For most of the country, summer means swimming, hiking, biking, and just spending more time outdoors; however, many of the nation’s leading outdoor organizations have banded together to encourage more people to participate in more outdoor activities in what is known as Great Outdoors Month!

Founded as Great Outdoors Week in 1998 by President Clinton, the celebration grew to be a month long during the Bush and Obama administrations, to celebrate the natural wonder and outdoor spirit of America by getting outside.

Last year, over one million people participated in Great Outdoors Month events at more than 16,000 sites across the U.S., including partner events at National Trails Day, National Get Outdoors Day, and the Great American Campout.

Photo: Su--May/CC by 2.0
Photo: Su–May/CC by 2.0

For those looking to make a national park part of their Great Outdoors Month itinerary, we have some recommendations on how to beat the crowds and experience the parks in a way that you’ll never forget:

  1. Get to the park early: While most of the national park’s visitor centers do not open until 8 or 9am, the vast majority of parks are actually open 24 hours a day, meaning you can show up to watch the sunrise, hike a few trails, or bike many miles before most park visitors arrive.
  2. Get off the beaten path: It’s no surprise that iconic landmarks like Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, or the Tunnel View overlook in Yosemite National Park are going to be the most popular sights in the parks. Take a queue for step 1 and visit these spots early in the day, then you can enjoy lesser-known areas, or try some of the park’s other unique activities during peak hours.
  3. Monitor park alerts: The National Park Service provides updated park alerts for road closures, weather, and more. Don’t get caught in a traffic jam due to construction, Chimani tracks these alerts for you. Just install the app for the park you’re visiting and you’ll receive push notifications when a park alert has been posted.
  4. Be prepared: We often think of national parks much like amusement parks, but it’s important to think ahead. Have you packed appropriately? Even a short hike in a busy park like Yellowstone or Grand Canyon can go south if you haven’t packed enough water, sunscreen, or the proper footwear.
  5. Have fun and make memories: A trip to a national park is a special time for solo-adventurers, families, and friends. However, it can often be difficult to pull people away from their electronic devices, particularly young park visitors. In most cases the national parks have limited or no cellular service at all. Use this opportunity to connect with each other directly. While texting and social networking will have to wait, you can also engage your fellow adventurers by taking photos on your mobile device’s camera or by navigating the park using the GPS-enabled maps in Chimani’s suite of national park apps. They require no cell connection and can help improve the park experience.

No matter how you enjoy Great Outdoors Month, be sure to share your photos and memories with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

All 59 national park apps by Chimani are available for free in the Google Play StoreApple App Store and Amazon Appstore.