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A few National Park adventures you may not have considered yet

These days we can get a little too caught up in the biggest and the best. Turn on your tv, tablet, computer or phone and you can quickly be inundated with lists of Top 10 This, or Best 14 That, or Most Amazing 7 Those. When it comes to lists of National Park vacations, you really can’t go wrong with any of them.

After all, each one was designated a ‘National Park’ for a reason, usually many reasons – all of them, in concert, coming together to create a fascinating, stellar, and/or breathtaking landscape for you to enjoy, especially on a self-drive RV adventure.

Thus, while we love Yosemite and Yellowstone and the other hugely popular parks, they do book up quickly and can even get quite crowded (at least in the ‘front country’ along the roads, at Visitor Centers, etc.). Together, Yosemite and Yellowstone receive more than 9,000,000 visitors per year. [Quick trivia question: do you know what park is the most popular at more than 11,000,000 visitors per year? If you guessed Great Smoky Mountain National Park, you nailed it.]

So we’re happy to present you this list that might not yet be on your radar but that you should absolutely add to your ‘must do’ list of National Park vacations.

Just by chance the four we’ve chosen to highlight here are all in the same beautiful state… Utah.

Photo credit: The Juves Family

  Arches National Park

Bordered by the Colorado River, Arches is a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms and textures with more than 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks. The massive, red-hued Delicate Arch lies the east, while long, thin Landscape Arch stands in Devils Garden to the north. Other geological formations include Balanced Rock, towering over the desert landscape in the middle of the park. This is another fantastic park for viewing sunrises and sunsets.

Activities to consider for your National Park vacation here:
Canyoneering
Hiking & backpacking
Road tours
Rock climbing
Biking
Horseback riding
Stargazing

Fast facts:
  • Area: 120 square miles
  • Established: 12 April 1929
  • Annual visitors: 1.5M

See a Tracks & Trails itinerary that includes Arches NP

Learn more about Arches NP here

Photo credit: Alida Martorell

Bryce Canyon National Park

Sprawling across southern Utah, Bryce is known for the eerie, crimson-colored ‘hoodoos’, odd-shaped pillars of rock left standing from the forces of erosion. It boasts the largest collection of hoodoos in the world. The park’s main road leads past the expansive Bryce Amphitheater, a hoodoo-filled depression lying below the Rim Trail hiking path. It has overlooks at Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point and Bryce Point. Prime viewing times are definitely around sunup and sundown.

Activities to consider for this National Park vacation:
Geology talks
Rim walks
Full moon hikes
Snowshoe hikes
Astronomy programs

Fast facts:
  • Area: 56 square miles
  • Established: 25 February 1928
  • Annual visitors: 2.3M

See a Tracks & Trails itinerary that includes Bryce NP

Learn more about Bryce Canyon NP here

Capitol Reef National Park

Located in the south-central deserts of Utah, in the heart of red rock country, Capitol Reef is a hidden treasure filled with cliffs, canyons, domes and bridges in the Waterpocket Fold. This geologic monocline (a wrinkle on the earth) extends almost 100 miles.

Activities available for your National Park vacation here:
Hiking & backpacking
Road tours
Rock climbing
Biking
Backcountry horseback rides

Fast facts:
  • Area: 378 square miles
  • Established: 18 December 1971
  • Annual visitors: 1M

See a Tracks & Trails itinerary that includes Capitol Reef NP

Learn more about Capitol Reef NP here

Canyonlands National Park

A wilderness of canyons and fantastically formed buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries, Canyonlands is divided by rivers into four districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers themselves. These areas share a primitive desert atmosphere, but each offers different opportunities for sightseeing and adventure.

Activities during this National Park vacation could include:
Auto tours
4WD adventures
Whitewater and flatwater boating
Hiking & backpacking
Rock climbing
Biking
Horseback riding
Stargazing

Fast facts:
  • Area: 527 square miles
  • Established: 12 September 1964
  • Annual visitors: 776K

See a Tracks & Trails itinerary that includes Canyonlands NP

Learn more about Canyonlands NP here

In conclusion, while you can’t really go ‘wrong’ with any National Park vacation, these hidden gems will blow your minds – while freeing you from worrying so much about the crowds.

The post Beat National Park Vacation Crowds with These ‘Hidden’ Gems appeared first on Tracks + Trails.

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It may be winter now, but pretty soon the kids will be running around in shorts and t-shirts ready for hiking, biking, fishing and exploring. To fuel your daydreams, here are 50 awesome things you and the kids can do in our National Parks. Don’t forget, campgrounds and RVs book up very quickly, so the time is now to get started and book your adventure for this summer.

1. Go on a nature scavenger hunt.
2. Perfect your bird calls
3. Have a breakfast picnic.
4. Go horseback riding.
5. Take Flat Stanley on your adventures.
6. Collect memories, not things.
7. Pick up trash in our parks.
8. Snap a selfie with a park entrance sign.
9. Become a Junior Ranger.
10. Go RVing.

11. Take a ranger-led tour.
12. Splash in a waterfall.
13. Stop at scenic overlooks.
14. Hunt for fossils.
15. Look for EarthCache sites.
16. Canoe along a river.
17. Go on a photography walk.
18. Take a nature hike.
19. Hunt for animal tracks.
20. Get your National Parks passport stamped.

21. Go kayaking.
22. Try rock climbing.
23. Visit a nature center.
24. Watch the sunset.
25. Ride a bike.
26. Try a night sky program.
27. Go geocaching.
28. Pitch a tent.
29. Pick wildflowers.
30. Cast a fishing line.

31. Take a boat cruise across a lake.
32. Enjoy a scenic drive.
33. Snap lots of photos.
34. Smell the fresh air.
35. Get to the park early for wildlife watching.
36. Scramble over rocks.
37. Eat a picnic lunch at a scenic spot in the park.
38. Get a Junior Ranger badge and patch.
39. Go on a night hike.
40. Ride a historic train.

