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  • Writer's pictureBryan Donoghue

National Park News: December 2021

Wildfire Recovery, Eco-Friendly Transportation, Tribal Historic Preservation Agreements, and More!

Crater Lake in Oregon looks mighty cold this time of year, with snow ringing the banks of the lake, snow covering the trees of Wizard Hat Island, and what looks to be a mighty storm brewing overhead

Crater Lake National Park, OR - Photo Credit: Chris Blake


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Tall, majestic Giant Sequoias tower over visitors at Sequoia National Park in California

Sequoia National Park, CA - Photo Credit: Abby Voce

Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park to Reopen on Limited Basis In Wake of Devastating Wildfires

Beginning this past Saturday, the Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park has once again opened to the public for the first time since September - albeit on a limited schedule. For the next few weeks, the home of the General Sherman Tree will be open 4 days per week, 8am through sunset, though it will stay open seven days per week between Christmas and New Year's Day to accommodate an expected increase in visitors. At that point, officials will reassess the sustainability of the expanded schedule to determine days/hours to open throughout the new year. Some roads, trails, and areas of the park will remain closed, and other restrictions may apply, so it’s important to check the park’s website prior to any trip.

The Giant Forest has been closed since mid-September 2021, as result of the KNP Complex and Windy Wildfires that ravaged the region this past Fall. These two fires caused the death of up to 3,600 large Giant Sequoias (classified as any larger than 4 feet in diameter) - as much as 5% of the world’s population of these magnificent trees. While these numbers are indeed devastating, they actually represent a reduction from the previous year, when the Castle Fire destroyed up to 14% of this population. This is yet another example of the horrendous effects of unchecked climate change, as increased temperatures and drier conditions have led to even hotter droughts, leading to changes in how wildfires burn and impact the forests of the area.


The view from Bunsen Peak in Yellowstone National Park is breathtaking - the valley below looks inviting indeed

Bunsen Peak Summit: Yellowstone National Park, WY: Photo Credit: Andrew Helmbrecht

National Park Service to Introduce Eco-Friendly Transit Options Within Parks

Thanks to the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure bill, up to $1.5 billion per year has been earmarked for the National Park Service to implement changes within individual parks to renovate and repair existing structure, as well as implement innovative new tools designed to alleviate the burdens of increased visitation to parks across the country.

Yellowstone National Park, which has seen nearly 5 million visitors in 2021, is predicting the number of visitor vehicles to overwhelm the capabilities of the park by 2023, and therefore has been implementing automated shuttles to help alleviate this growing demand. Similarly, Zion National Park expects to add dozens of electric shuttles (and electric car charging stations) in early 2022. Other parks are planning to introduce electric scooters and bikes as zero-emissions methods of transportation for their visitors.


Triumphant hikers take a much-earned break at the top of Angels Landing in Zion National Park, Utah. This hike will require reservations in 2022

Angels Landing: Zion National Park, UT - Photo Credit: Falco Rodriguez

NPS to Implement Permit Program for Iconic Angels Landing Hike in Zion National Park

Beginning April 1, 2022, any visitors to Zion National Park in Southwestern Utah who plan to hike the iconic Angels Landing trail will require a permit to do so. Those permits will be allotted via lottery system at, with the first lottery opening on January 3, 2022. Information on how to register for this and future lotteries can be found here.

The permit system is being implemented on a pilot program basis to alleviate overcrowding and congestion on the trail, as Parks across the country seek innovative strategies to accommodate the vast increases in visitors experienced since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. A nominal fee will be charged for each application, which covers up to 6 people for the hike. Strict restrictions apply for cancellations and/or date changes for these permits, so make sure your group’s plans are set in stone prior to initiating the application process.


Sunset ignites the sky over the Ute Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado

Ute Trail, CO - Photo Credit: Chris Blake

New Historic Preservation Agreements Signed between NPS and Native American Tribes

The National Park Service has partnered with seven additional Native American tribes across seven states to ensure tribal interests are properly represented when historic preservation plans are developed and implemented in these areas. These seven new tribes join 200 others across the country that have taken over preservation duties that would otherwise be the responsibility of individual state authorities. This program is dedicated to the preservation and protection of resources and traditions that are of importance to Native Americans, and offers grants and other tools to facilitate this preservation.

The seven new tribes introduced to this program are the Cowlitz in Washington, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in Texas, the Southern Ute Tribe in Colorado, Resighini Rancheria in California, The Utes of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation in Utah, the Santo Domingo Pueblos of New Mexico, and the Moapa Band of Paiutes in Nevada.


Yet another sunset, the golden rays of this one presenting start contrast to the blackness of the mountains of  Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

Sunset over Grand Teton National Park, WY - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan

Grand Teton National Park Moves All Campground Reservations to

Park authorities for popular camping destination Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming have consolidated reservation systems for all campgrounds within the park over to in anticipation of a busy Summer 2022 season. Private companies, local call centers, and websites utilized for reservations in the past will no longer be valid - for RV and tent sites alike. Other parks that have introduced improvements to their reservation systems have experienced shortened lines, reduced wait times, and an overall improvement in traffic conditions throughout the park. Campgrounds within the park open for the summer 2022 season as early as April 29th, and reservations using the new system are available up to six months in advance.


The Utahn desert looks cold indeed - Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah is blanketed with snow, contrasting with the pinks and purples of the sunrise above.

Bryce Canyon National Park, UT - Photo Credit: Chris Blake

Winter Options Abound at National Parks Across Country

While the weather may not be as conducive to hiking and camping in National Parks across the country as it may have been several months ago, dozens of parks are still offering plenty of in-person and virtual options for recreation throughout the holiday season and beyond. Get in the festive spirit with a holiday song, liven up your apartment’s living room with a crackling fire, or plan out a trip to take a train ride, a First Day Hike, explore a cave, or just take a simple drive through the winter editions of some of the most beautiful regions of the country!


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