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Trip Planning Guide for Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park: The Crown Jewel of the Northwest

For some, we find solace in places that bring us closer with nature.  Glacier National Park is one of these places. Located in Montana’s northwest corner and extending into Canada, Glacier is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground, with over a million acres to hike, paddle, peddle or climb. Highlighted by the surrounding Rocky Mountains, the park is home to a large variety of plants and animals, many of which are unique to the area.

To truly appreciate all of the park’s beauty, you’ll need to hit the trails. Avid hikers will enjoy the 745 plus miles of trails scattered throughout the park which offer views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains and glacial lakes.

Glacier National Park

The best time to visit Glacier National Park, plan your visit in late spring, summer or early fall. Snow is a constant factor in the higher elevations, making much of the Going-to-the-Sun-Road inaccessible during the off-season. Snow crews work tirelessly to clear this section of the road and often won’t finish until late May. If you plan on traveling during the off-season, be sure to check the latest road conditions before heading out. The National Park Services routinely updates the road conditions on their website.

Whether you choose to camp, or stay in a hotel, there are plenty of options in Glacier. If you plan on camping in the park, you will want to reserve a spot early in the year. Most camping spots in Glacier are first come, first serve. Fish Creek and St. Mary campground can both be booked through 6 months in advance. Group sites at St. Mary and Apgar campground are available 12 month in advance and can also be booked through Figure out where you want to stay, which campsite you prefer and the dates you plan on visiting. Once you have this information, plan on booking your camp site as soon as reservations become available. If you plan on staying at any of these campgrounds, you’ll pay a fee for the campsite, as well as a fee to enter the park. Campsites vary in price dependent if you decide to stay in a standard campsite or a group site. Standard campsites can accommodate between 1 and 8 people and cost $23/night during peak season. Group sites can accommodate between 9 and 24 people and run $65/night during peak season. Permits to enter the park will cost you an additional $35 per vehicle and are valid for a week. In all, it’s a small price to pay compared to any of the nearby hotels. Plus, the views can’t be beat.
Glacier National Park
For those looking to explore Glacier’s backcountry, there are a number of backcountry camping spots located throughout the park. A few notable campgrounds include “Hole in the Wall,” “Stoney Indian Lake,” “Lake Francis” and “Boulder Pass.” Each of these campgrounds, while primitive, are well maintained and offer breath-taking views. Backcountry applications can be submitted starting March 15th for groups of 1-8 campers and March 1st for groups of 9-12 campers. Each application costs $40 to submit. The camping fee is an additional $7 per night per person and is due when you pick up your permit. Advance reservations are first come first serve basis. Due to the high volume of applications submitted each year, reservations are not guaranteed. In these cases, you’re refunded a portion of your application fee. Applications can be submitted on

Hiking in Glacier? Don’t forget to pack the essentials! There are a number of variables to consider when choosing what to take on your hike. First, how long do you plan on hiking? This will help you gauge how much food and water you will need to take along. A general rule of thumb is to bring 2 pounds of food per person, per day. Pack foods rich in protein and high in calories so you’re able to sustain yourself while you’re out on the trail. Packing water presents more of a challenge. Water is heavy and we need more of it to keep us going. How much water we carry also varies on how strenuous a hike is or how humid the climate is. It’s not realistic to pack enough water for your entire trip, especially if you plan on hiking 3 or more days. In this case, plan on carrying 2-3 liters of water to start out. Plan ahead and pinpoint spots along the trail where you can replenish your water supply. When you do, make sure to properly filter or purify the water before drinking. Filters work by physically straining bacteria from the water. Purifiers on the other hand, use chemicals to kill viruses too small to be filtered. At the end of the day, it comes down to preference and how much you want to carry. Research the various options available and choose one that works best for you. For a wide selections of filters and purifiers visit REI.

Another item you never want to forget, is bear spray. Glacier is home to the highest concentration of Grizzlies in the lower 48. While encounters are not frequent, they do occur, which is why you need to be prepared. Bear spray has been proven time and time again, to be highly effective. However, there are a couple tips you need to consider. First, understand the range of your spray. Not all bear sprays are created equal. Some have a smaller range than others. If you know you’re going to be hiking in bear territory, spend the extra money when purchasing bear spray. Look for canisters with at least 30-40 foot range.There are plenty of option for buying bear spray. Because bears are frequent in the area, most convenience stores and sporting good retailers will carry a few varieties. However, don’t gravitate towards the cheapest one on the shelf. Remember, you’re potentially making an investment on your life. Looking back on a worst case scenario, the extra $10 you spent to get the larger can will be the best decision you’ve ever made. The larger sporting good retailers such as Cabela’s or Sportsman and Ski Haus in Kalispell will carry a large assortment of bear spray. Frontiersman is one of the more popular brands sold throughout the area and comes with some of the best reviews. The smaller, 7.9 ounce can has a range of 30 feet while the larger, 9.2 ounce can has a range of 35 feet. Pricing vary depending on the store, but expect to pay anywhere from $30 for the smaller 7.9 ounce can to $40 for the larger 9.2 ounce can. Equally important is learning how to effectively use the spray. Purchasing a holster for your can will make it easy to grab while you’re on the trail. For more information about the proper use of bear spray visit any of the local ranger stations. They’re trained on how to effectively use bear spray in an emergency situation. Finally, when it comes to bear spray, one is good, but two is better. The first can will protect you if you encounter a bear while you’re on the trail and a second will protect you during the hike back.      

While we don’t want to think about it, getting lost is another concern when hiking in Glacier. In situations like this, having the necessary tools can be the difference between life and death. A good topographic map and reliable compass are two of the best tools to have in your pack. These tools can easily be found at any of the gift shops located within the park. National Geographic topographic maps are among the most popular found throughout the park. Make sure the map does a good job highlighting the areas where you will be hiking. Also, be sure you understand how to properly read the map. For more instructions on reading topographic maps check out this video.

