Tag Archives: tips

Tips for Planning a Successful Group Camping Trip

Contributed by Katie Levy of Adventure-Inspired

Group Camping with several tents in the woods

Image: Katie Levy

With prime camping season around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about trip planning if you haven’t already. And when it comes to spending a night (or several) outdoors, sharing that experience with a group of people can be incredibly rewarding.

After going on multiple camping trips with friends and local outdoor clubs, I’ve learned that a handful of key things planned, or not planned, in advance can make or break a group camping trip. If you’re hoping to get a group camping trip in this spring or summer, keep these things in mind.

Make campground reservations far in advance.

One of my favorite things about camping during the off-season is not having to worry about finding a campsite. Most people aren’t interested in camping in the snow, making it easy to drive to a campground and find a last-minute spot. But with some of the most popular camping months around the corner, campgrounds are going to get crowded.

If you’re planning on staying in a campground with a group, look for group sites that accommodate large numbers of people and snag them ahead of time. Some campgrounds don’t have group sites, and if they do, there are typically only a few. You can also look for campgrounds that allow you to reserve sites next to or across from each other if group camping isn’t available. My friends and I did that on a trip to Acadia National Park and it worked perfectly, but only because we planned ahead.

Decide whether to do group meals, and plan accordingly.

Planning meals for a group camping trip

Image: Katie Levy

Letting everyone fend for themselves on your group trip is certainly an option, but group meals can make things more efficient and cheaper. Instead of numerous individual coolers and items bought separately, you can buy in bulk and have the experience of preparing meals together. But if you do decide to do group meals, preparation is essential.

Start by figuring out the number of meals you’ll have, and write down options for each meal. Give your tripmates time to discuss them, and once the meal plan is set, determine who’s doing the shopping and how the items are going to be stored. Finally, pack plastic bags to make divvying up things like trail mix and sandwiches easier.

Understand everyone’s experience level.

Gear check for a group camping trip

Image: Katie Levy

Whether you have a group of seasoned camping veterans, absolute beginners, or a mix of both, knowing your tripmates’ experience levels is important. If you have beginners in the group, they might have more questions about gear and food than a veteran camper would, and they may need to pick up more gear in advance of your trip. They may not understand basic principles of overnight food storage, campground etiquette, or even what sleeping in a tent is going to feel like.

Ultimately, the goal is to make the trip enjoyable for everyone. Understanding both experience level and expectations from your tripmates makes having fun a whole lot easier.

Make a gear list and divvy up group gear.

If you’re going camping, odds are you’re bringing things like a tent, a stove or other cooking device, cooking utensils, cleaning supplies, and other items multiple people in your group may have. But it’s not (normally) necessary for everyone to have their own tent, stove, or bottle of dish soap, and it’s possible some people in your group might not have essential items others in the group can share with them.

Make a gear list in advance that includes things like sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and other personal items everyone needs. Then make a separate list of group gear items like stoves, cooking utensils, cleaning supplies, and tents so the gear can be divvied up in advance of the trip. I’ve found making a spreadsheet in Google Docs with multiple tabs for group food, group gear, and individual gear requirements is the easiest way to keep track of everything. A list, or multiple lists, also helps you avoid forgetting anything.

Make and share a plan for finances in advance.

Even when you’re planning a group trip with friends and/or family, finances can be tricky. If you’re ponying up for a campground reservation and group members drop out at the last minute, it’ll cost you. But asking for money upfront can cause its own set of challenges.

Think about whether you want to ask for a down payment in advance, especially for things like reservations. It can prevent folks from backing out at the last minute and helps ensure the known costs are covered before the trip. You can also estimate costs associated with food and ask for all or part of that ahead of time.

I’ve found that on group trips with friends, covering the reservations in advance and dividing up additional costs like food after the trip works best, but that’ll vary depending on who you’re going with. Get everyone in the group on the same page about estimated costs and what’s being collected and when; it’ll make things a lot easier in the end.

Image Credit: Katie Levy

Image: Katie Levy

What other tips do you have for a successful group trip? Have you been on a trip that went extremely well or extremely poorly? If so, why do you think the trip went the way it did? We’d love to hear from you!

Make Your Own Trails with the Chevy Colorado Z71 – Trail Boss Edition

Any of our Pocket Ranger® apps can help you find adventure, but you’ll need a rugged rig to get you there. Named Motor Trend’s 2015 Truck of the Year®, we nominate Chevy Colorado Z71 – Trail Boss Edition as that perfect ride to get you from humble abode into the great outdoors.

