The United States has millions of acres of national parks across all of its states. You could spend years exploring each one and be amazed at the beauty and diversity each of them offer. However, trying to figure out which national park is the best one to visit and when can be overwhelming. If you wish to travel in the summer, the last thing that you may want is to end up exploring in 100oF weather with suffocating humidity. Equally so, if you have vacation time in January, you may not wish to be knee high in snow or shivering under blankets dreading getting out of bed. In addition, some national parks are either closed or partially closed in winter. Accordingly, here are the best times to visit the 25 best national parks in the USA.
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Other Destinations In The USA
Not sure when or what type of holiday that you may want? Here are a list of other destinations (cities, towns and some national parks) that would be ideal at different times of the year.
- 20 Best Places To Visit In The USA In April;
- 25 Best Places To Visit In The USA In May;
- 23 Best Places To Visit In The USA in September;
- 22 Best Places To Visit In The USA In October
- 20 Best Places To Visit In The USA In November; and
- 23 Best Places To Visit In The USA For Christmas.
For a discussion of some of the best American cities with pro tips from industry experts for when to go or avoid, hotels, directions, and other recommendations, please take a look at 20 Best Cities To Visit In The USA.
If you are looking to escape winter with a warm beach destination in the United States, you should read 50 Best US Beach Destinations For A Warm Winter Getaway.
Other National Parks
If your passion is exploring national parks, consider going to Europe to visit one of their beautiful 500 national parks. For recommendations for what to visit in September, please see 22 Best National Parks To Visit In Europe in September.
Best Times To Visit The Best National Parks In The USA
In the following article, I have asked some fantastic travel bloggers for their recommendations for the best times to visit the best national parks in the USA. Similarly, if there are times that you should avoid them, that information is also included. In addition, top suggestions for things to do in the national parks or nearby are discussed, as well as accommodation recommendations, if any. Once you are finished, you should be able to identify when and where you should go, and what you should be doing with your time while there.
Everglades National Park, Florida
By Vicky from Buddy The Traveling Monkey
One of the best national parks in the USA to visit is Everglades National Park. It spans 1.5 million acres in South Florida and is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals. It also has a diverse landscape made up of coastal mangroves and sawgrass marshes.
Although many people think of the Everglades as a swamp, it is actually a slow moving river. The water flows at a speed of about one meter per hour. That is why the Everglades are also known as the “River Of Grass.”
Because the Park is so large, there are three entrances to Everglades National Park. The North Entrance is at Shark Valley, the South Entrance is in Florida City near Homestead, and the North West Entrance is in Everglades City on the Gulf Coast. Entrance to the park is $30 per vehicle and it’s good for seven days.
Once inside the Park, visitors will find many things to do. One of the most popular is wildlife viewing. There are a lot of rare and endangered species, including alligators and the Florida panther. If you’re a birder, you’ll especially love the Everglades. Bring your binoculars and try to identify the over 360 species of birds in the National Park.
Kayaking and canoeing are also very popular. There are a lot of well-marked trails so you can be out on the water exploring over several days. Biking enthusiasts will also enjoy the many bike paths in the Everglades. The best ones are in Shark Valley.
The nearest big city to the Everglades is Miami, which also has an international airport. From Miami, it’s an easy drive west on US-41 and should take less than an hour to the Shark Valley entrance. Make sure to check out some of the free things to do in Miami before you head to the Park. In addition, if you are looking for fantastic beach destinations during the winter months, please take a look at 50 Best US Beach Destinations for A Warm Winter Getaway for some great nearby options.
Best Times To Visit Everglades National Park
The best time to visit Everglades NP is during the dry season, from November to March. It is best to avoid during the wet season (May through October). There will be a lot of bugs and some of the ranger programs won’t be available.
No matter what time of year you visit, make sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and bug spray when visiting the Park.
Great Sand Dunes National Park And Preserve, Colorado
By Stephanie from The Unknown Enthusiast
Great Sand Dunes National Park is an underrated but very cool park located four hours south of Denver, Colorado. Towering sand dunes are set against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, creating a striking contrast and one of the best national parks in the USA to visit. At just under 250 square miles (160,000 acres), it covers a sizeable area. The main dune area is about 30 square miles with the remainder of the Park stretching into the mountains and the plains around the dunes.
Unsurprisingly, the main things to do in the National Park are all centered around the dunes. Hiking to the top of the dunes is very popular, especially to watch sunset. Alternatively, grab a sand board or sled and try riding them down. Expect a decent workout from this as the dunes are taller than you think and hiking in sand is not that easy!
Close to the parking lot in Great Sand Dunes National Park is the Medano Creek. Its size varies depending on the time of year, but it’s shallow and a fun place for wading, cooling off and playing.
This park gets much fewer visitors than many other National Parks in the US. However, it is full of beautiful scenery and interesting activities, and should definitely be on your National Parks’ bucket list!
Great Sand Dunes National Park is pretty isolated – the closest town is Alamosa, which is about 30 minutes from the park entrance. You can fly in via the Colorado Springs Airport, which is about 2.5 hours away, or the Denver Airport, which is 4 hours away. Regardless, you will want to rent a car to fully explore the Park.
Best Times To Visit Great Sand Dunes National Park
The best times to visit the Great Sand Dunes are late May to mid-June, and September to October. Temperatures are warmer, and while the sand can get hot in the afternoon, the temperatures are nice. Because of the high elevation, winter and early spring can get quite a bit of snow, and spring can get pretty blustery. Those are the best times to avoid the Park.
You can rent sand boards or sand sleds from a little shop just outside the Park entrance (boards are not sold or rented inside the park). It’s definitely worth renting from them, as using the right type of gear that have been regularly waxed is what helps you best glide down the sand.
Stephanie says, “The Hampton Inn Alamosa is a good reasonably priced hotel in a nice location.”
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
By Francesca from Homeroom Travel
Grand Canyon National Park is one of the best national parks to visit in the United States. It is located in Northern Arizona and is 1900 square miles (over 1.2 million acres). The area is mostly desert with lots of raised plateaus. It is divided into two sections: the North Rim and the South Rim. The South Rim is the more visited area.