Other Essentials:
Crayons/Cotton Balls
Bleach Tablets
First Aid Kit

If you forget any of these items, don’t sweat! Nearby Columbia Falls, Whitefish and Kalispell are all a short 30 mile drive from West Glacier. This is your best bet if you’re looking for any of the above items. If you’re hoping to buy supplies within the park, be aware. West Glacier has several gift shops that will carry smaller items such as sunglasses and sunscreen, but for the larger items, head into town.

Know what to expect before you head out on the trail.  Always calculate the exact distance of the trail you plan on hiking. Many of the trails in Glacier are loops, meaning distance is measured out and back. Others are measured from point A to point B. This is an important distinction to note when you’re choosing which trail to take. One of the best resources for researching hiking trails in Glacier is They do a great job detailing each hike and mapping out the exact distances. Equally important is checking the latest weather conditions before heading out. Due to the extreme landscape of the continental divide, weather conditions in Glacier can and do change quickly. Do your research and always plan for the unexpected. National Park Service has a link to West Glacier and St. Mary’s forecasts which is a good place to start.  

Deciding which hike to take is often the hardest part. There’s so much beauty within this park, it’s impossible to see it all on one trip. Researching which hike to choose can be an overwhelming task. If you have enough time, I would suggest doing several hikes. Below are three of my favorite hikes in Glacier.

Trail of the Cedars/Avalanche Lake

Avalanche Lake, Glacier National Park

Elevation Gain: 730 feet
Distance: 4.5 miles - round trip
How much water to pack: 1 Liter
Difficulty Level: Easy
Total Elevation Gain: 730 ft
Sights: Cedar Forest, Avalanche Gorge, Avalanche Creek, Avalanche Lake, Mt. Canon, Bearhat Mountain and Little Matterhorn
Wildlife: Deer, Bighorn, Mountain Goats, Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, Beaver, Elk, Wolverines

The hike to Avalanche Lake is a perfect way to start your Glacier adventure. Plan on coming early, as parking can be a nightmare during the busy summer months. If you want to beat the crowds and find a spot to park, arrive before 8am. Located 5.5 miles from Lake McDonald Lodge, the trailhead is usually easy to spot by the long line of cars parked along the road. To access the trailhead, you must first hike the short half mile Trail of the Cedars.

What makes the hike to Avalanche Lake so appealing is the ease of accessibility. Western Hemlocks and Red Cedars line the trail as you follow Avalanche Creek. As you emerge from the forest you will be treated to a number of 200+ ft waterfalls cascading from the nearby Sperry Glacier. Avalanche Lake is often calm which mirrors all of the neighboring peaks. Make sure you pack a lunch and spend some time at this picturesque spot.

Highline Trail

Elevation Gain: 1,100 feet
Distance: 13.5 miles
How much water to pack: 2 Liters
Difficulty Level: Difficult
Total Elevation Gain: 1,950 ft
Sights: The Garden Wall, Mt. Cannon, Mt. Oberlin, Heavens Peak, Haystack Pass, Haystack Butte, Swiftcurrent Peak and Granite Park Chalet
Wildlife: Deer, Bighorn, Mountain Goats, Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, Elk, Pikas, Marmot

The Highline Trail is one of the most unforgettable hikes in Glacier. If you plan on hiking the entire stretch, you’ll want to get an early start. Leaving the trailhead by 7am-8am allows you the ability to take your time and enjoy the trail. Parking at Logan Pass Visitor Center can fill up quickly.

The trailhead is located across the street from the visitor center. Much of the trail is carved into the steep rocks above the iconic Going-to-the-Sun-Road. As you make your way you’re greeted with amazing views of West Glacier. From 6,500 feet, the park takes on a new perspective. Waterfalls that are impossible to see from the car are now visible. It’s also fun to look down on vehicles traveling along the Going-to-the-Sun-Road.

At mile 8 you will end up at the historic Granite Peak Chalet. This is a great spot to eat lunch and rehydrate. If you’re low on food or water, snacks and drinks are available to purchase at the chalet. Just be sure to pack your wallet. After you’re well rested, the trail continues downhill another 5 miles until you reach “The Loop.” Shuttles will routinely stop to pick up hikers and bring them back to Logan Pass Visitor Center.

Red Rock Falls

Elevation Gain: 250 feet
Distance: 4.2 miles - round trip
How much water to pack: 1/2 Liter
Difficulty Level: Easy
Total Elevation Gain: 285 ft
Sights: Fishercap Lake, Redrock Lake, Redrock Falls, Swiftcurrent Mountain, Mount Grinnell, Swiftcurrent Glacier
Wildlife: Deer, Bighorn, Mountain Goats, Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, Beaver, Elk, Wolverines

Many Glacier is often overlooked when exploring the park. However, it is arguably one of the most beautiful locations in the park. This section of the park also hosts several iconic hikes including the hike to Grinnell Glacier, Iceberg Lake and Red Rock Falls, just to name a few.

Red Rock Falls is another family friendly hike with a rewarding destination. Parking in Many Glacier can be challenging. Parking spaces are limited which is why you’ll typically find cars parked along the road. Red Rock Falls trailhead is located a short distance from the Many Glacier Ranger Station.

The trail is relatively flat the entire way but offers amazing views of the surrounding peaks and neighboring lakes. As you emerge from the brush, Red Rock Lake comes into view. What stands out about this lake is the color. On a sunny day, the water is a gorgeous emerald color. Often times you will find fly fisherman along the shore hoping to hook one of the many native Brook Trout in the lake. What makes this hike truly special is Red Rock Falls located at the far end of the lake. On a summer day, it’s a good idea to bring your swim suit and cool off from the hot summer sun.

Glacier is one of those places you have to experience for yourself. If you’ve never had the opportunity to visit Glacier, make it a priority to visit. It will be a trip you’ll never forget.

Post written by Cody Hanson

June 22, 2018 by Arlene Prince

Explore Outside Yosemite Valley

When we think of Yosemite National Park we most often conjure images of Half Dome. With its wide smooth face overlooking the grandiose Yosemite Valley cutting between sharp cliffs littered in waterfalls.  Obviously though, this is a very small portion of the 1,169 square mile park.  Although the Valley floor is fantastic and has more than enough to keep you busy for weeks, there are also many must see places beyond the Valley.  This is a list of my favorite places to visit that are in the National Park, or just outside.

  • Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

    Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is Yosemite Valley’s often forgotten sister. Before 1923 it was an open valley, with untouched wilderness and tall granite walls. It was often described as a second Yosemite Valley. In fact, John Muir pressed for the protection of Hetch Hetchy Valley and Yosemite Valley to be under one single National Park. San Francisco looked at the Valley as an opportunity for water storage. By building a dam on one end, they could fill up the entire valley and create a water reserve to feed the city. John Muir fought tirelessly against building the dam and lost with construction beginning in 1914, the year of his death. Today Hetch Hetchy remains a reservoir for the City of San Francisco, and has a few hikes open to visitors.
      Hetch Hetchy Reserve
        Wapama Falls is a gorgeous hike that takes you around the edge of the reservoir. On this hike you will cross the infamous O'Shaughnessy Dam that was featured in Patagonia’s documentary Damnation, You will hike through a long tunnel, cross bridges and have a few opportunities to take a dip in pools made by the waterfall. The hike round trip is 5 miles and best during the spring and summer.
          Hetch Hetchy Reserve from Wapama Falls Trail
          • Tioga Pass to Tuolumne Meadows

              Tioga Pass runs through the Sierra Nevada and is the highest highway in California. It serves as the Eastern entrance to the park. If you are staying in the Valley I suggest you save one whole day to drive Tioga Pass to Tuolumne Meadows. Along the way be sure to stop at Tenaya Lake, make a trip out to May Lake (4 miles round trip) and stop by Olmsted Point. Once you get to Tuolumne Meadows you will be greeted by wide open fields scattered in a watercolor of wildflowers, tall Sierra peaks and pure silence. While you’re in Tuolumne Meadows, plan a hike to the top of Lembert’s Dome (4.5 miles round trip). This will give you a 365 degree view of the High Sierras and endless photo opportunities. To finish off a perfect day grab a bite to eat at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, make sure to make a reservation before arriving, 209-372-8413.
                Tuolumne Meadows from Lembert Dome
                • Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias

                    This grove is located off of Tioga Pass road and is home to several mature Giant Sequoia’s including one that you can walk through. This grove is lesser known than the Mariposa Grove and is a downhill hike. If you are someone who likes to avoid crowds, this may be the grove for you.
                    • Merced Grove

                        Merced Grove is the smallest out of the three Giant Sequoia groves Yosemite has to offer. Because of this it is also the least known, which means no crowds! It is located off of the 120 and is a total 3 miles round trip.
                        • Big Trees Lodge (Formerly known as the Wawona Hotel)

                            At the 41 entrance this historic hotel sits proudly waiting to greet visitors eager to reach the valley. The hotel was originally built for guests traveling via stage coach from San Francisco and offered them a place to rest the night before they arrived at their desired destination. This beautiful hotel is equipped with an 18 hole golf course, veranda and horseback riding stables (horseback rides go around the golf course). There is also a restaurant where you can grab a delicious meal and a lounge in the front where they play live piano in the evenings. During the summer on Saturdays they have a barn dance where you can learn to line dance and do-si-do. The hotel is located close to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. A must see if you are first timer to the park.
                              The Majestic Yosemite Dining Room
                              • White Wolf Lodge

                                  Think Yosemite Valley is a secluded get away? Wait until you see White Wolf, this Lodge is beautifully located in a wildflower filled meadow surrounded by pine trees. White Wolf Lodge is a great starting point for hikes to Lukens and Harden Lakes. The lodge is complete with 24 canvas-tent cabins and four traditional cabins that include a private bath. In the morning and evenings you are welcome to join other guests in the central dining room and take in the spectacular views.
                                  • Badger Pass Ski and Snowboard Area (Winter Only)

                                      Badger Pass is open winter only and when there is snow. The park has a variety of fun snow activities to keep you and the kids busy. These activities range from downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snow tubing, and snowshoeing. There is a shuttle that conveniently runs to and from the Valley to Badger Pass to make your visit as easy as possible.
                                      • Outside of the Eastern Entrance of the Park you will find The Mobil.  This is an awesome restaurant that serves great mango margaritas and has live music. It is a locals hot spot during the summer.
                                      • Every other Tuesday in the summer just outside of the Northern Entrance in El Portal, Sal's Taco Truck comes to feed the locals.  This is a great social event and they usually have live music and dancing on the grass.
                                        • If you drive south on the 395 outside of the Park you can find the Mammoth Hot Springs.  This is a killer excursion if you are into soaking in a secluded hot tub in the middle of the High Sierras. Plan to car camp next to the hot springs if you want to see more stars than you've ever seen before and get in a steamy soak before the sun rises.

                                          Natural Hot Springs at Mammoth Lakes Author and Photographer: Ariel Blandford


                                              April 13, 2017 by Jared Prince

                                              Discover Yosemite Valley

                                              Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View

                                              By Ariel Blandford

                                              In May of 2012 I spent the summer living and working in Yosemite National Park as a horseback tour guide.  I led tours on horses and mules up the back side of Half Dome on the John Muir Trail (JMT) to Clark’s Point and on the Mirror Lake Loop Trail.  I lived in a canvas tent next to the Curry Village Stables (Now Closed) and on my free days I explored the park. 

                                              Guiding a tour on the Wawona

                                              As a photographer, I tried to capture as much of what I experienced as I could to share with my family and friends back home.  What I learned was that Yosemite is more than forests and mountains.  It is the embodiment of a soul alive.  Its heart beats with every river, plant and animal and the deeper we explore, the more we realize that it is as much a part of us, as we are a part of it.

                                              The following is a compilation of notes drawn from my experiences in the park throughout my life.  I have organized it by Hikes, Concessionaires, Night Time in Yosemite, Seasons and What to Expect, Sample Itinerary: Exploring the Valley, High Sierra Camps, and Explore Outside the Valley.  I have also labeled hikes with their round trip mileage, if it is good for kids and if the concessionaire has wifi or is a good place to find cell phone service.  Remember that the Valley does not have gas available for visitors, so be sure to fill up before driving in.  I hope that this provides guidance to your Yosemite adventure and helps create an experience you will never forget.

