Photo by Hendrik Cornelissen
Originally Posted On: https://www.peanutsorpretzels.com/best-time-to-visit-the-national-parks/
With everything that’s going on in the world currently, it seems there’s no better time than now to visit our beautiful US National Parks. Getting outdoors for some fresh air, exploration, hiking, camping / RV’ing and more is exactly what many of us are yearning for after being cooped up for quite some time! So we’ve put together some information to help you plan the ideal time to visit, and some tips to get the most out of your trip.
60+ National Parks in the USA to Explore
We’re fortunate to have more than 60 designated National Parks in the USA, covering some of the most beautiful and interesting landscapes. To make it easy to find National Parks near to you, we’ve actually put together a comprehensive list of National Parks by State and included details about each park and our personal experiences at ones we’ve visited ourselves.
If you are like us, you might like to keep track of all the parks you’ve visited and be able to see which ones you need to check off. So definitely grab a free copy of our downloadable / printable National Park checklist too!
Best National Parks to Visit in the Summer
Most travelers will set out to visit the National Parks during their summer vacations. We realize summer vacations have been altered a bit this year, but still, many people will be setting out around this time.
Pretty much every park is popular in the summer season! But in particular, there are a few that are really great to visit during this time of year. Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska is much more enjoyable this time of year. Acadia National Park in Maine is wonderful during the summer because it’s warmer to be out kayaking on the water or swimming. There’s also Grand Teton National Park, which again is lovely during the summer months – especially if you can get a spot at Signal Mountain Campground like we did, because we loved being right on the shores of Jackson Lake and spending our days enjoying the water and gazing out over the mountains.
Best National Parks to Visit in the Fall
If your summer is jam-packed already, then a visit to the National Parks this Fall would be good timing. During the Fall months, Great Smoky Mountains National Park becomes vibrant with the changing colors. It’s a stunning site to behold, and a wonderful time to go out for a hike to enjoy the changing colors and falling leaves in the forests. The only downside is that it is peak season during the Fall months, so plan well in advance and prepare for the crowds.
Another park that is lovely to visit in the Fall is Zion National Park. The colors here are vibrant at any time of the year, but Fall in particular it is quite amazing. The other positive part of visiting in the Fall rather than summer is that it’s not quite so hot, which makes it enjoyable for getting out and hiking on the trails. Yosemite is also a top part to visit during the Fall. Again the colors are just amazing, and the weather is still quite comfortable for going out to explore.
Best National Parks to Visit in the Winter
When winter comes, many people will want to head down south for warmer weather. That means it’s a great time to visit the Everglades National Park in southern Florida. This time of year the weather is much more pleasant, allowing you more comfort to get out and explore without melting your face off! (Seriously…don’t go here in the summer unless you love being super hot and very, very wet due to the humidity!)
Another park that is enjoyable in the winter is Bryce Canyon. The bright red “hoodoos” really glow against the snowy backdrop, and you can still have a great experience in the winter without all the crowds. A popular activity is to go on a snowshoe hike with a ranger where you can enjoy the contrasting colors up close.
Another popular park in the winter months is Acadia National Park in Maine, where many areas of the park become a haven for cross-country skiers and snowshoers. They even have a winter festival held in February each year.
Best National Parks to Visit in the Spring
During the spring months, our top pick is to visit the Redwoods National Park in northern California. There’s something truly majestic about the trees and this park. Camping here during this time of the year you can experience this special place as it’s coming back to life after winter, just like it’s out of a fairy tale book.
Joshua Tree National Park is also a fantastic place to visit in the Spring months because being in southern California, it hasn’t gotten terribly hot yet. Also, many of the desert flowers start to bloom which are fascinating to see up close. This is also an amazing spot for stargazing, rock climbing and more!
Shenandoah may be most popular during the Fall when the colors are vibrant, but that also means a lot more crowds. Visiting this park in the Spring allows you to enjoy more than 850 species of flowering plants! In fact, if you visit in late Spring you may also catch a glimpse of the bright blooming pink azaleas that line the edges of the road on the popular Skyline Drive.
Which Are Our Top Favorite National Parks?
We’ve been fortunate to have visited so many of our nation’s national parks. While it’s hard to choose our favorites, I think we would say that Grand Teton, Redwoods, Mesa Verde, Sand Dunes, and the Grand Canyon National Parks round out our top five. However, there are many others we really enjoy – including Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii!
Tips for Visiting the National Parks
Having visited so many National Parks, below are a few tips that we would give to anyone considering planning a trip to our nation’s National Parks!
Avoid major holidays if you can (because the parks get super crowded)
Book well in advance if you want to camp or stay onsite in a lodge
Keep in mind, big RV’s don’t fit at many of these National Park campgrounds! So if you have a very large rig, you may need to find a private campground just outside the park.
Check pet policies for the National Park you are visiting, every park is different in what they allow. To make it convenient for you, we actually created a whole blog post about National Park pet policies with links to make it easy for you to find out more!
Never ever feed the wildlife!!!
Research and plan out what to do in advance. The parks have online brochures and great information on their websites to plan out your trip.
- If you want to keep track of the parks you visit (like we do), you can download our printable National Park Checklist or even pick up one of the awesome National Passport books to document your adventure!
Be prepared if you are going out on trails, etc. with things like a first aid kit, water, food, and be sure to tell a friend where you are going and when you plan to return.
Lastly, please please please protect the environment for future generations! Help to keep it pristine with no trash, destruction, and stay on designated trails.
Now is the Best Time to Visit the National Parks!
While most of the US National Parks can be visited year-round, and some of them are special during certain times of the year, I’d say honestly that the best time to visit the National Parks is now! Many of us are tired of being trapped inside and we are anxious to get out and explore. So I think this summer and beyond should be the prime time to get out and visit some of the amazing National Parks around this country. There’s no better time to enjoy the beauty in our own backyard.