There is plenty to do within the Park. The highlight of your visit will be the Bright Angel Trail. This trail leads hikers down into the Grand Canyon. In total, the trail is 12 miles but you can opt to hike however much of it you would like. Most people hike the 1.5 miles to the rest area and then turn around. This offers hikers gorgeous views of the canyon and surrounding area.
Another popular thing to do is to take the Hermit’s Rest shuttle that stops at 10 different viewpoints of the Grand Canyon. Maricopa Point, Hopi Point, and Pima Point are popular stops where people get off the shuttle to savor the views.
Visiting the Grand Canyon is always an awe-inspiring experience. It is pretty affordable to do on your own and makes for a fun family vacation.
To get to the South Rim, you can fly into Las Vegas, Phoenix, or Flagstaff and then drive to Tusayan. It is an hour’s drive from Flagstaff, 3 hours from Phoenix, or 4 hours from Las Vegas. You can also opt to take the Grand Canyon Railway from Williams.
Best Times To Visit Grand Canyon National Park
The best time to visit the Grand Canyon is in the fall or spring for pleasant temperatures and less crowds. Avoid visiting the Grand Canyon during the summer and wintertime. In summer the Park is very hot and in the wintertime, it is snowy and cold. Both of these times are not good for hiking the Bright Angel Trail.
Get there early in the day to beat the crowds!
Francesca says, “When visiting the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, opt to stay right outside the park in Tusayan. This small town is a 15-minute drive to the park. The Holiday Inn Express is an affordable hotel option.”
New River Gorge National Park And Preserve, West Virginia
By Pam & Kathrine from Everywhere Forward
New River Gorge National Park is the newest National Park in West Virginia. It is famed for its rugged, whitewater river, deep canyon views, and Appalachian history and culture. There is no fee to enter the Park.
Of the many things to do at New River Gorge National Park, stop by Thurmond, a once booming railroad town that now has only 5 permanent residents. You can explore the mostly abandoned town and watch the trains pass through.
For those interested in getting their adrenaline pumping, consider whitewater rafting New River or Gauley River. These rivers offer some of the best whitewater rafting on the East Coast and feature up to Class V rapids!
Scenic views are plentiful at New River Gorge National Park. Grandview offers a beautiful panoramic view of one of the horseshoe bends along New River while Sandstone Falls is the largest waterfall along New River.
During a visit to New River Gorge NP, make sure to stop by nearby Fayetteville, which has been named one of the “Coolest Small Towns in America.” You’ll find local eateries, shopping, and the New River Gorge Bridge. When the New River Gorge Bridge was constructed in 1976, it was the world’s longest arch bridge. There is a Visitors Center at the bridge. In addition, you can walk down part of the canyon to see the bridge from below.
New River Gorge National Park is located in south-central West Virginia and is easily accessed via driving along US Route 19. Charleston WV, approximately 70 miles northwest of the Park, has the closest local airport to the park. The Pittsburgh International Airport is 3.5 hours north and offers the closest international service.
Best Times To Visit New River Gorge National Park
New River Gorge National Park is beautiful and one of the best national parks to visit in the United States any time of the year. The park is busiest in the summer and fall, especially when the fall colors appear. Significant snowfalls are typical in this region of West Virginia, so be mindful of the weather during a winter visit.
Pam and Kathrine say, “Camping is available within the park and there are many cabins, campgrounds, and Airbnbs surrounding the area as well.”
Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina and Tennessee
By Gabbriel from Journey To The Destination
One of the best national parks in the United States to visit is Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Located on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has some of the oldest mountains in the world. The National Park is more than 500,000 acres, so there are plenty of areas to explore.
Some of the best things to do in the Park include hiking, camping, and exploring historical sites. If you want to get 360-degree views, you should consider hiking to Clingman’s Dome. At 6,643 feet of elevation, it the highest point in the National Park.
If you would prefer to get off the beaten path, you can hike to Shuckstack Fire Tower, a crashed airplane, or visit one of the many waterfalls in the national park. Whether you prefer going on short nature walks or long backpacking trips, you are sure to find a hiking trail that fits your preferences.
The closest towns to the national park are Bryson City, NC, Cherokee, NC, and Gatlinburg, TN. Bryson City, North Carolina is known for the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, Cherokee is great for learning about Cherokee history, and Gatlinburg has hundreds of fun tourist attractions. The best town for you will depend on your preferences and the type of experience you are looking for.
To get to the Great Smoky Mountains NP, you can fly into Asheville Regional Airport or Knoxville Regional Airport. You can expect to drive around an hour from either of those airports.
Best Times To Visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park
When planning your trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, be sure to keep the time of year in mind. Visiting in the spring is perfect for viewing wildflowers, the summer is great for hiking and swimming, and fall is an amazing time to view leaves. While winter in the smoky mountains is beautiful, many of the roads close due to snow.
While visiting Clingman’s Dome, Newfound Gap, and Cades Cove is fun, don’t forget about Deep Creek, Gregory Bald, and the Twenty Mile Trail. If you are willing to go off the beaten path, you can escape the crowds and have a more peaceful experience.
Death Valley National Park, California and Nevada
By Milijana from World Travel Connector
Undeniably, Death Valley National Park is one of the best national parks to visit in the USA. It covers an impressive 3,000 square miles (almost 2 million acres) and is so huge that it belongs to two states, California and Nevada. Most of the park belongs to California, while a small part belongs to Nevada.
Death Valley National Park is known as the lowest, hottest, and driest place in North America. Beyond that, Death Valley is a unique place on earth. Millions of years ago, block faulting of the earth’s crust, volcanic, wind, and water activities shaped the spectacular landscapes of Death Valley. The landscapes are unparalleled.
For extraordinary sights, go to Death Valley’s Badwater Basin. With a depth of 282 ft below sea level, it is the lowest point in North America. Devil’s Golf Course is a large salt pan on the floor of Death Valley and is reminiscent of the lake that existed a hundred years ago. In addition, Ubehebe Crater is a unique several thousand year-old crater, and Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are one-of-kind desert dunes.
