Landscapes and legends draw adventurers to the West, where a good day includes locavore dining, vineyard wine-sipping, wildlife-watching, Native American history and outdoor adventure.
Western USA gives depth and beauty to the American wild. The landscapes here are stunners, from the high Rockies to the dramatic coastline, from the Great Plains' hypnotizing big-sky horizons to Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Some of America's most iconic animals animate the wild, including grizzlies, wolves, elk and bison. Elsewhere, surfers, kayakers and beachcombers flock to sunny San Diego and the rocky, mood-filled beaches of Oregon and Washington. Red rocks, plunging gorges and prickly-pear deserts lure hikers and cyclists to the Southwest and Grand Canyon. Over in the Rockies, snowcapped peaks offer world's-best skiing and snowboarding.
Grapes, Green Chiles & Going Local
Fish tacos in San Diego, Sonoran dogs in Tucson, trout and bison in the Rockies, green and red chiles in New Mexico and wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest: regional specialties here are as diverse as the landscapes. One commonality? Chefs and consumers alike are focusing on fresh and locally grown food, a locavore trend that started in the West. Wine producers have embraced this eco-consciousness in an industry where Napa and Sonoma increasingly share the spotlight with Washington, Oregon and central California. And then there's the proliferation of microbreweries who understand that for people out West, small means beautiful.
Western cities have distinct personalities. In California there's the hey-bro friendliness of San Diego, the Hollywood flash of Los Angeles and silicon-meets-bohemian in San Francisco. Further north in Seattle, cutting-edge joins homegrown, often over a cup of joe. Rootsy vibes and outdoor fun pair in Denver, while patio preening and spa pampering give Phoenix a strangely compelling spoiled vibe. Artsy, historic Santa Fe is a world unto itself. And then there's Vegas, a glitzy neon playground where you can get hitched in the Elvis Chapel, spend your honeymoon in Paris and then bet the mortgage – all in the same weekend.
Climb a wooden ladder into a cliff dwelling, poke around the ruins of a Pony Express station, contemplate where Native American tribes drove buffalo herds over cliffs, or simply join the congregation inside a 1700s Spanish mission. What else is there to explore? Crumbling forts and trading posts. Abandoned ghost towns. Adobe pueblos. Petroglyphs etched onto boulders and cliff faces. Wander historic sites like these for up-close and evocative links to the region's rich, multilayered past. And excellent museums? Western USA has them, many of them, in abundance.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Western USA.
National ParkGlacier National Park
The rival of any of the United States' most spectacular national parks, including Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, Glacier National Park is full of jagged peaks produced by dramatic geologic thrust faults and carved by ancient ice. But its mountains and dense forests are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg here – Glacier boasts deep ongoing ties to Indigenous tribes, one of the finest scenic parkways in the whole National Parks system, historic 'parkitecture' lodges and 740 miles of hiking trails punctuated by wandering grizzlies and moose. Highlights of Glacier National Park Glacier's Glaciers Many are surprised to learn that the park's current number of glaciers – 26 (35 were identified and named in 1966) – is significantly less than other American national parks, including the North Cascades (with over 300) and Mt Rainier (with 25 on one mountain). Today's visitors could be some of the last to actually see a glacier in the park. Current figures suggest that, if current warming trends continue, the park could be glacier-free by 2030. Head to Jackson Glacier Overlook for an easy-access vantage point. This popular pull-over, located a short walk from the Gunsight Pass trailhead, offers telescopic views of the park’s fifth-largest glacier, which sits close to its eponymous 10,052ft peak – one of the park's highest. Going-to-the-Sun Road A strong contender for the most spectacular road in America, the 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road was built for the express purpose of giving visitors a way to explore the park's interior without having to hike. This marvel of engineering is a national historic landmark that crosses Logan Pass (6,646ft) and is flanked by hiking trails, waterfalls and endless views. The opening of the road marks the official start of the park's crowded summer season. Logan Pass Perched above the tree line, atop the wind-lashed Continental Divide, and blocked by snow for most of the year, Logan Pass – named for William R Logan, Glacier’s first superintendent – is the park’s highest navigable point by road. Two trails, Hidden Lake Overlook, which continues on to Hidden Lake itself, and Highline, lead out from here. Views are stupendous; the parking situation, however, is not – you might spend a lot of time searching for a spot during peak hours. Two Medicine Valley Before the building of Going-to-the-Sun Road in the 1930s, the Two Medicine Valley was one of the park’s most accessible hubs, situated a mere 12 miles by horseback from the Great Northern Railway and the newly inaugurated Glacier Park Lodge. Famous for its healthy bear population and deeply imbued with Indigenous beliefs, the region is less visited these days, though it has lost none of its haunting beauty. Located around 3 miles to the northwest, 8020ft Triple Divide Peak marks the hydrologic apex of the North American continent. Empty a bucket of water on its summit and it will run into three separate oceans: the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Arctic. Hikes There are nearly a thousand miles of hiking trails in Glacier National Park, from short jaunts just off Going-to-the-Sun Road to epic backpacking excursions into bear country. Here are a few of the trail highlights: The Highline Trail A Glacier classic, the Highline Trail contours across the face of the famous Garden Wall to Granite Park Chalet – one of two historic lodges only accessible by trail. The summer slopes are covered with alpine plants and wildflowers while the views are nothing short of stupendous. With only 800ft elevation gain over 7.6 miles, the treats come with minimal sweat. The Iceberg Lake Trail Deservedly, one of the most popular of Glacier's hikes, this 9 mile there-and-back takes you to the eponymous deep glacial cirque surrounded by 914m vertical walls. The sight of icebergs floating in the lake's still waters in the middle of summer is breathtaking. The ascent above Many Glacier Valley is fairly gentle with awesome views and passes meadows filled with wildflowers. Sun Point to Virginia Falls Handily served by the free park shuttle, myriad trailheads along the eastern side of Going-to-the-Sun Road offer plenty of short interlinking hikes, a number of which can be pooled together to make up a decent morning or afternoon ramble. If you take the busy St Mary Falls Trail, you’ll climb undemanding switchbacks through the trees to the valley’s most picturesque falls, set amid colorful foliage on St Mary River. Beyond here, a trail branches along Virginia Creek, past a narrow gorge, to mist-shrouded (and quieter) Virginia Falls at the foot of a hanging valley. It’s approximately 7 miles round-trip to Virginia Falls and back. The easy hike takes about four hours. Piegan Pass A popular hike among Glacier stalwarts, this trail starts on Going-to-the-Sun Road at a handy shuttle stop on Siyeh Bend just east of Logan Pass and deposits you in Glacier’s mystic heart, Many Glacier, with transport connections back to St Mary or even Whitefish. It also bisects colorful Preston Park, one of the region’s prettiest and most jubilant alpine meadows. The 12.8-mile trail (allow six hours) starts at the Siyeh Bend shuttle stop. Dawson-Pitamakan Loop This spectacular 18.8-mile hike along exposed mountain ridges crosses the Continental Divide twice and can be squeezed into a day for the ambitious and fit or, alternatively, tackled over two or three days with nights at backcounty campgrounds. Blessed with two spectacular mountain passes and teeming with myriad plant and animal life, including grizzly bears, this is often touted by park rangers as being one of Glacier’s hiking highlights. Places to stay near Glacier National Park Glacier's classic 'parkitecture' lodges – Many Glacier Hotel, Lake McDonald Lodge and Glacier Park Lodge – are living, breathing, functioning artifacts of another – more leisurely – era, when travelers to this wilderness park arrived by train and ventured into the backcountry on horseback. But that's not the only option for a place to stay in Glacier National Park. There are also beloved back-country chalets, numerous campgrounds for RV travelers and tent campers, and also motel-style accommodations in and around the park. These are a few of the best: Lodges These early 20th-century creations were built with Swiss-chalet features and prototypical Wild West elements. Today they seem to consciously and appealingly conjure up a romantic, almost mythic, vision of rustic comfort – ideal reflections of the beautiful scenery on their doorsteps. Glacier Park Lodge Set in attractive, perfectly manicured ﬂower-ﬁlled grounds overlooking Montana’s oldest golf course, this historic 1914 lodge was built in the classic national-park tradition, with a splendid open-plan lobby supported by lofty 900-year-old Douglas ﬁr timbers (imported from Washington State). Eye-catching Native American artwork adorns the communal areas, and a full-sized tipi is wedged incongruously onto a 2nd-ﬂoor balcony. In keeping with national-park tradition, the rooms here are ‘rustic’ with no TVs or air-conditioning. Rocking chairs are dispersed inside, and out on the shaded porch where the views of the Glacier peaks are worth the price of admission alone; the pool out back has little shade. Two restaurants and a bar are also open to nonguests. Lake McDonald Lodge Fronting luminous Lake McDonald and built in classic US 'parkitecture' style, the lodge welcomes its guests through a more mundane backdoor setting – they originally disembarked from a boat on the lakeside. Small, comfortably rustic rooms are complemented by cottages and a 1950s motel. Built on the site of an earlier lodge commissioned by park pioneer George Snyder in the 1890s, the present building was constructed in 1913 and rooms remain sans air-conditioning and television – it's worth requesting one of the more than two dozen rooms and cabins renovated for the 2016 season. Deluxe ones even boast some boutique stylings, including tiled bathrooms, extremely comfy king-sized beds and a touch of art. Two restaurants are on-site and evening ranger programs are held nightly in the summer. The lakefront location is fairly ideal and close to trailheads on Going-to-the-Sun Road. Many Glacier Hotel Enjoying the most wondrous setting in the park, this massive, Swiss chalet–inspired lodge (some of the male staff wear lederhosen) commands the northeastern shore of Swiftcurrent Lake. It was built by the Great Northern Railway in 1915, and the comfortable, if rustic, rooms have been updated (restoration work continues) over the last 15 years. The deluxe rooms feature boutique-style elements, including contemporary tiled bathrooms. The raised stone hearth with a unique chimney system from the 1940s marks the center of the large lobby and lounge area where guests gather to take in the shimmering snow and glacier-capped peaks (anyone can try out the lobby piano circa 1877). Some of the park's most iconic hikes leave from nearby. Several restaurants are part of the complex, and hikers can stock up on food and other supplies at the cafe and shop downstairs. Historic Chalets Granite Park Chalet A popular stopping point for hikers on the Swiftcurrent Pass and Highline trails, this very basic chalet (pit toilets) dates back to the park's early 20th-century heyday. A rustic kitchen is available for use (with propane-powered stoves), though you must bring and