Trip Planning Guide

The first page of the Trip Planning Guide, including the Trip Plan Checklist
Click the image to download the Trip Planning Guide.

Let's Plan Your Adventure!

This guide will give you some key tips, links, and tools to help you "Plan like a Ranger" for your national park adventure! Having a plan will help you avoid common mistakes that can affect your visit and even lead to injury.

The Trip Planning Guide is meant for day or overnight trips to a park.If you are planning a multi-day trip, especially to backcountry areas, additional planning steps will be required and are beyond the scope of this guide.

Continue reading to learn how you can get the most out of your visit to a park. On this page, you'll also be able to:

Know Before You Go

A graphic of a visitor at home sitting at a desk using a laptop computer. On the left, a sign reads "Start Here." To the visitor's right, an open backpack is next to the visitor.

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” -Yogi Berra

Researching ahead of time gives you the opportunity to learn about the park and the environment(s) you’ll encounter during your adventure. You’ll have time to prepare and get the right gear/equipment needed for you and anyone that may be traveling with you. Keep reading to learn about what you should "Know Before You Go":

Arrival at the Park

A graphic of two visitors talking to a park ranger at a visitor center. On the left, a sign reads "Step Two."

So you’ve made it to the park, what next?

Keep reading to find out what you should do when you get to the park, and what to "Ask a Ranger" before you start your activity:

During the Trip

A visitor wearing a helmet is riding a bike on a trail. To their left, a visitor is sitting on a bench. On the left, a sign reads "Step Three."

You’re doing great!

Whether it's on your hike or paddling down a river, keep these tips in mind while recreating in the park:

After the Trip

A graphic of visitors returning home from their trip to a park.

Nice job!

You've made it back to your car or campsite at the end of your activity, remember to:

Hikers near a trail sign
Emergency Planning

Take steps to prevent a group member from becoming lost or injured and know what to do if it happens.

Ranger marking a map with a pen
Leave a Trip Plan

Tell someone where you are going. Complete a trip plan.

Water bottles, backpack, hat, and sunglasses
Pack The Ten Essentials

Learn what supplies are essential for your trip

An animated setting of a camping site, with a tent, picnic table, and resources for camping.
Plan Like a Junior Ranger

Learn about the special places you'll visit, prepare for fun activities, and make the most of your adventure. Ready, set, go!

Last updated: June 21, 2023