Everything You Need to Know About Camping in State and National Parks
Planning Your Trip
Before setting off to camp in one of the USA’s prestigious State and National Parks, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared. Because of the vastness of some of these wildernesses, camping in these parks can be dangerous and taxing. You’ll definitely want to make sure you select a park, location, and season that will allow you to camp both safely and enjoyably.
When planning to camp in a State or National Park, you should consider the following items:
How will you get to and from the park entrance, and then how will you traverse the park itself? Many large State and National Parks have their own road systems, and allow for motor vehicle traffic; however, some parks consist of marshland or waterways that cannot be traversed by car. You’ll want to be prepared to travel safely and efficiently in whichever State or National Park you select.
Food, Water, & Shelter
What food will you bring? Where will you get clean drinking water? Where will you stay? These are all questions you need to answer before attempting a multi-night camping trip in a State or National Park. Some parks may have restrictions on the types of food and beverage you can bring into the park. Other parks may offer RV campsites complete with hookups, while others may only offer primitive tent camping options. Visit the specific website for the State or National Park you plan to visit to get an idea of what types of food, water, and shelter to bring.
Reservation & Permits
Some State and National Parks will require you to reserve a campsite before or upon arrival. A few may even require camping permits which could cost up to $50. While most National Parks require an admission fee, there are a few public holidays in which you can enter for free. In 2023 those days include:
- January 16 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
- April 22 – First Day of National Park Week
- August 4 – Great American Outdoors Day
- September 23 – National Public Lands Day
November 11 – Veterans Day
Select Your Campsite
The next thing to consider is the selection of your campsite. In many cases, this may have already been decided during the reservation & permit acquisition phase; however, if you plan to camp in the back-country or inside of a National Forest, you’ll need to put some thought into what kind of site you’re looking for. The perfect site will look different for everybody, but there are some things everyone will want to make sure they find in their ideal location. Consider the following when planning out a campsite:
- Location and Scenery
- Level Ground
- Proximity to Facilities
- Wind and Sun Exposure
- Campfire Regulations
- Wildlife Considerations
Proper packing is essential for a successful camping trip. In addition to your tent, sleeping bag, and clothing, remember to bring cooking supplies, food, water, and a first aid kit. Research the park's regulations on campfires and follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize your environmental impact. Don't forget essentials like a camping stove, flashlight, and insect repellent. If you plan on RV camping, make sure to check out Renlicon’s Ultimate RV Camping Checklist for a complete guide to RV camping in style.
Another thing you’ll want to consider is organizing your gear on the front-end so you don’t have a difficult time finding things that you need once you get to the park. Again, Renlicon has the perfect solution for you. Check out the Out-In-About Box™ if you use a truck, SUV, or RV as your primary camping vehicle. This organizational tool will save you space and provide dry storage for all your gear from clothing to rope and sleeping gear.
Wildlife & Safety
When camping in America’s State and National Parks, the likelihood of an encounter with wildlife is high. That’s why it’s important to put steps in place to ensure that these encounters are safe and awe-inspiring, rather than dangerous and horrifying. Make sure you do your research with regards to common wildlife that you can expect to see in the park of your choice. If you find yourself in bear country, bring along bear spray or a whistle to alert other hikers and campers or to scare the bear away. Be sure to always follow best practices for observing wildlife and avoid wandering off paved trails too far.
Whether you plan to hike and backpack while you camp, or participate in other activities in the parks such as rafting, mountain biking, or even stargazing, make sure you have a plan. Don’t attempt to go bouldering or other dangerous activities on a whim. You’ll want to make sure you’re properly equipped to handle the risks of these activities for your safety and the safety of others.
Additionally, you want to make sure you have the right equipment and choose the right location to actually enjoy these activities. If stargazing is your thing, you might want to bring along a light, portable telescope. Or you may simply want to select the right bald or peak to view the stars from. Camping is an activity in and of itself, but America’s State and National Parks offer so much more! Plan some awesome activities and make life-long memories with loved ones.
Leave No Trace
Finally, when you’re camping in State and National Parks, it’s imperative that you practice Leave No Trace camping principles. Preserving the natural beauty of state and national parks is a collective responsibility. These principles include packing out all your trash, minimizing campfire impact, and respecting wildlife and vegetation. By practicing them, you contribute to the conservation of these precious landscapes for future generations
Camping in State and National Parks is an incredible privilege. Let’s make sure to honor that privilege by being responsible campers. Planning out your trip and considering the above principles is a great way to ensure that these parks are around for our children and grandchildren. Next time you’re thinking about camping in America’s State and National Parks read back over this list and make sure you’re educated on what it takes to enjoy a safe and adventurous experience in our great outdoors!
And one more thing! While you’re preparing for your next great camping adventure, make sure you check out Renlicon’s full line of products including the incredible Renlicon Portable Fire Pit. This collapsible steel fire pit is easy to assemble and stores flat so you can pack it up and take it with you on your next adventure. This tool is the perfect item to help you implement safe Leave No Trace Principles.