For more incredbile sights, head to Racetrack Playa where mysterious ‘sailing stones’ occur, or drive to Artist Palette for a stunning glimpse into Death Valley’s beautiful display of colorful volcanic and sedimentary rocks. And, don’t forget to check out the Zabriskie viewpoint and the Dantes viewpoint for the best views of the Valley.
If you enjoy hiking, follow the 1-mile long Golden Canyon trail or hike the 2.7-mile long Twenty Mule Team Canyon.
Las Vegas is the nearest city to Death Valley, and McCarren International Airport in Las Vegas is the nearest airport. It takes 2 hours by car from Las Vegas to Death Valley.
If you plan to stay in Las Vegas for a few days, make sure you know all the best tips for how to save money, where to stay, how to get the best restaurant reservations and how to get around. Please see 50 Best Las Vegas Tips For First Time Visitors.
Best Times To Visit Death Valley National Park
The best time to visit Death Valley NP is from October to May before the unbearable summer heat arrives. For the most enjoyable weather, December and January would be best.
Death Valley in November to see the Leonid meteor showers at night and in spring to see the Wildflower Super Bloom are both extraordinary and next level.
Milijana says, “To be close to all Death Valley attractions, stay at The Ranch At Death Valley. This fabulous 4-star hotel is within the Park, and it comes with a swimming pool and sports facilities. Hmm, can you imagine yourself with a glass of wine in a pool in the desert with the sky full of stars above you?”
Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
From Chris and Heather from a Brit And A Southerner
Amazing wildlife sights, breathtaking panoramic landscapes and magical experiences can frequently be associated with many national parks around the US, but the inherent beauty of Denali National Park in the heart of Alaska is perhaps why this is one of the most iconic of them all.
While Denali may not have the frequency of visitors as some of it’s more popular counterparts in the lower 48, this should take nothing away from the spectacular experiences that visitors can enjoy when exploring the 6 million acres of Alaska’s interior wilderness.
Experience the “hop on, hop off” opportunities with Denali’s bus system, or simply experience the pre-determined itineraries which will provide a glimpse of the major attractions that you cannot afford to miss in Denali National Park. The pièce de resistance is of course Denali itself (formerly known as Mount McKinley) with a summit towering at 20,310 feet above sea level.
Are you ready to join the 30% club? The 30% club is made up of the people who were fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of Denali, the tallest mountain in North America. However, if you are not quite as fortunate, Mount Foraker and Mount Hunter frequently lie in the shadow of Denali but are equally spectacular as they also tower above the Alaskan mountains.
While the panoramic scenery justifies a visit to Denali National Park in and of itself, the wildlife encounters are equally amazing. Grizzly bears, moose, and caribou are just a few examples of what you will likely encounter during a trip through this Park. Of course, a trip to Alaska wouldn’t be the same without visiting the local dog sledding team at the Wilderness Access Center.
Located 4 hours north of Anchorage, Denali is the perfect place to visit if you are ready to experience one of Alaska’s magical national parks. Unlike the other parks in Alaska which are rather more difficult to visit, Denali is conveniently located and readily accessible by car or train. The drive from Anchorage to Denali offers a plethora of attractions and towns worth visiting en route, including Talkeetna, Mirror Lake, and others.
Best Times To Visit Denali National Park
Denali NP is best visited between the months of June through August when the wildlife are most active and the weather is moderate and ideal for exploring.
After Labor Day, Denali becomes quieter and by mid-September, visitors will be left exploring on their own as day tours and shuttles close for the season.
Chris and Heather say, “Visitors can stay in one of the various accommodation options close to the entrance, before venturing deep into the National Park on one of the organized daily tours.
We would strongly recommend Mckinley Chalet Resort. We stayed for three nights and loved it. They gave us a wake up call at 2am for the Northern Lights. The hotel was conveniently located to everything and very welcoming.”
White Sands National Park, New Mexico
By Alanna from Periodic Adventures
Located in New Mexico outside Las Cruces, White Sands National Park is known for its stunning gypsum sand dunes and unique ecosystem spanning 230 square miles (147,000 acres).
There are a number of memorable things to do in White Sands National Park, one of the best US national parks to visit, aside from gawking at the dunes.
First, head to the Visitor Center to learn about the ecosystem, what makes the sand so special, and perhaps most importantly, to buy a sled and wax. With these, you can drive into the Park, find a dune of your choice and go sand-sledding! It’s a great activity for adults and kids alike.
Take a walk along either the Dune Life Nature Trail or Interdune Boardwalk, where you’ll get a glimpse at some of the desert plant-life and perhaps even some animals.
The closest city to White Sands is Alamogordo. Be sure to check out the New Mexico Space Museum, which is home to the International Space Hall of Fame and many exhibits showcasing New Mexico’s and the United States’ space exploration history.
To get to White Sands from I-10, take the split to US-70 E near Las Cruces until you reach the Park about 50 miles away. From Interstate 40, the simplest way to reach White Sands NP is to take I-25 S or US-54W to US-70. The closest major airport is in Las Cruces, which is an hour from the park.
Best Times To Visit White Sands National Park
The best time to visit White Sands is during the colder months, as it won’t be as crowded, and the temperatures are much milder. However, it can get below freezing so dress appropriately.
Don’t miss out on one of the most beautiful activities, which is watching an epic sunset at White Sands. The Southwest of the United States is known for its colorful, over the top sunsets so watch nature’s best show from atop a sand dune. One final tip is to head to the end of the road as it’s less crowded toward the back.
Alanna says, “You’ll find a few standard hotel chains in Alamogordo. The Holiday Inn Express & Suites comes highly recommended by Google reviews.”
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
By Anna from Stuck On The Go
Shenandoah National Park stretches a little over 100 miles along the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Virginia. Skyline Drive is the centerpiece here and the park encompasses a total of about 311 square miles.
Here you’ll find gorgeous mountain views and over 500 miles of hiking trails that take you through serene wooded walks. While the hikes may be peaceful in one of the best national parks to visit in the United States, be warned that there aren’t many easy ones here! Stony Man, Hawksbill, and Blackrock are some of the best hikes in Shenandoah National Park and the views are stunning!