Chevy Colorado Z71 - Trail Boss Edition [Image: www.chevrolet.com]

Image: www.chevrolet.com

Reach any trailhead with the Chevy Colorado Z71 – Trail Boss Edition. This midsize pick-up comfortably handles the toughest trails thanks to its rugged durability, powerfully efficient 3.6L V6 engine, and Z71 Off-Road Package. No matter the weather, the trail-ready Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac® all-terrain tires keep you moving in all conditions. Best of all that Z71 Off-Road Package guarantees a smooth ride.

Chevy Colorado Z71 - Trail Boss Edition [Image: www.chevrolet.com]

Image: www.chevrolet.com

Got gear? Whether you’re a hiker, kayaker, hunter or angler, with the Chevy Colorado Z71 – Trail Boss Edition there are storage options galore for all of your outdoor gear. GearOn™ moveable cargo tie-down rings and GearOn™ cargo divider in the bed give you many ways to secure your gear. Inside the cab, the large center console provides easy storage options for your gadgets and a nonskid space for charging devices. Armed with rear vision camera, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and OnStar Advisor, this truck pulls its weight when it comes to you and your family’s safety. Composed of high strength materials and reinforced safety cage, the Chevy Colorado Z71 series frame actually minimizes damage in the event of a collision.

Chevy Colorado Z71 - Trail Boss Edition [Image: www.chevrolet.com]

Image: www.chevrolet.com

Take the internet into the wilderness with you! Turn your Chevy Colorado Z71 into a hot spot with 4G LTE high-speed Wi-Fi connection powered by OnStar. Forgot to download a Pocket Ranger® app before you left the house? Download apps, surf the web, and stream video and music with the cab’s powerful connection that can serve up to seven devices. Four USB ports found in the cabin’s console add to ease of use. The truck’s cabin is also equipped with a top-notch Bose® sound system. Queue up the perfect soundtrack for those nights spent star-gazing from the truck bed.

Driving along New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway is a favorite during peak fall foliage season. [Image: www.motorhomeroadtrip.com]

Driving along New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway is a favorite during peak fall foliage season. [Image: www.motorhomeroadtrip.com]

Download the Pocket Ranger® Official Guide for New Hampshire State Parks and cruise the scenic Kancamagus Highway. While most will be stuck looking at the White Mountains from the hardtop of “the Kanc,” with your Chevy Colorado Z71 – Trail Boss Edition, you can access numerous trailheads. We recommend hiking Mount Chocorua, a steep climb with commanding views of the Presidential Mountains. Don’t want to leave your Chevy behind? Put the Chevy Colorado Z71 to the test by summiting Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast!

Alpine Lakes Wilderness [Image: www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/alpine-lakes-wilderness]

Alpine Lakes Wilderness [Image: www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/alpine-lakes-wilderness]

Or get lost in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness of Washington. Less than 50 miles from Seattle, you can rely on your Chevy Colorado Z71 – Trail Boss Edition to easily transition you from hip, urban sprawl to austere, alpine wilderness. The Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area is home to the glacier-carved North Cascades and part of the legendary Pacific Crest Trail. Some of the best rock-climbing opportunities in the country can be found at Cashmere Crags. Or load up the kayak or canoe and spend the day on one of the 700 mountain lakes and ponds within the area. Download the Pocket Ranger® Official Guide for Washington State Parks for advanced GPS mapping capabilities that will help you navigate your adventure.

Thousand Islands Region of New York: Three Beautiful Waterfront State Parks

Contributed by Katie Levy of Adventure-Inspired

Cool breezes, sunsets to die for, and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation are among the many reasons to visit the Thousand Islands region of New York. Stretching from Lake Ontario to the west along the St. Lawrence River to Lake Champlain to the east, it’s one of the most beautiful places, in my opinion, to spend a warm weather weekend.

I grew up visiting the Thousand Islands with my family and have fond memories of playing Capture the Flag with my brother, raging bonfires on the banks of the St. Lawrence with my cousins, learning to fish with my father, and visiting family staying at nearby campgrounds.

Though you won’t find solitude or quiet during the high season at any of these campgrounds, there’s just something special about sleeping next to the river. The three options below are great places to start when you’re planning your next trip to the Thousand Islands.

