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    If you and your dog are inseparable, don't let the National Park System's pet rules stop you from taking a dog-centric vacation to our national treasures.

    A growing assortment of pet sitters, upscale boarding facilities and dog-friendly people hotels are making it possible for pets and humans to have unforgettable adventures in and around popular national parks. To get your trip planning started, here's a short list of great pet care services near national parks in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California and Utah.

    Alaska: Denali National Park and Preserve


    Leashed dogs can visit Denali, but they're limited to walking on paved surfaces other than the Roadside Trail and the Bike Path. When you want to experience the heart of Denali, drive just seven miles outside the park and check your pup into Tonglen Lake Canine Resort & Kennels, the only dog boarding in the vicinity. More than just a kennel, Tonglen Lake offers grooming, training and massage along with upscale boarding and individual or group play in a 60' by 100' arena, starting at $26.50 per day.

    Oregon: Crater Lake National Park


    Crater Lake National Park gives dogs and people a few more recreation options than other parks. For example, both pets and people can enjoy spectacular lake views on the paved Rim Village promenade walkway and also are allowed on four different area hiking trails. Whether you're camping in a Crater Lake campground or staying at a pet-friendly motel near the park, Snaggle Foot Dog Walks and Pet Care proprietor Jamie Lesko will give you the freedom to explore the park while she or one of her 10 pet care associates stay with Rover. This licensed, bonded, and insured pet care provider can help with same day notice.Snaggle Foot's service area includes the entire southern Oregon region with rates starting at $10 per hour.

    Washington: Olympic National Park


    Leashed dogs have freedom to roam at Olympic National Park, which features several spectacular pet-friendly beaches and trails. But with over 922,000 acres of hiking and backpacking options, your visit wouldn't be complete without deeper exploration into sensitive areas that don't allow dogs, such as the Hoh Rain Forest, one of the best examples of temperate rain forests in North America. To have the best of both worlds, drive to the town of Forks and stay at the adorable Haags Cottage, which allows well-mannered canines. When you want to go hiking, your hostess Diana can provide pet sitting services as long as you make advance reservations.

    California: Yosemite National Park


    Visitors to Yosemite National Park can enjoy a handful of the park's most famous sights from paved walking trails that allow dogs, as well as a few obscure pet-friendly trails, such as Wawona Meadow Loop. But for visitors who really want to get acquainted with Yosemite's fragile ecosystem where dogs aren't allowed, the loving care of Ruff-Inn-It Dog Boarding is ready to help. Owner Mandy is a life-long dog lover, stay-at-home mom, and former animal shelter worker who provides dog boarding services at her 1.5-acre fenced property located 50 minutes from the park. Mandy can handle last-minute requests, but prefers at least two days' notice. Rates start at $25 per hour; she can be reached, a web-based service that connects freelance dog sitters with pet parents.

    Utah: Five Parks, Many Options

    Utah is a dog lover's destination. With five national parks and a select group of quality dog care providers near all of them, it's easy to take solo trips into the national parks and enjoy hiking time with your dog in more pet-friendly recreation areas just beyond NPS boundaries – all in one epic vacation.

    Start by making the rugged pet-friendly town of Moab your first base camp. Arches andCanyonlands National Parks are both located minutes from town where Karen's K9 Campground is equipped to care for your dog by the day or overnight. Owned and managed since 1978 by the founder of the Moab Humane Society, Karen says that her “Doggie Disneyland” gets rave reviews because of its numerous wading pools, shady play areas and air-conditioned kennels for dogs of all breeds and sizes. Day care starts at $25 and discounts are given for multiple pets. Reservations are strongly advised.

    As you can see, with a little creative planning it's entirely possible to experience America's best national parks with your favorite canine companion. Remember, though, not to leave your pet in a vehicle with all the windows rolled tightly closed and no water. That's a deadly combination.