                                              Last Note: Please enjoy the park responsibly.  It is dangerous just as much as it is beautiful.  Respect the wildlife, plants and cliffs, by keeping your distance, putting your food in bear boxes (that includes not leaving food in your car), staying away from steep edges and keeping on trail. 

                                              *Items bolded are my top recommendations

                                              Yosemite Hikes

                                              Looking over the Merced River at Yosemite Falls

                                              Walk Ups: (All Great for Kids)

                                              • Glacier Point (Found off of the 141)
                                              • Tunnel View (Found off of the 141) 
                                              • Sentinel Dome (Found off of the 141) (This is where Ansel Adams took his famous photo of the Jeffery Pine.)
                                              • Valley View (Found off of Northside Drive, just before you begin seeing directional signs for highways leaving the park.)
                                              • El Capitan (See if you can spot the climbers clinging to the edge)
                                              • Bridal Veil Falls (.5 mi. round trip)
                                              • Cook's Meadow
                                              • Sentinel Beach/Bridge
                                              • Olmsted Point (Found off of Tioga Pass)

                                              Easy Hikes:

                                              • Mirror Lake/Meadow Loop Trail (The dam that created the famous reflective lake was removed in the early 70s, and the original meadow is slowly being restored.  In 2009 a large rock slide fell from Ahwiyah Point onto the trail, splitting the loop trail in half.  Although, the lake is now gone, there are still some small bodies of water to take a refreshing dip in.  (To walk to the lake is 2 miles round trip, to walk to the rockslide is 5-6 miles round trip.) (Great for Kids)
                                              • Lower Yosemite Falls Hike (1 mi. round trip) (Great for Kids)
                                              • Happy Isles (There is a Nature Center at Happy Isles that is perfect for kids! During the summertime there is a ice cream stand that opens and serves ice cream nearby.)
                                              • Valley Loop Trail (The loop goes around the entire valley.  I reccomend biking this, or choosing to spend a day walking half of it to really get to explore the Valley Floor!) (6.5 mi. half loop / 13 mi. entire loop) (Great for Kids)
                                              • Taft Point (From Glacier Point, 4 mi. round trip)
                                              • Inspiration Point (2.6 mi. round trip), (The trail head is at Tunnel View.  If you're feeling a bigger challenge you can pass Inspiration Point and hike on to Old Inspiration Point, which is further up the trail.)

                                              Moderate Hikes:

                                              The Last Stretch of the Upper Yosemite Falls

                                              • Vernal Falls (You can hike to the bridge, or hike to the top of the falls.  This is one of the most popular hikes in the Valley.  The trail is paved to the bridge and there is a water filling station and bathroom there as well.  You will see a lot of strollers and families hiking to the bridge.  Heads up, the first part is super steep for stroller pushing, but definitely worth it if you are looking to get some exercise.) (To the bridge round trip is 1.6 mi., to the top of the falls round trip is 2.4 mi.) (Great for Kids)
                                              • Columbia Rock via Upper Yosemite Falls Trail (3 mi. round trip)

                                              Long Hikes:

                                              View of Nevada Falls and Liberty Cap from the JMT

                                              • Nevada Falls Loop (I suggest starting with the Mist Trail and going down the JMT) (8 mi. round trip)
                                              • Upper Yosemite Falls (This is one of my favorite hikes and I have done it over four times.  Be sure to hike all the way to Yosemite Point) (To the top of the fall round trip is 7.2 miles, to Yosemite Point round trip is 8.8 miles)
                                              • Four Mile (I recommend taking the bus from the Valley floor to Glacier Point and then hiking down this trail.  It is extremely steep and I advise against walking up it during the hotter months.) (4.7 mi. one way)
                                              • Panorama Trail (8.5 mi. one way)
                                              • Illilouette Falls Trail (To the Panorama Point Vista, 5 miles round trip)

                                              Advanced Hikes:

                                              A Sunset View from Cloud's Rest

                                              • Half Dome (Requires Permits) (14.2 miles round trip via Mist Trail and 16.5 miles round trip via John Muir Trail)
                                              • Snow Creek Trail (9.4 mi round trip)
                                              • Cloud’s Rest Hike (This is my all time favorite hike to do in Yosemite.  The hike takes you past Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, through Little Yosemite Valley and up a rarely trafficked back side of Half Dome.  When you get to the top the views are endless with a 365 degree vantage of the Yosemite Backcountry, Tuolumne Meadows, Half Dome and Yosemite Valley.  I suggest making this a three trip, with two nights in Little Yosemite Valley.) (14.5 mi. roundtrip)
                                              • Grand Canyon of Tuolumne River (46.7 mi. one way) (I am doing this hike for the first time in the Summer of 2017!)

                                              Yosemite Concessionaires

                                              Yosemite Village:

                                              Valley Wilderness Center in the Fall

                                              • Valley Visitor Center (There is a Ranger-staffed information desk, bookstore, theater, and exhibit hall detailing Yosemite's geology, plant, animal life, and history.  Be sure to stop by for a showing of the Spirit of Yosemite film.)
                                              • Valley Wilderness Center (This is where you can get your Half Dome and backcountry permits.)
                                              • Yosemite Museum (Learn about the history of Yosemite's native Miwok and Paiute people.)
                                              • Ansel Adams Gallery (If you are a photographer looking to get some sweet shots this is the place for you.  In the back of the shop you can sign up for photography classes led by an experienced photographer who is familiar with all the best places to take pictures.  Lessons range from free to $100.)
                                              • Yosemite Cemetery 
                                              • Post Office 
                                              • Degnan’s Deli
                                              • The Loft (A Seasonal Pizza Restaurant only open in the summer.  During the winter they close it and make it a hangout place for locals.)

                                              The Village Store:

                                              • Grocery Store (Good place to find cell phone service)
                                              • Ticket Purchasing Station (You can buy tickets to Star Tours, Valley Tours and more here. Tours are super kid friendly.)
                                              • Burger Stand
                                              • Art Center (Painting Classes and Arts and Crafts Classes. Great for Kids!)