prepare your own food. Snacks and freeze-dried meals are available for purchase. Twelve guest rooms sleep from two to six people each. Bedding costs $25 extra per person. Book in advance as it gets busy, and remember to bring as much of your own water as possible (bottled water and sodas are available to buy). Reservations should be made online. Sperry Chalet Constructed by the Great Northern Railway in 1914, much of this 17-room historic Swiss-style chalet burned down in a 2017 fire, but its historic features were maintained in the rebuild. It's a good three-hour hike from the nearest road, and guests must either walk or horseback ride here via an ascending 6.5-mile trail that begins at Lake McDonald Lodge. With no lights, heat or water, this was part of an old accommodations network that once spanned the park before the construction of Going-to-the-Sun Road, Sperry offers phenomenal views. Be sure to bring a ﬂashlight for midnight trips to the outdoor toilets. Rooms are private; walls, however, are paper thin. Rates include three excellent meals (box lunches are available) and mules can be hired to carry gear. Belton Chalet Built and opened the same year as the national park (1910), this Swiss chalet overlooking the railroad tracks in West Glacier was Glacier’s first tourist hotel. Other incarnations followed, including time as a pizza parlor, and it lay rotting until a late-1990s refurb, which dusted off 25 traditional yet elegant rooms, arts-and-crafts-style furnishings, a spa and a celebrated taproom. Two stand-alone cottages and a fairly spectacular cabin, in the Old West rustic vernacular, are open year-round and are ideal for families. Camping There are a lot of places to pitch a tent or park an RV in Glacier National Park. Here are a few of the most popular: Apgar Campground This large wooded campground, the park's largest, is a good choice for its proximity to the conveniences of Apgar Village and West Glacier, as well as for being only a short stroll to Lake McDonald. It feels, however, far from a wilderness experience. Avalanche Creek Campground This lush campground abutting the park’s old-growth cedar forest gets more rainfall than most. Some sites are overshadowed by old stands of hemlock, cedar and Douglas fir, but you’re close to Lake McDonald and right in the path of a couple of very popular trailheads. Expect no quiet or privacy during the daytime. Many Glacier Campground With access to phenomenal trails, this heavily wooded campground is one of the park’s most popular. It lies within strolling distance of the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn complex, which includes a restaurant, hot showers, a laundry and camp store. Primitive camping available through the end of October. Half of the sites are reservable, including numbers 94 and 92, which are the best spots along the river. Bowman Lake Campground Rarely full, this campground 6 miles up Inside North Fork Rd from Polebridge offers very spacious sites in forested grounds, and beautiful Bowman Lake is only steps away. It has a visitors information tent with reference books and local hiking information. The road from Polebridge can be especially rough after heavy rain. Also offers primitive camping through to end of October. Sprague Creek Campground Off Going-to-the-Sun Road on the shore of Lake McDonald, the park’s smallest campground draws mostly tents – no vehicles over 21ft are allowed – and feels more intimate than many of the park’s other options, at least at night when the passing traffic goes to bed. Arrive early to claim a site overlooking the lake. Hiker/biker sites $5. The Indigenous history of Glacier National Park For thousands of years, the Blackfeet (Niitsitapi), Salish, and Kootenai tribes called Glacier National Park home, worshiping at sacred sites including Two Medicine and Chief Mountain that remain integral to their creation stories. After initial contact with white settlers when the Lewis and Clark expedition passed through the region in, the Blackfeet, Salish, and Kootenai suffered during the westward expansion of white settlers in the early 19th century and the near extinction of the buffalo that was part of the United States' Indian removal strategy. Relying increasingly on government money, Native Americans had little choice but to agree to one-sided treaties in 1855. The reservation originally included all of the Glacier National Park region east of the Continental Divide; however, the Blackfeet sold a portion of what is now Glacier National Park to the United States government, and in 1910 that land was turned into the eighth national park in the system. Today, approximately 10,000 Blackfeet live on a 3812-sq-mile reservation immediately to the east of the park. The reservation includes important park access points such as St Mary and East Glacier and, despite their dispossession, the land in and around the east side of Glacier holds significant ceremonial and cultural significance. Visiting Glacier National Park Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell has year-round service to Salt Lake, Minneapolis, Denver, Seattle and Las Vegas, and seasonal service to Atlanta, Oakland, LA, Chicago and Portland. Alaska, Allegiant, American Airlines, Delta and United have flights to FCA. Amtrak 's Empire Builder stops daily at West Glacier and East Glacier Park, with a whistle stop in Browning. Xanterra provides a shuttle (adult $6 to $10, child $3 to $5, 10 to 20 minutes) from West Glacier to their lodges on the west end, and Glacier Park Collection by Pursuit offers shuttles (from $15, one hour) connecting East Glacier Park to St Mary and Whitefish. Glacier National Park runs a free hop-on, hop-off shuttle bus from Apgar Transit Center to St Mary over Going-to-the-Sun Road from July 1 to Labor Day; it stops at all major trailheads. Xanterra concession operates the classic guided Red Bus Tours. If driving a personal vehicle, be prepared for narrow, winding roads, traffic jams, and limited parking at most stops along Going-to-the-Sun Road. When is Glacier National Park open? Although the park remains open year-round, most services are closed between October and mid-May. Nevertheless, visiting the park on snowshoes or cross-country skis in the dead of winter is a memorable experience. Going-to-the-Sun Road opens when they finish plowing, which could be as late as July. The East Side of the park reopened March 18, 2021 after an extended closure by the Blackfeet Reservation to protect the tribe against the COVID-19 pandemic. Campgrounds, certain roads, lake access, and other park features are being reopened slowly on a case-by-case basis. Definitely check the Glacier National Park website for the latest updates as the park opens back up. Visitor Centers The LEED–certified Apgar Visitor Center with a large parking lot and free Wi-Fi signal is 1½ miles north of West Glacier at the west end of Going-to-the-Sun Road. Catch the free park shuttle here for all points along Going-to-the-Sun Road to Logan Pass, where you transfer to continue to St Mary Visitor Center. The Logan Pass Visitor Center sits in the most magnificent setting of all the park's visitor centers, and features park information, interactive exhibits and a good gift shop. The Hidden Lake Overlook Trail and Highline trails begin there. Accessibility Most sights and campgrounds within the parks are wheelchair accessible; for a complete and detailed list, download Glacier's own accessibility brochure (available at any entrance station). It's an excellent source of information on everything from hotels and campgrounds to visitor sites and ranger-led activities. Service animals are allowed in Glacier. All lodging options within Glacier have wheelchair-accessible rooms. Shuttle buses in Glacier all have wheelchair lifts and tie-downs, and the drivers can assist disabled passengers on and off. If you need to make arrangements in advance, call any park visitor center. Glacier National Park produces braille handouts, audio described videos and large print brochures. Discount passes to the parks and national forests are available for people with disabilities.
ParkGrand Teton National Park
Awesome in their grandeur, the Tetons have captivated the imagination from the moment humans laid eyes on them. While their name is often ascribed to French trappers, another theory is that it was dubbed for the Thítȟuŋwaŋ band of the Lakota Sioux who inhabited the area long before. The Shoshone were the primary tribe who summered around the Grand Tetons, though they too were forced onto reservations in the 1870s after the establishment of nearby Yellowstone National Park. The Tetons weren't formally mapped until almost two generations after Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery first saw these peaks. It was only in the final decade of the Shoshone's free presence on their ancestral lands that a series of surveying expeditions passed through, ahead of what would become a steady stream of white settlers. The history of Grand Teton National Park One of the men on those late 19th century expeditions was William Henry Jackson, a photographer whose documentation of the landscape helped raise public awareness of the Tetons with potential tourists and politicians back east. Over the next twenty years, influential figures like Presidents Grover Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt took note and made early attempts to protect the Tetons from development, while climbers like Wyoming State Auditor William Owen started a long tradition of outdoor recreation in what was then the Teton Forest Reserve. Despite the growing attention of nascent conservationists and the relatively sparse claims by ranchers and homesteaders, the Tetons weren't designated a national park in 1929. Much of the Snake River Valley was later donated to the park by John D Rockefeller, who acquired it through secret purchases to skirt the protestations of private land owners in the area who opposed the creation of a national park. Just a couple decades later, however, many locals had forgotten their animosity as a new generation of tourists trickled in via automobile, bringing business to Jackson Hole. Highlights of Grand Teton National Park Today there's more to see than ever in Grand Teton, whether you're passing through on the way to Yellowstone or planning to dive deep into this corner of the Wyoming backcountry. Mormon Row Mormon Row is possibly the most photographed spot in the park – and for good reason. The aged wooden barns and fence rails make a quintessential pastoral scene, perfectly framed by the imposing bulk of the Tetons. The barns and houses were built in the 1890s by Mormon settlers, who farmed the fertile alluvial soil irrigated by miles of hand-dug ditches. Just north of Moose Junction, head east on Antelope Flats Road for 1.5 miles to a three-way intersection and parking area. Landmark buildings are north and south of the intersection. Grand Teton Crowning glory of the park, the dagger-edged Grand Teton (13,775ft/4199m) has taunted many a would-be mountaineer. The first white men to claim to have summited were James Stevenson and Nathanial Langford, part of the 1872 Hayden Geological Survey. However, when William Owen, Franklin Spalding and two others arrived at the top in 1898, they found no evidence of a prior expedition. So they chiseled their names in a boulder, claimed the first ascent, and ignited a dispute that persists today. Jackson Lake Dam This 1916 dam has scenic lake views and paved wheelchair-accessible trails at its southern edge. The Jackson Lake Dam raises the lake level by 39ft, and was paid for by Idaho farmers who still own the irrigation rights to the top 39ft of water. It was reinforced between 1986 and 1989 to withstand earthquakes. Jackson Point Overlook The best vistas in the area are at Jackson Point Overlook. William Jackson took a famous photograph from this point in 1878, when preparing a single image could take a full hour, using heavy glass plates and a portable studio. The viewpoint is a short walk south from a parking area. Jenny Lake The scenic heart of the Grand Tetons and the epicenter of the area's crowds, Jenny Lake was named for the Shoshone wife of early guide and mountain man Beaver