Road trips: Make the most of a national park visit

More than 100 nations contain nearly 1,200 national parks or equivalent preserves.

Many countries feature a national park system. Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Stephen Mather, and Horace M. Albright were the founders of what would become the National Park Service of the United States.

On March 1, 1872, Yellowstone National Park in the territories of Montana and Wyoming became America’s first national park, which led to a worldwide national park movement. The NPS says today more than 100 nations contain nearly 1,200 national parks or equivalent preserves.

National parks can be ideal spots to visit. In fact, many national parks do not even charge an entrance fee, so they can be affordable options for individuals and families who want to take in the majesty of nature and wildlife. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or are a repeat customer, these tips can help you make the most of a national park trip.

Time your visit correctly. Some parks are open year-round while others are not. Learn the operating schedule to determine when to visit. Also, the timing of a trip will depend on what you hope to gain from the experience. For example, many parks are quite busy during the peak of summer. If it’s quiet and reflection you’re after, it’s probably best to visit during a less hectic time of year.

Consider in-park lodging. If the national park you’re visiting has a national park lodge, think about using it for your accommodations. You’ll get to maximize time spent in the park, and won’t have to travel long distances each day from a hotel or another lodging place. Also, there’s nothing like waking up to the awe-inspiring vistas in national parks.

Identify what you want to do. National parks can be massive and you won’t be able to see every sight in just one visit. It’s better to pick one goal and stick to it, so identify some things you feel you must do on an upcoming visit.

Utilize the park rangers. Make visiting the ranger station your first stop in a national park. Park rangers know the park intimately and will have the insider information needed to guide your trip and keep you trucking along successfully.

Try camping for a night. Unplug and remove yourself from the confines of indoor spaces. These parks are some of the best places to sleep under the stars. Leave no trace, and remember to be mindful of campfires, making sure theyÕre completely extinguished before setting off anew.

Use the internet. The NPS has various online resources you can use. Find A Park enables you to select from a list or search for parks by certain criteria, and there’s also online park maps. These are easily accessible resources at your disposal.

Follow the rules. Oftentimes visitors get too close to wildlife or even feed them. The NPS says a “fed bear is a dead bear.” In 2022, Parks Canada staff said a fox and one of her kits (babies) which had grown used to being fed by humans were struck and killed by vehicles in Gros Morne National Park. Similar stories happen each year. Feeding or approaching wild animals can cause them to lose their natural fear of people. This endangers both the animals and park visitors. Follow the rules and regulations to ensure that national parks can be enjoyed for years to come.

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