41. Hike to the top of a volcano.
42. Try a cell phone audio tour.
43. Enjoy a tidepool walk.
44. Go on a full moon ranger hike.
45. Enjoy one of four free entrance days in 2018.
46. Go on a cave tour.
47. Fourth graders, get a free annual pass.
48. Go stargazing.
49. Adhere to Leave No Trace principles.
50. Go sledding on a sand dune.

The post 50 Awesome Things to Do in Our National Parks appeared first on Tracks + Trails.

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Did you know many of America’s national parks are just a short drive away from one another? Thus it’s easy to see several of the country’s most majestic sights in one trip, such as Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks.

But don’t just simply gaze at these natural wonders, hit the trails, go horseback riding, or even rappel down canyon walls to fully immerse yourself in these awe-inspiring landmarks.

Here’s a look at the ideal itinerary for exploring the Grand Canyon and its nearby iconic parks:

Day 1: Marvel at the mesmerizing lights of the Las Vegas strip

Before embarking on your national park adventure, spend a night in electric Las Vegas. Take a stroll down the Vegas strip to look at the famous hotels and casinos and their glittering lights. While it’s no National Park, it certainly is an impressive experience.

And Vegas is more than shows, slots, and the Strip. Historic Las Vegas takes you to some “off the beaten path” sights worthy of a look. Nature lovers should head to the outskirts of the city and visit Red Rock Canyon. Located just a few miles from Las Vegas within the Mojave Desert, the vivid hues and formations of the Aztec Sandstone cliffs will never cease to amaze onlookers. Look out for fossils! Around 500 million years ago, Red Rock Canyon was at the bottom of an ocean basin. The limestone in the area contains the remnants of sea life that would have thrived all those years ago.

Looking for an awesome activity at night? Check out the Fremont Street Experience, a pedestrian mall completely covered by an electronic billboard with nightly shows. Don’t miss out on the vibrant and colorful fireworks display featuring a rocking soundtrack. For the grand finale, stop by the world famous Bellagio fountains for a spectacular show of carefully crafted and choreographed spouts of water dancing to a soundtrack of your favorite classical pieces, pop songs, and showtunes.

The glitzy sights of Las Vegas are one of a kind, but they are certainly nothing like the calm, peaceful, and serene scenery you’ll be taking in over the next week!

Day 2: Get a falcon’s eye view of Zion National Park

Zion National Park - Aerial Video - YouTube

The towering peaks and deep canyons of Zion National Park deserve to be seen from a different viewpoint than from the ground. Hop into a helicopter for an aerial adventure above the stunning sights of West Temple, the Canaan Mountain Wilderness, and Kolob Terrace. Many of the sections you fly over are rarely seen by park visitors. This bird’s eye view of the park is a special experience, indeed.

And speaking of birds, Zion National Park is helping many species grow through the park’s protection. Species such as the peregrine falcon, bald eagle, Mexican spotted owl, and California condor all call Zion’s landscape home. It’s especially wonderful to see the California condor making a comeback—thirty years ago, there were just 22 birds left in the world. Now, the population has increased to about 400 birds, 70 of which live in the surrounding areas of Zion National Park.

Day 3: Canyoneering: A thrilling way to see Zion’s diverse landscapes.

Canyoneering Pine Creek Canyon, Zion National Park - YouTube

Perhaps you’ve been rock climbing before, but have you ever been canyoneering? Imagine descending into narrow slot canyons with ropes, sometimes rappelling, sometimes hiking, and even sometimes wading through water. Sound intimidating? It’s not! No prior experience is needed to have a great time exploring Zion’s canyons in a different way.

With canyoneering, you’re in for an adventure. Basically, canyoneering is starting at the top of a canyon and doing whatever it takes to get to the bottom. There are two kinds of canyons for those who love the sport—technical and non-technical. A technical canyon requires gear, ropes, and expert knowledge to navigate; you can usually navigate a non-technical canyon without any special equipment. The most famous non-technical canyon in Zion is the Narrows—give it a try!

Day 4: You’ve never seen the night sky look so big as it does in Canyon Country

Stargazing is a spectacular experience; away from the light pollution of the cities, the stars put on an amazing show. Visit the Museum patio in Zion for views of the East Temple—or strap on a headlamp and walk the Pa’Rus Trail. The flat, paved trail is a great option for a night walk to stare at the stars.

And there’s nothing more beautiful than sunset in Zion National Park. Take a sunset jeep tour to remote areas of the park for a once-in-a-lifetime sunset experience.

Day 5: Check out Bryce Canyon’s strangely beautiful monolithic hoodoos

The first time you see the towering spires of Bryce Canyon’s maze of hoodoos, words will probably fail you. Fairy chimneys? Rock tents? Geological goblins? Actually, hoodoos are towers of sedimentary stone that have formed by freezing cycles and erosion patterns.

Hoodoos aren’t permanent; the same forces that create them also contribute to their destruction. You can help preserve Bryce’s hoodoos by staying on designated trails—even walking around the base of a hoodoo can weaken its foundation. Better yet, take a trail ride on horseback through the canyon to witness even more of these geological oddities closeup.

Day 6: Adventure awaits on your ATV tour of Red and Casto Canyons

White, pink, and even green sandstone cliffs, fields of jagged hoodoos, ponderosa pines, and of course, acres of arresting red rock—and you can see it all as you cruise the canyons on your own ATV. If you really want to get out and cover a lot more ground to see even more of these wonders, this is the adventure for you.

Can you imagine a more exciting way to explore the canyons? Imagine rolling along the canyon floor gazing up at 500-foot canyon cliffs and following the scenic Sevier Fault on your ATV. It’s a definite bucket-list experience your family will love.

Day 7: Explore one of the world’s greatest wonders in one of America’s most iconic parks—the Grand Canyon

The scale of the canyon boggles the mind: One mile deep, 18 miles wide, and 277 miles long. You could spend weeks exploring and never see it all. Over 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon each year, immersed in the spectacular scenery and awe-inspiring views.

Unlike the more “touristy” South Rim, the North Rim offers you an opportunity to chart your own path away from the crowds. Make your way to the Grand Canyon Lodge for breathtaking views from the veranda—you can even see and hear Roaring Springs, the North Rim’s only water source.

