Hiking The National Parks


Hiking the National Parks

If you're planning your first backpacking trip to a National Park there are a few things to keep in mind before you head out:

1. No two parks are alike. Every National Park has its own rules and regulations for the backcountry. Some parks require bear canisters; some allow you to hang food. Some require designated campsites, some allow off-trail camping.

2. Be prepared. Make a checklist before you go. A few essentials include food, hat, sleeping bag, sunglasses, water purification system and matches.

3. If you are unfamiliar with a park, walking into a ranger station or office can help you figure out where you would be best suited to camp, instead of trying to plan a trip ahead of time. Some parks like Glacier National Park have bear closings and even planned trips may be re-routed.

4. Don't overextend yourself. Once you enter the backcountry, you are on your own. Don't push yourself too hard until you are used to the terrain.

5. Don't depend on GPS units, Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) or anything else that depends on batteries or weather conditions to work. You should be equipped to handle changes in weather and minor emergencies. If you have a PLB only use it in cases of extreme emergency.

6. Know the terrain and the wildlife you may encounter. Talk to rangers and do research as to how to react in the event of a wildlife encounter. Remember, black bears can climb trees, running marks you as prey, and moose can outrun you.

7. The most common cause of death in the National Parks has to do with water, not wildlife. Beware of river crossings, getting too close to waterfalls, slippery rocks, avalanches and more. Exposure to freezing water temperatures can cause hypothermia in minutes.

8. Hydrate. Drink water no matter what the weather. Even in freezing temperatures your body needs water to stay hydrated.

9. Respect the wilderness. Pack out everything you pack in. Leave your campsite as if no one had been there.

10. Unfortunately dogs are not allowed on trails in National Parks. If you want to camp with your dog, head to a National Forest instead of a National Park. Dogs can harass wildlife and parks are set up to protect the wildlife not pets.

National Parks showcase the natural treasures of our country. Visiting a park may renew your spirit, your enthusiasm for nature and cultivate a love of life and a respect for the connections that ties us together with our surroundings and the animals we share the planet with.

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Hiking The National Parks