Great Sand Dunes National Park
Located in Colorado’s rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Great Sand Dunes offer over 19,000 acres of breathtaking rolling dunes. With an average temperature of 60° during the spring, you can comfortably enjoy the park’s exhilarating sand sledding and hiking activities.
Start your spring adventure by renting sand sleds at the store found near the entrance of the park. Next, head towards the Medano Creek bed, where the newly melted snow from the neighboring snow-capped mountains has just begun its seasonal stream. A path from the creek will bring you to the High Dune on First Ridge. Here you will find five dunes that are ideal for sand sledding and enjoying awe-inspiring views of the park’s entire dune field.
For a more secluded area, drive your vehicle to the Point of No Return where you can hike along a 1.5-mile path to nearby Castle Creek. To reach the tallest dune in the park, head over to the Medano Creek bed and follow the pyramid-shaped Star Dune along its ridge to the summit. Visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park in the springtime to truly experience the effect of rapidly melting snow on Colorado’s unique desert-like environment.
By Ellie, Ellie’s Travel Tips
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Yosemite National Park
If you are going to visit Yosemite National Park, you will want to go in the spring. The waterfalls are rushing, and it makes the whole park feel alive and magical!
With the waterfalls putting on such an awesome show, you will want to see as many as you can. We highly recommend the mist trail to Vernal Falls. Bring your raincoat; you are going to get wet as you walk up a set of moss-covered stairs right next to the waterfall. The mist will blow in your fast, and the roaring of the waterfall will take your breath away.
If you have the energy, keep going up to the top of the Nevada falls. This is no easy hike as you climb up 2000 feet total in elevation and cover 6 miles round trip, but the views on the way up and at the top make it all worth it.
For an off-the-beaten-path waterfall, head to the Hetch Hetchy part of Yosemite and do the 5.5-mile round trip Wapama Falls hike that takes you across a bridge and right next to a roaring waterfall. Be sure to be very careful on the bridge. The wildflowers are also in bloom in spring and are a sight to see!
There are plenty more waterfalls to explore in Yosemite, and spring is a great time to see as many as you can, along with checking out all of the other amazing things to do in Yosemite National Park!
By Bryanna Royal, Crazy Family Adventure
Saguaro National Park
Visit Arizona’s Saguaro National Park in the spring for a chance to see giant cacti in bloom. These stately old giants can grow to be over 40 feet tall and live to the age of 200! And this park is one of the best places in the Sonoran Desert to find them.
Saguaro National Park’s 92,000 acres are divided into two different units separated by the city of Tucson. One of the great things about this park is how easy it is to combine its 165 miles of intersected paths and trails to create your own adventure hiking in Saguaro National Park.
The Douglas Spring Trail in the Rincon Mountain District is one of my all-time favorites. The entire out-and-back is 16.6 miles, but a popular end point is Bridal Wreath Falls, which makes for a nice 5.6-mile round-trip. You’ll get about 1,000 feet of elevation gain during that time. Be sure to time your hike so you are coming back down the mountain for sunset.
While temperatures here start to climb into the 100s by April, never fear, half the park is open after dark thanks to the area’s pristine skies for stargazing. And when it gets too hot to hike, Tucson has plenty of great food and drink options to enjoy – check out Prep and Pastry for brunch and Borderlands Brewing’s many creative beers on tap.
By Sarah, The Wandering Road Blog
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Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Not everyone knows Texas has two National Parks! If you’re looking to explore the one that is underrated, rarely crowded, and full of rugged outdoor opportunities, then check out Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
This National Park is an ideal springtime destination! Texas’s summer sun is formidable, which makes this park off-limits to many during those months, while fall and winter can be surprisingly chilly in this high desert environment. Spring is the perfect time to explore all of the hiking and camping opportunities at Guadalupe!
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is a true testament to the fact that there are real mountains in Texas! Many of the trails take full advantage of this, with some surprisingly challenging options! The “top” hiking trail in Guadalupe has to be the trek to the highest point in Texas at Guadalupe Peak! This day hike is best enjoyed during spring when the wind has less bite, and the temperatures are moderate, even at higher altitude! There are plenty of other hikes through Guadalupe’s diverse ecosystems, including the Chihuahuan Desert, McKittrick Canyon, and Devil’s Hall.