Day 8: Ride down the Grand Canyon trails on a friendly, sure-footed mule

The North Kaibab trail is an impressive descent of some 2,300 feet to Supai Tunnel; you’ll be blown away by the views from the saddle of your sturdy mule. It’s a fun and novel way to explore the canyon below the rim without working up a sweat.

These sure-footed steeds handle the steep switchbacks and sliding shale along the canyon every day. The mule rides are one of the most popular attractions at the park—reservations sell out almost two years in advance!

Day 9: Become Butch Cassidy (or the Sundance Kid!) for a day at Snow Canyon State Park

Snow Canyon has been a popular setting for Hollywood films—in addition to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, other westerns such as Jeremiah Johnson, The Electric Horseman, and Bullet for a Badman were all filmed here. You’ll love exploring the dozen or so trails that wind their way through the canyon walls and floors.

Don’t be surprised to catch sight of some truly iconic desert wildlife here. Keep your eyes peeled for gila monsters, desert tortoises, coyotes, sidewinders, and darting Utah banded geckos.

Ready for adventure?

If a Grand Canyon excursion is on your personal travel bucket list, don’t miss out on these awesome experiences. Ready to plan your trip? Get in touch today—or sign up for our free email course to learn more about RV vacations in America’s iconic parks.

The post The Grand Canyon and Beyond: 9 Days in 4 Iconic Parks appeared first on Tracks + Trails.

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As the year quickly draws to a close, the time is now to start pulling together your bucket list for 2018. Your list may include places you want to travel, new activities you want to try out (stand-up paddleboarding!) and even a few items you weren’t quite able to cross off this year.

For park lovers, it’s a must to start working on your list of scenic hikes that you absolutely want to do in the new year, whether it’s the Bright Angel Trail at the Grand Canyon or The Narrows at Zion National Park. Write them down, make them a reality. Here are a few of our most bucket list-worthy hikes.

Arches, Fiery Furnace

Photo Credit: Flickr/Karen Blaha

This is not your typical trail hike at Arches National Park. Instead, it’s a maze of convoluted red rocks (hence “fiery”) that require visitors to hike, climb and scramble, even crawl to complete. It is easy to get lost, so a guide is recommended, as is plenty of water.

Zion, Observation Point

Photo Credit: Flickr/Junaidrao

Observation Point at Zion National Park may not be as busy as Angel’s Landing, but you can look down at Angel’s Landing from the top. It’s about 8 miles round-trip, and there are portions where you will walk next to steep drop-offs. The trail zig-zags and the view is always changing.

Yosemite, Panorama Trail

Photo Credit: Flickr/Fabio Achilli

The Panorama Trail at Yosemite National Park is 8.5 miles one-way and you’ll want to allow lots of time. Take the bus. You will need advance reservations, at least a day in advance up to Glacier Point. The trail takes you to three different waterfalls, and you get incredible views of Half Dome as you hike around.

Grand Canyon, Bright Angel Trail

Photo Credit: Flickr/Sharon Mollerus

The 12-mile hike along the Bright Angel Trail at Grand Canyon National Park provides some of the most stunning views of the canyon, as well as the surrounding landscape. The hike is steep and strenuous, but it’s also the South Rim’s most popular and rewarding hike. Bring plenty of water to keep hydrated.

Glacier, Grinnell Glacier Trail

Photo Credit: Flickr/Daveynin

Glacier National Park may have the most scenic views of any national park and to really take it all in, you’ve got to hike the Grinnell Glacier Trail. The 11-mile hike takes hikers up 1,600 vertical feet but the views of Grinnell Lake (a glacial lake) down below are absolutely worth the climb.

The post 5 National Park Hikes to Add to Your Bucket List appeared first on Tracks + Trails.

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Did you know there are over 400 sites in the National Park System, 59 of which are National Parks?

Considered “America’s Best Idea,” these parks show off the true spirit of the United States.

Instead of heading to an amusement park or even abroad for your next family vacation, why not take advantage of these amazing areas right in North America? Nothing brings a family together like exploring the great outdoors, and you’ve never really seen the great outdoors until you’ve stepped into one of these 12 national parks:

1. See America’s first National Park—Yellowstone.

With geysers, waterfalls, hot springs, and more, it’s no wonder Yellowstone became America’s first national park. The United States recognized Yellowstone as a national park back in March of 1872. A little over a hundred years later, the Wyoming park gained international acclaim when it became a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Not sure where to start? With over 3,500 square miles of land in Yellowstone, there is so much to see! Try beginning with fan favorite “Old Faithful” geyser, which “faithfully” erupts every 45 minutes to 2 hours. Another of Yellowstone’s musts is Mammoth Hot Springs, with water temperatures reaching 170 degrees fahrenheit. These brilliant, multi-hued springs appear red, brown, orange, and green from the algae living in them.

Historic buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s still exist in Fort Yellowstone, when the park was run by the US Army. Touring these structures will take you back in time to the days of the Wild West. And be sure to join the Old West cookout for good food and some cowboy entertainment.

Hiking not really your thing? Grab a horse and hit the trails to see Yellowstone from a different point of view. Lookout for interesting wildlife, such as gentle black bears, bison, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, eagles, and other birds of prey.

2. Take a dip in the Miette Hot Springs, the hottest mineral water bath in the Canadian Rockies.

Canada’s frontierland holds many parks worth visiting, such as Jasper National Park. Set in the Canadian Rockies, this stunning park includes mountain vistas, wild waterfalls, and relaxing hot springs.

Looking for something to do? If adventure is your middle name, try white water rafting through raucous rapids. Or if you’d rather a more peaceful boat ride, take a scenic boat tour on Maligne Lake to Spirit Island, one of the park’s most photographic locations.

Ever wanted to walk on a glacier? Feel free to hike Angel Glacier for fantastic views of the park. And afterwards, warm up at Miette Hot Springs, the hottest in all of the Canadian Rockies. At 104 degrees fahrenheit, these natural pools provide the perfect hot tub surrounded by spectacular sights.

