10 Ways Tourists Annoy a National Park Junkies

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I am sitting at one of the overlooks in Badlands National Park.  I am enjoying the peace and quiet as my camera is taking a time lapse photo.  A large 16 passenger van pulls into the overlook.  Out of the van pills 16 tourists.  They all start chatting to each other loudly.  There went my quiet and then one of them walks in front of my camera and stands there to take his picture.  I couldn’t believe that the guy had the whole overlook to take pictures and he had to stand in front of me.  In that moment, I really wanted to push him off the cliff.  I didn’t, but it was thought for a second.  The incident did remind of all the things that annoy me in National Parks.  Over the last eight years, I have been to 31 of the 59 National Parks of the United States.  I have seen and experienced a lot of things in the parks and here is the list of things that annoy me the most.

Feed the squirrels, chipmunks, birds, and other wildlife

10 Ways Other Tourists Annoy a National Park Junkie
A rather over weight squirrel waddling away from me after realizing I was going to feed him.

This one bothers me to no end.  All animals in the parks are wild animals and they should stay that way.  Feeding animals teach them to rely on humans rather than their natural instincts. Human food isn’t good for the animals either.

I will never forget sitting on a wall after finishing my Narrows hike in Zion National Park, Utah.   A squirrel spies me and starts waddling over to me.  Waddling!  Not a normal walk, a fat person waddle. He was fat on people food that is high in fat and sodium.

Remember the phrase “A fed bear is a dead bear.” Park service doesn’t have any choice but to put larger animals down when they get used to being fed by humans.

Get really excited and run towards animals

10 Ways Other Tourists Annoy a National Park Junkie
A bighorn sheep as he run away from the people running towards him.

They might live in the park and are used to seeing people, but they are still wild.  Other than the animals mentioned earlier, they are not friendly.  They are disturbed by loud noises and anything that could be perceived as a predator.  When you see an animal, control your excitement.  If you disturbed the animal it will run off.

I was at the Fossil Exhibit Trail in Badlands National Park.   I noticed two male Bighorn Sheep walking in the badlands opposite the trail.  I slowly and carefully start working my way out into the badlands to get a better angle to take pictures. I am moving quietly and cautiously as not to disturb them.   I am about half way to my goal when I hear a yell from the parking lot, “Bighorn Sheep.”  Two boys sprint about 100 yards from the parking lot to the top of the hill.  In the process, they startled the sheep and they ran off.  The boys turn around and walk back.  “Aww man, they ran away,” the younger boy complains.  So much for people like me getting to enjoy the wildlife.

Be loud in a campground during quiet hours

10 Ways Other Tourists Annoy a National Park Junkie
Sage Creek Campground in Badlands National Park. It is flat and sound carries around the campsite.

Quiet hours are given for a reason.  It is not unreasonable to ask for quiet between the hours of 10 pm and 7 am.  In the outdoors, sound carries.  No matter who sneaky you are, I can still hear you running your generator during quiet hours.

Complain about the bugs

10 Ways Other Tourists Annoy a National Park Junkie
I don’t blame you for screaming over a tarantula but other bugs are worth the trouble. Photo Credit: Tydence Davis

Really, you are surprised there are bugs.  It’s nature they are part of nature. It is annoying to get bit by mosquitos, but there is no need to remind everyone every 3 seconds. Also is it really necessary to scream every time you see a spider (I will give the girl who scream bloody murder when she found a tarantula in her shoe).

Use your iPod as background music on hiking trails

Most hikers want to listen to the sound of nature as they hike.  I don’t care how great your taste in music is.  I don’t want to hear it while hiking. The sound carries and the entire trail can hear your music.  Your music is scaring the animals I hope to see off and ruining my hike.

Wear a bear bell while hiking the most popular trail in the park

10 Ways Other Tourists Annoy a National Park Junkie
I am never worried about bears while hiking.

This might reduce your chances of seeing a bear but it increase the chances of a fellow hiker killing you.  Bears don’t like people as such they tend to avoid popular trails.  Wearing a bear bell on these trails is redundant.  I have never run into a backpacker wearing a bear bell in the backcountry.  Everyone I have asked about them don’t worry about it.  Instead, we pay attention and try to make noise by talking to each other.  The real key is not to surprise the bear and if you do back away slowly.

Some recent experiments by hikers in Katmai National Park, Alaska have shown that the bears ignore the bell.  I will admit that a 1982 study in Glacier showed that the only people who were charged by bears where no wearing a bear bell that year.  The only point I would consider wearing a bear bell would be solo hiking in the Alaska backcountry.

