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How to plan an event in a national park

From getting a permit to catering, we’ve got the details on how to plan a wedding, family reunion, or special occasion in a national park.

Brown entrance sign surrounded by trees reading "Mammoth Cave National Park" in white letters.

Mammoth Cave National Park is less than 1.5-hours from downtown Louisville.

Photo by NPS

Table of Contents

If you’re planning a party — be it a family reunion, a wedding, or just because — we’ve got an idea that’s a breath of fresh air. Why not give your guests a gorgeous view by hosting an event in a national park? Follow these guidelines to make party planning a walk in the park.

Pick a park

Whether you want a favorite like Great Smoky Mountains National Park or something a little more niche, there are 424 national parks to choose from.

Get a permit

Most parks require a permit for special events. Fill out the application well in advance to avoid any delays. Pro tip: Some parks grant a permit up to a year before the event.

Spread the word

If your festivities are open to the public, let the community know by submitting an event to our website. We’d be delighted to attend.

Provide the essentials

If you’ve ever borrowed sunscreen from a stranger, you know what we mean. Have on hand: sunscreen, bugspray, a first aid kit, and plenty of water — just in case.

Feed guests, not wildlife

Check the park’s rules about food (some require food to be stored in lockers). Either way, it’s a good idea to use airtight containers, and plan to eat in designated areas — like any of these picnic picture perfect spots.

Prioritize preservation

The golden rule of being in the wilderness? Leave no trace.

For example, most parks don’t allow anything to be driven into the ground — so stakes for tents and decor are out. You should also plan to clean up after yourself. Stock up on trash bags (we like these biodegradable bags) and leave the confetti at home.

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