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The National Park Service represents one of America’s greatest treasures, fulfilling a dream set in motion by Teddy Roosevelt more than 100 years ago. Today, around 300 million Americans visit at least one of the country’s 58 National Parks each year, and there’s perhaps no greater way to do so than by recreational vehicle.
Campgrounds with full amenities are abundant, but there are no reservations so you have to plan on arriving early. By camping within a National Park in an RV, you have a ready-made base camp and an affordable way to cover some ground. A visitor to Yellowstone, for instance, could spend an entire week going from one of five campsites to another and exploring the adjacent areas.
Here are five tips for the best experience:
Travel during the off-season
It’s great to experience the park during the height of the summer, but that’s also when the largest crowds converge. Consider visiting a National Park during the off-season when there might be snow and the weather might not be the most pleasant. It will likely be a little less comfortable, but chances are you can catch the animals more relaxed and you will get to see a side of the park you hadn’t imagined.
Take advantage of free days
To celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary, visitors will be honored with 16 fee-free days in 2016 including a week each in April and August as well as Sept 24 and Nov 11, Veterans Day. National Park Week in April corresponds to Earth Day on April 22, offering a host of family activities at parks around the country.
Get out early, stay late
If you do choose to visit a National Park during a fee-free day, chances are the crowds may be a little thicker than usual. Getting out early and staying out later will still afford you a great opportunity to spot wildlife. Animals are most active and relaxed during dawn and dusk. So when everyone else is enjoying a leisurely breakfast or taking a load off for an afternoon cocktail, you just might have an experience of a lifetime. And if you need a break from the crowds, or just a midday nap, your RV offers the perfect getaway.
Hit them all
If you plan to visit a National Park for several days, it’s a good idea to go ahead and purchase an annual pass for $80. If you are a senior citizen, the price is just $10. With an annual pass you’ll have access to 2,000 federal recreation sites, so now all you have to do is visit them all. It might just take the entire year.
Pick less popular National Parks
Sure everybody wants to see Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park or view Half Dome in Yosemite, but these notorious attractions are also some of the most crowded. Consider choosing less popular, but often equally impressive, National Parks instead. For instance, Sequoia and Kings Canyon make a great alternative to Yosemite and Glacier National Park instead of Yellowstone. You will not be disappointed.
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