Most people wait until the summer to hit the road. The weather is great, and the kids are out of school. Unfortunately, everyone else is traveling, too. This makes summer the peak season for National Parks. If you want to avoid all the crowds and traffic of the summer, get your RV or vehicle out of storage a few months early and travel during spring. Here are some of my top picks for National Parks to travel to during spring and early summer.
7 of the Best National Parks to Visit During Spring
Grand Canyon National Park
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon may not open until mid-May, but there’s still plenty of action at the South Rim. The Grand Canyon is one of the most visited parks during peak season and between the crowds and the heat, may not be as peaceful and grand as you’d like. That’s why it’s helpful to try the park during the spring, fewer crowds, and less heat so you can experience the grand views with more solitude.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
While there is a large deal of wildlife such as bear and deer that come out to the Great Smoky Mountains during the spring, the prime attraction is the plants. Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts over 1600 species of flowering plants and many of them will be blooming in the spring. With so many trails and hikes available, there are plenty of options to witness Mother Nature’s annual wake up.
Pro Tip: Go on a guided tour or bring a plant guide book with you to make sure you don’t miss anything when hiking.
Redwood National Park
Redwood National Park is one of my favorites of the National Park System and spring offers up a unique experience. Not only will you beat out much of the summer crowd, but you can watch the floor of the old forests erupt in colors as the different wildflowers start blooming for the first time.
A bonus of spring at Redwood is that it offers some of the best whale watching on the Pacific coastline, right next door.
Yosemite National Park
There is one major reason to head to Yosemite National Park other than crowd dodging during spring, waterfalls. The early spring snowmelt fuels many of the waterfalls that dot the landscape of Yosemite. By the time summer rolls around, many of these have slowed to trickles. The snowmelt also fills up many of the mountain ponds and streams offering a great atmosphere to explore.
Pro Tip: See El Capitan! It’s a must see stop on any trip to Yosemite – no matter how many times you’ve visited.
Joshua Tree National Park
It’s difficult to rival a site more surreal than the high desert in bloom, but that’s what you get by visiting Joshua Tree National Park in spring. Hundreds of cacti and other desert plants let loose their spring colors, turning the otherwise drab desert floor into a symphony of shades and hues. Another springtime bonus is the reemergence of desert wildlife from their winter slumbers.
Shenandoah National Park
Even the backcountry portions of this National Park seem to get run down by crowds during the peak season of summer and the secondary season of fall.
That’s why trying Shenandoah out for some solitude in the spring. The temperatures are cool but not cold, and with rolling hills of 900 flowering species, you can tap your inner Walt Whitman during spring in Shenandoah.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Most people want some sand between their toes during spring, but Great Sand Dunes National Park takes it to a whole new level. Great rolling hills of sand blanket portions of this park which some people wild enough decide to sled and even snowboard down. Spring is a fun time to hit the dunes because the weather has not gotten hot enough to make the heat of the sand unbearable. Like Joshua Tree, Great Sand Dunes will also have many cacti blooming over the landscape.
Pro Tip: Bring a sand board or sand sled; if you don’t have one, rent on for a once in a lifetime experience sand boarding down the sand dunes!
These seven National Parks offer great destinations for any spring road trip. If you’re looking to dust the rig off after a blustering winter, consider one of the above seven trips to get back into the travel swing of things.