Millions of people across the country make their way into national parks each year. Most follow the rules — a select few don’t.
Sometimes the result of their rule-breaking makes it on the news, such as one Yellowstone tourist’s recent run-in with a grizzly bear after getting too close while taking a picture. But most often, like in the case of vandalism, hiking off designated trails, or littering, their mistakes don’t make the news but leave a permanent imprint on the park and the animals that call it home.
Following the rules while visiting a national park is more than just responsible; it will also help you have a safer and more enjoyable trip. Keep reading to learn 7 things you should never do in a national park.
1. Touch the Wildlife
One of the biggest benefits of national parks is that they preserve delicate habitats for native plants and animals. But when you add in hundreds of thousands of tourists, some of which are seeing some animal species up close and in-person for the first time, incidents are common.
Always keep your distance from wildlife, no matter how small, while in a park. This includes seemingly harmless animals, like squirrels or deer. Unfortunately, it isn’t uncommon for these creatures to get very close to tourists — often, this is a result of previous tourists feeding them.
Touching, harassing, or feeding wildlife is always a big no-no. Besides being against the rules — and often, against the law — it can also be very dangerous. Larger animals may charge and many animals bite when they feel threatened. Some, including squirrels, carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans.
2. Leave a Trace
Feeding wildlife is a big mistake for several reasons. To start, it’s dangerous. But it’s also very dangerous for the wildlife. Many can’t digest human foods and may become ill. They may also develop a dependence on humans, and stop foraging or hunting for their own food.
But feeding wildlife directly isn’t the only thing you need to avoid. Leaving behind food scraps and other garbage in the park can lead to animals ingesting it. Pollution and litter in the park can also damage the landscape and affect plant life, not to mention affect the natural beauty of the park.
Always practice the principles of Leave No Trace. Whether you’re enjoying a picnic at an overlook or packing snacks for a hike, be sure to carry out everything you bring in, including garbage and leftover food.
3. Hike on a Whim
Zion National Park is home to dozens of hiking trails, with options for every experience level. Some are perfect for a relaxing afternoon walk with your family. Others are rugged hikes that will take the better part of the day for an experienced hiker.
While there is a trail for every visitor, it’s important to make sure that you’re choosing the right option for you, and that you’re prepared before you hit the trails.
Start by researching different trail options, and choose one that fits your experience level. If you haven’t hiked in years, Angels Landing might not be a great choice for your next visit.
In addition to researching and choosing the right trail, make sure to pack some gear to stay safe and comfortable on the trail. Pack more water than you expect to use, a small first aid kit, and layers of clothing in case the temperature changes during your hike. Always hike with a friend, and let someone back home know your hiking plans before you head out, just in case.
Tourists have been leaving their mark on our country’s national parks ever since they were first founded. Whether you’re adding your name to a rock, plucking plants, or damaging the landscape by creating their own trails, vandalism comes in many shapes and forms.
One of the most damaging is graffiti. Not only does it leave an unsightly mark on rock faces and boulders in the parks, but it can also damage the delicate microorganisms and plants that grow there.
Graffiti and other forms of vandalism are illegal and can result in fines and even jail time. During your time in Zion or other national parks, take as many pictures as you’d like and leave nothing but footprints — on marked trails — behind you.
5. Remove Anything
Along the same lines as leaving your mark on the park, never take anything from it that you didn’t purchase at the gift card. Picking flowers, plucking leaves or even picking up loose sticks and rocks to take home all damage the ecosystem of the park.
While removing a single rock might seem harmless, it has a snowball effect on the wildlife and plants. Bugs may have lived beneath that rock, providing food for larger creatures. Removing rocks can also expose the earth underneath them to erosion.
If you want a souvenir from your trip, plan to make a stop at the Visitor Center or Zion Lodge to grab an awesome t-shirt or other gifts. Or, take plenty of photos and turn them into fun souvenirs like prints or ornaments when you get home.
Enjoying a Safe Visit to Zion National Park
Knowing the rules ahead of time and always following posted signs and instructions while in the park is an easy way to enjoy a safe and memorable trip, and to protect our parks for future generations.
Ready to start planning your next visit to Zion National Park? Book your stay at The Dwellings today, and relax and recharge in the comfort of your very own tiny home vacation rental during your visit.