June kicks off summer 2021 with Great Outdoors Month. The National Park Service (NPS) provided a top-10 list of visitation tips to encourage the public to “Plan Like a Park Ranger” this summer.
National park visitation is increasing and expected to grow through the season, NPS stated. Amid the pandemic’s recovery, many parks and local businesses are operating with reduced or limited services, schedules and staff.
“We are excited to welcome visitors back to the great outdoors for their vacations at parks and public lands around the country,” NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge said. “With many popular destinations expecting record visitation while parks and communities emerge from the ongoing pandemic, we hope these insider tips will help visitors make the most of their trips. Today, national park rangers around the country are divulging their vacation planning secrets. Planning like a park ranger will help visitors have great experiences, make lasting memories and stay safe.”
Park visitors are encouraged to review Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance when making recreation plans. Consistent with CDC recommendations, NPS stated people who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces. Masks are required for everyone on all public transportation forms.
NPS provided the following tips for safe and fun travel experiences:
- Have a plan… and a backup plan.
A park visit should begin at home with a trip to NPS.gov. Park websites offer ideas about where to go, what to see and what to do. Flexibility and a backup plan are key, NPS stated, in case of changing weather conditions, road closures, etc.
- Be patient with each other and NPS
The service stated it always remembers to allow extra time to get from one place to another. This season, national parks are already bustling. Like many travel destinations, NPS may not yet be able to offer the past level of service. Keep in mind people who are not fully vaccinated must wear masks inside park buildings and in crowded outdoor areas.
- Travel off the beaten path
There are more than 400 national parks across the U.S. NPS stated it loves exploring the lesser-known parks. They can be a great option for travelers looking for nature, hiking trails and rich history, with fewer crowds and lines.
- Reservations may be needed
Many campgrounds and lodges in and around well-known parks are already fully booked, NPS stated. Having a reservation guarantees travelers will not arrive at a park to hit a necessary entrance reservation, no place to sleep or a popular trail closure.
- Ask a ranger
NPS stated its park rangers are always there to help. Rangers can answer questions, share park stories, point visitors to the nearest restroom and inform guests about activities.
- Explore the new NPS app
The new NPS app offers tools to explore more than 400 national parks, including interactive maps, tours, accessibility information and more. NPS stated new content is being added daily.
- Keep safety in the picture
NPS stated to be cautious of stopping to take photos where popular trails and views are especially crowded. Unobstructed photos may require a wait.
- Do not pet the “fluffy cows”
NPS noted bison, which are commonly spotted throughout national parks, can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and run up to 35 mph, which could cause severe injuries if standing too close. Keep distance from wild animals, never feed the wildlife and when taking pictures, use a zoom and give them room.
- Leave only footprints
- Ruffing it
NPS stated “this one’s for the dogs.” Many parks allow pets on leashes and in campgrounds, and some have kennels. However, NPS stated sometimes furry friends are best left at home. Learn what you can and cannot do with your pet and follow the B.A.R.K. principles.