Watch for wildlife during your trip to Jasper. Moose, grizzlies, and elk roam throughout the park, meaning you’ll want a camera with you at all times.

3. Marvel at the larger-than-life sequoias, granite monoliths, and cascading waterfalls in Yosemite National Park.

There’s a reason Ansel Adams famously photographed Yosemite National Park so much. Between Yosemite Falls (the highest in North America), Half Dome Rock, and El Capitan, the park is a photographer’s paradise.

Nothing compares to seeing tons and tons of water plummet over cliffsides to the valley below. And as winter’s snow begins to melt, the many waterfalls of Yosemite become their most powerful. If waterfalls are “your thing,” plan your Yosemite trip in the spring, just as the thaw begins for nature’s grand show of strength and superiority.

Climbers may want to conquer El Capitan, a granite monolith with a sheer vertical rock face. The giant hunk of granite is not for the faint of heart—these climbs are difficult for even the most skilled climbers. But even if climbing El Capitan doesn’t appeal to you, just seeing the extraordinary rock formation takes your breath away. Selfies in front of it are practically a requirement.

Another must-see in Yosemite is Half Dome, a massive rock formation resembling a dome sliced in half—one side of the mountain is flat, while the remaining sides are curved. You can climb this mountain, too, but be ready for a tough trek. Remember, pictures from the ground are always an option.

Hiking, biking, rafting, and climbing are the best ways to see the park, so be sure to leave your RV behind. You don’t want to miss out on all that Yosemite has to offer.

4. Become a geologist for a day checking out the rare sandstone formations at Arches National Park.

Want to see something really cool? I’m talking out-of-this-world, super rad, beyond awesome cool—the archways in Utah’s Arches National Park. Why do these rock formations deserve such praise? Because they were simply carved by the wind. Yep—these architectural feats weren’t made by man, but by nature itself!

The sandstone arches covering this park are unlike anything you’ve ever seen. First of all, they are massive. It’s a wonder how long the wind took to bore such an opening in solid stone. And their bright red coloring against a deep blue sky sets up a beautiful backdrop for even a novice photographer.

Hike your way through the park on such trails as Fiery Furnace and Devil’s Garden. Seeing a theme with those two names? Yeah, this park gets really hot in the summer, FYI. Water is your best friend, as is sunscreen.

Kiddos will love watching kangaroo rats and desert rabbits bounce across the flat landscape. You may even see large birds of prey flying overhead, looking for their next meal.

5. The Grand Canyon is so immense, it’s visible from space.

Arguably America’s most iconic landmark, the Grand Canyon is world-renowned for its multi-colored cliffs, deep gorges, and massive size. In fact, the canyon is so large it is visible from space.

While we don’t know when the Grand Canyon began to form, we do know the Colorado River is to thank for its curious creation. Hike, or take a mule ride, down into the canyon for views of the stunning rapids below. You might even spot a rafting expedition rowing by!

The Grand Canyon is divided into the North and South Rims. While the South Rim is more popularly visited, the North Rim is certainly worth exploration. If you’re visiting during an Arizona “hot as blazes” summer, consider the North Rim as its higher elevation is much cooler.

6. Get to Glacier National Park before it’s too late…

Okay, okay—that sounds really doomsday. But if things stay the way they are, current projections show all 27 glaciers in Glacier National Park may melt by 2030. Thankfully, we still have time to stop this from happening, and one of the best ways you can help is to see these icy mountains in person and get educated on climate change.

Marvel at these (slowly) moving mountains of ice by either bus or boat for the best viewing experience. A vintage Red Jammer bus (from the 1930s!) gives total access to park views with its rollback roof. Ride by stunning scenery and colossal glaciers in only a couple hours.

Looking for a different kind of glacial viewing experience? Hop aboard one of many scenic boat cruises on the park’s lakes to see the glaciers, mountains, waterfalls, and other natural wonders within the park.

Animals abound in the alpine meadows and upon the rocky cliffs. In fact, at Many Glacier, there’s a great chance you’ll see a grizzly bear or mountain goat.

No one knows the area better than members of the Blackfeet Nation. Want to truly understand having a heart for the land? Take a cultural tour with a member of the tribe. You won’t regret it.

7. Mount Rushmore is the quintessential family vacation destination.

If you’ve only ever seen Mount Rushmore during the climactic chase scene in North by Northwest, you’ve been missing out! The famous quartet of presidents (George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt) carved into the side of Harney Peak is the perfect place for a family trip.

Think about it: Not only do you get to have a fun family vacation, but you also have an excellent educational experience at your fingertips. What better way to talk about our country’s history than with a tour of Mount Rushmore?

Don’t worry, there are things to do for the nature lovers, too. Stick close to the monument for bird watching or hiking in the pine forest. Or travel just a bit further to Black Hills Forest for rock climbing and fly fishing.

8. Capitol Reef National Park is not under the sea, and it’s very fitting for family fun.

Although Utah was once covered by saltwater, you won’t be finding any reefs in the desert. Capitol Reef National Park get its name from the Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile long ridge of stone running directly through the middle of the park. The formations look like a reef, hence the name.

There are plenty of other captivating geological sights throughout the park. Spires of sandstone stand tall across the western wasteland. Black volcanic boulders from eruptions long ago dot the dusty desert.

Tired of walking? Why not ride horseback across the arid landscape just like the cowboys of the Wild West. Or maybe you’re up for rock climbing on one of the many mountains in the park. And, if you’re looking for something completely different, pick fruit at a nearby orchard. Yes, there really is an orchard in the desert—pretty cool, huh?

9. Four of the world’s largest trees are in Sequoia National Park.

Can you imagine standing below a tree as tall as a 26 story building? How about as wide as a two car garage? At Sequoia National Park, trees this large are the norm. In fact, four of the world’s largest trees live here.

General Sherman, the largest of them all, stands at a whopping 275 feet and has a massive diameter of 25 feet at its widest point. Just try fitting the whole thing into your smartphone’s camera!