On the Boat  - American Narrows [Image Credit: Katie Levy]

On the Boat – American Narrows [Image Credit: Katie Levy]

Burnham Point State Park

If you’re looking for a relatively small, quiet campground with easy access to local attractions and towns, start your search with Burnham Point State Park. Located just east of Cape Vincent, New York, Burham Point is home 47 campsites situated right on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. Waterfront access and unobstructed views are available for a lucky few who make reservations far enough in advance, but the most choice sites go quickly during peak season.

This year, the park is open from May 22nd through September 6th with peak season beginning July 25th and ending August 7th. Campsites start at $15, but be aware of additional charges for electric hookups, out-of-state reservations, prime and waterfront sites, and weekend/holiday visits as well as vehicle entry fees.

Once you’re there, the park hosts boat launches, boat docking, a playground, showers, grills, pavilions, picnic tables, and more for visitors. Fishing and boating are popular activities at Burnham Point. Plus the park is close to local shopping, grocery stores, and other activities.

Bonfires on the St. Lawrence in Thousand Islands NY  [Image Credit: Katie Levy]

Bonfires on the St. Lawrence [Image Credit: Katie Levy]

Cedar Point State Park

If you’re looking for a bustling campground with a sand beach, plenty of docking for boats, and plenty of room for children to run around, Cedar Point State Park is an ideal option. Like Burnham Point State Park, Cedar Point is a popular, beautiful campground nestled right along the St. Lawrence River. Located just north of Burnham Point in Clayton, New York, Cedar Point hosts 165 sites, including RV-accessible sites as well as tent sites.

The season at Cedar Point is a bit longer than at Burnham Point, stretching from May 1st through October 11th this year. Sites start at $15, but additional charges apply for RV hookups, out-of-state reservations and more, as with Burnham Point State Park.

Cedar Point is always busy during the summer season, and with good reason. The park is home to baseball fields, a boat launch, dump and comfort stations, fishing opportunities, picnic amenities, a recycling station, volleyball courts, and best of all, a sheltered sand beach for swimming and relaxing. Even if you’re not staying in the campground, paying the day-use fee for access to the beach is highly recommended!

Sunset Over Carlton Island [Image Credit: Katie Levy]

Sunset Over Carlton Island [Image Credit: Katie Levy]

Wellesley Island State Park

Technically part of the Town of Orleans in Jefferson County, New York, Wellesley Island hosts the largest camping complex in the Thousand Islands region. With over 400 sites available, visitors can stay in tents, RVs, trailers, even fully outfitted cottages with porches ideal for sunset watching. Though it’s a massive complex, you can still find a handful of secluded sites accessible only by foot or by boat.

Wellesley Island is open for year-round visitation, but not all campground loops and cottages stay open all year. Be sure to look at Reserve America for dates and availability as well as site prices and additional fees. The best part? As the name suggests, if you stay the night, you’ll be camping on an island.

The park hosts four full-service boat launches, docks, dumping stations, showers, food concessions, golfing, fish cleaning stations, nature trails, a museum, baseball fields, a camp store with laundry facilities, and much more. Miles of hiking trails and granite outcrops are ideal for sightseeing and sunset-watching. If summer isn’t your favorite season, drop by Wellesley Island in the winter for cross-country skiing and ice fishing.

Find out about any of these state parks in the Thousand Islands region and more by downloading the free Pocket Ranger® Guide for New York State Parks mobile app!

Have you been to any of these state parks or to the Thousand Islands Region? We’d love to hear from you!

The Nitty Gritty About Survival Kits

Survival kit essentials and backpack [Image: thenexttrailhead.com/post/45569963707/diy-first-aid-wilderness-survival-kit]

Image: thenexttrailhead.com/post/45569963707/diy-first-aid-wilderness-survival-kit

Heading into the great outdoors? In addition to your first aid kit, don’t forget to pack a survival kit! While everyone has preferences of what they like to include in their personal survival kit, here’s a list of our 11 must-haves.

1. Lighter

A small plastic lighter can make all the difference in an emergency. Also consider packing a magnesium starter or a book of matches as back-up.

2. Cell Phone

Cell phones are practically mandatory survival items these days. Just don’t forget to bring a charger. For more remote locations, a satellite phone may be necessary.

