Even Celebrities Are Breaking National Park Rules

We constantly hear and see stories of visitors breaking the rules in national parks. However, Pierce Brosnan recently proved that celebrities aren’t exempt from following them.

NPS officials take the rules and regulations seriously and don’t care who you are. You can expect to pay the price if you’re caught breaking them.

So, what did the former 007 actor do to land himself on the wrong side of the law?

Let’s look and see!

James Bond Busted for Breaking National Park Rules

Pierce Brosnan, best known for his role as James Bond, recently visited Yellowstone National Park. Like millions of other guests, Brosnan explored the park and walked along the boardwalks. 

However, just like in his movies, a bad decision led to the former spy getting into a sticky situation.

Despite numerous warnings posted throughout the park, Brosnan stepped off the trail. While this may sound like a minor offense, it is actually a federal offense. He was cited by NPS officials and scheduled to appear in a Wyoming court.

On March 14th, 2024, Brosnan plead guilty to straying off the trail. The judge ordered him to pay a $500 fine and $1,000 to the nonprofit organization Yellowstone Forever. The court dismissed his second offense of violating closures.

Unfortunately, he’s not the first and won’t be the last to do this at Yellowstone. Previous guests have experienced severe injuries, fines, and even jail time for similar violations.

Brosnan Isn’t the First

While Brosnan may be the most recent celebrity to encounter legal troubles at a national park unit, he’s not the first.

A 2021 visit by Bruce Springsteen to Gateway National Recreation Area landed The Boss in trouble with the law.

Springsteen was offered shots of Patrón tequila from a fan who had requested a picture with him. NPS officials witnessed him consume the beverages and then take off on his motorcycle. 

Despite testing well below the legal limit, officials cited him with driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, and using alcohol in a closed area.

Luckily for Springsteen, two chargers were dismissed when the rock legend went to court. However, the charge of drinking alcohol in a closed area remained as NPS prohibits the consumption of alcohol in Gateway National Recreation Area.

Rules to Follow in National Parks

While national parks are public lands, they’re not lawless areas. To avoid legal troubles, it’s a good idea to get familiar with them. While we can’t cover all of the rules, there are some common ones guests break.

Read our 5 Reasons to Avoid Grand Canyon National Park.

Stay on Designated Trails

As Mr. Brosnan demonstrated, all guests must stay on designated trails. This is not only for guest safety but also to protect the environment. 

This is especially important at Yellowstone as the land and water can be extremely dangerous.

Despite how they may appear, they can be scalding hot. Temperatures can approach almost 200 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s not uncommon to hear of guests experiencing severe injuries by breaking the rules. 

Additionally, the ground may be softer than you realize. If getting burned isn’t scary enough, imagine being knee-high in almost boiling liquid. It’ll ruin your day!

Staying on designated trails is essential, even if you’re not planning to visit Yellowstone. Rangers often create trails to avoid dangerous areas and other obstacles. Additionally, you don’t want to cause harm to the surrounding vegetation, which wildlife depend on for survival.

A geothermal feature at Yellowstone National Park.

Leave No Trace

Whenever you’re in nature, you should practice Leave No Trace principles. Whether camping in the wild, enjoying a picnic or hiking a trail, you should leave it how you found it. To encourage these behaviors, national parks advise guests to “Take Only Photographs, Leave Only Footprints.”

Everyone is responsible for protecting the land and ensuring it’s available for future generations. By leaving it how you found it, you’re doing your part. Not only does this include staying on marked trails and paths, but it also includes picking up trash and leaving everything behind. 

Brushing up on the seven Leave No Trace principles before your adventure is a good idea.

Camp in Designated Areas

While camping in national parks can be fun, you can’t just pitch your tent anywhere. Most national parks have designated camping areas. In addition, dispersed camping is available in some remote areas of national parks. 

However, these often require users to acquire permits. If so, you’ll want to ensure you have the necessary permits before setting up camp.

Camping in designated areas is another way to follow Leave No Trace principles. It helps ensure you’re not unnecessarily damaging the land. Why create a new campsite when there’s one already available?

Respect Wildlife

In addition to respecting the land, it’s also essential that you respect the wildlife living on it. This means keeping your distance, not feeding them, and storing your food correctly. Human interactions with wildlife can turn dangerous and even deadly in the blink of an eye.

Visitors getting too close to wildlife is another major issue we see. Unfortunately, many guests forget that these aren’t domesticated animals. They’re as wild as you can get. 

Most national parks have strict rules about how far guests should stay from wildlife, typically 25 to 100 yards or more. 

A black bear in the grass.

Follow Speed Limits

One of the best ways to see a national park is by taking the scenic route. However, when you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle, you must obey all speed limits. While we never encourage anyone to speed, it’s crucial in national parks.

With minimal lighting in some areas, exceeding the speed limit can increase your stopping distance. You’ll have less time to react to any potential wildlife or obstacles in the road. You’re also likely going to be unfamiliar with the route. You don’t want to miss a curve in the road, or you’ll find out what’s at the bottom of that scenic overlook.

Obey Fire Regulations

Some areas experience fire restrictions during the dry season. These can vary considerably based on the location and severity of the conditions. While rangers typically do an excellent job posting warnings, you must be aware of them. Violating fire bans can come with costly fines, generally around $5,000.

Ignoring fire regulations puts yourself, other campers, wildlife, and the landscape in danger. All it takes is a stray spark or ember to start a massive wildfire. As Smoky Bear says, “Only you can prevent wildfires.” 

A sign that says "fire ban - no burning".

Acquire Proper Permits

Some adventures in national parks require guests to acquire permits. We mentioned earlier that this can include some camping opportunities. However, you may need a permit for specific scenic drives, hiking adventures, or climbing routes. 

Since each national park is different, you’ll want to check to ensure what activities require permits where you’re visiting.

Unfortunately, some of these permits can be extremely challenging to acquire. They’re very limited and may book out months ahead of time. For some, obtaining a permit for a popular adventure can be like winning the lottery.

A Failed Trip From Hollywood to Wilderness

Unfortunately, Pierce Brosnan demonstrated precisely what not to do when visiting Yellowstone National Park. 

If you’re planning to visit Yellowstone or any of the other beautiful national parks, make sure you follow the rules. Park rangers don’t care whether you’re from Hollywood and will expect you and anyone with you to obey all the regulations.

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