Believe it or not, there is a right way to enjoy nature, and it revolves around the ideas of preservation, conservation, and responsibility. The United States is scattered with spectacular national parks and scenic state parks, and everyday people visit these destinations to enjoy the attractions, landscapes, and monuments offered. So before heading to one of our country’s greatest treasures, read up on proper etiquette for enjoying national and state parks, and make sure you aren’t just enjoying the great outdoors, but that you are enjoying it responsibly.
Learn The Rules
Before you can obey the rules, you must know them first. Check in with the visitor’s center to learn about the specific rules regarding fires, pets, camping, and other restrictions. If you see rules posted on signs, abide by them. Ask about park quiet hours if you are planning on spending the night. If you are planning on fishing, inquire about the catch limits and licensing.
Let Wildlife Be
Don’t mess with wildlife, no matter how cute or small it is. Not only can they carry disease, but they can become dangerous when provoked. Instead, observe them from a distance and avoid them during the mating season or when they are rearing young. Abstain from feeding all wild creatures as this can alter their natural behaviors and diet, posing a risk to their health.
Practice Good Petiquette
National parks are pretty restrictive when it comes to pets, and many only allow them to go as far as the parking lot. This protocol is upheld for the safety of wildlife as well as the safety of your pet. You never know what kinds of animals you may encounter in the park or how your pet will react. Plan accordingly and, if you need to, make arrangements with a boarding kennel while you go explore the park.
Look With Your Eyes, Not Your Hands
We know they may look pretty or they might make great souvenirs of your trip, but you should always avoid picking flowers, collecting rocks, or tampering with artifacts. After all, the whole point of creating these parks is to protect their features, landscapes, and monuments so that future generations can enjoy them too. By intruding and altering the landscape, you are disrupting the natural ecosystem and contributing to its decline.
Don’t Blaze a Trail
When hiking, travel by way of existing trails as this will drastically minimize your damage to vegetation. Trampling over plant life accelerates erosion. Also, be cautious around tall overlooks or cliff edges and stay on the designated paths provided when you’re observing them.
Leave No Trace Behind
You should leave the area in better shape than the way you found it. Everything should look unaltered. Do not litter! Take care of your waste and trash properly. Carving into trees or structures is also considered defacing of national and state parks, so it should be avoided.
Follow Fire Safety Guidelines
If you want to build a fire, use established fire rings and don’t create too big of a blaze. Don’t make a fire in an area where it is not permitted, and completely put out the fire when you leave. Obey rules regarding firewood too, so that you don’t introduce invasive species into the area. Also, don’t gather firewood by collecting limbs and tree brush as the soils needs these decomposing plants for replenishment.
Act Smart, Be Prepared
Be aware of where you are visiting geographically as it may present some risks to you that you aren’t used to dealing with. For example, be aware of dangerous vegetation or poisonous snakes prone to the area. If you are camping in bear territory, follow the proper precautions so that you don’t tempt a grizzly to your campsite. Blending common sense with a little bit of research and preparation will go a long way.
Be Courteous to Others
If you are hiking in a group, walk single-file, giving enough room for faster hikers to pass by you. When hiking, yield to horseback riders as well as mountain bikers. Hikers going downhill usually yield to hikers going up hill, as those going downhill typically have a greater range of vision. Stay to the right of the path and if you come upon someone, simply say ‘hello’ to make your presence known to them.
By following the proper etiquette for enjoying national and state parks, you will be fulfilling your responsibility of preserving and protecting our country’s greatest sites for others in the future. Put your outdoor etiquette to the test by visiting Muskegon State Park, just a short twenty minute drive from our easy-to-browse All Season’s dealership lot! For further information on proper camping etiquette, check out this post!