North America

Into the National Parks

written by | Posted on July 1st, 2011

Tours into the national parks run from scenic drive-bys and cultural immersions to action-packed adventures with travelers hiking, biking, rafting and more within their incredible environs.

In fact, tours or packages are the best option for most clients seeking a vacation in the national parks, as individual reservations for accommodations in the parks are not easily attainable and may require being booked a year or more in advance. More importantly, tour operators can often add exclusive experiences that clients simply cannot experience on their own. Of course, the all-inclusive price factor and hassle-free aspect should also be stressed in the sales process.

a backroads adventure “As far as sheer natural beauty, awe-inspiring landscapes and ranges of activities go, our U.S. national parks simply can’t be beat,” says Massimo Prioreschi, v.p., sales & marketing for Backroads. “Then you add in the history and regional culture that created these natural treasures and what else do you need to create the perfect vacation? And people are starting to realize they don’t have to cross an ocean to have an unforgettable experience—you can find those in our own backyard.”

Backroads knows that really getting to know the national parks through physical activity is an advantage many guests are able to experience while on a tour. Examples of activities guests enjoy on a Backroads’ adventure include cycling beneath the Teton Range, challenging the rapids on the Snake River, kayaking across Yellowstone Lake, and hiking the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. These are all a part of the 6-day Yellowstone & Grand Tetons Multisport tour. Accommodations offer Western charm and key proximity to the great outdoors guests get to challenge at classic resorts such as Snake River Lodge in Teton Village, Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National park, and the historic Lake Yellowstone Hotel on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. Rates start at $2,898 pp dbl land only.

Prioreschi says what sets a Backroads tour apart is the caliber of its leaders and their ability to “…facilitate relationships and make each moment on the trip special. It’s about sharing that amazing view from Angels Landing [in Zion National Park] with someone you just met four days before, yet are already planning the next Backroads trip you’ll both take,” he adds. “It’s about falling behind on the challenging climb to Dante’s Peak [in Death Valley National Park] and seeing that one of your fellow guests has pulled off to the side of the road to wait for you.”

Hiking and biking are very much a part of the experience with Backroads, but the adventure tour operator also offers much more in terms of imparting information on the locale.

“Our guests are constantly learning on these national parks’ trips—without even realizing it because knowledge is never shared in the form of a lecture or canned talk,” says Prioreschi. “Our leaders deftly weave park history, interesting tidbits about the flora and fauna, informative regional anecdotes and personal stories into every conversation and activity throughout each day.”

the ken burns effect with tauck The 2009 PBS series by documentary filmmakers Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” took viewers inside the beauty that lies within the U.S. and spurred a rise in visitors. The impact of Burns is instrumental in Tauck’sseven “national park itineraries.” Each itinerary features exclusive “Stories By Ken Burns” filmed vignettes shown while aboard the motorcoach en-route to various destinations and attractions. These are a series of short (10 to 15 minutes) original films featuring Ken Burns that highlight the places guests are seeing. The vignettes include never-before-seen interviews with Burns, excerpts from his films, and other information that add context and perspective to guests’ experiences in the parks, explains Tom Armstrong, spokesperson for Tauck. Burns and Duncan even designed Tauck’s new 10-day Spirit of the Desert: The National Parks of the Southwest itinerary, which features the landscape of six national parks as well as putting a focus on both the local Native American culture and the culture of the people who helped preserve these places as national parks.

One of the goals of the tour, says Duncan, is, “To relate the deep significance that the parks have to everyone who encounters them—from Native Americans to newcomers—and discover a deeply personal, often spiritual connection to the land we inhabit.” To achieve this goal, the tour includes appearances by some of the experts who contributed to the film. This revolving group of guest experts includes Alfred Runte, a national parks expert who appeared in all six episodes of the national parks series; John Cook, a third-generation National Park Service employee who discusses the issues facing the national parks today; and Ryan Paul, a curator of Frontier Homestead State Park Museum and an expert on the early days of the national parks. There is also a lecture by a local Navajo who discusses the strong spiritual connection that Native Americans feel with the landscapes they regard as sacred.