Score the national park lowdown.

Your WorldMark by Wyndham hiking concierge, Ash Nudd, a former national park ranger and current national park expert, has some amazing insights into planning and executing a national parks vacation for travelers of all ages and abilities. Whether you’re a complete beginner who has never set foot on a trail before, a hiker at a moderate skill level, or a complete pro who’s hiked all the top spots, Ash has something useful for you.

As the founder and curator of the Dirt In My Shoes hiking blog, Ash has explored nearly all U.S. national parks (plus a few in Canada, too), and has compiled handy and practical travel guides and tips that are beneficial for all park visitors.

Read on for some of the top questions Ash has been asked over the years and her knowledgeable answers to each.

Pro tips from Ash Nudd, your hiking concierge.

Score the national park lowdown.

Your WorldMark by Wyndham hiking concierge, Ash Nudd, a former national park ranger and current national park expert, has some amazing insights into planning and executing a national parks vacation for travelers of all ages and abilities. Whether you’re a complete beginner who has never set foot on a trail before, a hiker at a moderate skill level, or a complete pro who’s hiked all the top spots, Ash has something useful for you.

As the founder and curator of the Dirt In My Shoes hiking blog, Ash has explored nearly all U.S. national parks (plus a few in Canada, too), and has compiled handy and practical travel guides and tips that are beneficial for all park visitors.

Read on for some of the top questions Ash has been asked over the years and her knowledgeable answers to each.


Pro tips from Ash Nudd, your hiking concierge.

What’s the best time of year to hike?

The best time of year to hike varies from park to park. Most national parks have a peak season, mid-season, and off season. For example, many hiking trails are closed in Yosemite National Park during the winter because winter is off season for Yosemite. On the flip side, at Death Valley National Park, you can find lots of open hiking trails in the winter because winter is peak season at that park. 


What’s the best time of day to hike?

My preferred time of day to hike is in the morning. You’ll have more opportunities to view wildlife, more time to enjoy the trail, and you’ll avoid the heat of the day.


What are the top three things you recommend packing for a hike?

I always recommend packing more water than you think you’ll need, a first-aid kit, and a rain jacket.


What are the best ways to stay safe on a hike?

Some very important safety guidelines to remember are to always stay on the trail, to tell someone where you're going, to wear the right footwear, and to choose a trail that matches your ability.


Where are good resources to use for choosing parks and trails?

My favorite resources for choosing parks and trails are the official National Park Service website (nps.gov), the AllTrails app, and – of course – Dirt In My Shoes!


As a beginner, do I need to do any training before my first hike?

No training is needed, even for beginners, to hike in a national park. You can find beautiful beginner-friendly hikes in all national parks. If you want to work on building good hiking muscles in your day-to-day routine, stair stepping and hill walking are really useful. 


What qualities make a great hiking companion?

A good hiking companion is someone who wants to share the beauty of nature with you and who can understand what to look for in a trail. They should be willing to match your hiking pace and someone who you like to talk to – you'll be with each other for hours!


What type of clothes should I wear for a beginner hike?

For a beginner hike you don't need anything fancy, but try to wear moisture-wicking fabrics. Cotton holds onto water and sweat and can be dangerous if you get caught in the rain or if temperatures drop. Focus on your hiking shoes or boots – that’s the best investment you can make. 


What are some hiking etiquette tips a beginner should be aware of?

Hiking etiquette helps everyone be aware of and mindful of each other and our impact on the trail. You should always stay on the trail, pack up all trash (including food waste like orange peels or sunflower seed shells), give uphill hikers the right of way, and check local regulations for each new trail you hike.


What are the Principles of Leave No Trace?

The Principles of Leave No Trace basically remind us to leave each park or trail we visit in the same condition or better than it was when we arrived. Doing things like packing up your trash, respecting wildlife, and leaving what you find are great ways to start. Learn more about the Principles of Leave No Trace here.


What should I eat during an all-day hike?

For an all-day hike, I like taking things like small oranges, cheese, dried fruit, tuna packets with pita chips or crackers, candy (I never hike without chocolate), and granola bars.


My hiking skill level is moderate. What’s the best way to get to the next level?

If you hike fairly often, you likely already have the skills you need to conquer advanced trails. Dial in your gear so that you're comfortable and keep trying trails that are incrementally harder than what you're used to.


I’m an experienced hiker. What do I need to know about making reservations and navigating national parks after the changes from COVID-19?

COVID-19 guidelines and requirements vary from park to park, so verify each park’s requirements and reservation schedule by visiting nps.gov well ahead of your visit. Most people will be visiting the easy or popular spots, so if you head out on a longer or less popular trail, you should have a quieter, more solitary experience. Some popular backcountry trails and areas will be more competitive for permits so plan accordingly. 


I’ve done basic trails in the top national parks. What resources can I use to find more challenging hiking experiences?

If you’re looking for a more challenging hiking experience, use the AllTrails app or talk to a park ranger. They often hike the longer and less popular trails and will usually have good recommendations. 


I’m an avid hiker and would love to share this passion with my kids. What are some good tips for taking children to a national park for the first time?

I’m an avid hiker and would love to share this passion with my kids. What are some good tips for taking children to a national park for the first time?

Learn more about your new Hiking Concierge program, and book your next national park getaway today!


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