A scenic road trip along Skyline Drive is what brings many people to the area. There are multiple overlooks as well as picnic areas for lunch with beautiful views. Make sure you stop at either Skyland Resort or Big Meadows Lodge and have some famous blackberry ice cream pie. You absolutely will not regret this!
Get out early or just before dusk if you’d like to spot some wildlife along the road. There are lots of deer and turkey that you can see from your vehicle.
Since Shenandoah NP is so long, there are lots of nearby towns depending on how far north or south you go. Front Royal is the nearest town on the northern end, Luray is in the middle, and Waynesboro is on the southern end.
While driving through this National Park, it’s popular to stop off at Luray Caverns to tour the caverns and museums. A tour of Luray Caverns includes walking under well-lit and paved walkways through cathedral-sized rooms where you will see natural wonders such as 10-stories high ceilings and towering stone formations.
Getting to Shenandoah is actually relatively easy and the closest major airports are in Washington DC. From Dulles International, it’s a quick one hour drive to the Front Royal Entrance Station.
Best Times To Visit Shenandoah National Park
Every season brings something special to the Park, but summer and leaf season during the fall are the most crowded. The months of April, May, and September have great weather and fewer crowds.
if you do plan on hiking, most of the terrain is steep and rocky so good hiking shoes are important and a pair of trekking poles aren’t a bad idea.
Anna says, “I would stay in Waynesboro at the Hampton Inn Waynesboro.”
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island of Hawaii
By Candice from CS Ginger
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is located on the Big Island of Hawaii. It is found on the east coast of the island near Hilo. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is quite large, considering it is on an island. It is 335,259 acres or 523 square miles. To put this in perspective, the island of Oahu is only 597 square miles.
The Park was formed by 70 million years of volcanic activity. In fact, all of the Hawaiian Islands were built by volcanoes. Currently, there are two active volcanoes making it one of best national parks to visit in the United States. Kilauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and Mauna Loa is the world’s most massive shield volcano.
The geography of the park is very diverse from sea level to the summit of Mauna Loa at 13,679 feet. Throughout the park, you will find lush tropical rainforests to arid desert.
One of the best things to do in Volcanoes NP is drive the Crater Rim Drive which circles the Kilauea Caldera. It takes 45 minutes, but it is best to allow up to 1.5 hours to stop and enjoy the views.
For an easy walk, take the Caldera Rim Path which is a short trail that guides you by steam vents and steaming bluffs, and offers breathtaking views. The Sulphur Banks Trail is another easy trail in the area.
Another fun thing to do is drive to the end of Chain of Craters Road. It is about a 90-minute drive but will take you by a lot of the volcanic features in the National Park. The Mauna Ulu stop is a more recent lava flow area. In addition, you can spot some petroglyphs along the Pu’u Loa Trail. The road ends at the Holei Sea Arch.
Just outside Hawaii Volcanoes NP, be sure to visit Punalu’u Black Sands Beach. It is a short drive and it is a fun beach to visit. The sand is made from small pieces of lava and it is common to find Hawksbill and green turtles there.
The largest international airport near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the Kona International Airport (KOA). From the airport, it is about a two-hour drive across the Big Island to the Park. Hilo International Airport (ITO) is only about 40 minutes from the Park. However, this is a smaller airport and airline tickets will more than likely be expensive.
Best Time To Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park National Park
The best time to visit Volcanoes National Park is from April to June and September to October. You will miss most of the rain and the busy summer season. If you visit during the winter, you have the highest possibility of experiencing rain.
Candice says, “The most popular hotels near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are Chalet Kilauea, Volcano House, and Lava Lodge. If you are also interested in touring nearby Hilo, there are lots of different lodging options there.”
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
By Nikki from She Saves She Travels
If you’re looking for one of the best national parks in the USA to visit, then Mount Rainier National Park in Washington must be on your list. Located in northwest Washington state, this Park is over 236,00 acres. It is part of the incredible Pacific Northwest, known for its heavy trees, majestic peaks and incredible hiking.
The most popular area of Mt. Rainer National Park is Paradise which is home to the famous Skyline Trail, the most popular hiking trail in the Park. Visitors must also visit Reflection Lakes, which is a well-known area of the park famous for – you guessed it – a reflection of Mt Rainier in the lake, providing a gorgeous sight for all to see. Be sure to check out Christine Falls and Narada Falls, both easily accessible from the scenic drive on the south part of the National Park.
The nearest large city to Mount Rainier NP is Seattle. You can fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and drive around 2 hours to the Park.
Best Times To Visit Mount Rainier National Park
Mt Rainier National Park is home to vivid wildflowers in the summer, stunning fall foliage during autumn and snowy conditions about 6 months of the year. Because of the varying temperatures, the best times to visit are June through September. Visitors can expect incredible views of alpine lakes, flowing waterfalls and experiencing the Cascade Mountain range up close!
Be sure to come prepared with adequate food, water, hiking essentials and bug spray for the best experience.
Nikki says, “A few small towns around the park are suitable for lodging, including Ashford, Packwood, Randal and Greenwater.”
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
By Camila from Travel Cami
Even though many people have never heard of it, Dry Tortugas National Park is for sure one of the best national parks in the USA to visit.
The Park is 64,000 acres and comprises a group of small islands located nearly 70 miles west from Key West, Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. However, Garden Key is the only island that can be visited.
There are many things to do in this little tropical paradise, like exploring the historic Fort Jefferson, which was once a prison during the Civil War. Free tours of the fort are available near the Visitor’s Center every morning.
Another popular thing to do in Dry Tortugas National Park is snorkeling. The turquoise and crystal clear water around the islands is perfect for this activity. Also, marine life is very rich and you might even spot a turtle or two if you are lucky!
Besides these activities, most people opt to just walk and enjoy the spectacular white-sand beaches. To make the most out of your time, all you really gotta do is lie on the sand, soak up the sun, and savor the beautiful views.
To get to Dry Tortugas NP, most people take the ferry from Key West, which should be booked well in advance since it sells out super fast! To take the ferry, just head to the Key West Ferry Terminal with your ticket and hop on board. The ferry ride takes just over 2 hours and your ticket includes breakfast, lunch, and snorkel gear.
