9 simple ways to be a better national parks visitor

America’s best idea, the national parks, continue to rise in popularity each year. 2016 saw the third year in a row where attendance to the national parks broke the previous all-time attendance record. Over 330 million visitors enjoyed the 417 national park sites last year, and that number is almost certainly going to increase yet again this year.

With these kinds of attendance numbers, the National Park Service knows now more than ever is time to be a polite, respectful and considerate visitor to national parks. It is our duty to conserve them for others to enjoy.

The start of National Park Week beginning April 15 and lasting till April 23 is a good excuse to get some simple tips on how to be a better national parks visitor, straight from National Park Service spokesperson Kathy Kupper. Get out there and enjoy the national parks.

National Park Week is almost here, April 15-23! Are you ready to celebrate with us? Visit nps.gov for more info #FindYourPark #NPS101

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1. Take a break from your tech

“Technology is great, in parks don’t get too caught up in it and be aware of your surroundings. Your GPS might not work, don’t rely solely on it.”

2. Pack it in, pack it out

“Abide by the leave no trace principal, especially if you’re out in a trail or in the backcountry. Some parks don’t have trash cans at all. Enjoy the parks, but keep them in the same state so that your children and their children can enjoy it just like you did.”

3. Leave it better than you found it

“Leave it better than you found it. Whether it’s your campsite, or if you’re hiking a trail and you see trash, even if it’s not your’s, help everybody out.”

4. Let the wildlife be

“Rule of thumb number one: do not put wildlife in your car. You shouldn’t feed them, you shouldn’t approach them and you definitely should not put them in your car.

“And it’s all animals. The number one injury in the Grand Canyon is squirrel bites. People think it’s just a squirrel so they feed them. We know about the large animals, but from squirrels on up let them be.”

5. Be prepared

“Check the weather. Have water, the proper clothing and proper safety gear and equipment if you’re recreating.”

6. Think about your impact

“People don’t think about the infrastructure behind a park. They’re like cities with their own sewage and water systems, electrical grids, people don’t often think about that in a park. Whatever people can do to lessen the load on the infrastructure helps.”

Hikers enjoying Channel Islands National Park. Photo: Courtesy of National Park Service

7. Be courteous towards others

“Hikers have begun hiking with external speakers. It’s a good idea to just have general courtesy of others, try not to infringe on the enjoyment of others.”

8. Slow down on roads

“People get really aggressive when driving and waiting in lines, but you’re on vacation so have patience. The roads are old and crowded.”

9. Keep exploring

“If you go to the busiest parks and start walking down the trail a mile or two, you can have that solitude. It’s not that hard to get away from the crowded parts of the parks, even the more famous, iconic destination parks have sections where you can have that wilderness experience.”

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