Dick Leigh. Don't miss the Jenny Lake Overlook which looks out at the Ribbon Cascade from the tracks of an ancient glacial moraine. Seven miles south of Signal Mountain, the Jenny Lake Scenic Drive branches west to begin Grand Teton's most picturesque parkway. The Cathedral Group turnout boasts views of the central Teton spires, known as the Cathedral Group. Interpretive boards illustrate the tectonic slippage visible at the foot of Rockchuck Peak (11,144ft), named for its resident yellow-bellied marmots (aka rock chucks). String Lake is the most popular picnic spot, with dramatic views of the north face of Teewinot Mountain (12,325ft) and Grand Teton from sandy beaches along its east side. The road becomes one-way beyond String Lake, just before exclusive Jenny Lake Lodge. Oxbow Bend Oxbow Bend is one of the most beloved spots in the park for tourists packing binoculars, cameras, and telescopes. It's a pretty corner full of wildlife at the foot of Mount Moran where moose, elk, sandhill cranes, ospreys, bald eagles, trumpeter swans, Canada geese, blue herons and white pelicans emerge every dawn and dusk. Laurance S Rockefeller Preserve For solitude coupled with the most stunning views that don't include the Grand, visitors should check out Laurance S Rockefeller Preserve, one of the newer sections of Grand Teton National Park. Once the JY Ranch, an exclusive Rockefeller family retreat, these 3100 acres around Phelps Lake were donated in full by Laurance S Rockefeller in 2001. His grandfather, John D Rockefeller, who donated some 33,000 acres of former ranchland to Grand Teton National Park. Things to do in Grand Teton National Park Some 12 imposing glacier-carved summits frame the singular Grand Teton (13,775ft). And while the view is breathtaking from the valley floor, it only gets more impressive on the trail. It's well worth hiking the dramatic canyons of fragrant forest to sublime alpine lakes surrounded by wildflowers in summer. This wilderness is home to bear, moose and elk in number, and played a fundamental role in the history of American alpine climbing. Rock climbing and fishing are also possible. Hiking With almost 250 miles of hiking trails, options are plentiful. Backcountry-use permits are required for overnight trips. Cascade Canyon Ultra-popular, this day hike scales to a gorgeous alpine lake via a gradual climb. From the Jenny Lake western boat dock, it's a 14.4-mile round-trip (18.4 miles without the boat shuttle across the lake) to alpine gem Lake Solitude, but you can turn around earlier and still soak in views. The trail passes popular Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls before climbing Cascade Canyon to the Forks. Go right for Lake Solitude (9035ft). Be mindful of the moose and bear that frequent the area. Teton Crest Trail An epic 40-mile backcountry ramble over the lofty spine of the range, the Teton Crest offers jaw-dropping views and a fair share of high exposure. This classic four- or five-day route dips in and out of the neighboring Jedediah Smith Wilderness, with numerous "outs" via the canyons and passes that access the trail on either side. Hikers must arrange for a shuttle or have two cars to leave at the start and end points. Camping permits are required. There are many options for starts and stops, but we suggest going in at the String Lake Trailhead. Death Canyon Death Canyon is one of our favorite hikes – both for the challenge and the astounding scenery. The trail ascends a mile to the Phelps Lake overlook before dropping down into the valley bottom and following Death Canyon. For a tougher add-on with impossibly beautiful views, turn right at the historic ranger cabin onto the Alaska Basin Trail and climb another 3000ft to Static Peak Divide (10,792ft) – the highest trail in Grand Teton National Park. Rafting, paddling, and fishing Rafting trips There are a number of rafting companies that operate on the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park. National Park Float Trips out of the Triangle X Ranch offers dawn, daytime and sunset floats, plus a four-hour early evening float and cookout. Trips run out of Moose. Solitude Float Trips is a highly recommended rafting company which runs Deadman's Bar-to-Moose trips and sunrise trips, plus shorter 5-mile floats. Canoes and kayaks You can also rent canoes and kayaks to paddle Jackson Lake and Jenny Lake. Signal Mountain Marina on Jackson Lake and the Snake River rents canoes ($25 per hour), kayaks ($20), motorboats (from $42) and pontoon cruisers ($105); gasoline is extra. You can also hire a guide there for fly-fishing on the lake (half-day for two people $312) and scenic Snake River float trips (adult/child US$77/50). Fly fishing and angling Fishing is a Tetons draw, with several species of whitefish and cutthroat, lake and brown trout thriving in local rivers and lakes. Get a license at the Moose Village store, Signal Mountain Lodge or Colter Bay Marina. Anglers must carry a valid Wyoming fishing license. The Snake, Buffalo Fork and Gros Ventre Rivers are closed November 1 to March 31. In general, anglers are limited to six trout per day, with varying size limitations. Get a copy of the park's fishing brochure for details. Climbing The Tetons are known for excellent short-route rock climbs, as well as classic longer routes to summits such as Grant Teton, Mt Moran and Mt Owen (12,928ft), all best attempted with an experienced guide. Jenny Lake Ranger Station is the go-to office for climbing information. It sells climbing guidebooks, provides information and has a board showing campsite availability in Garnet Canyon, the gateway to climbs including the technical ascent of Grand Teton. An excellent resource and the spot to meet outdoor partners in crime, the member-supported American Alpine Club's Climbers' Ranch has been a climbing institution since 1970. Winter sports In Grand Teton National Park, much is closed for winter. Dates for service openings and closures vary greatly from year to year, depending on snow conditions. Get information on weather, road, ski and avalanche conditions from the Jackson Visitor Center. Spur Ranch Log Cabins, which stays open for most of the year, sits close to the center of Moose. There is limited tent and RV camping (December to April 15, US$5) near the Colter Bay Visitor Center, though tent sites may be on snow. On the eastern edge of the national park, the 1926 Triangle X Ranch has wood cabins at discount winter rates. Cross country skiing Between mid-December and mid-March, the park grooms 15 miles of track right under the Tetons' highest peaks, between the Taggart and Bradley Lakes parking area and Signal Mountain. Lanes are available for ski touring, skate skiing and snowshoeing. Grooming takes place two or three times per week. The NPS does not always mark every trail: consult at the ranger station to make sure that the trail you plan to use is well tracked and easy to follow. Remember to yield to passing skiers and those skiing downhill. You can find rental equipment in Jackson. Snowshoeing Snowshoers may use the park's Nordic skiing trails, too. For an easy outing, try Teton Park Rd (closed to traffic in winter). Remember to use the hardpack trail and never walk on ski trails – skiers will thank you for preserving the track! From late December through to mid-March, naturalists lead free two-hour, 1.5-mile snowshoe hikes from the Taggart Lake trailhead three times per week. Traditional wooden snowshoes are available for rental (adult/child US$5/2). The tour is open to eight-year-olds and up. Lodging in Grand Teton National Park Demand for lodging and camping in Grand Teton is high from Memorial Day (late May) to Labor Day (early September); book lodges well in advance. Accommodations range from basic campgrounds to high-end lodges. Lodges Jenny Lake Lodge Worn timbers, down comforters and colorful quilts imbue these elegant cabins with a cozy atmosphere. Jenny Lake Lodge doesn't come cheap, but the Signature Stay package includes breakfast, five-course dinner, bicycle use and guided horseback riding. Rainy days are for hunkering down at the fireplace in the main lodge with a game or book from the stacks. Jackson Lake Lodge With soft sheets, meandering trails for long walks and enormous picture windows framing the peaks, the Teton's premier lodge is the perfect place to romance. Nearby, you may find the 348 cinder-block cottages overpriced for their viewless, barracks-like arrangement, though renovations have made them pleasant inside. The secluded Moose Pond View cottages feature amazing porch-side panoramas. Even if you aren't staying here, you should stop in to appreciate the lodge's great room with its floor-to-ceiling windows and two massive fireplaces. Jackson Lake Lodge also has a heated pool and pets are allowed ($20 extra). Ranches Climbers' Ranch Started as a refuge for serious climbers and traditionally run by the American Alpine Club, the rustic log cabins of Climbers' Ranch are now available to hikers, who can take advantage of the spectacular in-park location. There is a bathhouse with showers and a sheltered cook station with locking bins for coolers. Bring your own sleeping bag and pad (bunks are bare, but still a steal). Turpin Meadow Ranch For a true wilderness getaway or some of the best Nordic terrain in the region, check out this luxury dude ranch offering acres of cross-country skiing right outside the cabin door, in addition to fat-bike touring and snowmobiling. In summer there's mountain biking, horseback riding, pack trips and wildlife watching. Turpin Meadow Ranch 's cabins feature smart retro decor and fireplaces. Camping Camping inside the park is permitted in designated campgrounds only and is limited to 14 days (seven days at popular Jenny Lake). Most campgrounds and accommodations are open from early May to early October, depending on the weather conditions. The NPS operates the park's six campgrounds on a first-come, first-served basis. Most campsites get snatched up before 11am: Jenny Lake fills much earlier; Gros Ventre usually stays open. Signal Mountain Campground is a popular base because of its central location. Colter Bay, Jenny Lake Campground, and Lizard Creek have tent-only sites reserved for walk-in hikers and ride-in cyclists (US$11-12). Some lesser-known, first-come, first-served sites near the park may have fewer amenities, but they also have openings when NPS campgrounds are bursting, and charge a third to half of the price. Secluded Sheffield Campground is a five-site USFS (US Forest Service) campground, 2.5 miles south of Yellowstone National Park's South Entrance and just south of Flagg Ranch. Cross the Snake River Bridge, then go a half-mile east on a rough dirt road from a subtly signed turnoff. Located 7 miles northeast of Kelly on the shores of Slide Lake, Atherton Creek Campground has 20 sites, drinking water and pit toilets. Eight free, minimally developed, first-come, first-served campgrounds are strung out along the bumpy and unpaved Grassy Lake Rd, which begins just west of the parking lot at Flagg Ranch. The first (and most popular) campground is 1.6 miles along the road and has four riverside campsites. Each of the next three riverside campgrounds, in the 1.5-mile stretch past Soldiers' Meadow, has two sites. The last four campgrounds, spaced out along the next 3.5 miles, are useful for hikes into Yellowstone's southern reaches. All sites have toilets and trash service but no potable water. Camping is only allowed in designated sites. Tips for visitors Park permits (hiker or bicycle $20, vehicle $35) are valid for seven days. Alternatively, you can purchase passes including an annual Grand Teton National Park pass (US$70) or the America the Beautiful (all national parks) pass ($80). The map you get at the entry station provides a broad overview, but stop by Colter Bay Visitor Center or the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center for more detailed hiking and backcountry information. Permits are required for backcountry camping, and can be reserved at Recreation.gov in advance (US$45) from January to May 15, or in person ($35) the day before your trip. Equipment can be rented or purchased in Moose at Adventure Sports or Moosely Mountaineering.
