31 Secrets Park Rangers Want You to Know
From excellent deals to cautionary tales, these tips and tricks will leave you perfectly prepared for a trip to the national parks.
Go beyond the overlooks
No matter which park you’re visiting, walk at least a quarter mile down a trail. You’ll get away from the crowds and experience a completely different perspective.
People will do anything for a picture
A tragic accident that happens surprisingly often: People pose as if they’re falling off a cliff for a photo but then actually fall off. Make sure you never take these photos in a national park.
Stay put if you get lost
The more you move around, the harder you are to find. If you can’t reach us on your phone, spread out brightly colored clothing.
We do a lot more than lead nature talks and campfire sing-alongs
Rangers make arrests, fight fires, search for missing hikers, conduct public health inspections, manage wildlife, and watch for suspicious characters and fugitives. Don’t miss these 15 amazing American campsites that should be on your bucket list.
Have a fourth grader in your family?
You’re in luck: At everykidinapark.gov, fourth graders can sign up for an annual pass that grants them and a carload of passengers free access to all national parks.
Here’s how to skip summer crowds
To avoid crowds during busy summer months, check out Death Valley instead of the Grand Canyon, Kings Canyon instead of Yosemite, or Capitol Reef instead of Zion. Or, you can visit one of these other national parks that are off the beaten path.
We work hard to keep poachers out
Some raid our parks for plant life to sell to the floral industry. Others have used antifreeze to collect moths and butterflies. Some have even killed bears for their gallbladders, which can fetch $3,000 each as a “traditional medicine” in Asia.
You’re closer to a national park than you think
When people think of national parks their mind typically goes to Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon. While the more popular national parks are in extreme nature settings, there are a lot of national parks in urban areas as well. There are national parks in big cities such as Boston, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Detriot, and many more.
Don’t be a “code W”
iStock/Jacob Ammentorp Lund
That’s what some rangers call wimpy tourists who request a rescue when there is nothing medically wrong with them. Lots of people call and say they’re too tired to keep hiking. Sorry, but we’re not going to send a helicopter for that.
Many people don’t read the signs—including us
I was in a national park with my son once, and we walked right to the edge of a drop-off. We were marveling at the scenery when I heard a park ranger behind us clear his throat. We had walked right by a big sign that read, “Danger: Don’t go past this sign.”