As the snow melts and schools no longer have delays, it becomes obvious that spring is right around the corner. It's a time of year that many look forward to. Nature is bursting with life, plants are in bloom, and everyone becomes a little more eager to get outdoors and explore.
So before you book a trip to Miami for spring break, why not consider taking friends or family on the first trip of the year to a national park? With so many stretched across the country, there's a fantastic selection of parks that are ideal for spring. These parks reach their peak during spring; crowds are just right, wildlife is blooming, and the park is as it is meant to be seen. Learn which parks pop in the springtime and start planning the first trip of the season now!
Joshua Tree National Park, California
When viewed from afar, Joshua Tree National Park seems like a long stretch of quiet desert. In fact, many visitors are surprised to find that the park is full of vitality. While the park is full of history and amazing geology, springtime brings out the best of the best.
During late February, the trees that gave the park its name begin to bloom with their large, creamy flowers. The rest of the park follows with annual flowers popping up along all elevations. Once April and May roll around, the cacti are bursting with bright flowers. Joshua Tree National Park quickly becomes a desert in bloom.
Spring also happens to be the best season for birdwatching. While the year-round residents of the park are exciting to see, springtime brings even more birds into the area, many in transit or getting ready to nest. For birds, Joshua Tree offers a relaxing warm home, away from the harsh weathers during migration. Average temperatures reach as high as 85 degrees in the afternoon and 50 in the evenings.
So what's not to love? Perfect temperatures, bird watching, and a desert land of wildflowers in bloom. Sounds pretty awesome.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Before the hot temperatures and greens of summer take over this national park, Shenandoah National Park blooms with colors of red maples and bright wildflowers. No matter where you turn in this sprawling park, every turn reveals a new color, new sound, and new sight.
Shenandoah is popular in the parks world as it offers two completely different ways to experience the land. While some visitors choose a scenic drive along Skyline Drive, others opt to explore meadows and forests by foot. With each step, visitors can expect to see a gorgeous plant or an animal, especially deer, or hear the chirps of migrating birds.
April and May are peak time for wildflower enthusiasts as forest floors are covered in trilliums. Pink azaleas bloom in May closely followed by mountain laurel in June. If the natural surroundings don't captivate enough, there are plenty of opportunities for birdwatching, hiking, nature walks, biking, and fishing. In fact, many visitors are surprised to walk away from Shenandoah with nothing to complain about. Each area offers its own natural beauty and it's next to impossible not to enjoy yourself in this Virginia getaway.
As springtime helps this park come to life, those who visit will take away a deeper appreciation to the lands we preserve.
Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
For many, springtime offers an opportunity for a first trip of the year. And if you are just getting back out there, the last thing you want is a crowded park. This spring, avoid the crowds and visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park for a unique and exciting adventure.
This park allows visitors to explore a world over 700 feet below the earth's surface. Famous for protecting the 3rd and 7th largest cave chambers in the world, Carlsbad Caverns holds a total of 116 caves—offers rooms of limestone, stalagmites, stalactites, cave pearls, and underground lakes. Visitors can experience famous cave rooms full of fissures, tunnels, and even some with unexplained noises. Guided tours will teach you about rock formation, cave exploration, and the animals who can survive at such deep depths.
Spring is a great time to visit Carlsbad Caverns as the bat population makes its presence known. Seventeen species of bats live in the park and many are present in April and May, including Mexican Free-tailed Bats who emerge from caves in groups, flying up and counter-clockwise for 3 hours. It's an incredible site!
Carlsbad Caverns has never been the most popular national park, but it has a lot to offer, many of which cannot be found elsewhere in the country.
Redwood National Park, California
Take the beauty of the country's tallest trees, add in a forest of wildflowers, and sprinkle in sightings of whales and other wildlife, and you've got Redwood National Park in the springtime.
Spring reveals that feeling of hope, rebirth, and growth. Everywhere you look in this California national park is in bloom. The tall trees are bursting with green and the forests seem full of life. An afternoon hike can take you to another land, one far from the stress of everyday life. In April in May, forest floors are crawling with bright violets, trilliums, and rhododendrons. And the kids will love looking for banana slugs during the days—harmless and a little gross, they grab attention with their chubby, yellow bodies.
Be sure to step out of the forest for a real treat—whale watching! In early spring, migrating gray whales can be spotted along the coast—an ideal spot to let calves rest. Be sure to pack the binoculars!
If the sheer beauty and magnitude of Redwood National Park doesn't excite you enough, you may also be happy to know that the park is less crowded in the spring. Avoid the heat and the crowds by planning your next trip sometime from February through May.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina
For avid hikers, spring brings with it that "itch" to get back out there and explore. Temperatures start to rise, flowers begin to bloom, and as the snow melts, hikers across the country begin to plan their first hikes of the season. Well, look no further than Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
With over 800 miles of trails, the park offers beauty everywhere you look. Trails are available for walking, hiking, and mountain biking and lead to other fun activities like fishing and camping. During spring, trails are surrounded with blooming wildflowers—over 1,660 kinds, more than any other national park in North America. In fact, spring brings flowers only seen for a few months. A group of flowers known as spring ephemerals appear in early spring, flower, fruit, and die within a short 2-month period. These flowers include trilliums, orchids, violets, and iris and will bloom during February-April.
Each spring, the park hosts the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, a week-long festival of programs and guided hikes that explore the life in the park. It is a perfect way to see wildflowers, animals, and everything the Great Smoky Mountains has to offer. It is a perfect retreat for families, friends, and individuals looking to get away.
