Download the new National Parks app.
Turn your phone into your own personal ranger with the National Park Service’s new app (found on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store). It’s loaded with trail and road maps, suggested activities and sites, self-guided tours, transportation schedules, audio descriptions for sight-impaired visitors, accessibility information, and more for each site. It can also help with finding bathrooms, booking camping sites, and getting the latest park news and alerts.
While you may not have cell service throughout the park, you can still use the app offline. “You can download resources ahead of time, especially for more remote locations in a park,” says Anela Kopshever, park ranger at Point Reyes National Seashore.
Smart Tip: The AllTrails and Gaia GPS apps are also great resources for suggested hiking routes, maps, and trail recommendations and reviews.
Note any closures, extra fees, permit restrictions, and other rules.
Each park has its own set of rules and protocols to abide by, so check the park’s website before you set out. Roads, facilities, and trails may be closed for routine maintenance, seasonal conditions, or wildlife management. Keep these in mind when you’re planning a trip, and be ready to deploy your backup plans if things change upon arrival. “I always check closures ahead of time, and then I check right before I go to make sure that nothing has changed,” Roberts says.
Some parks, including Yosemite, now require day-use reservations made in advance. Certain activities—filming, climbing, and camping—also require advanced or day-of permits in some parks. In all cases, check the parks website site and file the necessary documentation well in advance.
Bringing your pet on the road trip? Some parks have pet-friendly areas, but most sites don’t allow pets in wilderness areas or on trails.