National Parks Senior Pass By Mail Now Available

National Parks Senior Pass for age 62 or older

The National Parks Senior Pass can now be obtained through mail. While the Senior Pass will still be available for purchase at National Parks, the National Parks Service realises that getting the Senior Pass by mail may be a more convenient option for many seniors. The National Parks Senior Pass is available to those who are citizens and/or permanent residents of the United States and are age 62 or older.

The National Parks Senior Pass is good for the lifetime of the card holder and provides admission to, and use of, federal recreation sites that charge an entrance or standard amenity fees. The pass also allows users to receive a 50% discount on some amenity fees for activities like camping and launching a boat.

To request a Senior Pass through the mail, you must fill out and submit a completed application along with proof of residency and age. You must also enclose a fee of $20 which covers the cost of the senior pass and a processing fee. Once the senior pass application package has been received and all the documentation verified, the senior pass will be mailed to the address provided in the application.

Moonrise at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

As I was driving in to see the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument (about 1 mile from where the Gila Cliff Dwellings are located), I noticed that the moon was reflecting brightly in the daytime sky and I managed to get this shot of it.

Moonrise at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

I wish I were a better photographer because even though I like this photo, it doesn’t do justice to actually being there. It’s always exciting when I come across these beautiful scenes that stop me in my tracks.

Johnstown, Pennsylvania National Park Inspired Music

1889 clubhouse Johnstown Pennsylvania
(Photo courtesy of NPS)

I love that the parks in the National Parks system are able to inspire incredible art. Most of the time we see this with our eyes in photographs, paintings or sculpture. Less often do we think about the music that the National Parks inspire, but the National Parks certainly do this as well. Angela Easterling’s song Johnstown, Pennsylvania was inspired by a trip to the Johnstown Flood National Memorial. I’ll let her describe how her song came into being:

I had an interest in the tragic Johnstown, Pennsylvania Flood of 1889 since learning about it in History in about the 4th Grade. Over the years I read several books about it and it always struck a chord with me and amazed me how little it’s spoken of in US history. I thought it was such a dramatic and intense story – and almost hard to imagine. Over 2200 people being drowned in the middle of their town, in less than an hour.

What really made the history come alive for me was visiting the Johnstown Flood National Memorial, at the site of where the South Fork Dam used to be. A park ranger took us on a tour of the sites left from the time of the Flood and told us much more in-depth information about the time leading up to the dam’s breaking, and also the aftermath of the Flood. Being in that place gives you a sense of understanding and compassion, the powerful reality of truth of these events, the suffering and damage, terror and chaos, that no book could ever impart.

This really inspired me to write my song, “Johnstown, Pennsylvania” about the flood. I tried to write it in the voice of someone of that time, in my own way, to try to bring the Flood to life, with music and words. I hope that listening to my song will encourage more people to learn about the Johnstown Flood and to visit Johnstown and the Memorial. It’s such a fascinating piece of American History, and one that, I believe, holds many lessons for our times, as well as being a compelling, exciting, tragic, but ultimately triumphant tale.

If you enjoyed Angela’s music, you can see her website at Angela Easterling, visit her YouTube Channel and like her on Facebook

Biking White Rim Road Canyonlands National Park

By Kristen Lummis (enjoy her blog Brave Ski Mom, like her on facebook or follow her on twitter @BraveSkiMom)

biking canyonlands national park on white rim

We were partway up the Schafer Wall along the 100 mile White Rim Road in Canyonlands National Park. It was our third day of mountain biking and our 11 year-old son was exhausted.

When we’d started out two days earlier from the Mineral Bottom staging area, we were a group of three families, clean, shiny and enthusiastic. A motley bunch, we consisted of a mom who is an adaptive cyclist, a dad pulling his little ones behind his road bike, two trucks (one of which had hand controls for the adaptive mom), too much gear, but just the right amount of beer, and 7 kids ranging in age from 2-13. For our family alone, it was our first time on the White Rim.

biking crew at White Rim Canyonlands National Park

Living in Western Colorado, we had been waiting for the right time to take our family on this famous mountain biking adventure. We have friends who ride the White Rim annually, and they’d encouraged us to get a permit. We love to camp, we love to bike and we love the desert. A perfect fit, no? But we had put it off, mostly because we weren’t sure how to do it. Then our neighbor got a permit. Suddenly, it was the right time.

