National Parks are large sections of countryside protected by the government. So, can you walk anywhere in a National Park? Let’s find out.
Knowing the rules of the National Park you wish to hike in is important since it will keep you from breaking the law and landing in unnecessary trouble - like having to pay the penalty.
Most National Parklands are considered open access, which means that you are free to explore them. However, it is best to stick to a tried and trusted trail so that you don’t wander into private land.
National Parks are the go-to choice for adventurers and hiking enthusiasts who love to spend time outdoors. However, when accessing any national park, it is crucial that you know the rules since there are also pockets of private land around national parks that are sometimes difficult to distinguish from the park itself.
As hiking enthusiasts who have hiked on trails in many national parks in the country, we can help you get the information you need once you decide to go on a hiking trip in one of the many national parks in the country.
Can You Walk Anywhere in a National Park?
The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949 established national parks to safeguard huge areas of the countryside. National Park areas are subjected to special regulations aimed at conserving the landscape and the species that inhabit it. However, much of the area within National Parks is privately held and hence not always accessible to the public.
Although some private property is closed to the public, the majority of National Park territory is categorized as Open Access, so there are lots of opportunities to explore. Public rights of way and permissive routes can also be found throughout the National Parks.
Permissive Paths: Explained
A permissive path is one that you are permitted to walk because the landowner or property management has given you permission to do so. They are not legal rights of way (although you can claim them in some situations), which means they can be closed without notice or consultation or limits imposed at specific times of the day or year.
Some national trails are permissive. National Trails will have negotiated access with landowners in order to connect all existing public rights of way and create a long-distance trail. Some estate managers allow visitors to walk across the grounds of grand estates on permissive paths. You may see whether there are any permissible pathways or if you already have one.
By contacting them directly, you may find out if there are any permissible pathways or if you must pay an entry charge. The tow path will stay available for walkers and cyclists if the Canal and River Trust owns the canal unless there is a public safety danger.
Land with no Restrictions
A marked piece of countryside with a "right to wander" is known as open access land. This means you can wander wherever you choose on the property without having to keep to the public right of way or enter through gates or stiles. Climbing over fences or walls is permitted as long as they are not damaged.
Most mountain and downland access land and registered common land and town and village greens, are included. Although not all woods controlled by the Forestry Commission are available to the public, some of them are.
Access land is frequently private property – especially in the open countryside – and landowners might petition to have access limited for a genuine business reason on rare occasions. Access to certain areas may be limited to preserve animals, so perform a quick Google search to see if any restrictions apply before going. Basically, you are free to go anywhere you like in this area as long as there are no specified limitations in place and you are not causing damage to property or the scenery.
Rights of Way
A public right of way is a route that connects two points. Most public rights of way traverse private property, although they are available to the public at all hours of the day and year (unless a Temporary Closure Order has been issued).
On foot, you can use four different types of public rights of way. Footpaths, bridleways, limited byways, and byways open to all traffic are the types of byways. On a byway open to all traffic, you can go by bicycle or horseback on bridleways and limited byways, and you can take any mode of transportation on a byway open to all traffic.
Going off-Trail in National Parks
National Park wilderness regions differ significantly from developed places. You can wander anywhere you want unless it's a highly protected region owing to an endangered species or a bird nesting location, in which case you'll notice some form of warning/fencing. However, it's recommended that you don't stroll through or camp in alpine meadows. In Rocky Mountain National Park, they just don't want you to tread on the fragile tundra grass beside the main road.
Many well-known national parks, such as Yosemite and Zion, have created portions with paved paths and wood plank walkways. Because of the large number of people that visit these locations, they encourage you to stay on the route.
However, when it comes to the backcountry/wilderness, exercise your best judgment and trek cross country as much as you like. Its backcountry/wilderness if you require a permit, as someone else mentioned.
You can easily enjoy backpacking cross-country in Sequoia National Park. For instance, if you are starting off at Army Pass in the Inyo National Forest, you can hike off-trail into Miter Basin and up to Mt. Whitney with relative ease. Off-trail adventures also abound in Sequoia/Kings Canyon. However, try to avoid stomping through meadows and such, which is, by far, the most serious trail issue in national parks, as in trail cutting between switchbacks in regions less than one mile from parking sites.
Of course, your number one priority will be to stay as safe as possible when going off-trail in a national park. Clothing layers, flashlights, water, extra food, and other essentials should always be packed for a national park visit. Going off-trail, on the other hand, is a safety rule you should follow.
Even expert hikers might become disoriented in national parks, resulting in injury or death. It can also be harmful to the environment. Off-trail hiking and backcountry camping are available in several parks, but only for individuals with substantial expertise. Be honest with yourself about your ability to survive in the outdoors.
In general, being safe entails adhering to established paths, following a map, and even hiring a trail guide. Also, always be aware of warning signs or obstacles that direct you away from potentially unsafe situations. If you leave the service area, your phone's GPS won't operate, and some areas of the park may lack a strong signal. Yes, there are some places that are still connected to the outside world, but if you're out on the trails, you may need to rely on an old-fashioned paper map. Wherever you travel, they are most likely to be located in the visitor's center.
Also, if a national park allows backcountry camping, a backcountry camping map will be available. Typically, these may be found on the National Park Service's website. They'll be accessible at a visitor center as well. Although most of them are free, they do provide laminated, comprehensive printed maps that must be purchased.
Backcountry camping in certain national parks is limited to designated backcountry campsites marked on maps. A post is frequently buried in the ground to identify the location of these places. A metal fire ring is frequently included. It is important to remember that you must camp only in these authorized sites in certain circumstances. You are not permitted to camp anywhere you like in these national parks.
About THE AUTHOR
I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.Read More About Peter Brooks