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Is It Illegal to Drink in National Parks?

| Updated Apr 13, 2024

In general, it is not illegal to drink in national parks, but there are some very important exceptions you need to know about…

It is not illegal to drink in National Parks if consumed in an approved area. However, you can get yourself in trouble if you pop open a brew or bottle of wine wherever you'd like.

Here is what you need to know about drinking alcohol in national parks, including where it's allowed and what exceptions to watch out for…

Is It Illegal to Drink in National Parks?

In general, most national parks allow drinking in campgrounds and public-use areas and prohibit drinking in parking lots, pull outs, and park buildings. Designated and prohibited areas vary from park to park, so it's important to check a park's alcohol and drug policy before you visit.

Can You Drink in Your Vehicle in a National Park?

No, you cannot drink alcohol in a passenger vehicle at a national park. There may be some caveats depending on the state, but the laws get complicated. The smartest rule of thumb is never to drink alcohol within reach of a steering wheel.

But what about RVs– especially motorhomes? Can you drink alcohol in your motorhome in national parks? We'll answer that question right after we address the next big question…

Can You Have an Open Container in Your Vehicle in a National Park?

Is It Illegal to Drink in National Parks?

The open container laws that you're accustomed to outside of national parks typically follow you in. Most national parks adhere to the overarching state laws concerning open containers in vehicles. This means that having an open bottle, can, or any other open alcoholic beverage container in the passenger or driver compartment of your vehicle is usually not permitted.

This is particularly the case when the vehicle is on a public roadway or in areas accessible to the public, such as parking lots and pullouts. The laws can vary slightly based on which state the national park is in, so it's critical to familiarize yourself with both the state's laws and the specifics of the park's regulations before you arrive.

What About in an RV?

Since an RV serves as both vehicle and accommodation, it muddies the waters a bit when it comes to drinking and open containers. The rules can get a bit complex but generally, while the RV is in motion, the same rules apply as for any other vehicle: no drinking and no open containers in the cab area.

To learn more about drinking and having open containers in an RV, read Is It Illegal to Drink Alcohol in a Moving RV?

However, when the RV is parked in a designated campground or lodging area within the national park, drinking in your living quarters or campsite is typically permitted. Of course, over-consumption that leads to disorderly conduct or disturbing fellow park visitors can still get you in trouble.

Be sure to confirm that the campground or lodging area permits alcohol, as some areas within national parks have stricter regulations. Also remember, it's best to always keep alcohol out of the cab of a motorhome, even if you're parked.

How to Check Drinking Rules for Each National Park

We know it can be frustrating when we say, “you have to check the individual park rules for yourself!” Since it varies from park to park, it's impractical for us to cover it in a blog post, but we can explain how to find out.

To figure out individual park rules regarding drinking, google “[park name] alcohol policy.” Once the search results populate, look for credible sources, like NPS.gov, conservancy, and legal websites. Read what they have to say and gauge how credible and trustworthy it is.

If you're not confident in the online information, call the national park's tourist center. They can properly inform you.

Many National Parks Sell Alcohol

It shouldn't be surprising that national parks allow drinking since their markets often sell alcohol. Plus, many national parks have lodges and restaurant bars known for their alcoholic options.

Some famous taverns, hotels, and taprooms in national parks include:

These lodges and restaurants are often sights to see in themselves. The Ahwahnee Hotel, for instance, is known as the crown jewel of the National Parks lodge system.

The Ahwahnee dining room has incredible 34-foot-high ceilings with pine trestles and granite pillars. It's stunning, and guests are expected to match the atmosphere by adhering to the dining room's dress code.

Is It ILLEGAL for Passengers to Drink Alcohol in a Moving RV?

Some RV passengers may be tempted to enjoy their vacation en route by cracking open a beer or pouring a glass of wine. But before you do, you need to check state laws!

While some states permit RV passengers to drink alcohol in a moving RV, most of them do not. And the ones that do allow it often have very specific stipulations… keep reading…

More “Is It Illegal”…

We get a lot of questions about laws and regulations regarding RV travel. Here are some more articles that address the most common:

We hope you find the above information and resources helpful. Of course, we have to include the disclaimer that laws change and our research is not infallible. So, please do your due diligence and properly research your specific questions using credible sources.

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Mike Wendland

Published on 2024-04-12

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

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