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5 Ways To Get An Edge On Summer National Park Travel

With the arrival of summer comes the flock of tourists to our national parks. How can you still enjoy the parks and make the best of your trip without losing your mind?

By: Brynn Schmidt + Save to a List

Driving past the entrance to Arches National Park, lines to get in are between one and one and half hours, and that is just to get past the entrance station. Let me reiterate the phrase "driving past" the park. It is late morning and we have no intention of entering the park. We are going rock climbing outside of Moab and will visit the park later in the day. The entrance lines are just the beginning of the issue here. Once in the park, many visitors will struggle to find parking or anywhere to go with crowds and tour buses everywhere. This is an intensifying issue in our national parks as more and more visitors travel each year to visit the parks. Records for number of visitors increases almost every year at our larger parks.  Also, as you enjoy our parks, please be sure to follow all park rules and regulations and leave no trace. Our goal as explorers for the Outbound is to provide awesome adventure material but to also protect the wild everywhere we go. Here are 5 ways to improve your experience as you visit our national parks this summer: 

1. Visit the park early in the morning or in the evening.

The majority of tourists in the parks are there during day time hours, after they have had breakfast and before dinner time. If you head into the park early in the morning or around dinner time, you will see just as much and actually find parking as well. Often, there will be no lines at the entrance and much of the traffic will be leaving the park if you head in at dinner time. Early morning is great as well if you can handle the early hours. It is much cooler at these times of day as well and the light is so much better for photography. And - the tour buses are gone.

2. Get off the road. 

Even if you travel in the morning or evening, there will still be people around. You cannot avoid all the crowds. The best way to get away from the chaos is to get off the park roads. Park early in the morning or later in the evening when there are actually places to park and head out on a hike. Most visitors in our national parks stay on the roads and paved trails around natural features and lookout sights. Leave these areas and hike into the heart of the park. Always do your research and know everything about hiking the area you are in. Bring plenty of water, layers of clothing for rapidly changing weather and depending on the park, things like bear spray. For your safety, stop by the visitor center or ranger station and get information about the hike you plan to do and what you need to bring.

3. Stay in the park. 

While you need to make your plans often months in advance, it is worth it if you can stay in the park at a campground, lodge or in the backcountry (with proper permits). There are also always some first come, first serve campsites at most parks. One other thing to keep in mind is that the parks allow cancelations up to a few days before traveling, so you can have great luck if you are persistent with calling each day to see if there are cancelations at park hotels and campgrounds. When you stay in the park, you can hike, raft, climb and more during the day and visit the busier parts of the park at the night. Also, you don't have to enter the park in the busyness of the day because you are already there. You will be amazed at how the park clears out at dinner time as you sit at your campsite or lodge enjoying your surroundings or take time to go out and explore the park with less crowds.

4. Pack your own food in and out. 

The lines for park restaurants or entrance town eateries can be as long as a ride at Disneyland. Avoid the hassle and save time for your adventures and sight seeing by packing your own meals. Please pay attention to all park rules regarding where you can eat and always pack out trash if there are not trash cans and recycling bins available. Remember to leave no trace in the park. 

5. Take time to enjoy the wildlife during non-peak hours. 

Summer is hot for the animals too. Wildlife tend to sleep and rest in the shade during the daytime hours. While you can always have a great sighting mid-day, your chances are much higher of viewing wildlife in the early mornings and evenings. Also, there will be less people around. Less animal jams, more places to pull off the road and less people watching with you. 

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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