Category Archives: Outdoors Travel

Tight Window Opens for Booking Grand Canyon Group Rafting Charters

Western River Expeditions opens select booking dates for charter groups anticipating river rafting adventures in 2023 in the Grand Canyon.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT, Nov. 12, 2021 – This month Western River Expeditions opens select booking dates for charter groups anticipating river rafting adventures in 2023 in the Grand Canyon.
 
Groups ranging from extended family to corporate to non-profit can benefit from the advantages of this advance booking window for up to 28 people on prime departure dates.
 
Advance bookings for charter groups are available for select, 3, 4 6, or 7-day Grand Canyon rafting expeditions throughout the 2023 season.
 
“As the popularity of doing an exclusive private trip with just the members of your group has grown over the years, we have found it works best to open up select dates in advance for just these groups. That way they can still find dates with wide-open availability. Doing it this way, we can give our charter guests time to advertise, market, promote and book,” said Brandon Lake, co-owner and CMO. “We still leave several dates wide open for the general public so they have plenty of space to for individual bookings when the season opens for individual bookings on Nov. 30. Once this opens, many departures will sell out online within the first several hours.”
 
Although Mother Nature provides more than enough photo ops on the descent through the Grand Canyon, for these upcoming bookings, Western River Expeditions plans to offer groups the option of custom group t-shirts, adding even more pizzazz to group photos.
 
Group charters are available on all of the rivers where Western River hosts programs: Cataract CanyonDesolation Canyon and Westwater Canyon.  Western River’s experience with charter groups is that people get hooked on river rafting and in the future segue into other river trips. For details please see – https://www.westernriver.com/group-rafting-trips.
 
If an epic river rafting adventure is in your future, Western River Expeditions says don’t delay making reservations for trips down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon and in Utah’s Cataract Canyon and Desolation Canyon.
 
Here are a few good reasons why to act now.
 
Tight controls on inventory through commercial permits make these areas available only to a limited few every year. While Western River Expeditions escorts more people down the Colorado River and Green River on professionally guided rafting trips in Utah and Arizona than any other rafting operator in the country, Western River, as well as other commercial tour operators, has to abide by the limits set by government-issued permits. These coveted seats are being snapped up quicker than ever before by an unprecedented surge of demand following months of COVID lockdown, record-breaking heat waves that beg for water-based recreation, and an exploding demand to visit America’s national parks.
 
As a result, Western River Expeditions filled all Grand Canyon slots for 2021 well in advance. Many departures for 2022 are sold out and others are very close to selling out. 2023 Grand Canyon dates will open for general bookings on Nov. 30 this year. Requests for 2023 group charters are being taken now.
 
For a copy of Western River Expeditions’ 2022/2023 catalog, questions, availability and reservations call 866-904-1160 (Local: 801-942-6669) or visit the website at: http://www.westernriver.com/.
 
Western River Expeditions is an adventure travel company headquartered in Salt Lake City, with operations and offices in Moab, Utah and Fredonia, Arizona. Annually from March through October it escorts more people down rivers on professionally guided rafting trips in Utah, Idaho and Arizona than any other company. It is the largest licensed outfitter in the Grand Canyon and the largest single tour provider in Moab, UT through its division Moab Adventure Center (http://www.moabadventurecenter.com/).
 
Western River Expeditions, providing Grand Canyon rafting, Utah and Idaho rafting, and international multi-sport trips, was founded in 1961 by Colorado River rafting pioneer Jack Currey. It has been named one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth” by the editors of National Geographic Adventure magazine. The company is the proud recipient of the “Best of State” award through Utah’s Premier Recognition and Awards Program for the past seventeen consecutive years (2004-2020).

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8 Fall Vacations for Foliage, Fewer Crowds & Stunning Scenery

Ziplining at the Red Reflet Ranch, Ten Sleep, Wyoming, just one of the activities at the all-inclusive guest ranch (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Cool weather, brightly colored foliage, and destinations largely free from crowds make fall the perfect time to travel. Here are eight vacation ideas for the months ahead, ranging from the mountains of Montana to the Natchez Trace and even the Galapagos Islands

1. Pacific Coast Cycling: The Pacific Coast Route is one of America’s premier cycling routes and autumn is an optimal time to avoid heavy tourist traffic. Pedal south through the lush forests of western Washington before following the Columbia River to the Oregon coast, then enter California and encounter massive redwoods coastal headlands and sandy beaches with bike paths. Ride the route on your own with maps from Adventure Cycling Association, or join other on a tour.
 
2. Fall Under the Big Sky: A visit to Big Sky, Montana, and stay at The Wilson Hotel offers the opportunity for fall adventures in Yellowstone country, as elk bugle and pockets of aspen trees turn golden against the backdrop of the green forest. Hike and mountain bike trails surrounding town, fish the famed Gallatin River or take one last tour of Yellowstone National Park’s natural wonders and wildlife before roads close for the season.
 
3. Traffic-Free Natchez Trace: The Natchez Trace is a historic travel corridor through Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi used by American Indians, settlers, soldiers and future presidents. And with no commercial traffic, the Natchez Trace Parkway is a cyclist’s dream come true. Join Cycle of Life Adventures for a fall tour to enjoy the changing colors of maple, hickory, oak and other hardwood trees, milder temperatures and overnight accommodations in small towns along the parkway.
 
