Monday, July 07, 2008

Yellowstone National Park - hiker friendly?

I love hiking in Yellowstone National Park, I hike there every year, but I have noticed that YNP seems less hiker friendly than other Parks I hike in such as Glacier, Grand Teton, or Canyonlands. YNP isn't hiker unfriendly but the park administration seems to be less hiker friendly than other similar parks.

The most noticeable difference is that the YNP map does not show hiking trails. I know that YNP is a large park and showing the trails on the park map is not adequate for hiking. However, other parks do show major trails on park maps and the GTR Recreational Map for YNP and Teton shows the trails for both parks. Having the trails shown on the park map can be useful for general planning. I've hiked in Glacier Park less than one quarter of the amount I've hiked in YNP and met more rangers on trails in Glacier who were politely interested in my hike and what animals I had seen. Trailheads in YNP are not always well marked and may have little information about conditions. Also, trail maintenance for at least some trails is poor, bridges fail and are not replaced, trail markers are not replaced or put back up. When I've asked about trails at in YNP, I have sometimes gotten out of date information or been steered toward boardwalks instead of the backcountry. On the positive side, recently I've seen more new trail markers and fallen logs are removed each spring.

I don't wish to be critical of YNP's administration. I know the park has a limited budget and a lot of drains on that budget. The park administration must try to balance conflicting requirement, wildlife and natural resource management against human safety and human desire to see the marvels of YNP and its wildlife. Yet Glacier Park has similar safety issues and manages to appear more hiker friendly. Most visitors do not hike any distance away from the main roads but stay on boardwalks if any walking is done; maybe that is why less resources are given to hikers.

I not alone in feeling YNP is less hiker friendly than other parks, I've heard other hikers also express the sentiment. I wonder if YNP's administration is aware of this perception and if it is deliberate?



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