ENP 33: How To Plan A Safe National Park Visit
Yes, you can enjoy the national park system and stay safe during a pandemic. Danielle celebrates the 104th birthday of the NPS with guests Jason Epperson of RV Miles Network and Bradley Kirouac of Hello Ranger. The trio explores pragmatic strategies for family travel in an otherwise unpredictable year.
Danielle exploring Thunder Rocks at Allegany State Park in western New York. Photo Credit: Everybody’s National Parks.
The good and bad news of this travel season? Thanks to the pandemic, our national parks system has never been more popular. However, as positivity rates for COVID19 continue to surge across the country, those sprawling spaces pose new challenges. Reduced resources - such as socially-distanced campsites and timed entry - are new normal concerns. Travellers who want to make the most of the park system without sacrificing family fun or safety can do so by adjusting their expectations - and their itineraries. “You can go to some of the national monuments, the national recreation areas that are a little bit less known,” says Jason. “And you can really get away from people and you can see just as much cool stuff.”
Your National Parks Expectations, Adjusted
Exploring Mesa Verde National Park. Photo Credit: America's National Parks Podcast/RV Miles
As ever, planning is key to a successful trip. Considerations such as park restrictions, state-by-state requirements, and individual tolerance for health risk have become integral to the decision-making process. Beyond the personal, both Jason and Bradley advise listeners to think about the broader impact pandemic travel has on ranger resources and gateway towns abutting the most visited parks. It’s also worth remembering that although they’re part of one system, each park has its own personality. “There's not like one thing that all parks are doing the same and that's because parks are managed in different ways,” says Brad. “They have different challenges.” Visitors can limit their impact further by refraining from park/attraction “hopping”, hiking loop trails over out-and-backs, and using plenty of hand sanitizer.
Treading Lightly On Park Resources
Brad Kirouac of Hello Ranger (with his gator mask around his neck) visited Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico which gets just a few thousand visitors each year – reducing risk and spread opportunities of COVID-19. Photo credit Hello Ranger
In the midst of a pandemic, a holiday by motorhome sounds like the perfect self-contained solution - to you and thousands of other would-be park visitors. If you’re lucky enough to locate an RV for rent (or even purchase), Jason has words of advice for first-timers. “RVs are awesome. But it does add a whole layer of something new, you know, if you've never done that before.” In an already stressful year, cabins with kitchenettes offer an equally safe option for maintaining social distance without the hassle of learning how to handle a big rig.
To See (Or Not See) By RV
Explore the NPS safely. Look out for yourself, your family, your fellow enthusiasts, park staff and local communities by following guidelines and considering less-popular options.
On the Shuttle to the Quarry at Dinosaur National Monument. Photo Credit: America's National Parks Podcast/RV Miles
Discussion includes the following:[00:02] Introduction: National Parks Service Founders Day, Bradley Kirouac/Hello Ranger, Jason Epperson/RV Miles, Soul Trak Outdoors
[03:39] Reports from the road: Dinosaur National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, Saguaro National Park, Mount Lemmon, Yellowstone National Park
[08:17] Logistics and locations: Glacier National Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Canaveral National Seashore, Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Arches National Park
[11:37] Choose your (safe) adventure: Yellowstone National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak, Garden Of The Gods, Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park, Curecanti National Recreation Area, Dinosaur National Monument, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Blue Ridge Mountains/Shenandoah National Park
[18:45] Inside jokes
[20:00] Practical tips for making your choice
[27:28] Backyard parks and return visits: Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Glacier National Park
[33:15] Park safety: Mesa Verde National Parks, Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Dinosaur Quarry, Zion National Park, Big Bend National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Allegheny State Park
[41:00] Before you RV…: Cruise America
[46:23] A final word on safety
[47:04] A final word on places to visit: Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail, Freedom Riders National Monument, Pullman National Monument
[48:57] Guest contacts: RV Miles, The RV Miles podcast, America's National Parks podcast, The See America podcast, Hello Ranger
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Most of all, enjoy exploring the national parks with your family.