Trip Planning Guide

Make your fun adventure a safe and healthy one, too!

No one plans to get hurt or sick while out exploring in a national park. However, nature is unpredictable, structures are historical, and your equipment can unexpectedly fail. Planning ahead can be the key to a fun, safe, and healthy adventure.

Use the NPS Trip Planning Guide and Checklist to help plan your trip. The guide provides key safety considerations to help you avoid some of the most common mistakes people make when visiting national parks. The guide is divided into the four phases of your trip. Additional articles are there to help you with selecting the Ten Essentials, preparing your Trip Plan, and Emergency Planning. Don't miss out on these important tips to help prepare you for an emergency!


While most of the 423 units of the National Park System are available to visitors, parks may not have the ability to offer the level of service available before the pandemic. Updates about the NPS response to COVID-19 are posted on Please check with individual park websites or download the NPS App for specific details about their operations.

Kids standing in reeds with nets in hand

Before the Trip

What do you need to know before you go?

Group of girls talking with ranger

Arrival at the Park

"Ask a Ranger" about alerts, weather and other conditions in the park.

Two bicyclists standing on road

During the Trip

Assess and adjust during your adventure

A group taking down their tents

After the Trip

How did your trip go? What did you learn?

NOTE: This guide was prepared to give a general idea of planning actions to consider for a trip to a park with a group to avoid some of the most common mistakes people make. Be aware that the actions in this guide may need to be adjusted to meet the needs of your group members, the park you are visiting, the time of year you are visiting, if you extend your trip for more than one day, and any other special considerations.
The NPS Trip Planning Guide
The NPS Trip Planning Guide is available for download. The download includes the step-by-step overview of trip planning, a checklist which summarizes the key actions in the guide, trip plan template, and the emergency plan.

Last updated: March 4, 2022