Tips for a Successful National Park Day Trip

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Some of the greatest places to go in an RV are our country’s national parks. These places are absolutely beautiful and are filled with amazing sights, sounds, and smells, as well as plenty of opportunities to learn.

In some cases, it is possible to camp right inside the parks. Other times, you might have to find boondocking or a campground outside the gates. Either way, you’re definitely going to want to leave the campsite to explore the amazing things around you each day. Before you do though, there are some steps you’ll want to take and things you’ll want to know in order to ensure a successful day in the park.

Here are our top tips for visiting national parks during your RV adventures.

Make Reservations

First, it is important to note that due to the pandemic and the significant rise in park attendance in many places, some national parks have started requiring reservations in order to enter. Before you plan a trip to any park, check to see if a reservation is required during the time you plan to visit, and if it is, snag one as soon as you possibly can.

Check the Weather

For the most part, your national parks adventures will likely take place in the great outdoors. This means you will want to know what to expect from the weather and arrive well prepared. Keep in mind that many national parks see extreme weather and temperatures, and the temperature can fluctuate wildly throughout the day (sometimes based simply on where you are in the park), making layers of clothing necessary.

Look at the Park Website

Always check the park website before you visit. The site will give you information on road closures, current restrictions, hours of operation, and much more. Knowing these things before you go could potentially save your whole day.

Pack Food and Water

Most national parks are huge. While some do have restaurants on-site, these are few and far between. For this reason, we highly recommend packing plenty of snacks and even a picnic meal for your day of exploring.

Additionally, be sure to pack enough water. A gallon a day per person is the standard recommendation, but you may need more or less depending on your activity level and the weather.

We recommend one of these to hold water as you hike.

Fill Up Your Gas Tank

As mentioned above, national parks can be huge. As is the case with restaurants, some parks have gas stations, but even in those parks, the stations are pretty scarce. For this reason, it is imperative that you fill up your gas tank before heading into the park. You might be surprised by just how much driving you end up doing!

Start at a Visitor Center

We highly recommend beginning any visit to a national park at the visitor center. This will allow you to get oriented, and in some cases, there will be a video about the park to give you a better understanding of what it is. Rangers will be available to help you pick things to see and places to hike. Additionally, you’ll be able to get a schedule of programs and pick up Junior Ranger books for the kids.

Take Advantage of Programs

Speaking of ranger programs and Junior Rangers, we also recommend that you make a point of checking out what all the park has to offer in terms of programs. Kids love the Junior Ranger program; those with dogs will like the BARK Ranger program; the talks, hikes, and presentations offered by rangers are always fantastic; and all of that is only a small sample of what you might find at any given park.

Never Approach or Feed Animals

You will probably see lots of signs throughout the park reminding you not to feed or approach animals. Take this seriously. The animals in national parks are wild, meaning they are unpredictable. On top of that, feeding them can actually make them very sick. Finally, animals that become unafraid of people pose a threat and will often be put down. This is definitely not something anyone wants to see.

Arrive Early and Stay Late

Sunrises, sunsets, and night skies in the national parks are often absolutely incredible. During your visit to a park, try to arrive early enough to catch a sunrise one day, and stay late enough to do some stargazing on another.

Don’t Count on Cell Reception

Finally, it is important to be aware that cell reception is non-existent in the vast majority of national parks. If you’ll be camping in the park, don’t plan on getting any work done while there. You’ll also want to avoid using a GPS that requires any cell signal. Instead, download directions before you arrive.

Use these tips to plan your national park day trip and you’ll be all set to have an amazing time!

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About the author: Chelsea Gonzales

Chelsea has the amazing opportunity to take part in full-time RV living and traveling with her tiny tribe. She homeschools her five-year-old son as they travel, and takes full advantage of their unique situation by using the entire world as her son’s classroom. A group of total Disney fanatics, Chelsea and her family often find themselves in the Orlando area in order to visit the Disney parks, but they have also visited over 25 of the 50 states with plans to see many more along the way. No matter where her travels take her, Chelsea enjoys riding bikes, gazing at beautiful sunsets, finding new coffee shops, Irish dancing, and sitting around a campfire with her family.

You can join her adventures through her blog, Wonder Wherever We Wander.

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