Sequoias live to be around 3,000 years old. Think of the history some of these behemoths have seen! Their seeds also take a long time to germinate—sometimes it can take 20 years before a seed escapes its cone.

Under Sequoia National Park lies wonders waiting to be explored. Crystal Cave’s marble caverns excite people of all ages. Walk by streams of marble and other rock formations during your underground tour. High above you may be the cave’s regular dwellers—bats.

10. Drive across Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous highway in the United States.

Ready for an American adventure? Hit the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park to see fantastic flora and fauna as well as monumental mountains. Rainbow-colored fields full of wildflowers paint the landscape, with rugged peaks poking through behind them.

In the meadows, watch out for the elegant elk, the grand cousin to the deer. Climb up a mountain if you’re feeling courageous and join the big horn sheep, who regularly scale the steep slopes. And down at the river, you might just get to see some whimsical otters playing in the water.

Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous highway in the United States, runs through the park and crosses the Continental Divide. At 11,000 feet, you’ll be well above the treeline, which means phenomenal views of your spectacular surroundings.

11. Discover Zion’s dense forests and wondrous waterfalls—so different from the other “canyon country” parks.

Zion National Park includes all of the classic “canyon country” sights—stone mesas, canyon walls, rock formations—but you’ll also find lush forests and wondrous waterfalls thanks to the Virgin River running through the park.

Have a crowd to please? This park has something for everyone. Families with younger children can take short and simple hikes whereas those with older kids can tackle longer, more arduous hikes and climbs. Horseback riding is always an option for covering a good amount of land, but you may also want to consider “jeeping” outside the Park over the rocky terrain for a more exciting experience.

12. The bizarre hoodoo formations at Bryce Canyon National Park are out of this world.

Okay, seriously, you might think you’re on Mars when you’re wandering through Bryce Canyon National Park. Giant “hoodoos” stand like statues made by extra-terrestrials around the park. But they aren’t alien at all. In fact, hoodoos are vertical rock formations with “hats” sitting atop, preventing rain erosion of the column below. As weird looking as they are, they’re actually pretty awesome – literally!

Hike Queen’s Garden trail if you’re looking for an easier trek, or Fairyland Loop if you have older and experienced hikers with you. Check out Rainbow or Sunset Point for the best photo opportunities in the park. You definitely don’t want to miss them at sunset!

National Parks calling your name?

Forget the same old family vacation and get outdoors in North America’s fantastic frontier. Get in touch to start planning your RV adventure today. Or if you’d simply like more information, sign up for our free email course to learn more about how you can experience the national parks.

The post 12 Awesome National Park Experiences for Your Next Family Vacation appeared first on Tracks + Trails.

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The campgrounds may be closing down for the season, but that doesn’t mean you need to leave our National Parks behind until spring. In fact, many National Parks shine in the winter months, so get planning. Here are five of our favorites to explore when it gets cold outside.

1. Yellowstone National Park

Guess what, the geysers, bubbling mud pots and hot springs are just as incredible (if not more so) in the winter as in summer at Yellowstone National Park. Plan to book a snowcoach or snowmobile tour to explore the park. It’s an incredible way to take in the geology and natural beauty of the park minus the summer crowds.

Photo Credit: Flickr/Pat Henson

Look for ranger-led programs at Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs. You may also want to check out a snowshoe tour at Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, as well as a winter photo safari to snap photos of wildlife and landscapes at the park.

2. Rocky Mountain National Park

It’s fun to explore our National Parks in new and different ways in the winter months. At Rocky Mountain National Park, sign up for a free snowshoe walk or cross-country ski with a park ranger. If you don’t have your own gear, no worries. You can rent what you need at shops just outside the park in Grand Lakes and Estes Park.

Photo Credit: Flickr/Brendan Bombaci

You can also rent sleds and snow tubes outside the park, then bring them to Hidden Valley inside the park for a day of sledding down the gentle hill. Winter is a great time for wildlife watching too, so keep your eyes open for elk, mule deer and moose.

3. Crater Lake National Park

As Oregon’s only National Park, Crater Lake National Park can get very busy in the summer, but a visit to this park in the winter can be a real delight for outdoor lovers. Roads around the park, including Rim Drive, begin closing in mid-October, so the only way to get around the park in the winter is on cross-country skis or snowshoes.

Photo Credit: Flickr/Douglas Sprott

The only visitor center open in winter is Steel Visitor Center, which is open daily 10 am to 4 pm. Stop in on weekends to join a free ranger-led one-mile snowshoe walk. As a bonus, snowshoes are provided. As snow blankets the area for the season, winter is truly a magical time to explore Crater Lake National Park without the buzz of cars, tour buses and summer tourists.

4. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is fantastic in summer, but only in winter can you strap on skis for downhill skiing or cross-country skiing, or don a pair of ice skates for a few laps around the outdoor ice skating rink at Yosemite Valley. Take in the views of Half Dome and Glacier Point as you skate figure eights or enjoy a cup of hot cocoa.

Photo Credit: Flickr/Elaine

Or, head to the Badger Pass Ski Area, the oldest downhill skiing area in California, for skiing, snowboarding, snowtubing and more. You can even hike in winter at Yosemite National Park since several trails in Yosemite Valley are accessible to hikers.

5. Bryce Canyon National Park

With its uniquely impressive rock formations (hoodoos), some say that Bryce Canyon National Park is even more incredible in the winter. From November through March, Bryce Canyon offers ranger-led full moon snowshoe hikes. The park provides snowshoes and poles, but you’ve got to have your own snow boots.

Photo Credit: Flickr/Prayitno

Another great way to explore Bryce Canyon National Park is on cross-country skis, but daredevils take note, it’s not legal to ski off the rim into the canyon. However, there are a variety of rim trails offering unparalleled views that are open to cross-country skiers.

The post 5 National Parks You’ve Got to Visit This Winter appeared first on Tracks + Trails.

