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National Park News: July 2021

Overcrowding, Flash Floods, Climate Change, Highlining & More!

a bird soars over the forest of Yosemite National Park in California, past El Capitan with Half Dome looming in the distance

Yosemite National Park, CA - Photo Credit: Paul Engel


National Park News is a monthly series for the Pathloom blog. Check out last month's edition here. Sign up for Pathloom Beta Access to be added to a mailing list for the latest news, weekly blog updates, and exclusive sneak peeks to upcoming posts.


an arch in Arches National Park is lit up brilliantly by the desert sun, highlighting the red of the sandstone, the green of the shrubbery, and some mysterious purple as well

Arches National Park, UT - Photo Credit: Falco Rodriguez

National Parks Overcrowding as Summer Arrives

The start of Summertime traditionally marks the seasonal flock of outdoor enthusiasts to National Parks and with reduced COVID-19 restrictions, National Parks are experiencing far more visitors than usual. After a decline in park visitations in 2019 and 2020, many of the most popular parks are experiencing a surge in attendance, especially in Yellowstone and the Great Smoky Mountains.

While many National Parks have implemented reservation systems, this initiative may have backfired as long lines and wait times frustrate newcomers and seasoned guests alike. Many lodgings and campgrounds have already been booked for the entire Summer, and continued efforts on the part of some parks to maintain physical distancing regulations has made these attractions even more exclusive than usual. This has created additional problems, as an influx of less experienced visitors has led to more trash being left behind and many hikers concerning park rangers by straying off of marked trails. Larger crowds also make it difficult for Parks to recover from climate change-related wildfires.

As an alternative, consider visiting lesser known places, including state parks and smaller city parks. As National Parks seem to always come to mind when planning outdoor trips, these smaller parks often get neglected - but still offer breathtaking sights. Still set on visiting National Parks? Research peak visitation hours and try to work around them. It might benefit you to wake up earlier and get there right as the park opens, so you can have a little privacy before the afternoon surge.


Flash floods have washed out thousands of pounds of mud, entire parking lots, and even park signage at Zion National Park in Utah

Zion National Park, UT - Photo Courtesy of St. George News

Flash Floods Cause Chaos at Zion National Park

Utah's flash flood season began with a vengeance on Tuesday, June 29th, as powerful thunderstorms caused flash flooding to wreak havoc throughout the park and surroundings. Though no casualties have been reported in this recent episode, floodwaters rushing through the narrow slot canyons have proven to be deadly in the past.

Several area businesses were devastated by the flood, including the recently renovated Zion Campfire Lodge located just outside the park, which will need to be torn down in entirety and rebuilt to resume business operations.

Though the park’s roads and trails have since re-opened, officials urge visitors to exercise extreme caution, and to expect delays and interruptions of services - especially considering additional storms are expected to wash through the area over the next few days. The flooding appears to have impacted nearby Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument as well, as two hikers needed to be airlifted to safety via helicopter.


With a backdrop of a beautiful sunset, Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park erupts majestically - but for how much longer before climate change takes its toll?

Yellowstone National Park, WY - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan

New Report Shows Climate Change Effects on Yellowstone National Park

A report from Montana State University, the US Geological Survey, and the University of Wyoming shows the effects of increasing global temperatures on Yellowstone National Park and surroundings. This report, published June 23, finds that temperatures in America’s oldest National Park are the highest in at least the last 20,000 years, and could be the highest in the past 800,000. Yellowstone temperatures have been increasing steadily over the past seventy years, by 2.3°F on average. Scientists say it most likely will not stop there, predicting an increase of 5-10°F in follow-up years.

What does this mean for the beloved park? First, Spring thaws will start several weeks earlier than usual and stream runoff will begin earlier as well, causing an influx of water in the region. The report also predicts a decline of snowfall with an increase of rainfall. Without reliable yearly snowfall, vegetation stays dry for much longer than normal, creating a mass of fuel for wildfires to ignite. This creates extreme safety hazards for visitors, and causes significant damage to the acreage of forests in the area. When exposed to excessive wildfires, many forests will most likely have a hard time replenishing themselves, meaning you may see grassland replace forests in many areas sooner than one would think.

Increased droughts may also lead to the famous Old Faithful Geyser, which has faithfully erupted every 74 minutes or so without exception for years upon years, to cease eruptions altogether!


Glacier National Park in all its striated, hazy glory

Glacier National Park, MT - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan

Glacier National Park's Going to the Sun Road is Open!

Montana's Glacier National Park is home to the famous Going to the Sun Road, a stretch of highway etched into the Rocky Mountains that allows you to see waterfalls, glaciers, and the stunning mountain ranges from a maximum height of 6,646 feet! This seasonal attraction is a great way to kick off the Summer, and enables you to see the park in its entirety without leaving your car. You will need a ticket to get onto the road, so make sure you get your passes here! Alternatively, you can take a shuttle with other guests if that’s more your speed. The road is only open for the Summer (until around mid-October), so don’t miss out!


