Red rock landscapes, snowy mountains and vast prairies: nature in America is beautiful and varied. This must also be the case in a hundred years, which is why this nature is protected. This happens in the form of national parks, such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion and Glacier National Parks.
A National Park is a huge nature reserve with an entrance and exit. Through the park there are roads and hiking trails that are maintained. The well-being of sights, visitors and animals is also monitored. Usually a National Park has a visitor center and a campsite. Sometimes there are also hotels or lodges.
1. You have to pay entrance fee
The maintenance of National Parks costs a lot of money. That’s why you have to pay an entrance fee at the entrance to a park or show your park pass (see below). You get something in return: at the entrance and in the visitor center, maps and brochures are distributed with information about the most important roads, places of interest and walking routes. This way you get a good picture of what you can see and do. On the map the road through the park is marked and you see where vantage points and starting points of walking routes are. At the starting point of a walking route there is often a parking space with a sign giving information about the length and course of the route. There are also free ranger activities.
2. An annual pass can be cheaper
Then it is advantageous to buy an annual pass at the first park you visit.
Name: America the Beautiful Annual Pass
Cost: $ 80 ( Not everywhere Credit cards are accepted, so make sure you have enough cash with you)
Access: to all parts of the National Park Service, such as National Parks and National Monuments. The park pass is valid for one vehicle or – in some parks – a maximum of four adults (+15 years). Additional costs, such as parking costs, camping fees, costs for guided tours, etc., are not covered by the Pass
Valid: one year from the day of purchase
More info: National Park Service
More than 80% of entrance fees are used for such things as hiking trails, educational programs, animal welfare, etc..
3. Sometimes the shuttle bus is mandatory
Through every National Park there is a road where you can drive over with your car or camper. On the map you can see how this park road runs and where you can stop for a nice view or a walk. In some parks it becomes so busy in high season that there is no room for all cars and campers of visitors. That is why shuttle buses run in those parks, such as Bryce Canyon and Zion. These depart very frequently and are accessible free of charge. You park your own vehicle in a large parking lot at the entrance and travel through the park with the shuttle bus. The shuttle bus stops at all places of interest and you can choose where you will get off and on again.
Pay attention! It can be very busy between May and September in the parking lot at the beginning of the park. So make sure you arrive at the park early in the morning, or at the end of the afternoon.
Also: Motorhome travelers have to take into account that some roads are inaccessible for (large) motorhomes. For example, the Sunroad in Glacier National Park and the Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park are very curvy and narrow, so you can not cross with a moterhome without any damage.
4. The visitor center is a convenient starting point
Do you want to know which walk is suitable for young children or what you should not miss if you have limited time? Then go to the visitor center! Rangers who can answer all your questions work in the Visitor Center. Usually there is also a film about the origin of the park and the special nature. Often there are also souvenirs for sale, such as magnets, cards and T-shirts. In the visitor center you can also be informed about the weather forecasts and possible road closures.
5. There are often fun (free) ranger activities
Ranger activities are organized in many national parks. You go with a park ranger in search of wildlife or take a walk while he or she teaches you everything about the environment. Often they also offer a ‘Junior Ranger Program’ especially for children. The content of these programs differs: sometimes you start research with a ranger, somewhere else you can collect stamps or do a search. Participation in most ranger activities is free. At the visitor center you can ask when which activities start. Most activities are organized between Memorial Day (last Monday in May) and Labor Day (first Monday in September).
6. Sleeping in a park is fun / useful / beautiful. Make sure you do a reservation!
For the true nature experience you can stay in a National Park. Most National Parks have simple campgrounds for campers and tents. Reservations are a must for these campsites ( find the beste Camping Spots here). This can often be six months before your planned visit! Read more about reserving campsites in national parks in America. Do you travel with a car and do you sleep in hotels? Then in some parks you can stay overnight in a hotel or lodge. Ask us about the accommodation options: these vary per park.
Also good to read
- How do you book campsites in National Parks America?
- How do you book campsites in Yosemite National Park?
- Is your campsite full? View these alternative campsites in Southwest America
- Questions & answers: Camping
If you want to know more about this subject … Please feel free to ask your question at the Contact form, we will answer it as soon as possible.
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