Best Times To Visit Dry Tortugas National Park
The best time to visit this stunning National Park is during winter, from November to March. This is when the weather is cooler (although there isn’t such thing as cold weather in the Florida Keys!) and the water has better visibility. Avoid the months of June and July, if possible.
Make sure to take pills for seasickness before you hop on the ferry. The boat ride can often get rough and people can get very nauseous!
Hotels in Key West can get pretty expensive, especially near Duval Street. Try the Hilton Garden Inn Key West which is a little farther away but is good value.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho
By James from Parks Collecting
Yellowstone National Park was the first national park not only in the United States, but in the entire world! Today, it remains one of the best national parks in America to visit. The entire park is 3,471 square miles (over 2 million acres), and straddles three states, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
Most of the Park is actually the caldera of a giant super volcano and the area is a hot spot for geothermal activity. You can find geysers, brightly colored hot springs, bubbling mud pots, and burning cauldrons of scalding water.
Yellowstone National Park is sometimes called “America’s Serengeti” due to the large concentration of wildlife. Plus, it has its own grand canyon – the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is home to the 108-foot Upper Yellowstone Falls and the awe-inspiring 308-foot Lower Yellowstone Falls (which is almost double the height of Niagara Falls).
One thing to absolutely not miss is Old Faithful, the most famous geyser in the US. It erupts faithfully several times a day (check at the adjacent Visitors Center for reliable predictions) but it’s not the only geyser you can see if your timing is right. Not to be missed is the stunning sun-like Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the Park and the third largest in the world.
A great place to see Yellowstone Falls and Canyon is Artists Point. You can then hike down below the canyon rim for a closer look. Red Rock Point on the north rim is a popular – and steep – hike.
Another area not to miss is Lamar Valley. Take a scenic drive or get out and hike around the valley. You have a good chance to see bison, and possibly even wolves and bears, here.
The nearest gateway town to Yellowstone National Park is West Yellowstone. When you’re there, be sure to visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, where you can learn more about these amazing creatures and see some rehabilitated animals up close.
The largest airport for the West Entrance is Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport in Montana. This is a two-hour drive to the National Park. For the East Entrance, fly into Yellowstone Regional Airport in Wyoming, just under an hour from the Park entrance.
Best Times To Visit Yellowstone National Park
You can visit Yellowstone NP all year, though in winter it is mostly only open to over snow travel. The peak time is summer, when it is also extremely crowded. June and early September will give you good weather, lots of animals, and fewer people.
When visiting Yellowstone National Park, it is worth getting up early in the morning. You’ll have a better chance of seeing wildlife and there’ll be fewer people around. The park is big, so always allow extra travel time – especially since it is not uncommon to get stuck in a traffic jam caused by a herd of bison walking along the road!
James says, “There are several accommodation options inside and outside the park. It’s not that cheap, but staying in the classic lodge, the Old Faithful Inn, is hard to beat.”
Big Bend National Park, Texas
By Erin from Sol Salute
Big Bend National Park is in West Texas on the border with Mexico. Like the name suggests, it lies in the big bend of the Rio Grande River. It is truly one of the best national parks in the USA to visit and one of the most beautiful places in Texas.
Despite its relatively small size of 800,000 acres, it features three different geographical regions and is the only national park in the United States to house an entire mountain range within its borders. In Big Bend NP, you can hike and camp in the Chihuahuan Desert, along the river, and in the Chisos Mountains.
The absolute best thing to do here is to explore the many incredible hiking trails. Iconic hikes into canyons along the river (like Boquillas Canyon and Santa Elena Canyon) or to the desert mountain formation Mule Ears are all experiences you can only have in a park like Big Bend National Park.
Another unique experience is to cross the border for the day to visit the small Mexican village of Boquillas del Carmen. Don’t forget to pack your passport!
Finally, the Fossil Discovery Exhibit is a “can’t miss” museum showing what Texas looked like thousands of years ago when dinosaurs roamed the land and the terrain much more resembled the Maldives than the desert you see today.
It is not easy to reach Big Bend but it is worth the effort. The closest airports are actually 3-4 hours away in El Paso and Midland, respectively. It is a 7-8 hour drive here from other main Texas cities like Houston, Austin, and Dallas. Wherever you fly into you will need to rent a car to drive the rest of the way and to navigate the park.
Best Times To Visit Big Bend National Park
The best time to visit Big Bend NP is during the cooler months. This is the desert and summer months can be unbearably hot. Along with the heat, it is also the monsoon season so you can expect sudden, heavy storms in the summer. Fall and spring are the best seasons in West Texas, but keep in mind that it will be busy during holidays like Thanksgiving and Spring Break.
Always keep your gas tank full. Don’t risk letting your tank get too close to empty in the desert where gas stations can be few and far between. There is a gas station in Terlingua and one in the park at Panther Junction.
Erin says, “The closest town to Big Bend’s entrance gates is Terlingua. This tiny speck of a town is technically a historic ghost town, founded as a quicksilver mining town. There are quirky rental homes on sites like Airbnb and VRBO that offer accommodation in teepees and remodeled mining ruins. Rent one for an unforgettable experience. Terlingua is famous for its yearly chili contest and you can try some of this area’s best chilli at the Starlight Diner by the general store.”
Acadia National Park, Maine
By Melissa from Navigation Junkie
One of the most best national parks to visit in the United States is Acadia National Park. It is 47,000 acres and composed of a unique landscape made up of rocky coastlines and grassy summits. The Park is located along the coast of Maine on Mount Desert Island near the small New England village of Bar Harbor.
Acadia National Park is an outdoor lovers’ paradise with plenty of hiking trails, a sandy beach, a glacial lake, and miles of coastline. One of the best ways to get an introduction to Acadia NP is to drive on Park Loop Drive. This 27-mile-long scenic drive will take you past many of Acadia’s top sights, including Jordan Pond, Thunder Hole, Sand Beach, and to the summit of Cadillac Mountain.
You will not want to miss hiking on one of the many trails with spectacular views on your visit to Acadia NP. The Park offers hikes for all skill levels. For an easy hike, the Wonder Land Trail or Ocean Path trail are great options. For a more difficult hike, skip the drive to the Cadillac Mountain summit and hike up instead.