Top off your experience with some truly secluded camping. There are two campgrounds, both highlighting distinct environments, and both first come first serve. Spring is the best time to camp at Guadalupe when the night temperatures are more agreeable for outdoor sleeping!
Kristen, Yonderlust Ramblings
Due to Glacier Park’s high latitude and elevation, spring starts a bit later here, with warmer temperatures arriving only at the end of May. While that might seem like a downside, it’s actually a blessing for anyone wanting to enjoy Glacier’s majesty without the crowds.
While the famed Going-to-the-Sun Road isn’t open in the spring months, other areas of the park are accessible, even if they’re still blanketed in snow. Both St. Mary Lake and Lake McDonald are accessible throughout the spring and offer excellent opportunities for kayaking the crystal clear waters.
Spring run-off in the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, which runs along the southern edge of the park, makes for some seriously thrilling whitewater then, too. And a unique reason to visit Glacier in the springtime? Avid cyclists can pedal the partially plowed Going-to-the-Sun Road before it opens for the season.
The trails near Lake McDonald and St. Mary Lake are also open in the spring – either for regular hiking or for snowshoeing, depending on the weather. No matter what you choose to do, you’ll feel like you have the park to yourself. Glacier gets seriously crowded during the summer months, and visiting in the spring is a totally unique experience.
By Ryan, Montana Discovered
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Spring is a wonderful time to visit Grand Canyon National Park. The north rim, which is at a higher elevation, opens mid-May, but the south rim is open year-round. In winter, the south rim gets very cold and icy, and in summer, it is hot and crowded. In spring, however, it is just perfect.
The mild temperatures and melted snow and ice make this a great time to hit the trails and venture below the rim. Hike either of the two main trails from the south rim to the canyon floor, the Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trail. Being inside the canyon, surrounded by the towering canyon cliffs, is a truly awe-inspiring experience. Spring also sees the desert flowers burst into bloom, and as you venture into the canyon, you will be surrounded by their pops of color.
Back up on the rim, you may see baby elk or mule deer wandering around in the early morning or late afternoon. This is also the best time for photography, and the crisp spring days make for especially beautiful photos of this incredible place.
By James, Parks Collecting
Canyonlands National Park
If you’re looking for a scenic desert adventure from backpacking to epic scenic drives, look no further than Canyonlands National Park. The park itself is located near Moab, Utah and is divided into three districts.
The Needles District in the southern part of the park is famous for incredible hiking trails. One of the must-see hikes, Druid Arch, takes you through impressively stunning red rock spires, also known as hoodoos. You’ll wind your way through canyons of these monoliths that pierce the sky like needles. See the blooming cacti in late spring and enjoy the beautifully warm weather that’s perfect for hiking. This district is 1 hour and 30 minutes from downtown Moab.
The most accessible district, Island in the Sky, is famous for its bird’s eye viewpoints, easy hikes, and famous dirt road driving. Be sure to check out Grand Viewpoint, Mesa Arch, White Rim Road, and Shafer Canyon Road. Keep in mind, at just 40 minutes from Moab, this area of the park gets extremely crowded on spring weekends, so plan accordingly.
Lastly, for a real backcountry adventure, snag some permits for The Maze District. As the most remote district in the park, it’s a 4 to 6 hour drive down 4WD, bumpy dirt roads just to access the first trailhead. This area is for serious adventurer’s only and often required multi-day, rugged treks through canyons. However, you’ll be rewarded with killer scenery and plenty of solitude.
Canyonlands National Park is the perfect place to visit this spring for any kind of outdoor adventure. Be sure to make a reservation for permits or camping well in advance before you head out.
