10 Tips for a Great National Park Experience
Rain gear, a pal and a good attitude are just a few of the things you’ll need for a great national park vacation. Follow our advice and find your park.
Image courtesy of www.vwsurfari.com, photo by Fred Amico, copyright 2014
1. 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. Go to Find Your Park for videos, basic information, photos and inspiration.
2. Let’s Get Real
Temper your expectations. If you’re shelling out hundreds of dollars to stay at one of the rustic lodges, keep in mind that it's called rustic for a reason. Those dollars are paying for the luxury of location. If you require fine linens, turn-down service and photo ops with giant brightly colored mascots, we suggest making other plans.
3. To Bark or Not to Bark
Should you take your pet? Some national parks welcome your fluffy BFF with 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. Find out which parks are the most (and least) pet-friendly.
4. Ready to Disconnect
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 "House Hunters" reruns either.
5. 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 patterns. Pack rain gear as well as something to thwart an evening’s chill.
6. 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 you go into the backcountry. And always bring water. It's for your own safety.
7. Everyone Needs 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.
8. 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.
9. Have Some Respect
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.
10. Don’t Be a Downer
Follow the rules. They are not arbitrary and are there for a reason.