I have an obsession. Granted it’s not as bad as some, but it still keeps me awake at night. I find myself lost in daydreams, and often spend hours on end planning for something that might never happen.
I’m talking about our National Parks.
Each and every one is spectacular in its own unique way. But once you visit one, I must warn you, the deep desire to see more is a feeling you won’t be able to shake.
If you want to do it right, you need to start early. And though it doesn’t seem like it– spring can actually be the best time of year to see some of our Nation’s most coveted gems!
10. Big Bend National Park — Texas
— Big Bend NPS (@BigBendNPS) February 5, 2017
Big Bend is most known for the famous Bluebonnet. A flower that resembles the hats of early pioneers in the area. From late January to March this springtime bloomer blankets the park.
Since we’ve already seen that time come and go, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Spring is also the time in which more than 440 species of birds migrate through the park!
So for all of you #BirdNerd followers, this amazing backdrop plays perfect for some productive peeping.
9. Redwood National Park — California
— Redwood N&S Parks (@RedwoodNPS) January 25, 2017
This park is amazing any time of year.
If there is a place that will change the way you view trees forever, this is it! Towering at more than 300 feet, the shear size is almost impossible to grasp.
Coastal California is quite mild this time of year, and the abundant moisture in the atmosphere can add a fog to the forest that makes it even more magical.
The park has seemingly endless hiking trails and access to some of the most breath-taking beaches on the coast. So bring the rain gear and a tent and plan to stay for a few days.
8. Yosemite — California
— Yosemite National Pk (@YosemiteNPS) April 8, 2017
Admittedly, portions of the park are still closed during the spring months– so you might miss out on a few hikes, but the trade off is definitely worth it.
Incessant snow and rain this past winter have the park’s waterfalls flowing stronger than they have in years!
And though the fire falls have come and gone, the beauty of the park is still unbeatable!
7. Joshua Tree — California
— Joshua Tree NPS (@JoshuaTreeNPS) March 22, 2017
This is the first of many on this list that are best in the spring simply due to the mild temperatures.
If you wait until July, the average high temperature is 100°! So the 80° days this time of year are a bit more appealing. Especially with temperatures dropping by almost 30° each night, you couldn’t ask for better camping conditions!
Springtime bonus: desert wildflowers really pop against the barren landscape!
6. Great Smoky Mountains — Tennessee
— GreatSmokyNPS (@GreatSmokyNPS) March 21, 2017
Speaking of wildflowers!
Often called the “Wildflower National Park,” the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to more than 1,500 species of wildflower!
Spring is the best time of year to catch the blooming wildflowers, and also avoid the hot humid days of the summer!
Just don’t expect to find some alone time in these mountains. Crowds flock to this park every spring for those exact reasons.
5. Kenai Fjords — Alaska
— Kenai Fjords NP (@KenaiFjordsNPS) March 27, 2017
I will always push for Alaska. If you haven’t been, go! Go now!
It is true, and untamed, and wild, and beautiful in a way that goes beyond the breath-taking photos we’ve all seen.
The glacier-capped peaks of the Kenai Fjords are beautiful any time of year, but it’s a rare mammal that makes spring so special.
The Gray Whales return to Alaska each spring, and the fjords are the perfect place to go see these amazing creatures!
Just bring plenty of warm clothes if you plan on making the trip! It can still be quite cold in Alaska, even in the month of May!
— Kenai Fjords NP (@KenaiFjordsNPS) April 5, 2017
4. Great Sand Dunes — Colorado
— US Consulate Mumbai (@USAndMumbai) August 25, 2016
Haven’t heard of it? Well, you’re missing out!
Home to the tallest sand dunes in North America, this little-known gem is the perfect spring destination! Especially considering the snow-capped mountains silhouetting the park.
During the heat of the summer, the sand temperature can soar to 120°F! Combine that with air temperatures in the 90’s and you’re not going to have a good time.
So grab the sandboard and the blanket, because after surfing these massive dunes, it can get quite cold in the night in the desert at 9,000 feet!
3. Arches — Utah
Alright, now that is pretty amazing! Take a moment and take in this beautiful scene at Arches National Park near Moab, Utah back on Wednesday. #UTwxWeatherNationTV.com – Video: @soundaerial
Posted by WeatherNation on Thursday, April 13, 2017
I mean, just watch that video!
Arches is amazing. But the problem arises, once again, during the heat of the summer Arches gets a little too hot to really enjoy.
Thus, the best time of year to enjoy the highest concentration of natural arches in the world, is the early spring!
In fact, this gem remains relatively untraveled this time of year– meaning you get the more than 2,000 arches to yourself! (Or as close to it as possible)
Bring the bike and hiking gear, Arches is home to some of the best trails in the U.S.
2. Grand Canyon — Arizona
Because, Grand Canyon!
If you haven’t seen it, the incredible size and colors and river and cliffs can all be a little much to take in your first time.
No wonder more than 5 million people visit the park each year!
By visiting early you avoid the oppressive heat of the summer months, making every bit of your visit more enjoyable.
Not to mention the lack of crowds! Aside from Spring Break, the spring months tend to be less crowded than the summer months for this popular destination.
Though the North Rim is closed through May due to snow, the South Rim is still exceptionally beautiful and much easier to access.
Pro tip: Even if it is chilly at the top, temperatures soar as you descend into the canyon– so be sure to bring plenty of water no matter what time you visit! And being a desert, once the sun goes down the temperature drops by almost 30 degrees!
1. Zion — Utah
— WeatherNation (@WeatherNation) April 3, 2017
Arguably one of the more beautiful national parks, Zion is a treat any time of year!
But what makes spring so great is the combination of every bonus from the parks that got us to this point.
Zion gets hot. Sweltering. Uncomfortable. Brutal.
So when it comes to avoiding the heat an early season visit is key!
In addition to cooler temperatures, recent moisture transforms the park into a magical land of waterfalls and green plant life silhouetted against the red rocks!
I’m going to give the same bit of advice that came with a few of the other parks, prepare for the heat but know that once the sun goes down temperatures will drop by as much as 30 degrees!
Plenty of water and plenty of layers is the story if you plan on visiting any of these gems in the months leading up to peak season.
"The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain." – Dolly Parton pic.twitter.com/Hsk1dr1ngU
— Zion National Park (@ZionNPS) January 13, 2017
For WeatherNation — Meteorologist Jeremy LaGoo