You’ve Probably Committed a Federal Crime in a National Park

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Keep your pants on. Skinny dipping is prohibited in Kaloko–Honokohau National Park if you're older than 10.Sunny Awazuhara- Reed / Getty Images

The outdoors is a great place to let loose and feel free from the rules of everyday life — and our 58 national parks comprise some of the most beautiful, accessible places to get away from it all. But even the National Parks are subject to some surprisingly specific and unconventional laws. So while you plan your next backcountry adventure, keep these weird legislative edicts in mind — because no one wants to end up behind bars for not burying their poop more than three inches underground in Shenandoah National Park (yes, that’s a federal offense). And as quirky and odd as some may sound, remember these laws are in place for good reason: To keep visitors safe as they embark on their next national park adventure.


1. It’s illegal to fail to crate, cage, restrain on a leash, which shall not exceed six feet in length, or otherwise physically confine a pet at all times.

2. You can't take your cat on a whitewater boat trip through the Grand Canyon. Ditto for Rover.

3. Law mandates that you can't allow your pet to make a noise that scares the wildlife in a national park.

4. It’s a federal crime to go dogsledding in the Grand Tetons.

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Camping and Trail Use

5. Don’t even think about washing your dishes in the river: it’s illegal to bathe or wash food, clothing, dishes, or other property at public water outlets, fixtures or pools — except at those designated for such purpose.

6. It is illegal to pass other trail-goers at any pace faster than a slow walk while riding on horseback.

7. It is prohibited to obstruct a trail, or make an unreasonable noise or gesture while horses or pack animals are passing.

8. This law might come in handy for beating the crowds at the Grand Canyon this summer: The intentional or reckless obstruction of any sidewalk, trail, highway, building entranceway, railroad track, or public utility right-of-way, or other public passage, whether alone or with others is prohibited.

9. Skateboarder? Don't pack your gear if you find yourself at Alaska's Savage River Loop Trail, where the law orders you to refrain from skateboarding.

10. Forget those bachelor party plans: it’s a federal crime to go camping with more than 9 other people in the Shenandoah backcountry.

11. Sure, you can stargaze, but make sure to return to your humble retreat before calling it a night. After setting up camp in a national forest, you have to commit. The law declares it a crime to have an empty tent the first night you are camping.

Fishing, Food, and Drink

12. You're breaking the law if you're riding a bike while holding an open beer, or other alcoholic drink, in a national park.

13. Hungry? Well, pace yourself, it is a federal crime to fillet and eat more than four fish while camping in the Everglades National Park.

14.  You can't take hot or cold water from Hot Springs National Park in jars or bottles (you can drink it directly, though). You also can't use it to bathe.

15. If you got it from the water, throw it back in. You're not allowed to dispose of fish remains on land in a national park.

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And Everything Else

16. No laughing allowed: You'll be committing a federal crime if you tease breeding animals in a national park.

17. It's illegal to go tobogganing in the parking lot of a national park. Well, now you know.

18. Don't interrupt tee time. You can't harass a golfer in any national park in Washington, D.C.

19. Put down those rocks (or anything else): It's a federal crime to roll something down a hill in a national park. 

20. Keep your clothes on. You can't go skinny dipping in Kaloko–Honokohau National Park, unless you're under 10 years old.

21. You'll have to come up with a plan B for cruising through muddy terrain, ice, and water. It's illegal to use a hovercraft in a National Park. And yes, your drone is outlawed from flying in national parks, too.

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