Part of the fun of hitting the road to enjoy the wide-open spaces of our country is the freedom to go where you want pretty much when you want. However, while you’re out taking in everything nature has to offer, do yourself and your family a huge favor and don’t neglect stays or visits to any of our more than 50 national parks.
But everyone goes to national parks, making them crowded? I hear that and during select times of the year, that’s correct. However, good planning can reap big rewards.
The larger parks, like the colossal Yellowstone, have fantastic campgrounds closer to everything you want to see… but reserve well in advance of your planned adventures, especially for the high season from June to September when school’s out and families are on the road.
In fact, it is recommended that if you can, travel in the spring and in the fall. One more item about national park campgrounds: bear in mind they can be limited in scope from the size of the RV you can bring in as well and most will have limited full hook-up accommodations.
Most in fact, will not have an RV campground in the park, but there will be one nearby. But when you stay at or near a national park, you have access to a ton of outdoor goodies like the following.
National Parks have Guided Tours
A huge bonus to our national park system is the opportunity to become educated on everything about a particular park’s ecosystem, science, conservation practices, and overall history.
Using Yellowstone as an example, you can gather information from well-versed guides on everything from geography to grizzlies, plus you can get guided tours using transportation from bicycles to boats.
Even in the winter, there are guides in snow coaches… and November and December can be the best time to get an opportunity to see a wolf in the world’s oldest national park.
National Parks have Tons of Hiking Trails
Call them self-guided tours if you like but take a handy-dandy map with you. You don’t want to miss the sights on the trail or miss the trail entirely. A lot of effort goes into the proper routing of a trail and it is a continual effort to keep it as thrilling, yet safe, as possible.
Fact is, in a volatile place such as Yellowstone, going ‘off-trail’ has led to more than one person never coming back. Speaking of putting yourself at risk, heed this advice – never ever ever ever ever hike alone.
National Parks have Rangers
No, not the New York Rangers or the Texas Rangers, Park Rangers. Rangers are chock full of the information you may need to know about the goings-on for the day or days you are there.
Where was the last grizzly sighting? Best place to see a bald eagle? The closest place to do some angling? Best place to see wildflowers from the road or the best trail to take to see them? Where’s the nearest waterfall? Where’s the nearest bathroom? How close can you get to a bison?
There is a ton of information you can find out from a park ranger… and BTW, the answer to the last question is 25 yards. I’d double that. They weigh over half a ton and are three times faster than you.
National Parks have Beautiful Wildlife
Yes, you can see a coyote in Chicago if you want to, but you can’t see a badger, or a wolf, or a grizzly or a wild horse. Those are generally easier to find in a national park than anywhere else.
Some national parks have very specific wildlife. For instance, the Everglades is one of the few places where you can see a manatee. As for a herd of wild horses? Get your best chance inside Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
National Parks have Amazing Scenery
Well duh, right? They don’t create national parks where there isn’t anything worthwhile to see. But what may be awe-inspiring to me, Joshua Tree, for instance, might be nothing but a dry wasteland with short trees to you.
The beauty (no pun intended, but it works) of the national park system is there really is something for everyone to have their own jaw-dropping moment. Want to see the ocean sliding over the beach? Try Biscayne. Love to see the Aurora Borealis? Head to Voyageurs. How about a waterfall that looks as tall as a skyscraper? Check out Yosemite.
Are there any other reasons to go camping in or near a national park for you? Let us know and happy camping!