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    On Aug. 25, the U.S. National Park Service turns 98 years old, and officials are waiving entrance fees that day and inviting everyone to join in the festivities taking place at the country’s 401 national parks

    Established in 1916, the National Park Service was created to care for all of the national parks throughout the country. According to the National Park Foundation, each park represents an important part of our collective identity. Some parks commemorate notable people and achievements, others conserve magnificent landscapes and natural wonders, and all provide a place to have fun and learn.

    The mission of the National Park Service extends even further than the parks, the park foundation points out. The work of NPS reaches into communities across the country where they work with partners to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities that revitalize neighborhoods and enhance the quality of life.

    The National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, raises private funds that directly aid, support and enrich America’s national parks and their programs.

    For more information, visit

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    We all want our trips to stand apart from one another, to remain as sharp and poignant in our memories as the day we took them. In other words, we want the places we visit to be unforgettable, right down to the things we did, the food we ate, and the places we slept.  So whether you're a new or seasoned traveler looking for the memorable, this list contains some of the best unforgettable places to sleep when staying at a National Park.

    The Icon, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

    Old Faithful. Buffalos. Subterranean supervolcanoes. Yellowstone doesn't do anything by halves, so it's no surprise that its iconic Old Faithful Inn is a massive monument to the early 20th-century conviction that rustic and grand can go hand in hand. As the largest log structure in the world and one of the very few remaining log hotels in the U.S., the inn counts among the park's most beloved sights. Don't miss the lobby, which dazzles with a 65-foot ceiling, railings made of pine, and a giant stone fireplace.

    The Floating Resort, North Cascades National Park, Washington

    Get away from it all, then just keep going. That's the spirit of Ross Lake Resort inNorth Cascades National Park, which is accessible only by boat or hiking. But its isolation is only part of its charm; the coolest thing about the resort is that it's not just next to the water but on top of it. The 12 cabins and three bunk houses are built atop log floats, which guarantees that every room has a water view.

    The Bed-and-Breakfast, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

    Marry your love of national parks and bed-and-breakfasts with a visit to The Inn at Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The Greek Revival-style house was built in 1848, and while its historical character remains proudly on display everywhere you look, guests will also find plenty of modern comforts such as private bathrooms, free Wi-Fi, and gourmet meals. Best of all, the inn overlooks Brandywine Falls, a 65-foot waterfall that is one of the national park's most popular sights.

    The Boutique Hotel, Presidio of San Francisco, California

    Even if you prefer your accommodations urbane and your surroundings urban, there's a national park lodging option for you. The Inn at the Presidio sits in the heart of San Francisco's Presidio, a former army base that is now a national park site and National Historic Landmark. The small, mostly-suite boutique hotel was originally a home for bachelor officers. Sleek spaces, plenty of fireplaces, and front-porch rocking chairs offer an appealing mix of sophistication and simple pleasure.

    The Dude Ranch, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

    Saddle up. Triangle X Ranch, the National Park System's only dude ranch, sits in the heart of Grand Teton National Park. And what better way to embrace the spirit of the West than by exploring all this grand and protected scenery from the back of a horse? Ranch specialties include cookouts, scenic and wildlife tours, and a children's program that includes games on horseback and swimming trips.

    The Fishing Lodge, Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

    Drive as far as the road will take you, then hit the water for the final leg to Kettle Falls Hotel in Voyageurs National Park. Leave modern life -- with both its burdens and its luxuries -- in your wake as you boat to the remote hotel, 15 miles from the nearest road. Life here is simple: Eat your meals on the screened porch, sleep in antique-furnished rooms, share bathrooms (unless you rent a villa, in which case you'll have the bathroom and a screened-in porch all to yourself), and spend most of your time exploring the lakes and forests like the Native Americans, French voyageurs, bootleggers, and miners that came before you.

