So far on our journey Matt and I have been to Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion and Sequoia National Parks. Here’s some things that have surprised me about the parks-
You are pretty well left to explore the park as much as you want without many restrictions. There are signs that say “Your safety is your responsibility.” Beyond that, the rangers really don’t tell you that a specific area of the park is dangerous and there are not tons of signs telling you not to do things. In some of the Utah parks they had signs teling you to stay on the trails because the desert soil is alive and if you walk on it you’d kill it.
One park ranger told me they don’t like to have too many signs telling people what to do because it would insult our intelligence.
What I was expecting was lots of roped off areas, rangers watching you to make sure you follow rules, lots of signs telling you where things are and how to act.
I feel like the National Parks we’ve been to so far really allow you to enjoy the land and explore it as much as you can.
In Sequoia there were signs telling you to keep all food and trash stored properly to keep the bears out of the campsites and from breaking into your car for food. All parks ask that you not feed any animals in order to keep them wild and non-dependant on humans to feed them.
Back in the 1920’s-1950’s part of the attraction of some of the parks was that people were able to feed the animals (even bears!). This caused animals to become really comfortable around people, then aggressive with people that didn’t feed them, then those animals had to be killed to protect the humans. People started to realize that while feeding a bear (or any other animal such as chipmunks, deer and squirrels) was entertaining it was not in the best interest of the animal so the park put a stop to that.
Some more things I’ve noticed-
All deer do not look alike. The deer I’ve seen at the different parks most def look different from each other.
Going off the beaten path even just a little is usually so worth it. It’s great to see the parks main attractions. After I’ve seen those, I like to hike on different trails. There have been many hikes where we don’t see another person for a few miles. That is both neat and a little scary when you realize how alone you are in the woods.
Parks always have an orientation video at their visitor’s center. I love watching these before exploring the park to get a better idea of what to look for and expect from the park.
Campgrounds at National Parks- There’s usually one or two that are reservable and the rest are first come first served. The reservable campgrounds are usually the nicer campground. If you can get a reservation it’s really worth it.
If not, it’s great that there are still campsites available for those willing to get up early and go claim a site. In the more popular parks (Zion, Giant Forest area in Sequoia, Arches) it can be tough to get a non-reservable site. In less popular parks you can show up at 4 in the afternoon and still get a spot no problem. We’ve found that looking for a first come first served sight on Sunday-Wednesday in the morning is best. Trying to get one over the weekend would be tougher because so many people camp on the weekend.
The parks have really cute vintage post cards right now and we’ve been collecting them as we go!
All the parks we’ve been to have night sky programs. National Parks are great places to look at the stars!
Park Rangers put on programs such as evening talks or informational hikes. Some park rangers are really good at their talks and you can learn a lot from them.
Many parks are surrounded by National Forest. National Forests are called “Land of Many Uses.” They have campgrounds but seem much more rugged and wild.
I’m so glad that there has been so much land preserved for us to enjoy. When I enter a National Park I get to see what my country looks like without development. There are roads and a few buildings in the main areas of the parks but that’s about it for development. It’s great to know that some of the USA has been able to stay wild.
I agree with the slogan that National Parks are America’s best idea! If we didn't have them then some of the beautiful wilderness would probably be gone by now. If it wasn't it may be on private property so that not as many people could enjoy it. How do you feel about National Parks? What surprises you about them?