4. National Parks RV Trip: National parks saw record crowds over the summer, but now that fall is here it’s a great time to visit for fewer crowds, less traffic and pleasant temperatures. Blacksford rents fully stocked Mercedes-Benz Sprinter overland adventure vehicles from Winnebago with an all-inclusive pricing model that includes unlimited miles, no generator fees, bedding, kitchen and bath supplies, free Wi-Fi, a free annual pass to the national parks and 24-hour roadside assistance.
 
5. Arizona + Black Canyon Mountain Biking: Explore all the Sonoran Desert has to offer with the Best of Phoenix and Black Canyon Trail Mountain Biking Tour from Escape Adventures. This trip is ideal for close groups of biking friends looking for a warm fall or winter excursion. Highlights include exploring the 21,099-acre McDowell Mountain regional park, riding conservancy lands and ripping more than 40-miles of fast and flowy singletrack.
 
6. Jackson Hole Glamping: Wyoming’s Fireside Resort offers 25 pint-sized, luxuriously outfitted tiny house rental units designed by Wheelhaus. The resort is located a short distance from Grand Teton National Park and the Jackson Hole ski slopes, making it the perfect place to post up for a fall getaway or winter ski trip.
 
7. Play Cowboy at a Dude Ranch: Red Reflet Ranch is a 28,000-acre luxury resort and working ranch on the west slope of the Bighorn Mountains, just three hours from Yellowstone National Park. Guests stay in private chalets and enjoy family-friendly activities like horseback riding, ATVing, ziplining, swimming, hiking, fishing, shooting and feasting on farm-to-table cuisine.
 
8. Autumn Galapagos Adventure: Fall is one of the best times of year to visit Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, particularly when it comes to wildlife and weather. The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel has joined forces with Scalesia Galapagos Lodge to offer a new weeklong program that includes day trips aboard Yacht Sea Lion, glamping in luxury tents on Isabela Island and visits to remote and mysterious places that illustrate the incredible diversity of the archipelago.

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NYS Opens First Nature Trail in US Designed for Autism Spectrum at Letchworth State Park

First Trail in U.S. Designed Specifically for Autism Spectrum Disorder Communities and Families

Project Supported By More Than $3.3 Million in Private Funds

The nation’s first nature trail specifically designed to address the sensory needs of those with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities is open at Letchworth State Park in western New York State © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The nation’s first nature trail specifically designed to address the sensory needs of those with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities is open at Letchworth State Park in western New York State. Supported by more than $3.3 million in private fundraising, the new Autism Nature Trail is a one-mile hiking loop that includes eight marked sensory stations, each designed to address a different sensory experience in a safe and supportive environment.

“New York State is leading the nation in creating this public trail purposefully designed to bring the benefits of the outdoors to those on the autism disorder spectrum and their families,” Governor Kathy Hochul said. “State Parks should be accessible to everyone, and this is a welcoming and inclusive place for an underserved community.”

Activities along the Autism Nature Trail support and encourage sensory perception and integration, while also providing enjoyable activities for visitors of all abilities and ages. The stations engage each visitor’s senses, using nature and natural materials as the tools for skill-building. The trail is set up to allow for safe social distancing and planned interaction.

Sensory stations and other features of Autism Nature Trail include:

  • Sensory Station, where a collection of leaves, moss, fossils, animal fur, acorns and other objects are to be touched, handled, and even smelled;
  • Sunshine Slope, a gentle maze in an opening that includes a viewing platform, three cuddle swings, and an “Alone Zone;”
  • Music Circle, where a variety of nature-inspired musical instruments encourage creativity, either alone or with others;
  • Curiosity Corner, an open space with a gliding seat, ant-shaped boulders, and access to a shortcut back to the beginning of the trail;
  • Reflection Knoll, a quiet point halfway on the trail under a canopy of trees, with etchings of woodland creatures hidden in the boulders;
  • Meadow Run and Climb, a place with paths to run, jump and balance along serpentine berms and an obstacle course;
  • Design Zone, where visitors can manipulate materials from along the trail into patterns and structures;
  • Playful Path, a place of twisting paths with different surfaces including coarse gravel, log rounds, and sand;
  • The Nook, an area of carefully spaced seating set under a natural canopy;
  • The Celebration Station, as the final stop on the trail, this area has a place for visitors to express themselves through writing and drawing about their experiences on the trail.

Located near the park’s Humphrey Nature Center with parking, restrooms and Wi-Fi, the ADA-compliant trail was designed with input from Dr. Temple Grandin, a cattle industry expert who was diagnosed with autism in 1950 at the age of two and is now one of the world’s most well-known advocates for the autistic community.

Support and programming for the trail comes from the nearby Perry Central School District in Wyoming County and Rochester’s Camp Puzzle Peace, an Adirondack summer camp for families living with developmental disabilities. Fundraising for the trail is being managed on behalf of State Parks by the Natural Heritage Trust. The trust is a not-for-profit charitable corporation that receives and administers gifts, grants, and contributions to support public programs for parks, recreation, cultural, land and water conservation and historic preservation purposes.

Last month, Autism Nature Trail supporters marked the sudden loss of one of the project’s most devoted early advocates, ANT co-founder Susan Herrnstein. Her family has requested that any donations in her memory be made to the Autism Nature Trail through the Natural Heritage Trust.

Fundraising will continue to support visitor programming for the Autism Nature Trail. So far, more than 650 separate donations have been made to the project, reflecting more than 430 individual donors, 50 corporate donors, 25 community groups, and 15 foundations.

