Plan Like A Park Ranger...and a Park Partner

Summer is here and many national parks are expecting an especially busy season in 2021—and as park partners, we know that this impacts you, too. The NPS is launching the #PlanLikeAParkRanger campaign to encourage trip planning to ensure visitors plan ahead and understand what to expect at destination parks.

Parks are creating list of “Top Ten Tips” to engage visitors in thinking about researching and preparing for their park visit. What are some great tips for visiting your park? Lots of parks have similar advice, but specifics vary from park to park. What are the unique, insider tips for your park? Park rangers, partners, and concessionaires are encouraged to share their top 10 insider tips for making the most out of national park adventures.

Join the movement!

This campaign is designed for new and return visitors to national parks and should be welcoming, respectful, helpful, and fun. Work with your park or craft your own engaging top ten list. You probably already have content you can adapt for this. Share your tips on your website and social media with the hashtag #PlanLikeAParkRanger or amplify park messages.

Key Messages

National parks are expecting an especially busy summer season and want everyone to have a great experience. A little advance trip planning can ensure that your only surprises are happy ones. Check out our top 10 lists to get the most out of your summer vacation. #PlanLikeAParkRanger

  • Many campgrounds and lodgings in and near parks are already fully or nearly fully booked, so be sure to plan ahead before jumping in the car for that weekend road trip.
  • Think about the family or group of friends visiting the park after you. They also deserve to have a great time, so be sure to take with you everything you brought in.
  • Additional tips you’ll find on the park website include whether the park welcomes pets, especially your dog.
  • People who are not yet fully vaccinated are still required to wear masks inside park buildings and in crowded outdoor areas.
  • Finally, be patient wtih each other and us. National parks are already bustling, and like most leisure-time places you’ll go this year, we may be short-staffed. But if you can give us a little more time, we’re here to help.

Park Top 10 Tips Lists

  • Our Top 10 Tips list are designed to be engaging, specific, and very brief—one or two sentences per tip.
  • Tips can focus on the need for reservations, best days/times to visit/arrive, pet tips, transportation ideas and places to go that they might not have considered, etc. Overwhelmed parks can offer alternative options, including parks that might be similar to you but less busy.
  • Make it specific to your park. For example, at Smokies, Cades Cove is closed to vehicles on Wednesdays this summer—a good watch-out for visiting that park and it points to the overall need to check for closures before you go. And, hey, it's also a great day to ride your bike there!
  • Can you make it so engaging that your audience will want to share it in their social media?
  • If possible, translate your list into Spanish and put it on the same page as your English version.

Share Your List in Social Media

We are sharing out our lists across the national social media accounts and hope that parks and partners will share their lists, too!

  • The main hashtags for the campaign are #PlanLikeAParkRanger / #PlanComoUnGuardaparques and #TopTenTips / #LosDiezMejoresConsejos.
  • In general, it’s best to show visitors doing the thing you want them to do rather than the opposite. Look for great, shareable photos of visitors doing good things that relate to your list.

Graphics, Photos, and Other Assests

The infographic below will be shared out through the NPS national social media accounts and is available for parks and partners to share, too. (Right-click on the image to download it as a jpg.) More photos and assets will be added to this page.

an illustration showing 10 boxes with individual tips for planning a park visit

Design: NPS/Turner

The graphic is titled "Plan Like a Park Ranger" and lists ten tips for planning a trip to national parks. It includes the social media hashtag "#PlanLikeAParkRanger". The top illustration is of a map pinpoint on a mountain range.

Tip 1 includes an illustration of a map with a pinpoint and marked trail. Text reads "Have a Plan...And a Backup Plan. For us, a park visit begins at home with a stop to NPS.gov. Park websites have ideas about where to go, what to see, and what to do, and most important, what we need to include in our planning. Flexibility and a backup plan are key, too, in case of changing weather conditions, road closures, etc."

Tip 2 includes an illustration of cars lined up at a park entrance station. Text reads "Pack Your Patience. During our visit, we try to enjoy the ride and allow for extra time to get from one place to another. This season, parks are already bustling. Like lots of places this year, we may not yet have the ability to offer the same level of service available as we emerge from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. And keep in mind that people who are not fully vaccinated must wear masks inside park buildings and in crowded outdoor areas."

Tip 3 includes an illustration of a trail near a signpost and trees. Text reads "Travel Off the Beaten Path. There are more than 400 national parks across the country. We love exploring the lesser-known ones. They can be a great option for travelers looking for all the beauty of nature, hiking trails, and rich history, with fewer crowds and lines."

Tip 4 includes an illustration of a tent. Text reads "Reservations May Be Needed. We love reservations. Many campgrounds and lodges in well-known parks and in nearby communities are already fully booked. Making sure you have a reservation guarantees you won't arrive at a park only to find out that you need an entrance reservation, there's no place to sleep, or a popular trail is closed."

Tip 5 includes an illustration of a park ranger hat. Text reads "Ask a Ranger. Have a question? Ask a ranger. (Yep, we ask other rangers about visiting their parks.) Rangers are here to help. We can answer questions, share park stories (we're always happy to point you to the nearest restroom), and we can let you know what activities are available and sites not to miss."

Tip 6 includes an illustration of a person's hands using a smartphone displaying a picture of a park. Text reads "Explore the New NPS App. We nerded out over our own app—it's very cool. You can even access it offline if you plan ahead! The new NPS App offers tools to explore more than 400 national parks...interactive maps, tours, accessibility information, and more. And we're adding new content all the time!"

Tip 7 includes an illustration of a person running after an airborne camera. Text reads "Keep Safety in the Picture. We love to take photos. (Have you seen our Instagram?) But we like surviving the process, too—so we're careful to take them where it is safe. Some popular trails and views may be especially crowded this year, so an unobstructed photo might require a bit of a wait."

Tip 8 including an illustration of two bison. Text reads "Don't Pet the Fluffy Cows. Bison can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and run up to 35 miles per hour—and they can really hurt you. We can't run that fast and are pretty sure you can't either. Keep your distance from wild animals, never feed the wildlife, and when taking pictures, use your zoom and give them room."

Tip 9 includes an illustration of a thermal pool. Text reads "Leave Only Footprints. We know that each of us—rangers, volunteers, visitors, everyone—plays a vital role in protecting YOUR national parks. Whether it's carrying out what we brought in (including our pooch's...well...you know), leaving the spots we visit as we found them, or staying on the trail, we're careful to respect these incredible places."

Tip 10 includes an illustration of a person walking a dog. Text reads "Ruffing It? This one's for the dogs. Many parks allow pets on leashes and in campgrounds, some even have kennels. But sometimes these furry friends are best left at home. Discover what you can (and can't) do with your pet and follow the B.A.R.K. principles."

Last updated: June 3, 2021