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It is a shame that many Americans treat national parks as drive-through attractions, but that is good news for you. If you follow almost any hiking trail more than 15 minutes away from the nearest parking lot, you will lose 90% of the crowds. If you want even more solitude, plan an overnight backpacking trip. A limited number of same-day wilderness permits may be available for walk-up visitors to the parks, even during the peak summer months.

More tips to avoid big headaches

Ticket to ride
Fill up your gas tank before arriving in the parks, where gas stations are expensive, hard to find and sometimes completely sold out. Conserve fuel and avoid parking hassles by boarding the free, eco-friendly park shuttles wherever possible.

More moolah
Bring plenty of cash, as some in-park businesses will not accept credit cards and ATMs are rare. Exact change helps pay for campsites, wilderness permits and more.

The right stuff
Pack all the outdoor gear you will need, because in-park stores do not always sell the right equipment and the rentals may all be taken by the time you arrive.

Hungry?
Skip long lines at in-park cafeterias and restaurants by packing a cooler and a few grocery bags of food. Make sure your cooler is not so big that you cannot store it safely in your vehicle or in the bear-proof lockers, if provided.

 

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