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “The public-private partnership that envisioned and accomplished this innovative project shows what the power of collaboration and commitment can achieve. State Parks values our dedicated staff and partners who have put in countless hours and is grateful for the generous financial support provided by so many donors.”

“Our hope is that the Autism Nature Trail will become an exemplar, widely replicated, taking from what we learned in the seven-year process of creating a first-of-its-kind experience in nature,” Loren Penman, an Autism Nature Trail co-founder and member of the Genesee Regional Park Commission, said. “While others retrofit public places to make them accessible, we have created an accessible place and made it public–and that has made all the difference.”

Gail Servanti, an Autism Nature Trail co-founder and member of the Genesee Regional Park Commission, said, “This is our dream come true and I eagerly await the positive impact a walk on the Autism Nature Trail will have on individuals and families of all abilities.”

“Camp Puzzle Peace was founded out of a desire to share a love of nature and to allow all families to experience the joy of the outdoors in a meaningful way,” Camp Puzzle Peace Executive Director Jen Hackett said. “We are very proud to partner with New York State to expand our purpose by providing programming on the Autism Nature Trail for all families, regardless of ability or diagnosis.”

Perry School District Superintendent Daryl McLaughlin said, “The eyes of the world are on this project.  Everything we are doing has never been done before.  This project represents what is possible when individuals, groups, and municipalities engage with one another to advance a cause.  The Autism Nature Trail will be a powerful instructional space where cutting-edge learning and teaching will occur for all individuals.  This project also will be a paradigm shift for economic development.”

About 1 in 54 children in the U.S. have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ASD is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and often has a tremendous impact on parents, siblings, and members of the extended family.

Statistics show that young people with autism spend disproportionate amounts of time indoors, often finding comfort in digital activities which results in social isolation. This disconnectedness not only affects individuals with ASD but also can affect caregivers and entire families, who can sometimes feel uncomfortable in outside settings.

For more information on the Autism Nature Trail, visit: https://autismnaturetrail.com/.

Visited by nearly one million people annually, Letchworth State Park covers more than 14,000 acres and is one of the most scenically magnificent areas in the eastern U.S. In 2015, readers of USA Today voted it the best state park in the United States. Surrounded by lush forests, the Genesee River roars through the gorge over three major waterfalls between cliffs as high as 600 feet in some places. The park features 66 miles of hiking trails, as well as trails for horseback riding, biking, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. Letchworth offers nature, history and performing arts programs, as well as guided walks, tours, a summer lecture series, whitewater rafting, kayaking, a pool for swimming and hot air ballooning.

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 individual parks, historic sites, recreational trails, and boat launches, which were visited by a record 78 million people in 2020. A recent university study found that spending by State Parks and its visitors supports $5 billion in output and sales, 54,000 private-sector jobs and more than $2.8 billion in additional state GDP. For more information on any of these recreation areas, visit www.parks.ny.gov, download the free NY State Parks Explorer mobile app or call 518.474.0456. Also, connect with us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

See: DRIVEABLE ADVENTURES: HIKING/CAMPING IN THE ‘GRAND CANYON OF THE EAST’ – NY’S LETCHWORTH STATE PARK

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Autumn Fun in Moab: Zip Lining, River Rafting and Hummer Tours

Hummer tours are on Moab Adventure Center’s short list of how to enjoy autumn in the world’s red rock playground of Moab, Utah.

Moab Adventure Center, a division of Western River Expeditions, has a short list of how to enjoy autumn in the world’s red rock playground of Moab, Utah. This region becomes an artist’s dream world when fringed by the Colorado River’s yellow cottonwoods along the Colorado River and the golden aspens of the LaSal Mountains.
 
After the summer rush, daytime temperatures in September and October cool down to around the mid-70s to mid-80s. Fewer people around means more elbow room to be had on every adventure in not just one but two National Parks – Arches and Canyonlands.
 
Here are seven suggested adventures that continue through the end of November, with the exception of rafting which concludes the end of October.

  1. Fall River Rafting Adventures are full or half days, some served up with a BBQ lunch on a world-renowned stretch of the Colorado River, winding through scenes made famous by dozens of popular movies. https://www.moabadventurecenter.com/moab-river-rafting
     
  2. Horseback Adventures come with cowboy-trained quarter horses. A professional wrangler leads the way on trails made famous by John Wayne himself.  Rides are three hours in the mornings and 90 minutes in the afternoons. https://www.moabadventurecenter.com/moab-horseback-riding
     
  3. Hummer Tours are conducted in style and comfort aboard the world’s most serious 4×4. Spectacular backcountry opens up in the hands of professional guides who help visitors explore seldom-seen, awe-inspiring Moab overlooks. Tours are two, three and four hours including a sunset safari. https://www.moabadventurecenter.com/moab-hummer-tours
     
  4. Zipline Tours are always a thrill, but how about skimming over sheer sandstone cliffs and canyons on Moab’s only zip line? The Raven’s Rim Moab zip line tour begins with a spine-tingling ride to the top of the cliff faces overlooking Moab, swooping like a bird of prey landing on each of six gaps.  https://www.moabadventurecenter.com/moab-zip-line
     
  5. Hot Air Ballooning can be likened to riding a magical carpet for 3.5 hours over the astounding red rock landscape of Moab. It’s an unbelievable way to experience the sights of Moab in the quiet of the early morning. https://www.moabadventurecenter.com/hot-air-balloon-rides-moab-utah
     
