National Parks make for an amazing vacation. But making a plan can be very stressful and confusing. There are so many resources available at your fingertips…but where to start.

  • Plan in advance – The Parks are incredibly popular. If you are able, visit during the off-season (for most parks that is before Memorial Day and after Labor Day). You may have better luck with in-park reservations. If that’s not possible, just plan in advance. Reservations can be made 6 months in advance at most park campgrounds and cabins. The National Parks website is a great resource to learn about activities, ranger programs, etc.
  • Pack your patience – Take a deep breath and enjoy the Parks. Many are incredibly busy with long lines and popular areas are really crowded. One way to avoid this is to choose the less popular trails and activities. And when you are in lines, look up at the trees and amazing views. Soak up nature, take a deep breath and exhale.
  • Pullover and let other cars pass – The Parks are amazing! You will have so much to see as you drive around the park. Be courteous to your fellow visitors and pull over if you are going below the speed limit or if you see a few cars following behind you. The Parks create pull-offs every few miles for this purpose.
  • Pack your meals – We are very used to having meal options at our fingertips. Most parks have concession areas, but getting to them when you are hungry can be a challenge if it’s busy. Put a cooler in the car and pack some food – sandwiches, chips, fruit, sliced veggies, trail mix, drinks (try to stay away from high sugar and high caffeine drinks). And enjoy the flexibility. I have great memories of stopping to eat with a great view along the side of the road.
  • State & local parks – Many of us have heard of the big National Parks – Grand Canyon, Zion, Acadia, etc. But don’t forget about your local, regional, and state parks.  They are stunning! And many of them are neighbors to National Parks with similar views and features.