Here’s a recent article found on LifeHacker.com that provides some wisdom. I pass it on for all you NPS afficionados.
Next week is National Park Week, which means free entry for you to national parks for the next two weekends. If you have a national park near you, here’s what you can do to get the most out of your free visit.
If you’re not sure whether there’s a national park nearby, check Find Your Park, which is run by the National Park Service. Even if you aren’t near a popular park like Yosemite, there are a lot of smaller gems that might be in your area. Once you’ve chosen which park you want to visit for free over the next couple weekends, plan your trip.
- Figure out what you want to see or where you want to hike. Resources like Chimani (app that specializes in parks), the National Park Service’s itinerary index, or recommendations from friends and family help you find the best spots to visit.
- Know how to avoid crowds, if that’s what you want. Free entry means that more people are likely to be visiting the parks at the same time as you. TomTom has partnered with the National Park Service to show you paths that are less hiked—literally the road less traveled—and therefore less likely to be swarming with people. You can also beat crowds by getting an early start and actually walking more than a mile or two on the popular trails (as most people drop off rapidly at that point).
- Get your kids involved. If you’re bringing kids along, get them engaged by using the Junior Rangers Program to get them interested in nature.
- Find the most stunning spots to take in the views (and snap a photo). A former National Geographic photographer lays out both the best hidden spots in national parks and the most visually breathtaking spots (there’s some overlap, unsurprisingly).
- Be prepared for the weather. Make sure you’re dressed properly (layers are a good thing) and have sun, wind, or rain protection so that you can enjoy your time at the park.
No matter which park you end up visiting during National Park Week, spend a little time preparing and you’ll have a much better time in the great outdoors.