We had our choice of May or October. Luckily, we chose May, for just a few months later the Mineral Bottom portion of the road would washout in the summer monsoon, closing the complete White Rim circuit for nearly seven months.

So here we were on the Schafer Wall. No longer shiny, definitely not clean and losing enthusiasm. We could see my husband and our 13 year-old son ahead of us, but we couldn’t gain on them. For the past hour or so, I’d been on and off my bike, riding with my younger son at his pace and resting when he needed to rest. One by one, the other kids had abandoned their bikes for the trucks. First, we lost the little ones on the tagalong. Next the nine year-old and one of the 12 year-olds opted for the cool comfort of the sag wagon. My son and I were just a handful of turns from the top when he cried “uncle.”

biking White Rim in Canyonlands National Park

As I loaded his bike, he climbed into the truck. I knew from his face that he was disappointed. Steep, with seemingly endless switchbacks, it could have been a stretch for him on a cool, temperate day. This day was hot; he was flushed and thirsty and hadn’t had enough sleep over the past two nights. With him safely in the truck, I rode off, torn between disappointment for him and my desire to kick this mesa’s butt on his behalf. I am happy to say I did the latter.

As we met up at trail’s end, everyone was smiling. Even my son, who had looked so close to tears 20 minutes before was excited and proud. We came, we rode and we had definitely conquered. For the White Rim isn’t about riding every mile. It’s about pushing yourself in one of God’s most gorgeous landscapes. It’s about playing in the sand and climbing rocks. It’s about camping out with friends, eating too much, and getting away from electronic technology. None of us rode every mile. None of us conquered each hill. But we each pushed ourselves to our personal limits and had a darn good time along the way.

Canyondlands National Park White Rim curves

When To Go: Fall and spring are prime biking seasons on the White Rim. Located in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, the National Park Service requires and enforces permits for overnight use. Reservations for the upcoming year begin in July of the current year (i.e. issuance of permits for 2012 began on July 11, 2011). More information on applying for a permit can be found at this link.

Four-wheel drive vehicles are allowed on the road, but ATV’s and non-street legal dirt bikes are not. There is no water along the route and the limited campsites are assigned with your permit.

While the road is rough, rocky, sandy and in some places, quite steep, it’s not technical and is all double-track.


Park Avenue Trail Hike Arches National Park

To the left of the Park Avenue Viewpoint at Arches National Park there is a medium steep trail that is the beginning of the Park Avenue trail hike.

Park Avenue trail steps leading to bottom of canyon Arches National Park

Even if you aren’t really into hiking, it’s worthwhile to hike down the trail steps to the bottom if you are physically able. While the steps are a little steep, you get an entirely new (and gorgeous) view of Park Avenue from the bottom compared to the viewpoint at the top.

view of Park Avenue from trail at bottom at Arches National Park

If you do enjoy hiking, the Park Avenue trail hike is 1 mile each way and has beautiful scenery. If you are in a group with some who like to hike and others that don’t, there’s a hiker pick-up at The Organ at the end of the the trail so some can drive while others hike (or you can turn around making the hike 2 miles round trip)

Park Avenue trail end pick-up sign at Arches National park

Once down the steps, much of the trail is along a dry riverbed and across amazing water worn sandstone:

Park Avenue trail water worn sandstone at Arches National Park

A lot of people skip this hike at Arches National Park as they head to more popular areas of the park. I found it to be the least crowded trail I hiked at Arches which gave me some solitude which was difficult to find on other trails in the park. Being as short as it is, I would definitely make an effort to hike it if you have the time.

