Millions of people visit the National Parks every year, but with this many people visiting you should be aware of how to preserve the environment for future visitors. Following these simple do’s and don’ts will help you stay safe, respect other visitors and keep the parks beautiful for several years to come. Read on to learn more about our duty and responsibility as visitors of the National Parks.
Leave No Trace
This is one of the most common rules you will hear when visiting any of the National Parks. The saying is, “Leave only footprints, take only pictures”. Sometimes you might stumble across a gorgeous wildflower, a set of antlers or an arrowhead, but removing these things is prohibited. When traveling with kids you might find that they sneak an extra “souvenir” into their pockets. If you discover they took something from the park you are visiting, it is vital that you return the item back to the park service team. Before exiting the park, make sure that all of your trash is deposited in its respective bin. A great tip for minimizing the risk of leaving trash behind is to pack food and snacks in reusable containers.
The number one thing you absolutely need to pack with you when going out on the trails for a hike is water. You would be surprised by the number of people who forget to pack water with them when going on hikes, even when visiting National Parks within desert regions! Proper footwear is another essential item to remember. You never know what might happen while on the trail so wearing protective footwear is vital. Some additional items to remember to pack when visiting a National Park include extra food, a map or GPS, rain gear, a first aid kit, a knife, sunscreen and sunglasses, a backpack, and various safety items.
No Smoking on the Trails
Smoking is prohibited on all trails at any of the National Parks. Visitors of the park come to enjoy a breath of fresh air while enjoying nature, not to smell and breathe secondhand smoke. Plus, smoking is a major fire hazard. Always remember to follow the wise words of Smokey the Bear, “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires!” Together we can protect, maintain and keep these parks flourishing.
Don’t Feed the Wildlife
Animals are adorable, but feeding them is not a smart idea as it can cause serious health problems and is prohibited within the National Parks. Feeding the park’s wildlife also causes them to lose their fear of humans which in turn compromises the safety of both humans and animals. Regulations on the best way to store your food differ for each park, so make sure to check out each park’s guidelines before you embark on your adventure.
Please No Drones
Drones can get great images of the landscape from an aerial view, but the National Park Service banned these devices back in 2014. Many people find the buzzing annoying, and you can imagine how they affect the various wildlife. Violating the ban on drones in National Parks not only disrupts other visitors but is a misdemeanor resulting in up to six months in prison and fines up to $5,000.
Don’t Veer Off Path
Hiking etiquette is super important! Collectively, the National Parks have thousands of miles of marked hiking trails, and Yellowstone alone has over 900 miles of trails to explore. With that many trails, no one should have a need to veer off the designated trail. Going off the marked path can be dangerous to you and to the environment. For instance, some parks have fungus that can spread vastly if you go off the trail into other areas of the park. Remember to follow the common saying, “Forests Grow by the Inch and Die by the Foot.”
Although it sounds a bit cheesy, just get outside and have fun! The National Parks are beautiful places to explore and hold many unique stories, treasures, and recreational opportunities within each one. Having been preserved for so many years, they continue to bring joy and wonder to each person that enters them. The time is now to hit the road and find out what each National Park has to offer!