The United States is home to 62 national parks, totaling tens of millions of acres of protected land for every American to enjoy. They are a testament to the immense cultural and natural heritage of this nation and represent our freedom, diversity, and history.
In 2019, the National Park Service was visited over 320 million times. Visiting a national park is one of this country’s most cherished pastimes, and each one offers its own unique and spellbinding experience. Whether it’s hiking in Yosemite, exploring ruins in Mesa Verde, or enjoying guided Zion park tours, there’s something for everyone.
Whether you’re going on a cross-country trip to visit all 62 national parks, or only have time to go to the nearest one, there are a few things you should bear in mind to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
1. Know the best time to visit
When visiting a national park, timing is everything. The busiest time for most national parks is during the summer, but for other parks, the best time to visit might be during spring or winter. It all depends on which national park you want to visit.
Do some research about the best time to visit a park. While most parks are open all year round, some sites or services might be closed during specific times of the year. National parks are protected conservation areas, which means certain areas will be closed to the public during breeding and nesting seasons.
2. Equip yourself with the right gear
If you want to make the most out of your trip, you need to have the right gear. For instance, if you plan on hitting the hiking trails, a coat provides you with basic protection in case of sudden weather changes. But you also don’t want to weigh yourself down with too much stuff. You need to strike a balance between comfort and utility.
You need to prepare two bags: a daypack for everyday essentials and a hiking backpack for your belongings. Use a daypack when going on tours or short hikes. Don’t forget to bring water, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and a map. While most national parks sell food on-site, it might be a good idea to bring some snacks along.
3. Plan an itinerary
National parks are big. Like really big. And some are bigger than others, such as Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, which at 53,320 km2, is twice as big as the state of Vermont with room to spare. You can’t just show up at the park entrance without a plan. If you want to maximize your enjoyment, you need an itinerary.
You probably won’t have enough time to see the park has to offer. Instead, make a list of five or ten sites that you want to visit while you’re there. Try not to pack your day with multiple visits. Give yourself enough time to fully explore one area before moving on to the next site on your list.
These pointers will help you make the most out of your national park trip. The National Park System is one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors and experience the rich heritage of America. Each park offers a different experience and represents a specific slice of our country’s history.