                                              Half Dome Village (Formerly Curry Village):

                                              A Ranger giving a Valley Floor tour

                                              • Hotel (They have Canvas Tents and Wooden Cabins available for Lodging)
                                              • Mountaineering Store
                                              • Grocery Store/Gift Shop
                                              • Burger Stand
                                              • Pizza Stand
                                              • Ice Cream Stand
                                              • Half Dome Village (Ask for the local's Yosemi-tea)
                                              • Half Dome Village Buffet
                                              • Community Center (Great place to sit on the porch and relax and meet people.  Wifi Available.)
                                              • Outdoor Wilderness Theater (Great for Kids)
                                              • Ice Skating Rink (Wintertime)
                                              • Raft/Bike Rentals (Summertime)
                                              • Pool (Summertime)

                                              Yosemite Valley Lodge (Formerly Yosemite Lodge at the Falls):

                                              • Hotel (Actual Hotel Style Rooms)
                                              • Gift Shop
                                              • Pool
                                              • Outdoor Theater (Summertime, Great for Kids!)
                                              • Bike Rentals
                                              • Mountain Room Restaurant
                                              • Mountain Room Bar
                                              • Cafeteria (Good place to find cell phone service and wifi available) 

                                              The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (Formerly The Ahwahnee Hotel):

                                              The Majestic Yosemite Dining Room

                                              • Hotel (They have rooms and cottages for rent.  Notable guest of The Majestic Yosemite Hotel have been President Obama and Family, Steve Jobs, and President JFK)
                                              • Pool (for Guests Only)
                                              • The Majestic Yosemite Hotel Bar
                                              • Gift Shop
                                              • The Majestic Yosemite Restaurant (The Brunch Buffet is my favorite, but it is $$$.)
                                              • The Majestic Yosemite Hotel Living Room and Patio (Great public place to sit and relax or explore the old building. Good place to find cell phone service and wifi available.)
                                              • The Majestic Yosemite Historic Tour
                                              • Story Talks (Great for Kids, check the Yosemite Newspaper for times.)
                                              • The Bracebridge Dinner (This world famous event only happens in the wintertime at the hotel and is performed in the dinning hall of The Majestic Yosemite Hotel.)

                                              Scattered throughout the Valley:

                                              • Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center (Formerly known as LeConte Memorial Lodge, it is operated by the Sierra Club and features a library, children's corner, and environmental education programs.  You can find this off of Southside Drive just passed Housekeeping Camp.) (Great for Kids)
                                              • Yosemite Valley Chapel (This little Chapel hosts services every Sunday)
                                              • Nature Center at Happy Isles (This is a fun place to explore with kids and learn some cool things about the park.  During the summertime there is a ice cream stand that opens and serves ice cream nearby as well.)

                                              Camping in Yosemite Valley 

                                              Places to camp in the Valley:

                                              • Lower Pines (Tent and RV Friendly)
                                              • Upper Pines (Tent and RV Friendly)
                                              • Housekeeping (Perfect for glampers this campsite offers a small shelter, water and electricity and is always full during the summer.)
                                              • Backpackers Camp (The lesser known campsite is situated just behind Upper Pines Campground and is a walk in campsite for any person with a permit and a tent.  It is $5 to camp and you are only allowed to camp one sequential night here.
                                              • Camp 4 (The famous climber campsite is walk up only and fills up quick.  If you are looking to fulfill your deepest dirtbag desires be sure to show up early to land a spot.)

                                              Night Time in Yosemite

                                              Nighttime in Cook's Meadow

                                              Growing up I never liked Yosemite at night.  I felt that most of the cool things were day time activities, which left me feeling bored once the sun went down.  There are definitely a ton of great places to grab a food throughout the park and places to grab a drink.  Beyond that, you have to do a little bit of research to know what is happening at night.  When you enter the park every visitor receives a newspaper loaded with things that are going on in the park during that season. This is full of cool night time activities for you to keep yourself busy.  Activities range from Star Talks in Cook’s Meadow, Sunset Ranger Talks at Glacier Point, Moon Bow Photography Excursions, Climbing Talks, Wilderness Lessons and more.

                                              Seasons and What to Expect

                                              WIntertime on the Merced River

                                              June - August:

                                              • Expect it to be hot during the day, and warm during the night.  Bring your swimsuit!

                                              September - October:

                                              • It starts to cool down this time of year, pack warmer clothes for the day and a nice jacket for the night time.  Expect to see colors in the Valley!

                                              November - May:

                                              • These are the colder months in the Valley, look ahead because there will be snow in the valley and below freezing temperatures.  Be sure to check for road closures due to snow and ice.

                                              First Visit: Sample Itinerary

                                              Water Pouring off the Edge of Upper Yosemite Falls

                                              Day 1:

                                                  1      Bridal Veil Falls

                                                  2      Stop to see El Captain from the Road

                                                  3      Explore Sentinel Bridge

                                                  4      Explore Yosemite Village

                                              Day 2:

                                                  1      Vernal Falls Hike (You Could Modify this Day to Hike to Nevada Falls)

                                                  2      Explore Happy Isles

                                                  3      Explore the Yosemite Nature Center

                                              Day 3:

                                                  1      Hike to Columbia Rock (You Could Modify this Day to Upper Yosemite Falls)

                                                  2      Hike to Lower Yosemite Falls

                                                  3      Visit Tunnel View

                                              Day 4:

                                                  1      Drive up to Glacier Point

                                                  2      Stop by Valley View

                                                  3      Explore Cooks Meadow

                                              A Ranger Giving a Talk on Yosemite Geography at Glacier Point

                                              “When it comes to a natural marvel like Yosemite, that tells everybody’s story, the story of humanity exploring and seeing and being amazed.”

                                              — Barack Obama in Yosemite National Park, 2016 

                                              Yosemite Permits and the Backcountry 

                                              View of Tuolumne Meadows from Lembert Dome

                                              There are a ton of amazing sites to see in the backcountry of Yosemite National Park.  If you are into multi-day backpacking trips be sure to contact the Valley Wilderness Center, (209-372-0826) twenty-four weeks in advance to see if you can land a permit for your chosen trail.  All backcountry camps require permits.  If you don't get one over the phone you can still show up to the Valley Wilderness Center at 6 am and wait in line to try and snag one of the permits they set aside for walk ups.  I have done this and it worked out really well.  Keep in mind that when you get your walk in permit it is for the following day that you bought it.  

