August 17, 2009

Our National Parks, Part I

In honor of Ken Burn's documentary, "The National Parks, America's Best Idea," coming this fall, we're highlighting a few of our nation's topographic treasures.

This week: Yosemite National Park (Courtesy of National Geographic Traveler)
Location:Located in the Sierra Nevada range of California, the park is 195 miles east of San Francisco and 276 miles north of Los Angeles.

Vital Stats
Nearest airports: Fresno-Yosemite International, located 2.5 hours north on Highway 41. The San Francisco International airport is four hours east of Yosemite.

Established: Yosemite National Park was established in October 1890. Prior to the National Park Service (NPS), Yosemite was managed by the state and local congress. After the formation of the NPS, Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove were reinstated in 1906 back to the federal government to be included in the management of the NPS.

Size: 761,266 acres
Park website:
Snapshot: Recognized as a World Heritage site in 1984, Yosemite National Park covers over 745,000 acres of pristine wilderness filled with staggering cliffs, lakes, rivers, meadows, and a wealth of biological diversity. A haven to nature enthusiasts, artists, and families alike, the park is home to 800 miles of hiking trails, the tallest waterfall in the United States and the renowned giant sequoia groves.

Did You Know?
Towering more than 350 stories above Yosemite Valley, El Capitan is the largest exposed granite monolith in the world. By late August, Yosemite Falls are usually dry because the natural wonder relies solely on snowmelt. The peak flow is in late May and the falls return around October when the snow reappears. The park’s giant sequoia trees can live to be over 3,000 years old.

Scenic Drive
Approximately 48 miles in length, the Tioga Road is the most popular drive in Yosemite National Park. The road is the highest in the region, peaking at 9,945 feet at the Tioga Pass. The route winds through high peeks, meadows and creeks, allowing travelers to get a special view of the abundant wildlife in the park. Detour off of the main road to paths less traveled, including White Wolf, Siesta Lake, and the Red Fir Forest.

You can explore, navigate, and create custom maps of 25 of America's National Parks with our digital mapping software, on sale for a limited time here:

August 12, 2009

Free National Park Weekend

This weekend is another FREE pass to our National Parks.
Matthew Daly in Washington, D.C. Associated Press June 15, 2009

The U.S. National Park Service is looking to stimulate summer vacations at national parks, starting this weekend.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced earlier this month that entrance fees at 147 national parks and monuments—including the Grand Canyon and Yosemite—will be waived on three weekends this summer. The weekends are June 20 and 21, July 18 and 19, and August 15 and 16.

"During these tough economic times, our national parks provide opportunities for affordable vacations for families," Salazar said at a news conference at Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio.

"I encourage everyone to visit one of our nation's crown jewels this summer and especially to take advantage of the three free-admission weekends."

Most Americans live less than a day's drive from a national park, Salazar said. Last year national parks attracted more than 275 million visits, generating an estimated U.S. $10.6 billion for local economies and supporting more than 213,000 jobs, he said.

For the Park Service, the free weekends will mean a loss of an estimated half million dollars a day from entrance fees that range from $3 to $25. A total of 147 parks and monuments charge entrance fees. The country's other 244 parks are already free.

Kendra Barkoff, a spokesperson for Salazar, said the lost revenue should be more than offset by an increase in park tourism. Many tour operators, hotels, restaurants, gift shops, and other vendors near national parks will offer other discounts and special promotions on the free-weekend dates, she said.

The waiver applies only to entrance fees and does not affect charges for camping, reservations, tours, or concessions, Salazar said.

Senator Max Baucus, a Democrat representing Montana, applauded the free weekends. Baucus has co-sponsored a bill that would cap park entrance fees at current rates unless approved by Congress. The bill also would limit fees on national forests and other federally managed lands.

"There is nothing better than spending a weekend in Glacier or Yellowstone, and to be able to do it without straining the budget is even better," Baucus said in a statement. "Folks should be able to enjoy our outdoor heritage without going broke."

Kitty Benzar, president of the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition, a Colorado-based group that opposes fees on public lands, said Salazar's announcement was an admission that high fees are a deterrent to park visits.

"Twenty, 25 dollars does mean a lot to people," she said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

August 7, 2009

“Volunteering — a Way to Give Back When Money Isn’t an Option”

In today’s economy, parting with hard-earned dollars to support your favorite charity or cause just may not be feasible. Consider donating yourself and your time as a way to give back without impacting your piggy bank.

Here’s how Chris Knoll, a cartographer here at NatGeo Maps, is giving back:

As part of an ongoing effort to support access to some of Colorado’s most popular 14er mountains, I participated in a stewardship adventure with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado who partnered with Colorado Fourteeners Initiative. The main focus of this project was to work on building a sustainable trail up to 14,172 foot peak Mount Bross; which is near Fairplay, CO (90 miles southwest of Denver). Due to numerous unmarked mine shafts and a network of unmanaged social trails, access to the summit of Mount Bross was closed in 2006 until private land owners in conjunction with the US Forest Service can come to an agreement on the new route.

This is where the volunteers come in to action. Four crews totaling about forty people were given the task of stabilizing, reconstructing, and rerouting a trail leading up to Mt. Bross. The work included building sustainable portions of trail by installing rock steps where trail erosion is present, delineating one path up the mountain, and covering up social trails by re-vegetating these areas with native tundra plants that grow at higher elevations.

After work was completed each day, volunteers were fed by VOC staff, and were given the opportunity to socialize around the campfire and even take short hikes in the area. However, nights were called in early due to early 5:45 a.m. wake up calls.

All in all, the work that was completed over the weekend was meaningful and fun. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment knowing that one day, I will be able to hike a trail that I helped to construct.

For more information on non-profit volunteer groups mentioned in this article, check out, and

~Chris Knoll, Cartographer, National Geographic Maps