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Happy 105th to the National Park Service; Visit a Park to Celebrate!

Happy 105th to the National Park Service; Visit a Park to Celebrate!

Happy birthday, National Park Service! The NPS was created by law on August 25, 1916, establishing the agency as a federal bureau in the Department of the Interior. According to the text of the order, the NPS purpose was, in part, to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

Back then, only 35 sites were under the NPS jurisdiction. Today, the NPS oversees more than 400 areas covering more than 84 million acres in the US and US territories.

One hundred five years later, America’s National Parks, lake shores and seashores are still preserving and protecting as well as drawing millions of visitors each year. An estimated 300 million plus visitors venture to the National Parks, many of them traveling in campers and RVs.

The natural wonders, historic sites, proximity to attractions and the opportunity to commune with nature is part of the reason that people flock to National Parks. That means they can also be crowded. That cements their value to leisure travel, but does cause problems, such as traffic congestion, booked campgrounds and a less-than-ideal chance to enjoy the serenity of a forest, desert or seashore.

Not all National Parks are the same. Some are just better designed to handle RVs and traffic. Those with scenic views and drives tend to attract more visitors – think Rocky Mountain and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks, for example – and campground reservations also fill up quickly.

There are some National Parks that are more amenable to the RV lifestyle, while still delivering on the great national park experience. Some of these parks have hookups for RVS and some are limited in the amenities they offer. Here are some of the most popular ones, according to RV users:

  • Arcadia National Park
  • Badlands National Park
  • Crater Lake National Park
  • Everglades National Park
  • Glacier National Park
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Redwood National Park
  • Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Sequoia National Park
  • Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Zion National Park

If visits to national parks is on your travel itinerary this year, there are some helpful suggestions to make the most of your visit.

Annual park passes, for one, offer savings and convenience.

Planning a trip in the off season means less crowded conditions and better opportunities to experience the parks at your leisure. Even for though some parks are accessible and enjoyable year-round – think Everglades, for example - visiting in spring or fall are an option for some of the more popular ones in harsher climates.

Keep in mind that in some areas, access to parts of the parks may be limited because of weather conditions. Passage along the Blue Ridge Parkway, in North Carolina, for example, is sometimes closed due to storms, snowfalls and rock slides. Tuning into national park radio information or checking in with ranger stations can help you avoid these temporary closures.

Do your research on campgrounds within the national park. Some campgrounds cannot accommodate RVs over 35 feet in length. Some campgrounds do not offer full-hookups. If you suspect that the national park campground may not be able to work for you, line up some alternatives at campgrounds outside the national park boundaries.

Avoid crowds at the most popular locations in the park by taking in sights along a less-popular trail. After about a mile from any given trailhead, traffic on the trail spreads out. Ask at the visitor centers or do some online research to find these alternative trails and vistas.

Traveling to national parks are a great way to explore the natural beauty and charms of the United States. And when you are doing it from the comfort of an RV, the trip is even more enjoyable. You can take your time, relax in style, take in the surroundings and still have the comforts of home. National parks and an RV? It’s a win-win combination. 

Aug 19th 2021 Lois Tomaszewski

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