America the beautiful is calling! Our national parks are one of America’s “best ideas.” But with everyone wanting to explore them, some for the first time, planning a national park vacation can be daunting. The rise in popularity of these treasured lands has increased by the millions, year over year, and many are set to see record numbers in attendance this post-pandemic year.
So where do you start? Here are a few tips to get you planning for a road trip this year or maybe even a trip of a lifetime next year!
Start to read! Buy books and begin to plan your visit based on where you live or what you might like to see. Can you drive to a national park that might be closer to your home state so you don’t have to rent a car? Is there a national park that you’d like to visit and has always been on your list? Visit www.nps.gov to find out all the things you will need to know before you go.
ProTip- There is often little Wi-Fi inside the parks, so books and maps are very helpful!
Download the NPS App before you go! The new official app for the National Park Service has tools to explore more than 400 national parks nationwide. Find interactive maps, tours of park places and on-the-ground accessibility information to plan your national park adventures before and during your trip.
Some Parks require reservations. With people visiting national parks in record numbers, you will need to visit Recreation.gov to secure a day use entry pass to certain parks. Search the location you will be visiting to secure your necessary permits or passes!
Did you know your fourth-grader can get into the national parks for free? Every year, beginning Sept. 1, all kids in the fourth grade have access to their own Every Kid Outdoors pass at www.everykidoutdoors.gov. This pass provides free access to national parks across the country. The Every Kid Outdoors pass is good for the fourth grade school year until Aug. 31.
ProTip: There is also an America the Beautiful pass that you can purchase if you are planning a road trip to see more than one park!
Plan for the unplanned. Be prepared to throw away your plans, your map, that picture perfect spot that you wanted to visit. Go explore. Stop and talk with a park ranger and ask them where they would go today. As you drive, enjoy the scenery. As you hike, take in the beauty that is the serenity of the land. And as you leave, remind yourself that there are hundreds of millions of new acres to be explored all over America. You’ll be planning your next national park trip even before leaving the first park you visit.
What to Pack: Pack light! We love taking a picnic lunch and bringing healthy snacks that we can carry in a backpack. GoGo squeeZ snacks (such as Applesauce and Pudding) are our go-to option along with lots of water, cut veggies, chips, granola bars and LOTS of water in a refillable water bottle. As you drive through the park, you can keep your cooler in the car and refill your backpack as you head out on your hikes.
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