National ParkYosemite National Park
Yosemite means "killer" in the Indigenous Miwok language, and in today's parlance it's indeed an impressive, awesome site. Everywhere you look in Yosemite, there are lofty granite domes, sheer cliffs, turbulent rivers, glassy lakes, hypnotizing waterfalls and serene meadows – not to mention spectacular viewpoints to take in all of these and more in a panoramic vision. The third US national park, Yosemite perhaps best exemplifies the kind of place worth preserving for recreation and conservation, from the park's most recognizable natural features such as Half Dome, El Capitan, Mariposa Grove, and Yosemite Falls, to the summer paradises of Tuolumne Meadows and Glacier Point. It's no wonder that over 5 million visitors arrive every year to take in Yosemite's grandeur. It was here that conservationist John Muir fell hard for mother nature, penning rhapsodic dispatches on the beauty of the Sierra Nevada that contributed to its preservation as a national park. Yosemite not only stirred Muir, it has also captivated generations of rock climbers who continue to flock to the park's challenging routes and rock faces each year. And the park continues to inspire new ways of considering and experiencing the outdoors – for example, the relatively new sport of slacklining was born in Yosemite from tired climbers trying new tricks in between projects. Activities in Yosemite There are over 800 miles of trails, from easy half-mile strolls along the valley floor to overnight backpacking expeditions and thru-hikes. There are 13 campgrounds as well as a number of backcountry sites, with Camp 4 and Tuolumne Meadows attracting close-knit communities of climbers in the summer months. Backpacks, tents and other equipment can be rented from the Yosemite Mountaineering School. Horseback riding, swimming, rafting and kayaking, skiing, fishing, and even golf and hang gliding can be found here, too. Plus there's Yosemite's after-dark entertainments – in addition to events at the Yosemite Theater, other activities scheduled year-round include campfire programs, children’s photo walks, twilight strolls, night-sky watching, and ranger talks and slide shows. The tavern at the Evergreen Lodge has live bands some weekends, too. Best views of Yosemite Valley The park’s crown jewel, the spectacular, meadow-carpeted Yosemite Valley stretches 7 miles long, bisected by the rippling Merced River and hemmed in by some of the most majestic chunks of granite anywhere on earth. Ribbons of water, including some of the highest waterfalls in the US, fall dramatically before crashing in thunderous displays. The counterpoint to the sublime natural scene is bustling Yosemite Village. The best all-around photo op of the Valley can be had from Tunnel View, a large, busy parking lot and viewpoint at the east end of Wawona Tunnel, on Hwy 41. It’s just a short drive from the Valley floor. The vista encompasses most of the Valley’s icons: El Capitan on the left, Bridalveil Fall on the right, the green Valley floor below, and glorious Half Dome front and center. This viewpoint is often mistakenly called Inspiration Point. That point was on an old park road and is now reachable via a steep hike from the Tunnel View parking lot. The second view, known as Valley View, is a good one to hit on your way out. It offers a bottom-up (rather than top-down) view of the Valley and is a lovely spot to dip your toes in the Merced River and bid farewell to sights like Bridalveil Fall, Cathedral Rocks and El Capitan. Look carefully to spot the tip-top of Half Dome in the distance. As you head west out of the Valley on Northside Dr, look for the Valley View turnout (roadside marker V11), just over a mile past El Capitan Meadow. Near the base of Yosemite Falls, the collection of buildings known as Yosemite Valley Lodge includes modern, motel-like accommodations, restaurants, including the recently upgraded Base Camp eatery and Starbucks, shops, a bar, a bicycle-rental stand, a pool, a tour desk and other amenities. The amphitheater hosts regular evening programs, and the pool is open to the public. The Yosemite Valley shuttle bus stops right out front, as do Yosemite Area Regional Transport System (YARTS) buses. All guided tram tours, ski shuttles and hiker buses also leave from here; tickets are available from the tour desk in the lobby. Climbing El Capitan At nearly 3600ft from base to summit, El Capitan ranks as one of the world’s largest granite monoliths. Its sheer face makes it a world-class destination for experienced climbers, and one that wasn’t topped until 1958. Since then, it’s been inundated. Look closely and you’ll probably spot climbers reckoning with El Cap’s series of cracks and ledges, including the famous ‘Nose.’ At night, park along the road and dim your headlights; once your eyes adjust, you’ll easily make out the pinpricks of headlamps dotting the rock face. Listen, too, for voices. The meadow across from El Capitan is good for watching climbers dangle from granite (you need binoculars for a really good view). Look for the haul bags first – they’re bigger, more colorful and move around more than the climbers, making them easier to spot. As part of the excellent ‘Ask a Climber’ program, climbing rangers set up telescopes at El Capitan Bridge from 12:30pm to 4:30pm (mid-May through mid-October) and answer visitors’ questions. See the Yosemite Guide listing for a schedule. Half Dome Rising 8842ft above sea level, and nearly a mile above the valley floor, Half Dome serves as the park’s spiritual centerpiece and stands as one of the most glorious and monumental (not to mention best-known) domes on earth. Its namesake shape is, in fact, an illusion. While from the valley the dome appears to have been neatly sliced in half, from Glacier or Washburn Points you’ll see that it’s actually a thin ridge with a back slope nearly as steep as its fabled facade. As you travel through the park, witness Half Dome’s many faces. For example, from Mirror Lake it presents a powerful form, while from the Panorama Trail it looks somewhat like a big toe poking out above the rocks and trees. Glacier Point Constructed to replace an 1882 wagon road, the modern 16-mile stretch of Glacier Point Rd leads to what many people consider the finest viewpoint in Yosemite. A lofty 3200ft above the valley floor, 7214ft Glacier Point presents one of the park’s most eye-popping vistas and practically puts you at eye level with Half Dome. Lying directly below Glacier Point, Half Dome Village is home to Yosemite Valley’s second-biggest collection of restaurants, stores and overnight accommodations. Originally called Camp Curry, it was founded in 1899 by David and Jennie Curry as a place where everyday visitors could find ‘a good bed and a clean napkin at every meal.’ Starting with just a handful of tents, the camp quickly grew, thanks in large part to David Curry’s entrepreneurial drive and booming personality. One of his biggest promotional schemes was the Firefall, a nightly event and significant tourist draw. Yosemite Falls One of the world’s most dramatic natural spectacles, Yosemite Falls is a marvel to behold. Naturalist John Muir devoted entire pages to its changing personality, its myriad sounds, its movement with the wind and its transformations between the seasons. No matter where you are when you see it (and it regularly pops into view from all over the Valley), the falls will stop you in your tracks. In spring, when snowmelt gets Yosemite Creek really pumping, the sight is astounding. Another sign of springtime is 'frazil ice', the strange slurry – not exactly ice or snow – that moves like lava from the bottom of the falls under Yosemite Creek bridges. On nights when the falls are full and the moon is bright, especially in May and June, you might spot a ‘moonbow’ (aka lunar rainbow or spraybow). In winter, as the spray freezes midair, an ice or snow cone, depending on its density, forms at the base of the falls and can top out at several hundred feet. To get to the base of Lower Yosemite Fall, get off at shuttle stop 6 (or park in the lot just north of Yosemite Valley Lodge) and join the legions of visitors for the easy quarter-mile stroll. Note that in midsummer, when the snowmelt has dissipated, both the upper and lower falls usually dry up – sometimes to a trickle, other times stopping altogether. Bridalveil Fall In the southwest end of Yosemite Valley, Bridalveil Fall tumbles 620ft. The Ahwahneechee people call it Pohono (Spirit of the Puffing Wind), as gusts often blow the fall from side to side, even lifting water back up into the air. This waterfall usually runs year-round, though it’s reduced to a whisper by midsummer. Bring rain gear or expect to get wet when the fall is heavy. Take the seasonal El Capitan shuttle or park at the large lot where Wawona Rd (Hwy 41) meets Southside Dr. From the lot, it’s a quarter-mile walk to the base of the fall. The path is paved, but probably too rough for wheelchairs, and there’s a bit of an uphill at the very end. Avoid climbing on the slippery rocks at its base – no one likes a broken bone. The Yosemite Conservancy is planning to remodel the usually overflowing parking lot and trail access to make it more visitor friendly. If you’d rather walk from the Valley, a trail (part of the Loop Trails) follows Southside Dr, beginning near the Yosemite Heritage Conservation Center and running about 3.8 miles west to the falls. Tuolumne Meadows About 55 miles from Yosemite Valley, 8600ft Tuolumne Meadows is the largest subalpine meadow in the Sierra. It provides a dazzling contrast to the valley, with its lush fields, clear blue lakes, ragged granite peaks and domes, and cooler temperatures. During July or August, you’ll find a painter’s palette of wildflowers decorating the meadows. Hikers and climbers will find a paradise of options. Satisfying burgers and hot dogs, not to mention a few salads, are served up at Tuolumne Meadows Grill. Grab a seat outside at a picnic table. Tuolumne Meadows Store has everything you need to pack a picnic lunch. Tuolumne Meadows sits along Tioga Rd (Hwy 120) west of the park’s Tioga Pass Entrance. The Tuolumne Meadows Hikers’ Bus makes the trip along Tioga Rd once daily in each direction, and can be used for one-way hikes. There’s also a free Tuolumne Meadows Shuttle, which travels between the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge and Olmsted Point, including a stop at Tenaya Lake. The Majestic Yosemite Hotel Almost as iconic as Half Dome itself, the elegant Majestic Yosemite Hotel has drawn well-heeled tourists through its towering doors since 1927. Of course, you needn’t be wealthy in the least to partake of its many charms. In fact, a visit to Yosemite Valley is hardly complete without a stroll through the Great Lounge (aka the lobby), which is handsomely decorated with leaded glass, sculpted tile, Native American rugs and Turkish kilims. You can relax on the plush but aging couches and stare out the 10 floor-to-ceiling windows, wander into the Solarium, or send the kids into the walk-in fireplace (no longer in use) for a photo. You can even sneak up the back stairs for a peek into the private Tudor Room, which has excellent views over the Great Lounge. The hotel was designed by American architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, who also designed Zion Lodge, Bryce Canyon Lodge and Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge. If the hotel’s lobby looks familiar, perhaps it’s because it inspired the lobby of the Overlook Hotel, the ill-fated inn from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Yosemite Ski Area The California ski industry essentially got its start in Yosemite Valley, and Badger Pass (now called the Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area) was California’s first alpine ski resort. After Yosemite’s All-Year Hwy (now Hwy 140) was completed in 1926 and the Ahwahnee Hotel (now called the Majestic Yosemite Hotel) opened its doors the following year, Yosemite Valley quickly became a popular winter destination. When Wawona Tunnel opened in 1933, skiers began congregating at Badger Pass. In 1935, a new lodge opened on Glacier Point Rd, and a newfangled device called ‘the upski’ was installed at the pass. The crude lift consisted of nothing more than two counterbalanced sleds, but it worked, and this place became California’s first alpine ski resort. In winter, a free shuttle bus runs between the Valley and the Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area. Also in winter, wilderness permits are available by self-registration at the A-frame building, where the first-aid station and ski patrol are also situated. Rangers usually staff the office from 8am to 5pm. The history of Yosemite National Park The Ahwahneechee, a group of Miwok and Paiute peoples, lived in the Yosemite area for around 4000 years before a group of pioneers, most likely led by explorer Joseph Rutherford Walker, came through in 1833. There were an estimated 3000 people living in 22 villages in the valley alone. During the gold-rush era, conflict between the miners and native tribes escalated to the point where a military expedition (the Mariposa Battalion) was dispatched in 1851 to punish the Ahwahneechee, eventually forcing the capitulation of Chief Tenaya and his tribe. Tales of thunderous waterfalls and towering stone columns followed the Mariposa Battalion out of Yosemite and soon spread into the public’s awareness. In 1855, San Francisco entrepreneur James Hutchings organized the first tourist party to the valley. Published accounts of his trip, in which he extolled the area’s untarnished beauty, prompted others to follow, and it wasn’t long before inns and roads began springing up. Alarmed by this development, conservationists petitioned Congress to protect the area – with success. In 1864 President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant, which eventually ceded Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias to California as a state park. This landmark decision, along with the pioneering efforts of conservationist John Muir, led to a congressional act in 1890 creating Yosemite National Park; this, in turn, helped pave the way for the national-park system that was established in 1916. Yosemite Tickets and Tours Admission to Yosemite costs $35 per car, $30 per motorcycle, $20 per person on foot or by bicycle. Guided tour packages are offered by a number of third-parties, including some based within the park and some outside its bounds: Yosemite Conservancy - Park-affiliated nonprofit offers multiday courses, custom trips and seminars that are great alternatives to tours. Sierra Club - The national environmental nonprofit has both paid trips and free activity outings sponsored by local chapters. Discover Yosemite Tours - Operates bus tours year-round from Oakhurst, Fish Camp and Bass Lake. Aramark/Yosemite Hospitality - The park’s main concessionaire runs bus and tram tours, including a very popular wheelchair-accessible two-hour Valley Floor Tour and day trips from the Valley to either Glacier Point or Tuolumne Meadows. Stop at the tour and activity desks at Yosemite Valley Lodge, Half Dome Village or Yosemite Village; call 209-372-4386; check www.travelyosemite.com; or the Yosemite Guide for information and pricing. Tenaya Lodge - Large family-friendly resort in Fish Camp operates full-day park tours in luxurious Mercedes Benz buses with retractable roofs that allow you to experience the natural sights a little more naturally. Guests of the lodge have priority. Green Tortoise - Runs backpacker-friendly two-day ($300) and three-day ($360) trips to Yosemite from San Francisco where travelers sleep in the converted bus or in campgrounds, cook collectively and choose from activities like hiking, swimming or just hanging out (and there’s always some great hanging out). Prices (which change annually) include most meals and the park entry fee. Incredible Adventures - This outfit uses biodiesel vans for its San Francisco–based tours to Yosemite, from one-day sightseeing tours ($159) to three-day camping tours ($489). Park entry fees and most meals are included, and it provides all cooking and camping gear except sleeping bags.
