Rocking your national park vacation is easy when you remember to plan early and use some common sense. It’s never to early to begin the planning process. If you can, visit before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.
The weather is nice and the crowds are much smaller than they are during the peak summer travel season.
Rocky Mountain National Park is home to beautiful mountain tops, hiking trails and a lot of wildlife. If there’s one tip I can give you, it is to educate yourself as to what animal is what. While hiking on the Bear Lake to Fern Lake Trail, we came upon a large herd of elk. We were waiting for the 50+ herd to cross the trail, when a couple young ladies came up behind my husband and I on the trail and said, “Oh, those deer are no problem and kept on walking.” “Um, yeah! Those elk are a problem and you need to stay back.” They did stop. You will see a lot of wildlife throughout the park and remember that is never ok to approach elk, or any wildlife to get that photo.
What you don’t see in this photo, are tourists about five feet from this elk on the other side of the hill. As you can tell, you don’t have to be five feet from an elk to take a great photo. This photo was taken from a parking area on Trail Ridge Road. There are signs that tell park visitors to not walk off the trails, as the tundra is precious in this area of Rocky Mountain National Park. If only visitors would respect the wildlife and the tundra, the national park experience would be better for all of us in the long run.
Pack your binoculars and your viewing window will become even wider.
Lodging in Estes Park is abundant, but if you want to stay at a particular place, book your stay now. The Estes Park KOA offers camping and a unique cabin experience in their camping cabins. Cabin K2 offered plugs ins for electronics and a nice place to call home for a couple nights.
If you are looking for a more luxurious lodging experience near the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, I would recommend the Wildwood Inn.
Most importantly, once you have your dates for your national park vacation, book your lodging. There’s nothing more frustrating than to arrive at a destination and find your choice of lodging is booked. I speak from experience on this, so do not disappoint yourself and book ahead.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is the easiest park to visit with kids. While cruising through this park, you will not have to look very hard to see wildlife. Again, remember, you need to stay back, as all wildlife is wild. While approaching a parking area in this national park to take a photo of a beautiful overlook, my plans were quickly changed, due to the presence of this bison.
As you can tell, the bison do not care that there is parking lot and a trash can nearby for tourists to use. This is not the place to get out of your car and get a close up photo for your photo album. I snapped this photo from my car and drove on by.
Glacier National Park offers stunning views along the Going To The Sun Road. If you are planning a hike back to the most popular hiking trail in the park, Avalanche Lake, find your parking space around sunrise.
The lot fills fast and you will not be hiking on a crowded trail. Pay attention to the signs on the trail, as they will keep you updated as to bear activity and any washed out areas on the trail. There is an outhouse on this trail, so plan accordingly and pack some tissue in your pack. I would highly recommend dining at Norm’s in Kalispell after a long day of hiking in the park.
Badlands National Park in South Dakota offers views that you simply cannot experience anywhere else. Most importantly, pay attention to the signs on the hiking trails.
To get the most out of wildlife viewing, I would suggest driving through the Badlands near sunrise and sunset. The wildlife are moving around and the views of the sun along the skyline, are views that will be forever embedded in your brain. If you are lucky, the wildflowers will be in bloom on your visit.
The Badlands/White River KOA offer camp sites and camping cabins, with a convenient location near the national park.
Make your national park vacation your best vacation ever. Start planning now and bring your dream vacation to life. Remember to follow the park rules, pay attention to the signage, and be smart when it comes to approaching wildlife. These simple steps can keep you from becoming a part of a national news story and help you rock your national park vacation.