US Southwest National Parks in the Spring
Visiting the US Southwest National Parks in the Spring is a terrific time of year when the weather is “just right”!
Check out these US National Park vacation ideas in the American Southwest: guides, tips, activities, and packing checklists to help you plan your trip.
When you visit southwest US National Parks in the spring, you’ll be treated to pleasant temperatures, making it one of the best times to visit these parks!
Check out these ideas and resources for planning the perfect US Southwest vacation to visit the National Parks in this region of the country.
Be sure to grab your National Park Packing list for spring below!
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US Southwest National Parks in the Spring
There are fun national park activities going on during the spring:
- National Park Week is held each April, with the first day being a FREE entry day. Be sure to check the NPS website for specific dates and activities happening that week.
- National Junior Ranger Day is part of National Park Week in April. Here’s a list of fun US National Parks to visit with kids.
We have teamed with other travelers to provide this list of Southwest National Parks to visit in the spring in these states: Arizona, Southern California, Southern Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah.
Arizona National Parks in the Spring
Spring is the perfect time to visit the National Parks in Arizona! Scottsdale, Arizona is a terrific home base to access many of the sites and attractions in the state. Check out this list of best Scottsdale resorts for families!
Grand Canyon National Park in the Spring
Spring is one of the best times to visit the Grand Canyon! You can make a dedicated trip or visit as part of a longer Utah and Arizona Road Trip. The North Rim is closed in the winter and much of Spring, but the South Rim remains open to visitors all year. You can park near the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and walk, bike, or shuttle to other areas of the park.
Weather on the South Rim varies from the 20s to 60s (deg F) depending on the Spring month. Come prepared with warm layers and expect the possibility of snow even into May. The desert climate means mornings and evenings can be freezing, with warmer temperatures midday. Many of the best hikes in the park are open in Spring including South Kaibab Trail. If you plan on hiking, check recent trail reviews and prepare for ice with microspikes or crampons if necessary.
If you don’t want to hike you can shuttle to several magnificent viewpoints, including Mohave and Pima Point. You can also rent a bike and bike along the 7-mile Hermit Road!
There are no reservations required to visit the Grand Canyon, but a $35 entrance fee at the gate or bring an America the Beautiful Pass. (Recommended by voyageswithval)
Petrified Forest National Park in the Spring
Located in the northeastern corner of Arizona, Petrified Forest National Park is one of the most underrated parks in the National Park system. Here you’ll find colorful badlands; rolling hills, sprinkled with crystallized wood; and a barren desert, full of scarlet hills, stretching on as far as the eye can see.
Spring is a lovely time to visit, with moderate temperatures that are perfect for hiking and springtime wildflowers popping up across its rolling hills.
Take advantage of the limited crowds and hit some of the best trails in the park, like the Blue Mesa trail. On this easy trail, you’ll hike below the rim of a mesa and wave your way through a sea of vibrant blue badlands. Alternatively, to see the park’s namesake fossils, head to the Crystal Forest trail, where you’ll get sweeping views in all directions of hilly slopes, littered with colorful pieces of wood that are millions of years old!
You don’t need a reservation to enter the park. It’s also relatively small, so it’s easy to hit most of the main sites in just one day. Simply drive in and cruise align the Petrified Forest Road. (Recommended by uprootedtraveler)
Saguaro National Park in the Spring
Springtime is a perfect time to visit Saguaro National Park in Arizona! With its cacti-filled desert landscape, stunning sky-high mountains, and plenty of hiking trails, the park provides an unbeatable opportunity for adventure.
In late April you can experience the park in all its glory for the few weeks that the Saguaro Cacti are blooming. This beautiful phenomenon only lasts a few weeks, and seeing the blooms in contrast to the desert surroundings is a gorgeous sight that few get to see.
The weather is wonderful in springtime and gives you an opportunity to hike and explore the park before the intense Arizona heat sets in.
The days will be mostly warm and sunny, but evenings can get quite chilly. You’ll want to be sure and bring sun protection, as well as a warm jacket for when the sun goes down. Be aware of flash flooding after rain, and always check the NPS site for current conditions.
Saguaro is divided into 2 “areas” separated by the city of Tucson. Both sides have scenic drives that highlight the best of the park, and short hikes that are easy to do. You can also ride a bicycle around the park, especially on the West Side of the park.
