Best National Parks To Visit This Spring

Spring brings a fresh start, a chance to put away layers of clothes and roam free and easy.

Hikers trek into the forest along the more than 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the famed Appalachian Trail and are rewarded with some of the most scenic views of Shenandoah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hikers trek into the forest along the more than 500 miles of trails, including 101 miles of the famed Appalachian Trail and are rewarded with some of the most scenic views of Shenandoah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And there’s no better place to find renewal than a national park, our unbeatable natural treasures.

Spring brings a renewal, warmer temperatures, fields of wildflowers, and blessedly few crowds.

Following are four of the best national parks for springtime revelry, from Virginia to Wyoming to Arizona.

Now it’s your turn to start planning a trip.

Shenandoah National Park

As springtime helps Shenandoah National Park come to life, those who visit will take away a deeper appreciation for its diversity of flora and fauna. With nearly 200,000 forested acres, Shenandoah National Park is most popular during the fall foliage. Spring sees some of the fewest visitors, but perhaps the most unique beauty thanks to park’s 850 species of flowering plants.

While some visitors choose a scenic drive along Skyline Drive, others opt to explore meadows and forests by foot with every turn revealing a new color, new sound, and new sight.

The Smoky Mountains are among the oldest on Earth. Ice Age glaciers stopped their southward journey just short of these mountains, which became a junction of southern and northern flora. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Smoky Mountains are among the oldest on Earth. Ice Age glaciers stopped their southward journey just short of these mountains, which became a junction of southern and northern flora. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitor facilities and services re-open for the year in March, and the wildflower display begins in early April, continuing to summer. Pink azaleas bloom in May closely followed by mountain laurel in June.

Yellowstone National Park

The roads at Yellowstone National Park are first plowed in late March, and bit by bit the park opens up, ending with Beartooth Highway in early June. The road to Mammoth Springs near the north entrance is the first area to open up—usually in March. The road to Old Faithful is usually open by mid-April. This early in the spring, snow still covers the ground and night temperatures fall below freezing.

As the snow melts, the rivers swell, and the trails open up. If you go early in the season, you’ll have to play your choices by ear. But you’ll be in Yellowstone. The scenery will still be magnificent, and the world-famous wildlife-viewing opportunities will still abound. Watch out for elk, bears, deer, bison, smaller mammals, birds, and more.

Wildflowers, a favorite spring rejuvenator, are a major draw to the grasslands of Pelican Valley and Hayden Valley, as well as the desert sagebrush regions near the north entrance. And as the higher trails open up, early summer wildflowers appear in the higher climes.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, is both the most-visited national park in the country and the most abundantly blessed with 1,500 species of flowering plants, more than any other national park.

Springtime flowers include trilliums, phacelia, violets, lady’s slippers, jack-in-the-pulpits, and showy orchids. The viewing window for the latter is brief — mid-April to mid-May in the forests, mid-June to mid-July on the higher slopes — so go sooner rather than later.

The milder temperatures and reduced haze in spring make for ideal visiting conditions.

Saguaro National Park

The park is named after the Saguaro cactus, which blooms brilliant in the burgeoning heat of spring.

Halved by the city of Tucson, Saguaro National Park is really two parks in one. The Rincon Mountains are perhaps the most prominent wilderness on the east side of the park. The Tucson Mountains are where you go to get away from it all in the West.

Unique to the Sonoran Desert, the park’s giant saguaros sometimes reach as much as 50 feet in height – so it’s no wonder they’ve been described as the kings of the Sonoran Desert.

Unique to the Sonoran Desert, the park’s giant saguaros sometimes reach as much as 50 feet in height – so it’s no wonder they’ve been described as the kings of the Sonoran Desert. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro is a great hiking park. Some 128 miles of trail explore it, with the usual full range of difficulty levels and length.

Among the satisfyingly adapted plants to experience are the leguminous mesquites and paloverdes, pears, chollas, hedgehog cacti, creosote bushes, ocotillos, and catclaws. April to June is cactus flowering season with saguaro blooming at its peak in May and June.

Saguaro flowers bloom for less than 24 hours. They open at night and remain open through the next day.

Hundreds of bird species either pass through the park or live here year-round. The reptiles and small animals bring a close-to-the-ground dimension to the park. And close-to-the-ground is frequently the most fascinating place of all.

Worth Pondering…

Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring?
―Neltje Blachan

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