National ParkCrater Lake National Park
The ancient mountain whose remains now form Crater Lake was known to the the Klamath, Modoc and Yahooskin Band of the Snake as Giiwas, or "sacred place." It earned that name after the region's Indigenous people witnessed a catastrophic volcanic explosion around 7700 years ago, an even that knit itself into their oral histories in such detail that Klamath mythology predicted geological discoveries that weren't made until millennia later. It may be hard to picture now, but Mount Mazama was a roughly 12,000ft volcanic peak that was heavily glaciered and inactive for many thousands of years until it came back to life. When the top of the mountain blew, it scattered ash for hundreds of miles as flows of superheated pumice solidified into massive banks. These eruptions emptied the magma chambers at the heart of the volcano, and the summit cone collapsed to form the caldera. Sparse forests can still be seen growing in pumice and ash in the Pumice Desert, just north of Crater Lake along North Entrance Rd. Further afield, outside the park, beloved attractions like Umpqua Hot Springs hint at the region's ongoing geologic activity. Slowly over time, snowfall and rain contributed to the lake water – and the purity of the sources combined with the lake's great depth (at 1943ft down, it's the deepest lake in the United States) give it that famous hue. Those gloriously blue waters of Crater Lake reflect surrounding mountain peaks like a giant dark-blue mirror, making for spectacular photographs and breathtaking panoramas. Highlights of Crater Lake National Park The park's popular south entrance is open year-round and provides access to Rim Village and Mazama Village, as well as the park headquarters at the Steel Visitors Center. In winter you can only go up to the lake's rim and back down the same way; no other roads are plowed. The north entrance is only open from early June to late October, depending on snowfall. The Rim Drive No matter what else they get into, most visitors cruise the 33-mile loop Rim Drive, which is open from around June to mid-October and offers over 30 viewpoints as it winds around the edge of Crater Lake. A 7-mile side road leads to the Pinnacles, pumice and ash formations carved by erosion into 100ft spires ('hoodoos'). A paved side road on the east side leads to amazing views from Cloudcap Overlook, almost 2000ft above the lake. Without any stops, it takes about an hour to do this drive (but you'll want to stop!). Wizard Island Whether you're just gazing at Wizard Island from the rim of Crater Lake, or visiting it by boat, it's definitely one of the most prominent features of this national park. The island is actually the top of a cinder cone and rises about 755ft above the surface of the lake. On the island you can hang out and swim or hike up to the top of the cone and circle the rim (2.5 miles round-trip). The Fumarole Trail (1.4 miles roundtrip) leads around the coast along cool lava formations. You'll have to reserve in advance to get a boat shuttle here, only available in summer. Tours One of the most popular things to do at Crater Lake is to take the informative, ranger-led, two-hour-long Crater Lake Trolley tours. The old-fashioned, wood-paneled vehicle makes five to seven stops and saves you from having to drive and park, plus you get very insightful narration along the way. Two-hour boat tours are also available and require a fairly strenuous 30- to 40-minute hike down the crater to the dock (then back up again). The two-hour tour ($44 per person) takes you around the lake, or include Wizard Island ($55 per person) for a chance to swim and hike. You can also just take a shuttle to Wizard Island ($28 round-trip). Reserve, as these are popular. Hiking and snowshoeing Crater Lake has over 90 miles of hiking trails, although some higher ones aren't completely clear of snow enough to hike until late July. The trails closer to Crater Lake Lodge and Mazama Village are the busiest but with a little determination and sweat you can lose the crowd to find some spectacular trails and mind-bending views. Wildflowers bloom through the hiking season and the higher the elevation, the later the blooms. In winter, only the southern entrance road to Rim Village is kept plowed to provide access to several Nordic skiing trails. Rentals are unavailable inside the park, so bring skis with you. Only experienced skiers should attempt the dangerous, avalanche-prone loop around Crater Lake, which takes two to three days and requires a backcountry permit from park headquarters. Snowshoes are provided for free ranger-led snowshoe walks in winter. Call ahead for reservations. Mt Scott This strenuous 5 mile round trip hike takes you to an incredible lake vista atop 8929ft Mt Scott, the highest point in Crate Lake National Park. It starts easily, through a meadow then climbs more steeply the higher (and more out of breath) you get. Because of the high elevation you can expect snow around the top of the trail year-round. It's said that this is the only place in the park where you can get the entire lake in a camera frame. This is also a great place to spot Grouse, Clark's Nut Crackers, Steller's Jays and other birds. Garfield Peak From the eastern edge of the Rim Village parking lot, this short but steep 3.4 mile trail leads up 8054ft Garfield Peak to an expansive view of the lake, the Klamath Basin and southern Cascade mountains; in July the slopes are covered with wildflowers. This is one of the most popular hiking trails in Crater Lake but even with the crowds, it's worth it. Expect snow at the upper elevations all season long. Be prepared to get winded by the altitude if you're not acclimatized. Watchman Lookout Tower For a steep but shorter 1.4 mile hike, trek up to the Watchman, an old 1932 lookout tower on the opposite side of the lake that boasts one of the park's best views – and definitely the best views of Wizard Island. Wear good shoes to traverse a scree area. Expect a colorful palette of wildflowers from late August into October and snow year-round. It can get windy up here so dress in layers. Castle Crest Wildflower Garden Trail For flower enthusiasts, there's an easy 1-mile nature trail near the Steel Visitors Center that winds through the Castle Crest Wildflower Garden. This trail built in 1929 was one of the first interpretive wildflower trails built in a national park. The path meanders though meadow lined with forest and is dotted with wet meadows with stepping stones and little streams. Surprisingly, it's lightly visited so it's a great place to find some peace and quiet. Do expect mosquitoes. The most flowers bloom early in the season around June. Cleetwood Cove Trail The very popular and steep 2 mile trail at the northern end of the crater provides the only water access at the cove. Bring a swimsuit to take a dip in the lake (this will be with a whole bunch of other people) and waterproof shoes since the bottom here is sharp rock. Geology nerds will also love the chance to see the volcanic rock that makes up the caldera. Boat tours are available from here but reserve in advance. If the parking lot is full, park along the road (although even that might be full). Pinnacles Overlook Trail This short 1.2 mile trail is actually outside the park and gives you a glimpse of some different geology. Follow Pinnacles Rd (off of East Rim Dr) and keep going down Pinnacles Rd (about another 6 miles) until you reach Pinnacles Overlook. The colorful spires you look down on are around 100ft high. The spires are fumaroles, where volcanic gas rose up through hot ash deposits, cementing the ash into solid rock. As a side trip, you can also stop and take the Plaikni Falls Trail to Plaikni Falls (off of Pinnacles Rd) before you reach the Pinnacles Overlook Trailhead. Crater Lake Resort, RV park, and campground Construction began on the grand old Crater Lake Lodge in 1909 and it opened in 1915, but it's been steadily evolving ever since, with regular updates and renovations that haven't diminished it as a stunning example of the classic "parksitecture" style that first welcomed tourists to the country's earliest National Parks. Still, the intense winter weather conditions on the mountain took their toll, and the Lodge was almost razed in the 1970s until the local community rallied to have it added to the National Register of Historic Places. An extensive retrofitting in the early 1990s saved the Lodge, and today it boasts 71 simple but comfortable rooms – don't expect TV or a telephone. It's the common areas that are most impressive – large stone fireplaces, a fine dining room, rustic leather sofas and a spectacular view of Crater Lake from the patio are what make this place really special. Park lodging is closed mid-October to late May, depending on snowfall. Cabins and camping in Mazama Village are another option for lodging. Open approximately mid-June through September or October (depending on the weather), this is the park's main campground. The 40 pleasant cabin rooms (no TV or telephone) are located in attractive four-plex buildings. Mazama Village is 7 miles from Crater Lake, with a small grocery store and gas pump nearby. There are over 200 wooded camp sites, too, with showers and a laundry; Some sites are first come, first served. Whether you're pitching a tent or posting up in a cabin, it's wise to reserve as early as possible. Other than Crater Lake Lodge and Mazama Village, the nearest non-camping accommodations are 20 to 40 miles away. Fort Klamath has several good lodgings. Union Creek, Prospect, Diamond Lake and Lemolo Lake all have nice, woodsy places to stay. In particular, the lodge at Diamond Lake is a classic 1920s alpine lake retreat that's a little worn around the edges but still hints at century-old glam. There's lots of accommodations in Medford, Roseburg and Klamath Falls, too. Visiting Crate r Lake Most people visit Crater Lake by car; it's wise to carry chains in winter. The north entrance and most of the roads inside the park are closed from November usually until June. Hwy 62 and the 4-mile road from the highway to park headquarters are plowed and open year-round. The 3-mile road from headquarters to Rim Village is kept open when possible, but heavy snowfall means it may be closed; call ahead to check (541-594-3100). It's best to top up your gas tank before arriving at Crater Lake. There's reasonably priced gas at Mazama Village (summertime only); the closest pumps otherwise are in Prospect, Diamond Lake and Fort Klamath. Amtrak trains link up with the Crater Lake Trolley once daily in summer so you can make it up to the lake and back in a day. However, you'll have to spend the night in Klamath Falls one night either on the way in or out (depending on which direction you're headed). The Steel Visitors Center three miles south of Rim Village provides good information, with a film about the park, backcountry permits and weather info. Rangers are available to answer questions. Remember that you're at high elevation and pack accordingly, bringing lots of water, sun protection and convertible clothing for the fickle weather. Summer is often cold and windy, so dress warmly. The park's eating facilities are limited, though you can always bring a picnic and find a fabulously scenic spot. Rim Village has a small cafe and there's an upscale dining room nearby at the lodge where you can feast on Northwestern cuisine from a changing menu that includes dishes like bison meatloaf and elk chops with huckleberry sauce. Try for a table with a lake view (there are only a few). Dinner reservations are recommended. Mazama Village has a small grocery store and a decently priced restaurant called Annie Creek, too.