  6. Arches National Park Tours are stunning, morning or evening. Arches National Park Tours showcase the more accessible of more than 2,000 arches, the highest concentration on the planet, after which the park is named. https://www.moabadventurecenter.com/arches-national-park-tours
     
  7. Mountain Bike Tours requests a commitment of 4.5 hours to experience why Moab has become the undisputed mecca for mountain bike enthusiasts from all over the world. Whether beginner or advanced the Moab Adventure Center offers professionally guided mountain biking tours on all of Moab’s classic rides.     https://www.moabadventurecenter.com/moab-mountain-biking 

America’s red rock playground, Moab, Utah, home of two national parks that are coveted icons to explore in post-pandemic lockdowns, has experienced an unprecedented surge in popularity this summer.

This influx means that visitors should “nail down your accommodations and your preferred guided excursions as soon as possible and certainly before you arrive in Moab,” said Cort Wright, manager of the Moab Adventure Center. This is the go-to outfitter for securing pre-set backcountry and national park access and tours. Moab Adventure Center specializes in all there is to do in Moab and bundles assorted activities and lodging to maximize enjoyment of Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park and the surrounding Colorado River country.
 
“Arrangements made in advance help deliver the peace and privacy you expect when surrounded by this natural playground,” Wright said. In fact, for early bird planners, Moab Adventure Center is offering excursions in 2022 at 2021 rates when booked this season. (www.moabadventurecenter.com/moab-lodging)
 
The company has seen growing demand unleashed by the desire to return to nature and outdoor recreation. Compared to their record 2019 season, programs have seen phenomenal growth through the end of July 2021, including Moab Zipline Adventure, Arches National Park Sunset Discovery, The Ultimate Moab Canyoneering AdventureMoab Hummer Tours, and Full-Day Colorado River Rafting Adventure.

 “Making reservations well in advance of arrival helps assure that we can gear up to accommodate your specific adventure requests,” Wright said. “Now is the perfect time to plan for a fall escape to Moab. Everyone loves autumn in Moab. Just about every trip operates right through the end of October and all land-based tours through mid-November.” 
 
Moab Adventure Center is a division of Western River Expeditions (http://www.westernriver.com/) an adventure travel company headquartered in Salt Lake City, with operations and offices in Moab and Fredonia, AZ. The company is the largest single tour provider in Moab, Utah. The Moab Adventure Center is located at 225 South Main St., Moab, UT 84532. For information and reservations please call (435) 259-7019 or (866) 904-1163. The center also has a 2,000-square-foot retail space selling adventure related gear, clothing, maps and souvenirs. Visit https://www.moabadventurecenter.com/.

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Escape Adventures Introduces 5-Day Mountain Biking Tour Across Bears Ears National Monument

Escape Adventures is introducing a 5-day mountain biking tour across the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument.

(Moab, Utah) — Escape Adventures is introducing a 5-day mountain biking tour across the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument.

The trip starts at Edge of the Cedars Museum in Blanding, Utah, a 19th century Mormon settlement, and climbs high into the Abajo Mountains. Highlights include an array of archaeological sites and ruins, The Notch, Duck Lake, Sego Flat, Reef of Rocks, Maverick Point Overlook, Skull and Crossbones, The Causeway, and Jackson Ridge. Wildlife is abundant, and views atop the Abajo Mountains extend for 75-miles in all directions. This first-class camping tour starts at $1,299 per person. For more info, visit https://escapeadventures.com/tour/bears-ears-mountain-bike-tour/. View the full itinerary here

“This roughly 80-mile mountain biking tour covers a broad expanse of red rock, juniper forests and high plateau, while exposing riders to early human and Native American historical artifacts,” said Escape Adventures Director, Jared Fisher. 

Named after a pair of monumental 2,000-ft twin buttes, Bears Ears National Monument is a remarkable remnant of 200-million year old sand dunes. Capped in shades of pale orange to light red sandstone, the Bears Ears formation is so distinctive it can be seen, even at great distance, from nearly every direction. Framed by Dark Canyon Wilderness and the Beef Basin to the west, Comb Ridge on the east, the Grand Gulch Plateau and Cedar Mesa to the south and Canyonlands National Park to the north, this mountain bike tour takes riders through the most unique and historical landmarks southeast Utah has to offer. 

All internal land expenses and services are covered in the cost of the tour, including all transportation, food preparation, meals, snacks, non-alcoholic beverages, group supplies and community gear are included. Backcountry permits, licenses, park fees, reservations, and accommodations are also included, along with at least two professionally trained trip leaders, a mobile first aid and mechanic station, spare bikes, and a support vehicle(s). Trip price does not include airfare, lodging prior to trip start or bicycle rental and/or camping gear unless otherwise noted on itinerary or website.

More information at https://escapeadventures.com/

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New York State Forms Partners with Tentrr for Glamping Sites in Four State Parks in Hudson Valley

Tentrr camping site at the Sebago area of Harriman State Park, New York. The tenting service has a partnership with New York State to provide 45 glamping sites at four state parks in the Hudson Valley.

New York State is partnering with a tent camping service to provide 45 glamping sites at four State Parks in the Hudson Valley. Tentrr’s fully outfitted campsites are available to reserve at the Sebago and Silver Mine areas of Harriman State Park in Orange and Rockland Counties; Taconic State Park and Lake Taghkanic State Park in Columbia County; and Mills-Norrie State Park in Dutchess County.