There is no fee to enter Saguaro National Park, no reservations are needed. The gates do close at 5 pm in the spring to incoming traffic. (Recommended by flannelsorflipflops)
Antelope Canyon in the Spring
The spring months are a really ideal time to visit Antelope Canyon – located in the Navajo National Parks. The temperatures are comfortable, averaging 69 F and it is usually sunny.
In addition, springtime is a great time to visit Antelope Canyon in terms of avoiding the peak season crowds. But do take note of holiday periods as crowds will arrive during the spring break / Easter holidays!
Visiting during a weekday when the children are at school will give you a good chance of getting Antelope Canyon to yourself without too many other people. Especially if you shy away from the more well-known Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons and visit the elusive Antelope Canyon X! (Recommended by 24hourslayover)
California National Parks in the Spring
There are fun things to do in the spring at National Parks in Southern California.
Death Valley National Park in the Spring
Death Valley National Park, located in the Southern California desert, features majestic landscapes over its vast expanse: the park is the largest in the contiguous US.
Because it’s on the record books as the hottest place on earth, and temperatures can get up there in the late spring, plan to visit earlier in the year. March highs are in the high 80s, and April highs in the 90s. By May, daytime highs tend to get up into the low 100s. It’s best to drive around and see the sights, and restrict on-foot exploring to very early and late in the day.
Taking in the sunrise at Zabriskie Point is one of the top things to do in Death Valley. Also drive up to Dante’s View for stunning views over the valley. Go sandboarding at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, and be awed by the vast salt flat at Badwater Basin. The Artist’s Drive is a must-do: stop at the Artist’s Palette viewpoint to see all the different colors in the hills.
Light loose clothing is advised for sightseeing during the day. Bring layers though, because it can be cool early and late. Wear closed-toed shoes for hiking, and bring plenty of drinking water on hikes. (Recommended by roadtrippingcalifornia)
Joshua Tree National Park in the Spring
Spring is one of the best times to visit Joshua Tree National Park. The park is filled with an abundance of wildflowers and cacti, perfect for a day of hiking, camping, or sightseeing.
The mild temperatures make it easier to explore the many trails and take in the spectacular views.
There are plenty of opportunities to observe local wildlife, including the infamous coyotes, jackrabbits, and roadrunners.
Visitors should be aware that temperatures can vary throughout the day, so it’s best to come prepared with appropriate clothing and sun protection. Always carry plenty of water with you, even if you feel the temperatures are not that hot. There is very little shade in Joshua Tree.
Hiking in Joshua Tree is one of the most popular activities to do. One of the most popular hikes in the park is even more fun during the spring. Barker Dam seldom has water in it, but by visiting in early spring, you might get to see water in the dam and big horn sheep coming to drink from it.
You can also try bouldering, and explore the massive rock formations in the park, or check out the views from Keys View Road. If you want the best experience in Joshua Tree, head to the Cholla Cactus Garden for sunrise, and stay in the park to stargaze at night!
There are no reservations needed to visit Joshua Tree and you can enter 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. (Recommended by romanticrambles)
Colorado National Parks in the Spring
Spring is a wonderful time of year to visit the National Parks in Southern Colorado!
Black Canyon of the Gunnison in the Spring
Located in the picturesque San Juan Mountain range in southwestern Colorado you’ll find Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. A five hour drive from the city of Denver brings you to an impressive canyon so steep that it was named for the fact that parts deep in the canyon only receive minutes of sunlight each day. The park provides opportunities for hiking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, camping, bird-watching, and fishing.
Several things make this park the perfect place to visit in the spring. First is that there are no reservations needed! Also, the park is extremely accessible. Visitors that prefer not to hike can drive along the South Rim Road, a seven mile scenic paved route taking you to all of the best highlights of the Black Canyon.
Springtime temperatures in the surrounding towns such as Telluride and Ouray range between the low 50’s to upwards of 70 degrees. One thing to note about visiting Black Canyon is that it is very windy as the canyon rim sits 8,000 feet above sea level, so be sure to pack extra layers! In the spring snow can linger past April at the higher elevations, so warm-weather waterproof hiking shoes are recommended when visiting the Black Canyon. (Recommended by supersimplesaltylife)
Great Sand Dunes National Park in the Spring
If you’d like to see Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado, there’s really no better time to go than during spring. This natural wonder is home to Star Dune, the tallest sand dune in North America. Spring is especially perfect because any time of day will be pleasant, whereas in summer you’ll need to go early morning or later in the evening to avoid the burning sand temperatures.
