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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Perry

7 Tips for Visiting US National Parks

From massive, awe-inspiring canyons to towering giant sequoias, the U.S. national parks are full of natural wonders that are perfect for filling out your bucket list. If you’re ready to experience some of these stunning national parks this summer, here are a few tips for your visit!

#1 Check for Reservations

Many national parks are extremely popular and can be very busy, especially during the peak summer months. In order to manage crowds, some parks have implemented a reservation entry system, and guests entering during peak times will need to make a reservation in order to enter. This includes popular destinations such as Arches National Park and Yosemite National Park, who require reservations during most of the spring, summer, and fall. Make sure to check in advance if the park you’re planning to visit requires reservations.

#2 - Consider an America the Beautiful Pass

Most major national parks have an entry fee, and if you’ll be visiting multiple parks on your trip, it’s worth it to consider an annual pass. This is especially true if you’ll be visiting two more parks—this is easy to do in some places, such as visiting Utah’s “Big Five,” which includes Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park. A day’s entry fee for a personal vehicle often falls somewhere in the $10-$30 range. An America the Beautiful Pass is an annual pass that allows access to pretty much all national parks, and at the time of writing is $80. For visitors aged 62 and older, the America the Beautiful Pass is discounted at only $20, making it a no-brainer if you’ll be visiting at least two national parks on your trip.

#3 - Pack for the Weather

As with any trip, you’ll want to keep the weather in mind as you pack for your trip. Depending on your destination, the weather also may not be what you think, even at the height of summer. In mid-May, we went from sunny warm weather in Arches National Park to snow and wind at Bryce Canyon National Park only a few hours away. Many parks that feature high elevations may still experience chillier weather, even in summer, so make sure you’re prepared.

#4 - Check for Alerts

Many major national parks are made up of miles and miles of wilderness, and trails or roads may be subject to issues from weather, or may even close during some seasons. Make sure to check the ‘Alerts’ page on the official website of any national park you’ll be visiting to see if there are any closures or warnings. 

#5 - Download the National Parks App

The National Parks Service offers a mobile app that includes information about all of their parks, including everything from maps and trail descriptions to attraction and parking info. You can even download the information for select parks to your phone so that you can access it without WiFi or data, which is handy in many parks where cell phone service is often spotty or non-existent. 

#6 - Arrive Early

As mentioned before, many national parks are very popular, and thus are very busy during high seasons like summer. Arriving early in the morning not only lets you find parking spaces and enjoy trails without as many people, but it also lets you experience the parks before the heat of the day arrives. If you’re concerned about finding a place to park, note that there are a few parks—such as the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon—that offer a shuttle service to popular viewing points in order to reduce vehicle congestion.

#7 - Consider a Tour

Want to take the stress out of your trip to explore the national parks? Consider a guided tour! Rather than trying to juggle your own reservations or stress about driving and finding a place to park in busy lots, let an experienced tour guide manage everything for you so that all you need to do is enjoy the beautiful sights!

Want to learn more? Contact our Travel Pros for more info!

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