Plan a National Park Camping Trip
Traveling to the great national parks in our country is a great experience and it is a wonderful opportunity to see some of the great sights in the country. Visiting some of these parks takes a little planning. Here are a few tips to help you plan and simply your next trip to one of the national parks.
No matter which park you plan on visiting you will need to do some advance planning to make your trip easier once you arrive. Many parks have areas that are closed during certain seasons, especially winter. Those parks that have higher elevation often have areas that are closed during the winter, and sometimes certain access roads are closed due to snow during the winter. Be sure to research any seasonal closures ahead of time, so that you don't miss out on any part of the park you want to explore.
The most popular parks, like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite have a very busy peak season. If you want to visit one of these parks and must go during the peak season, be sure to reserve any camping, RV or hotel lodgings several months in advance. The park lodges are very popular during peak season and fill up fast. In addition, most camping and RV sites within the park are first-come, first-serve. The campsites and RV parks outside of the national park always fill up fast during peak season as well, so be sure to make your reservations well in advance of your trip. Many times privately owned campgrounds close to the National park you wish to visit may offer a more relaxed environment - away from the day crowds of the park. To find campgrounds near the national park you wish to visit click here and search based on mile radius to a landmark or park you are visiting.
You can also plan ahead to travel on the Fee-Free Entrance Days. The National Park System has a few days throughout the year when the entrance fees, in those parks that charge entrance fees, are waived. If you can plan ahead to visit during one of these weekends you have the opportunity for significant cost savings on your vacation. Check out http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm to find the dates for the Fee-Free Entrance Days.
Travel can be fairly expensive, you can save money by camping, but you still have the cost of campsite fees, as well as, gas and supplies. Some parks charge entrance fees, which can make your vacation even more expensive. Here are a few ideas for cost savings when traveling to our National Parks.
The National Park Service offers National Park Passes, which, if you plan to visit a few parks throughout the year will save you money on park fees, and as an added bonus can reduce the wait times in the entrance lines at popular parks.
Many parks charge entrance fees by the carload, so carpooling can save you money on fees, as well as gas. If you are traveling with a senior citizen, the National Park Service offers the America The Beautiful Pass, which can get your entire car into the park for free, with a one-time $10 fee.
Certain membership organizations also get discounts on entrance fees. Check to see if any of the organizations you are a member of have discounts. These organizations include AAA and AARP.
As you are planning your travel, keep an eye out for early bird specials. You can often find discounts on lodging and other amenities if you travel earlier in the year, rather during peak season.
As always, you want to be prepared when you are traveling. This is especially important in the national parks because you will often have a difficult time finding items you may have forgot within the park, and if you do find these items they will often be much more expensive.
National Parks often don't have gas stations, if you do find a gas station in the park there is a good chance that the gas will be more expensive, and there is the possibility that it will be sold out. Be sure to get enough gas for your trip within the park before you enter.
Always bring all the gear you will need for the activities you will be enjoying. Weather can be unpredictable in many parks, so you need to bring clothes for layering. In addition, you should be sure to have good hiking boots, if you plan to hike, as well as plenty of water and sunscreen.
Also, it you plan on enjoying any wilderness hiking, camping or other adventures you should be aware that many parks have rules about wilderness activities, and may even require a wilderness permit. Make sure you know any rules and have a acquired a wilderness permit if necessary before you head off into the wilderness on your adventure.
If you are traveling during the peak summer season you may encounter road construction. Road construction, both in and out of the park takes place during the summer, since much of the necessary construction is not possible throughout the remainder of the year. Be sure to know about any closures in and around the park, and be prepared for some delays if you do encounter construction. You can always avoid the hassle of road construction by traveling during the off-peak season.
Avoid the Crowds
Certain national parks get very crowded during the peak season. If you would like to avoid the crowds and enjoy the beautiful scenery in the national parks in relative solitude, you may want to consider visiting some of the lesser-known, but equally amazing national parks found throughout the country.
If you must travel to one of the top parks, you can always try to visit during the off-peak season, which lasts from early fall through early spring. In addition, the week days are often less crowded that weekends, when more people have the time to visit the parks.
Many parks have regions that are visited less than others, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is a much less popular destination than the South Rim, to avoid crowds you can find these areas of the park you visit. In addition, if you enjoy long hikes and exploring the wilderness, you are sure to find places that are much less crowded. The farther you get out into the park the less crowded it will be.
Enjoy Your Time
The most important part of traveling is to have fun! Make sure that you find activities that you enjoy and explore the places that you want to see. You will have even more fun if you find ways to make your travel simpler, so you don't have anything to worry about during your trip.
Many parks have shuttles that take passengers to key sites. These shuttles are simple and easy to catch, so if you worry about driving through the park, there is an easy alternative. Taking the shuttle will also help save money for gas.
Another great way to explore and learn about what each park has to offer are the Ranger-Guided programs and activities. These activities are a fun way to learn and see what the park has to offer from an expert. If you prefer to explore more independently you can always start your trip at the visitor center, which has plenty of information, and you can always ask rangers any questions you might have.