Keep in mind that spring in Colorado could bring mild-to-warm temperatures, or it could have the Sand Dunes covered in snow. Plan accordingly with sweatshirts and coats in early spring. If it’s not actively snowing, then chances are good that by lunchtime the snow will be melted on the south-facing dunes.
While it’s incredible just witnessing the sand dunes, it’s way more fun to climb around and play on them. Rent a sand sled or sand board from a shop in a nearby town (you cannot rent any at the park, and snow sleds do not work on sand) and spend the day racing down the dunes. Visiting the Great Sand Dunes is perfect for families, couples, or a group of friends. Sled, board, hike, play in the sand, catch the night sky, or, in late spring, you can splash and cool down in Medano Creek at the bottom of the dunes. It’s the perfect day-adventure for everyone! (Recommended by letsjetkids)
Mesa Verde National Park in the Spring
Mesa Verde is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that strives to protect the cultural heritage of the Ancestral Pueblo people. Most people visit for the cliff dwellings, though you can also see pit houses and pueblos.
Because of its high altitude, Mesa Verde is quite cool in the Spring. You may see snow well into May. Expect temperatures in the low 70s during the day, and dropping into the 40s at night. Bring extra layers, and be prepared for rain showers at any time.
You can tour the cliff dwelling Step House on your own, but can only visit other cliff dwellings on guided tours, which start May 1st. Keep in mind that all tours go on sale 14 days ahead of the date, at 8 am MST and sell out quickly.
There are no reservations necessary to enter the park. National Park Fees for one car is $20 up until April 30, and $30 from May 1 until late October. You can also use your Annual Park Pass at any time.
The Far View Lodge is the only lodge in the park- it opens mid-April. You can also stay in Cortez, CO which is about ten miles from the park entrance. The park also has the Morefield Campground which opens with full services at the end of April. The campground has extensive amenities including an amphitheater for evening programs. These cultural programs are a part of the parks traditions, and are free to the public. However, most of these programs occur during the busy summer months. (Recommended by sharingthewander)
New Mexico National Park in the Spring
Springtime temperatures and weather are terrific to visit White Sands National Park in New Mexico!
White Sands National Park in the Spring
The White Sands National Park is located in the Tularosa Basin in New Mexico. The beautiful white desert in New Mexico is consisting of 275 square miles of gypsum sand dunes that are definitely worth a visit.
The climate at the White Sands National Park consists of glistering hot summers and winter temperatures below the freezing point. Spring is the best time to visit White Sands National Park because you can avoid massive heat as well as freezing temperatures. The daily average temperature hovers around 75ºF in spring.
Reservations to the White Sands National Park are not required, you can simply drive to the Visitors Center and pay the entrance fee before entering the park. I recommend calling ahead and confirming, that there are no missile tests on your expected arrival date. During these days, the park is closed. There are many amazing things to do in the White Sands National Park. Check out one of the hiking trails, participate in a free guided tour with a park ranger or buy a sled at the visitor’s center and glide down the sand dunes. Make sure to bring plenty of water, since there are no amenities inside the park. (Recommended by shadesofsummer)
Texas National Park in the Spring
There are fun things to do in the spring at Big Bend National Park in Texas.
Big Bend National Park in the Spring
Spring is the best time to visit Big Bend, one of the country’s largest and most remote national parks.
Located in far southwestern Texas, on the US-Mexico border, Big Bend is extraordinarily hot or cold for over half the year, but spring weather is perfect. Expect temperatures in the high 70s or low 80s during the day, chilly but not freezing evenings, and very little, if any, rain.
Spend your days hiking and experiencing the mighty Rio Grande. One of the best (and easiest!) hikes is Santa Elena Canyon, which takes you 1.7 miles along the river. In the Hot Springs Historic District, don’t miss hiking the one-mile roundtrip to the natural hot spring.
Another must in Big Bend is paddling the river. Santa Elena Canyon’s calm waters are popular (paddle upstream first, then head back!), and you can bring your own inflatable kayak or canoe, or book a guided trip. Backcountry permits are required for all river trips, but fees are only charged if you camp overnight.
Finally, be sure to do some stargazing — Big Bend’s skies are the darkest and clearest in the lower 48!
Note that while Big Bend is incredibly remote, it can get surprisingly busy, particularly during spring break in March. Because campsites and lodging are limited, make reservations as early as possible. (Recommended by chasingtrail)
Utah National Parks in the Spring
The National Parks are popular destinations for spring break in Utah so expect crowds, but the weather is just right!
