11 Mistakes Tourists Make At National Parks

by | Feb 17, 2022 | Travel

Two of the biggest effects of the pandemic on travel have been the emphasis on domestic tourism and the increased interest in outdoor adventures. When you combine those in the U.S., what you get is a newfound appreciation for the stunning national parks.In 2021, the National Parks System reported nearly 300 million recreation visits across all properties, and 44 parks set new visitation records. These high numbers include many first-time parkgoers, who don’t always know how to take advantage of all these stunning destinations have to offer. In fact, many seasoned national park travelers don’t hesitate to point out some of the faux pas they’ve observed from their fellow visitors. AdvertisementWe asked some experts to share some of the biggest mistakes they believe travelers make when they visit national parks. Read on for 11 examples, as well as advice for avoiding these common missteps.Not Planning In Advance“A lot of travelers get caught up in the romanticism of spontaneity,” said Heather Gyselman, a product manager for adventure travel at REI. “I get it, who doesn’t want to hit the road without a care in the world? However, when visiting a national park today it’s important that you’ve invested time in planning and organizing your trip.”If you don’t do any advance planing, you might find yourself scrambling as you encounter daily capacity limits, trail and road closures, limited parking and fully booked campgrounds and lodgings. Go to the official website of the national park you want to visit, so you can find this relevant information ahead of time and keep up to date with any changes. Prepare a basic itinerary. Advertisement“The No. 1 rule is to have a plan,” said Dan Austin, founder and director of special projects at Austin Adventures. “While you can always adjust on the fly, it’s a good idea to plan out the key places you want to see. Once you have that list, review the layout of the park and the road system as it can take all day to get across many of our parks. Add traffic to the mix and it can really get tricky. Having a plan and mapping out everything you want to see can really help with those challenges.”Only Visiting The Most Crowded Attractions“Don’t limit yourself to the popular or ‘Instagrammable’ spots,” advised Alan Fyall, the Visit Orlando endowed chair of tourism management and associate dean of academic affairs at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. “Explore the park. Ask a ranger or campground host what they recommend that could be outside the heavily trafficked areas.”There are countless scenic spots that aren’t packed with photo-snapping crowds. Only focusing on the most popular attractions might also keep you from some truly powerful national park experiences. Advertisement“Most people don’t get far enough away from the parking lots,” said writer and naturalist Janisse Ray. “They do the canned version of our parks, which means they see iconic sights like Old Faithful blowing in a kind of drive-by viewing, but they don’t experience the sense of place or the incredible, life-altering, deeply meaningful spectacles that occur at sma …

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