The Best National Parks To Visit In The Spring

These parks in Virginia, California, Arkansas and other states are perfect for a springtime visit.

When we think of springtime travel, many people picture that classic spring break trip to a beach in Florida or the Caribbean. But this season is also a great time to explore the vast beauty of our national parks system.

Many national parks are bursting with colorful floral blooms around March, April and May. You also get the benefit of milder temperatures and fewer crowds around this time of year.

Of course, some parks are better suited for springtime visits than others. We asked experts to share the national parks they believe are best to explore during the spring season. Keep scrolling for nine stunning destinations.

Joshua Tree National Park in California
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"With the amount of rainfall that Southern California has had this year, the wildflower bloom at Joshua Tree National Park is going to be one of those 'once in a century' events," said Joe Yogerst, travel expert and author of National Geographic’s "100 Trails, 5,000 Ideas."

And in contrast to the magnificent but short-lived blooms like Washington, D.C.'s cherry blossoms, the flowering at this national park offers a longer window for people to take in the beauty.

"The great thing about Joshua Tree is the fact that it’s always a progressive bloom, the flowers bursting out at lower elevations in March and April and continuing in the higher elevations all the way through June," Yogerst said.
Mount Rainier National Park in Washington
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"The flowers are totally different from Joshua Tree, but Mount Rainier is another national park with a progressive bloom," Yogerst said.

In the springtime, look out for wildflowers toward the bottom of your hikes. Although peak bloom doesn’t take place until the summer, he noted that some flower species start to bloom at lower elevation areas like Longmire and the Carbon River valley as early as spring.
Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona
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“A great national park to visit in the spring is Grand Canyon National Park," said Will Pattiz, co-founder of More Than Just Parks. "As one of America’s most visited national parks, it’s a great park to visit in a shoulder season, and spring is really the best time, especially April and early May."

Plan a springtime trip for a more peaceful experience without the tourist rush and risky conditions of summer.

"During this time of year, temperatures will be pleasant with highs in the 70s, meaning you can recreate without fear of heat exhaustion," Pattiz said. "Another pro is that you won’t have to compete with the tour bus crowds that arrive in the summer."
Redwood National Park in California
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"Atmospheric rivers aside, Redwood National Park in Northern California is a fantastic spot to visit in the spring," said Jim Pattiz, the other co-founder of More Than Just Parks. "In early spring, the heavy summer tourist season is still a long way off and wildflowers can be found dotting the forest floor alongside new [shoots] of green on the ferns and young redwood trees. Misty mornings and sporadic rain only add to the beauty of these majestic forests containing the tallest trees in the world."

He urged springtime visitors to pack a rain jacket, waterproof boots and some way to make hot coffee for themselves.

"There’s nothing quite like a hot cup of coffee or tea after a morning hike through the mist and rain in one of the most beautiful forests on earth," Pattiz said.

Travel blogger Renee Hahnel is also a fan of "the moody atmosphere" of springtime in this forest-y park.

"And all of the park's deciduous trees have their leaves back, making spring the most vibrant time of the year before the summer heat dries things out a little," she said. "Speaking of foliage, from May to mid-June the rhododendron flowers bloom, bringing a beautiful pink accent to the forests."
Shenandoah National Park in Virginia
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Nestled in the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah National Park is an excellent springtime destination.

"Spring brings a tapestry of wildflowers, from large-flowered trillium, wild geraniums to pink azaleas and much more," said Janel Jensen, product manager for REI Experiences. "There is great birdwatching in Shenandoah as migratory birds arrive at this time. Baby animals are starting to frolic, and you might catch a sighting of black bears and their cubs and white-tailed deer."

Enjoy the plants and wildlife without all the extra people who will inevitably arrive come summer.