Arches National Park in the Spring
Spring is actually one of the best times to visit Arches National Park. The weather is mild and it’s a great time to go hiking or overnight camping. The highs are in the 70 and the lows are in the 40 which is nice if you’ll be sleeping in a tent.
April specifically is one of the best all around months of the year to visit Arches National Park. Making it into a road trip from Salt Lake City is super common and a great way to spend your spring break.
Many of the festivals in the local town of Moab, Utah also happen in the spring so there will be no shortage of fun things to do.
As of 2023 Arches National Park does require you to book an entry time in advance. But it’s super easy to do and makes it easier to get in since the lines at the front gate will be much shorter. You can also enter the park without a ticket before 7am (go watch or take photos of sunrise at Arches National Park) or after 4pm. (Recommended by unearththevoyage)
Bryce Canyon National Park in the Spring
Bryce Canyon is a beautiful national park to visit in the spring. The knobby orange hoodoos tower over you as you hike in the canyon, contrasting richly against the bright blue sky. And you really only need a day in Bryce Canyon to explore these otherworldly rock formations!
Because the canyon is at a very high elevation – around 7600 feet – Bryce Canyon National Park in the spring can be a bit on the chilly side. Highs in March and April can be anywhere from 40 F to 60 F, with May between 50-75 degrees.
Snow is possible in early spring, so definitely plan on bringing good hiking shoes and layers to take on and off depending on the weather of the day.
Wildflowers start blooming in Bryce Canyon between April and May, and the waterfall on the Mossy Cave Trail will be at full force during the spring as well.
Currently no entry reservations are required at Bryce Canyon National Park. The shuttle starts on April 1 and runs from 8am-6pm, but you can also definitely drive yourself and park at the trailheads. Some parts of Bryce (e.g. Wall Street on the Navajo Loop Trail, or farther out on the Scenic Route) can be closed during winter and may still be closed early on in springtime. (Recommended by theunknownenthusiast)
Canyonlands National Park in the Spring
You’ll find Canyonlands National Park is a fun, family-friendly experience, and the park can be explored in many different ways. You can explore the off-road trails by driving a jeep or other off-road vehicle through the park’s off-road trails. You can also explore in a regular vehicle to many great hiking trails and viewpoints.
The Island in The Sky District of Canyonlands is the most visited section of the park and the easiest to get to. Consider hiking, visiting the viewpoints along the Island in the Sky scenic drive, and exploring the off-road trails when you visit Canyonland National Park. There are also some great tours you can take through the park.
Canyonlands does not offer a shuttle. You can explore the park by car, on foot, mountain bike, or 4WD vehicle.
The temperature of Canyonlands in the spring will fluctuate. It is not uncommon for the average temperature to reach 75°F during the day or fall below 24°F at night. If you’re planning to hike in Canyonlands, pack loose-fitting, light-colored clothing, extra layers for the change in temperature, and don’t forget a hat.
When looking for hotels near Canyonlands, consider The Moab Resort and the Aarchway Inn. (Recommended by csginger)
Zion National Park in the Spring
Spring is the ultimate time to visit Zion National Park in Utah because the weather is pleasantly cool. Temperatures during spring months range from the mid-60s to the low 90s, with minimal rain proven to be the best time to visit.
The park is open 24/7, 365 days a year, and reservations are not required. The Zion National Park shuttle is available once inside the park and is free to ride. It provides service to and from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to famous sights, including the Narrows, Angels Landing, Emeralds Pool, etc.
Also free, but outside the park, is the Springdale Line which conveniently stops at nine spots in town including the entrance to Zion Canyon Village.
Emerald Pools is a popular 2-mile round trip easy hike that leads to beautiful views of red rocks, lush green vegetation, streaming waterfalls, and beautiful blueish-green water pools. You can even swim in the upper pools.
The Narrows, the narrowest area in Zion, is another popular bucket list activity on many people’s bucket lists when visiting Zion. The walls surrounding the Narrows are 1,000 feet tall and can be as narrow as just 20- 30 feet. The hike can range from 2 to 10 miles round trip, depending on the entrance point and where you turn around. Roundtrip from Riverside Walk is 2 miles.
If planning to visit the Narrows, reserve the proper gear in advance. Make sure to have waterproof shoes, a walking stick due to the slickness and unevenness of the rocks, a bib to stay dry, and a dry bag for personal items. You can rent gear outside the park from Zion Outfitters, which is size inclusive. (Recommended by adventuringwithashley)
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I loved reading your descriptions and looking at your pics of these amazing parks. I was lucky enough to visit some of these parks in the fall last year.