By Meg, Fox in the Forest
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
With verdant greens in summer, eye-popping colors in autumn, and snow turning the Blue Ridge Mountains into a winter wonderland, Western North Carolina is a delightful place to visit all year round. But Spring is a particularly great time to explore the region, especially if you want to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Straddling the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, GSMNP is by far the most popular national park in the US, averaging nearly 13 million visitors a year (Grand Canyon National Park– #2 on the list, gets less than 6 million). And while summer and especially autumn are also great times to explore the park, they are considerably more crowded and increasingly plagued by the problems of mass tourism.
Spring is arguably the best time to visit the park, and not just because of smaller crowds and discounted off-season rates. Temperatures in spring tend to be considerably cooler, which allows for hiking, mountain biking, or paddling without sweltering from the South’s oppressive heat and humidity.
For wildlife lovers, there are other good reasons to visit the national park in Spring. In the southeastern section on the North Carolina side, you’ll find the famous Cataloochee Valley Elk herd. Wild Elk once roamed the region freely, but they’d been completely killed off by the late 1700s. Great Smoky Mountains National Park began an experimental Elk reintroduction program back in 2001, releasing a total of 52 animals in the span of one year.
Now they’re among the park’s main attractions, and in Spring you can see the males shedding their massive horns. By mid-May to early June, the females begin to give birth, and visitors may have a chance to spot extremely young Elk calves. But please do remember that the mamas can be very aggressive if they sense any impending threat to their young.
While you’re in the area, be on the lookout for wildlife such as Black Bears and White-tailed Deer, and hike the Little Cataloochee Trail to see a number of historic buildings from the 1800s and early 1900s.
By Bret and Mary, Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide
Channel Islands National Park
Channel Islands National Park is truly one of the joys of the US National Park system. Although the park is located off densely populated Southern California, it’s a bit difficult to get to. And so, there are not that many visitors, especially in Spring.
Unless you have your own boat, the way to get to Santa Cruz, the most accessible of the Channel Islands, is via a scheduled trip from Island Packers Cruises from Ventura. For many, the ferry ride will be the highlight of your visit and it’s very likely your boat will be surrounded by leaping dolphins for a good part of the voyage.
Once you get to Santa Cruz, if you’ve arranged in advance, you can snorkel or kayak around the many coves. Or, you can take some of the hiking paths that will give you a sense of the island’s rugged geology, flora and fauna, as well as its history as a former farm. If you decide to go the hiking route, be sure to hook up with one of the Park Service volunteers who will give you a great orientation to all the aspects of the Park.
By Tom, Travel Past 50
Zion National Park
Zion. In ancient Hebrew, the word means sanctuary or refuge. In my mind, Zion means a little slice of hiking heaven. Zion National Park is one of the most spectacular US National Parks for hiking. The park climbs up out of the 15-mile long – and over 2,600 feet deep – canyon with a jaw-dropping, tan and red-colored sandstone backdrop.to access endless forested plateaus.
Take a sunset stroll up Watchman Trail for quiet beauty (3.3 mi roundtrip/~2 hrs). Challenge yourself with a steep climb up to Angel’s Landing (5.4 mi roundtrip/~4 hrs). Or escape the crowds with a jaunt up Observation Point via East Rim Trail (8.0 mi roundtrip/~6 hrs).
Spring is the ultimate time to visit for several reasons. First, it’s less crowded than in the summer months. Up to 1.5 million people visit Zion every month in the summer! Secondly, the temperatures are not too hot, not too cold – just right for hiking. Days are warm and nights are cool. Finally, wildflowers are starting to bloom. Watch for scarlet swaths of paintbrush and the brilliant fuchsia-colored or lemon-yellow flowers of prickly pear cactus as you set out on the trail to discover what this special sanctuary.
By Megan, Time.Travel.Trek.
Badlands National Park
Whether you are interested in the fossils, wildlife and cultural history, or hiking, cycling and horseback riding, there are so many ways to experience what nature has to offer at Badlands National Park in South Dakota.
A springtime visit to Badlands National Park avoids both the crowds and sweltering temperatures of summer and you can expect to see the colours of spring, as green grass covers the impressive prairie landscape.
