Outdoor adventures across North America are on the rise, with visits to national parks, historic sites and national monuments under the care of the U.S. National Park Service topping 300 million in 2015. Before packing up the family and hitting the road for your own fun, read on for thoughtful tips to help plan a memorable national park visit this summer.
Find Your Park
Selecting your destination may be the hardest decision you face on this journey. Use the National Park Service’s Find a Park feature to search by location. Once you’ve chosen a park, visit its website for relevant maps, operating hours, directions and other useful pointers.
There are a number of national parks right here in Minnesota. Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (pictured above) is one of our favorites! Despite its bustling, Twin Cities location, the 72-mile river park offers quiets stretches for fishing, boating and canoeing. Birdwatching, bicycling and hiking are also popular reasons for a national park visit here this summer.
Create a Game Plan
Be realistic about what you can accomplish. Many parks are too expansive to take them all in with one visit. Instead, pick one or two goals and plan accordingly. If Yellowstone’s Old Faithful is a must-see, for instance, consider lodging nearby and coordinating a morning hike.
Talk to the Pros When You Arrive
A check-in with the park’s visitor center can give you the latest on road closings, trail conditions and other unexpected developments. You can even get insider information, like the best place to catch the sunset or which camping spot is the quietest.
Take Care of Companions
If you’re traveling with pets, find out in advance where they’re allowed. For kids, look into the junior ranger program, which offers kid-friendly park guides and activities. Those 62 and over qualify for a $10 senior pass that provides lifetime access to national parks as well as guided tours and discounts on camping, swimming and other amenity fees.
However you travel, enjoy your adventure responsibly and take care to follow the leave no trace principles, which involve having a minimal impact on the area and leaving the park better than you find it. Otherwise, explore away and enjoy your national park visit this summer!