When you visit a US national park in the spring, you may find pleasant temperatures, few crowds and colorful floral displays.
Spring is a terrific time to explore hiking trails, enjoy spectacular vistas and experience wildlife-viewing opportunities.
And there are fun national park activities going on during the spring:
Each national park has different things to see and do during the spring months of March, April and May.
We have teamed with other travelers to provide this list of must-see national parks to visit in the spring:
- Arches National Park
- Badlands National Park
- Big Bend National Park
- Blue Ridge Parkway (between Shenandoah & Great Smoky Mountains)
- Canyonlands National Park
- Capitol Reef National Park
- Death Valley National Park
- Everglades National Park
- Grand Tetons National Park
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Joshua Tree National Park
- Mount Rainier National Park
- Mount St. Helens National Park
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Saguaro National Park
- Yellowstone National Park
- Yosemite National Park
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Spring Break US National Park Trips
Arches National Park in the Spring
Spring is a fabulous time to visit Arches National Park. but we will warn you, beginning in March there are times when it’s VERY crowded! The Arches NPS website has good information on the best time of day to arrive to avoid traffic, and dates when the park will be busy due to holidays.
Avoid the crowds and visit Arches in the winter.
We visit Arches every year in the spring. Here’s our list of helpful tips:
Arrive early: You’ll avoid lines at the entrance gate if you enter the park before 9:00 am, or after 3:00 pm. The video belos shows what the line looks like at 11:00 am in April.
Cool hiking weather: We enjoy the Arches hiking trails during the spring when the weather is cooler, but not as cold as it is in the winter. You’ll want to dress in layers since the mornings and evenings get cold in the high desert elevation.
Arches photography: Taking photographs at Arches national park is a bucket-list activity. Use our guide to capture spectacular photos of arches, fins and other sandstone formations in this unique park.
Stargazing: Due to its remote location, accessibility, altitude and clear skies, Arches National Park is one of the best places to see the stars in the night sky. Beginning in March, you can also see and photograph the Milky Way.
Photo and article by Photo Jeepers
Badlands National Park in the Spring
Badlands National Park in South Dakota falls right in the middle when it comes to the number of visitors per year, but most of them are in the summer.
It can still get surprisingly hot in the summer making spring in the Badlands an even better time to visit.
The Notch Trail, Medicine Root Trail, Door Trail, Window Trail, and Saddle Pass Trail are some of the best. Make sure to keep an eye out for wildlife like bighorn sheep, rattlesnakes, and prairie dogs.
The weather can change fast here, so make sure you bring layers with you, especially when you’re out hiking. Even if you just have time to drive through, it’s a great park for that with plenty of scenic overlooks.
This is a great addition to any Black Hills Road trip but may even be worthy of its very own road trip, or at least a good reason to start planning one.
Photo and article by Red Around the World
Big Bend National Park in the Spring
Big Bend National Park is in the far western corner of Texas, where the Rio Grande takes a sharp bend south. It’s nestled in this “big bend” along the border and offers some impressive and dramatic scenery.
It’s hard to get to but worth every hour spent in the car. If you’re going to spend an entire day in transit, it’s important to plan your visit properly.
Being in the heart of the Chihuahua Desert, visiting in spring (before the scorching temperatures of summer hit) is ideal. Afternoons will be warm and nights will be chilly, making it perfect for camping in the park’s many backcountry campsites.
Despite being in the desert, Big Bend actually houses an entire mountain range within its borders, The Chisos Mountains. Warm afternoons can be spent trekking on the best hikes in Big Bend in the cooler mountains. Hike the desert trails during the cool spring mornings.
Spring is also ideal because if the year was blessed with enough rainfall, you’ll be able to enjoy a blanket of wildflowers. Bluebonnets bloom across the fields bordering the highways, covering the ground in blue flowers for a scene you’ll never forget.
Photo and article by Sol Solute
Blue Ridge Parkway in the Spring
Travelers tend to think of the Blue Ridge Parkway as a fall destination, but the area is incredibly beautiful when it returns to life in the spring. The parkway features 360+ miles of picturesque trails through rugged wilderness and peaceful mountain valleys.
If you’re looking for waterfalls, the area surrounding Linville Falls (Milepost 316.4) offers spectacular views of Linville Gorge, Table Rock, and the Catawba Valley.
For those traveling with kids, consider a scenic train ride on the historic steam locomotive at Tweetsie Railroad, and then try your luck panning for gold at Doc’s Rocks Gem Mine afterwards. Visitors travel from all over the country to the nearby town of Blowing Rock, North Carolina to see its incredible floral displays and to peer over the edge of the famous rock.
