Plan Your Trip To First State National Historical Park Like A Ranger

A view across the Brandywine River on a partly cloudy day.
The Brandywine River


Insider tips for making the most out of an adventure to First State National Historical Park

Summer is here and First State NHP is expecting an especially busy season in 2022. A little trip planning can ensure that your only surprises are happy ones. To help everyone have a great experience, First State NHP rangers share their top 10 insider tips to #PlanLikeAParkRanger.

1. Know where you want to go…and have a back up plan

First State National Historical Park is made up of six sites spread throughout Delaware, covering a history that spans four centuries. A park visit begins at home with a trip to The Park website has information about the six sites, what to do at each, and most important, what to be aware of when planning your visit. Flexibility and a backup plan are key, too, in case of changing weather conditions, road closures, etc.

2. We are a young and small park, so please be patient with each other and us

Remember to allow extra time to get from one site to another and enjoy the experience. This season, national parks are already bustling, and as one of the newest NPS sites, we have a very small staff. Like lots of places you go this year, we are still emerging from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. For more information on COVID-19 related impacts, see the park's alerts page here.

Two Junior Rangers standing in a city park.
Two Junior Rangers at Fort Christina park.


3. Getting away from the crowds

The six sites are spread across Delaware, and each has a different number of visitors depending on the time of day and year. Some sites are less visited, while the Brandywine Valley unit is very popular, especially on summer weekends. When planning your visit consider what time of day you intend to visit a site, and feel free to contact each site to see what times are more crowded. You can find information about all six of the sites here.

4. Reservations may be needed

Each of the six sites operates a little differently from the others, and some do require reservations. You can find up to date information on whether reservations are required here.
The ruins of a 1800s era house in a forested area.
Ruins near Beaver Creek


5. Ask a ranger

Have a question? Ask a ranger. We can answer questions, share park stories, and we can let you know what activities are available. Please be aware that NPS rangers are only within the Brandywine Valley unit on a regular basis. The other five sites of First State NHP are staffed by partner organizations and will have someone to answer your questions and provide guidance.

6. Parking at Brandywine Valley

Parking is limited in the Brandywine Valley, and fills up quickly on sunny summer weekends. Please be aware that parking on the side of the roads in the Valley is illegal, and you may be ticketed and/or towed. If parking is full at the free lots within the Valley, there is parking available, for a fee, at the Brandywine Creek State Park.

7. Keep safety in mind with the summer weather

It has already been a scorcher of a summer, with both high temperatures and humidity. When you are hiking in the Brandywine Valley, exploring Fort Christina, or visiting the John Dickinson Plantation, stay in tune with your body. If you are feeling tired or dizzy, take a break and make sure to stay hydrated. Please be aware that there are no potable water sources within the Brandywine Valley unit, so make sure you bring water and other necessary items with you. Find more information on keeping safe here.

An adult deer tick on a blade of grass.
An adult deer tick


8. Ticked off!

Ticks are growing in number across many parts of the country, and that includes First State NHP. Ticks can transmit diseases such as Lyme and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to humans. When you are travelling through an area where ticks are present, protect yourself by doing the following:

  • Wearing long sleeves and pants, and tucking pant legs into socks or shoes.

  • Applying an insect repellent to exterior clothes, and if safe to do so, any exposed skin.

  • Avoiding walking through tall grass and vegetation if possible.

  • Doing a thorough tick check of your whole body when you return home, and removing any ticks found within 24 hours.

9. Leave only footprints

We all have a part to play in protecting our nation’s public lands, whether we are rangers, volunteers, or visitors. Most sites within First State NHP are carry in-carry out, so please take any items you brought, and any trash generated during your visit, home with you. You can learn more about Leave No Trace principles, and how to put them into practice here.

A dog wearing a green bandana and a park ranger flat hat.
A very good B.A.R.K ranger!


10. Woof woof!

Dogs are welcome within the Brandywine Valley unit of First State NHP and the outdoor areas at New Castle and The Dover Green, but are not allowed within any historical building. Dogs are not allowed at the other sites at all. Please always keep your dog on a leash, even when on the trail, and pick up all waste. Doing these two simple things not only keeps First State NHP clean and safe for all visitors, it also follows the principles of being a B.A.R.K Ranger!

First State National Historical Park

Last updated: June 22, 2022