Bird watchers can keep an eye out for migrating grassland species and spring is also a great time of year to see geese and ducks.
If you come to see the wildlife, springtime is when prairie animals give birth, so you might spot a baby buffalo coming out to explore. Head out into the park with your camera at dusk and dawn if you are looking to photograph wildlife, as they tend to be most active at these times, and you might also catch a striking sunrise or sunset.
Try to allow at least two nights for your visit to Badlands National Park, so that you can enjoy the stars shining in a clear night sky, as spring is the best season for stargazing!
By Claire, ClairePins Travel
Shenandoah National Park
One of the best and most underrated national parks to visit in spring is Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The winter in Shenandoah can seem forever long, so when spring creeps up, it is welcomed by Virginians and those that live in DC.
Shenandoah becomes a paradise of wildflowers during the spring months. The bears are out of hibernation and the park comes back to life. During the spring, Shenandoah offers comfortable temperatures, roaring waterfalls and streams from the snow melting, and greener views.
But, most importantly, the hiking season is back at Shenandoah and the park offers some of the most famous hiking in the United States. Part of the park is also part of the famed Appalachian Trail that extends from Maine to Georgia (Virginia has the most ‘mileage’ of any state).
Old Rag Mountain is a popular hiking spot in Shenandoah and the 9-mile hike is popular during spring as it is less-trodden and one can take in the views without the noise of other hikers. Another popular hike is Doyles Falls, a 3.2-mile hike to a waterfall in the park. Another can’t-miss attraction at Shenandoah in spring is taking a ride along Skyline Drive, one of America’s most famous drives that meanders through the park
Shenandoah may get written off by some of the west coast parks for its spring offerings but between its wildflowers, views, and hiking trails, it truly is one of the best national parks to visit during spring.
By Megan, Virginia Travel Tips
Joshua Tree National Park
On average during the summer months, Joshua Tree National Park ranges from 99F-104F, making it far too uncomfortable for most people to visit then. This is why travelers should visit Joshua Tree National Park in spring!
The otherworldly California national park will give you the chance to comfortably enjoy your time there whether you spend one day in Joshua Tree or an entire week. The wildflowers are in full bloom and the trails are ready for hikers to enjoy.
During March and April, you have the opportunity to do all activities that exist in Joshua Tree from rock climbing to camping to stargazing and more. In addition, the Joshua Tree Music Festival takes place in spring and is the perfect place to venture to as it involves camping combined with music.
One of the most popular trails to try when you’re in Joshua Tree is Barker Dam Nature Trail – the 1.3-mile loop trail is an easy trek for all visitors regardless of skill level. Be sure to also visit Arch Rock while you’re at Joshua Tree. This famous landmark is best seen underneath the starry skies at night.
There are so many reasons to visit Joshua Tree in spring and if you’re in the Los Angeles area and want a fantastic day trip option, it should be considered!
By Megan, Megan and Aram
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is one of the best National Parks to visit in the Spring. The weather is started to warm up by March and April and you can expect highs of 50 degrees and lows in the 20s or 30s.
Yellowstone is one of the busiest National Parks in the United States but visiting in March and April will definitely give you a chance to explore the park with fewer crowds. Since the weather isn’t 70 degree sunny days yet, fewer people decide to visit the park during this time.
With fewer people milling about and the fact that it’s spring, your chances of seeing wildlife in the park are greatly increased! Spring is a great time to spot bears, moose, bighorn sheep, elk, and bison! It is also common to see bison calving in Lamar Valley during this time of year.
By Jessica, Unearth the Voyage
Petrified Forest National Park
In Northeastern Arizona, near Holbrook, is the beautiful Petrified Forest National Park. Filled with petrified wood, beautiful landscapes, badlands and petroglyphs. In the North of the park is the Painted Desert and petrified logs are everywhere, but mostly in the Southern part.