    The Elegant Classic, Yosemite National Park, California

    If photographer Ansel Adams taught us anything, it's that nature is intrinsically elegant. That elegance is on full display at Yosemite's historic The Ahwahnee Hotel, where Adams (as well as queens and presidents) was once a regular guest. Built for affluent nature lovers in the 1920s, the hotel's incredible views of Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Glacier Point continue to draw visitors willing to pay for the pleasure.

    The Yurt, Fundy National Park, New Brunswick

    Yurts put the fun in Fundy. Canada's Fundy National Park in New Brunswick offers an alternative for travelers who want something outdoorsy but don't want to sleep in a tent. Yurts—circular structures long used by nomadic peoples of Central Asia -- include beds (though you bring the blankets), insulated walls, and even stoves. Each yurt has its own deck, picnic table, and incredible views of the Bay of Fundy.

    The Northwest Jewel, Olympic National Park and Forest, Washington

    Hate that feeling of staying at a generic chain hotel where everything looks about the same no matter where in the world you are? That will not be a problem at Lake Quinault Lodge in Olympic National Park and Forest. Surrounded by forest and overlooking Lake Quinault, the rustic lodge is long on comfort and vintage charm. Built in 1926, the hotel and surrounding natural beauty reportedly impressed President Franklin D. Roosevelt so thoroughly that he created Olympic National Park soon after his visit.

    The Tipi, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta

    You've done the tent thing, now you're ready for something a little more interesting. Head to Crandell Mountain Campground in Alberta's Waterton Lakes National Parkfor the chance to camp in a tipi. The forest campground has five traditional tipis in addition to pitch-your-own-tent campgrounds. In the surrounding national park, explore the rugged Canadian Rockies, the vast prairie grasslands, and the chain of lakes for which the park is named.

    Read the original story: Unforgettable Places to Sleep in National Parks by Christine Sarkis, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.

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    National Park Service Press Release

    WASHINGTON – National park visitors contributed $26.5 billion to the nation’s economy and supported almost 240,000 jobs in 2013, according to a peer-reviewed report released today by National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.

    “National parks are often the primary economic engines of many park gateway communities,” Jarvis said. “While park rangers provide interpretation of the iconic natural, cultural and historic landscapes, nearby communities provide our visitors with services that support hundreds of thousands of mostly local jobs.”

    National park visitation for 2013 declined by 3.2 percent compared to 2012. The 16-day government shutdown last October accounted for most of the decline. National parks in the Northeast, closed for Hurricane Sandy-related repairs, were the other significant brake on visitation.

    Visitor spending for 2013 was down by 1 percent. The number of jobs supported by visitor spending was off by 2.1 percent, and the overall effect on the U.S. economy was 1 percent lower than the previous year due to adjustments for inflation.

    “The big picture of national parks and their importance to the economy is clear,” Jarvis said. “Every tax dollar invested in the National Park Service returns $10 to the U.S. economy because of visitor spending in gateway communities near the 401 parks of the National Park System.”

    Jarvis said visitation so far this year indicates a rebound from 2013 and he expects a steady increase as excitement grows in advance of the 2016 centennial of the National Park Service.

    Click to read full article.

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    A former secretary and deputy secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) testified in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court on Wednesday (May 28) that more state natural lands should not be opened for gas extraction without further study of the impacts of the drilling already underway.

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that James Grace, former deputy secretary for parks and forests, and John Quigley, former secretary of DCNR, both in the Rendell administration, spoke as witnesses for an environmental group that wants a judge to grant an injunction to prevent the state from using money from past and future gas leases on state park and forest lands to help balance the upcoming budget.

    Gov. Tom Corbett plans to raise $75 million in the next fiscal year by leasing an undetermined number of acres under state parks and forests for gas extraction. His budget proposal also calls for using $117 million in oil and gas royalties from existing wells to fund DCNR’s operations.

    The two men testified that past leases set a “disturbing” precedent and implied that future leases would only compound the potential harm. They said DCNR was directed to issue leases in 2009 and 2010, despite the agency’s clear recommendation against it.

    For the full story click here.

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