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Are you dreaming of the wide-open road? Do you like having the freedom, flexibility, and control of planning each day of your vacation? An RV trip is a once in a lifetime experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

With over two decades of experience, we help clients plan their perfect RV vacation across eight states and 29 National Parks and Monuments. An RV vacation is the perfect family adventure that is not only fun, but also educational. You can dig for dinosaur bones one day, go rafting the next day, and hike through canyons on another.

Just like any new experience, there are a few things you should know before you start the engine on your RV. Since we’ve spent over 25 years traveling the American West by RV, we’re here to give you some tips from an insider.

 

1. Definitely Do: Leave Some Unplanned Time to Explore

With a limited amount of vacation time, it’s easy to want to pack a lot of things into a week or two. You probably have an itinerary that tells you where you’re staying each night and what you’re doing each day. Having an itinerary is good, but don’t plan every second of your day.

Leaving time to stop at an interesting roadside attractions or restaurants that catch your attention is a great way to create unique memories. You never know what you can find on your vacation! The World’s Largest Ball of Stamps, anyone?

Talk with the locals. They often know where the best food is served, secret off-the-beaten-path hiking trails or swimming holes, and much more.

Things that you don’t have control over, like the weather or traffic, can change with a drop of the hat. An RV vacation requires some flexibility and unplanned time. You never know, it could lead to incredible experiences and memories you didn’t even expect!

 

2. Do: Embrace Unexpected Detours

Getting lost on a road trip is inevitable, even with modern technology. It can also be extremely stressful, especially if you’re the one driving. Try not to stress. Think of it as an adventure.

Traffic is detoured often because of accidents and constructions. Just go with the flow. You know what they say, “it’s all about the journey, not the destination.” It’s the Universe’s way of telling you to stop and smell the roses. Enjoy the scenery and use the time to review your itinerary or consider some more adventures. Who knows, you could discover the best pancakes in the West.

 

3. Definitely Do: Choose the Right RV Comfort and Style

Your RV choice can make or break your vacation experience. Many people like to think bigger is better, but that’s not always the case with RVs. Do you really want to back that 55-foot luxury RV into a campsite in the middle of the night?

You need an RV that is the right size for your group. One with enough beds, elbow room, and the storage space for your luggage. RVs come in many different sizes. Class C motorhomes are one of the most popular RV rentals because they drive like a full-size SUV or truck. Many sleep between two to five people.

Class A motorhomes are much larger, usually sleeping up to eight people. These rigs feel a bit like home, have much more space, but take a little bit of time to get used to driving. Class A RVs are great if you plan to camp off-the-beaten-path as the holding tanks can hold a lot of water and the auxiliary battery bank to run lights, water pump, and more. If you’re not sure what RV rental is best for you, our Trip Consultants can help you choose.

 

4. Do: Remember to Buy Roadside Assistance Programs

Even the newest and most well-maintained RVs can break down on the side of the road. Or perhaps with the excitement of the vacation, you accidently ran out of fuel or locked your keys inside. You’re not the first.

You may already have roadside assistance through your car insurance or credit card, but most plans won’t cover an RV. Some liability coverage is included with your RV rental, but it doesn’t cover everything.

Several companies, like Good Sam and CoachNet, offer RV roadside assistance programs that will help you when you really need it. Plans vary so make sure it has the services that you need, like towing, minor repairs, and fuel if you run out of gas in the middle of nowhere. Even if you don’t end of using it, it’s a peace of mind during your trip.

 

5. Definitely Do: Try New Things

Renting an RV and driving the open roads of America is thrilling. It’s the perfect time to try something new, like hiking, whitewater rafting, or even skydiving. Utah is one of our favorite places. With five National Parks, there is something for everyone from hiking to rafting to historic sites. Hop on a horse and tour the majestic beauty of Bryce Canyon. Or go stargazing in the Canyonlands.

But you don’t have to jump out of an airplane to be adventurous on your RV vacation. You can discover new cultures and places through your stomach. Try the local cuisines or even different styles like Mexican or Tex-Mex. Cooking in an RV is always an adventure. Try grilling!

6. Do: Bring Your GPS and Paper Maps

GPS devices and mobile phone mapping apps are a great way to navigate the roads in your RV, but sometimes they fail. Make sure your GPS device is up-to-date before you embark on your vacation. Bring old school paper maps in case you lose GPS signal or cellular reception. Plus, it’s a great way to teach your kids about how to read a map!

Heading to some of America’s best National Parks on your RV vacation? Make sure you download one of the National Parks apps on your mobile device. Many can even be used offline making it a great resource to help plan your vacation.

7. Definitely Do: Get Outside!

An RV vacation is all about getting outside and enjoying the diverse beauty of North America. RVs are really cabins on wheels and should be used for sleeping and resting in the evenings. With so many National Parks in the United States, there is so much to explore, like our Yellowstone and Grand Teton Tour. Spot wildlife in Yellowstone, soak in the hot springs, and wake up to the incredible beauty of the Grand Tetons.

But, sometimes the weather doesn’t always work in your favor so don’t be afraid to spend some time in your RV or indoors in museums, art galleries, and restaurants. Bring cards or games to keep the kids busy while you relax with a good book and glass of wine.

8. Do: Familiarize Yourself with Your RV Before Driving It Off the Lot

Road Bear RV - Class C 23-26' Motorhome - YouTube

Before leaving the rental lot with your new RV, make sure you familiarize yourself with the rig. Check its road-worthiness first. Test the brakes, make sure all the lights are working, and confirm that the refrigerator, stove, and water pump are functioning. Not sure how to turn the stove on? Just ask!

When staying at a campground you’ll want to hook your RV up to water, electricity, and sewer. Make sure you know where the connections are on the RV and how to connect them to their plugs at your campsite. For more remote camping, make sure you can properly “boondock.” This may sound silly, but make sure you know where the gas tank is located on your RV so you can fill it up.

 

Are You Ready for the RV Vacation of a Lifetime?

An RV vacation is a once in a lifetime opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the open road. RV vacations provide the freedom and flexibility of exploring America at your own pace. After 25 years, it’s our favorite way to explore the National Parks. We’re experts on how to travel the American West in an RV and we love helping others plan the perfect family adventure.