"Sweeping views are more accessible on hikes with [fewer] leaves on the trees after the long winter, and the prolific waterfalls are running strong," Jensen added. "I love to hike to Overall Run Falls and Whiteoak Canyon Falls."
Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas
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"Hot Springs National Park is more than a series of historic turn-of-the-century bathhouses," said Derek Wright and Amy Beth Wright, outdoor enthusiasts and creators of Parks and Points. "The Ouachita Mountains are a sweeping expanse of green in spring, and the park contains over 5,000 acres of public land and 26 miles of hiking trails. Beautiful scenic drives along West Mountain Scenic Drive and Hot Springs Mountain Scenic Drive wind through and around the mountains and offer stunning views of spring in full effect, with many serene picnic areas and viewpoints."

The Wrights recommended exploring the park's many trails and scenic routes by car or bicycle to see the flowering trees and wildflowers around this time of year.

"For spectacular spring views of the park and mountains, climb Hot Springs Mountain Tower — an elevator is an option as well," the Wrights said. "Along with other satisfying hikes, the Sunset Trail Loop wraps around the entirety of the park. It’s also a perfect time to camp at the Gulpha Gorge Campground, an official NPS campground located in the park, though reservations are required."

And of course, don't forget to spend time at the famous bathhouses, whether for a spa treatment or just to soak. There's even local beer crafted from the thermal spring water.
Zion National Park in Utah
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"One of the best national parks to visit in the early spring is Zion National Park for two main reasons — smaller crowds and beautiful weather," Will Pattiz said. "Zion is the second-most-visited national park in the country, which means be prepared for massive crowds in the peak season of late spring through summer."

He recommends going as early in spring as possible to beat the crowds — ideally late March or early April.

"During this time of year, you’ll find high temperatures in the mid-70s and low temperatures in the mid-40s which means warm enough but not hot days, and cool enough but not freezing nights," Pattiz added.

National parks travel expert Mikah Meyer echoed his recommendation to visit Utah's national parks like Zion in the springtime before the summer rush of crowds.

"April in particular is one of the best months because the crowds are more chill than when college students start finishing their semesters in May and K-12 begins releasing students for summer break in June," he said. "That not only means an easier and cheaper experience getting hotel rooms, but less time spent sitting in your car in traffic. It also means the trails will be less crowded, so you can do the treacherous Angels Landing hike in Zion National Park while having way fewer fellow hikers to contend with along the chain-lined narrow pathways."
Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee
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"America’s most visited national park puts on a dazzling display in the spring as the old mountains burst with life again," Jim Pattiz said. "Wildflowers abound in the forests and valleys while the park’s ubiquitous mountain laurel and rhododendron delight visitors with their beautiful blooms and sweet smells."

He recommended checking the spring break schedule for local schools and avoiding Great Smoky Mountains during those weeks, as the roads will likely be clogged and the parking scarce. But if you get the timing right, expect a magical experience.

"The delightful songs of the spring peepers and chorus frogs are the welcome band for spring’s opening, followed by the most wildflowers of any National Park in the spring — 1500 of them!" Jensen said. "There’s a whole event dedicated to it called the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage. The weather is quite mild in the spring, ranging from snowcapped mountains to pleasant hiking temperatures in the lower elevations. Rain is common, so the many streams are full, and the waterfalls are overflowing. This is also when bears come out of their winter homes, and you may get sightings of tiny, adorable cubs!"
New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia
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"One of our nation’s newest national parks, New River Gorge National Park is a great spring destination," Jensen said. "Epic cliffs, stunning gorge views and cascading waterfalls are just a few of the highlights you will see in any season, but spring brings mild temperatures for the perfect hiking and camping conditions, not to mention [fewer] crowds than the summer months."

She recommended looking out for the region's wealth of floral diversity, from the Dutchman’s breeches to flame azalea to Catawba rhododendrons.

"Rafting the New River Gorge in the spring is the most exciting time as the runoff from snowmelt makes for great whitewater conditions," Jensen added. "The Upper New River Gorge is more relaxing [for] family-friendly paddling, and the Lower New River Gorge makes for an adrenaline-packed whitewater experience."

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and style.

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