How to Enjoy Crowded Parks

The weather is beautiful! Now that the country is experiencing gorgeous weather, you might be looking to get out more. As schools head into summer vacation and people start to plan their time off, you might want to head out into a national park. We understand the urge! National parks expect to see record numbers this year, so you may need to plan ahead to enjoy yourself.

An expert on the national parks has already said that this summer will “be the biggest season in the history of the Park Service.” Last year, attendance was down by 28 percent as travel was limited and park services were canceled in some places. People are raring to get back out there! Additionally, many international holiday spots still aren’t accepting visitors or are have to navigate, keeping people in the country. That means that holidaymakers are looking away from foreign locales. Frequent visitors to the parks may be shocked at the sudden influx of people. First-timers might think it’s always this crowded.

We’re not saying this to deter you from going to the parks this summer. On the contrary! We think hitting the parks is a wonderful way to get out. It can be an excellent summer vacation! The National Park Service (NPS) has launched an educational program to help people prepare for a trip in this busy year. It’s called “Plan Like a Park Ranger.”

The NPS asks that you have a plan and a backup plan in case the weather isn’t great, a trail has to be closed or other unforeseeable things happen. They also ask that people have patience. It will be busy, and it might take a lot longer to get from one place to another; parking might be packed. As a side note, remember that many people who work at the parks are volunteers and might not be thoroughly trained. They are also working through the first summer after the pandemic. While many of the rules are still in place, reservation systems may still need to be ironed out. Take a breath and a beat. Remember to relax, or stress may ruin your vacation.

I’ve been visiting and covering parks for 25 years, and planning for this summer is definitely going to be a challenge,” said Candy Harrington, author of National Park Lodges for Wheelers and Slow Walkers. “The parks all have their own rules, and it’s been a zoo trying to keep track of them all… just be sure to check again a few days before arrival to make sure there are no procedural changes.”

Double-check that you have all the reservations you need and do so as early as possible. You don’t want to get to the park and find out you can’t get inside or to a location without a reservation. The NPS has an app. It has maps, accessibility info, self-guided tours, news, the ability to download maps, so you don’t have to worry about cell service in the park and more.    

You can have a great time in the parks, no matter the size of the crowd, you just have to know what to expect. You most likely won’t be all alone with no one but your thoughts, family and dog. There will be other people on the path and in the campgrounds. There is enough space for everyone. We just have to work together and think ahead!

Banner image: National Park Service
May 28, 2021
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