The service provides tents, sleeping accommodations and an array of equipment needed for camping at each site. All items are set up and ready to use upon arrival for added convenience and sites are maintained by Tentrr staff.

All locations include a 10-foot by 12-foot, canvas-walled tent atop a raised platform. Each site is outfitted with a queen-sized bed and memory foam mattress, a propane heating source, a solar-powered “sun” shower, a camp toilet, water container, Adirondack chairs, a fire pit, grill, and a picnic table with storage and benches.  

Guests have the option of single, double, and triple sites. Singles sleep up to six (two occupants in the main tent and four occupants in a provided pop-up tent). Double sites – or buddy sites – sleep up to 12 (two occupants in each of the two main tents and four occupants in each of the two provided pop-up tents) and triples can accommodate group camping. 

“Camping at a State Park is an ideal way to explore the great outdoors with friends and family,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “This partnership continues our work to create diverse and exciting destinations to attract visitors to New York’s great outdoors, enhance our tourism economy, and help people experience all that the State has to offer.”

“The partnership with Tentrr is an opportunity to reach new visitors and encourage more New Yorkers to get outside and be active,” State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said. “We look forward to kicking off this summer and connecting people with the Hudson Valley’s many outdoor offerings. Not everyone has the equipment or the knowledge to enjoy camping in a state park, and this partnership is a great way to introduce this classic outdoor experience to more New Yorkers.” 

“As a New York City-based company, it is great to partner with our home state supporting its incredible park system across the region,” said Todd King, Vice President of Marketing at Tentrr. “Through Tentrr, we hope New Yorkers and out-of-state visitors alike will explore the incredible natural resources and parks the state has to offer. Tentrr makes it easy to find an amazing site to enjoy the state’s vast landscapes and inspiring scenery.”

New York State Executive Director of Tourism Ross D. Levi said,”Camping is a terrific way to experience New York State’s great outdoors, and this new service will make it easier than ever to enjoy New York’s unparalleled State Parks. I LOVE NY looks forward to promoting the availability of these extensively outfitted sites as part of the wide variety of camping offerings available across the state to residents and visitors alike.”

While Tentrr’s sites are naturally socially distanced, Tentrr adheres to state guidelines for maintaining and sanitizing the sites. Tentrr will continue to keep sites clean and wiped down with high-grade sanitizers and encourages guests to follow recommended COVID requirements and protocols. For more details on Tentrr’s COVID-19 protocols, visit here

The Tentrr partnership complements Governor Cuomo’s NY Parks 100 initiative, which renews the historic commitment to investing and expanding the State Park system by committing at least $440 million over the next four years. This critical period of revitalization will culminate in the 2024 celebration of the 100th anniversary of the State Park Act, which first created our nation-leading State Park system in 1924 under Governor Al Smith. NY Parks 100 will continue crucial investments in park infrastructure while enhancing opportunities to reach the full range of New York State’s recreational and cultural offerings, including local parks and trails, regional flagship parks and historic sites, and vast wilderness parks. The initiative will focus on creating places to recreate locally, relieving overcrowded parks, welcoming new visitors, and protecting New York State’s environmental and historic legacy. This new plan will ensure people from all communities and across all ages and abilities can fully experience our outdoors, our culture, and our heritage. 

For more information, visit www.tentrr.com.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which were visited by a record 78 million in 2020. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit www.parks.ny.gov, connect with us on Facebook, or follow on Instagram Twitter or on the State Parks blog.

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ExploreBetter Online Guide Aids Summer Travel Planning to National Parks

National Park concessionaire Delaware North launches online guide to make extraordinary outdoor adventures in America’s most iconic natural destinations more accessible for all

Hiking the John Muir Trail, Yosemite National Park. With travelers flocking to national parks this summer, national park concessionaire Delaware North has launched ExploreBetter.com, an online guide to aid planning © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Americans are dusting off their bucket lists ahead of summer travel season, and iconic natural destinations such as Yosemite, Yellowstone and Grand Canyon National Parks are high on their lists. ExploreBetter.com is an online lifestyle platform that can simplify travel planning and make extraordinary outdoor adventures more accessible to first-time and even experienced National Park and other outdoor enthusiasts. 

Already, the national parks are among the most popular destinations being snapped up by travelers bursting to get out after a year of confinement. And just in time, the CDC has lifted masking and social distance requirements for those who are fully vaccinated; it is expected that the mask requirement will also been lifted for federal buildings and federal lands. At this writing, masks were still required on airplanes, trains, buses and at airports and ports.

ExploreBetter.com shares trip-planning destination insights, accommodations, activities and inspiration featuring Grand Canyon, Olympic, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks as well as New York’s Niagara Falls State Park. In addition to crowd-pleasing activities such as guided tours and other sightseeing suggestions, ExploreBetter.com is also the place for inside tips on active adventures like rock climbingfishing and stargazing as well as romantic, wellness-oriented and even pet-friendly activities.

With content curated by site publisher and long-time National Park concessionaire Delaware North, ExploreBetter.com draws on insider knowledge of the parks and surrounding regions. The site plans to include contributions from members of the Bay Area Travel Writers, one of the country’s oldest regional professional travel journalist organizations, in the near future.