MarketPike Place Market
A cavalcade of noise, smells, personalities, banter and urban theater sprinkled liberally around a spatially challenged waterside strip, Pike Place Market is Seattle in a bottle. In operation since 1907 and still as lively today as it was on day one, this wonderfully local experience highlights the city for what it really is: all-embracing, eclectic and proudly unique. A 2017 expansion of the market infrastructure added vendor space, weather-protected common areas, extra parking, and housing for low-income seniors. If you’re coming from downtown, simply walk down Pike Street toward the waterfront; you can’t miss the huge Public Market sign etched against the horizon. Incidentally, the sign and clock, installed in 1927, constituted one of the first pieces of outdoor neon on the West Coast. From the top of Pike Street and 1st Avenue, stop and survey the bustle and vitality. Walk down the cobblestone street, past perpetually gridlocked cars (don’t even think of driving down to Pike Place) and, before walking into the market, stop and shake the bronze snout of Rachel the Market Pig, the de-facto mascot and presiding spirit of the market. This life-size piggy bank, carved by Whidbey Island artist Georgia Gerber and named after a real pig, collects about $10,000 each year. The funds are pumped back into market social services. Nearby is the information booth, which has maps of the market and information about Seattle in general. It also serves as a ticket booth, selling discount tickets to various shows throughout the city. Pike Place Market History Pike Place Market is the oldest continuously operating market in the nation. It was established in 1907 to give local farmers a place to sell their fruit and vegetables and bypass the middleman. Soon, the greengrocers made room for fishmongers, bakers, butchers, cheese sellers, grocers selling imported wares, and purveyors of the rest of the Northwest’s agricultural bounty. The market wasn’t exactly architecturally robust – it’s always been a thrown-together warren of sheds and stalls, haphazardly designed for utility – and was by no means an intentional tourist attraction. That came later. An enthusiastic agricultural community spawned the market’s heyday in the 1930s. Many of the first farmers were immigrants, a fact the market celebrates with annual themes acknowledging the contributions of various ethnic groups; past years have featured Japanese Americans, Italian Americans and Sephardic Jewish Americans. By the 1960s, sales at the market were suffering from suburbanization, the growth of supermarkets and the move away from local, small-scale market gardening. Vast tracts of agricultural land were disappearing, replaced by such ventures as the Northgate Mall and Sea-Tac airport. The internment of Japanese American farmers during WWII had also taken its toll. The entire area became a bowery for the destitute and was known as a center of ill repute. In the wake of the 1962 World’s Fair, plans were drawn up to bulldoze the market and build high-rise office and apartment buildings on this piece of prime downtown real estate. Fortunately, public outcry prompted a voter’s initiative to save the market. Subsequently, the space was cleaned up and restructured, and it has become once again the undeniable pulse of downtown; some 10 million people stroll through the market each year. Thanks to the unique management of the market, social-services programs and low-income housing mix with commerce, and the market has maintained its gritty edge. These initiatives have prevented the area from ever sliding too far upscale. A market law prohibits chain stores or franchises from setting up shop and ensures all businesses are locally owned. The one exception is, of course, Starbucks, which gets away with its market location because it is the coffee giant’s oldest outlet, moving here from its original location in 1976. In 2015, ground was broken on the "Pike Up" project, a 30,000-sq-ft extension of Pike Place. Made possible by the demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the MarketFront complex opened in 2017 with new shops, restaurants and stalls, and links the market to the waterfront via terraces, staircases and green space. Main and North Arcades Rachel the Market Pig marks the main entrance to the Main & North Arcades, thin shed-like structures that run along the edge of the hill; these are the busiest of the market buildings. With banks of fresh produce carefully arranged in artful displays, and fresh fish, crab and other shellfish piled high on ice, this is the real heart of the market. Here you’ll see fishmongers tossing salmon back and forth like basketballs (many of these vendors will pack fish for overnight delivery). You’ll also find cheese shops, butchers, stands selling magazines and candy from around the world, tiny grocery stalls and almost everything else you need to put together a meal. The end of the North Arcade is dedicated to local artisans and craftspeople – products must be handmade to be sold here. It's also abloom with flower sellers. The Main Arcade was built in 1907, the first of Frank Goodwin’s market buildings. Down Under As if the levels of the market that are above ground aren’t labyrinthine enough, below the Main Arcade are three lower levels called the Down Under. Here you’ll find a fabulously eclectic mix of pocket-size shops, from Indian spice stalls to magician supply shops and vintage magazine and map purveyors. Economy Market Building Once a stable for merchants’ horses, the Economy Market Building on the south side of the market entrance has a wonderful Italian grocery store, DeLaurenti – a great place for any aficionado of Italian foods to browse and sample. There’s also Tenzing Momo, one of the oldest apothecaries on the West Coast, where you can pick up herbal remedies, incense, oils and books. Tarot readings are available here on occasion. Look down at the Economy Market floor and you’ll see some of its 46,000 tiles, sold to the public in the 1980s for $35 apiece. If you bought a tile, you’d get your name on it and be proud that you helped save the market floor. Famous tile owners include Cat in the Hat creator Dr. Seuss and former US president Ronald Reagan. South Arcade If you continue past DeLaurenti, you’ll come into the South Arcade, the market’s newest wing, home to upscale shops and the lively Pike Pub & Brewery. It's not technically part of the historic market, but is with it in spirit and rambunctious energy. Corner and Sanitary Market Buildings Across Pike Place from the Main Arcade are the 1912 Corner & Sanitary Market Buildings, so named because they were the first of the market buildings in which live animals were prohibited. It’s now a maze of ethnic groceries and great little eateries, including Three Girls Bakery, which is as old as the building itself and the insanely popular Crumpet Shop. When you've finished devouring your baked goods, you can digest a bit of radical literature in bolshie bookstore, Left Bank Books. Post Alley Between the Corner Market and the Triangle Building, narrow Post Alley (named for its hitching posts) is lined with shops and restaurants. Extending north across Stewart Street, it offers two of the area’s best places for a drink: the Pink Door Ristorante, an Italian hideaway with a cool patio, and Kells, an Irish pub. In Lower Post Alley, beside the market sign, is the LaSalle Hotel, which was the first bordello north of Yesler Way. Originally the Outlook Hotel, it was taken over in 1942 by the notorious Nellie Curtis, a woman with 13 aliases and a knack for running suspiciously profitable hotels with thousands of lonely sailors lined up nightly outside the door. The building, rehabbed in 1977, now houses commercial and residential space. Post Alley continues on the southern side of Pike Street where you'll find the beautifully disgusting gum wall. The once venerable red-brick facade is now covered in used pieces of chewing gum, originally stuck there by bored theater-goers standing in line for a nearby ticket office in the 1990s. Despite early attempts by the city council to sanitize, the gum-stickers persevered and in 1999, the wall was declared a tourist attraction. Feel free to add your own well-chewed morsels to the Jackson Pollock–like display Next head to one of the market's best hideaway spots, the bar and pizza restaurant Alibi Room. Triangle Building All in a row in the diminutive Triangle Building, sandwiched between Pike Place, Pine Street and Post Alley, is a huddle of cheap food take-outs including Mee Sum Pastry (try the steamed pork bun), a juice bar and Cinnamon Works – all great choices for a stand-up snack. First Avenue Buildings These downtown-facing buildings, added mainly in the 1980s, blend seamlessly into the older hive. Here you'll find Pike Place's only two accommodations – Pensione Nichols and Inn at the Market – a couple of classic pubs and community resources such as a medical center. North End The market's North End stretches along Pike Place from Pine Street to Victor Steinbrueck Park – a popular meeting point for daily walking tours. The 1918 Soames-Dunn building, once occupied by a seed company and a paper company, is now home to the world's oldest Starbucks. Beware of crowds and errant elbows knocking over your mermaid-logo coffee cup. Pike Place Market Hours Early birds catch more than worms at Pike Place Market. Arrive promptly at 9am for some real-life street theater at market roll call before wandering over to the Main Arcade to see the fish throwers warming up. The purpose of roll call is allocating space to the market’s temporary craft-sellers. As Pike Place has more than 200 registered vendors but only 130 available trading spots, each day is nail-biting. By 9:30am the spots have been assigned and everyone is on their way. Roll call is held at the north end of the North Arcade.
