Sitting on the vibrant red rocking chair on the porch of my hotel room at Kennicott Glacier Lodge, I listened. The early morning calls of birds waking the world and the creaks and groans of the shrinking Root Glacier just a stone’s throw from me dominated the otherwise quiet scene. It seemed to me as if this morning show of song and silence was for me and me alone. Any other sound that was occurring in the surrounding expanse of the park’s 13.2 million acres was muffled by the ripening raspberry bushes, trembling aspen groves and deep blue glacial ice.
Hearing the gasps escape the mouth of a Backroads guest as they lay eyes on the iconic summit of Half Dome or the impossibly beautiful Yosemite Falls for the first time never gets old. Although I’ve been visiting and leading trips in Yosemite for many years now, I recently had a “first time” experience that allowed me to see this majestic place with fresh eyes. Just by chance, I had the opportunity to bike the Tioga Pass road to the high country with no traffic. Surrounded by conifers and glowing granite mountains and without a single worry, I realized how fortunate I am to be a part of the Yosemite experience with so many Backroads guests.
Yellowstone in the winter takes on an entirely different façade. You wander through the main attractions and it’s quiet. You watch the breath of bison erupt from their snouts as they exhale in the freezing weather. The steam rises from the potholes as you listen to the gurgling of the geysers. Red foxes scamper along the roadside, their color popping against the white background. Sights reveal themselves that seem otherworldly. Each time I found myself touring the snowy roads of Yellowstone, I became lost in the beauty of the park.
As a Backroads leader. I rely on books to help connect me more deeply to the social and natural histories I encounter along my hikes and bike rides, which makes each step or pedal stroke feel that much more meaningful. For anyone heading into the open skies west of the Mississippi this summer, here are five terrific reads that will enhance your travel experience.
My love affair with the national parks began when I was 9 years old. I learned at that young age that the best family memories are the ones where we shared an adventure, where we set off and explored something new and exciting together. Those are the memories of my childhood and of my parents that I still carry with me today.
At Backroads we’re lucky to admire the world from a wide range of elevations. I’ve surveyed the Backroads Trip Leader community and reflected on my own hiking memories to pick seven of the most breathtaking hikes in the United States. Each of these trails offers that “pinch me” scenery and an unforgettable challenge. Plan one a year or one a month! But don’t go without seeing these iconic vistas.
The National Park Service was established to preserve these incredible scenes—and many others—in nature and history that otherwise would likely have had a finite existence in America. There are currently only 58 national parks but a total of 409 protected areas that cover more than 84 million acres in the United States and its territories. One of the most important things we can do to help protect these areas is to visit them and to share our experiences with others. We’re happy to celebrate 100 years of the National Park Service and hope to honor many more in the future.
Yellowstone and Grand Teton are two of the best national parks in the United States for viewing wildlife… the “Big Five” refers to the most popular animals that visitors hope to see in the parks–American bison, elk, gray wolves, grizzly bears and moose. Whether you are driving, cycling, hiking, rafting, kayaking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or just sitting on a bench, you are sure to see a variety of animals during your visit, but the Big Five continue to win the hearts of our guests during their Backroads vacations.
There isn’t a trail to be missed in the Canadian Rockies. Bold statement? Yes. True? Absolutely. So you can’t go wrong. But to help you get the most from your precious time in this magical region, let me give you the lowdown. From Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks to Kananaskis Country, here are my ten favorite hikes in the Canadian Rockies.
Now this is camping! Imagine pedaling or hiking up to a campsite to find your family’s roomy dome tents set up, your luggage stowed inside and your plush sleeping bag unrolled on a raised cot–with a comfortable Therm-a-Rest mattress for extra padding. This is life on a Backroads Deluxe Camping Trip: experiencing the great outdoors in style while your multitalented Trip Leaders, Camp Chef and Camp Assistant look after all the details–like making sure there’s always a crackling fire to enjoy as the sun sinks below the treetops.