Asheville’s famed Biltmore Estate (Milepost 388.8) offers some of the most striking grounds you’ll find on the East Coast, so it’s well worth a stop for gardening fanatics.
Stargazers can stop in Shenandoah Valley to get a clear view of the night sky; the area often hosts monthly astronomy presentations.
Note: The parkway may have road closures through March. Always check ahead to see if a permit is required for overnight stays.
Photo and article by Sand, Sun and Messy Buns
Bryce Canyon National Park in the Spring
Bryce Canyon National Park sits at a high elevation in Utah so the tall, orange hoodoos could be accented with snow in the spring. The weather can also be unpredictable so keep an eye on the forecast and know the current situations at the park. Be prepared with the right clothing for all types of weather at Bryce Canyon in the spring.
The unique beauty here is not replicated anywhere else which makes it a popular destination for photographing the views and landscape of Bryce Canyon. We recommend you drive the scenic road starting at Rainbow Point and working your way back toward the amphitheater.
Hiking or horseback riding among the hoodoos at Bryce is a must-do experience. One of our favorite hiking trails at Bryce Canyon is the Navajo Queen’s Loop.
Stargazing at Bryce Canyon is another must-do activity. Take the time to stay out one evening to see about 7,500 stars in the sky. There are astronomy programs which include viewing the stars with a telescope, and full moon hikes at the park. Check the NPS website for the full schedule.
Photo and article by Photo Jeepers
Canyonlands National Park in the Spring
Canyonlands National Park in the spring is one of the more popular times people visit, especially around spring break. Be sure to enter the park before 9 am or later in the afternoon after 3 pm if you’ll be there during a busy time.
If you enjoy outdoor activities, there are plenty of things to see, do and photograph in Canyonlands Island in the Sky and Canyonlands Needles in the spring.
We recomment you take a side trip to visit and photograph the views from Dead Horse Point State Park. It’s a short distance from the Island in the Sky entrance and worth the quick side trip.
Stargazing at Canyonlands is a must-do. In the spring you might be able to see the Milky Way in the sky. It’s worth the effort to enjoy the park after dark!
Photo and article by Photo Jeepers
Capitol Reef National Park in the Spring
Capitol Reef National Park in the spring is a must. Not only will the crowds be a lot more manageable, but the weather will be way better (most likely) and you might even be able to see the orchards blooming!
If you enjoy hiking, you’ll love the trails at Capitol Reef. While it may still be a little too cool to hike Sulphur Creek, there are plenty of other hikes to keep you busy. Cohab Canyon, Hickman Bridge, Capitol Gorge, Chimney Rock, and Cassidy Arch are just a few of the awesome hikes in Capitol Reef.
After you finish your hikes for the day, make sure you stop at the Gifford Home for some salsa, ice cream, pie, and cinnamon rolls. You may want to start your day there to make sure you get the goods before they’re sold out.
If you want to get away from the already minimal crowds, consider a trip down to the Waterpocket Fold about an hour and a half from the visitor center. Surprise Canyon, Headquarters Canyon, and the Strike Valley Overlook are three great hikes there. One thing to keep in mind is that it can get a little windy in the spring, but it’s still a great time to visit.
Photo and article by Red Around the World
Death Valley National Park in the Spring
Death Valley National Park is a unique place, which is just totally different from any other place in the world. You just have to see it. Badwater Basin in Death Valley is a lowest elevation place in the whole North America (282 feet below the sea level). Death Valley is also one of the hottest places in the world and holds the world air temperature record – 134.1 °F (56.7 °C), which is the highest air temperature ever measured on the planet Earth.
Therefore, we recommend you to visit Death Valley in spring because the temperatures in the summer month are simply too high for full enjoyment.
Death Valley should be added to any road trip around the USA. The landscape doesn’t have foliage, but the desert scenes are stunning and you will feel like you’re on a different planet.
Probably the most beautiful place is Zabriskie Point with very unique and colorful landscape formations. The colors are particularly beautiful after sunrise and before sunset. Definitely visit Badwater Basin too – the lowest elevation point in North America.
Because the park is remote and away from all the cities, there is no light pollution and the night sky is simply the best! We have never seen a more beautiful night sky than in Death Valley. You can spend hours stargazing and taking pictures of the Milky Way.
We recommend you always have enough water and protect yourself from the sun with a hat and sunscreen when visiting Death Valley.
