10 Tips for a Great National Park Experience

Photo by: Ferran Traité Soler

Ferran Traité Soler

Deep Background

When it comes to our National Parks, knowledge is power. Do your homework. For example, many parks are open year-round while others close when weather conditions become extreme. Most are at least two hours from a major airport like SFO, DEN and SAN. Go to Find Your Park for videos, basic information, photos and inspiration.

Let’s Get Real

Temper your expectations. If you’re shelling out hundreds of dollars to stay at one of the historic rustic lodges keep in mind that it's called rustic for a reason. Those dollars are paying for the luxury of location. Nowhere else in the world can you rest your head near the tallest tree ever. (EVER!) If you require fine linens, turn down service and photo ops with giant brightly colored mascots we suggest making other plans.

People relaxing by sitting in Rio Grande.

A couple enjoys the Rio Grande with their dog at Big Bend National Park. 

Photo by: Holger Leue

Holger Leue

To Bark or Not to Bark

Should you take your pet? Some National Parks welcome your fluffy BFF while in other areas they are strictly verboten. Please see our roundup of the best and worst parks for dogs, but always, always check the parks online information before disappointing Duchess. Don’t forget dedicated water for your pet.

Going Crazy Out by the Lake

Can you live without Wi-Fi, a TV and your team’s sports scores? While some facilities do have wireless, a cloudy day could mean no fantasy football and no "Fantasy Island" reruns either.

Who’ll Stop the Rain?

Turns out, no one is the answer to that lament. When you’re in the wild, weather patterns can be extremely unpredictable. Just because it is 100° in the daytime, desert temperatures can drop to 40° at night even in the summer. Some regions are so high up that they have their own weather systems. Pack rain gear as well as something to thwart an evening’s chill.

Know Thine Own Self

Know your physical limitations. Most facilities are ADA-approved but that doesn't mean you will have 100% access to all facilities. Are you claustrophobic, physically impaired or just out of shape? Steps are steep, handrails are shaky and maybe you should hit the Stairmaster before going into the backcountry.

Rinse, Repeat

Grand Canyon National Park Located in Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park Located in Arizona

You're paying for the luxury of location, not thread counts.

Hydrate and keep a backup source of water.

Get a Sidekick

Use the buddy system. While the solitude of the national parks is attractive it’s always a good idea to hike with a friend or at the very least let someone know where you’re going. You don’t want to be a headline on the evening news because you fell into a crevasse and a movie deal for sawing your arm off is just not worth it.

Be Cool, Daddy-O

Go with a good attitude. The National Parks belong to us all. As some campsites can get unexpectedly crowded get used to the idea of sharing a space and playing well with others.

Respect, Yo

Respect the full-time inhabitants and our precious natural resources as well. Wildlife is just that: wild. Do not pet them or point a selfie stick at them. Do not litter, pick flowers or use the Petrified Forest as your personal gift shop. Leave no trace; take nothing but memories. Follow the rules. They are not arbitrary and are there for a reason. 

Next Up

National Parks 101

As we gear up to celebrate the 100th anniversary of our National Park Service, let’s take a look at how it all came to be. 

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