How To Stay Safe When Visiting National Parks

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Megan Bryant is a passionate writer and traveler who has combined her two loves to help others fulfill their traveling dreams. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually curled up with her 3 Dachshunds and a good book or planning her next adventure—wherever that may be.

Deaths are becoming increasingly frequent in National Parks—partly because of the extreme heat we’re currently having, but also because of animal attacks, falls, drowning, and motor vehicle crashes. 

You have to remember that whenever you visit a National Park, there are precautions you need to take to ensure your safety, as one wrong move could result in the end of your life. So if you’re planning to visit one of America’s beautiful National Parks, keep these safety tips in mind.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking Water While Hiking
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One of the most important things to think about when heading to a National Park—especially those that see temperatures soar into the 100s—is water and staying hydrated.

Hot weather combined with exercise is a recipe for disaster which is why you need to pack plenty of water for your upcoming trip. The best solution is to bring a backpack with a hydration pack. But you can also take along a water filter/purifier to filter water from the park’s natural resources.

Be Careful in Water

Water in National Park
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Did you know that drowning is one of—if not the—most common cause of death in National Parks? And I get it; after a long day hiking, cooling off in a nearby river sounds like heaven. 

But water throughout National Parks can have strong currents that can suck under even the strongest swimmers. Before heading to the park, do your research on whether it is safe to swim and keep in mind that cold water can shock your body, water depth can change in an instant, and underwater hazards like trees and rocks can prevent you from swimming back to shore. If you do need to cool off during your trip, stay as close to the shore as possible.

Never Interact With Wildlife

Wildlife in National Park
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National Parks all over America are filled with all types of animals—some dangerous and others not so dangerous. However, regardless of the type of animal you come across, it’s crucial that you stay far away and give them space—especially with animals like bears, moose, mountain lions, alligators, and snakes.

Always Pack Emergency Supplies

Emergency Supplies
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Accidents happen, and you don’t want to cut yourself in the wilderness, for example, and have no means of bandaging yourself up. Whenever you visit a National Park, always make sure you pack a first aid kit and emergency supplies like a hunting knife, a whistle, a map, a compass, a flashlight, and matches, amongst other things.

Pack for all Types of Weather

Packing for All Weather
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Weather can be extremely unpredictable in National Parks, so it’s best to pack clothing items for all types of weather conditions. It may seem over the top to pack everything from a sunhat and shorts to wool base layers and jackets, but if the weather were to change, you’d be so glad you have additional layers and sun protection to protect you from the cold/heat.

Wear Bright Colors

Bright Colors Hiking
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When purchasing hiking clothing, think of bright colors because although black, green, or beige may be your top choices, these are actually the worst colors you could possibly choose in regard to hiking gear.

Neutral colors will blend in with your surroundings, whereas colors like bright red and orange will stand out, making it easier to locate you if you were to get lost or injured.

Put a Plan in Place

Hiking Plan
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Sticking to a plan isn’t always attainable when hiking, but having a brief idea of which trail you’re going to take, the terrain that you’ll face, and any obstacles that might present themselves can really help you out when you set off in the National Park.

Obey Park Signs

Signs in National Parks
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Park signs are there for a reason—often telling you of certain dangers ahead. Some signs may inform you about wildlife, and others about dangerous terrain. Don’t ignore the signs because doing so will almost certainly put your life in danger.

Don’t Take Risks

National Park Warning Signs
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You may feel tempted to risk stepping onto a narrow ledge to take a picture or get a better view, but your lack of caution could result in serious injury. Transporting injured people out of National Parks isn’t an easy task, so remain on the safe side of the barriers and don’t do anything stupid.

Stay on Marked Paths

Trails in National Park
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You’ll see clearly marked paths throughout America’s National Parks, and these are the paths you should stick to, as the marked trails are ones that are safe and away from potentially dangerous wildlife.

If you were to divert from the marked pathways, then you could be walking directly into danger, causing trouble for both yourself and the resident wildlife.

Store Food Properly

Bear Food Storage
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If you plan on camping in National Parks where bears are present, then you’ll need to store your food—as well as scraps, garbage, cosmetics, toiletries, and bug-repellent—in bear-resistant food canisters or bags away from your campsite. 

Once your food is securely placed in the canister, attach a rope and throw it over a high tree branch so it is out of a bear’s reach.

Never Stop in the Middle of the Road

Roads in National Park
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Another common cause of death in National Parks is actually car crashes. People often get over excited when they see wildlife or famous landmarks and stop their cars in the middle of the road or in blind spots where other motorists can’t see them. Stopping your car anywhere that isn’t a designated pull-out or car park can result in a fatal crash putting your life and the lives of others at risk.

Always Tell Someone Where You’re Going

Hiking in National Park
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And finally, remember to always tell someone where you’re going, the rough route you’re going to take, and how long you’re expected to be gone. That way, if you don’t contact or return home, your friend or family member will know to notify emergency services, who can then come and hopefully save your life.

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Zion Mystery Falls
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