Photo and article by Czech The World
Everglades National Park in the Spring
While many national parks can still be covered in snow and have limited activities in the spring, Florida’s Everglades National Park is the perfect place for a spring vacation.
We visited the Everglades in March and were thrilled with the awesome warm weather and wealth of things to do on our trip. I recommend spending some time at each of the visitor centers to see everything the park has to offer.
Some activities include a guided boat tour through the Ten Thousand Islands, renting bikes to ride through Shark Valley, and walking the Anhinga Trail to catch a peek at some of the many species of wildlife that inhabit the 7,800 square miles of park.
The best part is that the park doesn’t feel too crowded in the spring and is warm without the overly oppressive heat of a Florida summer.
Photo and article by Wanderlust While Working
Grand Teton National Park in the Spring
Grand Teton National Park is located near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The jutting peaks of the Teton Mountains are the main attraction here. Always check road conditions and road status. It’s not uncommon for a late spring snow storm to close roads, even after they’ve opened for the season.
Early spring can also mean snowy and muddy hiking trails. Depending on the weather, the lowland trails can start to dry out by mid-to-late May.
Mid-May through late June is the best time to visit when the foliage is bright green, the wildflowers are in bloom, the mountain peaks are still snow-covered and the wildlife is active.
Taking photos of Grand Teton National Park is one of our favorite things to do, and you’ll have no shortage of stunning landscape scenes or wildlife to photograph in the spring.
Photo and article by Photo Jeepers
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Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the Spring
The Great Smoky Mountains are a perfect Spring Break destination. Spring is off peak season. Peak travel for the Smokies coincides with the autumn foliage and mid-summer when schools are not in session. This leaves visitors to the mountains with reasonable accommodation rates in spring as many would rather throng to the beaches of Florida.
Entry to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is free year round. The mountains are beautiful when the wild flowers begin to bloom. Hikers on the vast array of trails throughout the park enjoy more comfortable temperatures in the months before the scorching summer.
The area surrounding the Smokies houses every tourist attraction you could possibly imagine from go-carts and ziplines to shows and shopping. You could fill an entire week without spending a dime on activities though if you take advantage of the free attractions within the national park like Cades Cove, the Sugarlands Visitor Center, or the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
You will never have trouble finding great food. Check out our list of best cheap dats in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee for recommendations on family-friendly dining. The Great Smoky Mountains do not disappoint regardless of your age or interests because there’s just so much to see and do.
Photo and article by The House That Never Slumbers
Joshua Tree National Park in the Spring
Joshua Tree National Park is filled with trees and boulders that go on for miles. It is an easy place to fall in love with due to its unique landscape and beautiful trees. But because of its hot climate, it can be difficult to visit this national park year-round.
Spring is the best time to visit Joshua Tree. The weather is pretty mild, and wildflowers are blooming.
One of the best things to do in Joshua Tree is to go rock climbing. This national park is known for its bouldering and sport climbing walls. It is one of the most popular activities in the park. You can also go hiking and explore the different shapes and sizes of all the boulders and trees. One of the most popular trails is Skull Rock and Arch Rock.
Another fun thing to do is to stargaze at night. There is little light pollution and usually little cloud cover in, so you have a great chance to see the bright stars at night. Joshua Tree really is a one of a kind national park.
Photo and article by The Wandering Queen
Mount Rainier National Park in the Spring
Although some portions of Mount Rainier National Park are closed in early spring, we still think it’s a perfect time to visit. Many of Mount Rainier’s annual visitors wait for summer, which means smaller crowds for you! Not to mention, during spring, waterfalls are at their peak, wildflowers are beginning to bloom in the lowlands, and a thick, white blanket of snow still covers her towering peaks.
One stop to strongly consider during your stay is the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center at Paradise. It’s a great place to learn more about the area and even join in a Ranger-led Program! Hours vary, but at a minimum, it is open on weekends year-round. Depending on your dates, you may even be able to go sledding or snowshoeing!
For a unique way to experience the beauty of the region, try a train ride through the foothills on the Mt. Rainier Railroad. Or, as we often do, head to nearby White Pass Ski Area to go snowboarding with your kids. When “the mountain is out,” we think there is no better way to see her in all her glory than from the top of the slope before a killer run.
Article by The Stoke Fam
Mount St. Helens in the Spring
If you are interested in learning about the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, there is no better time to learn about it than during the anniversary of the event. Although you will experience slightly cooler weather, it also means fewer crowds than in the height of summer.
With the opening of the Johnston Ridge Observatory in mid-May, it’s the perfect place to begin your late spring visit! The Johnston Ridge Observatory is hands-down one of the best visitor centers we have ever encountered. While there, take the time to learn about the geological changes leading up to the eruption and read the stories of those who died.