“First-time visits to National Parks can be overwhelming, and even seasoned visitors need fresh ideas. We’re simplifying travel planning so first-time visitors can plan with confidence and experienced visitors can always find new and exciting reasons to return,” explained Andy Grinsfelder, vice president of sales and marketing for Delaware North’s parks and resorts division. “As partners in the stewardship of many of these iconic destinations, we want visitors to experience unforgettable moments and forge deeper connections, not just with one another, but with their surroundings.”

With 2020 National Park visitation down by roughly 90 million visitors due to pandemic travel restrictions, ExploreBetter.com is intended to help encourage and restore responsible and sustainable visitation to National Parks and other iconic destinations. An upswing in National Park visitation was seen in data collected by U.S. Travel beginning in the spring of 2021, which fits with research that shows Americans continue to desire leisure trips to outdoor locations that are safe, socially distant and allow them to relax, disconnect, spend time with family and have new experiences. 

At the lodging properties it operates, Delaware North last year implemented its Rest Assured Commitment to Care comprehensive health and safety program, including re-engineered operating procedures to minimize contact risk and bolstered hygiene protocols aligned with guidelines of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Delaware North Parks and Resorts operates lodging, food, beverage and retail services, recreational activities, and educational programming at destinations in North America, Australia and New Zealand. This includes lodging in and near many iconic national and state parks, including Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Shenandoah, Sequoia & Kings Canyon and Olympic National Parks and Niagara Falls State Park, as well as at cultural attractions such as Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. To learn more about Delaware North’s hospitality management expertise, visit https://www.delawarenorth.com/divisions/parks

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NYS Launches ‘Empire State Trail Challenge’ on New 750-Mile Recreation Trail

Set A Goal To Run, Walk, or Bicycle the New 750-Mile Recreation Trail This Spring

Registration Is Now Open Here For Four-Month Challenge

Biking over the Rosendale Trestle, 150 feet above the Rondout Creek, on the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, part of the 750-mile New York Empire State Trail network. The Empire State Trail has formed a partnership with the nationally-known Boilermaker race to create the “Empire State Trail Challenge” – a four-month virtual race where participants can register and log their miles to reach milestones tied to virtual progress along the Empire State Trail.  
© Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Empire State Trail has formed a partnership with the nationally-known Boilermaker race to create the “Empire State Trail Challenge” – a four-month virtual race where participants can register and log their miles to reach milestones tied to virtual progress along the Empire State Trail.  

Earlier this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced completion of the Trail, now the nation’s longest multi-use state trail. Following New York’s historic canal systems and rail trails, the new recreational trail spans the state from New York City to Canada and from Albany to Buffalo, and gives bicyclists, hikers, runners, cross-country skiers, snowshoers and others a safe and scenic pathway to experience New York State’s incredibly diverse landscapes.

“The Empire State Trail Challenge brings together two giants of outdoor recreation in New York State – our new 750-mile Empire State Trail and Utica’s classic Boilermaker race,” Governor Cuomo said. “As we continue to come back from the COVID-19 health crisis, the challenge is a great way to show how we can have fun and be New York Tough at the same time. I encourage any interested New Yorkers to participate in this exciting event on our incredible new statewide trail.” 

The Boilermaker organization has held a 15-kilometer running race in Utica since 1978, which has grown into one of the largest 15K races in the country, attracting 10,000 to 15,000 participants annually. With the Boilermaker and most in-person races postponed due to COVID, the virtual Empire State Trail Challenge initiative will engage participants and provide a unique race experience throughout the spring season. 

“Creating opportunities for healthy activity and lifestyles lies at the core of the Boilermaker mission,” Boilermaker Marketing Director Jordan Peters said. “So it was a natural fit to work in concert with New York State to provide New Yorkers with an opportunity to get outside and participate in a safe and healthy endeavor while highlighting the features of the Empire State Trail.”

The Boilermaker Empire State Trail Challenge is a four-month virtual race through July 31. Participants can register now and begin logging their miles walking, running or cycling on Friday, April 9. Participants would complete the mileage of at least one leg of the Empire State Trail: either the Hudson Valley Trail: 210 miles (New York City to Albany); the Erie Canalway Trail: 350 miles (Albany to Buffalo); or the Champlain Valley: 190 miles (Albany to Canada Border at Rouses Point). Participants can sign up as teams or individuals. For more information or to register, visit the website.

Although people are encouraged to the explore the actual Empire State Trail, participants can run, walk, or ride anywhere geographically, on local trails and running/bicycling routes near where they live to log and complete the challenge.

Each entrant would receive a t-shirt with their $25 entrance fee for a single leg of the trail. If interested, participants can register for additional legs at the time of registration or any time during the race period at $5 per leg. Challenge participants will enter their mileage on an online platform over the duration of the race window, reaching milestones tied to virtual progress along the Empire State Trail, and have the ability to share their experiences on social media.

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “The Empire State Trail Challenge is one of the ways we are building back better at our state parks and trails. Our parks and trails have been safe and healthy outlets for everyone during the pandemic. Whether enjoying a fun nature break with friends and family, or truly testing their limits, the Empire State Trail Challenge offers participants of all ages and abilities a rewarding and socially distanced opportunity to enjoy New York’s outdoors.”

