If I looked as good as the U.S. National Park Service on my 100th birthday, I’d be one happy camper. In the Northwest, we have “happy campers” galore, thanks to the wealth of national parks right here at home. They provide us with myriad opportunities for post-meeting group adventures, outdoor team-building activities and off-the-grid business retreats. As a tip of the hat to this year’s national park service centennial celebration, I’ve chosen five parks as my editor’s picks, along with a place to stay, meet and unwind.
Best Monumental Wilderness Photo Safari
MISTY FJORDS NATIONAL MONUMENT, Alaska
There are 24 national parks, monuments, historic places and preserves to visit in the sweeping wilderness of Alaska, and more than 2.5 million people do so each year. Located 22 miles from Ketchikan, Misty Fjords is one of the youngest, having been designated a national monument by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. Despite its national monument status, it’s actually maintained by the National Forest Service thanks to its setting within the National Tongass Forest. Within its 2.3 million acres, you’ll discover rugged cliffs, thick rainforests, cascading waterfalls and the volcanic New Eddystone Rock bursting out of the sea. Take your group on a boat tour of Behm Canal and Rudyerd Bay where you’re likely to see harbor seals, sea birds, bald eagles—perhaps even bears, and humpback or killer whales. For lodging, try the Best Western Plus Landing Hotel, which offers 107 rooms, two restaurants, business and fitness centers, and the Sunny Point Conference Center. The conference center includes 3,870 square feet of meeting space, including a 2,700-square-foot ballroom. “We work with the visitors bureau to provide transportation for tours and a free shuttle service within the city limits,” says the Landing’s Linda Peters.
Best Custom Team-Building Retreat
STRATHCONA PROVINCIAL PARK, British Columbia
Think of British Columbia’s provincial park system as the big sister to the U.S.’s system. BC Parks turned 100 in 2011, and Strathcona Provincial Park on Vancouver Island is the oldest among its many reserves, conservancies and parks. Groups can go hiking, climbing (Crest Creek Crags offers more than 300 routes for varying skill levels), or fishing and boating on Butte Lake. For lodging, head to the 160-acre Strathcona Park Lodge & Outdoor Education Centre. The venue can accommodate 125 people through a mix of cottages and hotel rooms and welcomes groups that are looking for a side of education with their outdoor adventures. Scott Ballhorn, the lodge’s marketing manager and outdoor instructor, says Strathcona’s experienced staff can lead customized team-building programming, which can include zip lining, tree or rock climbing, boating, or mountain biking. “Our instructors specialize in using the outdoors as a means to achieve a predetermined goal,” says Ballhorn, whether it be improving communication, strengthening teamwork or just getting colleagues out of their comfort zones. Groups can meet in the High Bracer Lounge— which can fit up to 50 people—or the two-level barn, for groups of up to 125.
Best Corporate Picnic, Geyser-side
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Idaho
The mammoth 2,219,789-acre Yellowstone National Park encompasses three states: Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. In fact, the area is comparable in ecological diversity to Africa’s Serengeti. And best of all? It’s right here in our own backyard! In Idaho, the park can be accessed through the Yellowstone Teton Territory, which serves as the gateway for both Yellowstone and the Grand Teton National Park. For relaxation or strategizing, check out the digs of the Teton Springs Lodge in Victor. The lodge features 51 guest rooms and 17 luxury log cabins, plus a full-service spa, sports club with heated pool and tennis courts, wine café, restaurant, and the Teton Springs Headwaters Club golf course. Add to that three meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 133 guests seated and a cathedral-style tent for outdoor events, and you have the perfect business mountain retreat. Groups can take a dawn or dusk wildlife sightseeing safari led by experienced naturalists or learn all about the constellations on Astronomy Night. The lodge can even arrange for a group trip to Yellowstone, where staff will treat you to a catered picnic.
Best Freshwater Boat Tour
CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK, Oregon
Created by the eruption of a volcano 7,700 years ago, Crater Lake is without a doubt one of our region’s most aweinspiring marvels. Located in southcentral Oregon, it is the deepest lake in the United States and fed by rain and snow. Take a Volcano Boat Tour and learn all about the history and geology of the waters; challenge your group with a 33-mile bike ride skirting the lake along Rim Drive; or hit the Pacific Crest Trail—which passes through the park as it stretches from Canada to Mexico. For basecamp, consider the Running Y Ranch Resort, an hour’s drive from the park in Klamath Falls. The resort features 82 guest rooms and more than 7,500 square feet of flexible meeting space that can accommodate up to 350 people. Victoria Haley, director of sales and marketing for Running Y, says the resort is a popular choice for corporate, association and government meetings and retreats, as well as destination weddings. And when you’re not exploring the depths of Crater Lake, you can be on the resort’s Arnold Palmer Signature golf course, its tennis courts or working out in its sports center.
Best River Kayak Outing
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, Washington
Extending nearly 1 million acres, the Olympic National Park is one of the largest wilderness areas in the contiguous United States and boasts a particularly diverse eco-system, with mountains, rainforests and shoreline all sharing the same home sweet home. The types of group activities available vary as well, from hiking trails and climbing rocks to fishing for salmon, and kayaking rivers and lakes. When it’s time to get down to business, nearby are a number of lodging options, including The Resort at Port Ludlow, located approximately one hour from the park’s visitor center. The resort includes the Inn at Port Ludlow with 37 rooms, an 18-hole championship golf course, 300-slip marina, the farm-to-table restaurant, The Fireside, and four meeting rooms, which can accommodate up to 50 guests for a reception. The inn and marina are situated along Ludlow Bay. Marketing Coordinator Kaitlin Chester says the resort’s staff can help your group design team-building activities, such as cooking classes or pottery workshops; charter fishing boats or schooners; and organize whale-watching or farm tours and wine or cider tastings. There are also kayak, watercraft and paddleboard rentals onsite, in-room spa treatments, and shuttle service to and from the golf course.
To learn more about all of the featured national parks, visit nps.gov