Get in touch today to start planning the trip of your dreams! If you’re not quite ready to commit, sign up to our free email course to learn everything you need to know about planning the perfect RV adventure.

The post 4 Do’s – and 4 More Definitely Do’s – for the Ultimate RV Vacation appeared first on Tracks + Trails.

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There are loads of fantastic smartphone apps out there to help make your next National Parks adventure your most fabulous adventure yet. Here are five to check out.

National Parks by Chimani

 

Chimani is all about the lover of National Parks. They offer free mobile apps to help users discover all 417 National Park Service units, including historical parks, seashores, preserves and lakeshores. Users can then download detailed guides, including GPS-enabled maps and maps that can be used while offline, for each of the 59 National Parks, like Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. Choose your interests and the app provides instant recommendations for each park.

Passport to Your National Parks

Passport to Your National Parks is a fun program that allows park visitors to collect stamps in a passport book from cancellations stations at different locations throughout our National Park Service units. To enhance the experience, a free companion mobile app is available to help users find passport stamp cancellations stations, as well as mark must-visit parks, add photos and captions, and view park maps and websites. 

REI Co-Op Guide to National Parks

Hikers will love this mobile app since it features trail data and hike descriptions for hikes all across our National Parks. Search for hikes using the map within the app or check out “best of” lists for each National Park that are curated by app users. As a bonus, no cell signal is needed to use the app; the maps and data are all available offline. The expert-crafted list of Family Friendly Hikes and Gems, or most beautiful features of each park, are also worth exploring before you go.

Oh, Ranger! ParkFinder

Download this free app to your smartphone to find the nearest parks and recreation areas with the activities you want to do anytime from wherever you are. Beyond National Parks, this app also includes state parks, national forests and wildlife refuges. Choose from 20 different activity categories, like hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, RVing and boating. You can also get directions, phone numbers and websites right from the mobile app.

Pocket Ranger National Park Passport

This mobile app is ideal for your National Park explorations thanks to enhanced GPS features that allow users to not only access trail maps, but navigate when offline, find friends and family within the parks and even share GPS coordinates in case of an emergency. The app also includes a list of all National Park events, park advisories and access to online campground reservations. A built-in compass also makes it super-easy to navigate our National Parks.

The post 5 Fantastic (and Free) National Parks Apps appeared first on Tracks + Trails.

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The United States isn’t exactly hurting for amazing natural landmarks and incredible National Parks—although only about half the states actually have one or more to call their own.

Utah won the lottery when it comes to National Parks, particularly if you’re into breathtaking mountain landscapes, technicolor canyons, otherworldly arches and spires, and rush-inducing outdoor adventures. In fact, Utah has five singular National Parks, known as the Mighty Five, where any nature lover or outdoor enthusiast could gladly lose himself or herself for a week or two: Bryce, Zion, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Arches.

If you’ve got 10 days for a little outdoor excitement, take a look at all the ways you could fall in love with Utah’s unforgettable National Parks.

Day 1: Hike to Mesa Arch at sunrise for magnificent views of Island in the Sky.

Start your first day in Canyonlands National Park getting your hiking legs warmed up with an easy climb to the iconic Mesa Arch. As one of the star attractions in the Island in the Sky district of the park, this is the perfect place to capture your first photograph in your vacation journal, and it’s a beginner-friendly hike, so even the youngest kids can accomplish it.

Take a moment to examine the trail beneath your feet on the walk back down. It’s not just dust, dirt, or gravel—it’s cryptobiotic soil, a complex ecosystem in its own right made of moss, lichens, algae, and cyanobacteria. It’s one of the oldest lifeforms on the planet and it’s right beneath your feet!

More experienced hikers have their choice of excellent trails in the Island in the Sky district. It’s a perfect start to your Mighty Five adventure.

Day 2: Spend a night stargazing in Canyonlands, a Gold Tier International Dark Sky Park.

The night skies in the Colorado Plateau are some of the darkest in the United States, and avid stargazers flock to Canyonlands for the utterly dark skies that showcase the stars to perfection. In fact, the park was awarded Gold Tier status for its commitment to minimizing light pollution and preserving its impeccable nocturnal environment. If the conditions are right, you can even view Saturn’s rings with a pair of regular binoculars!

If you visit in the spring or fall, park rangers conduct special nighttime programs to introduce visitors to the spectacular skies and even offer telescopes to enhance the experience.

Day 3: Explore the “House of Fire” ancestral cliff dwellings of the Pueblo people.

The cliff dwellings and ruins of the Pueblo people dot Arches National Park, another of Utah’s Mighty Five. Spend an afternoon exploring these incredible dwellings—and don’t miss the House of Fire dwelling, so named for the incredible colorings on the rock. It’s definitely another shot for your photo journal or Instagram account.

If ancient Puebloan artifacts, or anthropology in general, is your jam, don’t miss the Museum of Moab, a collection of artifacts and relics that pays tribute to 12,000 years of human habitation in this region.

Day 4: Go whitewater rafting on the Colorado River for amazing views of Arches National Park.

It’s time to add a little water fun to your landlubber’s vacation. The Colorado and Green Rivers snake through Canyonlands and Arches and offer incredible opportunities to see the canyons in a whole new way. Take your pick from kayaking, canoeing, or whitewater rafting if you’re feeling particularly adventurous. It’s a surefire way to get your kids excited about a national park vacation.

Day 5: See Butch Cassidy Country in a whole new way zipping along on your 4WD ATV.

Bryce Canyon was a haven for all kinds of outlaws and notorious ne’er-do-wells, the most famous of which was probably Butch Cassidy. Red Canyon in particular was an excellent hideout for all kinds of cattle rustlers, train robbers, and common thieves (and a favorite of Butch and his Wild Bunch gang).

Explore this beautiful canyon with its rich and exotic history from the saddle of your own ATV. You’ll get a whole new appreciation for the rough characters of the earlier eras who made the canyon their secret hideaway.

Day 6: Take a horseback tour of Bryce Canyon for a closeup view of the famous hoodoos.

