We’ve put together a list of fantastic vacation ideas at US National Parks in August.
August is a popular month for families to travel for summer vacation.
There are national parks in the US when August is the best time to visit due to weather and specific attractions.
We asked fellow travelers to share their tips for visiting various national parks in August to help you make a list of places to go this summer.
If you are looking for more bucket list parks to add to your list, check out these national park vacation ideas.
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WHAT TO PACK FOR A NATIONAL PARK VACATION IN THE SUMMER
DOWNLOAD our US National Park checklists to make it easy to pack what you need for your next trip!
1. US National Parks Pass
You can order passes online or get them at any of these Federal Recreation Areas.
→ BUY THE PASS AT REI and they will donate 10% of sales to the National Park Foundation.
2. Hiking Gear
- Hiking shoes & boots: → Check out our FAVORITE hiking shoes/boots!
- Hiking socks: → Check out the BEST SOCKS EVER!
- Walking stick or trekking poles
3. Clothing – Layers
- WATER: → We carry water bottles or hydration backpacks
- FOOD: → Check out our favorite healthy snacks
- Flashlight: → Check out the headlamps we like
- National Park maps
- Lip protection with sunscreen
- Polarized sunglasses
- Insect repellant
- Hand lotion
- Toilet paper (carry out in a bag – do not bury)
- Hand sanitizer
- First aid kit
- Bags to pack out trash
- Cell phone
- Portable charger
- Guide books
- Camera Gear – DOWNLOAD our free checklist!
- Photography gear for hiking
FUN VACATION IDEAS AT US NATIONAL PARKS IN AUGUST
Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park is one of most visited National Parks on the East Coast known for its landscape. The most popular and busiest time to visit Acadia is August. Why not, August is the time with warm and most pleasant weather great to enjoy the beautiful outdoors of the National Park.
The varied landscape with rugged cliffs gazing over the Atlantic Ocean, sandy beaches, mountains and green belt of trees attracts visitors from around the world. The best things to do in Acadia National Park is driving the 27-mile long Park Loop Road traversing through the major sites that are a must stop – Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliff.
Other places not to miss are the Cadillac Mountain and Jordan Pond. Cadillac mountain is considered the highest peak on the east coast and gives an opportunity to see some mesmerizing views of the ocean and the park. We would highly recommend waking up early for watching the sunrise from the mountain summit. It is well worth the extra effort. But do take along jackets and blankets as it gets very windy at the peak.
Acadia National Park is also an apt place for stargazing. You will be able to watch the milky way from Sand Beach and Cadillac mountain.
Tip: Since August is a busy month, it is difficult to get the parking at the sites. To beat the traffic congestion, opt for the free Island Explorer shuttle to explore the park. It is also a great way to preserve the natural resources.
Note: The Park Loop Road is majorly a one way road and a map helps to plan the trip.
Article and Photo by Neha from Travel Melodies
Acadia National Park Lodging & Tours
- Hotels Near Acadia National Park
- Vacation Rentals Near Acadia National Park
- Acadia National Park Tours
Denali National Park
Denali National Park is one of the best US National Parks to visit in August. The weather is perfect for hiking and camping in Denali. A small amount of precipitation and clear skies also make it the best month for seeing the highest peak in North America – Denali.
Mount Denali (also name McKinley), with a summit elevation of 20,310 feet (6,190 m), hides in the clouds for most of the year. Furthermore, in August, the animals are more active before winter, which begins in Alaska in mid-September. That’s why you have a good chance of encountering bears with cubs and other wildlife like elk and caribou.
Denali NP has only one road and only one park entrance. Denali Road is 92 miles long and runs from east to west. However, private cars are not allowed after mile 15. But there are some options for visiting the park. One of the best is to buy a guided bus tour. It lasts all day, and you will stop at the most beautiful viewpoints in the park. The guides know a lot about the park and wildlife. And because the animals have become accustomed to the buses, you can often watch them next to the road.
Another option is to reserve a site at one of the six Denali tent campgrounds and take the park bus to reach it. This is the best way for hiking lovers, but there are no marked trails in Denali. It’s pure wilderness, so prepare well for the camping. You can also book a flight over the mountains with a glacier landing – a breathtaking experience. Check this detailed Alaska Itinerary to find more tips on preparing for the Denali National Park’s summer adventure.
Article and Photo by Agnes from The Van Escape
Glacier National Park
With long summer days, Glacier National Park in Montana’s Big Sky country is an awesome national park for outdoor adventure travel in August.
Home to gorgeous glaciers and jaw-dropping alpine hikes and views, you can hike late into the day because the sun stays up until around 9pm.
PRO TIP: Enjoy lazy mornings in your vacation cabin or at your campsite. Simply avoid crowds by starting your hike in the late afternoon after everyone else has returned to their cars.
Glacier is filled with lavishly dressed wildflowers and wonderful wildlife: Grizzly bears, mountain goats, and Bighorn sheep to name a few. The mountain views atop Logan Pass will remind you why Glacier is nicknamed America’s Alps.