“The partnership with the Boilermaker is a great way to introduce the Empire State Trail to those across New York State and the nation who take part in the storied race every year,” Empire State Trail Director Andy Beers said. “The Empire State Trail is an ideal pathway for runners, bicyclists, and walkers to get outside and exercise, while learning about the iconic landscapes, local communities, and historic and cultural attractions along the 750-mile trail. 

Director of the New York State Canal Corporation Brian U. Stratton said, “This exciting new partnership will offer thousands of New Yorkers and Boilermaker runners from around the country a chance to see the very best of our state, encouraging safe and responsible outdoor recreation along the lengths of the Empire State Trail. Governor Cuomo’s ongoing Reimagine the Canals program is based on forward-looking partnerships like this, which bring together communities and New Yorkers to lift up local economies and showcase the exceptional history of the Erie Canal, as well as the tremendous upgrades and new attractions being constructed along its banks.”

“The Empire State Trail is the newest jewel in New York State’s tourism crown and the Challenge is an opportunity to promote the trail to those looking for unique ways to experience the great outdoors,” New York State Executive Director of Tourism Ross D. Levi said. “We hope that events like the Empire State Trail Challenge inspire more people to utilize the trail as a centerpiece of a getaway to the many the communities it touches across the state.”

The Empire State Trail website provides quick and easy access to trail information along the 750-mile route including segment descriptions and an on-line map identifying off-road trails connecting on-road sections, trail distances, designated parking areas, restrooms, and nearby amenities and attractions.

See also:

Cycle the Erie 8-Day, 400-Mile Bike Adventure Registration Now Open for Limited 350 Spots

NEW YORK’S EMPIRE STATE TRAIL COMES TOGETHER: BIKING THE WALLKILL VALLEY RAIL TRAIL IN HUDSON VALLEY

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New York State Launches Adopt-a-Trailhead Volunteer Program

Hiking New York’s Adirondacks. NYS has created a new program of trailhead volunteers to assist with the stewardship of trailheads across the state and educate trail users before they enter the backcountry. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York State has launched a new initiative to assist with the stewardship of trailheads across the state and educate trail users before they enter the backcountry. Introduced in the Governor’s 2021 State of the State address, the Adopt-a-Trailhead program is managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and gives the public the opportunity to support State-led efforts to care for state lands and educate fellow visitors on the value of responsible recreation.

“Over this last year, we have seen record numbers of New Yorkers and visitors utilizing our world-class trails and natural areas while seeking a break from the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “As New York remains fully committed to making sustained investments in our natural resources and responsibly increasing opportunities for outdoor recreation on state lands, this new program offers an excellent volunteering opportunity for New Yorkers to help the State ensure our trails are ready for the growing number of hikers and visitors.”

In recent years, particularly in 2020 as New Yorkers eagerly pursued safe outdoor recreation experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, the State has seen an increase in the number of visitors to parks, lands, and trails. Outdoor recreation has been a crucial part of helping New Yorkers stay active, spend time with immediate household and family members, and reduce stress and anxiety. Consistent with the NY Forward phased reopening plan, New Yorkers are encouraged to recreate locally in their region (PDF). Each of the state’s 10 REDC regions have a wide variety of recreational opportunities available for the public to explore and enjoy. While this uptick provides an opportunity for more New Yorkers to explore the state’s scenic natural areas, many of these new users are inexperienced in back-country recreation, leading to mistakes that are potentially harmful to themselves and the environment.  

Adopt-a-Trailhead volunteers will bolster ongoing efforts to eliminate litter problems and educate trail users about hiker preparedness, thus eliminating the amount of trash left at trailheads and encouraging proper disposal of human waste while in the woods. DEC land managers will be identifying trailheads that will benefit most from the new program. Volunteers and DEC will continue to encourage hikers to Hike Smart NY and follow the seven principles of Leave No Trace while hiking. LNT is a set of outdoor ethics developed to educate recreationists on how to best enjoy the outdoors while minimizing their impact. In addition, DEC continues to encourage visitors to the Adirondacks to seek out nearby alternative hikes that provide an experience similar to a High Peaks hike, including great scenic views, but with fewer people.

“New York’s public lands and trails are beloved by thousands of visitors in every corner of the state,” Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said. ”The new Adopt-a-Trailhead program provides New Yorkers who are committed to caring for public lands with the opportunity to help DEC sustain and maintain these natural assets for future generations, as well as for their own enjoyment.”

Introduced in Governor Cuomo’s 2021 State of the State Address, the Adopt-a-Trailhead program is an initiative to enhance opportunities to encourage outdoor recreation and empower volunteers to help maintain trailheads. Groups interested in volunteering for the program should submit an Adopt-a-Trailhead volunteer application to volunteer.stewardship@dec.ny.gov (emailed applications are preferred) or via mail to: NYSDEC, Division of Lands and Forests, Attn: Adopt-a-Trailhead Coordinator, 625 Broadway, 5th Floor, Albany, NY 12233.

After applications are approved, groups and individuals will be assigned to a trailhead in their area. Participation in the Adopt-a-Trailhead program will include:

  • A series of online training courses focused on LNT principles, visitor interaction, and visitor education; 
  • Virtual meetings with DEC program staff to answer questions and share suggestions;
  • Spending time at assigned trailheads during weekend mornings, including holiday weekends and some Friday afternoons, depending on the location; and
  • Monthly reports highlighting statistics such as number of volunteers that participated and number of hours spent at the trailhead.

