Our unparalleled national parks are now enjoying record numbers of visitors, making planning your trip as early as possible more important than ever. Fortunately, there are some useful online tools to help you.
You’ve probably already made the obvious and “checked out” the National Park Service (NPS) website. There you will find links to the official website of each of the 63 parks. Most offer a lot of useful information, but it’s especially useful for finding the latest COVID-19 protocols, road closures, and other alerts for each park.
And here are “more useful resources that many travelers” may not know.
This easy-to-use website – and the accompanying app – allows you to reserve campsites and other facilities and services in many parks and public lands, such as cabins at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. and wilderness outdoor camping permits at Yosemite National Park.
You can also use the site to book many activities that require reservations (driving up to the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in Maine, for example) and obtaining fishing licenses.
Note that reservations for most national park accommodation should be made directly with the private companies that manage them, including iconic Yellowstone National Park lodges, which are operated by Xanterra.
To get started, all you need to do is register on the site by entering your name, email address and phone number. They will send you an email with a link to create your password. Then log in and start planning.
An example: Let’s imagine that you want to book a campsite for two nights in Acadia (a good choice!). Use the search function to enter the keyword “Acadia”; the website will respond with a list of everything that is bookable in the park, with information about each. Select a campground (we love Blackwoods), enter your preferred dates as well as any other information to help filter your results, and the website will respond to you with an “availability grid” and a campsite map indicating which campsites are open. Then it’s just a matter of making the purchase.
If you have any questions at any point in the process, take advantage of the site’s chat feature and phone number, which allows you to speak to a real person.