Nothing beats camping in or near National Parks

March 31, 2015

Camp out and get the full National Park experience

Everyone should visit at least one National Park in their lifetime. The more you visit the better. They offer incredible opportunities to experience the land and wildlife that makes up the country.

Many of the more popular National Parks, such as Yellowstone National Park and Yosemite National Park, attract millions of visitors of all types each year. Hikers, campers, photographers, tourists—all sorts of people travel to the parks to see all the popular attractions and sights.

KOA locations near Yellowstone National Park:

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Yellowstone NPS

The absolute best way to add to the National Park experience is by making your visit a camping trip. Instead of simply visiting the parks, you’ll be spending all of your time directly within in the park. There is just something special about waking up to the sun rising and knowing you’re in some of the most beautiful areas in the country, from scraggly Joshua Tree National Park to the epic Acadia National Park.

However, National Park camping is going to be a little different than traditional camping. You are going to want to spend a lot of your time exploring the parks instead of simply hanging around the campsite. For that reason, there are some important things to consider before your trip.

Campgrounds near Joshua Tree National Park:

Campgrounds near Acadia National Park:

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Sean McCauley

The first thing you are going to want to do is decide the time of year that you want to visit the parks. Each park has peak times of the year to visit for both beauty and weather reasons. Those peak times tend to be in the warm summer months. If you want to avoid some of the crowds (and have a really warm sleeping bag) you may want to consider camping in the late spring or early fall instead of the middle of summer. The temperatures can get a little chilly at night no matter where you’re visiting at those times of the year, but they are no less beautiful than during the peak visiting months.

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Todd Petrie

You’ll also want to make some extra considerations for the location of your chosen camping area and how you’ll get around to the various attractions and sights that you want to visit on your trip. A centrally located campsite is ideal if you want to see everything you can with the least amount of travel. This is especially important to consider if you’re flying to the state where the park you are visiting is located. Although walking and hiking sound like great ideas from behind your computer screen while planning a trip, distances and terrain can be deceiving and could prove to be too much for some visitors, especially the elderly or children, upon arrival.

Renting a car is a great idea, but most of the National Parks offer tours via buses, bicycle rentals, and other forms of transportation. Just be sure to pick up a road map for the park you’ll be visiting. Yes, I know you have GPS on your phone, but these can sometimes lead you astray in National Parks. Some roads may be one way, closed at certain times of the year, or lead to dead ends. Drive with caution around the parks as well as road conditions will vary with weather and seasonal issues.

One of the main draws of any National Park is the wildlife. Parks from Death Valley National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park offer viewing opportunities that sometimes seem too good to be true. We have all seen the pictures of cars lining the roads as eager tourists snap photos of passing bears or bison at Yellowstone.

Campgrounds near Great Smokey Mountains National Park:

 

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Tony Hisgett

Although these creatures are amazing to watch, it’s important to remember that no matter how cute they might appear, they’re still animals. They may be used to humans visiting their homes, but you only need to read one news story of a bear attack to know that keeping your distance is the best bet. Your camera has that zoom section for a reason!

Extra consideration should also be taken when you’re storing your food at your campsite. This rule of thumb applies no matter where you’re camping, but animals in the National Parks can be a little bolder when it comes to food. S’mores make for a great camping snack, but they also smell mighty delicious to hungry bears. Make sure to seal all of your food securely and store it in the proper way. (No, your car is not a good place for it either!) Many campsites at National Parks actually have secure storage lockers due to bold bears.

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I know, I know…this sounds like a lot to consider when planning your National Park camping trip. After all, National Park camping is a little different than traditional camping, but it’s something that every single camper should experience at least once in their lives. And after experiencing it once, you’ll be hooked for life!

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