Pink skies over snow capped mountains at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park, WY - Photo Credit: Sierra Jones

Wyoming Whiskey Raises $120k for National Park Foundation

Creative Director of Wyoming Whiskey, Harrison Ford, released a limited edition collection of artisanal whiskey inspired by the beauty of Wyoming National Parks, entitled Wide Open Spaces | By Air. The collection includes four exclusive bottles that are all named after locations within Yellowstone and Grand Teton, including Black Sand Basin and Hayden Valley. Each one-of-a-kind bottle features aerial photos from the parks captured by photographer Tuck Fauntleroy, and comes with a hand-carved wooden case created by artist Jamison Sellers.

In partnership with the National Park Foundation, each bottle was auctioned off in a virtual auction, with one bottle inspired by Yellowstone Lake selling for $15,000. To accompany the auction, Wyoming Whiskey also launched the Wide Open Spaces virtual exhibit to showcase the inspiration behind the collection as well as the team’s commitment to preserving the National Parks in the state. The brand also launched a new National Parks Limited Edition Bourbon Whiskey, with intention to give $5 of each bottle sold to the National Park Foundation.


Hoodoos and bizarre red rock formations stretch as far as the eye can see in Cedar Breaks in Utah

Cedar Breaks National Monument, UT - Photo Credit: Jim Witkowski

Annual Wildflower Festival Held in Cedar Breaks, Utah - 7/2-7/11

This year’s Cedar Breaks Wildflower Festival will be hosted from July 2-11 in Cedar City, Utah. This festival highlights the wildflowers that bloom in Cedar Breaks National Monument and along the rim of the Cedar Breaks Amphitheater. Utah wildflowers are a real treat to the eyes, as 260 species of wildflowers bloom in the Summer months - painting the park in vibrant color. The park offers Wildflower walks four times per day at 9:30am, 11am, 1pm, and 2:30pm. These mile-long walks along the Sunset Trail meet in the Picnic Area and last about 45 minutes.

In addition to this, the National Park Service has partnered with the Southern Utah Museum of Art to invite local artists into the park on the last day of the festival on Sunday, July 11th. These artists will stand at the park’s overlooks and create paintings inspired by the wildflowers and scenery around the park. Guests are encouraged to speak with these artists about their works to get a sense of their artistic process.


The night sky is lit up by countless stars, somewhere in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in eastern California

Night Sky in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, CA - Photo Credit: Bryan Donoghue

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument to Host Night Sky Program - July 9

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Teller County, Colorado will be hosting a series of programs in conjunction with the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society to gaze at stars, planets, and constellations with presentations and guided viewing. Participants will be able to view the night sky in all its majesty, as the National Monument is an hour away from any sort of light pollution that would hinder the experience. From the mountains, visitors will be able to see the Milky Way, star clusters, nebulae, comets, and so much more!

Each program will begin at the visitors center, and the event is free with the $10 entry fee into the National Monument. Entry is free for children under 15, and the park offers a free Junior Ranger Program to encourage youth participation. This park is something of a hidden gem compared to the more popular counterparts in the state, so it tends to be far less crowded. Conveniently located about an hour outside Colorado Springs, this park is an easily accessible place to escape from the city and explore 15 miles of hiking trails.


An insane badass walks a tightrope strung between Taft Point and God knows what else in Yosemite National Park in California

Taft Point: Yosemite National Park, CA - Photo Credit: Casey Horner

Two Brothers Set Record for Longest Highline Ever Walked in California

Moises and Daniel Monterrubio set records last week by crossing a 2,800-foot gap on a high wire in Yosemite National Park. The brothers, along with a few of their friends, spent a week stringing the line from Taft Point across several ravines that plunge 1,600 feet down, to make sure the void was crossable and that their anchor points at either side were secure. After the week’s setup and with explicit permission from park rangers, the brothers and 18 of their friends took turns crossing the highline, several falling in the process. Highline walkers are protected by waist harnesses so these falls weren’t catastrophic, but the goal for most walkers is obviously to cross the entire line without falling.

The group took turns walking the line for four days straight, trying to perfect their delicate balance and likely facing some intense fears. Daniel was the first to make it all the way across, though he fell and regained his composure a few times in the process. However, it was Moises who was able to complete the line without falling in just 37 minutes - as did his mentor, Eugen Cepoi.

The previous record for longest highline walked in Yosemite was 954 feet, also extending from Taft Point. This walk was almost three times that length - over a half mile in distance while suspended a quarter mile above the ground!


National Park News is a monthly series for the Pathloom blog. Check out last month's edition here. Sign up for Pathloom Beta Access to be added to a mailing list for the latest news, weekly blog updates, and exclusive sneak peeks to upcoming posts.


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