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Hiking & Biking tours

Protecting our National Parks

From natural landscapes like mountains, forests and rivers to historical artifacts and ruins, the national park system was created to protect some of America's most beautiful and culturally significant places. Along with safeguarding these national treasures for their own sake, our national parks have become places for outdoor recreation, education and enjoyment.

But the national parks don't exist in a vacuum. While protected, they're still vulnerable to threats such as climate change and overcrowding from visitors. If we want to preserve and save our national parks and public lands for future generations, we need to protect them now.


20 travel tips to help protect our national parks

Following these and other important national park visitor tips for how to protect national parks is a good starting point for what you can do before, during and after your national park trip:
1. Travel small as part of a national parks small group guided tour to reduce your impact.

2. Choose a tour operator that prioritizes sustainability as part of their trips and operations. At Explore, we offset the carbon footprints of all our trips and incorporate sustainable practices into every level of our organization.

3. Consider how to minimize your carbon footprint. We've measured the carbon footprint of all our trips, showing how small group travel produces far less carbon and is better for the environment.

4. Use public transportation. Many national parks, like Zion National Park, and nearby towns offer free shuttle services around town and the park. In addition to reducing gas and energy use from too many cars, using the free shuttles also improves the visitor experience. On our small group national park tours like Walking the Western US National Parks, we choose accommodations as close to the park as possible to take advantage of these free shuttle routes.
5. To further reduce energy use, make sure to turn off all lights in your hotel room and unplug chargers while you're away exploring for the day.

6. While in the park, walk or bike instead of driving. All our small group national parks tours include plenty of hikes to cut back on vehicle emissions and to better help you connect with nature.

7. Visit the National Park Service website to find sustainable tips specific to the parks you're visiting.

8. Always stay on the established trails. It helps protect the plants, animals and natural habitat from harm or degradation. Staying on the trail is for your protection as well.
9. Don't disturb, touch or take anything from around the park. Don't stack rock cairns, take souvenirs or alter the environment in any way.

10. Leave no trace at all times. Never litter or leave trash except in trash cans or at designated spots.

11. Recycle whenever possible.

12. Ditch the single-use plastics for reusable items such as water bottles.
13. If you don't want to buy hiking or outdoor gear you're unsure you'll use again, rent it from gear stores.

14. Don't leave food waste along the trails.

15. Leave the local wildlife alone. If you see or encounter any animals, give them plenty of space and don't disturb them. Visiting national parks is a great chance to learn about local wildlife, but on our trips, we do so in a safe, respectful manner that prioritizes the welfare of the animal.

16. Plan your visit during low or shoulder season.
17. Reduce overcrowding at the most popular national parks by visiting a national monument or national preserve instead. Or visit both, but visit the more popular park on a low traffic day.

18. Eat locally whenever possible. Carbon emissions from food waste and food transportation are a big problem, which you can prevent by eating local fare. So, when visiting a landlocked park like Yellowstone National Park, skip the seafood at the local restaurant and opt for locally-raised meat or seasonal vegetables.

19. Support organizations like the National Parks Conservation Association and the National Park Foundation. Donating to these organizations helps support conservation and preservation programs and projects, outreach, education and much more.

20. Make sure your elected representatives know that you support the national parks. The national park system and public lands are constantly at risk from things like the extraction of natural resources, oil or natural gas exploration and drilling, and climate change. It's important that when issues come up that could impact our national parks, your elected officials in Congress know that you want these lands protected.

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