19 things to bring with you when visiting our National Parks!

By Jelane A. Kennedy


Entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

2016 is the Centennial for the National Park Service! 100 years ago the National Park Service began, Yellowstone was the first park established in 1872 by an Act that President Ulysses S. Grant signed. This year in celebration the Parks will be holding a variety of events to encourage us to visit. So I decided that this year I would revisit in my blog many of the parks we have been to over the years and share some of the highlights to maybe inspire you to seek out a National Park.

Stamps in Passport book

My passport book with some stamps. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

I must tell you up front that I am sort of a National Park geek. I love our parks and most of our vacations out of New York State have included visiting a National Park/Lake Shore/Historic Site, etc. I am the proud owner of a Passport Book! I collect stamps for each park; some parks have multiple stamps in my book, others I am missing since I visited them before getting my book (i.e. Mount Rainer, Hoh Rainforest, Olympic Peninsula, Gettysburg, USS Arizona Memorial, Oahu, Hawaii).

There are multiple ways to visit our Parks, you might watch Ken Burns (The National Parks: America’s Best Idea; six episode series), read a book, you might go and take a hike, or you might ride through in your car or on a bus. Personally my favorite way to visit a park is to spend time in the park hiking, depending on the size it might be a day or a week. For some people they have a favorite park that they visit over and over again, becoming experts of the park. My wish is to visit all the parks in my lifetime, I’m not sure I make it but (there are 409 park units, examples 59 National Parks, 80 National Monuments, 19 National Preserves, 50 National Historical Parks, 78 National Historic sites, etc.). It kind of fits with my wish to visit all 50 states (my rule: I must spend at least one night in each State, so far I’m missing Oregon, Nevada (driven through not stayed), Alabama and Iowa (driven through not stayed). To date I have about 43 different stamps from: 17 National Parks, lots of National Monuments, Lakeshores, Seashores, Memorials, Historic Parks, etc.


Eileen with one of our day packs while visiting Acadia National Park. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Below is my list for visiting a National Park:
1 Pay the entrance fee/ buy access pass (America the Beautiful Annual Pass; Senior Pass for those over 62; Access Pass for those with a permanent disability; Annual 4th grade Pass, or Annual US Military Pass).
2 Stop at the visitor center: see the exhibits and stamp my passbook.
3 See the movie that gives an overview of the Park.
4 Check out the listing (usually in the Park newspaper) for a Ranger led program- find, one of interest and attend.
5 Find a walk or hike that meets our skill level and interest. Nature trails are usually lovely experiences of the park. Check with Park Ranger at the Visitor Center for options. The Rangers are very help they will provide a map. The Visitor Center Shop also usually carries several hiking books. I personally usually look for the Falcon Guides.
6 If there is a free shuttle use it. We have found the shuttles take the guesswork out of driving, so we have more time to hike and spend less energy dealing with traffic or parking. The bonus is we both get to see the sights while some else driving.

7 Bring a day pack.
8 Pack a lunch so that you can eat when you need to and aren’t dependent on having to spend time hunting for food. We carry our lunch, snacks, water and Gatorade.
9 Pack the first aid kit in one of our day packs.
10 Be sure to stay hydrated-fill our water bottle at the filling station if available.
11 Wear good boots or shoes to hike or walk (stay away from flip flops or high heels)

12 Don’t be afraid to use a hiking stick; we carry with us collapsible hiking sticks and wouldn’t hike without them.
13 Pack rain gear.
14 Dress in layers, we always peel off what we don’t need in the heat of the day or put back on as the day cools off. We like zip off pants that convert to shorts, non-cotton clothes that wick sweat away, we always carry a sweater and long sleeved shirt, extra socks.
15 Even on cloudy days pack sunglasses and a hat.
16 Carry a camera or cell phone with camera for those great pics!
17 Put on sunscreen before we go and carry some to add later on.
18 Have bug repellent.
19 Last but not least bring an open mind and attitude. Enjoy the adventure!


Taking a walk at Mammouth Hot Springs, Yellowstone. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© 2016 Jelane A. Kennedy

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4 Responses to 19 things to bring with you when visiting our National Parks!

  1. artsenclave says:

    What a great post! Oregon is on my bucket list too–but I have many more National Parks to visit still. Next time I go I’ll know exactly what to bring.

  2. Ellen says:

    Love this article- and the pictures are great. Thanks again for continuing to make me feel a part of your travels.

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