 6.8-mile road to the camp can be sandy and hard to follow.

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Death Valley National Park


Planning a Death Valley camping trip? Here's a look at all 12 campgrounds in the park, including rates and reservation information.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Death Valley National Park.

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