Help End Park Gate Anxiety

February 24, 2016

Nick, all smiles shortly before learning he’s the only one who knows about Indiana’s no-turn-away policy.

If you’ve done a self-contained tour you know what I’m talking about: that jittery feeling you get when approaching a public campground at the end of a long day: Is there still room? Will they let me squeeze my tent into a swath of grass between the garbage and that RV with the satellite dish? How far away is the next campground if I get turned away? Can I stealth camp in those bushes beyond that guardrail?

When Nick Wright stopped at the entrance gate of Indiana Dunes State Park campground after a day of riding under the hot July sun, he expected to pay his admission fee, set up his tent, and make dinner before falling asleep to the waves of Lake Michigan lapping against the beach.

Instead, Nick was told the campground was full and that he would have to find accommodations elsewhere. But Nick had done his research and knew all Indiana public campgrounds had a no-turn-away policy, guaranteeing space for hikers and bikers in the event of a full campground.

He explained this to the park attendant, and then to the park’s security chief, and then again to the ranger, but none had heard of the rule. Instead of ending the day relaxing on the sandy beach, Nick was forced to get back in the saddle and come up with another plan before the sun set.

If a no-turn-away policy exists but only cyclists know about it, is it really a policy?

To date we have found only six state park systems in the U.S. that have officially recognized no-turn-away policies. Some states, like Indiana, have no-turn-away policies on record, but if park staff isn’t aware of it, it does nothing to help tired cyclists at the end of the day.

Adventure Cycling is working to implement no-turn-away policies for state and national parks all over America so that you’ll always be welcome at public campgrounds. Join the effort and help create the momentum we need to get all 50 states on board!

With past support from committed members, our advocacy team has already established successful partnerships with the National Park Service and state park systems. Help us build on this foundation as we push for safer roads, better access to and through parks, better accommodations for cyclists, and even better bus and rail travel options to parks.

Here’s what we’re advocating for:

  • Safer places to ride in our parks — including better shoulders, bike lanes, and trails whenever possible, safety signs and road markings, and education campaigns.
  • More opportunities for people to bike enjoyably in their parks — including car-free days and Bike Your Park Day, an annual event that celebrates the freedom of pedaling our great parks and public lands (see below).
  • More hiker/biker campsites — with secure bike parking, charging stations for your mobile devices, lockers for valuables and food, bike maintenance stations, covered facilities, and kiosks with information specific to people traveling by bicycle.

This fall, we’re going to take this message of making parks more bicycle friendly with the launch of the first-ever Bike Your Park Day an unprecedented national event that will help thousands of people discover the parks and public lands in their backyards on a single day, September 24th. We want to make Bike Your Park Day a yearly event that will draw in more cyclists every year, show the power and popularity of bicycling, and demonstrate to parks all over the country that cyclists matter.


Join us in making state and national parks great places to ride. To thank you for your donation of $100-249, we’ll send you a Adventure Cycling field guide notebook with Greg Siple’s cover art to document your travels through our great parks. Donate $250 or more and we’ll send you a foldable Adventure Cycling backpack, perfect for off-bike hikes or short day rides.

Top photo Nick Wright | Bottom photo Chris Guibert




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The Thomas Stevens Fan Club is brought to you by the development team, Annette and April. They share an office with a classic Parisian Metropole bicycle. Want to know more about how you can support Adventure Cycling and all the amazing work they do? Call them at 406-532-2760 or email them at


Ray Foss February 25, 2016, 2:02 PM

I asked about a policy for Connecticut State Parks and received this response:

"We will always do our best to accommodate any "walk-ins" if there is space available, but we do not have a policy that guarantees a space in our campgrounds. If you cannot make reservations before hand, you can always call the camp office ahead to assure that you can be accommodated


Tom Tyler

State Parks and Public Outreach Division

Department of Energy & Environmental Protection

79 Elm Street, Hartford, CT 06106

Phone - 860-424-3099'

Frans Andrea February 24, 2016, 12:36 PM

This would be great. The only rule here in Florida is that some sites need to be available for drive up. Well that some can be as low as 2. My last ride they went you are by bike? I said yes. Eventually they found a site. However it is high season here now and almost ALL state and national parks are booked solid till the end of February, I hope March will be better.

AKA now that it is riding season here an overnight is not on my list till later.

Morgan Christian February 24, 2016, 12:32 PM

Nice article. Would be nicer perhaps if it told us which six states have the no turn away policy. I believe my home state of Minnesota is one of them.

April Cypher February 25, 2016, 10:18 AM

You're right Morgan, Minnesota is one of the six. The other five are Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Bob Campbell February 25, 2016, 4:45 AM

I think you are right, Morgan. My wife and I were told last summer by an official at Lake Bemidji State Park that they would always make room for someone arriving by bicycle.

Paul February 24, 2016, 12:12 PM

Part of touring is planning. I am really not so footloose and fancy free that I would expect a campsite to have a place for me. Anything with a lake or water access is going to be busy in the summer, on a weekend. I make reservation ahead. When touring I can reserve the next days campsite using my smart phone. Had occasions I got caught out. One place I planned to stay closed completely. I had to get a hotel. I think planning and technology can be helpful in limiting getting caught without a place to stay. I am glad of the actions taken by adventure cycling. If we have rules we ought to know about and follow them.

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