National parks are a common US travel destination. These parks have some of the most incredible natural attractions, from geysers and hot springs to giant trees and unique wildlife! If you’re a nature lover, national parks are a great place to visit and can be a pretty inexpensive travel option. However, you’ll want to plan ahead to make the most of your experience! Each park will have its unique challenges and opportunities, so be sure to research them individually, but these tips will be applicable no matter where you go.
Visit Park Websites and Plan Ahead
One of the best, most reliable sources of information is the park’s website. These sites are well maintained by the National Park Service, offering thorough guides to sightseeing and hiking trails, as well as up-to-date information on any road or trail closures you might need to be aware of.
Consider Less Popular Parks
Especially in peak seasons, the most popular parks can get awfully crowded. If you prefer a more solitary experience, research some of the lesser-known parks–there are some hidden gems out there with incredible sights but fewer crowds! Another strategy is to visit during “shoulder seasons,” right before and after the peak crowds–just do your research and be aware, as some parks might have snow and other hazardous conditions during these times that you might not expect.
Ask Rangers for Help
Rangers will be the best sources of information you can find within the parks. Stop in visitor’s centers for maps, hiking recommendations, and other helpful information directly from people who are in the park almost every day. Rangers may be able to recommend less-crowded hikes or the best times of day to visit certain attractions.
National parks are beautiful, but they can also be dangerous. If you aren’t an experienced hiker, be careful which trails you decide to embark on. Additionally, avoid wandering off of marked trails, and don’t risk your life for a good photo op. Similarly, wildlife might seem incredibly comfortable around humans, but they are still wild! Keep your distance, and don’t try to pet or feed the wild animals, no matter how cute and friendly they seem.
Research Lodging Thoroughly
Finally, make sure you put research into the lodging you choose. Accommodations within the parks themselves often fill up quickly! Additionally, many of these parks are in the middle of nowhere; you may not have access to many restaurants or grocery stores. You might consider looking into vacation rentals like AirBnb’s that might be close to the parks; just be aware that these and many traditional hotels or motels may be a significant drive from the park entrance, so prepare accordingly.