Stop at Thunder Hole at high tide to hear the roar created by air trapped in the cave below. Alternatively, go for a swim at Sand Beach and take a kayak out on Jordan Pond.
Within a five-minute drive from Acadia, you will find Bar Harbor, a perfect home base. A small coastal village, Bar Harbor is great for New England small town charm, shopping, and dining. You will want to allot a day to explore Bar Harbor.
Have a picnic in the village green or enjoy a Bar Harbor food tour. If you have the time, take a Lighthouse and Puffin Cruise, where you will not only see some of Maine’s coastal lighthouses, but will also get some unique views of Acadia National Park from the water.
The easiest way to reach Acadia National Park is to fly into Hancock County–Bar Harbor Airport from a larger, international airport. The airport is only 10 minutes from the National Park. You could also fly into Bangor International Airport and drive one-hour to Acadia National Park.
Best Times To Visit Acadia National Park
For the warmest weather, you will want to visit during the summer months, but for the fewest crowds, the best time to visit Acadia National Park is early September. You will still find gorgeous weather, but you will avoid both the summer crowds and leaf peeping crowds (unless of course you want to come to see the stunning fall foliage!).
In order to make the most out of your day in Acadia National Park, plan on arriving early. Crowds start to pick up around 8am, so arriving before that will get you access to some of the more popular locations in the park, like Sand Beach and the Cadillac Mountain Summit.
Parking is limited and fills up quickly. Pick a central location close by to the spots in the park you most want to see that day.
When visiting Acadia National Park, be sure to get your visitor pass either online before arriving at the park or at the welcome center. There are some roads in Acadia National Park that do not require the pass, but in order to get to some of the best locations in the park, like the Cadillac Mountain Summit, you will need the pass. It is very frustrating to reach the top of Cadillac Mountain only to realize you have to drive all the way back down to get the pass!
Melissa says, “Acadia Inn is one of the best hotels in Bar Harbor. Acadia Inn is a waterfront hotel that has direct access to the trails of Acadia National Park, so if you are an avid hiker you likely won’t find a better option. An added bonus, their outdoor pool is a great place to cool off after a long day of hiking.”
Saguaro National Park, Arizona
By Monica from This Rare Earth
Saguaro National Park is located in Tucson, a small city in Southern Arizona. Just as you would expect, this National Park is made up of sprawling desert wilderness against a background of purple and red mountains. It is startlingly beautiful and one of the best American national parks to visit.
The first thing to know about this Park is that it is split up into two sections – Saguaro National Park East and Saguaro National Park West. The Park is actually bisected by the city of Tucson. Expect to do between 30-60 minutes of driving to go between the two and see both halves of this incredible 90,000 acres Park. Yes, it is well worth it!
Hiking in Saguaro National Park is hands down the best activity around. You can find everything from short, paved and informative trails with educational plaques to long treks through the rugged desert.
If hiking is not your thing, Saguaro NP is also an excellent place for photographers. With a high concentration of cacti and desert wildlife, photographers are sure to get some incredible shots. Capturing a sunrise or sunset is nothing short of amazing.
Both Saguaro National Park East and West have loop drives for those just wanting to catch a glimpse of the desert scenery from inside your air-conditioned car. The Visitors Center sells maps, local crafts, and educational toys for kids.
Tucson itself is famed for its delicious food scene, with flavors of nearby Mexico sprinkled into many dishes. Sampling the award-winning fare is a must. Also, Tucson has everything from contemporary art museums to historic Missions right at your fingertips. Tucson Arizona is a can’t-miss stop for nature, history, art, and food lovers alike!
Out of towners should plan to fly into Tucson International Airport, which is just a short drive to both sections of the park.
Best Time To Visit Saguaro National Park
Fall and spring would be the best (and most comfortable) weather, avoiding the summer heat.
Start your hikes early no matter what the season – the climate can be brutal to hike in the midday sun. Bring plenty of water and download maps before you go.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
By Melissa From Parenthood And Passports
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the most unique national parks in the United States. With a combination of rugged badlands and sweeping grasslands, this North Dakota National Park offers visitors scenic views, great hiking, and an up-close look at native wildlife, making it one of the best national parks to visit in the USA.
The Park, which was founded in 1978, is the only national park in the United States that is named after a person – the 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt. It is located in the southwest corner of North Dakota and bears the former president’s name, in part, because of his love for this region of the United States. In addition, he made significant contributions to the US national park system and conservation efforts to protect public lands.
Theodore Roosevelt NP is one of the only places in the United States where you can find wild horses that freely roam the grasslands, alongside bison and prairie dogs.
While wildlife spotting is a popular activity, hiking is the most popular thing to do in the Park. There are lots of easy hikes in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, like Wind Canyon trail and Boicourt, that offer jaw dropping views with minimal effort or hiking skills.
Dickinson-Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport is closest to the National Park. It is only a 45 minutes drive to its entrance.
Best Times To Visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park
The Park is open year round, but summer is the most popular time to visit, as North Dakota winters are bitterly cold. If you want to experience great weather, but avoid the crowds, plan your visit for early September. This time of year also boosts rich fall colors, as the leaves begin changing to autumn hues.
Melissa says, “The nearby town of Medora is the gateway town in the south. This adorable, tiny town looks like the set of a Wild West movie. It is a great place to base yourself. Stay at the Rough Riders Hotel for a luxurious, yet rustic experience.”
Arches National Park, Utah
By Christina from Live A Wilder Life
Arches National Park in Moab, Utah, is one of the most unique and best US national parks to visit. While one can find breathtaking red rock desert throughout the southwestern US, Arches NP stands out for having over 2000 natural arches, the largest concentration of arches in the world. While viewing soaring arches is the main event, it also has hoodoos, balanced rocks, fins, pinnacles, and other geological formations that make the park a gem in the national park system.
When visiting Arches NP, you’ll want to make sure to see Delicate Arch, the tallest freestanding arch in the Park. Measuring 46 feet high and 32 feet wide, the arch is a stunning piece of natural architecture that’s worth the moderate 3-mile round trip hike.