In addition, we highly recommend taking the time to watch “Eruption of Life,” a short film that tells the story of the eruption and how life is returning and even thriving in the wake of devastation. Even better, at the end of the film, the curtains lift, giving you a direct view into the crater.
Finish your visit with one of The Best Family Hikes in the Continental United States along the Eruption Trail for a day that is sure to make you appreciate the beauty and wonder of our world.
Article by The Stoke Fam
Rocky Mountain National Park in the Spring
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the best national parks to visit in the spring for many reasons. Rocky Mountain is a very popular national park and during the summer months, it can get quite crowded. If you are looking to experience the park with fewer crowds- it is best to visit in the spring.
Besides having fewer crowds to deal with, RMNP is blooming with wildlife, gorgeous wildflowers, and babbling rivers in the spring. It is the perfect time to go on a hike and see wildflowers in bloom. If you are looking for one of the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, we suggest checking out the hike to Sky Pond!
Another reason why visiting RMNP in the spring is so great is because you don’t have to deal with a ton of snow, but you still get to view the gorgeous snow-capped peaks that the Rocky Mountains are so famous for. You can also view the pretty sunsets without getting bit by a ton of mosquitos.
Besides fewer crowds, wildflowers, snow-capped mountains and fewer bugs, the spring is the best time to see all the waterfalls in full action! If you are planning a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, we highly recommend going in the spring!
Photo and article by Unearth the Voyage
Saguaro National Park in the Spring
If you’re looking for the best national parks to visit in the spring, then Saguaro National Park should definitely be on your list! This park is well-known for preserving the majestic Saguaro cactus and offers lots of incredible things to do and see.
Saguaro is a beautiful park to explore throughout the year; however, there are several reasons that make spring one of the best times to visit. First, during the spring the weather is warm but not sweltering (unlike the summer, when it would be unwise to hike much during the day). Second, and most importantly, visiting during the spring will treat you to the gorgeous sight of the landscape awash in color and wildflower blooms. You’ll find April is one of the best times to see the wildflowers, while the saguaros begin to blossom in mid-May.
Whether you plan to enjoy seeing the unique sights of the park like the petroglyphs on Signal Hill, or experience beautiful hikes like the Hugh Norris Trail and exploring the backcountry, there is beauty everywhere here that is only enhanced by the unique charms of the spring season. It is certainly a sight and experience not to miss!
Photo and article by Happy Go Abi
Yellowstone National Park in the Spring
When visiting Yellowstone in the spring, it’s very common to enjoy sun and 60 degrees one day, then snow and bitter cold the next. Be prepared for rain, snow, wind and trails that are wet and muddy. Dress in layers, wear hiking boots, and carry a warm jacket.
If you plan to hike, be sure to pack bear spray, water, sunscreen, and rain gear. Use our Yellowstone packing list to help you as you plan your trip.
If you enjoy seeing wildlife, Yellowstone in the spring is the best because of all the babies! We usually plan our trips for May and June so we can see the bears with cubs, and the bison with red dogs. It’s an exciting time to be in the park. PLEASE respect the wildlife and obey the guidelines so everyone can enjoy the experience, both humans and animals!
Photo and article by Photo Jeepers
Yosemite National Park in the Spring
Yosemite is one of the best national parks to visit specifically in spring, especially if you enjoy waterfalls. Spring menas the snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains begins to melt which feeds many beautiful waterfalls in and around Yosemite Valley. There are about 25 waterfalls in the Park.
The tallest waterall is Yosemite Falls (2,425 feet!). You can see some of these waterfalls in summer, but in spring they are at their fullest and most spectacular state. All this water means you’ll see wildflowers and blooming trees and shrubs during the spring in Yosemite Valley.
Spring has optimal weather to visit Yosemite. It’s not as hot as summer when temperatures can reach over 90 F. In the winter it’s freezing cold weather and trails close because of snow.
In early spring the weather is still cold and the snow has not melted yet to create the majestic waterfalls. We recommend planning a road trip to Yosemite toward the end of April through May.
Article by Family Road Trip Guru
WHAT TO PACK FOR A NATIONAL PARK TRIP IN THE SPRING
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 socks – we LOVE Darn Tough Socks!
Walking stick or trekking poles
3. Clothing – Layers
FOOD – healthy snacks
Flashlight or headlamp
Toilet paper (carry out in a bag – do not bury)
Bags to pack out trash
Plan a US National Park Vacation