Walk in late to a park ranger presentation and talk over them

Park Ranger presentations are like movies.  Everyone is there to listen to the park ranger talk.  Often the ranger is speaking to a crowd of 20-30 people without a microphone in an outdoor setting.   It can be as hard to hear the ranger as is.  Being late to the presentation is the same as being late to a movie.  Enter quietly so not to disturb the other who are trying to learn about the national park.

Pull into a lot late at night where someone is using a telescope and shine you headlights on them while asking what they are doing

10 Ways Other Tourists Annoy a National Park Junkie
This telescope traveled from Kentucky to spend the week viewing the stars in Badlands National Park.

Using a telescope to look at the stars is an amazing experience.  National Parks are some of the best places to look at the stars.  Astronomy enthusiasts will drive hundreds of miles with thousands of dollars in telescopes.  They scout out their viewing location hours in advance and can’t wait until dark for the fun to begin.  Usually, a pullout far from the visitor center and other light sources.  It takes upwards of 30 minutes for the human eyes to adjust to the darkness.  Pulling into the pullout where the telescope has been set-up and shining your headlights on us ruins the night vision.

Come to an overlook with someone enjoying the peace and quiet and disturb them.

When I want to sit and enjoy the sounds of nature, I pick an overlook off the beaten track.  It is usually far from the main tourist area.  I pick it because I want somewhere with no people.  I want to hear the sounds not other people talking.  Please do not pile out of your car and yell at each other.

Stand in front of someone else taking a picture

Photo Credit: Grand Canyon National Park

Very rarely is there only one spot to take a picture in a National Park.  Some people have a need to stand in front of other people to take their picture.  It seems that no matter how big the overlook is the best photo stop is always in front of me.

What have you seen people do in National Parks that annoy you?  Comment Blog or use the hashtag #59USNP to let me know.

10 Ways Tourists Annoy National Park Junkies


32 thoughts on “10 Ways Tourists Annoy a National Park Junkies”

  1. That’s a good list! Just recently I wrote a piece on hiking & camping etiquette, detailing all my pet peeves. One of the biggest ones for me is smoking at campsites or on/by a popular hiking trail. Noise and light pollution are another big ones.
    People being inconsiderate and loud in Nature are so annoying! And at times – dangerous.

    Happy hiking!

    1. I love watching people who smoke in parks that just had a forest fire. It’s like really people. If it could start a fire don’t light it up in an area that is still burning from the last fire.

  2. Since I’ve just come back from the Badlands, I was a little worried that I’d somehow end up being in your story. Yes, all these things are annoying. I’ve been trying hard to teach my kids proper National Park etiquette. I saw some idiots at Yellowstone trying to get really close to an elk to get a good photo. When they were about 15 feet away, the elk charged at them but stopped before a full on attack.

    1. I remember watching a lady try and put her arm around an elk in Glacier. She got kicked and broke some ribs. Did you know far more people are hurt by bison than bears? To many people think they are in a petting zoo.

  3. Yes, there are moments when other tourists can be annoying especially if they are in a large group but on the whole I have found other tourists friendly, polite and responsible. We travel a lot and the considerate tourists outnumber the inconsiderate ones by about 100 to 1. Maybe you have just been unlucky.

    1. I wish I could say I have been unlucky but with 31 National Parks under my belt plus dozens of other National and State lands, I have my doubts. I see at least 3 of these in every park I visit. Feed animals and being loud and scaring animals off seem to be the biggest offenders. Being loud in the campground during quiet hours is also high on the list.

  4. Wow! You’ve been to so many National Parks. How awesome. I’d love to see a lot more than the ones I have. I’ve never really given thought to those annoying things people tend to do at parks but it such good list to consider sharing with others. I also don’t like when people feed the animals and I especially don’t like when we find a place to be alone away from everyone and people storm in making noise and covering my view. But the one about bugs-I’ll have to work on that one hehe.

    1. Yea, that one is mostly a personal pet peeve but I have seen at least 3 of these in every national park or land I visit. Today along in the two National Monuments I visited I saw 5 of these (some more than once). To the person wearing a bear bell in NEBRASKA, please don’t go hiking ever again. Nebraska hardly ever has a confirmed sighting of a black bear (less than one a year) and has never had a grizzly sighting.

  5. Great post. Most people are frigin idiots. Just yesterday was outside of the opera house in Budapest where some stupid lady sitting on a statue of a sphinx. Couple of months back saw a huge American lady straddle the statue of a 1000 year old lion in Siem Reap while yelling at her husband to take a photo. Embarrassing for any person there. People are stupid and they just don’t care.
    Frank (bbqboy)

    1. And there were the girls in Rome who vandalized the Coliseum. The so-called National Park “Banksie” who painted some stupid thing in several US National Parks (this will be on my next list now that I think about it). Or don’t forget the BOY SCOUT leaders who knocked over one of the geological formations in Utah. There are plenty of stories and they all make me mad. If it isn’t your property don’t touch it.

