7 Safety Tips for Visiting U.S. National Parks in Winter

7 Safety Tips for Visiting U.S. National Parks in Winter

When visiting destinations as gorgeous as our national parks, we often forget that weather can get dangerous quickly!

Coming unprepared or without proper research on road conditions and state law requirements, can turn a pleasant journey into a treacherous travel nightmare.

If hitting the road this winter to a place where snow and road closures may hinder your experinece, keep the following safety tips in mind!


1. Print out maps and directions in advance.

Cell phone service in many mountainous areas can be extremely limited if available at all. We're so used to being able to check Google maps from our mobile devices or call for directions, but if you don't have service or Wi-Fi, you're going to be out of luck. 


2. Keep snow chains in your vehicle.

When winter conditions are present, most national parks require that you have snow chains in your vehicle at all time, including 4-wheel drives and SUVs. Don't want to purchase them? No problem -- most auto parts stores will rent them, but do your research in advance so you know not only where to rent them, but also the specific size you need to fit your tires. 


3. Check road conditions.

All of the national parks have a road condition phone line -- check the individual websites in advance for the number and be sure to call prior to departure in case cell service gets spotty.


4. Use caution when driving, especially if you're not used to driving in snow or icy conditions.

Common sense always prevails - don't rush, take it slow, and if going downhill, pump the brakes softly so they don't lock up on you. NEVER slam on your brakes, or you could end up in a spin or direction not desired.


5. Mind the wildlife!

Bears are no joke. When you're given a warning like "do not leave any food or scented items in your car," take them seriously. Dispose of food trash in bear-proof receptacles, and if camping, store your food appropriately by securing it high in the trees as far as possible from your campsite. Always carry bear spray when hiking and know how to use it. Spraying directly at a bear won't help you. The wind and the angle of the spray matters! Have an expert at a camping store demonstrate it for you, or ask a park ranger before you head out on a trail. Wildlife is incredible to admire but keep your distance, do not feed them, respect the animal, and remember they are indeed wild animals.


6. Remember to hydrate and wear sunblock.

Even in winter you can get dehydrated and sunburned very easily, especially when trekking through snow or skiing when the sun reflects off the brilliant white landscapes. Note for campers: very few places have water that is potable without filtration devices so come prepared if you're planning to use the natural resources. Microorganisms like giardia or worse may be present in water that looks clear and fresh. Better to err on the side of caution and bring plenty of bottled water.


7. Prepare for the worst but expect the best.

The great outdoors is an amazing place to be; my favorite place to be in fact, but with the beauty comes the potential for unexpected danger or injury. Carry with you a small first aid kit with items you can use in a small emergency that includes some sustenance like trail mix and water,  bandages, disinfectant or rubbing alcohol, an eye wash, bug repellent and/or sting treatment, ace bandage, an antibiotic ointment like Polysporin, a loud whistle to call for help if you need it, matches in case you need to light a fire, and a flashlight.


All things considered, a visit to one of the National Parks in the USA especially in winter is a magical experience.


Travel tip and video shared by Lindsay Taub