Summer is when most people plan their vacations.
Take a look at these US National Park vacation ideas to get you started on where to go for your next summer trip.
When you visit a US National Park in the summer, it’s important to plan ahead because the parks will be busy. As you schedule your daily itineraries, our best tip is to start your day early! In the morning you’ll beat the crowds, enjoy outdoor activities in the cooler part of the day, and take photos in the best light.
Each national park has different things to see and do during the summer months of June, July and August.
We have teamed with other travelers to provide a list of fun US national parks to visit in the summer to help you plan your vacation.
- Arches National Park
- Badlands National Park
- Crater Lake National Park
- Cuyahoga Valley National Park
- Gates of the Arctic National Park
- Glacier Bay National Park
- Grand Teton National Park
- Great Basin National Park
- North Cascades National Park
- Olympic National Park
- Smoky Mountains National Park
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park
- Yellowstone National Park
- Yosemite National Park
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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
LIST OF US NATIONAL PARKS TO VISIT IN THE SUMMER
Arches National Park in the Summer
Arches National Park is small, but it packs a lot of punch with some of the best hiking in Utah. You will find several iconic sites in Arches. Delicate Arch is the most popular arch, and it is even on the Utah license plate.
The hike to Delicate Arch is 3.2 miles long round trip and takes about an hour each way as you climb 500 feet in elevation. You will be surprised at just how big delicate arch is standing at 46 feet high and 32 feet wide making it the largest free standing arch in the park.
While summer is the most popular time to visit Arches National Park, it is also the hottest so be prepared. Make sure if you are planning on hiking that you are carrying plenty of water and also have a hat to block out the sun. It was 102 degrees when I was in the park and the sun was scorching.
If you are looking for something cooler to do, you can drive the Arches Scenic Drive (28.3 miles) and see many of the sites this way. But really the best way to see the park is to go on one of the Arches national park hikes (more hikes here).
Article by American SW Obsessed
Badlands National Park in the SummerMy favourite national park to visit in summer is undoubtedly the Badlands in South Dakota. Located near to the quirky town of Wall – another essential stop on any South Dakota itinerary – the Badlands is easily reached from both Rapid City and Souix Falls. I personally love visiting Badlands National Park in summer because, unlike some more famous national parks (I’m looking at you Yellowstone), there are fewer crowds at this park. And Badlands is a park that is difficult to visit in winter because of the bad weather. In summer there are plenty of easy and accessible hikes that you can take. But the most famous hike at Badlands is the Notch Trail. To complete the Notch Trail you must descend a rather scary and steep ladder to get onto the trail. This is not a trail I would want to tackle in bad weather so summer is the perfect time to complete it! Article by Wandermust Family
Crater Lake National Park in the SummerCrater Lake National Park is covered in snow much of the year. However, during warmer summer months, the snow melts and allows access to parts of the park that are typically closed. Between July and early September, the park’s roads, trails and facilities tend to be fully open and the park’s unique volcanic landscape reappears beneath the melting snow. Summer offers opportunities for a variety of activities including hiking, biking and camping in the park. In the summertime, enjoy driving the entire way around the lake on the historic Rim Drive! The 33-mile drive provides access to numerous overlooks with lake views, picnic areas and hikes of varying difficulty. Popular stops along the way include Cloudcap, Pumice Castle and Phantom Ship Overlooks. A detour off Rim Drive and down Pinnacles Road leads to the Plaikni Falls Trail and the Pinnacles Overlook. One of the most popular trails accessible from East Rim Drive in the summer is the Cleetwood Cove Trail—the only trail in the park that leads to the lake’s shoreline and provides access to the Wizard Island shuttles and tour boats. Although Wizard Island can be seen from numerous viewpoints around Rim Drive, we highly recommend visiting for a hike with truly unforgettable views from atop the summit! Photo and article by Just Go Travel Studios
Cuyahoga Valley National Park in the SummerThe Cuyahoga Valley National Park is the only national park in Ohio. It’s located near both Cleveland and Akron in North Central Ohio, and provides a welcome break from the city as Ohio residents and visitors immerse themselves in nature throughout the year. You can’t go wrong by visiting during any season, but summer is a great time to plan your trip. My favorite things to do in the park are: Visit Brandywine Falls – Brandywine Falls is visible via the Brandywine Gorge Trail or along a partially accessible wooden boardwalk from the Brandywine Falls parking area. The falls are very popular, I suggest arriving well before 10 a.m. or wait until the crowds have dissipated and the day has cooled and enjoy a late afternoon or evening stroll. Take a train ride on board the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad – View the park and learn about its history via the climate-controlled train that takes you from one end of the park to the other, stopping along the way so you can get out and explore if you desire. Stop at Szalay’s Sweet Corn Farm and Market – This robust roadside market features a large selection of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as local homemade goods. If you wish to picnic in the park, you’ll find plenty of options available. Article by Travel Inspired Living
Gates of the Arctic National Park in the Summer
While visiting Gates of the Arctic National Park in winter would be stunning, travel would be much more difficult. Summer provides the accessibility needed to reach this remote national park in Alaska.
You can drive the Dalton Highway and hike into the park, float in on the Noatak or Kobuk Rivers, or (most popularly) fly into Anaktuvuk Pass. No matter which access point you choose, stunning adventure awaits.
The wilderness of Gates of the Arctic National Park is unlike any other, and visiting in summer provides the best opportunities for exploration. Perhaps you’ll see wolves, caribou, or musk oxen roaming alongside you while golden eagles and ravens fly overhead? Summer is also a great time for scenic flights and bear viewing. The possibilities are nearly endless.
Photo and article by Rileys Roves
Glacier Bay National Park in the SummerSummer is really the best (only) time to visit Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park. Due to the remarkably cold temperatures of Alaska’s Inside Passage and where the park is located, summer is the only time you can visit comfortably. Visiting the park relatively early in the season, as we did, has its positives and negatives. On the positive side, the tourist crowds are much smaller, and there’s likely to still be some snow on the mountains (which leads to great opportunities for photographing the stunning scenic landscapes). On the downside, the weather can still be very chilly at night and in the morning, and some wildlife (especially Grizzly Bears) may not be visible yet. Still, we saw plenty of Alaskan Animals during our visit in early June, including bald eagles, orcas, sea lions, seals, sea otters, two kinds of puffins, mountain goats, and more. As its name would indicate, the park is home to glaciers galore. We especially enjoyed climbing on Reid Glacier and watching cool ice calving off the 250-foot tall Margerie Glacier. There are also several impressive hiking trails through the park’s lush old growth forest, interpretive park ranger lectures, and an excellent introduction to indigenous Tlingit art and history at the Huna Tribal House in Bartlett Cove. Photo and article by Green Global Travel
Grand Teton National Park in the SummerGrand Teton National Park, with its jagged peaks softened by snow year-round, is a perfect summer destination. Whether you like to camp, hike, bike, or fish, it’s an outdoor lover’s paradise. Grand Teton is also a photographer’s paradise, and once you approach the Snake River you might recognize the view; Ansel Adams captured the winding waterway and it’s one of his most famous images. Another recognizable view is of the John Moulton and T.A. Moulton barns, which are the most photographed barns in America. Located in Mormon Row, their structures are framed by the mountain range in the background. If you want to know some history of the park, make sure you visit Menor’s Ferry. It was designated an Historic District in 1969 and named for a character and homesteader named William D. Menor. Don’t miss the general store and the Maud Noble cabin. Grand Teton National Park is a simply stunning adventure and one you won’t want to miss. Article by The Local Tourist
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