Jennifer is a writer and travel enthusiast based in the Sacramento area of Northern California. She has recently given in to the insatiable urge to wander and shares her photos and experiences over on her blog, People + Places + Things. Jennifer has also authored several travel guide apps and creates content for online and print publications.
Stay somewhere comfortable
Deciding where and how you’ll catch some zzzzz’s while you’re visiting a national park is very important and one of the first things we tackle when planning a trip. Do you want to camp and sleep under the stars? What about a nice hotel inside the park? Or perhaps a small rustic cabin in the woods nearby?
Whatever offers you and yours the most comfort and an opportunity for some down time is often the best choice. You’ll be happy to have a place to rest and recover after long days full of hiking, exploring and sightseeing.
Know your distances
National parks are often quite large. Millions of acres have been preserved for us to enjoy, but it’s important to know how you’ll be getting around the park and how long various activities will take you.
Want to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park? Between construction delays and the inexplicable urge to stop at every turnout to take photos, the road can take hours to explore. You know that tiny hike on the handy map you received on your way into the park? It’s actually seven miles roundtrip and will take you a good part of the morning. Being prepared is common sense, but even experienced travelers forget from time to time.
Take the road less traveled
Cliché? Yes. However, visiting a less-frequented part of a national park can come with great rewards. You’ll deal with fewer crowds, the nature your appreciating will become infinitely more peaceful and you’ll have stories to tell that others may not. You may also be surprised to find stunning landscapes and quiet hikes that people rarely visit!
If you’re literally venturing down a road that doesn’t get much attention (see also: gravel roads and potholes), just be sure to check first to make sure the road is open and that your vehicle can handle the trip.
Go ahead and be a tourist
Now I’m going to completely contradict myself by telling you to brave the crowds and get the obligatory photo in front of that amazing vista or landmark. We always try to seek solitude when we head to national parks, but no visit would be complete without checking out the highlights.
So, go ahead and stop at Tunnel View in Yosemite, wait with thousands to watch Old Faithful do its thing in Yellowstone and take your picture in front of the Continental Divide sign in Glacier. Chances are, you won’t regret making any of those memories once the trip has ended.
Take a guided tour
I’ll be the first to admit that guided tours aren’t for everybody. Heck, we rarely take them. However, every once in a while it’s nice to get the perspective of someone who knows the park inside and out.
The great thing about taking a tour is that the guides are often doing part of the work for you: driving you somewhere, showing you the best parts of a particular trail or taking you across a lake. Every national park offers different adventures, but they range between bus and boat tours to guided backcountry hikes and helicopter tours. You’ll be amazed what you can learn about both the park and the activity you choose to experience.
Five Things About Jen
Name: Jennifer Snyder
Blog Name & Link: People + Places + Things
A Favorite Travel Memory: I have too many to count! More often than not, the memories I look back on with a fond smile are those tiny moments of peace and happiness. Many of them have been in national parks.
Destination On Your Mind: I'd have to say Glacier National Park. We recently returned from our first trip to the park and I can't seem to stop talking or thinking about about it!
The Friday Five is an opportunity to share your wisdom, tips, and hints about traveling. Interested in participating? E-mail me at glutenfreetravelette [at] gmail [dot] com for more information!