                                              High Sierra Camps:

                                              • Glen Aulin
                                              • May Lake
                                              • Sunrise
                                              • Merced Lake
                                              • Vogelsang

                                              Other places that require permits:

                                              Ribbon Falls, A Seasonal Waterfall That Only Flows in the Spring

                                              • Half Dome (To hike this highly coveted rock you will need to enter into the Half Dome Permit Lottery, or show up early at the Valley Wilderness Center to see if you can snag a walk up permit.)
                                              • Camping in Little Yosemite Valley (Camping here is included in your wilderness permit.  There are compostable bathrooms here.)

                                              Yosemite National Park has so much more to offer than what I have listed here, but I hope that you found this a helpful introduction for your future visit to the park. 

                                              Written by Ariel Blandford
                                              Photographs by Ariel Blandford

                                              More of Ariel's work at

                                              March 22, 2017 by Jared Prince

                                              Appalachian Trail: Path to Preservation

                                              Extending all the way from Maine to Georgia, the Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world. The trail, with more than 2,000 miles spanning 14 states, sees approximately 3,000,000 visitors each year.

                                              Today, the trail is managed by the National Park Service, US Forest Service, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, state agencies and countless volunteers, but that hasn’t always been the case.

                                              In 1921, the idea for the trail was conceived by a single person: regional planner Benton MacKaye. As a forester, MacKaye lived by the philosophy that land should be preserved for both recreational and conservation purposes, a concept he called “Geotechnics.” With this idea in mind, Benton, along with a group of private citizens and supporters, organized the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC). Together, they hoped to realize MacKaye’s vision of creating a footpath that ran from New England to the southern Appalachian Mountains.

                                              Although enthusiastic from the outset, the group failed to make much progress over the course of five years. In that time, they managed to connect some existing paths and create a few new ones in New York but were far from finishing the hiking trail MacKaye originally envisioned.

                                              Moving Towards Completion

                                              The 1920s saw a change of leadership in the ATC when retired Connecticut judge, Arthur Perkins, took the reins from MacKaye. Perkins’ work on the trail led him to the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), a group that was already making great progress on the Trail in West Virginia.

                                              The PATC is where Perkins would meet retired federal admiralty lawyer, Myron H. Avery who would eventually succeed Perkins as head of the ATC and, with plenty of support and momentum behind him, led the way to the Trail’s completion in 1937.

                                              The Push for Federal Protection

                                              Even though the footpath was complete, the A.T. project wouldn’t truly be finished until the Trail received federal protection – an integral part of MacKaye’s original vision. Recognizing the importance of preservation, the National Park Service had taken measures to gain federal protection long before the footpath was complete.

                                              But those plans were temporarily placed on hold due to a series of events that were unfolding at the time. First, in 1938, a hurricane ripped through New England leaving portions of the Trail in disrepair. Soon after, volunteers and ATC members were preparing for what would become World War II with many being called to active duty.   

                                              The damage from the hurricane and lack of maintenance over the years led many to believe the A.T. was no longer passable from Maine to Georgia. But, three years after the end of WWII, Earl V. Shaffer was in fact able to make his way through the 2,000-mile journey, a feat that breathed new life into the preservation, protection and conservation plans the Trail needed to survive.

                                              The Path to Protection & Conservation

                                              Following the death of Avery in 1951, two leaders, Murray Stevens and Stanley Murray, would continue the push for federal protection. Thanks to their efforts, the ATC saw membership numbers jump from a few hundred to more than 10,000 during the 1950s and 60s. This period of great growth helped fuel several legislation initiatives that would eventually grant federal ownership of the land the A.T. occupied – a move that would ensure its protection for generations of hikers and backpackers.

                                              Their efforts paid off in 1968 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Trails System Act into law, making the A.T. the first national scenic trail. This designation finally gave the Trail federal protection under the National Park System – 47 years after MacKaye first made his idea public.

                                              Appalachian Trail Land Acquisition

                                              The National Trails System Act called for state and federal purchase of land that contained portions of the footpath. To help with the new phase of protection plans, the ATC hired its first employee and moved their headquarters to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. This move allowed them to be nearer to the Trail and work more closely with agencies that would help with land purchase.

                                              While the USDA Forest Service was quick to enter the land purchasing phase, the National Park Service (NPS) continually stalled acquisition efforts on the 40% of the Trail they were responsible for. The ATC fought back to secure the much needed protection the Trail deserved. Congress agreed and directed the NPS to set aside a budget specifically for A.T. land acquisition. It was also under this new plan that the National Park Service gave ATC the right and responsibility to manage the Trail.

                                              Remaining Miles

                                              By 1986, only 100 miles or so were left of the original 2,190-mile footpath. With completion in sight, it became top priority to acquire the last remaining miles. However, many years of land negotiations remained, the largest being a protected route over Maine’s Saddleback Mountain. Finally, the last stretch of land would be formally acquired in 2014. Today, less than 1% of land that the A.T. traverses is privately owned.  

                                              Giving Back and Getting Involved

                                              Because the ATC has played such a major role in land-acquisition projects as well as protecting, promoting and managing the Trail, the group reorganized and officially changed the name to Appalachian Trail Conservancy in 2005 – a name that better represented its leadership in making the trail what it is today. In 2015, they celebrated their 90th year of protecting and preserving the Trail.


                                              Although the ATC helps spearhead Trail management efforts, they rely heavily on communities and volunteers to help. With more than 2,000 miles to maintain, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved and give back. Volunteers can join one of 31 Trail Clubs that assist with on-the-ground stewardship with the ATC coordinating efforts to:

                                              •         Keep footpaths passable
                                              •         Make sure surrounding land is protected
                                              •         Watch out for invasive species
                                              •         Get involved in the A.T. Community Program
                                              •         Participate in trail management efforts

                                              Although government agencies helped make the land public, volunteers are the driving force that help keep the A.T. open for all to enjoy. Trail Crews typically work from May through October with projects available for all skill-levels.  

