After being cooped up during the winter months, you’re going to want to spend some quality time in the warm spring sunshine. We have the perfect antidote to gloomy, grey skies and freezing temperatures.
This list of 20 best national parks to visit in spring will have you drinking up the lovely weather no matter where you are in the United States.
If you’re looking to really enjoy spring, why not head out on a road trip to see some gorgeous Southern California wildflowers too?
20 Best National Parks to visit in spring
From gorgeous spring blooms, to stunning waterfalls, fresh crisp air, and amazing hikes, here are the best national parks to visit in March, April, and May across the US.
Pinnacles National Park, California
If you’re looking for the best California national parks to visit in spring, look no further than Pinnacles National Park. Just a two hour drive from the city of San Francisco, you should definitely try a Pinnacles National Park day trip this spring.
Temperatures soar to an average of 93°F in the summer months, making Pinnacles an uncomfortable place to hike at that time of year. That’s only part of the reason why you should visit Pinnacles National Park in spring though.
The park is also known for the gorgeous wildflowers that bloom from late February through to May, so you’ll see swathes of yellow, purple, and red flowers as you hike the park. For hikes with the best views of wildflowers try the High Peaks Loop, Balconies Trail, and Juniper Canyon Trail.
We did the Bear Gulch Caves Trail and saw some beautiful wildflowers in May, but remember they depend on wet winters and sunny springs to bloom, so not every year is the same. Pinnacles National Park is a huge draw for rock climbers who like to tackle the park’s volcanic rock surfaces.
Bring a picnic to enjoy at Bear Gulch Cave Reservoir or at one of the campsites.
Zion National Park, Utah
Written Val by from Voyages With Val.
Zion National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the US, and while it is worth a visit at any time, spring is arguably the best!
Zion is well known for its iconic steep red canyon walls, which draw in hikers and climbers from around the world. Spring is a great time to visit because it is less busy than its peak time in summer, but the weather is still more favorable than winter, with just the chance of rain.
However, even the rain in Zion can be spectacular! It causes small waterfalls to bounce from the canyon walls and normally dry waterfalls, such as those found on the Emerald Pools Trail, grow to magnificent sizes.
While the Narrows are still too full and prone to flooding in spring, a trip is not complete without hiking along the Virgin River. Angel’s Landing is also accessible for most of the spring months, but make sure to do your research and do not attempt in rain, snow, or unfavorable weather due to the dangerous nature of this hike.
When you are done with your hike stop by the Zion Lodge, or grab a beer and a burger at Zion brewery.
Everglades National Park, Florida
Written by Megan Starr from her website of the same name.
An amazing US National Park and place to visit in the US in April is Everglades National Park in South Florida. This protected wetland is the only place on the planet where crocodiles and alligators exist together, and it is an ecosystem that everyone should see at least once in their lives.
What makes Everglades one of the best national parks to visit in spring is the climate in the area. Summer is the rainy season in Everglades and mosquitoes are horrendous, but spring is pleasant and drier.
Some of the top things to do in Everglades National Park are airboat rides (Billie Swamp Safari is a top-recommended company), swamp buggy tours, and walking along the many trails inside of the park.
Temperatures range from 70°F to 87°F. During the spring time, you will have a chance to see the migration of seasonal birds, the blossoming of plants like ferns, and the opportunity to witness many other animals. If you are an animal lover, head to the Fakahatchee Strand where black bears and Florida panthers are at home.
If you’re looking for a tasty bite to eat, head to Joanie’s Blue Crab Cafe where you can enjoy old-fashioned seafood dishes with Florida flair.
Yosemite National Park, California
If your goal is planning a successful trip to Yosemite National Park in spring, keep in mind that the Tioga and Glacier Point Roads often remain closed until late May or June because of snow. Mariposa Grove Road often opens again in April. But don’t fret, there are excellent reasons to visit Yosemite National Park in spring.
Yosemite Valley and Wawona are always accessible by car though, so you’ll get to see some beautiful views in spring. The best part about heading to Yosemite National Park in the spring is that as the snow begins to melt, the waterfalls become real drawcards.
You can access Yosemite Falls, Sentinel Falls, Ribbon Fall, Illilouette Fall, Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall, and Bridalveil Fall from Yosemite Valley. Special mention goes to Horsetail Fall, which is also accessible through Yosemite Valley, which looks like it’s on fire when the sunset reflects off it in mid to late February.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Written by Sarah from She Travels.
Yellowstone is a great national park to visit all year round, but spring is by far the best time of year to visit. With the summer months being the most popular time to go to spend a day or weekend in Yellowstone, the spring will ensure there are less crowds, which means less traffic.
Also, since the wildlife was used to having the park to themselves for the winter, they’re a lot more active in the spring, increasing your chances of seeing bison, bears, wolves, and elk.
Of course, spring is going to be a bit chillier than summer, so remember to wear layers when you go! Yellowstone’s temperatures tend to fluctuate drastically. You could be bundled up in the morning and by afternoon, it could have warmed up to 70°F or 80°F.
I always recommend exploring the park for at least two days, and even then, you’ll likely only see the highlights. Make sure not to miss Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and Mammoth Hot Springs.
Before you go, just check to make sure the roads have opened and are plowed. The roads typically open around mid-May. In 2021, all the major roads will be open by May 14, so I’d recommend waiting until then to visit Yellowstone so you can see as much of the park as possible!
Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Written by Lita from Lita of the Pack.
Capitol Reef is one of the most underrated national parks, but it’s also one of the best national parks to visit in the spring. The weather at this time of year is ideal with temperatures in the mid 60s and 70s and few crowds. I love this park, because you get to see unique landscapes and you’ll find yourself completely alone at times.
There are so many things to do in Capitol Reef including hiking amazing trails, taking scenic drives, and watching the stars. Some of the best hikes include Hickman Bridge, Grand Wash, and Cassidy Arch trails.
If you’d rather see things from the comfort of your car, then you should try the 8-mile scenic drive. After you’ve completed these activities, make sure to stay and stargaze, because Capitol Reef is a designated dark sky zone!
For those who want to stay in the park, try to reserve your spot at Fruita Campground early, as it’s the only campground in the park. I hope you get to explore all that Capitol Reef has to offer!
Acadia National Park, Maine
Written by Disha from Disha Discovers.
One of the best national parks to visit during spring in the United States is Acadia National Park. Located in Maine, Acadia National Park has so much to offer and it’s a must-visit New England destination for many reasons.
This national park is located five minutes outside of Bar Harbor and it’s a 47,000-acre coastal area located on Mt. Desert Island. The views of the rugged coastline are purely epic.
In the springtime, you’ll get beautiful views of the melting snow and the weather is cooler so you can enjoy hiking without feeling hot and humid. Plus, you’ll avoid peak tourist season and you’ll have this gem all to yourself.
One of the most amazing things to do in the park is to watch the sunrise at Cadillac Mountain. Then, end the day with an amazing sunset at Bass Harbor Lighthouse.
Another must is to explore Sand Beach. This is an inlet within the park and you can walk along a large stretch of sand. If you’re up for a real adventure, have a go at sea kayaking. You can experience the park from the water and you might be lucky enough to see some marine life.
Lastly, explore the hiking trails within the park. There are several of them that are great for any type of skill level. Precipice Trail is the most dangerous one in the park and you shouldn’t attempt it unless you’re comfortable hiking along narrow cliffs. The Ocean Path is the easiest hike and it’s just a walk from Sand Beach to Otter Point. It’s flat and you’ll have gorgeous views of the coastline.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Written by Nichole from Nichole the Nomad.
Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the best US national parks to visit in spring. Although it is open year-round, Bryce Canyon is one of the best national parks to visit in spring because the weather is perfect, with temperatures in the 60s and minimal rain compared to other seasons. Even if there is lingering snow, the trails, overlooks, and roads will be open and ready to be explored!
Because spring brings beautiful weather to Bryce Canyon National Park, it attracts a lot of tourists. I highly recommend arriving at popular attractions early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The park is open 24/7, so you are not restricted in when you can visit. If it is busy, Bryce Canyon National Park offers a free shuttle that you can use to visit the popular attractions while avoiding the stress of finding parking.
The best part about Bryce Canyon National Park is it has things to do for everyone. If you do not want to hike, you can experience its beauty from the various overlooks, with the most beautiful being Inspiration Point, Yovimpa and Rainbow Points, Sunrise and Sunset Points, and Natural Bridge.
For those who want to hike, the best hikes in the park are Navajo Loop, Queen’s Garden, Fairyland Loop, and Peek-A-Boo Loop. No matter which way you choose to explore Bryce Canyon National Park, you will be in awe of the beautiful views.
I highly recommend adding Bryce Canyon National Park to your spring bucket list!
Death Valley National Park, California
Written by Allison from California Crossroads.
One of the best national parks to visit in spring, hands down, has to be Death Valley National Park. This national park is practically unvisitable in the summer due to the often record-breaking high heat, but in spring, Death Valley is a dream!
Spring is when you have the best chance of seeing wildflowers in Death Valley National Park, and some years, you may even get lucky enough to see a superbloom. Don’t count on this, though, as the superbloom only occurs about once a decade when rain conditions are right, but you are still almost certain to see some beautiful desert wildflowers when you visit in spring, superbloom or not.
Spring is also a great time to do some of the best things to do in Death Valley that are not so pleasant to do in summer: Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes (you don’t want to walk on that hot sand in summer, trust me!) and Badwater Basin (the white salt flats reflecting the heat are no joke!).
You should also make the hike to Ubehebe Crater and Natural Bridge, two incredible hikes that aren’t too difficult and are great to do in the lovely spring weather.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Written by Tiffany from Pennies, Places, and Paws.
A spring trip to Theodore Roosevelt National Park means missing the large crowds and traffic inside the park that occurs during the more popular summer months.
Not only will you be able to enjoy this highly under-rated national park in peace, but you will have a greater chance to see wildlife with their young. It is one of the few places to see wild horses in the United States, so spring time means the chance to see wild foals, not to mention bison calves and other adorable baby animals to make your trip even more special.
The park is made up of three different sections. The North Unit provides a scenic drive, visitor center and some off-trail hiking opportunities.
The South Unit contains another scenic drive along with multiple hikes (on and off trail), campgrounds, and another visitor center. The third section is the Elkhorn Ranch Unit, which houses the site of President Roosevelt’s home ranch, for the history buffs, but overall is not very developed.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park not only allows you to experience a variety of landscapes in the North Dakota Badlands such as prairies, valleys, and mountains; it also provides the exciting and unique opportunities to witness firsthand geological formations formed by glaciers, coal veins and petrified wood.
For the best range of views and experiences make sure you do the Boicourt trail, Painted Canyon trail, at least part of the Petrified Forest trail, and both scenic drives.
Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Written by Julia from The Cure for Curiosity.
One of the most unique national parks in the United States is Canyonlands National Park. Here you’ll find astounding natural features like beautiful canyons, mesas, and arches sure to awe any outdoor enthusiast.
What really makes it unique, is that the park is divided into four distinct districts with each one offering unique opportunities: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the Colorado River and its tributaries. Explore one or discover them all!
To hit the best weather, plan to visit Canyonlands National Park in the spring or fall. It’s when the temperatures are most moderate with highs between 60°F – 80°F and lows between 30°F – 50°F. This makes it the perfect time to go hiking, and there are a lot of amazing hiking trails available!
Due to how the Colorado River divides Canyonlands National Park, you’ll have to determine which district you want to visit up front.
If you’re looking for stunning roadside overlooks and short hikes, head to Island in the Sky. Make sure not to miss the ever-popular Mesa Arch trail. It’s short and sweet, offering almost immediate pay off.
For backcountry hiking and longer day hikes, try The Needles. I highly recommend hiking to Druid Arch and Chesler Park, if you’re feeling up to a bit of a longer hike. Or, if you’re an avid hiker and backpacker, try one of the multi-day hikes which require special permits in the Maze.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Written by Roshni from The Wanderlust Within.
Rocky Mountain National Park is located only an hour and a half drive from Denver, so staying in a unique Airbnb in Denver, Colorado is a great choice.
Spring is the most diverse time of the year to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. During this time it is possible to enjoy spring skiing on the higher elevations, whilst still being able to hike through the budding meadows below.
With longer days, blue skies, warmer temperatures and quieter slopes, skiing becomes a more pleasant experience compared to to the winter months. And if you’d prefer to enjoy other snow-related activities, spring is also a great time to snowshoe through the national park.
For hikers, there are plenty of trails that are perfect for spring weather including Upper Beaver Meadow Loop, Beaver Mountain Trail and Horseshoe Park. Plus if you want to view the wildflowers then the Trail Ridge Road is wonderful for flowers such as Indian Paintbrush, Forget-Me-Nots, and Alpine Avens.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
Written by Monica from Planner at Heart.
Joshua Tree National Park transports you to the outer limits of reality yet it’s close enough to visit from Palm Springs, Los Angeles, or San Diego.
It’s so otherworldly and vast, that Star Wars scenes were filmed there! The park covers 800,000 acres with mountains, wide deserts, and infamous Joshua trees. For those with mobility challenges, it’s a national park that can be explored from your car.
This national park is best visited in March and April, since temperatures hover around the 70s. It’s not too hot for hiking, biking, horseback riding, four wheeling, bouldering, or climbing. If you’re lucky you might see the springtime bloom of colorful desert wildflowers. Plan your visit around four must-see portions of the park:
- Indian Cove: Explore the Wonderland of the Rocks
- Skull Rock: An iconic site that also has a beginner 1.7-mile nature trail
- Keys Views: A panoramic view of Coachella Valley from the highest point in the park
- Cholla Cactus Garden: Get up close (safely!) to Joshua trees and enjoy a flat walking trail loop
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina & Tennessee
Written by Cassie from Summit Souls.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the perfect place for a spring getaway as greenery returns to the mountains.
The cooler spring temperatures allow for longer hikes on the Appalachian Trail, which runs directly through the Great Smokies. Check out Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte if you’re looking for a challenging 10+ mile hike.
For beautiful sunrise views, head to the Newfound Gap parking lot and catch the sun as it peeks over the mountains. From there you can hike Newfound Gap to Charlies Bunion, a peak nestled along the Appalachian Trail.
Springtime in the Smokies is also a great time to take in wildflowers, which typically peak in late April. Each spring, Smoky Mountain National Park hosts the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, a week-long event that includes guided hikes geared toward exploring the park’s budding flowers.
Whether you’re checking out the park’s highest peaks at Clingmans Dome or taking in breathtaking waterfall views at Laurel Falls, Smoky Mountain National Park is the perfect destination for your next spring adventure.
Arches National Park, Utah
Written by Allison from Eternal Arrival.
Arches National Park is beautiful any time of year but it is perhaps at its best in the spring! Arches National Park can be incredibly hot in the summer and it can get extremely crowded as well, so spring is the perfect shoulder season to visit.
It’s also a great time to camp in the park because it’s not as hot yet. Camping is available in the Devils Garden Campground, the only campground in the park, from March 1 onwards.
Some of the best hikes to do in Arches in the spring are to see the arches along the Devils Garden Primitive Loop, the hike to Delicate Arch (best done at sunrise or sunset for the most beautiful lighting conditions), and the hike to Tower Arch.
You can also drive up to several of the most beautiful arches including Double Arch and the Windows, both of which require a very short walk to see.
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
Written by Adrienne from The Haphazard Traveler.
Located 70 miles from Key West, Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the most remote US national parks. It spans over 100 square miles of small islands, coral reefs, and marine life.
Dry Tortugas is also home to historic Fort Jefferson, built in the mid-1800’s to protect the nation’s gateway to the Gulf of Mexico. The park is accessible only by sea plane, private charter, or ferry, making it one of the least-visited parks as well! But even so, the summer season can see a swell of tourists, so Dry Tortugas is one of the best national parks to visit in spring to beat the crowds.
The most popular activities at Dry Tortugas National Park are snorkeling, birding, and primitive camping, as well as touring the historic fort with a park ranger. Dry Tortugas has some of the best snorkeling in the Keys: new snorkelers can follow the fort walls and stay in the calm beach area, while experienced snorkelers can explore the ruins of old docks and offshore coral heads.
Only 11 campsites are available at Dry Tortugas, and campers must bring everything they’ll need for their stay. But after the day trip crowd leaves, campers have the island’s pristine beaches and nighttime stars all to themselves. It’s also possible to night-snorkel along the fort walls. Campsites book up months in advance, so visiting in spring may offer better availability.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Written by Megan from Virginia Travel Tips.
One of the best national parks to visit in spring is Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The Virginia park is a paradise for hiking enthusiasts and those that don’t mind the chilly spring temperatures.
In spring in Shenandoah, you will be greeted with mountain wildflowers and fewer crowds than during the popular summer months, where it is one of the most-visited US National Parks with around 1.5 million visitors annually.
During the spring, temperatures in Shenandoah fluctuate from 50°F to 85°F and it rains around 7-8 days approximately.
Some of the most popular hiking trails in Shenandoah are Graves Mill Trail that goes to Bear Church (8.5 miles) and passes gorgeous mountain streams and colorful hills. Another popular hike is the White Oak Canyon Trail that is 4.8 miles long and goes past some of Virginia’s best waterfalls and through the forest.
Redwood National and State Parks, California
Written by Dhara from Roadtripping California.
Redwood National and State Parks, on the Northern California coast, are among the lesser visited of California’s national parks, with the parks being most crowded in the summer. Visitors are rewarded with sensational coastal views, beautiful walks through groves of redwoods, and the opportunity to see wildlife.
Spring is a particularly nice time to visit these parks, because rhododendrons are in bloom beneath the redwoods, and elsewhere, you will see lots of wildflowers. Daytime highs tend to be in the high 50s or low 60s, making it pleasant for tackling challenging trails. Pack rain gear though, if you plan to camp or hike, because drizzles may occur here or there. Since spring is a quieter time in the parks, expect to enjoy more solitude on trails.
Roosevelt elk can be seen in the spring, and black bear sightings are more common in the spring. Elk Meadow, in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, is an excellent place to view elk. Nearby also is the trail for Trillium Falls, one of the best hikes in the parks.
Allow at least 3-5 days to see major sights in the parks, do a few hikes and scenic drives, and enjoy being out amongst some of the tallest and oldest trees on the planet.
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Written by Jenessa Baird-Van Woerkom from Destination Daydreamer.
Mesa Verde National Park is one of the most unique national parks in all of the US. The park is located in southwest Colorado, and is known for the amazing ancient cliff dwellings of Ancestral Puebloans. Think of ancient homes carved into sheer cliff walls with large canyons below. It’s amazing!
My favorite thing we have done in Mesa Verde is taking a ranger-guided tour through the largest cliff dwelling: Cliff Palace. The tour included a short (.25 mi /.4km) walk, climbing four ladders, and walking through the amazing architecture of the cliff dwelling. However, I highly recommend taking any of the ranger-guided cliff dwelling tours! There are many options to choose from.
You can also hike to many beautiful canyon overlooks featuring various cliff dwellings. There is even a trail that takes you to a large panel of ancient petroglyphs. And, Mesa Verde has its very own archeological museum where you can get up close and personal with prehistoric Puebloan artifacts.
Mid-to-late spring is a great time to visit Mesa Verde because cliff dwelling tours are reopened after a snowy winter. You can usually count on the cliff dwellings being open for tours by mid-April. However, you can visit in early spring and still take advantage of the many amazing overlooks to see cliff dwellings from a distance even if you can’t do a guided tour.
You can expect camping and lodging to open in the park by around May 24. I highly recommend camping in Mesa Verde’s Morefield campground – it’s beautiful and right in the park. And check out this post about essential camping gear to take along!
Olympic National Park, Washington
Written by Allison from Small Town Washington.
Olympic National Park is a great national park to visit in the spring for several reasons! Several of its sights are at their most beautiful in the spring.
For one, the Hoh Rainforest – one of the biggest draws to visiting Olympic National Park, as it is the only rainforest in the contiguous United States – is at its greenest and most vibrant after the winter rains, and it’s a great place for hiking in Olympic National Park.
For another, the beaches that make up the Olympic National Park coastline, such as Ruby Beach, start to clear up from the winter storms, but are still without the crowds that summer brings to Washington’s beaches.
Finally, once the snow melts at Hurricane Hill, you’ll get the chance to see beautiful wildflowers, which is a truly magical sight!
Camping is possible in Olympic National Park during the spring, and because it’s not high season, you may be able to snag some of the coveted camping spots, like Kalaloch Campgrounds, Sol Duc Hot Springs Campgrounds, and Hoh Campgrounds. Just be sure to bring lots of waterproof gear as rain is a given in the spring in the Pacific Northwest.
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