If you’re heading out camping in a US national park this summer the first thing you’ll want to do is to get fitted up for the visit. Before you head off on that trip though it’s a good idea to understand exactly what is allowed and what isn’t allowed in the national park system. The federal government takes the laws and regulations governing the national park system seriously so it pays to be prepared and this article should demystify some of those laws and regulations for you.
You can Camp for Free in National Forests
A young family that’s still trying to build a firm financial footing may not have a lot of money left in the bank for the family summer vacation, but fortunately there are some inexpensive options available to you. Did you know that it is perfectly legal to camp for free in some national forest areas? It’s true. In areas located away from established campgrounds you can camp for free as long as you make your camp at least 150 feet away from the nearest road or established campground. It’s a great way to explore the great outdoors with your family this summer without breaking the bank.
National Monuments, Historic Sites and the National Parks System
When we think of national parks most of us have images of places like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, or Yosemite. What you may not know is that national monuments and historical sites are also governed by the national park system. You might not be able to camp at the Aztec ruins in New Mexico or the famous Pueblos there, but these are both under the jurisdiction of the US national parks system. Red Rock Country and the Casa Grande Ruins in Arizona are other famous examples. If you’re planning on visiting any of these sites or many other famous national monuments these summers it’s a good idea to keep this in mind as any regulations governing the NPS also apply at these sites.
Don’t be A Litter Bug
It should go without saying, but you should always leave with everything you brought in with you after a camping trip in the national park system. These parks were created to preserve nature for everyone to enjoy, but unfortunately there are still plenty of litter bugs trying to ruin it for the rest of us. It might be tempting to think that a little bit of garbage won’t make much of a difference, but the national park system is made up of many delicate ecosystems and every piece of garbage left behind can be damaging to this vulnerable natural environment. If everybody leaves the park as they left it then it will be preserved for generations to come.
Campfires in National Parks
Campfires are permitted in most national parks, but you should always check on that before you set out on your trip. Each park has their own set of rules on this subject and these may even change from year to year.
This is particularly important if an area has been experiencing a prolonged drought – if that’s the case there’s a good chance a complete fire ban will be in place the entire length of your visit. As inconvenient as this may seem if you rely on it for cooking, you should always obey these bans and opt for alternative ways of cooking. Some of the largest forest fires in history were the result of one little spark at the wrong time.
Guns and Yellowstone
One of the strangest laws you may not be aware of when it comes to national parks has to do with guns in Yellowstone. Believe it or not guns are permitted in Yellowstone National Park. Visitors can carry hand guns, rifles, and shotguns as long as they do so openly. Concealed weapons are not permitted. This does not mean you can use them for hunting so it’s not clear why you’d want to take them with you, but you can. This became possible after a law was passed in Congress back in 2010.