If you don’t know what a hoodoo is, you’re not alone. These strange, almost mystical rock formations grew from the destructive forces of water and wind over thousands and thousands of years in the deep slot canyons of Bryce.

There’s no better way to see these amazing structures than from the back of a horse as you wind your way through the labyrinth of red rock in Bryce Canyon. The ride is made even more awesome because it’s led by actual cowboys who share the history and lore of the region—as well as the geology and science behind the hoodoos.

Day 7: You don’t need to be an expert to spend the day canyoneering.

Canyoneering sounds a little intimidating until you realize there are trails and hiking opportunities for every level of enthusiast. And there’s nothing like the sense of accomplishment you and your family will get from rappelling and descending into the slot canyons in Zion National Park.

Bring your swimsuit—there are plenty of opportunities for swimming and wading on these amazing trails. Is there a better way to spend a day in one of Utah’s crown jewels?

Day 8: Photograph Zion’s spectacular sunsets on a three-hour jeep tour at dusk.

After a crazy day of canyoneering and camping, maybe something a little more serene is in order. Spend your day searching out some of Zion’s native wildlife or even cataloging some of the park’s fascinating birds of prey. Just make sure you’re rested up for your evening event—a jeep ride to chase the spectacular sunsets of Zion.

When you get back to camp, why not start a fire and try out a new s’mores recipe or two? It’s the perfect end to your day in the park.

Day 9: Cycle the Pa’rus Trail along the Virgin River in Zion Canyon.

You’ve done hiking, you’ve done canyoneering, you’ve done rafting, and you’ve even been four-wheeling through the desert. Today’s a great day to travel on two wheels through Zion Canyon on the Pa’rus Trail, one of the loveliest trails in the park. Pa’rus is a Paiute word for “bubbling water,” and that’s a perfect description for this riverside trail. It’s car-free, so it’s safe and fun for the entire family.

And if you feel like taking a stop along the way, the Zion Human History Museum is just off the trail. You’ll love learning about the native peoples and cultures of Zion—and the museum has an impressive collection of plant specimens and archaeological artifacts that are definitely worth a visit.

Day 10: One more park? Take a guided tour of the Grand Canyon’s incredible South Rim and enjoy a gourmet picnic lunch.

Although the Grand Canyon isn’t technically one of the Mighty Five, how can you not spend a day checking out perhaps the most recognized national landmark and park in the United States? Over 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon every single year, and almost all of them take in the South Rim.

Why do people love the South Rim? For one thing, it’s at a lower elevation than the North Rim, which means you get an amazing view of the walls of the opposite rim. Plus, its paths are much more “user friendly,” and some are even paved. It’s also the place you’ll find popular activities like helicopter rides, mule rides, and even guided tours appropriate for visitors of every age.

There’s no better way to end your trip to the Mighty Five than with a tour of the South Rim and a gourmet picnic overlooking the most iconic landmark in America.

Ready to Explore?

Wondering how to spend your next family vacation? Ten days in Utah is an adventure your family will never forget—something new and exciting every single day – and we can plan it for you. We’ll even reserve your rental RV!

Why not get in touch today to see how easy it is for us to reserve you a beautiful RV and reserve everything else you need for the ultimate RV trip in Utah’s Mighty Five? And if you’re not quite ready to book vacation plans, sign up for our free email course to learn more about RV’ing, our amazing National Parks, and just how Tracks & Trails can help you experience it all.

The post The Mighty Five: 10 Days in Utah’s Unforgettable National Parks appeared first on Tracks + Trails.

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It’s hard to believe that fall is nearly here. If you’re already eager to get back into our National Parks, here are six fantastic picks that may be even more fun to explore as the weather cools.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Fall is when the elk come out to play and the golden leaves transform the landscape at Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s a great time to see all kinds of wildlife, including moose, black bears, even bighorn sheep, which are known to get into head-butting competitions in October and November. Head to Alpine Visitor Center for unparalleled views and sign up for a horseback trail ride to experience wilderness trails in and around the park.

Death Valley National Park

With park temperatures that can rise well into the 100s in summer months, it should come as no surprise that Death Valley National Park is best explored in the fall and winter. Guided ranger tours don’t even begin until late-October. Plan to get an early start at Death Valley by taking in the sunrise at Zabriskie Point before exploring the badlands at Twenty Mule Team Canyon.

Acadia National Park

It’s hard to beat the leaf-peeping in Maine, which peaks in mid-October, and one of the best spots for taking in fall foliage is Acadia National Park. Plan to hike the 3.3 mile Jordan Pond Loop for incredible views while enjoying the cool autumn weather. Wake up early to get to the top of Cadillac Mountain where you’ll be able to see the first U.S. sunrise between early-October and early-March. Bring along a blanket to keep warm.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The fall colors at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee are incredible as the red maples, yellow birch and flowering dogwoods begin to change in October and November. Take in the views from Clingmans Dome, the highest point in Tennessee. On your way down, take a few steps and strike a pose in front of the “Appalachian Trail” sign. Most visitors explore the park by car or RV, so you won’t be alone if you opt to drive to various scenic lookout points.

Arches National Park

It’s not unusual for daily temperatures in summer to reach the mid-90s at Arches National Park, so plan a fall visit when you can see more than 2,000 natural stone arches, including Delicate Arch and Landscape Arch, in cooler fall weather. Plan for hiking, biking, backpacking or camping, and be sure to check out the Fiery Furnace, a unique geologic formation that offers incredible views at sunrise and sunset. The Devils Garden Trail is one of the most popular in the park.

Grand Teton National Park

Head to Wyoming for a visit to one of the most beautiful parks in the national parks system, Grand Teton National Park. You’ll find beautiful fall colors, majestic mountains and all kinds of wildlife, including elk and deer. The park is not very big, so it’s easy to explore in one day, hitting each of the visitor centers, including Colter Bay, Moose and Jenny Lake. Take a hike along one of the popular trails, like the Christian Pond Lake. Head to String Lake for a picnic and rock-skipping into the lake.

The post 6 Fantastic National Parks to Explore This Fall appeared first on Tracks + Trails.

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