                                              While the path to preservation hasn’t always been a straightforward one, conservation of the A.T. has mostly been a cooperative effort over the years. From government agencies to private citizens, it takes a lot of work to maintain, promote, and protect the Appalachian Trail.

                                              October 12, 2016 by Jared Prince

                                              Yellowstone National Park, A place of wonders

                                              We're now familiar with the marvels of Yellowstone National Park – including geysers, an abundance of wildlife, and bubbling pools of water. Acting Territorial Governor Francis Meagher was accurate when he called Yellowstone “such a place of wonders” in 1865. But in the 1800s, people completely dismissed the ridiculous stories coming from visitors to what later became Yellowstone. Magazines refused to publish their accounts which were considered rumor and hearsay.

                                              Before modern day explorers discovered the area, historians consider that the human history of the Yellowstone area dates back 11,000 years through many tribes of Native Americans, particularly the Tukudika, or Sheep Eaters. European and European-Americans began exploring the area in the 1800s, although the first organized explorations didn't happen until the 1870s, right before the area was named a National Park in 1972.

                                              As these European and European-Americans began to explore, they returned with outlandish and fantastic tales of the geography and wildlife in Yellowstone. People returned reporting that there were “waterfalls sprouting upwards”, a clear reference to geysers, which had not yet been identified in Yellowstone. People returning with these observations were accused of creating “fire and brimstone” accounts. A few years later, reputable magazines refused to publish accounts from three miners who explored the geysers and bubbling pools, calling them “unreliable”.

                                              Eventually, of course, people recognized that those “waterfalls sprouting upwards” were actually geysers, still one of Yellowstone's largest draws. It isn't hard to imagine that people would react to reports of geysers with incredulity. Even though we know a lot more about the geysers and how they work, people still gawk in awe and disbelief when they see them.

                                              In 1870, a large expedition of people were credited with “discovering” the park, an assumption which of course ignores the previous 11,000 years of human history. Still, we're glad they explored it, because in 1872, Yellowstone became designated as a national park. A mountain ecosystem with 2.2 million acres of preserved natural areas, Yellowstone is certainly a place of wonders.


                                              August 04, 2015 by Jared Prince

                                              John Muir and the Sierra Club

                                              We've explored the parts of Muir's life where he discovers nature and then writes about it , and now we're at the point where Muir helped to create the Sierra Club.  With the help of other conservationists of the time, they started what is still known as the nation's most influential environmental education and conservation organization.

                                              In the late 1800s, Muir and Robert Underwood Johnson, the editor of the magazine The Century, planned a campaign to create Yosemite National Park. They realized, however, that they needed the support of an organization behind their work. With the help of group already forming at the University of California, Muir created the Sierra Club on May 28, 1892.

                                              The three purposes of the club - recreation, conservation, and education - are still the major tenants of the Sierra Club today. Muir's philosophy was that people coming back from wilderness trips would be inspired to fight for the preservation of that place.  He used that method on President Theodore Roosevelt, who he convinced to go on a camping trip with him in Yosemite in 1903 that resulted in Roosevelt's support for the creation of Yosemite National Park.

                                              Whether you're a member of the Sierra Club, an avid outdoor enthusiast, or a visitor to our National Parks, you have John Muir's efforts to thank. After a period of wandering, Muir found a calling in the Sierras of California, wrote passionately and expertly for the protection of our national land, and created organizations and political support from groups like the Sierra Club to create many of our national parks and a spirit of conservation.

                                              July 23, 2015 by Jared Prince

                                              John Muir's National Park Writings – A Convincing Argument

                                              We've brought you up to the point (John Muir, The father of our National Parks) in John Muir's history where he found a spiritual connection with nature. This was actually a big change for Muir. Growing up with a very Calvinist father, Muir was raised to believe that God had given man dominion over all of the natural world. Slowly, he began to change this view to believe that humans are just a small part of the interconnected natural world.

                                              To share this view, describe the beauty he found, and to advocate for the preservation of nature, Muir took to writing. Hoping that the pen was stronger than the logger's axe, Muir wrote passionate and well-reasoned essays for the largest publications of the time, including Overland Monthly, New York Tribune, and The Century.

                                              Muir's essays were very influential in his time, and brought nature closer to those far from it. They inspired people, even those armchair naturalists, with a mixture of adventure, geology, natural history, politics, and persuasion.

                                              His writing shows us the great love and advocacy he had for our national parks, a spirit which inspired us and our maps at Muir Way. Keep reading for a bit about our favorite John Muir quotes and writing and see the full collection of Muir's articles and books at the Sierra Club's website.

                                              In his writing, Muir lays out the importance of natural public spaces. It is important to note that Muir still believed that natural resources should be used for good uses like building homes and growing food. Though on the other hand, he fought what he called “mere destroyers” like “tree-killers, wool and mutton men, spreading death and confusion.”

                                              In The American Forests (1897), he wrote, “The forests of America, however slighted by man, must have been a great delight to God; for they were the best he ever planted.” If you're reading this blog, you probably already agree with this, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded.

                                              Then he calls on Americans to step up our protection, basically calling us buffoons in comparison to the rest of the world; “Every other civilized nation in the world has been compelled to care for its forests, and so must we if waste and destruction are not to go on to the bitter end...”

                                              Finally, he convinces us that the government has a major role in conserving our forests. “Any fool can destroy trees,” he writes. “God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools,-- only Uncle Sam can do that.”

                                              Muir's writings worked. In addition to stirring a national and political sentiment in favor of conservation, Muir and his writings were instrumental in founding Yosemite, as well as Petrified Forest and Grand Canyon National Parks, General Grant and Sequoia National Parks.

                                              With an argument and a passion as clear as that, it's easy for us to name ourselves after John Muir. Our National Park maps are a byproduct of the incredible work he did promoting conservation and natural education.