3. Iodine Tablets

In addition to bringing enough water, fill a small pill bottle with iodine tablets. Iodine tablets are perfect for survival kits because they are way easier to pack than a water filter. These tablets don’t add the best taste to water, but they will get you through those areas where drinking water isn’t readily available.

Two hikers on the trail in the evening [Image: Image: outdoorgearmadness.com/petzl-myo-rxp-review]

Image: outdoorgearmadness.com/petzl-myo-rxp-review

4. Flashlight

What you thought was a day hike turns into an overnight affair. That’s when you’re really going to need your flashlight and/or headlamp. Just don’t forget to pack extra batteries!

5. Knife

A pocket knife is good. A multi-tool knife is great.

6. Tinder

Whether you bring along some homemade fire starter or a vial of emergency tinder tablets, dry kindling will be a godsend when you’re looking to start a fire.

If your day hike turns midway into a camping trip, you'll be glad you packed a survival kit. [Image:  www.exposureguide.com/outdoor-photography-tips.htm]

If your day hike turns midway into a camping trip, you’ll be glad you packed a survival kit. [Image: www.exposureguide.com/outdoor-photography-tips.htm]

7. Energy Bar

Stash an energy bar or two into your survival kit. When the going gets rough, an energy bar will feel like a feast.

8. Compass & Maps

Even the best technology can fail, which is why bringing along a compass and map is so essential. Before hitting the trail, be sure that you are packing the most up-to-date map!

9. Waterproof Shell

Even if the forecast says sunny, pack a light, waterproof outer shell. This shell should also act as a windbreaker.

After a day like this, you'll be so glad you packed extra socks. [Image: treelinebackpacker.com/2014/08/09/backpacking-in-the-rain]

After a day like this, you’ll be so glad you packed extra socks. [Image: treelinebackpacker.com/2014/08/09/backpacking-in-the-rain]

10. Water Bottle

If you’ve got the space, bring an extra water bottle. You never know when you’ll need an extra container.

11. Extra Hiking Socks

Knowing you’ve packed a pair of dry hiking socks may be the ticket to getting you through those downtrodden moments on the trail. Thick socks can also double as mittens.

Many of these items and more can be found within our Pocket Ranger® Gear Store! Or take our 2-minute Pocket Ranger® Survey and you could win a $350 gift certificate to Backcountry.com!

Leave No Trace

How do you keep the wilderness wild when millions of outdoor enthusiasts visit state and national parks each year? The Center for Outdoor Ethics created a solution to this problem with their national educational program, Leave No Trace. The Leave No Trace program promotes and inspires good ethical practice when in the backcountry. By following these guidelines, you ensure a gratifying and lasting outdoor experience for all.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

Like any trip, planning before you arrive at your destination is key.

  • Acquaint yourself with park regulations. You can easily access this information through any of our free Pocket Ranger® apps.
  • Be prepared for extreme weather and emergencies. Pack a first aid kit and a survival kit that includes a flashlight with extra batteries, whistle, multi-tool pocket knife, maps, lighter, fire starters, and iodine tablets.
  • Respect the physical limits of your hiking group by planning a trip that’s compatible with the group’s skill level.
Backpacker in sunlit field [Image: sojourningabroad.wordpress.com]

Image: sojourningabroad.wordpress.com

  • Careful meal planning and packaging is so important when out in the backcountry. Pack only the food you need to minimize waste while you’re out on the trail.
  • Try to visit the outdoors in small groups. This is especially applicable to backpacking trips. If you are a larger group heading into the wilderness, break off into smaller groups to reduce impact on the environment. Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use on the trail.
  • Refrain from marking your trail with paint, cairns or flagging, and instead use a map, compass or your Pocket Ranger® app. In addition to a compass feature, the Pocket Ranger® apps offer users advanced GPS features that can even be used offline!

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Trampling down an area’s vegetation can result in some undesirable results, such as barren areas and soil erosion. Help preserve the environment by following these tips:

  • In wilderness areas of high use, stick to established trails and campsites. Established campsites can come in a few different forms, such as raised wooden platforms, rock, gravel, dry grasses and snow. Walk single-file on trails and try to stick to the center of these trails. This prevents the trail from further eroding the surrounding landscape.
Hikers on a trail in the woods [Image: www.tripleblaze.com/blog/2013/07/14/how-to-follow-leave-no-trace-principles]

Image: www.tripleblaze.com/blog/2013/07/14/how-to-follow-leave-no-trace-principles

  • However, when camping and hiking through pristine or fragile environments, the opposite is true. Avoid making established trails or campsites by dispersing your impact on the environment. Do not camp or travel in places where impacts are just beginning to show.
  • Whether in high use or low use areas, always make sure to camp at least 200 feet from lakes and streams. This protects the waterbody and riparian areas (the land near a waterbody) from damage and contamination.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

This principle could be the golden rule of the backcountry: Whatever you pack in, you must pack out! This includes all trash, leftover food, toilet paper (both used and unused), and hygiene products.