Saguaro National Park, Arizona
Close your eyes. Picture yourself out west. The sun is setting and the sky is striped with rich reds and burnt oranges. Giant cacti stand silhouetted by the sun. You take a deep breath and feel nothing but peace.
The cactus that gives Saguaro National Park its name has long been recognized as a symbol of American West, but these giant plants are actually only found in a small portion of the United States. They are more than massive cacti, but also shelters and reserves of water for much of the wildlife that calls this park home. And what season do these giant centerpieces bloom? You guessed it: spring!
Springtime brings with it the beauty of flowers. Deserts and saguaro forests burst with colors from blooming wildflowers like the gold Mexican poppy, red penstemons, and desert marigolds. Even trees, shrubs, and other cactuses are in bloom, like creosote bushes, chollas, and hedgehogs.
Those looking for adventure have ample opportunity with hikes into rugged wilderness brings. Hikers can travel upwards, increasing elevation from 3,000 feet to over 8,000 feet in about 15 miles! The park has many trails ranging in difficulty and chances for backcountry exploration and camping.
America is full of beauty, but nothing quite compares to the traditional and symbolic beauty of Saguaro National Park.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Serene. It's the best word to describe this national park. Cuyahoga Valley National Park offers visitors an opportunity to feel the beauty of solitude in a land of rivers, farmlands, and hills. In fact, the quiet beauty of the park is shocking when you consider how close it's located to the busy cities of Cleveland and Akron.
The park is full of natural beauty—wildflowers and waterfalls—but is also rich in history, with a stretch of the Ohio and Erie Canal. Visitors can't help stand in awe of the 60-foot Brandywine Falls, which is accessible by a nature hike. And families will have no problem finding gorgeous spots for an afternoon picnic.
The spring takes this park's beauty to new heights in the springtime as flowers burst with color, rolling hills are covered in greens, and wildlife is bubbling with newborn animals. Visitors can take nature hikes to spot animals, scenic train rides to learn the land's history, and guided tours for bird watching. The area also offers opportunities for camping, boating, canoeing, and horseback riding.
Although Ohio isn't the first state one thinks of when they think springtime retreat, Cuyahoga Valley is a picturesque place for relaxation and admiration.
Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
AddressVoyageurs National Park, Kabetogama Township, MN 56669, USA
As a third of Voyageurs National Park is made of water, it happens to be most accessible in the springtime when snow and ice build-up melts. Narrow waterways connect the park's four main lakes—Rainy, Kabetogama, Namakan, and Sand Point—and open up for boaters to explore. This park forces you to leave the car behind and travel to uncharted territories.
While hiking enthusiasts wait for the warmth of June and July to visit the park, others should know spring offers activities and beauty of its own. Instead of a typical park tour, picture yourself gliding down a narrow waterway, hearing the cries of a loon, and watching as the sun sets in an orange sky. Yes, this is the stuff Hallmark cards are made of!
Those still looking to camp will be pleased to know car campground are available as are the more unique houseboats. Who wouldn't want to try camping out by boat? Afternoons are full of opportunities for guided tours, naturalist-led activities, and sight-seeing boat tours. You can take out your own boat or hop into one led by an experienced navigator.
Voyageurs National Park truly offers a unique experience and forces visitors to enjoy a trip that's anything but standard.
Zion National Park, Utah
Though Utah's spring weather is sometimes unpredictable, if you catch a rain-free day it will NOT disappoint. Zion National Park is a stunning park no matter what the season. But spring takes its grand appearance to new levels.
When you first see Zion, it's hard not to be blown away by the massive canyon walls that seem to stretch for miles into the sky. And visitors are encouraged to explore those canyons, sandstone cliffs, and rugged trails in order to truly appreciate the park's beauty. Mazes of orange and pink canyons are surrounded by lower desert areas and higher elevated forests, all of which offer their own stunning features.
Although the area is known for being hot and dry, the park has almost 900 native species of plants, 75 species of mammals, and almost 300 species of birds. Hikes and guided walks offer the perfect opportunity for wildlife spotting such as coyotes, beavers, ringtails, mule deer, and the occasional mountain lion.
What makes this park really pop in the springtime is the chance to see canyon walls covered in hanging gardens of wildflowers. The rain typical of the spring helps these flowers bloom and the risk of blah weather is worth the risk in order to see them. And trails perfect for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and mountain climbing are the ideal places to see such beauty.
More popular in the summer, the springtime Zion National Park offers rare sites and a less crowded popular getaway.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Alaska is known for some of the world's most stunning places to see and Glacier Bay National Park offers nothing short of dramatic beauty in the spring. Clouds hang low on fiords while lower light levels bring out the blues of the glaciers. And as snow pounds onto the mountains above, glaciers crack and rumble into the icy waters, echoing loudly in the quiet air.
As global warming and environmental issues become more evident in the world, time continues to run out to savor this park's beauty. Tidewater glaciers, deep fjords, and freshwater river and lakes make up this stunning park and remind all who visit that we are connected deeply to our landscape. Whether you take a guided boat tour to spot marine life or explore rugged terrain by foot, Glacier Bay leaves no one disappointed. Visitors can choose from a healthy list of activities including cruises, kayaking, hiking, backpacking, rafting, and mountaineering.
Why let spring pass you by when you can take a sea kayaking trip along Alaska's coastline? Why wait for the tulips to bloom when you can hike some of the least climbed mountains in the country? From stunning glaciers and humpback whales to hemlock forests and mountain goats, Glacier Bay feels like an untouched wonder whose beauty won't last forever.