Plan to hike and hit the water in Glacier National Park: jump off the dock or paddle across Lake McDonald. Don’t miss the bumpy ride to Bowen Lake, or the separate hikes to Avalanche Lake and Stanton Lake.
Kayaking or rafting a section of the Flathead River is also a fun way to experience Glacier. Backpacking up to the Granite Chalet and Sperry Chalet are excellent ways to explore Glacier’s backcountry.
The small towns just outside West Glacier offer famous huckleberry treats – try a milkshake or bear claw. Plus local bands and local brews are served up nightly at places like the Gunsight Saloon in Columbia Falls.
Also popular most summers, is spending time exploring the east side of Glacier via St. Mary and East Glacier. Just north of Glacier, across the Canadian border, is the other half of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Many folks love to take the Waterton Lake Boat Tour.
Check out my tips for visiting Glacier National Park with kids HERE.
Article and photo by Tanya from Rad Family Travel
Glacier NP Lodging & Tours
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the best parks to visit in August for one reason: waterfalls.
There are more than 100 cascades within the park boundaries. Some — like Laurel Falls and Grotto Falls — are huge, iconic, and very popular. Others, like the five waterfalls around Deep Creek, get a fraction of the tourist traffic but are no less beautiful. All are at their peak flows in the summer rainy season.
If you’re not a fan of waterfalls, the Smokies has plenty more to offer in August. The highest mountains in the park — Mount LeConte and Clingman’s Dome — rarely see temperatures above 75 degrees, making them the perfect place to escape the heat.
While Great Smoky Mountains is among the most visited of all U.S. National Parks, and August is peak tourist season, much of the park is extremely remote and isolated. If you want to avoid the crowds, try a long day-hike along the Sawteeth ridge. Check out the trails around Fontana Lake that are only accessible by boat. Or spend a week backpacking the Benton MacKaye Trail through the park — it’s every bit as epic a hike as the Appalachian Trail, but far less crowded.
Weather in the Smokies in August is unpredictable. Always carry rain gear and a fleece layer (temperatures often drop into the 40’s at night). The mountains get afternoon thunderstorms almost every day — avoid hikes on exposed ridges from 2-5 pm. If you plan to stay overnight in the backcountry, you must reserve permits in advance.
Great Smoky Mountains Lodging & Tours
- Hotels Near Great Smoky Mountains
- Vacation Rentals Near Great Smoky Mountains
- Tours Near Great Smoky Mountains
Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park in south central Alaska is unique, ultra-scenic and a must-see destination. Located 125 miles south of Anchorage, the park is great to visit in August when silver salmon make their run, bears are out bulking up for winter, and the temperature is still mild.
Book a glacier and wildlife cruise and sail in and out of the fjords viewing mighty icy landscapes, sea lions, otters, puffins, and eagles flying overhead. You’ll hear thunderous “calving” when ice from the glacier breaks apart and falls.
If you’re up for a hiking adventure, the beautiful blue ice of Exit Glacier is easily accessible as you walk alongside water runoff and practically up to the glacier itself. Along the trail you have the opportunity to see bear, moose, and wolves.
Continue a little further and take the strenuous – but spectacular – 8.2 mile round trip Harding Icefield Trail. Here you’ll witness an impressive icy horizon that stretches for miles.
The town of Seward just outside the park serves as a great base for exploring Kenai Fjords National Park. With a variety of inviting accommodations, restaurants and even a downtown craft brewery, it’s a perfect place to relax after an adventurous day in the park.
Article and Photo by Deanne from Scenic and Savvy
Mount Rainier National Park
One of the best national parks to visit in August is Mount Rainier National Park. This park has so many outstanding views and trails. The weather is also pretty sunny and warm most of the time, but it is still recommended to bring an insulated jacket and rain jacket just in case.
The number one activity at this national park is to hike the Skyline Trail. Even if you hike only 0.1 miles of this trail, you will still be in awe. The trail features fantastic views of Mount Rainier throughout the whole hike, and there is even a waterfall called Myrtle Falls. If you frame it correctly, you can get an excellent photo of both the mountain and the waterfall.
On rainy or cloudy days, it is recommended to hike Comet Falls. At 380′, it is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Washington State. It also features other waterfalls, rivers, and beautiful lush green trees.
If you want to see the other entrances of Mount Rainier, then Fremont Lookout is a fantastic hike. The trail is moderate and features a beautiful fire lookout. Since it is an easy trail to follow, many people love hiking this at sunset. Another excellent fire lookout trail is Tolmie Peak. Tomie Peak takes you through the forest, and at the end, there is a fire lookout with beautiful views of Mount Rainier. This is another fantastic spot for sunrise or sunset. Regardless of what you do, you will fall in love with Mount Rainier and all its beautiful and fantastic trails.
Article and photo by Michelle from Wandering Queen
Mt. Rainier National Park Lodging & Tours
- Hotels Near Mt. Rainier National Park
- Vacation Rentals Near Mt. Rainier National Park
- Tours Near Mt. Rainier National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
The peak of summer brings long, warm days to Colorado, which makes August the perfect time to explore Rocky Mountain National Park. Whether you want to spend your time hiking one of the many trails in the park, admiring the wildflowers that often blanket the landscape well into August, or searching for the abundance of wildlife like elk, moose, bighorn sheep, and bears, August is a fantastic time to visit.