                                              July 08, 2015 by Jared Prince

                                              John Muir, the father of our National Parks

                                              As a company who designs National Park maps and donates to the Sierra Club, it is no coincidence that part of our name was inspired by John Muir. He was an incredibly important conversationalist and is in fact called the father of National Parks. John Muir was instrumental in the founding of Yosemite National Park, as well as Petrified Forest and Grand Canyon National Parks, General Grant and Sequoia National Parks.
                                              Ken Burns, the filmmaker who made the awesome documentaries about the National Parks, Civil War, and Jazz amongst others, wrote that we should consider John Muir to be in the “pantheon of the highest individuals in our country; I'm talking about the level of Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, and Thomas Jefferson, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Jackie Robinson – people who have had a transformational effect on who we are.”
                                              Ok, so we can consider him pretty darn important. But who exactly was this man that we named our company and our national park maps after?
                                              John Muir was born in 1838 in Dunbar, Scotland to an incredibly strict Calvinist father. He moved to Wisconsin in 1849 and studied botany and geology at the University of Wisconsin. In his early life, Muir took a series of odd jobs that would have frustrated any parent pushing their child to have direction. He worked in labor, including as a foreman for Osgood, Smith & Co. where he was temporarily blinded in a work accident. He also worked as a sheepherder and traveled to Florida, then Cuba, and finally to California.
                                              Soon, though, he became entranced with California. And who could blame him? If we do say so from our highly biased selves, California is an excellent place to be. Muir took a job in Yosemite Valley and became spiritually connected to the place. “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to the body and soul alike,” he wrote in a later book called The Yosemite (1912).
                                              Muir became a leader in the conservation movement through his writings, which we tell you more about in the next blog post. Don't worry, it's more exciting than your middle school books reports. After all, we've convinced you that our Father of the National Parks is a pretty cool guy, right?
                                              July 02, 2015 by Jared Prince

                                              THE SURPRISING ACCURACY OF VINTAGE MAPS

                                              How accurate exactly were early maps?
                                              A number of early printed maps are definitely inaccurate. You’ll find sea monsters jumping through the oceans and entire continents left off of the maps. But despite the obvious inaccuracies, many vintage world and national park maps are actually quite detailed and scientifically rigorous.
                                              EARLY VINTAGE MAPS
                                              Many early printed maps would now be considered goofily inaccurate.  Printed mapmaking in general dates at least to Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in the 15th century. Although there of course were maps before then, this was the first time maps could be mass printed for general use. Maps of this time were quick to combine everything the mapmakers knew about the world plus information from explorers like Columbus and Magellan returning from their journeys.  Many of these early maps were woefully inaccurate. One map created by John Speed in 1627, shows California as an island and leaves the northwest of the United States completely blank.  Still, local maps of the time were highly accurate.

                                              This map created in 1746 by John Rocque is so accurate it looks like a satellite photograph.

                                              VINTAGE NATIONAL PARK MAPS
                                              The first vintage national park maps were made as the first national parks were being created and established in the late 1800s. Yellowstone National Park, designated in 1872, was the first national park created in the world. Government mapping often begins with the mapping during the discovery and exploration phase. These early maps often left out important physical features but got the general orientations correct.  This map of Mount Desert Island in Maine was produced in 1887, and is one of the earliest national park maps. It is considered a fairly accurate representation of the area that became the home to Acadia National Park

                                              National park maps continued to grow and improve as they began to include unique physical features, geological attributes, and historical and cultural artifacts.  The most current national park maps now are created for park brochures which are highly accurate showing roads, trails, campsites, and other amenities, and are what we at Muir Way base our national park designs off of.

                                              June 05, 2015 by Jared Prince

                                              Predict the Weather like a Mountain Man

                                              Yes, you can predict the weather without technology
                                              On your next national park trip, use these weather prediction tricks to stay safe (and impress your friends)
                                              PC:Tim Rains

                                              We frequently spout old wives tales, such as don’t swim for thirty minutes after eating, swallowed gum will stay in your stomach for seven years, and my mother’s favorite: an afternoon nap is a feather in your cap. Ok, I think she made that one up so my brother and I would leave her with an hour of quiet.
                                              Many of these sayings and passed wisdoms relate to weather, and it turns out that a number of them are true. On your next outdoor adventure or hike in our national parks, use these aphorisms to keep you safe when you don’t have a weather app to tell you what weather is coming next.
                                              PC: Zach Dischner
                                              Red sky at night sailor’s delight, red sky in the morning sailor’s warning
                                              This was one of the first aphorisms I learned, so I’m relieved to know that it’s accurate – as long as the weather is coming from the west. In general, weather in the national parks does travel from the west – but you’ll have to check for your national park. The red color comes from dust particles trapped by high barometric pressure, which means a high-pressure system is moving in from the west. Since high pressure indicates dry weather, you should be set if you see red particles at night. However, if you see the red color in the morning, that means the high-pressure system has already moved on.
                                              Smell the sweet scent of an approaching storm
                                              According to Scientific American, there is a smell for oncoming rainstorms. The smell can come from ozone that comes from fertilizers, pollutants and natural sources. An electrical charge, such as lightning or a man-made source, creates a chemical reaction resulting in ozone (O3) particles. Drafts from approaching thunderstorms bring O3 down from higher levels.
                                              PC:Walter Frerck
                                              When a halo rings the moon or sun, rain’s approaching on the run
                                              This saying is also true says NOAA. The halo around the moon or sun is usually a good indicator in warm weather only. The halo is formed when ice crystals at high altitudes refract the sunlight or moonlight. This indicates that moisture is coming to lower temperatures, where it probably will fall as precipitation.
                                              PC: Liz West
                                              Pinecones can tell of high humidity
                                              Ok, most of us can tell it is humid by the way the air feels. But this is still pretty interesting; Pinecones scales remain closed when humidity is high, but open in dry air. Why? Because higher humidity means that the seeds inside the cone will be heavier from the extra moisture, and there are likely to travel less far if they were to leave the cone. So, pinecones stay shut to keep those seeds inside until the dry weather returns.
                                              What do you use to predict the weather when hiking our national parks? Do you have other tricks you find helpful? Let us know if the comments below.

                                              May 18, 2015 by Jared Prince