National Parks Etiquette: 5 Friendly Reminders When Traveling in the National Parks

Madison Lucas Uncategorized

The National Parks are a gift for all of us to explore and enjoy. Like any masterpiece made by nature, the parks should be protected in order to leave great destinations for later travelers to visit. To help the preservation of our favorite places, Experience Park Tours has put together a list of basic rules to live by when traveling in the parks.

Talk to the visitors center
A Visitors Center, according to the National Park Service, is useful for obtaining driving and hiking directions (beyond those available if you are traveling with a guide), weather forecasts, a current schedule of Park Ranger guided programs, Junior Ranger booklets, and information on area services including lodging, dining and other attractions. By stopping by a Visitors Center, you will have a “base camp” of necessities including

  • Restrooms
  • Drinking Water
  • Backcountry permits
  • First Aid
  • Ranger Help Desk
  • Book Store
  • Educational films
  • Exhibits

Take only memories, leave only footprints
When you are visiting the parks, keep in mind that you are a guest in nature. Feel free to enjoy yourself, but please have respect for your surroundings. You are allowed touch the beauty around you- feel your fingertips on the rugged bark of the redwoods, or hike up the foundation of the Grand Canyon, however do not take, destroy, or drastically move any of the natural elements. Imagine if everyone who visited a National park picked a few wildflowers- there may be none left for the next person to see.

Appreciate the animals- don’t act like one
The National Parks were created to protect all their special individual features from human disturbance. There may be times where wild bison or elk are walking past you in the park, but keep your distance. The National Parks Service recommends to stay at least 100 feet (30 meters), or about two bus lengths away from elk, deer, bighorn sheep, California Condors, and mountain lions. Keep at least 50 feet (15 meters), or about one bus-length away from other smaller wildlife like squirrels, birds, and reptiles. Do not use flash photography, or try to feed and touch the wild animals. Some harmful outcomes from disturbance for the animals may be diseases, poor health, increased likelihood of being killed by vehicle traffic because they are drawn to visitor areas, euthanasia when animals become aggressive or harmful to visitors, injuries, or abandoned young. It can be hard to believe that a safe distance is as much about the animal’s welfare as it is about yours, but it’s true- keep wildlife wild.

Be conscious of your surroundings

When visiting these incredible parks, your safety is something easily forgotten when soaking in the artistry of nature. Keep your mind alert to pay attention to your surroundings- sometimes a peaking root or a wild animal can come up suddenly. By staying alert,  you can prevent injury to yourself and others, and prevent the need for medical care. If you are traveling with your group, stay with them, or at least communicate. In any national park, stay on the trails and do not climb on large rocks. Be careful at all overlooks and cliff edges. A fall on a trail may mean a skinned knee, but a fall at an overlook could mean that you won’t make it home for supper, or worse! Remember that rescues in this terrain are difficult, so don’t be too reckless.


Have fun!
The National Parks are here for people to have a chance to step out of the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and breathe in the authentic air of our gorgeous world. Grab your loved ones, pack your travel items in the car, and absorb all that the National Parks have to offer now that you understand the common etiquette for being a good park visitor. Practice these rules by checking out our destinations page to find our favorite parks to explore.