Our Favorite National Park Ranger: Clay Hanna

You voted, we listened. Meet Clay Hanna, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Supervisor for Grand Teton National Park, a model for his peers, a protector of visitor experiences, and one heckuva ranger.
Clay Hanna

Photo by Greg Von Doersten

BACKPACKER: Many members of your staff actually wrote in to nominate you. What makes you such a good boss?

Clay Hanna: I think the main part of my job is investment in my staff. I’m responsible for training and supporting the next generation of rangers, who will continue our stewardship.

BP:What’s a park ranger’s most important duty?

CH: When I started out in interpretation, I used the phrase “changing lives.” I truly feel like that’s what we do as National Park Service employees. We can facilitate these life-changing experiences for our visitors. It happened to me when I first came to these places, and we can pass on that legacy.

BP: What do you hope visitors get out of their time in the park?

CH: I hope visitors make memories. Being forgotten is a very scary prospect for a national park. If these places become relevant to visitors, those people will become stewards, they will become extensions of a park ranger.

BP: What’s the funniest question you’ve gotten from a visitor?

CH: “When do you let the bears out?”

BP: What’s the best place to camp in the Tetons?

CH:It’s hard to pick a bad place to go, but my favorite trip is the Teton Crest Trail, which runs north to south along the highest peaks of the Teton Range. Anywhere on that crest, looking down into Jackson Hole or Idaho on the west side, is a fabulous experience.

BP: What’s your proudest moment wearing the ranger uniform?

CH:My proudest moment was getting to come back to Grand Teton as a permanent ranger. When I applied for the opening to supervise the LSR Preserve, the support I got from the staff here showed me that I had made an impact as a seasonal worker.

BP: What’s your favorite thing to do in Grand Teton?

CH:I live at the north end of the park, but I work down south, so I like to commute on my bike a couple times a week. Sunrise is a great time to be in the park. You see the first light on the Tetons and you ride by great wildlife like pronghorn, bison, and elk. Last week, I had to use my colleague’s car as a shield as I rode past a grizzly bear. I carry bear spray on my bike. That’s kind of a must-have.