If you want an easy walk or are visiting Arches with kids, the 0.3 mile hike to Sand Dune Arch is something everyone will enjoy. Tucked away between towering red walls is a hidden majestic arch that transports you into another world and another era.
For the adventurers, the Devil’s Garden Trail is a 7.2-mile round trip hike that requires scrambling on your hands and feet to climb the slick rock. With narrow ledges and unforgiving drop-offs, the trail is not recommended for anyone afraid of heights.
The closest major airport to Arches National Park is the Salt Lake City airport in Salt Lake City, Utah. Rent a car at the airport (you’ll need a vehicle for Arches) and enjoy the 233-mile drive to Moab, Utah.
Best Times To Visit Arches National Park
Moab weather can be sweltering hot, and the crowds can be overwhelming from late spring to early fall. Late October to early November is the best time to visit Arches National park for a moderate climate and easy parking.
Christina says, “Moab has hundreds of different lodging options, but the Springhill Suites from Marriott is the closest hotel to the park and has a fantastic outdoor pool and hot tub area.”
Glacier National Park, Montana
By Jessica from Unearth The Voyage
Glacier National Park is definitely one of the best national parks in all of the United States to visit and explore. It is located in northern Montana and is a relatively large park, preserving over 1 million acres of pristine wilderness. Glacier NP consists of tall mountain peaks, rivers, alpine lakes, and forests.
One of the best things to do in the Park is hike one of the amazing trails. The Highland Trail, Avalanche Lake trail, or Hidden Lake trail are some of the best hikes in Glacier National Park.
Another amazing thing to do is to drive the famous “Going-to-the-Sun-Road”. This road winds its way through the Park and has some of the most dramatic views you will see in any National Park in the United States.
The closest large town to Glacier National Park is Kalispel. You can fly into Kalispel airport but it’s usually quite expensive. A cheaper option is to fly into Bozeman, Montana or Spokane, Washington and rent a car. From both Bozeman and Spokane, it is about a 5-hour drive to reach the Park.
Best Times To Visit Glacier National Park
The best time to visit Glacier National Park is June-August when the weather is most beautiful. However, these are the busiest months of the year and can be crowded. Accordingly, September is also a fantastic month to visit to enjoy lovely weather and avoid the intense crowds.
It is important to watch nearby wildfire and smoke direction when planning your trip to Glacier National Park. Unfortunately during summer, wildfires and smoke can be bad and ruin your trip. To check on current visibility conditions, make sure to check the NPS current conditions webpage.
Yosemite National Park, California
By Corinne from Roving Vails
Yosemite National Park, made famous from the photographic works of Ansel Adams, is one of the best national parks in the USA to go to. Located on the eastern side of central California, the 750,000 acres includes lush forests, pristine meadows, and beautiful mountains.
There is plenty to do once you get to Yosemite National Park. There are beautiful drives, such as along Tioga or Glacier Point roads where you can see some amazing wildlife like black bears, deer, raccoons, and a variety of birds. The roads are well-maintained and there are plenty of turn-off points to stop safely and photograph some amazing landscapes.
You can also rent bicycles and ride on the paths throughout the Park or take one of the many hikes around the valley floor. Yosemite is also well-known destination for star gazing and night photography because of the lack of light pollution.
From San Francisco, it’s about a 6.5 hour ride. On the way, you can stop at Bodie State Historic Park, a famous ghost town, and Mono Lake, a saline soda lake, both extremely picturesque and full of photo opportunities. The route is simple. Take I-580, then I-205 to highway 120 at Manteca. Keep driving east on the Hwy. 120 the rest of the way.
Best Times To Visit Yosemite National Park
The best time to visit Yosemite National Park is October through May. There are less crowds and the chances of seeing wildlife are higher. It is best to avoid Yosemite NP in summer. Even though it is beautiful and the Park has plenty to offer, it is also the most crowded.
The best time to spot wildlife is early morning and dusk, not in the heat of the day.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
By Michelle from Moyer Memoirs Empty Nest Travel Adventures
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is located along the Cuyahoga River, which follows a path between Akron and Cleveland in the midwestern US state of Ohio. It is one of America’s newest and best national parks to visit, but also one of the smallest at 30,000 acres of rural landscape. There is no entrance fee.
There are 90 miles of Cuyahoga Valley National Park trails, the most noteworthy being the Canal Towpath Trail. This popular hiking path was formed between 1827 and 1913 when mules would pull the ships with passengers and goods along the Ohio and Erie Canal, wearing down and flattening the pathway.
Today, the historic path is level and winds around the park in a 19-mile scenic trail for not only hikers, but bikers, strollers, horseback riders and even cross-country skiers!
The Cuyahoga Valley scenic railroad is another of the national park’s main attractions. The railroad runs through the park, not only providing transportation between boarding stations in different park regions but also providing educational programs on history and ecology for park-goers.
The closest city to the National Park is Cleveland where there are many sites to see including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In addition, bordered on the north by Lake Erie, Cleveland has many area beaches to enjoy in the summertime.
The closest airport to Cuyahoga Valley National Park is in Cleveland. It is a 20-minute drive from the airport. While in Cleveland, there are many sites to see including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In addition, bordered on the north by Lake Erie, Cleveland has many area beaches to enjoy in the summertime.
Best Time To Visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Cuyahoga Valley NP is beautiful in all seasons. In addition, since it is a fairly new park, the crowds are pretty low throughout the year.
In the wintertime, the Cuyahoga Valley scenic railroad transforms into the Polar Express with an added stop at the North Pole!
Michelle recommends the beautiful Inn at Brandy Wine Falls which is located in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It was built in 1848 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
By Jack and Julie From Ruhls Of The Road
Crater Lake National Park is located in south-central Oregon and is home to the deepest lake in the US. Thousands of years ago, Mount Mazama erupted and formed a caldera 1,943 feet deep. Slowly the caldera filled with water creating Crater Lake. This lake is unique as there is no water running into or out of it. Therefore, Crater Lake is also one of the clearest lakes in the world! Crater Lake NP is over 180,000 acres and one of the best national parks in the United States to visit.
