Taking a trip to a national park can be tons of fun! No matter which park you go to, you will discover new wildlife, breathtaking scenery, and all manner of engaging activities. One of these activities to enjoy at select parks across the country is golf. As you may already know, golf courses can be quite large and require a considerable amount of travel to get from hole to hole. That is where golf carts come in handy.
Even if you do not plan to play golf during your visit, national parks are often vast expanses of land, and you may want to travel faster than your legs can carry you in order to see it all.
That brings up an important question – are golf carts allowed in national parks?
The answer is complicated, and today, we’re going to simplify it so you can be prepared to follow all park rules and have a great time.
Using a Golf Cart in a National Park: Is It an Approved Method of Transportation?
In short, the answer to the question, “Are golf carts allowed in national parks?” is both yes and no. It depends on which park you go to! National parks have varying sets of rules for nearly everything, including motor vehicles.
Golf Carts in National Parks: What You Need to Know
Because the rules vary from park to park, it is vital that you know which parks allow golf carts and the conditions under which you may use them. There are currently 62 national parks in the United States, so you will only be given a few examples. Don’t worry, though; we’re going to give you the resources to look up your desired destination and their rules!
- Lake Mead National Recreation Area (AZ, NV)
Golf carts are permitted only under certain conditions that comply with safety rules and laws.
- All drivers must have a valid driver’s license.
- All golf carts should be licensed and insured as motor vehicles. (law, state of Arizona)
- Golf carts must be equipped with headlamps, tail lamps, reflectors, stop lamps, an emblem/placard for slow-moving vehicles, a mirror, and brakes.
- Golf carts can only be used on a road 25mph or less. Driving on busy highways is prohibited. Golf carts may only be driven in designated areas, which are specified by the park.
- George Rogers Clark National Historical Park (IN)
At this specific national park, golf carts are prohibited on all sidewalks and grass areas of the park, though they are allowed in designated areas as they are not specifically prohibited from the park at large.
- Jimmy Carter National Historic Site (GA)
Golf carts may be used here, but only with the assistance of a park ranger. No private golf carts are permitted in this case, and it is likely that golf carts are only for those who need disability services.
- Joshua Tree National Park (CA)
Golf carts are prohibited in the front country and backcountry of Joshua Tree National Park, as the emissions and weight have damaged the environment. Forgoing these motor vehicles is essential to the preservation of natural resources.
- Death Valley National Park (CA, NV)
Golf carts are not allowed on park roads, paved or dirt. This is because the carts are classified as off-road vehicles in this instance. This is because conditions in Death Valley are dangerous and any motorized vehicle that is not safe for on-road transportation provides less shelter than other vehicles do. Golf carts and other off-road vehicles are also prohibited due to damage done to the environment in the past.
- Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (GA)
In this national park, golf carts are only to be used with the permission of the Superintendent. If given approval, they are only to be used in designated areas by licensed drivers.
- Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area (WA)
In this park, golf carts and other motorized vehicles are only to be used if licensed by the Washington State Department of Licensing for use on state highways. Otherwise, they are completely prohibited for the safety of others and the environment.
- Rock Creek Park (D.C.)
No unauthorized vehicles, including golf carts, carts, trucks, and bicycles are allowed to drive on the park or park turf. However, there is a golf course onsite with a clubhouse where golf carts may be authorized for use.
- Shiloh National Military Park (TN, MS)
Golf carts are specifically not allowed on Shiloh National Military Parklands. Bicycles are the only vehicles allowed on paved surfaces. This is for the safety of other park guests and the cosmetic appearances of the park (i.e. turf.)
- Gulf Islands National Seashore (FL, MS)
Golf carts are determined to be Utility Task Vehicles (UTVs) in this context and are therefore prohibited from use on the seashore for the safety of other park guests and the preservation of the environment. However, they can be used on the Ft. Pickens road as long as they are state registered and equipped with proper safety gear (i.e. brakes, rearview mirror, reflectors, turn signals, headlights, brake lights, windshield, safe tires, steering apparatus.)
The exception to the no UTV use rule is for those with disabilities who need accessibility services. Accommodations will be provided.
Requirements for Driving Golf Carts
In general, to legally be allowed to operate a golf cart, you must meet certain criteria.
First, you must be a licensed driver. This makes sense, as golf carts are recognized as motorized vehicles. Just as you need a license to operate a car or motorcycle, you need one to drive a golf cart. It proves that you know how to obey traffic laws and keep other drivers and pedestrians safe.
You must also not drive a golf cart drunk or otherwise intoxicated. In most states, this is illegal. It impairs your judgment, reaction time, and competency while driving. Just because golf carts are not as fast as regular cars/SUVs does not mean that they can’t be dangerous.
If you want to use a golf cart, you may only do so on roads 25mph or less. You are prohibited everywhere from driving on highways or other high-speed areas. This is for the safety of yourself and others. At the very least, you will be disturbing the flow of traffic and inconveniencing others. Be courteous and cautious. Only drive in permitted areas or on permitted roads.
In most cases, you may only drive a golf cart during daylight hours, from sunrise until sunset. Even with reflectors and headlights/taillights, you are making road conditions dangerous for other drivers and pedestrians. Your golf cart is more difficult to see in the dark, and your lights will not likely be bright enough for you to safely navigate the roads and other areas.
To operate on public streets in most states, it is required that your golf cart meets all safety standards in the way of equipment. You are required to have:
- A horn
- A rearview mirror
- A slow-moving vehicle sign
- A bicycle safety flag
Golf carts must also be registered in most states. In California, you are allowed to drive an unregistered golf cart only if it’s within a mile of a golf course. In South Carolina, you may drive your unregistered golf cart up to 4 miles away from the registered address.
Some states require that you also have turn signals for your golf cart, though they are in the minority.
Resources for Golf Cart Rules in National Parks
If you did not see your desired destination in the list of examples provided, you can go to the National Park Service’s website to find the information for your specific park. From there, you may also find the address for all rules for a national park and research all rules for motor vehicles.
For more information about the requirements for golf cart use anywhere in the United States, drivinglaws.org can help break down exactly what you should know.
In summary, golf carts are allowed in national parks, but only certain ones as park laws and regulations vary by destination. In general, you will need to be a licensed driver and have all safety equipment to drive on park land or really anywhere in the United States. It is not okay to drive any motorized vehicle, including a golf cart, while intoxicated. This endangers yourself and everyone else. Even if it is not illegal in your state, it is dangerous and selfish.
As a typical rule, there will be accessible transportation, including golf carts, for anyone in need of mobility services. However, a park ranger will have to accompany you to ensure your safety. These services are, in most cases, free of charge, as accessibility for the disabled and those with limited mobility is a right.
Be sure to always follow these rules and regulations, as they are there for the safety of everyone involved and for the preservation of the environment! Obeying them will ensure that you can enjoy these national parks for years to come.
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