“Empowering trail users to enjoy natural areas safely and responsibly is exactly what is needed to help ensure these special places aren’t subject to misuse—accidental or otherwise,” New York-New Jersey Trail Conference Executive Director Joshua Howard said. “The Adopt a Trailhead program will allow more visitors to get the one-on-one guidance and education that we have seen to be so effective through our Trail Steward program on the Catskill summits. We are proud supporters of this initiative and the opportunity it presents to share Leave No Trace principles and best practices with the growing number of new and returning visitors to public lands.”

“ADK greatly supports this new statewide Adopt-a-Trailhead volunteer program,” Executive Director of Adirondack Mountain Club Michael Barrett said. “In-person educators at trailheads are a powerful way to both help visitors enjoy the outdoors responsibly and ignite a passion for taking care of public lands well into the future.”

New Yorkers getting outdoors should use common sense in planning outdoor activities because public facilities like restrooms or other amenities may not be available. Use the DECinfo Locator to find DEC-managed resources and visit DEC’s website for more information. DEC continues to remind outdoor enthusiasts to be SMART when recreating this year:

  • Socially distance at least six feet apart;
  • Mask – Wear one when you cannot maintain social distancing, especially in parking lots and along footpaths;
  • Avoid sharing gear when possible;
  • Respect your fellow anglers and the resource by providing space and practicing ethical angling; and
  • Take out what you bring in or place trash in receptacles.

The AAT program supports DEC’s comprehensive and ongoing efforts to sustainably manage increased visitation to public lands and will provide important information to guide future land management decisions. The program also complements recommendations included in the High Peaks Advisory Group’s final report on promoting sustainable recreation in the Adirondack Park. Comprised of stakeholders with expertise in local government, recreation, natural resource protection, business, and tourism, in 2019 the HPAG was tasked with providing DEC with recommendations on how to address critical issues associated with increased public use of High Peaks resources in order to protect these areas in the short and long term, as well as for future generations. Visit the DEC website to read the report.

For more information on the AAT program, visit DEC’s website here.

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6 Post Vaccination Vacations

Blacksford is a new recreational vehicle rental business with an all-inclusive pricing model that includes unlimited miles, no generator fees, bedding, bath and kitchen supplies, free Wi-Fi, free annual national park pass and 24-hour roadside assistance. Blacksford also curates road trip experiences.

President Joe Biden’s recent announcement that the United States will have enough coronavirus vaccines for all adults by the end of May – two months earlier than previously thought – is promising news for travelers. Precautions will still need to be taken, of course, but domestic travel is likely to be popular again this summer, highlighted by national parks, active trips and travel where physical distancing is possible. Here are six dream vacations to take this summer once you’ve gotten your shots.

1. Long-Weekend Cycling: Adventure Cycling Association is offering a new collection of long-weekend tours close metropolitan areas to make it easy to give bike travel a try. Options include taking in the crisp mountain air and stunning vistas while cycling around the stunning Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border, or leaving behind the hustle and bustle of New York City to bike up the Hudson River valley and visit peaceful state parks. https://www.adventurecycling.org/guided-tours/long-weekend-tours/

2. Greater Yellowstone Adventures: A stay at The Wilson Hotel in Big Sky, Montana, offers the opportunity to explore the surrounding mountains, rivers and Yellowstone National Park. Go hiking through shaded forests and wildflower-filled alpine meadows, float or fly fish a clear, cool river, experience the adrenaline rush of lift-served mountain biking at Big Sky Resort, or tour the natural wonders and wildlife of Yellowstone. https://thewilsonhotel.com/

3. Explore National Parks by RV: Blacksford is a new recreational vehicle rental business with an all-inclusive pricing model that includes unlimited miles, no generator fees, bedding, bath and kitchen supplies, free Wi-Fi, free annual national park pass and 24-hour roadside assistance. Blacksford also curates road trip experiences by connecting travelers with vetted campsites, guides and other hand-picked attractions. https://www.blacksford.com  

4. Channel Your Inner Cowboy: “Yellowstone,” the wildly popular cable television series starring Kevin Costner, has sparked newfound interest in luxury dude ranch vacations. Red Reflet Ranch, a 28,000-acre guest ranch in Ten Sleep, Wyoming, has experienced a surge of guests booking five-figure vacations because of their love for the series. Guests stay in fully-stocked private cabins and enjoy farm-to-table cuisine while participating in equestrian programs, cattle branding, hiking, mountain biking, ATVing, fly fishing, shooting, family-friendly activities and cooking classes. https://red-reflet-ranch.net/

5. Idaho Hot Springs, Camping and Cycling: Escape Adventures is excited to offer a multiday cycling tour showcasing Idaho’s magnificent Sawtooth Range and some of the state’s most scenic natural hot springs. The tour includes five days of transfixing road rides – including over the highest paved road in the American Northwest – colorful mining towns, wild rivers and remote natural hot springs. https://escapeadventures.com/tour/sawtooth-mountains-idaho-road-bike-tour

6. Retreat to a Teton Tiny House: With sustainably built, LEED-certified “tiny house” cabins, Fireside Resort is Jackson Hole, Wyoming’s most innovative take on resort town lodging. The resort embraces modern, yet rustic design and presents a fresh approach to luxury lodging. Nestled in a wooded setting at the foot of the Teton Range, the cabins allow guests to get back to nature while enjoying the intimacy of a boutique hotel and the ambiance of their own cozy residence. https://www.firesidejacksonhole.com/

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