8 Common Mistakes That People Make When They Visit a National Park


National parks are some of our country’s greatest treasures, but they do have laws that you should be aware of before your next visit.

Practicing Leave No Trace (LNT) principles while you’re hiking or camping in a national park is vital to protecting these special places. These guidelines aren’t always common sense, however. With that in mind, here are eight common mistakes that people make when visiting a national park — and how you can avoid making them yourself. 


1. Littering and leaving trash

This one should be obvious, but many people litter while they’re hiking in national parks. 

A major part of practicing LNT is cleaning up after yourself. This is good for the environment, and it also helps other visitors enjoy the park.


2. Making your own trail or campsite

There’s a reason national parks have specific trails and designated campsites: It keeps visitors safe and protects the land from overuse. Always follow official trails and only camp in sites where camping is allowed, even if you think you’ve found a perfect spot.


3. Building onto the park’s existing facilities

Some camping enthusiasts love to make “upgrades” to a campsite by building a new structure, but this is a big no-no. National parks have strict rules about their campsites. Many parks also have excellent amenities, so there’s 


4. Letting an uncontrolled campfire burn

If you’re going to build a fire while camping, make sure you know how to start and control a campfire before your trip. A raging bonfire might look impressive, but you don’t want to start a forest fire. 

Of course, this rule assumes campfires are allowed — always check for burn bans, which are common in many regions of the U.S. during dry seasons.


5. Ignoring permit rules and/or pet rules

Many national parks require permits to hike specific trails within the park, especially for backcountry trails. Pet permits are sometimes required as well, and some national parks even have campsites that ban pets completely. 


6. Disturbing wildlife

If you come across local wildlife while you’re exploring a national park, be respectful. It’s their home, not yours. Observation from a distance is fine, but that should be as far as your interactions go. 


7. Making excessive noise and light

Since national parks are popular camping destinations, you’ll probably be camping near others. 

Other visitors don’t want to hear your music or get blinded by your headlamp, so aim to be a respectful and courteous neighbor. Also, note that many campsites have quiet hours.


8. Ignoring the right of way

Some simple rules apply to trails, which ensures everyone has a good time. 

Read up on these essential trail etiquette tips before your next hike, and don’t forget the most important rule of all: Be kind and yield to others if you aren’t sure who has the right of way.


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