Spend 1-2 days hiking in Crater Lake National Park or driving around the lake to enjoy the beautiful views. Cleetwood Cove trail is an awesome hike that takes you down to the Lake’s shoreline where you can jump in for a swim. Mount Scott is the highest peak surrounding Crater Lake and a great hike if you are looking for breathtaking views of the entire lake from above. Hike Watchman Peak Trail for a view of Wizard Island, which is one of two islands in the lake.
The nearest major airport to Crater Lake National Park is Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport, located three miles northeast of Medford and 80 miles south of the Park. The closest international airport is Portland, Oregon which is about 3.5 hours from Crater Lake.
Best Times To Visit Crater Lake National Park
Part of the park closes for the winter and you can expect snow here for 8 months out of the year. Therefore, the best time to visit Crater Lake National Park is from July – September when you will have access to the entire National Park.
Regardless of the time of year that you intend to visit Crater Lake NP, always check the US National Park Service website before your visit to see if there are any unforeseen closures.
Jack and Julie say, “If you are looking for a cheap visit there is plenty of off grid camping right outside the park. Or if you prefer something more comfy check out Crater Lake Lodge.”
Sequoia National Park, California
By Cosette from Kars Travels
Sequoia National Park is located in the Southeast of California, in the Sierra Nevada. Founded in 1890, it measures 400,000 acres (1635 km²). In this mountainous park, you’ll find forests, in particular the giant Sequoia trees, making this one of the best national parks in the USA to visit. Sequoia National Park is a perfect stop on a California Road Trip.
The Sequoias are everywhere and are truly huge. Go hiking in the Giant Forest, where you will be surrounded by them. Among them you will see the General Sherman tree, the largest tree in the world. It is about 2100 years old, 275 feet tall and 100 feet wide at its trunk. The Giant Forest is on the Generals Highway (the main highway), so easily reachable.
Drive the Crescent Meadows Road (9.6 kilometers/6 miles) to Tunnel Log. You will find a fallen Sequoia tree through which you can drive.
On Morro Rock, you’ll have perfect views of the Sierra Nevada and the canyons. The views are really mesmerizing. However, you have to climb 400 steps to reach the top of Moro Rock.
You enter Sequoia NP on highway 198 at the town of Three Rivers, the closest town and a perfect base to explore the National Park. The closest airports are Fresno Yosemite Airport, a 1 ¾ hours drive, and Visalia Municipal Airport, an hour away.
Best Times To Visit Sequoia National Park
You can visit the Park year-round, but most visitors come in the summer months. Everything is open and there should be no road closures. On the contrary, in winter and spring, there will be a deep blanket of snow, not everything will be open and there will be road closures.
When visiting Sequoia National Park, don’t skip Kings Canyon National Park next door. It has more Sequoia trees and a gorge deeper than the Grand Canyon.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
By Meg from Fox In The Forest
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the best national parks in the USA to visit if what you’re after is a mountainous paradise. Boasting over one hundred trails, putting on your hiking shoes and going for a hike is one of the best things to do while here. Think jaw-dropping lakes, awe-inspiring alpine landscapes, and gorgeous rugged ridge lines to get a clear picture of what hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park is all about!
Rocky Mountain NP is home to two of the most scenic hikes in Colorado: The Trail Ridge Road and the Peak to Peak Highway, both of which provide some of the best viewpoints of some of the most scenic places Colorado has to offer. If you are a seasoned hiker, consider the Emerald Lake hike, the Sky Pond trail, and the Chasm Lake hike. If you’d rather not break a sweat, you can also explore the National Park by road.
You can head to nearby Estes Park if you are up for more adventure where you can enjoy even more breathtaking hiking trails and mountain scenery.
Rocky Mountain National Park is just an hour and a half away from Denver International Airport.
Best Times To Visit Rocky Mountain National Park
You can visit Rocky Mountain National Park any time of the year. However, the best time to visit is between mid-June and mid-October because the weather is warmer and most hiking trails are open, including the Trail Ridge Road. With that said, this is also the most crowded time to go.
Winter is another lovely time to visit if you don’t mind the cold and would love to see frozen alpine lakes backdropped by snow-capped mountains.
If you visit Rocky Mountain NP in winter, make sure you understand avalanche safety if you plan on venturing far from the road.
Zion National Park, Utah
By Brianna from Casual Travelist
Utah’s first national park is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the United States and one of the best US National Parks to visit. With dramatic red rock cliffs and sandstone canyons, it is no surprise that Zion National Park attracts millions of visitors every year.
Located in Southwestern Utah, the 230 square miles of Zion are home to countless hikes with stunning views but the two most popular hikes are Angel’s Landing and the Narrows. Angels Landing is a 5.4 mile loop that ascends high above the canyon floor to vertigo-inducing heights while the Narrows takes you hiking IN the Virgin River through dramatic sandstone canyons.
Craving a bit more adrenaline? Head out on a guided canyoneering tour which combines hiking, climbing and rappeling.
To reach Zion National Park, most visitors fly into Las Vegas and drive about 3 hours.
Best Times To Visit Zion National Park
Summer is high season and these popular hikes can be filled with wall to wall people. However, if you visit in winter (yes, you can hike the Narrows in winter), you will practically have these world class hikes to yourself.
If you plan to hike the Narrows in the winter be sure to rent a dry suit and canyon shoes from a local adventure outfitter. Regardless of when you hike and what hike you choose check trail conditions before you go as flash floods and rock slides can make conditions unsafe.
Brianna says, “While there are a handful of hotels in the tiny outpost of Springdale at the gates to Zion National Park, St. George is a larger town nearby with more options for lodging and restaurants. Amira Resort in St. George is a great option if you want a little luxury after a day out on the trails.
The dramatic landscapes of Zion don’t stop at the park borders, St. George is also home to Snow Canyon State Park which is home to beautiful red rocks and even a wave rock formation with a fraction of the crowds in Zion.”
The best times to visit the best national parks in the USA are varied depending on whether it is located in the northern or southern United States and whether there is elevation gain. However, for every month of the year, there is at least one fantastic national park waiting for you to explore. Most offer superb hiking trails for all levels with fantastic views. Many supply well planned roadways allowing you to explore the most beautiful parts of the park by car or bike.