Is It Legal to Drink In National Parks?
After a day exploring a national park, having a cold drink, such as a beer or tasty cocktail, can really hit the spot.
But how can you make sure you’re enjoying that alcohol without breaking any of the rules? Pour yourself a tall one and sit back as we explain.
Let’s dive in!
Where is Alcohol Allowed in National Parks?
Exactly where you can drink in a national park will vary depending on which particular park you’re visiting. Generally speaking, you’re safe to drink legally at campgrounds and in public-use areas.
In most cases, that means you’re safe to open that bottle of wine in the privacy of your campsite. However, it’s always a good idea to double-check there aren’t any specific rules against it wherever you’re staying.
Where Not to Imbibe in the National Parks
In most cases, you cannot drink alcohol in park parking lots, pull-offs from park roads, or inside park buildings. This means no tailgating with some beers out of the back of your car or RV at the trailhead.
Enjoying the sunset on that isolated pull-off with a glass of wine might be romantic, but it would also technically be breaking the law.
Best Places to Buy a Drink After a Long Hike
Bringing alcohol can save money and let you relax with a drink in the privacy of your national park campsite. However, you can also enjoy spots where bartenders’ excellent drink-making skills combine with unique locations inside those very same parks.
El Tovar Hotel (Grand Canyon)
About the Bar: It’s not surprising that one of America’s most incredible national parks also has one of the top places to get a drink. The El Tovar Hotel is perched just feet from the south rim of the Grand Canyon. The bar offers breathtaking views and easy access to popular trails.
This historic hotel offers drinks at the rustic and casual lounge and the more formal and high-end dining room. Both offer a variety of cocktails, in addition to draft beer and an award-winning wine program.
Signature Drink: The El Tovar offers several twists on the classic Moscow Mule cocktail. These celebrate the Grand Canyon’s famous mules that tote visitors up and down trails every day. For a real taste of the desert, try the Arizona Mule.
It’s made with tequila, prickly pear, ginger beer, and lime. Perfect for a drink in this national park. Wine lovers should try one of the 100+ varieties of wine from all across the United States.
The Ahwahnee Hotel (Yosemite)
About the Bar: The Ahwahnee Hotel calls itself the “crown jewel of the national park lodges.” That’s a weighty claim, but one the hotel can make a good case for. It’s a National Historic Landmark, with architecture specifically designed to fit in with the incredible natural surroundings.
The Ahwanee’s formal dining room includes soaring 30-foot ceilings and massive windows looking out into the park. There’s also a more casual bar area serving small plates and desserts.
Signature Drink: The El Capitini – a reference to the park’s famous El Capitan rock formation. It’s a boozy combination of vodka, Cointreau, and pineapple and pomegranate juices, topped with a champagne floater and orange garnish.
The drink even comes with a souvenir carabiner for those who don’t dare scale this national park’s cliffs themselves.
The Superior Bathhouse Brewery (Hot Springs)
About the Bar: As the name suggests, Superior Bathhouse Brewery is located in one of the former bathhouses that made Hot Springs famous. Beer brewed here uses the same thermal spring water sources that once fed the healing baths. The bathhouse is no longer operational. However, chances are you’ll still feel pretty good after trying one (or more) of the nearly 20 beers on tap.
You could spend as much time exploring their drink offering as exploring the national park! From Kolschs and American pale ales to one-of-a-kind styles like pickle sours and jalapeno ales, you’ll have ample options. The brewery also offers a selection of hard ciders and wines and a full food menu.
Signature Drink: At a brewery with this many choices, the best way to experience everything it has to offer is with a flight. In other words, a selection of several smaller glasses of beer allowing you to try a wider variety of styles.
You can customize your own flight, starting at four beers for just $7. If you’re feeling particularly thirsty (or sharing with friends), you can opt for the Beer Bath – a $35 sampling of all 18 draft beers offered here.
Be Careful of Open Container Laws
In all cases, you need to be careful of open container laws while spending some time in a national park. An open container is considered any bottle, can, or other receptacle storing alcohol that is opened or has had its contents partly removed. Federal law (which governs all national parks) prohibits these in vehicles in most cases. Exceptions include open containers stored in your trunk, the “living quarters” of an RV or trailer, or another area specifically designed for storage.
If you’re caught breaking the rules, you could face up to six months in jail, a $5,000 fine, and up to five years of probation. That’s a pretty hefty tab! Keep in mind that while national parks are federal land, you’re also responsible for following state and local drinking and open container laws when traveling to and from the park.
These vary from state to state, so consult your local officials if you need clarification. You’re better safe than sorry when it comes to the law.
Should You Enjoy a Drink at a National Park?
Drinking alcohol is a personal decision that’s not for everyone. Certainly, this would include those under the legal drinking age or anyone who’s had issues with alcohol in the past. But a tasty drink after a hard day of hiking can be one of life’s simple and wonderful pleasures.
This is true whether you’re a fan of high-class bartenders mixing your sophisticated cocktails or more likely to pop open a can of beer outside your camper. If you enjoy alcohol and nature, there are few better-suited places to enjoying a drink or two. As always, make sure to drink responsibly and never drive after consuming alcohol.
It’s Okay to (Legally) Drink Alcohol in a National Park
Drinking alcohol outside the privacy of your own home always comes with some rules, and national parks are no different. Keep these guidelines in mind, and you’ll find it’s easy to stay out of trouble.
Then you can step up your fun and relaxation in these breathtaking places. Bottoms up!
Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA
To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).
You should give it a try!
As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.
Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site!
We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below: