Here's My Top 10 List of National Parks to Visit This Spring
Spring is a wonderful time to visit national parks across the United States, as many locations experience pleasant weather, blooming flora, and less crowded conditions. While there are numerous parks that are exceptional during spring, here are my top 10 national parks to consider for a spring visit.
Canyonlands National Park | Utah
Spring is an exceptional time to visit Canyonlands National Park, offering visitors a delightful combination of comfortable temperatures, blooming wildflowers, and mesmerizing landscapes. As winter recedes, the park bursts to life, showcasing nature's beauty in full bloom.
One of the most striking features of Canyonlands is its unique rock formations, including the famous Mesa Arch. In the spring, the warm sun casts a magical glow on the arch, creating an unforgettable spectacle for photographers and nature enthusiasts alike.
Visiting Canyonlands in the spring also means witnessing the vibrant colors of wildflowers such as Indian paintbrush, desert marigold, and prickly pear cactus. These blooms add a touch of color to the park's rugged landscape and provide a fascinating contrast to the red sandstone cliffs and canyons.
Spring's milder temperatures make it the perfect time for outdoor activities, such as hiking, mountain biking, and stargazing. And, spring tends to be less crowded than the peak summer months, providing a more serene and intimate experience. This allows visitors to truly immerse themselves in the park's splendor, discovering hidden gems and creating lifelong memories.
Big Bend National Park | Texas
Suffering from cabin fever and looking for a remote wilderness adventure? If so, Big Bend National Park in Texas is one of the best national parks to visit in spring.
Big Bend National Park is located in a remote part of Southern Texas and borders Mexico along 118 miles of the Rio Grande. One of the park's best known features is Santa Elena Canyon. Split by the Rio Grande, on one side, the United States; the other, Mexico. It contains more than 1,200 species of plants, more than 450 species of birds, 56 species of reptiles, and 75 species of mammals. The Rio Grande corridor is also a migration highway for many species passing through the desert. Elevation contrast creates varied microclimates that further enhance the diversity of plant and animal life.
This is a great place to find solitude, go bird watching, fossil hunting, mountain biking, kayaking and desert hiking. And, Big Bend is also one of the darkest areas in America making it one of the best national parks to see the Milky Way.
Death Valley National Park | California
Death Valley National Park is a below-sea-level basin and a land of extremes, with steady drought and record summer heat, so it’s a great place to visit in Sprint. Each of the park’s extremes have striking contrast. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and offer refuge for wildlife and humans. With nearly three million acres, Death Valley National Park is the driest, hottest, and lowest point in North America. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.
Death Valley National Park straddles the border of California and Nevada, located east of the Sierra Nevada, it occupies an interface zone between the arid Great Basin and Mojave deserts in the United States. The park protects the northwest corner of the Mojave Desert and contains a diverse desert environment of salt-flats, sand dunes, badlands, valleys, canyons, and mountains. It is the largest national park in the lower 48 states and has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve.
Grand Canyon National Park | Arizona
There’s nothing like your first visit to Grand Canyon National Park — and the first time you look over the rim — it’s simply awe-inspiring! To experience the sheer beauty, epic majesty and the extraordinary combinations of geologic color and erosional forms decorate this canyon, you couldn’t find a better time than spring.
Although the morning temperatures on the South Rim—by far the most popular side—might still be rather low in spring, this is the optimum window for hikes down into the canyon.
I highly recommend the Bright Angel Trail. And while snow may still dust the rim and the upper parts of the trails, the further down you go, the warmer and drier it gets. Even in March, you might find yourself taking off layers until you’re only wearing a T-shirt.
This is definitely one of the best national parks to visit in early spring. And it’s also one of the best national parks for dogs! At the South Rim, you can take your pet on all trails above the rim.
Great Sand Dunes National Park | Colorado
Home to the highest sand dunes on the North American continent, Colorado’s gem of a national park is packed with amazing activities given its relatively small size. A much different experience than most other national parks, if you only have a few hours, you can easily explore much of what the park has to offer. But you won’t want to leave.
From children to adults, from photographers to hikers and campers, every visitor has a blast in this park. What makes this national park unique is that there are no trails to speak of; you are free to roam any of the 30 square miles of dunefields.
Great Sand Dunes is one of America’s best national parks for dogs! So even pets can have endless joy in the surging waters of Medano Creek (check the NPS website for flow forecasts). In spring, these massive mountains of sand offer unique activities like sand boarding. And, out on the dunes, half of the park is after dark! The combination of dry air, no light pollution, and high elevation make for spectacular stargazing.
Spring is the perfect time of year to visit Great Sand Dunes because the sand won’t be too hot yet. Additionally, occasional rain showers make the sand more sturdy and Medano Creek’s fascinating waves a little bit bigger.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park | North Carolina and Tennessee
With an unbelievable swath of land stretching over 500,000 acres and a view that lasts for days, Great Smoky Mountains National Park promises cascading waterfalls, roaming wildlife, lush forests, and so much more. It’s no wonder this is the country’s most-visited national park.
When the snow melts in the Blue Ridge Mountains, waterfalls grow in size and volume, becoming arguably the most popular attraction in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Spring is by far the best time of year for viewing waterfalls in the park.
Another awesome highlight is the spring wildflower display. Home to more than 1,500 flowering plants, this is one of most wildflower-rich places in all North America. Try to visit between April 26th and 30th to experience the annual Wildflower Pilgrimage.
So come with your binoculars, enjoy the show, and explore everything that Great Smoky Mountains National Park has to offer this Spring.
Joshua Tree National Park | California
With its cold winter nights and scorching hot summer days, spring is the perfect time to visit Joshua Tree National Park. Sculpted by strong winds and occasional torrents of rain, the surreal geologic features of twisted rock add to the wonder of this vast wilderness in Southern California.
Joshua Tree also protects a rich cultural history: the area has been inhabited by humans for over 5,000 years. But it wasn’t until 1984 that it was established as a national park. Located just a few hours outside of Los Angeles, this desert wilderness is an ideal location for many outdoor activities such as rock climbing, hiking, bird watching, and the dark night skies make for excellent stargazing. The national park spans about 800,000 acres, and sees more than 2.8 million visitors each year.
The park boasts a fascinating variety of plants and animals that live where two distinct ecosystems of the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert meet. Spring is also when many of Joshua Tree’s desert plants bloom. And there’s a huge variety – from cholla cacti and ocotillo plants to California fan palms and the park’s namesake Joshua trees.
Saguaro National Park | Arizona
A great time to come to Saguaro National Park is from mid-May through early June when the gorgeous white waxy cactus flowers are in full bloom. Named after the stately Saguaro cactus, which incidentally grows only in the Sonoran Desert, this National Park and is located in southern Arizona near Tucson.
What is amazing about the Saguaro cactus is that it can actually grow to be the size of a tree, where, and live up to 250 years. The inside of the cactus consists of wooden ribs that resemble a tree trunk. Growing over the ribs is the green, fleshy skin that absorbs and stores water. During the summer monsoon season, the cacti absorb many gallons of water and use the stored water throughout the remainder of the year when precipitation is not common. In spring, desert vegetation blooms and the weather is ideal to hit the 165 miles of hiking trails.
The park is split into two different areas that are totally different—located respectively on the western and eastern side of Tucson.
- The Tucson Mountain District, in the west, protects a part of the Sonoran Desert, which is where you’ll find most of the park’s namesake plants, the towering saguaro cacti, true icons of the American Wild West.
- The Rincon Mountain District, in the east, is wetter and much more rugged and varied. It is home to a wonderful biodiversity and many plants and animals that aren’t found in the Tucson Mountains.
Shenandoah National Park | Virginia
As new-born black bear cubs emerge from their dens and bright green leaves appear on trees…nature awakens, transforming once again the woods and hills of Shenandoah National Park. Located just 75 miles from the bustle of Washington, D.C., you can meander along Skyline Drive -- a 105-mile road that runs the entire length of the park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Spring is the ideal time to hike to cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas and quiet wooded hollows.
Wildflowers begin to bloom toward the end of March, by which time most of the park’s facilities will have opened again as well. One of the best places to enjoy the wildflowers is Big Meadows, a historic farming area that is now a controlled grassland.
Yosemite National Park | California
Dramatic granite monoliths, stunning valleys and amazing waterfalls strike awe in everyone who visits this special place. Yosemite National Park in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains is famed for its giant, ancient sequoia trees, and for the “Tunnel View”, the iconic vista of towering Bridalveil Fall and the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome. Yosemite National Park is a crowd-pleaser all-year round. From its gloriously sunny summers to the warm colors of fall to its winter wonderlands, there’s always beauty to be found in Yosemite. Spring, however, is the most spectacular season of all.
While there still might be snow on the ground in March, by April the Spring runoff is in full swing. And this is the start of prime waterfall season in Yosemite. Visiting Yosemite in the Spring is a huge treat. It’s the ideal season for waterfalls, warmer weather, plentiful rivers and creeks, blooming flowers, reopened trails and roads, and smaller crowds
You'll find wildflowers blooming everywhere in Yosemite in the spring. You may see poppies, goldfields, meadowfoam, baby blue-eyes, and redbud trees. They put on a multi-colored display through the foothills and the Merced River Canyon in March and April. Blue-purple Lupines bloom in April and May along the Merced River and near the Wawona Hotel.
Yosemite is one of my all-time favorite parks, and you’ll need advanced reservations if you want to stay there…and most likely a timed-entry pass even if you’re visiting for the day. But take my word for it: Yosemite has to be on your bucket list!
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