With warm weather on the horizon, many gun owners will be turning to the outdoors for a little getaway or adventure.
And the U.S. offers plenty of beautiful lands to enjoy, including some impressive hikes and camping spots at national parks.
But with a number of national parks throughout the country and varying gun laws, it can be confusing when it comes to concealed carry in your favorite national park.
Is it legal? Can you do it without going to jail?
Fortunately, we’ve got you covered!
We’re going to run you through what laws are on the books regarding carry in national parks, what things you need to consider before packing, and any details that might throw a wrench in your weekend plans.
Armed with our guide here, you’ll be better informed than the average bear.
Disclaimer: While the information provided here is legal in nature, it is not to be construed as legal advice and is for educational and entertainment purposes only.
Table of Contents
Can I Carry in a National Park?
The short answer…yes.
Whether you’re camping in the wilderness of Yellowstone or just taking a stroll through the Gateway Arch, as long as you are legally allowed to possess a firearm in the state where the national park is located, you are allowed to carry the firearm.
But don’t close this page just yet. Like with everything in life, the devil is in the details.
Things to Consider
It’s important to keep in mind that many national parks span across multiple states.
While your possession of a firearm may be perfectly legal and permitted in one part of the park, another portion sitting in a different state might have different firearms laws.
And those laws might make it illegal for you to carry a gun.
Many states have reciprocity when it comes to concealed carry permits, recognizing CCW licenses of other states.
All three of those states recognize an Arizona CCW permit, so you’re good.
However, this would not be the case if you took that same gun and your Arizona CCW permit to Yosemite in California. The Golden State does not recognize an Arizona CCW permit, so you would be in some hot water.
A visit to Yosemite would require you to leave the gun at home.
(Want to read more on California laws: Check our guide here.)
Fortunately, there are plenty of other national parks in the country. So, it’s not a huge loss if you need to forgo that park.
In short, it’s worth looking into the national park, understanding what states it spans, and whether your CCW permit is recognized there before you arrive locked and loaded.
What About Buildings in National Parks?
All federal and state laws are still in effect, despite you being within a national park. What that means is the federal law that prohibits possession of firearms in federal facilities still applies.
So, you can carry your firearm in the actual park itself, as long as the state laws allow it, but you cannot bring the gun into the ranger station, visitor center, or any other federal building — even with a recognized CCW permit.
Thanks a lot, Ranger Smith.
Need to head inside? The gun will need to be securely stowed in the car, or you’ll need to send a friend or family member inside instead.
Using a Firearm in a National Park
The most important thing to keep in mind when carrying your firearm in a national park…
You can’t use it for target practice. Like at all. Target practice is prohibited.
And unless you have a hunting permit, you can’t use your gun for hunting purposes inside the national park.
Of course, if you absolutely need to use your gun in a self-defense situation, then that’s a different story.
But that’s a story you’ll probably be explaining to the jury during your trial afterward.
So, to recap, don’t head to the park for plinking. Keep that to your local range.
The next time you plan a trip to a national park with the family, be sure to do a quick check of the gun laws of the state where the park is located. With any luck, it’ll be a state where your CCW permit is recognized.
Avoid national parks in states without reciprocity and/or leave your gun at home if you plan on visiting. And remember, national park buildings count as federal buildings, so guns are prohibited.
With a little research, you can safely and securely enjoy some outdoor adventures!
Have you ever carried in a national park? What’s your favorite park to visit? Let us know in the comments below. For more gun-related laws and regulations, check out our breakdown of Concealed Carry Laws.