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Your Guide to Visiting National and State Parks

5 minutes read Jun 17,2019
Your Guide to Visiting National and State Parks

Things to Know When Visiting National Parks

Fresh air, green trees, and a gentle breeze. Visiting national and state parks can be a wonderful way to disconnect from modern life and explore the natural world. There are, however, some things to keep in mind when visiting national parks.

To make your trip smooth as can be, we've provided eight tips to keep in mind as you tour national and state parks. Continue reading to learn more about what to keep in mind!

pet-friendly national parks

1. Not all parks are pet-friendly

Before visiting national parks, check to see if they're pet-friendly. Many of these parks protect fragile ecosystems that could be thrown out of balance by a non-native animal entering the habitat. Thus, dogs may not be allowed.

Some parks have certain areas where pets are permitted. And state parks are usually more likely to allow pets. Head online or make a call beforehand to see the rules.

2. Check for closures

Parks are home to abundant natural features and can be easily impacted by weather, even at strange times. It's entirely possible for high mountain roads to close for snow and ice in early summer!

Many national parks feature a dedicated Twitter account for closures, like this one for Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Make a quick check before visiting to ensure you can reach your destination.

State parks may be a little trickier, but a call to your state's park management group will provide the info you need to know.

3. Know the seasons

And not just the meteorological seasons! In addition to knowing the weather patterns, get a good feel for the peak tourism times. On a Saturday in summer, you could spend hours stuck in crowds.

Try going on a weekday or during the shoulder season, which is usually in spring or fall. You'll skip the congestion and have a totally different park experience.

4. Make a plan

To make the most of your time visiting national parks, make a plan. A simple itinerary can help you stay on track and see all that you want to see. While most helpful in a spacious national park, schedules can also aid you when visiting a state park with several attractions.

first aid kit

5. Take safety seriously

When you're in the wilderness, you may be far away from any sort of medical care. Pack a simple first aid kit so you're prepared for cuts, bruises, and park-specific things like snake bites or poisonous plants. Some items to include:
  • Bandages
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Gauze pads
  • Medical tape
  • Hyrdrocortisone cream
  • Tylenol or Advil
  • Tweezers

6. Pack only the essentials

Tying in with the previous point, pack only what you'll need, including water, snacks, and first aid supplies. Keeping your weight light while hiking will make your trek much easier when visiting national parks.

7. Prepare for poor cell coverage

Some parks are more connected than others. But bear in mind that you may not have cell coverage in the central portions of the park. To save battery on your device, turn it to "Airplane Mode" when you're away from reliable coverage.

bear in national park

8. Wildlife is wild

State and national parks aren't zoos. The wildlife in the park is unpredictable and could be dangerous. Stay a safe distance away from wildlife and don't disturb areas where animals reside. And be sure to pack out all your food waste to prevent attracting animals.  

We hope these tips have helped you prepare for your next visit to one of North America's amazing preserves. Help your adventurous friends by sharing these tips for visiting national and state parks!  

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