  6. I think it is a lack of education and sometimes knowledge so hopefully this blog post could help to change some behaviour! 🙂 Some of my friends didn’t realise how much of a real problem it was to feed the wild animals (or just to leave food unattended) until we traveled together. They never meant to do something bad.

    For many other things, well… I only found a deep breath and patience to solve the problem. Yeah, pushing someone when in front of a cliff is a bit extreme indeed and could harm the National Park in the end 😉

    As discussed on Twitter, people not careful about their rubbish merit a spot on that list. I have committed on my blog to try to pick up the rubbish I find during my outdoor activities. I’m going a bit out of topic here, but have you ever heard of Tommy Kleyn’s inspiring story?

    1. I would like to note I didn’t push him off. I only thought about it and there were too many witnesses (just kidding on that part). I agree about the trash, not sure how I missed that one given while hiking in Badlands I came back with 5 pieces of trash that weren’t mine. It is rare I go hiking and don’t come back with someone else’s trash. It will be on the follow up to this list.

      I had not heard of Tommy Kleyn’s story. I will check it out a little later.

  7. Yikes at the waddling squirrel… that’s kinda sad actually 🙁 Glad you didn’t feed him!

    People can be annoying, I know. I’ve had quiet moments ruined by people who were loud and obnoxious for no reason. I remember I pulled over with a friend in Joshua Tree recently to check out the stars and enjoy the quiet. The road was very, very long with plenty of other places to stop. This car pulls over only about 300 feet in front of us and decides to start a field party with blaring music and dancing. WTF? Sadly they were too far to tell them they were bothersome, but still close enough to have the moment ruined. -_- Can we get this post viral so more people think twice about their actions? lol

    Sorry… rant over!

    1. I agree with your rant. I would love for this to go viral and if it stops one person from doing anything on this list. I will call that a win. Please share across your SM.

  8. Thanks for all your sensitive and thoughtful pointers. Sorry, we probably would be one of those late night pull ins, but if I saw a telescope that massive I would (turn off the headlights) and find it hard to resist the urge to ask what you were seeing.

    1. I don’t mind the people pulling in to see what we are up to. I don’t mind the headlights while pulling in. What I do mind are those who pull in and shine their headlights on us as they get out of the car to see what we are doing. I love sharing what we see through telescopes (especially with kids).

  9. This is awesome! I can say that each one of these items would annoy me even though I’m not a National Park junkie. People should learn to be more respectful of wildlife and other people. Thank you for pointing out some of the worst offenses.

  10. People can be so oblivious. It’s like they leave their brains at home. It’s not just National Parks. Live for a time in any popular tourist area and you’ll be able to sense when you are getting so fed up that you need to go away for a while.

    1. I agree. Its amazing how many people will do things on vacation that they would never do at home (and I mean that this sense). I don’t mean in activities like hiking, climbing, and other things.

  11. Oh man! These would be frustrating.. and it sounds like these aren’t one-off experiences! I absolutely hate spiders (to be honest, most bugs) but when I hike or camp I fully resign myself to enter into THEIR territory! We’ll be keeping these in mind the next time we venture into a national park!

    1. I have seen at least 3 of these in every park I have been to. I wish people would use their brains sometimes in parks.

  12. I agree with a lot of these as well. We are a national park family – my 4.5 yr old already has 15 badges! he hopes to get all 401 🙂

    Thankfully our little guy is being raised right (by the park rangers!) and has no fear of going up to strangers to tell them not to feed the animals or to pick up their litter or whatever. I love it. We just saw a guy feeding squirrel chocolate ice cream from a spoon at the Grand Canyon. WTH!?

    1. That’s impressive number of badges for only 4 years old. You might want to tell you son he now needs 408 badges to complete his collection. The President keeps adding more (I am only annoyed because it makes my national park map outdated).

      Good for him on being a good Junior Ranger. I rarely hike and come back without trash that isn’t mine.

      As for feeding animals, I have a friend who works in the Grand Canyon. Most common injury reported to common injury is animal bites by small rodent-like creatures. I have stopped being surprised by things people do in parks related to animals.

  13. Haha! What a great list. So apt too! Although I would personally scream if I saw a spider that big!

    1. I wish I didn’t have the experiences that facilitated this list. I don’t blame the girl for the tarantula. It made me jump as well. But screaming because you saw a bee or a ant is what annoys me.

  14. How funny! I just got back from hiking the Narrows and thought the exact same thing about the squirrels!! They had no fear of humans and were walking straight up to us as if we were supposed to feed them. Thanks for giving everyone a reminder! ANNOYING!

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