  • Before leaving a campsite or rest area, check around for any trash or spilled food you may have missed.
  • Solid human waste should be deposited in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep. These catholes must be at least 200 feet from water, campsite and trails. After use, cover and disguise catholes.
Always clean up after yourself when outdoors. [Image: bartramcanoetrail.blogspot.com/2013/10/people-fish-camp-trash.html]

Always clean up after yourself! [Image: bartramcanoetrail.blogspot.com/2013/10/people-fish-camp-trash.html]

  • Got dishes? Need a shower? To clean either yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lake, and use only small amounts of biodegradable soap. When finished cleaning or bathing, do not dump this dirty water back into the stream or lake! Doing so would contaminate the natural water source. Instead, strain and then scatter the water at least 200 feet (or 80 to 100 strides) from its source.

4. Leave What You Find

Look, but don’t touch! Preserve the past by leaving natural and historic structures and artifacts as they are. This ensures that other visitors to the area will have the same sense of discovery.

  • Leave rocks, plants, feathers and other natural objects just as you find them.
  • Don’t transport non-native species with you! Non-native species frequently become invasive. These invasive species can critically damage the ecosystem.
  • A good campsite is found, not made. Do not dig trenches or build structures, such as lean-tos, tables or chairs.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

While many believe that a roaring campfire is essential to a great camping trip, fire is not always permitted in backcountry area. Before lighting a fire, always check with park regulations.

  • If fires are allowed, use only established fire rings, fire pans or mound fires. Keep your campfire small and manageable.
  • Hold off on the huge logs! The Center for Outdoor Ethics recommends using sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
Can you spot the two campfire faux pas in this photo? [Image: lnt.org/blog/campfire-challenge]

Can you spot the campfire faux pas in this photo? [Image: lnt.org/blog/campfire-challenge]

  • Burn all the wood and coals in your campfire to ash and put out the fire completely. Then scatter the cool ashes.
  • As for cooking outdoors, use a lightweight camp stove. A lightweight camp stove (rather than a bulky camp stove) will also be a blessing for your back!

6. Respect Wildlife

It’s certainly exhilarating to come across wildlife when outdoors. For everyone’s safety and enjoyment, follow these guidelines for wildlife sightings:

  • Always observe wildlife from a distance. Never approach or follow wildlife.
  • Never feed wildlife! Feeding wildlife can make wild animals dependent on humans, creating opportunities for potentially dangerous encounters.
Black bear takes over picnic at campsite [Image: http://forum.wakarusa.com/showthread.php?11815-ARTICLE-Black-Bears-Tear-Into-Tents-at-Wakarusa]

Don’t let your favorite breakfast cereal become theirs. [Image: forum.wakarusa.com/showthread.php?11815-ARTICLE-Black-Bears-Tear-Into-Tents-at-Wakarusa]

  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing food rations and securely.
  • If you bring pets with you, make sure you have control of them at all times. In many places, leashes are required.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

While you may head into the backcountry to be alone in the great outdoors, chances are you may come across a few other outdoor enthusiasts.

  • Respect other visitors to the area. Be courteous and yield to other hikers on the trail.
  • Take breaks and camp away from the trails and other visitors. Avoid making loud noises or speaking in loud voices when in the backcountry. Keeping your voice low not only helps others enjoy their time in the wilderness, but also increases your chances of seeing wildlife.
  • If you encounter pack stock in the backcountry, step to the downhill side of the trail.

Any adventure in the outdoors is going to require some quality gear. By taking the Pocket Ranger® State Park Visitor Survey you could win a $350 gift certificate to Backcountry.com!

