Thanks largely to the foresight and dedication of geologists, activists, planners, the general public, and U.S. presidents, the United States National Parks are a treasured part of our national heritage. The Parks are extremely well-managed and make a visit comfortable or difficult, depending on whether you wish to drive or hike to a summit. There are currently 63 national parks in the United States.
The first U.S. national park, Yellowstone National Park, was founded when President Ulysses S. Grant signed The Yellowstone Act on March 1, 1872. Although Yosemite preceded Yellowstone as a park when it was established in 1864, the former was considered to be a “state” park at that time.
Listed in alphabetical order, the following is a brief account of my 10 best-loved National Parks, followed by 10 Tips for Visiting U.S. National Parks.
10 Tips for Visiting U.S. National Parks:
Based on their respective locations, the U.S. national parks offer a wide range of activities for the visitor. The following are some tips to help you plan your visit:
- Decide when you plan to visit a national park. I prefer a quieter experience at the parks, which is why I visit during early fall or late spring.
- Plan how much time you wish to spend at a park. Some parks are huge! Research to build an itinerary and plan activities. Remember to share your itinerary with family members or friends.
- Most national parks have camping and/or lodging facilities. Make your reservations well in advance.
- Entrance fee to national parks can add up. Therefore, I recommend purchasing the U.S. Park Pass if you plan to visit a few during a period of 12 months. In addition to the national parks, the Park Pass provides access “to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites across the country.” There are also Free Entrance Days at participating national parks.
- Stop by the visitor center at a national park. They have plenty of information to share. There are short films that run every half-hour or so. I recommend viewing these films because they provide valuable information about the park—how the efforts began, what it has to offer, etc.
- National parks have free programs and activities. Some of these are for children only while others are open to all ages.
- Chat with a Park Ranger. They are a source of excellent information regarding the park.
- Bring a daypack and carry an extra bottle of water. Please don’t leave traces of your visit.
- Maintain distance from and be respectful of the park’s animals.
- Explore travel ideas on the National Park Foundation website. The National Park Service website is also a good source of information.