The National Parks of the United States run the gamut. From ocean preserves to mountain wildernesses, your pass to the National Parks can get you into any ecosystem you can imagine. You can also study them virtually if you can’t get away in person.
Get a Pass
A National Parks Pass is easy to purchase and a terrific bargain. You can get one
- free if you are in the 4th grade
- free if you are active military, a military veteran, or a gold star family member
- $20 per year or $80 for the rest of your life if you are at least 62
- $80 per year for everyone else
There are many designated National Historic Sites, Trails, and Parks across the United States. One pass gets you into all of them. Be aware that some of these areas are protected from too much foot traffic. Be ready to follow the rules and pay attention to the park rangers.
Visit the Closest Park
Go to the National Parks Service Map and click on your state to check out the many historic sites run by the United States National Park services. From the Pony Express Trail to the Channel Islands of California, you can find amazing sights and gather information about the United States.
Make sure you get in a tour group that is small enough that you can hear the Park Ranger. The history and knowledge these professionals present are remarkable. You won’t want to miss any of it.
Leave Plenty of Time for Your Visit
Nature may get wild every now and again, but she’s seldom in a rush about it. Plan to spend plenty of time in each park. Find an easy hiking trail and pack in water and food. Be ready to pack it back out again per the rules of Leave No Trace listed below.
Your time in a national park is your time to stop rushing. Quit worrying about the next moment and revel in the history and beauty around you.
Gear Up Carefully
If you’ve never been camping, or if you only did it once and really don’t want to do it again, you need better gear. Many of us can’t sleep on the ground. If we do, we can’t get back up in the morning.
Getting plenty of fresh air and relaxing in the wild will do you no good if you are not comfortable with the condition of your body. Rest will be impossible if you
- feel dirty and sweaty
- can’t get comfortable in your sleeping space
- don’t feel safe
Book your space in a campsite that offers showers or has a beach where you can swim and feel clean. Get a tent that is tall enough to allow for a cot or an inflatable mattress if you need it. Check out bigger tents, tipis, and rooftop tents for Toyota 4runner to give yourself a flat, cozy sleeping space away from rocks and uneven ground.
When booking your site, make sure that you are following all the rules related to wildlife. There are areas where you can’t tent camp because of bears. These rules are in place to keep you safe, so follow them.
Learn to Leave No Trace
The rules of leave no trace are in place to protect the area that you’re visiting and make it pleasant for the next camper.
- Plan ahead, with plenty of water, food and trash bags. Don’t litter or leave a mess.
- Camp on durable surfaces, or use what is there, including hiking trails and camping sites.
- Dispose of waste properly, and be ready to carry it out. Watch out for micro trash and food scraps.
- Leave what you find; don’t take away plants or rocks.
- Minimize campfire impacts. No fires if restricted, and don’t build a new fire ring.
- Respect the wildlife: Don’t touch or approach wildlife! This is not a petting zoo.
- Respect other campers: Don’t crowd folks, make too much noise, or be a noise nuisance.
The National Parks can be a great travel goal. These sites are a great vacation bucket list goal, and once you have the right camping gear for your needs, you can enjoy relaxing travel without busting the budget.
Author: Sheryl Wright