It’s certainly possible to spend time in national parks without ever talking to a ranger (except maybe at the entrance gate). But why would you? National Park Service rangers are some of the most dedicated, enthusiastic and knowledgeable people you’ll ever meet. Consider it part of your entrance fee to tap them for their diverse expertise and sheer entertainment value.

Tip #4. Go on a ranger-led activity.

Some of the most fun I had as a kid was at sunset ranger talks on the beach at Cape Cod National Seashore. We’d generally arrive early with that wonderful bone-weary feeling you get after a long day playing in the sand and sea. As Junior Rangers, we’d help collect driftwood for a campfire and then sit back while the ranger filled our heads with pictures of explorers and shipwrecks and stars.

The fun didn’t end then; as an adult I’m just as crazy about ranger-led walks and talks. Most recently at Independence National Historical Park, at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (Seattle Unit), and in my backyard at Rocky Mountain National Park, my travels have been seriously enhanced by ranger knowledge.

So after using the restroom at the visitor center, in whatever your chosen park, stop by the information desk to ask about the day’s offerings (they are often posted online and in the park as well). You’ll be glad you did!

Buy the book! Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service.

Photo courtesy, NPS, a ranger and visitors to Joshua Tree National Park.