When visiting Petrified Forest drive at least the main road, which is 28 miles long. This way you can see something of everything the park has to offer. Stop at the viewpoints and undertake a few of the hikes starting at the viewpoints. Stop at least at the viewpoint with Newspaper Rock, which has over 650 petroglyphs. From the 7 walking trails don’t miss the Agate House trail, the Longs Logs trail and the Painted Desert Rim Trail. On Agate House you can see a pueblo, on Long Logs petrified logs and badlands and on the Rim trail the Painted Desert.
Petrified Forest is perfect to visit in the spring since that’s when the wildflower season starts. It’s also not the busiest season, since Summer is the time when most visitors flock to the park. Spring is weather-wise a good season since in Summertime violent thunder-storms occur and it’s really hot.
By Cosette, KarsTravels.
Death Valley National Park
Whether you are visiting Death Valley on a day trip from Las Vegas or going for an extended stay, it’s definitely one of the best National Parks to visit in the spring. Here are two key reasons why you should visit in the spring.
The first is that springtime has Death Valley’s best weather. You’ll find average temperatures with highs in the mid 80’s and lows in the high 50’s. Contrast that with average summer highs which reach a volcanic 115’ and you’ll be packing the car for an April visit instead.
The second reason has to do with Death Valley’s rainfall. It’s a desert and it doesn’t get much rain, but what they do get happens in the winter. The rain fuels wildflower blooms that pop up in the spring. Time it right and you can spot marigolds, lupin, desert star, paintbrush and lilies. Keep an eye on the parks wildflower watch for the best times and places.
By Carol, California Crossings
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Great Basin National Park
Great Basin National Park might not be the most famous national park, but it is a hidden gem to explore, especially in the spring. While the spring weather in Great Basin is very unpredictable, whatever the conditions, you’ll find some amazing things in the park, from hiking to cave tours to either snowshoeing or wildflowers blooming!
Hiking in Great Basin allows you to explore the rugged terrain of this unique place in eastern Nevada, near the Utah border. Hikes range from easy loops through conifer forests and bristlecone groves to the strenuous summit of Wheeler Peak at 13,044 feet. Be sure to check the weather forecast in the spring, and possibly bring traction to help you on snow and ice, which you will probably still find on the trails.
One of the main attractions in the park is the Lehman Caves, which are open year-round (though they do require reservations for the ranger-guided tours). These incredible caves feature limestone formations and will provide shelter from a spring snowstorm.
By Allison, She Dreams of Alpine
Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the best places to visit in Spring. It’s at the very bottom end of Florida, so the weather is a bit hot and humid during summer, so spring is often the best place to visit the park. To get to Dry Tortugas, you either have to get on a seaplane or a ferry boat from Key West. There are no concessions in Dry Tortugas, but if you choose to go on the boat, a light lunch is included in the trip.
Once you’re in Dry Tortugas, you’ll get a few hours to explore the area. You can join one of two guided tours to learn more about the history of the fort, you can bring your own gear and go snorkeling, where there’s loads of fish and barracuda located on the shallow waters, or you can just hang around at the small beach areas. Other people prefer to walk around the entire fort and just discover hidden nooks and crannies that are great for photos or go by the jetty area.
One needs to make reservations in advance for the boat, as there is only one official concessionaire offering the tours, and they only go on one trip daily. Expect to spend a whole day if you do plan to go – one can also camp to stay longer and get on the next ferry the next day.
By Ruby, A Journey We Love
White Sands National Park
White Sands National Park, located outside Alamogordo, New Mexico, is made up of miles and miles of bright white sand dunes that are open for exploring. Southwestern weather and all that sand reflecting the sun’s heat makes springtime a fantastic time to visit without worrying about heat exhaustion; it is also the season for the native yucca plants to bloom and show off!
Plan to stop in at the gift shop and rent a sled before you head out. Driving the full road loop is a must-do to get the full experience, and adventurous folks can camp out on the dunes for the night.
If you’d prefer to stay on your own two feet, trying hiking the self-guided Dune Life Nature Trail with interpretive signs. Another trail option with steadier footing is the interdune boardwalk that allows strollers and wheelchairs to safely experience the white sand dunes as well.