Summer is a perfect time to do some of the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park thanks to the near-perfect weather and snow-free trails. If you’re looking for a short and sweet hike with some of the best views in the park, make the relatively easy ascent up to Dream Lake and Emerald Lake from the Bear Lake Trailhead (3.3 miles round trip). For a longer, more strenuous hike that is perfect for outdoor adventurers, make the grueling climb through the alpine tundra to Chasm Lake (9.4 miles round trip), which sits at a whopping 11,800 feet above sea level.
One of the advantages to visiting in August is that you’ll be able to drive Trail Ridge Road, which is only open in the summer and allows you to climb up the pass between the east side of the park, which is the more popular part, and the less-visited west side. Most of this drive is above the treeline in the “alpine tundra,” and you’ll have stunning views of the surrounding rocky peaks the entire way through.
If you want to see wildlife, your best bets are going to be Sprague Lake, where moose are often spotted in the water, Moraine Park, where you’ll find herds of elk at dusk and dawn, and at Big Meadow on the west side of the park.
Article and Photo by Matt from Wheatless Wanderlust
Rocky Mountain National Park Lodging & Tours
- Hotels Near Rocky Mountain National Park
- Vacation Rentals Near Rocky Mountain National Park
- Tours Near Rocky Mountain National Park
Shenandoah National Park
There’s nothing better than motoring along Shenandoah National Park’s famed Skyline Drive in August when the weather is warm and the days are long. More than 75 viewpoints, including Signal Knob Overlook (milepost 5.5) and Jewell Hollow Overlook (milepost 35.6) implore park-goers to pause for sweeping views across the majestic Shenandoah Valley.
More than 500 miles of hiking trails criss-cross the park, welcoming visitors with gram-worthy scenery aplenty, like tumbling waterfalls, rock scrambles, historic sites and far-reaching summit vistas. The short and sweet hike to Hawksbill Summit wows with spectacular views of Massanutten Mountain. Meanwhile, the delightful waterfall hike to 67-foot-tall Rose River Falls cools with a refreshingly dreamy swimming hole.
August is also a wonderful time to hike the Appalachian Trail through the park along the 101 miles that meander alongside iconic Skyline Drive. The bulk of northbound thru-hikers come through the park in May and June, making August a less busy time to hike the famed AT with a backpack and trekking poles.
There’s more than hiking at Shenandoah National Park, too. Book a one-hour or 2.5-hour guided horseback trail ride at Skyland Stables to see the Shenandoah Valley from a new perspective. As in, from atop a horse as you trot along leafy trails and across an old apple orchard. Hand-guided pony rides are available for small children.
Of the six entrance fee-free days at national parks, two are in August. Mark your calendars now. There is no charge for park admission on August 4, the one-year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act, and August 25, the 105th birthday of the National Park Service.
Article and Photo by Erin from Go Hike Virginia
Where to Stay Near Shenandoah National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is one of the best National Parks in the USA. In my opinion, August is the best time to visit!
Because August is a popular time to visit Yellowstone planning ahead is essential. Booking lodging or camping sites in January is recommended. We made the mistake of waiting too long and had to wait an entire year before we could go!
Yellowstone is in three states: Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Yellowstone is bigger than the two states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined. It has five entrances! There is so much to see. Old Faithful, wildlife, waterfalls, and paint pots are everywhere. Most of your time at Yellowstone is spent driving from one place to the next.
The crowd levels at Yellowstone can be insane. Luckily, in August we did not experience traffic. We were able to go to Old Faithful and had no trouble watching the famous geyser. The hiking paths were easy to navigate and we never felt too crowded.
One thing to mention is in August temperatures start to get cooler at night. We were really surprised at how cold it got. During the day it was fine but be prepared to have jackets and extra blankets.
Check out my tips for visiting Yellowstone with kids HERE.
Lisa from Planning Away
Places to stay in West Yellowstone that we recommend:
- Holiday Inn, West Yellowstone
- ClubHouse Inn, West Yellowstone
- Kelly Inn, West Yellowstone
- → CHECK OUT more West Yellowstone hotels!
Places to stay in Gardiner that we recommend:
- Yellowstone Gateway Inn, Gardiner – full kitchen and comfy bed, one of our favorite places to stay!
- Park Hotel Yellowstone, Gardiner – charming place to stay and loved by guests!
- Absaroka Lodge, Gardiner – beautiful location with river views!
- → CHECK OUT more Gardiner hotels!
Places to stay in Cooke City or Silver Gate that we recommend:
- Sunny Log Home on the Creek, Silver Gate (VRBO) – the most AMAZING location with an awesome fireplace and comfy bed!
- High Country Motel and Cabins – local owners who love what they do, and make you feel so welcome!
- Rent an RV – have it dropped off at your vacation destination!