Ranger Sharon Ringsven, who works for the National Park Service (NPS) was our presenter on the informative talk, “How to Plan Your Trip to a National Park,” in May. In her current position, Ranger Sharon works with 85 parks in seven states as the Regional Office Recreation Fee Program Manager. Her prior assignments have taken her to Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon, Shenandoah, and Haleakala National Parks.
Ranger Sharon advises that the first step in planning a trip is to go to the National Park Service (NPS) website at www.nps.gov where you can search for any of the parks by name, state, or even from an interactive map. Each of the 424 national park units has its own website that can be accessed through the NPS website. While there are at least 19 naming designations, these units are commonly referred to as “parks.” Pay special attention to alerts for information that could impact your visit. It’s a good idea to revisit the park website a few times prior to your visit as situations can change quickly and unexpectedly.
Other topics Ranger Sharon covered included:
Passes: There are numerous types of passes, that include the America the Beautiful Pass, Military passes, School passes for 4th graders, and even Volunteer passes. Go to www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm for an easy-to-follow diagram showing which pass fits your situation. You can prepurchase your pass at www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/pickup-pass-locations.htm.
Reservations: Park visitation has increased the past several years and some of the larger parks have a pilot program that requires a $2 reservation for entering the park during certain hours of the day and certain seasons. Before you leave on a trip, check out the park website for reservation details so you aren’t surprised and disappointed once you arrive. Entry reservations as well as prices for using federal campgrounds, backcountry camping, and tours, etc. are available through recreation.gov.
Tips for Planning a Trip
* Plan your trip, including activities, weather, crowds, etc.
* Make a backup plan and consider visiting small parks.
* Use the NPS app for maps and updates.
* Make reservations as needed for entry, campgrounds, activities, etc.
* Keep safety in the plan with sufficient water, food, sunscreen, hat, etc.
* Ask a Ranger and check informational signs.
* Remember wildlife—bison, buffalo, elk, and deer all have minimum distance requirements for your and their safety …100 yards for bears and bison; 50 yards for deer and most other wildlife.
* Check if pets are allowed in the park you plan to visit. If allowed in a park, pets are required to be on a 6- to 13-foot leash. Waste must be bagged. Check out the BARK Ranger program available at some parks.
* Protect the parks by hiking only where allowed and remove trash if no trashcan is provided.
* Be patient.
The club thanks Ranger Sharon for her time in sharing these important tips. The websites mentioned in this article and other websites of interest can be found on GroupWorks > SBR National Parks Club > Learning Resources. To join the club and receive updates on meetings, trips, and more, sign up on GroupWorks or send an email to [email protected].