Are you going outside? Experts say they have a plan before they arrive | Local News
If there’s one thing learned from 2020 about how to enjoy the outdoors, especially in busy national parks, it’s: plan ahead.
Nearby national parks report that countless visitors showed up to the park last year with their dogs, children, a tent they had never pitched before, all campgrounds full and no back-up plan. .
Gone are the days when families could jump in the car and show up at the park entrance gate to “figure it out when we get there”.
Reliable information and reservations are now essential to have a good experience in this current pandemic-triggered outdoor recreation frenzy, public land officials say. At certain times of the day, roads, parking lots and other facilities in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks inflate to more than 100% of their capacity.
“The big message is that if you come and stay overnight, do you know where you are spending the night? And if you don’t, do you have a plan B? Said Denise Germann, communications officer for Grand Teton National Park. “What we saw last year and in 2017 during the eclipse is that when people couldn’t find camping in the park, they went to the (national) forest. This creates difficult conditions in the nearby (national) forest.
This year, Grand Teton National Park switched to a full reservation system for its campgrounds.
“Most of these sites are full during the summer at this point,” Germann said. “We do not allow camping outside of designated campsites in the park.” This policy prohibits removing your motorhome from the side of the road overnight.
The nearby Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests are a mix of reservations and first-come, first-served campgrounds. Over the weekend, most sites were full across the network last summer. Another more recent phenomenon is that many older campgrounds were created with smaller camper trailers in mind and do not accept today’s behemoths.
Enjoying an outdoor visit to public lands can be a matter of timing. A repeated mantra is “go early or go late” to avoid the crowds in the middle of the day and see the best the outdoors has to offer.
“Wildlife viewing is more about time than place,” Darin Skidmore said in a Facebook post. “I take at least two trips a month to these two national parks. I leave the house when most people are asleep and am in the park long before the sun comes up. I avoid the crowds when I leave the park at 9 a.m. I always see animals, always. But I don’t just drive and hope to meet something. I am a hiker. I always have bear spray, I always have emergency equipment. And I follow all the rules. “
Coming early or arriving late also works for better parking, officials say. Good timing also applies to the day of the week.
“Last year threw us such a wild card because things were filled 24/7,” said Mary Cernacek, of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. “It was just constant. As things stabilize, the middle of our week tends to be less affected than our weekends. People who show up on Tuesday morning have a choice of more spaces, whether it’s parking, camping, prime launching lanes on a launching ramp – people midweek find a greater selection of choices.
The staff at Yellowstone National Park echo the mantra of timing your visit.
“We like to tell visitors to plan to venture into the park early or even late to beat the crowds, usually before 10am and after 3pm,” said Ashton Hooker, of the Yellowstone public affairs office. “We anticipate another very busy summer season ahead of us.”
Visit the surrounding places
While national parks are giant magnets for visitors, officials said visitors shouldn’t be limited to parks alone.
“There is spectacular public land in Idaho and Wyoming,” Germann said. “Part of this is planning ahead. People will be surprised at the number of opportunities that present themselves. “
In addition, outside of national parks, public lands are accepted by dogs. Inside Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, dogs are not allowed.
“Dogs are not allowed on the trails,” Germann said. “They are allowed on a leash anywhere a car can go. If you are traveling with your pet, you need to plan ahead because what are you going to do with your dog when hiking in the backcountry? Last summer we saw more dogs on the backcountry trails. We have received more calls about dogs in places they shouldn’t be. “
Another current restriction is that inside all federal buildings, such as reception centers or ranger offices, masks are still required.
National parks aren’t the only places where visitors are criticized.
“This year, for our rivers, we have an increase in the number of people applying for river permits for the Four Rivers Lottery which includes the Main and Middle Fork of the Salmon River,” said Amy Baumer, spokesperson. de Salmon-Challis National Forest. “We are also seeing this trend.”
Baumer recommends calling ahead to find out about campsite availability if you plan to sleep in this wooded area.
“I encourage people to call the local ranger district office in advance where they plan to go,” she said. “These people will receive reports from recreation staff and get a feel for the usage in their district and help people plan.
One puzzle that public land managers are not looking forward to this summer is abandoned campfires. Last summer, the East Idaho Interagency Fire Center reported at least 60 abandoned campfires per weekend in the area, many of which were causing wildfires. The same headache plagued land managers across the West. Some campers did not understand this.
“I think it’s going to be a huge headache,” Cernacek said. “People don’t understand what abandoned campfires are. Abandoned campfires move away from any campfire that still contains heat. They may have thrown water on it and left thinking they had done due diligence, which is not necessarily the case. Abandoned campfires must stop. “
With the increase in visitors last summer, there has been an increase in waste. Land managers reported spending more time cleaning up after neglectful and irresponsible campers.
“If you put it away, put it away,” Germann said. “These are just basic concepts of outdoor recreation that some people have probably never been familiar with.”
National Forest and Park officials said that despite unprecedented use, they still expect most people to have a pleasant outdoor experience.
“There is no bad experience in Grand Teton National Park or in the Bridger-Teton National Forest,” Germann said. “The scenery is spectacular, the hike is spectacular, the views are incredible, the wildlife is very visible. I don’t know if there is a better place than another. “