Making the Most of Your National Park Experience

Have you been to a National Park lately? If not, you’re missing out on an incredible experience. Park visitors have grown to epic numbers of visitors. It’s because it’s relatively inexpensive, educational and a great way to get in touch with your wild side. But how can you make the most of your visit? Here’s some National Park visitor tips to create incredible memories that last a lifetime.

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Did you know there’s 60 of National Parks; at least one in every state? That’s ‘just’ the National Parks since 1916! There’s also countless National Monuments, Historic Landmarks, Battlefields, Military Parks, Seashores, Lakes and Rivers. 

Yellowstone National Park was established by an act signed by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872, as our Nation’s first National Park. The National Park Service was created by an act signed by President Woodrow Wilson on August 25, 1916.

National Park Fun Facts

Acadia National Park in Maine was the first National Park established east of the Mississippi River in 1919

Alaska has the most National Parks scoring 8 and has America’s tallest peak in Denali National Park.

Death Valley National Park boasts impressive elevation of 282 feet below sea level

Grand Canyon National Park is one of the 7 Wonders of the World

Great Smoky Mountains National Park logged the most visitors; almost 11 million in 2015.

Hot Springs National Park hosts 47 hot springs that averages temperatures of 143 degrees

Sequoia National Park has the tallest tree towering 275 feet!

The National Park Service manages 417 sites covering over 84 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the Virgin Islands.

So, let’s get your daypacks ready, RV or vehicle fueled up and let’s get rolling! Let’s make some memories!

You’ll enjoy seeing nature in its’ raw form, breathe clean air on brisk mornings, and watch amazing sunrises and sunsets. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see everything that’s living out there.

How to Make the Most of Your National Park Experience!

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What you should know before visiting America’s National Parks

Research the National Park(s) you will be visiting especially during heightened weather, fire or traffic alerts. You can download the National Park Service App for info such as trail maps, interesting stops, exhibits, etc. Also, upload any directions to your phone. Many of the Parks won’t have WiFi or Cell signals.

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Itinerary and Guides

Your visit will go much smoother if you create an itinerary. Note how long you want to visit, which trails you want to hike, what exhibits you want to see, and where you’re going to camp.

Also, it would be wise for you to get your National Park Pass before even getting to the entrance gate. You’ll need it to make reservations for lotteries and to score one of the campsites inside the park.

Don’t forget your National Park Passport so you can get your stamps that record your visits. Check out these different National Park Passports:

             

Make Reservations

And speaking of camping inside the Park, make your campground reservations early, especially during heightened busy times (ie. school vacations, holidays, summer weekends, etc.). You may even have to make reservations upwards to a year ahead of your planned visit.

Pets

Also, you’ll want to check to see which parks allow you to bring your pets. Make certain they have their proper immunizations before trekking off on your adventure (especially rabies and distemper). It would be a good idea to bring their medical records with you. Don’t forget their own camping gear to keep them comfortable.

Bicycles and Watercraft

If you’re taking your bicycle(s), make sure everything is in working order including tires. Also, when taking your paddle boards, kayaks or canoes, ensure the hulls are clean with no existing algae or plants.

And if you’re a paddle boarder, kayaker or paddler, check out Lifesaving Tips for Kayaks and Paddle Boards.

Hiking Gear

Pack your day packs with your day’s travel essentials. If you’re a new hiker or adventurer, you’ll want to read Hiking Tips and Advice for Beginners

Hydration and Nourishment

And hydrate yourself well the day prior to going; especially if you’re going to hot weather areas. The night before, I recommend getting a good night’s sleep so you’ll be fresh and well rested for your adventure.

United States Passports

Passports

If you’re going to visit a Park that has border access, don’t forget to pack your Passport. Big Bend has an incredible border crossing that you don’t want to miss!

Check out our Big Bend border crossing experiences:

Visiting Boquillas, BC Mexico

Our Excellent Mexican Adventure at Boquillas, Mexico

Leave Travel Itinerary

The morning before you go, always let a loved one back home know you’re itinerary; where you will be going and staying along with estimated time of return; especially if you’re going to be camping or hiking the backcountry. Let them know if they don’t hear from you on your ETA date, to alert Park authorities at the park.

Fuel Up

And always, before arriving at any of the National Parks, fuel your vehicle and RV. Some Parks may be remote with very few, if any, amenities. This includes your RV’s propane. Some may not have fuel stations for miles. So plan accordingly. 

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Morning of your National Park visit:

    • Eat a good healthy breakfast packed with protein and hydration. 
    • Pack your cooler with lots of water and healthy snacks
    • Fill your water bottles and/or hydration backpack. Add in some electrolytes to help sustain you.
    • Plan to arrive when the entrance gate opens. The early bird gets the worm…and the best parking spots at the trail heads.
    • Pack your daypack with all of your Hiking Essentials.
    • Read and review our Hiking Tips and Advice for Beginners. Even if you’re an experienced hiker, its always good to brush up on some of these reminders.

 During your National Park visit:

    • Arrive early and pay your entry fees
    • Stop at the Visitor Center first to watch the video and see the exhibits to learn about the park. Don’t forget to stamp your National Park Passport and pick up your postcards and souvenirs then. Speaking from experience, oftentimes, you’ll be too tired at the end of the day.
    • If you park in any of the parking areas, be respectful and pull up or as close to the first vehicle as possible. 
    • Respect and abide by all Park rules, road and trail signs.
    • Drink lots of water; eat healthy snacks often to keep energized.
    • Keep after your sunscreen and bug spray.
    • Hike your ability and follow hiking etiquette.
    • Take lots of photos!
    • Respect wildlife and habitat. Never feed, interact with, agitate or get close to wildlife.
    • Never take artifacts, plants, rocks or anything from the Park.
    • Leave no trace! Take everything that you brought (ie. belongings, trash, etc.)
    • Share the exhibits and spectacular views so others can enjoy and take photos too. Respect others while they’re taking photos. This isn’t the time to photo bomb. Remember, these visits and experiences may be once-in-a-lifetime for others.

After your National Park visit:

    • Let your loved ones know you’ve returned.
    • Share your visit! Be an inspiration to others and entice them to visit too!
    • Plan your next National Park adventure!

Find Your Park! 

Now that you’ve read all that, what’s holding you back from finding your Park? Truly, there’s no better way to connect with your family or do a little soul searching than in one of America’s National Parks!

We hope these Park visitor tips help you create incredible memories. Now it’s time to get your RV or car packed, family or friends onboard and head on down the road to the real magic kingdoms!

Related Articles:

Which National Park Pass Should You Get?

National Parks BOARD GAMES

Trashing our National Parks and Public Lands

 

Some of our favorite National Parks:

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Joshua Tree National Park

Glacier National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

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