SALT LAKE CITY, UT — It’s sad but true that too many people can spoil the appeal and magic of wild, untamed places, like our national parks. Due to too much love leading to overcrowding – especially in the last two years – many national parks are having to limit entry and trail access through new reservation policies, permits and user limits.
In Utah alone, Deseret Media reports, “all-time visitation records were broken at four of the state’s “Mighty Five” national parks in 2021.” Totals reached more than 11 million visitors, far exceeding the 7.7 million recorded in 2020, the year when visitation plummeted as a result of the pandemic. As a result, long lines formed at entrance gates, tailhead parking filled quickly, roads and trails were over-populated and some visitors were turned away altogether.
Experts are predicting more of the same, if not worse conditions for 2022 and beyond. So how does one truly enjoy the serenity and wild beauty of the backcountry without having to share it with too many fellow travelers? “This is the year to leave the masses behind and experience the benefits of joining a small group, professionally guided tour,” says Karen Johnson of Holiday River Expeditions, based in Salt Lake City.
Offering a variety of whitewater rafting and mountain biking adventures from two days to over a week long, Holiday River Expeditions trips are limited in number of participants and have real Covid-wise appeal; from the small trip sizes, to low ratios of guests to guides on a boat, not to mention the canyon breeze making contagions float farther away than any indoor excursions.
By coordinating with other companies and scheduling launches and camps for maximum privacy while limiting the numbers and size of groups, guests won’t have to share their wilderness river or trail experience with unregulated crowds flocking to similar unpermitted, front country experiences nearby.
“What we are offering with our trips is an escape into the backcountry without the crowds,” explains Johnson. “You can experience Canyonlands National Park and not have to wait in a line or worry about getting a campsite. Our backcountry trips require federal permits – which regulates the number of people able to access certain areas at any given time, so no unpleasant surprises.”
Johnson also points out, “Due to the desire to create a ‘pandemic bubble”, custom and exclusive group outings are on the rise. With this increase in interest in private trips and the ability to secure such permits becoming very difficult, signing onto a scheduled tour departure may be the only good option to still get out on a trip this year.”
A guided tour comes with other benefits as well:
- Tours are a great way to get out and enjoy the outdoors without the hassles and crowds with guides and staff performing all the work and heavy lifting.
- Get real! Disconnect from electronics and the “virtual” world.
- Quiet the noise! Disconnect from the daily barrage of negative news.
- Reconnect with friends and family in a setting that you can feel safe in (from the throws of the pandemic).
- Clear your mind and soul. Feel the healing power of nature.
- Escape civilization! No concrete, paved trails, parking lots, traffic, crowds, lines to wait in, overpriced concessions and inconsiderate tourists.
- See the Milky Way in International Dark Sky Parks.
- Campgrounds are private. See some of the most beautiful places imaginable with minimal effort exerted. Better chances of seeing wildlife.
- Enjoy multiple days’ worth of interaction with knowledgeable and charismatic guides who have worked in these places for years. Better than a single short interaction with a park ranger or curator.
“The park system was really ahead of its time in setting use limits for commercial operators decades before overcrowding and pandemic contagions were a concern,” Johnson points out. “Thanks in no small part to our founder Dee Holladay’s participation in the creation of ‘Backcountry Management Plans’ in the 1970’s we have a system that works perfectly for the public and for those of us who make a living providing controlled backcountry access to anyone seeking adventure and nature at its purest.”
Holiday River Expeditions began in 1966, when Dee Holladay and his wife Sue took the plunge to become river outfitters. The family-owned-and-operated company has grown exponentially due to its respect for the lands, rivers, guests and employees. Each of its guides is professionally trained in first aid and river safety, and with 50+ years of experience, the company provides guests the opportunity to explore the nation’s wild lands in comfort and security. Holiday River Expeditions has a commitment to protect the environment through education and conservation, and as such, uses oar-powered and paddle rafts exclusively.
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