Kick Off Summer at National Kids to Parks Day

Get the whole family outdoors at the upcoming 5th Annual National Kids to the Parks Day! On May 16th, America’s state parks partner with the National Park Trust to host this nationwide day of outdoor play. Just a week before the official start of summer, this is a perfect day to explore and discover favorite local, state and national parks and public lands. From scavenger hunts to bird-watching, these state parks are hosting great Kids to Parks Day events:

Nature Hikes & Scavenger Hunts

A family goes hiking in Shenandoah. A great place to go for National Kids to Parks Day [Image: www.goshenandoah.com]

Image: www.goshenandoah.com

Specifically designed with the whole family in mind, the James River State Park’s Scavenger Hunt has 20 items participants have to track down. Winners will get a ride on the park’s Tye Overlook wagon for free that evening! Or learn about Leave No Trace Principles and hunt out all things that shouldn’t be on the trail on Shenandoah State Park’s “Unnatural Hike.”

Join the Lake Bistineau State Park’s Nature Hike for a memorable wilderness experience in the park’s upland mixed hardwood forest, open waters, and stands of cypress and tupelo trees. Stay the night in one of this Louisiana state park’s cabins or campsites, so you can get out on the lake in a canoe or kayak the next day!

At Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site in New York, walk the towpath trails on a nature walk, and learn more about native species of birds, animals, plants and flowers. We recommend packing a lunch; there’s nothing better than having a picnic by the Aqueduct Boat Launch or the Yankee Hill Lock!

Bird-watching & Gardening

Kids birdwatching with binoculars [Image: kidsactivitiesblog.com]

Image: kidsactivitiesblog.com

Go birding at the beautiful lagoons and shoreline of Louisiana’s Grand Isle State Park. Resident bird species include a variety of songbirds and shorebirds, such as shearwaters, pelicans, herons, and cormorants. At Leesylvania State Park in Virginia, check out the Osprey Observation. Rangers will be on hand to answer all your questions about these magnificent birds of prey.

The Bristol Bird Club of Virginia will lead a special family birding session at Natural Tunnel State Park. From old growth forest to grassy area, discover all kinds of birds that live in the park’s four different habitats. Or spend the afternoon in the park’s community garden! Alongside the Scott County Master Gardeners, learn more about gardening while weeding and planting.

In Missouri, get down in the dirt at Mudpie Magic at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park! Make mudpies, dig in the dirt, explore rotten logs, and catch crawdads. There are many natural water park features at this state park, so take a dive into the river to rinse off! Or test your birding skills and so much more at Trail of Tears State Park. Join the Birder ID hike and scavenger hunt, and stick around for the “Eggstravaganza” egg hunt and egg quiz challenge at 7:30PM.

Arts & Crafts

Kids flying kites in park [Image: www.kitesclub.com/the-benefits-of-kite-flying-25.html]

Image: www.kitesclub.com/the-benefits-of-kite-flying-25.html

Learn the fascinating art of letterboxing at Shenandoah River State Park’s Letterboxing Workshop! Originating in England, letterboxing involves puzzle-solving and is a bit like geocaching. At this workshop, make your own rubber stamp and then go on a hike to discover your first letterbox.

Go fly at kite at Harry S. Truman State Park’s 3rd Annual Kid’s Kite Day! Park staff will show kids (and kids at heart!) how to assemble and decorate their very own kite. While the glue dries, settle down for a picnic or take some of the park’s example kites for a test flight.

Bluebirds are returning to Missouri on their great migration north. At Pomme De Terre State Park, learn how to build a bird house for Missouri’s state bird. All materials and tools will be provided at this event. Just bring your creativity!

5K & 10K Runs


Looking to keep a brisker pace on National Kids to Parks Day? Join families at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park’s Run Wild – “A Run for Wildlife!” Proceeds raised from the 10K, 5K, and Kids Run all benefit Nebraska’s wildlife. Both the 10K and 5K take runners through a scenic, naturally challenging trail. The 1-mile Kids Run is perfect for kids ages 12 and under, and parents can run alongside young children. Since none of the events are timed this year, everyone is a winner! Dressing like a wild animal for this event is strongly encouraged. Afterwards, celebrate the day with a picnic, face-painting, fishing, and touring the live animal exhibits.

Families that visit the state and national parks on Kids to the Parks Day are encouraged to submit photos of their adventures to Buddy@BuddyBison.org for possible inclusion in the National Park Trust’s commemorative map. Download your state’s free Pocket Ranger® app for more information about trails, campground reservations, and more!