ParkGolden Gate Park
When Frederick Law Olmsted, architect of New York's Central Park, gazed in 1865 upon the plot of land San Francisco Mayor Frank McCoppin wanted to turn into a vast city park, he was understandably skeptical. Here was a swath of 1,013 acres of unlovely, dubious sand dunes on the outskirts of town, buffeted by powerful winds blowing in off the dark grey Pacific. The landscape architect turned down the job, despite the opportunity to create a park bigger than New York's before his first masterpiece was even finished. But Olmstead would have to chuckle, and change his tune, a century later to see what Golden Gate Park became – from bonsai, buffalo, and redwoods to Frisbees, free music, and free spirits, when in the 1960s San Francisco's back yard became the epicenter of the Summer of Love. Today it still seems to contain just about everything its denizens love about their city. You could wander the park for a week and still not see it all – but any given visit is a chance to walk through San Francisco history, from the park's oldest corners at its eastern end to where the park's borders give way to surf spots on the Pacific coast. Walk through history in Golden Gate Park The creation of Golden Gate Park Golden Gate Park was the brain child of several local politicians angling to flip a piece of former Mexican territory on the outskirts of San Francisco into a profitable expansion of the growing city. Not the least of these city schemers was then-mayor Frank McCoppin, who saw an opportunity to not only give San Franciscans more elbow room while lining his own pockets on construction grift, but also solve a problem that had lead to lengthy legal battles – namely, the presence of well-to-do and opportunistic squatters trying to lay claim to the Outside Lands now that San Francisco's fortunes looked rosy. Despite Olmsted's assertion a park larger than New York's Central would never succeed on the proposed site, tenacious young civil engineer William Hammond Hall and master gardener John McLaren got to work. They had a unique vision for the time that would banish commercial eyesores like casinos, resorts, racetracks and an igloo village and instead showcase mother nature. It was an unorthodox view in an era when Central Park wasn't even yet complete, ten years before even such majestic and one-of-a-kind landscapes as Yellowstone would be preserved from development as national parks. What to do in Golden Gate Park Ultimately, McCoppin, Hall and McLaren had their ways, producing a green space that "feels wild....shaggy and labyrinthine and confusing," in the words of Gary Kimya, scholar of San Francisco history. Indeed, he wrote in Cool Grey City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco that "The paradox of Golden Gate Park is that its wildness is almost completely man-made. Every inch of the park had to be won. The loss of San Francisco's great sand dunes...is tragic...but [represents an] ultimately triumphant negotiation between man and the world." Several of Golden Gate Park's earliest features give teeth to that assessment. The Conservatory of Flowers, opened in 1879 and filled with rare specimens from South and Central America and aquatic Plants native to the Amazon. Stow Lake was created in 1893 with its picturesque Strawberry Hill, a favorite for families for over a hundred years. The Japanese Tea Garden is another early success – the oldest such public Japanese garden in the United States, it's been here since the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894. The carefully tended garden is full of imported plants, birds, and fish that have flourished for over a century in the once-inhospitable Outside Lands far from their native Nippon. In 1906, nearly forty years after the dunes turned into a park larger than Olmstead's masterpiece, the devastating earthquake that shook San Francisco left thousands of refugees camping out in parks around the city, from Dolores Park in the Mission to Golden Gate Park. Some of the shacks built by the US Army to house earthquake victims were later moved to permanent lots, and are still in use today. As the city recovered, several new institutions found a home in Golden Gate Park, including the including the Kezar Stadium (former home to the Oakland Raiders), California Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum. The park's beloved Windmills bookended the earthquake, one built in 1903 and the other in 1908. The spiky Dahlia Garden appeared in the mid-1920s, as did the Shakespeare Garden with its collection of 200 plants mentioned in the Bard's writings. The WPA and the Summer of Love During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration was not only busy decorating Coit Tower with controversial murals, they were adding new features to Golden Gate Park, including the San Francisco Botanical Garden, the archery field, Anglers Lodge, and the Model Yacht Club. They also restored the 1926 art deco Horseshoe Pits, and built the Beach Chalet with its gorgeous frescos that tell the story of Golden Gate Park's construction. Most impressive, the Hoover Grove of giant sequoia were planted in 1930 to honor casualties from World War I, on the south edge of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Here you can peep these towering giants without driving out to the Marin Headlands and Muir Woods National Monument. So much for Olmstead's jab that "There is not a full-grown tree of beautiful proportions near San Francisco." The park's features and usages continued to evolve over the decades. Stow Lake's lovely boathouse was added in 1946. Twenty years later, in the Panhandle fringes of the park near Haight-Ashbury, the Human Be-In ushered in the Summer of Love, when thousands of youth were drawn to Hippie Hill by the promise of utopia fueled by free concerts from local bands and plentiful cannabis and LSD. Visit Golden Gate Park on April 20th of any given year (and, let's be honest, in certain pockets any day of the week) and you'll catch a whiff of the Hippie Hill scene from fifty years ago. Golden Gate Park today One of the most recent permanent additions to Golden Gate Park is the National AIDS Memorial Grove. Built in 1991, it's a touching tribute to the millions of lives lost during the plague years, which hit San Francisco's queer community hard and left the city shaken after the dark 1980s. That's not all, however. The park is still constantly evolving year to year. Today Golden Gate Park hosts events like the Bay to Breakers 12K race, as well as the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and Outside Lands music festivals which take place every October. In December, the Christmas lights are a draw for families and visitors. In 2020, the city celebrated the park's 150th anniversary with temporary art installations like local artist Charles Gadeken's Entwined light show in Peacock Meadow (240 John F Kennedy Drive). Another new addition to mark the anniversary was the SkyStar Wheel, Golden Gate Park's own ferris wheel that will be in place until March of 2025. That same year, protestors marked Juneteenth by toppling some of the park's historic statues, including those of Francis Scott Key, Padre Junipero Serra, and Ulysses S. Grant. Other changes during the COVID-19 pandemic have included the Golden Gate Park Sunday Roller Disco Party, a free community-led party for roller skaters at " Skatin' Place," a spot near 6th Ave & Kennedy Drive, most Sundays from noon to 5PM that features live DJs. Keep your eyes pealed during the summer months for one of the 12 pianos hidden around the Botanical Garden for anyone to play, part of an event called Flower Piano that includes free piano lessons, community sing-alongs at sunset, and more. Getting to Golden Gate Park At over three miles long and half a mile long, there's a lot of ground to cover in Golden Gate Park, and a lot of entrances. The most popular entrance is in the Panhandle via Fell St, but coming in from 9th Avenue off Lincoln puts you right by some prime attractions. JFK serves as one of the main arteries in the park for cars, along with Transverse Drive, Chain of Lakes Drive, and 25 th Ave/Crossover Drive/19 th Ave/Park Presidio – these later streets are not part of the Slow Streets program the city has implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic to give San Franciscans more room to walk and bike away from crowds. Check the park website to see the latest on road closures for events and other initiatives. Biking, walking, and skating are all popular here. Numerous bus and trolly routes serve Golden Gate Park, too, and you'll find entry points lining the side of the park all the way around its perimeter. The park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are restrooms sprinkled throughout the park, Vehicle parking in Golden Gate Park There are over 4,700 street parking spots throughout the park. Accessible parking is available at the McLaren Lodge, Music Concourse (behind Bandshell), MLK Drive & Music Concourse and on JFK/Transverse Drive. The 800-space Music Concourse garage ($33 for the day) as well as over 4,700 street parking spots throughout the park. Music Concourse garage is the main parking lot for the SkyStar Observation Wheel, as well as the De Young Museum, several gardens, and Cal Academy. It can be reached via Fulton St. at 10th Avenue and is open every day of the week from 7AM to 7PM. The Golden Gate Park shuttle The Golden Gate Park free shuttle runs from 9AM to 6PM on a cadence of every 15 to 20 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as on city holidays.
With eyes on both the galaxy above and palm-flanked boulevards below, the Griffith Observatory hovers above LA like a hulking spacecraft. This is one of the city’s true icons, an art deco behemoth flaunted on both the small and silver screen. Yet the place is more than its architectural good looks and epic panoramas, with spectacular planetarium shows, intriguing exhibits and handsome murals. The 1935 observatory opens a window onto the universe from its perch on the southern slopes of Mt. Hollywood. Its planetarium claims the world's most advanced star projector, while its astronomical touch displays explore some mind-bending topics, from the evolution of the telescope and the ultraviolet and x-ray techniques used to map our solar system to the cosmo itself. Griffith Observatory Views On clear days, the views at the Griffith Observatory take in the entire LA Basin, surrounding mountains and Pacific Ocean. From the building's rooftop viewing platform, you can see the city skyline, the Hollywood Hills and even the city's most famous sign. Head out on a clear day just before dark, you'll have gorgeous sunset views of the gleaming city below and spectacular star gazing. But if you're only interested in the daytime views, head up on a weekday before noon (when the observatory opens) for easier parking. Samuel Oschin Planetarium Grab a seat in the Planetarium – the aluminum-domed ceiling becomes a massive screen where lasers are projected to offer a tour of the cosmos or show the search for water, and life, beyond Earth. This planetarium is one of the finest in the world. The state-of-the-art Zeiss star projector, digital projection system make for impressively realistic shows. Three are on offer; Centered in the Universe, which takes visitors back to the Big Bang, Water is Life that will have you searching for H2O in the solar system and Light of the Valkyries which explores the phenomenon of the Northern Lights. All three shows are offered daily, though times vary. Check the website for specific screening times if you're set on seeing a particular show. Note that children under five are only permitted to attend the first showing of the day. Zeiss Telescope Over 7 million people have gazed at the heavens through Griffith Observatory's original 12-inch Zeiss refracting telescope. The telescope is designed so that light is collected and focused by a 12-inch diameter glass lens at the front of the 16-foot-long telescope tube. The main telescope tube carries a smaller 9-inch refracting telescope piggyback, which permits two different views of a single object. Housed in a recently updated copper dome, the 1935 telescope is in excellent condition. In addition to repairs to the dome, Griffith Observatory also added a new exhibit station in the Hall of the Eye exhibit hall that provides live video and audio feeds from the telescope in order to allow visitors unable to climb the stairs to have an observing experience. Most nights the telescope serves up to 600 visitors. It is free to the public every night the Observatory is open and the sky is clear. It can be especially busy and festive during major celestial events. An experienced guide will help you look through the eyepiece and there are additional telescopes wheeled onto the lawn most nights. Exhibitions Both the upper and lower levels house exhibits, delving into some mind-bending topics. If you ever wondered about the mechanics behind eclipses, moon phases, tides, seasons or the sun's fiery antics, this is a good place to get the lowdown. Learn about the evolution of the telescope and the ultraviolet x-rays used to map our solar system. While elsewhere see what happens when light is also broken into its technicolor spectrum courtesy of a sepectroscope. Downstairs, existentialist crises are likely at the interactive Gunther Depths of Space exhibit, whose 'Big Picture' focus includes a massive photo mural of the universe itself.... enough to shrink the biggest of earthly egos. Griffith Observatory central rotunda and Foucault's Pendulum Tickets to the planetarium are sold in the main lobby, itself a highlight of the observatory. Look up to enjoy Hugo Ballin's striking murals. The eight rectangular murals just below the dome depict the 'Advancement of Science,' from time, geology and biology, mathematics and physics, to astronomy, aeronautics, navigation, civil engineering, and metallurgy and electricity. Upstaging them all is the dome's own mural, its protagonists including an athletic Atlas holding up the world, the four winds, the 12 constellations of the zodiac, and the planets depicted as classical gods. Although the murals were meticulously restored more than 10 years ago, workers left a small patch of the dome untouched (hint: look above the main entrance). Suspended from the dome is Foucault's Pendulum, its 240lb bronze ball demonstrating the Earth's rotation. What to eat near Griffith Observatory There is a little cafe at the observatory, but a better option is to follow the signposted 0.6 mile hike down to Fern Dell Dr for freshly baked goods at outdoor, counter service cafe Trails. Almost everything from its tiny timber-cabin kitchen is made from scratch, from the popular egg-salad sandwich to the quiche and chunky apple pie. Order at the counter then devour at one of its picnic benches, under the shade of sycamores, Chinese elms and carob trees. How to get to Griffith Observatory You can drive of course, but parking can be challenging, especially on weekends. Consider catching the DASH Observatory shuttle bus from Vermont/Sunset metro station (Red Line) to Griffith Park Observatory. Alternatively, hike up from Los Feliz below which is a great option.
