National parks are a great place to spend a day off-roading. Many of these parks offer miles of trails and a variety of natural obstacles to enjoy. Before you load up your gear and head out to your nearest park in your off-roader with its heavy steel bumpers and upgraded tires, be sure you know where you can drive and any rules you need to follow. National parks are there for everyone to enjoy, so we must be responsible and take care of them.
Know Where You Can Drive
There are about 400 national parks in the United States that allow the public to hike, bike, ride, and even off-road on the land. While some of these parks permit off-roading in designated areas, not all of them do.
Before heading out to any park, your first task is to find out whether off-roading is permitted and if so, where. Get or download official park maps marked with designated off-road trails from that park’s website or visitor’s center or from www.nps.gov. Locate all access points and designated routes and the type of terrain and obstacles you could encounter.
Know the Park Driving Rules
When driving in national parks, all of the commonsense rules of off-roading apply. Each park may also have its own specific rules and regulations that must be followed. You may have to purchase a permit to drive on national grounds. There may be open and closing times that you must follow.
Some parks may have specific rules about interacting with wildlife, starting campfires, and what to do in an emergency. Understand all these specifics first to avoid getting yourself in trouble with the park rangers.
Respect the Land and Its Treasures
National parks that permit off-roading designate specific areas where you can drive. Always stay in these areas and on pre-established trails. When you venture off trails, you risk destroying the natural environment or harming native animal populations should you tip over and have to use the winch on your front truck bumper to get out.
If you cause or see damage, report it to park rangers so it can be properly handled. Many parks are homes to endangered species, national monuments, and archaeological sites and resources. Besides harming wildlife and the environment, you could get a stiff fine for not adhering to park rules or causing some kind of damage.
Driving outside of the designated area or harming wildlife or native plants can bring a $5,000 fine and up to 6 months prison time. If you violate the Endangered Species Act, you could be fined as much as $50,000 and receive up to a year in prison. Damaging or destroying archaeological resources carries a fine of up to $20,000 and two years prison time.
As always, prepare your truck as you would for any other outing by ensuring you have all your safety and recovery gear as well as any emergency supplies that may be necessary if you get stuck somewhere. Practice safe driving practices and avoid unnecessary risks that could get you into trouble with no one around to help.
Trail riding in our national parks is a privilege that all off-roaders should appreciate. If you want to take advantage of the trails, beautiful scenery, and chance to get enjoy nature first-hand, be sure you do it the right way. Prepare your truck with the right gear like heavy steel bumpers and strong suspension systems, learn the rules, respect nature, and stay safe!