By Stephanie, Explore More, Clean Less
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
A visit to Hawaii in spring is a fantastic time with most of the tourist crowds and families gone from the spring holidays and prices are good in terms of flights and hotels. Springtime on the Big Island of Hawaii is also ideal to visit Volcanoes National Park which is not jam-packed with tourists during the spring holidays.
One of the main draws would be to visit the caldera with the active eruption of lava at the Halema’uma’u crater in the center of the caldera and it is impressive to witness day and night. Springtime wildflower blooms of native and tropical flowers infuse the entire park with a riot of hot colors, gorgeous scents and beautiful accents along the vista points, hiking trails and other points of interests to visit in the park. You’ll love visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National park in springtime and really witnessing one of nature’s most impressive, raw and active volcanoes in the state.
An easy day trip or overnighter from the major cities of Hilo or Kona, you can do a guided tour or drive over yourself. An overnight stay in the nearby town of Volcano makes the park more accessible at night when the show of fumes, ash and lava combine to create a natural firework type of display that really impresses visitors to the park and is a highlight to visiting the island.
Make sure that you do the road trip through the Chain of Craters road all the way down to the ocean to witness all the lava devastation to the coastline with dramatic cliffs, arches and views that will make this a memorable trip and highlight to the park.
By Noel, This Hawaii Life
Mt Rainier National Park
For a great spring national park in the United States, Mt. Rainier National Park is a fantastic choice! Depending on the weather, you may have some lovely snowfall or you may have clearer paths for hiking around Mt Rainier and enjoying the beautiful nature.
Near the end of spring, you might even start to see a few wildflowers peaking up in May and June, though due to the higher elevation of the park, you likely won’t see the wildflowers in the early spring months.However, visiting Mt Rainier National Park in March or April is still absolutely worth it, even if you miss wildflower season.
Mt Rainier in spring has tons of waterfalls and they are usually at their peak flow in spring. Mt Rainier is the most glaciated mountain in the Lower 48, and where there are glaciers, there are glacier-fed waterfalls! A few of the coolest waterfalls to visit in the park are Christine Falls and Narada Falls, both of which are only a short walk away from the parking area at Paradise. Whether the falls are icy or rushing water, it’s a win win: both frozen waterfalls and thundering falls are equally beautiful in totally different ways!
Depending on the conditions, you could also take a hike to one of the other waterfalls, such as Comet Falls, Carter Falls, Madcap Falls, or Myrtle Falls. All are an easy hike from Paradise, though snowpack or ice on the trail may make for difficult hiking conditions, so be prepared with Yaktrax or other shoe spikes to handle the ice, and be sure to ask a ranger before doing any hikes if there’s still lots of snow present.
By Allison, Small Town Washington
Everglades National Park
Spring time in the Florida Everglades is a great time to visit, just at the end of the dry season before the summer rains begin. There are many things to do in the Everglades but exploring the “River of Grass” when the temperatures and humidity are still comfortable is ideal.
Hiking trails are still dry in the Spring so access on foot is easier than during the wet season. For biking enthusiasts, there are trails designated for cycling as well as hiking. Birdwatchers can fill their journals with sightings of the incredible number of nesting birds.
Most people visit with hopes of seeing alligators. Spring will not disappoint. Gators tend to be more concentrated at this time of year due to low water levels, and airboat vendors target those pools while providing information on the ecosystem and other animals active in the Spring. An airboat ride through mangrove tunnels will not soon be forgotten.
Exploring by kayak or canoe is very popular along with camping at one of the several sites that feature elevated platforms. All this makes for a great outdoor Spring wilderness adventure in the Everglades.
By Lori, Travlinmad
Wow, there certainly are some spectacular National Parks in the USA. Which one would you choose to visit? Remember only travel if it is safe and responsible to do so. I hope that next year I’ll be able to visit one of these National Parks in spring myself!
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Just to let you know, this post may contain paid or affiliate links, which help to maintain Tales of a Backpacker and give me the chance to keep travelling, and to keep creating awesome content for you! I only recommend goods and services I believe are useful and reliable.Last updated: January 27, 2021