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    Here’s how to stay safe when visiting national parks this summer
    • May 29, 2024

    Mia Taylor | TravelPulse (TNS)

    At Death Valley National Park, summer temperatures can reach as high as 130 to 134 degrees.

    For some travelers, that would be reason enough not to visit. But for others, it’s the exact motivation for a trek to Death Valley during the summer: The novelty of experiencing temperatures you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere around the globe.

    “Some folks are seeking out what they consider to be a rare experience,” Nichole Andler, a park ranger with the U.S. National Park Service, said during a media briefing.

    But it should go without saying that when heat is that extreme, it can easily be a life-or-death situation.

    “This time of year, when you’re preparing for coming to Death Valley, it’s important to know what you’re getting into,” emphasized Andler, who stressed not only having enough water on hand all times, but staying near your vehicle.

    In fact, in extreme heat conditions, it may even be best to stay in your vehicle amid the comfort of air conditioning and explore the park by car, said Andler.

    Her comments were part of a larger National Park Service media conference call, during which officials from parks across the country shared tips for safely visiting this summer.

    If one of the 400-plus national parks is on your radar for the months ahead, here are the tips NPS officials would like you to keep in mind.

    The Grand Teton mountain range in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, on June 13, 2019. (Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

    5 safety tips for national park explorations this summer

    1. Select activities that align with your capabilities

    There’s all manner of activities available across the U.S. National Park system — from hiking and rock climbing to boating and swimming. The national parks also allow for engaging in challenging and extreme sports including canyoneering, hang gliding and whitewater rafting.

    During the planning phase for your visit and during your time onsite, it’s important select activities that are appropriate for your experience and physical limitations.

    “Pick activities that meet your skills and fitness level,” said Cynthia Hernandez, a national park spokesperson. “That might mean being honest if you haven’t prepared for that 15-mile hiking trip.”

    2. Bring suitable equipment

    In addition to focusing on activities that are appropriate for your abilities, it’s critical that you arrive at a national park prepared with the right equipment for your visit.

    Bring the “right shoes for your activity, water, a compass or a map or a life jacket, if you’re going on the water,” continued Hernandez.

    It’s also worth noting that weather in many of the wild spaces that make up the national park system can change quickly, so it’s important to bring additional clothing.

    “What can start out as a beautiful and sunny day can pivot quickly into rain and sleet,” said Jen Newton, with Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, of conditions in that park. “Extra layers and a rain jacket can be helpful.”

    3. Communication is critical

    While this tip is especially critical for solo travelers, it really holds true for anyone visiting national parks, including families and groups: Communicate your plans to others.

    “Make sure to leave a trip plan with a friend back home,” advises Hernandez, who also suggests telling someone who’s not on your trip how long you intend to be gone and when you can be expected to return.

    This type of communication is especially critical for remote hikes or other far-flung excursions and explorations.

    4. Keep away from wildlife

    The thrill of seeing wildlife while exploring national parks is unforgettable. But that doesn’t mean it’s open season on taking selfies with wildlife, or engaging with the animals in any way. It’s a rule that should be followed for the safety of the animals and visitors alike.

    “Keep a safe distance from wildlife, don’t startle wildlife,” Hernandez explained. “Do not pick up wildlife and do not feed wildlife.”

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    Understanding bear safety is also critical when visiting some national parks, said Newton. Grand Teton National Park, for instance, is home to both black and Grizzly bears.

    “Be bear aware,” said Newton. “Be alert and have good situational awareness.”

    When hiking in places like Grand Teton or other national parks, it’s important to make at least some level of noise in order to alert animals in the area of your presence.

    “That’s not necessarily singing and clapping, but even just normal conversation can be helpful to let all creatures know you are out and around,” Newton continued.

    Newton also recommend carrying bear spray when in Grand Teton (a tip that could apply to other national parks as well that are home to bears). Additionally, know how many seconds of bear spray you have and how far it will go.

    5. Review park safety tips in advance

    Every national park in the country has its own website and that website includes safety guidelines that visitors need to follow in order to have a good experience at the park in question, said Hernandez.

    Be sure to spend some time reading the website for your intended national park and reviewing the safety tips before you arrive on location.

    “Even if you visited a park before or have been going to this park for awhile, follow all park recommendations and safety guidelines,” stressed Hernandez, who added that it’s also important to “follow guidelines from park rangers on site.”

    The National Park Service has also created a Trip Planning Guide that includes “key tips, links, and tools to help” visitors “Plan like a Ranger” for a national park adventure. The guide can be downloaded here.

    Ultimately, Hernandez said, it’s important for visitors to make what she described as “informed decisions” about their behavior and activities when visiting a national park, in order to help ensure a fun and safe visit.

    ©2024 Northstar Travel Media, LLC. Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

    ​ Orange County Register