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Here’s how to stay safe when visiting national parks this summer – The Mercury News

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Mia Taylor | TravelPulse (TNS)

At Death Valley National Park, summer temperatures can reach as high as 130 to 134 degrees.

For some travelers, that would be reason enough not to visit. But for others, it’s the exact motivation for a trek to Death Valley during the summer: The novelty of experiencing temperatures you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere around the globe.

“Some folks are seeking out what they consider to be a rare experience,” Nichole Andler, a park ranger with the U.S. National Park Service, said during a media briefing.

But it should go without saying that when heat is that extreme, it can easily be a life-or-death situation.

“This time of year, when you’re preparing for coming to Death Valley, it’s important to know what you’re getting into,” emphasized Andler, who stressed not only having enough water on hand all times, but staying near your vehicle.

In fact, in extreme heat conditions, it may even be best to stay in your vehicle amid the comfort of air conditioning and explore the park by car, said Andler.

Her comments were part of a larger National Park Service media conference call, during which officials from parks across the country shared tips for safely visiting this summer.

If one of the 400-plus national parks is on your radar for the months ahead, here are the tips NPS officials would like you to keep in mind.

The Grand Teton mountain range in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, on June 13, 2019. (Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)
The Grand Teton mountain range in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, on June 13, 2019. (Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images/TNS) 

5 safety tips for national park explorations this summer

1. Select activities that align with your capabilities

There’s all manner of activities available across the U.S. National Park system — from hiking and rock climbing to boating and swimming. The national parks also allow for engaging in challenging and extreme sports including canyoneering, hang gliding and whitewater rafting.

During the planning phase for your visit and during your time onsite, it’s important select activities that are appropriate for your experience and physical limitations.

“Pick activities that meet your skills and fitness level,” said Cynthia Hernandez, a national park spokesperson. “That might mean being honest if you haven’t prepared for that 15-mile hiking trip.”

2. Bring suitable equipment

In addition to focusing on activities that are appropriate for your abilities, it’s critical that you arrive at a national park prepared with the right equipment for your visit.

Bring the “right shoes for your activity, water, a compass or a map or a life jacket, if you’re going on the water,” continued Hernandez.

It’s also worth noting that weather in many of the wild spaces that make up the national park system can change quickly, so it’s important to bring additional clothing.

“What can start out as a beautiful and sunny day can pivot quickly into rain and sleet,” said Jen Newton, with Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, of conditions in that park. “Extra layers and a rain jacket can be helpful.”

3. Communication is critical

While this tip is especially critical for solo travelers, it really holds true for anyone visiting national parks, including families and groups: Communicate your plans to others.

“Make sure to leave a trip plan with a friend back home,” advises Hernandez, who also suggests telling someone who’s not on your trip how long you intend to be gone and when you can be expected to return.

This type of communication is especially critical for remote hikes or other far-flung excursions and explorations.

4. Keep away from wildlife

The thrill of seeing wildlife while exploring national parks is unforgettable. But that doesn’t mean it’s open season on taking selfies with wildlife, or engaging with the animals in any way. It’s a rule that should be followed for the safety of the animals and visitors alike.

“Keep a safe distance from wildlife, don’t startle wildlife,” Hernandez explained. “Do not pick up wildlife and do not feed wildlife.”



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