The Boulder Hat Trick: Three Peaks In One Day

Contributed by Michael Restivo of Mike off the Map

Panoramic view of mountain range [Image Credit: Michael Restivo]

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

Set on the western edge of Boulder, Colorado, the Boulder Range rises above the plains, silhouetting the city behind forested, rocky peaks, rolling foothills, and the city’s iconic Flatirons. The traverse between Mt. Sanitas to the north and South Boulder Peak, the last of the range, spans over 16-miles of rugged trails, steep ascents, and scrambling across pointed ridges. While some are content with bagging one of these peaks and calling it a day, my hiking companion Tony and I decided we wanted to bag three – in less than 12 hours. We would start with Bear Peak, traverse to South Boulder, and then finish on Mt. Sanitas. While we decided to skip the other two peaks, Flagstaff and Green, for the sake of time, the climbs were a stout, calf-testing ascent that saw us walk the northernmost and southernmost edges of the range. This is how we bagged the Boulder Hat Trick.

Bear Peak

Summit in the Boulder Mountain Range [Image Credit: Michael Restivo]

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

We started at 7:30 from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) parking lot, sitting on a hill at the heart of Boulder Mountain Park. Our plan was to combine the NCAR, Table Mesa, and Fern Canyon Trails which would lead us to one of the steeper sides of Bear Peak. The morning was magnificently clear and we only encountered one other party and several trail runners as we exited the forest into a grassy valley just under the pointed summit. Though it was well into spring, the summit still had patches of visible snow.

The path gives way to a vast landscape of hills, troughs, and ridges, leading up to the twin summits of Bear and South Boulder Peaks, connected by a saddle. As soon as we turned into Fern Canyon, a passage surrounded by moss-covered boulders and rocky ledges, the climb became progressively steeper, hiking turned to scrambling, and the trail became uneven and rudimentary. After ascending to the saddle where Rocky Mountain National Park spread before us in the distance, the last quarter-mile bee-lined above the trees in a march that was reminiscent of Washington’s Mailbox Peak. Just before the summit, a low-class-3 scramble had us on hands and feet, clambering up a windy exposed ridge, which lead to the exposed pinnacle. We had bagged peak number one.

South Boulder Peak

Summit at Boulder Mountain Range [Image Credit: Michael Restivo]

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

Just behind Bear Peak, South Boulder Peak rises above a charred wilderness, capping the southern side of the Boulder Range. The two peaks connect by half a mile, however South Boulder exceeds it’s sister by just under 100-feet, making it the highest of the five peaks. From Bear, a downward scramble joins the trail, which connects the saddle between the two mountains. With the burned remains of a forest at the start of its regrowth, the saddle becomes a steep uphill across a barely defined trail, blackened branches, and mesmerizing views of the Rockies on one side and the Boulder plains on the other. A swift scramble across a rust-colored ridge arrives at a sharp pinnacle, which overlooks the range all the way to Sanitas. Now midday, we rejoined to Bear, and swiftly descended back to the car. We got peak number two.

Mt. Sanitas

Summit at Boulder Mountain Range [Image Credit: Michael Restivo]

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

While Mt. Sanitas should have been the easiest, our already tired legs made this last peak the physically toughest of the three. An afternoon storm was descending and we had to move fast to beat the rain and bag our last peak of the day. Mt. Sanitas is a family-friendly trail that’s moderately steep in sections, but not as exposed as Bear or South Boulder. The small mountain makes up the northernmost point of the range and has a mesmerizing view over Boulder. The climbing started right away from the trailhead, ascending over rock ledges, spaced wooden beams, and short flat sections that gave way to minor scrambles. Our fatigue was obvious as we fell behind other hikers, but pushed through a final ascent that led to the marker pole at the summit. While others reveled in climbing the easiest peak in the range, we opened our two beers and sat against a rock, too exhausted to sit on the actual ledge, and looked back towards the south. Excluding the time we took for lunch, we had done the three peaks in just over six hours, a time that could see room for a faster finish. We just finished peak number three.

Hiker summits Boulder Range [Image Credit: Michael Restivo]

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

While we’re proud of our hat trick, we still have many more up our sleeves. Next we’re going to try connecting all five in a massive 9-12 hour push which will see us connecting several trails from South Boulder across Flagstaff to Sanitas. Here in Boulder, big adventure is just minutes from my doorstep.