The 10 Prettiest National Parks in Springtime

Spring is approaching faster than you might think so it’s time to start planning your spring break adventures. With landscapes, wildflowers and outdoor activities aplenty, America’s national parks beckon. It’s time to pack you tent, load up the pop-up and head to one of these 10 amazing American National Parks: 

View from Mount Dana [Yosemite National Park, California]

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Yosemite National Park, Calif. | During the springtime, Yosemite’s dramatic cliffs suddenly overflow with cascading water leftover from the spring melt. If you love the power and beautiful of full, rushing waterfalls, spring is the moment to catch the falls at their most impressive. 

Spring is also primetime for blooming dogwood trees. These shimmering white and pink trees look lovely reflected the park’s many lakes and streams. Pack your hiking shoes and get ready to walk through stands of ancient sequoias, meadows dotted with wildflowers and the incredible looming rock faces of Half Dome and El Capitan. 

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah | Describing Capitol Reef as an enormous 100-mile-long fold in the surface of the earth wouldn’t be too far off the mark. If you can’t imagine what that looks like, it’s all the more reason you should visit the national park in Utah that no one talks about. The red rocks of Capitol Reef’s cliffs, canyons and domes look great in the reemerging spring light and the temperatures are cool enough where hiking, climbing and sightseeing outside is still comfortable. 

To top it all off, Capitol Reef has amazing spring wildflowers which clothe the otherwise stark desert in pink, white and yellow glory. 

Joshua Tree [Twentynine Palms, California]

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Joshua Tree National Park, Calif. | Joshua Trees were named by the Mormons who thought this strange desert plant looked like Joshua reaching his hands up to the desert sky in prayer. In springtime, they lose all their Biblical seriousness and bloom in unruly white balls like trees out of the most imaginative Doctor Seuss tale. If you want to see them in full blossom, you’ll have to arrange your trip for February. 

For the desert wildflowers, you’ll find blooms depend on the elevation and can range from February to May. If blooming plants aren’t enough to get you out the door on vacation, Joshua Tree has incredible climbing and crisp night skies perfect for star-gazing.   

Saguaro National Park, Ariz. | Flowers with names like Mexican golden poppy, the Arizona penstemon and the Fairy Duster bloom in huge swaths beneath the tangle of cacti at Saguaro National Park. The pleasant temperatures and light moisture that draw out these flowers also makes visiting the desert in springtime a lot more comfortable for travelers. You’ll also get to see the cacti themselves in bloom. Each giant spiky saguaro blossoms in delicate, doily-like white flowers that often fill with birds and hummingbirds. 

Refrigerator Canyon [Zion National Park, Utah]

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Zion National Park, Utah | Zion’s red rock cliffs sometimes have pockets of hanging wildflowers dangling down their sides during the spring season. The spring is also the only time you’ll see the greenery of the canyons contrasting with the red colors. While the weather is still cool, you can explore slot canyons, walk along the cliff edges in search of the best views and camp at the lower elevations. 

With wildflowers, comfortable weather and bright sunshine, Zion is often at its most lovely in spring.  If you get there early enough, you will most likely miss the intense crowds of summer.

Arches National Park, Utah | Two-thousand red rock arches grace the landscape of Arches National Park. When you catch them in the lengthening spring twilight, their colors and shadows are simply incredible. While you’re watching the sun set, keep your eyes peeled for mule deer, coyotes, porcupines, desert cottontails and other animals that take advantage of the cool desert twilight to feed.  You’ll want to grab a sweater, but once the sun has final set, you’ll be able to enjoy the brilliant Milky Way and the millions of other stars that shine through the ultra-dark sky.  

Path to Brandywine Falls [Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio]

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio | Waterfalls, 200-year-old farmhouses and birds and animals are just some of the things you’ll see along the historic tow-path of the Ohio and Erie Canal. You can hike it, you can bike it, or you can drive between points of interest. Stop in at the canal Exploration Center which has been a residence, a boardinghouse and a blacksmith shop during its long career. You can also hike Brandywine Falls and watch the spring melt water roar over a 65 foot drop. In the springtime the park is especially lovely as rural Ohio bursts into bloom.

Glacier National Park, Mont. | Glacier’s famous Going-to-the-Sun-Road doesn’t open until the snow is off it, usually the end of May. Nevertheless, spring is a fantastic time to visit an otherwise very crowded park. Cyclists are especially lucky in springtime, because while the road isn’t open, the National Park Service is starting to clear Going-to-the-Sun and it’s often passable by bike. Get ready to enjoy one of America’s most stunning roads, but without any traffic.  

For those who don’t fancy an incredibly vertical bike trek through lingering snowbanks, Glacier is filled with lovely fields of flowers, fresh flowing waterfalls and plenty of hiking trails and scenic overlooks.

Sunrise view from top of Haleakala Crater [Maui, Hawaii]

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Haleakala National Park, Hawaii | By spring, the Hawaiian sunshine is strong and you’ll want to cover up with sunscreen and a good hat. Imagine the cooling nature of a hike through a dappled green bamboo grove at Haleakala National Park. You can also opt for hikes and drives through the stark volcanic landscape. Colorful sands, scudding clouds and the far-off crash of the ocean surf add to the atmosphere. Arrive at dawn or at dusk to watch the sun skim the horizon from the top of Haleakala. 

Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska | Once spring is in the air, the animals come back to Kenai Fjords National Park and you’ll want to bring a good pair of binoculars so you can see them in action. Gray whales are the most impressive of these new inhabitants. Take a whale watching tour to see them when they breach for air. From a boat you’ll get to see the park from its best angle. Huge glaciers calve into the sea, chunks of ice host birds and fish teem beneath. On shore, black bears roam with their new cubs and you’ll want to make sure you watch these predators from a distance. 

Looking for more national park adventures? Here are 14 Miraculous National Parks You Never Hear About

 


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Carmen Fifield

The delight of finding an unknown park, a captivating history museum or a fantastic desert means exploration is never far from Carmen Fifield’s mind. Carmen’s favorite travel memories include biking to historic sites on the island of Guernsey, huffing and puffing up the stairs to the Great Wall of China and eating the most delicious crab cake ever in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Carmen’s Favorite Travel Tip: Say goodbye to airplane food and tuck some fruit and your favorite sandwich into your carry-on.