More Park Avenue trail photos

Tightrope Over Yosemite Falls

I was looking at some videos of national parks when I stumbled across this video of a German man who apparently decided that it would be a good idea to tightrope across the top of Upper Yosemite Falls a couple of summers ago. Luckily he had the sanity to place a safety line to the tightrope which he ended up needing. Even with the safety line, my teeth were clinched the entire time watching this…

National Park Free Days 2012

Update: The national park service has announced National Park Free Days 2013

Many people don’t realize that most parks within the National Parks system don’t charge any entrance fee at all. That being said, some of the most popular National Parks do charge entrance fees. While these fees are applicable most times of the year, National Parks, National Monuments, National Recreation Areas, National Preserves, National Seashores and National Lakes designate several times a year when they offer free access days. The National Parks free days for 2012 are as follows:

the wave
The Wave

January 14 – 16 (Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend)

April 21 – 29 (National Park Week)

June 9 (Get Outdoors Day)

September 29 (National Public Lands Day)

Nov. 10 – 12 (Veterans Day weekend)

The 2012 National Parks free days are quite similar to the 2011 fee free National Parks days with the one major change being that Get Outdoors Day has replaced the first day of summer as a fee free day in 2012.

The 2012 fee free National Parks days apply to entrance fees, commercial tour fees and transportation entrance fees. While the fee free days don’t apply to other park fees such as reservation fees, camping fees, tour fees, or concession fees, many times the businesses operating within the National Parks (hotels, restaurants and tour operators) will create their own promotions which will coincide with the free entrance fee days. Even with the entrance fees National Parks are considered a great value, but National Parks free days make them even a better value.

Here is the official National Park Fee Free Days 2012 press release.

Visiting Zion National Park

Submitted by: sylvia

Impressions: It felt like we had traveled to the bottom of the Grand Canyon as we weaved in and out to the bottom!

Tips: Be prepared to be WOW’d!

Must-sees: Definitely experience the whole drive through Zion National Park.

Sylvia also had this to say: It was my first time out west ( virginian here) and the one thing that I had not counted on was how fast the elevations changed. I knew it was high elevations, I did not know you could go from 2,000 to 8,000 in a few minutes!

Top 10 National Parks

I received an email asking me what are the top 10 most popular National Parks? The answer, of course, depends on how you define “popular” when it comes to National Parks. First, I’m making the assumption that the question is what are the top 10 US National Parks and not what are the top 10 National Parks in the world. In trying to come up with a list, it becomes pretty subjective as everybody has their own favorite parks. Possibly a more concrete way of measuring the top 10 parks would be to define a park’s popularity by the number of visitors it attracts. In this case, these are the top 20 national parks for 2010 (all the National Parks that received more than 1 million visitors) according to the National Park Service:

grand canyon national park

1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 9,463,538 visitors
2. Grand Canyon National Park: 4,388,386 visitors
3. Yosemite National Park: 3,901,408 visitors
4. Yellowstone National Park: 3,640,185 visitors
5. Rocky Mountain National Park: 2,955,821 visitors
6. Olympic National Park: 2,844,563 visitors
7. Grand Teton National Park: 2,669,374 visitors
8. Zion National Park: 2,665,972 visitors
9. Acadia National Park: 2,504,208 visitors
10. Cuyahoga Valley National Park: 2,492,670 visitors
11. Glacier National Park: 2,200,048 visitors
12. Joshua Tree National Park: 1,434,976 visitors
13. Hot Springs National Park: 1,311,807 visitors
14. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: 1,304,667 visitors
15. Bryce Canyon National Park: 1,285,492 visitors
16. Shenandoah National Park: 1,253,386 visitors
17. Mount Rainier National Park: 1,191,754 visitors
18. Haleakala National Park: 1,105,606 visitors
19. Arches National Park: 1,014,405 visitors
20. Sequoia National Park: 1,002,979 visitors

And some National Monuments that received over 1 million visitors in 2010

Castle Clinton National Monument: 4,126,378 visitors
Statue of Liberty National Monument: 3,833,288 visitors
World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument: 1,372,724 visitors

Do you think that this is a valid way of measuring the top 10 National Parks? If not, what do you think would be a better way to determine this top 10 list?