Take One Last Daycation to a National Park for Free
School’s back in session. I know, we’re sorry, too. However, here’s a good excuse to get in one last bit of summer before the weather turns and you’re up to your neck in midterms: this Saturday, September 29th, is National Public Lands Day, and admittance to any National Park in the U.S. is free of charge. Here’s how to get the most out of your daycation:
Find a Park Near You
The National Park Service has provided a handy little tool for finding the nearest park to you, which can be subdivided into categories based on name, activity, and topic as well as location. This tool also includes an interactive map for each state or territory within the US, and is quite helpful if you’re not overly familiar with your state’s parks.
Once selected, the NPS provide a “Plan Your Visit” page for each park, which includes directions, activities, operating hours, and a general “Things to Know” page that list trail conditions, safety guides, accessibility information, and other helpful pages to make sure you get the most out of your trip in the safest manner possible.
What to Bring
Whether it’s a camping trip or a hike, make sure you bring plenty of high-energy food and water, as well as personal safety equipment like a small first aid kit, a flashlight with spare batteries, a folding knife, a map, a compass, fire-starting material, and both an audible and visual signal in case you get lost.
Since it is starting to get colder, make sure you bring at least one extra layer if you’re planning on hiking to higher elevation, as well as a poncho in the event of sudden weather change.
Be Safety Conscious
Always stick to trails and be mindful of potential dangers particular to the National Park you are visiting by checking the alerts corresponding National Parks Service page for that area, including environmental hazards like areas prone to rock-slides.
Wild animals are always a threat when out in the wilderness, so always be mindful of wildlife when out on a hike or camping trip. Even if a trail is highly populated with other hikers, you always run the risk of running into a potentially dangerous animal, so keep an eye out for fresh tracks or droppings. If camping, store food up high to avoid it being eaten by bears.
If you do see any kind of wild animal, do not feed or approach them. Even if it’s a seemingly harmless animal like a deer, feeding wildlife will then begin to associate humans with food, and could lead to an increase in aggressive behavior, dependence on humans, or lead to the animal contracting potentially fatal ailments. If you see an animal along the trail, keep your distance or turn back at all times.
Respect the Environment
To keep parks as pristine as possible, be mindful of how any action could upset the ecosystem of that park. Only light fires in areas that have been approved by the Parks Service, as wildfires are particularly common this time of year.
Additionally, leave things where you find them. Any rocks or fauna you see should be left undisturbed for others to enjoy. Don’t litter, and always leave a campground better than how you found it.
Keeping all this in mind, get out there and enjoy nature one last time, free of charge!