Was it the fall of 1966 or the winter of ’67? As the Haight saying goes, if you can remember the Summer of Love, you probably weren’t here. The fog was laced with pot, sandalwood incense and burning military draft cards, entire days were spent contemplating trippy Grateful Dead posters, and the corner of Haight and Ashbury Streets became the turning point for an entire generation. The Haight's counterculture kids called themselves freaks and flower children; San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen dubbed them 'hippies.' The history of the Haight goes back over sixty years before the Summer of Love heated up, however. The neighborhood's beautiful Victorian Painted Ladies were spared by the 1906 earthquake that wrecked and burned so much of San Francisco. Over the decades that followed, however, these once-gleaming single family homes were weathered by the Great Depression, split up into apartments during World War II, and nearly flattened by a proposed freeway in the 1950s. But in the decline, the seeds of counterculture had already been sewn. The '60s in Haight-Ashbury As David Talbot notes in his San Francisco history Season of the Witch, by the time the Golden Gate Park 's Panhandle was threatened by the wheels of progress (and commuter's automobiles), the Haight was full of misfit residents used to providing one another support, and who were open to embracing new, diverse ideas. Here were Black homeowners sick of disenfranchisement, Beat poets priced out of gentrifying North Beach, members of the queer community spilling out of the Castro, and fired up students who had learned the art of activism on Freedom Rides in the southeast. City Hall didn't stand a chance against the Haight. It was a place to find your people, and soon a new generation of young artists started moving in to now-iconic homes that continue to draw rock 'n' roll pilgrims. The Grateful Dead House became a major hub at 710 Ashbury. The legendary Hells Angels bikers were posted up practically next door at 715, while Janis Joplin briefly stowed her feather boas a block down the street at 635. 1090 Page Street was home to Joplin's backing band, Big Brother and the Holding Company (though now it's a block of condos). Cult leader Charles Manson briefly brought his "family" to 636 Cole, while Jefferson Airplane filled up the sprawling mansion at 2400 Fulton with Grace Slick's big voice. Meanwhile, Jimmi Hendrix wrote "Red Door" about his apartment at 1524A Haight Street. Drugs poured in, including LSD, speed, and cannabis. So did plenty of youth from around the country eager to get away from mainstream America and experience the burgeoning counterculture first hand. The neighborhood's growing transient population would crash at rooming houses like the Red Victorian – a former hotel that was best known at the time as Jeffrey Haight – or at the apartments of acquaintances, or in Golden Gate Park. The Diggers, a radical anarchist and performance art collective, helped support the Haight's down-and-out with a network of free housing flops, health clinics, soup kitchens, clothing swaps, and artistic "happenings" thrown in collaboration with a carousel of hippie bands, dancers, and creatives, and especially the Grateful Dead. It was a creative, open scene many feel nostalgia for – though not without its dark side. Writer Joan Didion arrived in 1967 to report on the Haight-Ashbury scene for The Saturday Evening Post and observed not the hippie utopia so many young people were searching for, but a crumbling jumble of lost drug-users who included, harrowingly, a five year old under the influence of LSD. In many ways Didion's essay predicted the rough decline into hard drugs and dilapidation that even the well-intentioned social network of Diggers and community activists couldn't hold back. Haight-Ashbury today The neighborhood gentrified throughout the 1980s, and many of the stately homes were restored. Today, the Haight is a mix of businesses old and new that reflect both its hippie legacy and the changing flavor of tech-era San Francisco. Still, flashbacks of all sorts remain a given in the Haight, which still has its swinging-’60s tendencies. Spots like the indie Booksmith, Amoeba Music, and Magnolia Brewery, not to mention hazy outdoor hideaways like Hippie Hill, and Buena Vista Park, still hold a torch for the neighborhood's countercultural vibes. So do annual events like the Haight-Ashbury Street Fair. But you can also get a taste of how time has marched on at restaurants like Alembic, home to inventive fare like jerk-spiced duck hearts that you'd never find on The Diggers' menus. Or you can go even further back in time at Aub Zam Zam, a cash-only joint with jazz on the juke that's been pleasing the Haight since 1941. Visit Haight-Ashbury today and you'll find the fog remains fragrant downwind of neighborhood cannabis dispensaries, and that tie-dye and ideals have never entirely gone out of fashion here – hence the prized vintage rock tees on the wall at Wasteland, organic-farming manuals in their umpteenth printing at Bound Together Anarchist Book Collective, and judgment-free treatment for bad trips and unfortunate itches at the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic. At the corner of Haight and Cole, see you how far humanity has come in Joana Zegri's 1967 Evolution Rainbow mural, showing life forms evolving from the Pleistocene era to the Age of Aquarius. Who knows what the Haight will get into next.
If you look close today at the clinker-brick buildings lining these narrow backstreets, past the temple balconies jutting out over bakeries, acupuncture clinics, barbershops, and travel agencies, you'll see a microcosm of the the American dream. San Francisco's storied Chinatown is the oldest in North America, and the largest off the Asian continent. For almost two hundred years, the 41 historic alleyways packed into Chinatown's 22 blocks have welcomed newcomers from every province, and been the stage for sometimes improbable stories of tenacity and resilience. San Francisco's Chinatown history The first Chinese immigrants arrived in San Francisco in 1848, drawn largely from the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong by the promise of good jobs. In just five years, almost 5,000 Chinese immigrants arrived in San Francisco – a lot of names for the switchboard operators at the Chinese Telephone Exchange to keep track of as the largely male population called home to their families on the other side of the Pacific. By the 1880s, the city's Chinatown had begun to coalesce near Portsmouth Square, and was already drawing not only immigrants craving the familiar sights, sounds, and scents of home but also curious tourists. Still, the backlash was swift when the city's demographics and economic fortunes shifted at the end of the 19th century and San Francisco blamed its woes on its newest citizens. As editor and historian Gary Kimya explains in Cool Grey City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco, "The movement to get rid of Chinatown began as soon as there was a Chinatown." A 1900 outbreak of bubonic plague followed up by the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco very nearly did the job. Not only did Chinatown literally rise from the ashes, however, it returned more Chinese than ever as residents collaborated with white architects and landlords to create new architectural styles that reflected the neighborhood's unique heritage. Chinatown may have had to grow up rather than out thanks to the limitations imposed by the Chinese exclusion laws first passed in the 1880s. Nowhere is this more evident than Waverly Place, one of San Francisco's most treasured Chinatown alleys. It's home to the Tin How Temple – the oldest surviving Taoist temple in San Francisco, which has been welcoming worshipers since 1852. Contemporary Chinatown Still, San Franciscans had to admit Chinatown's alleyways offered something special that couldn't be found anywhere else, wether it was booze in Spofford Alley during Prohibition, nightlife at legendary clubs like Forbidden City, or brand-new "Chinese" dishes invented stateside in California kitchens like chop suey and moo goo gai pan. Indeed, some of San Francisco's most beloved haunts have been part of Chinatown for over a hundred years, including Mister Jiu's, which has been serving up mouth-watering banquets sine the 1880s; Hang Ah Tea Room, the oldest dim sum restaurant in the United States; and Sam Wo Restaurant, a late-night mainstay that's been open since 1912 and charmed Beat generation luminaries from neighboring North Beach like Allen Ginsberg and Charles Bukowski. Despite the huge cultural impact the Chinese community has made on San Francisco, there continue to be battles to fight. Activists and politicians like Rose Pak, Ed Lee, and Gordon Chin have fought hard since the 1970s against the steady tide of gentrification to keep the Chinatown district affordable. Indeed, Chin founded the Chinatown Community Development Center that's continued to build affordable housing and keep long-time residents in the neighborhood. Now many of those elders are experiencing a fresh wave of anti-Asian sentiment and violence in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, painfully recalling the last century's scapegoating of Chinese immigrants for the Barbary Plague. San Francisco Chinatown parking and what to do If you've got a yen to experience San Francisco's vibrant Chinatown for yourself, leave you vehicle at the Good Luck Parking Garage and be sure to snap a photo by the Dragon's Gate, which was gifted by Taiwan in 1970. One of the best ways to get oriented is setting off on one of the Chinatown Alleyway Tours and Chinatown Heritage Walking Tours that offer community-supporting, time-traveling strolls through defining moments in American history. The later are hosted by the Chinese Culture Center, which also offers everything from art classes to Mandarin lessons and genealogy services. Visitors can also take in the rotating exhibits at the Chinese Historical Society of America, which was founded in the 1960s as a new wave of Chinese immigrants arrived largely from Hong Kong. Don't miss the magical mosaic mural at Wentworth Place, either – it's one of the Chinatown alleyways most dazzling sights. For the full Chinatown experience, time your visit for the Lunar New Year, when the neighborhood's winding alleys are lit up by lanterns and firecrackers as crowds pack in to see the lion dances and parade floats go by. For a real treat, duck into the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory at 56 Ross Alley to see how the classic treats are made by hand – and even crunch into some hot off the cast iron griddle.
Whether it’s a guided tour of a historic landmark, private tasting of local delicacies, or an off-road adventure — explore the best experiences in Western USA.