Best National Parks to Visit this Spring


Bradee Felton

January 30, 2024

Interested in visiting some National Parks this spring? Spring is a great time to visit many of our Nation’s beautiful parks. You’ll experience less crowds, less intense temperatures and often cheaper travel rates. Although the cold temperatures may not reflect it yet, spring is rapidly approaching! This means that if you are dreaming of exploring new parks in the coming months, now is the time to start researching and planning! Luckily, I am taking out all the guesswork for you and putting together a list of the BEST National Parks to visit during the springtime, and exactly what you should plan on doing in each. Here are my top recommended National Parks to visit between March and May!

Joshua Tree National Park

Why I recommend this park: 

Located where the Mojave and Colorado Deserts meet, this unique ecosystem in Southern California is ideal in the spring. Temperatures this time of year will range from a high of 70-85 degrees fahrenheit, and lows of 42-53 degrees fahrenheit. These mild temperatures are much preferred to the heat of summer, especially due to the lack of shade cover within the park. People often visit this park for the iconic Joshua Trees (hence the name), but the park has far more to offer than the trees alone. Joshua Tree National Park has unique formations, desert scenery, gorgeous hiking views, and more! 

Top Hiking Trails:

  • Sand Dunes via Mecca Dale Road
  • Lost Palms Oasis Trail
  • Mastodon Peak Loop Trail
  • Cottonwood Spring Nature Trail
  • Pinkham Canyon OHV Road
  • Monument Mountain from Pinkham Canyon Trailhead
  • Ruby Lee Mill Site and Porcupine Wash Loop
  • Bajada Nature Walk

Must-Do Experiences:

-Walk Hidden Valley Nature Trail and survey the massive monolith, named the Great Burrito. You can enjoy a picnic here at the designated area as well!

-Take a drive up to Keys View; one of the most popular viewpoints in the park. On a clear day, you’ll not only have views over Coachella Valley, but beyond to the Salton Sea, Palm Springs, and even Mexico. 

– Stroll through the Cholla Cactus Garden. Particularly in the early morning, or during golden hour, this is an experience you nature lovers don’t want to miss. Bring your camera!

– Hike to Skull Rock to experience some seriously wild rock formations!

-Check out Barker Dam Nature Trail for an unexpected destination in a desert: leftover water from an old dam that creates a beautiful reflection of the mountains overtop. 

-Enjoy blooming wildflowers in spring! The most notable flowers can be found near the Cottonwood Visitor Center. 

Trip Considerations: 

  • While the park is vast in size (over 800,000 acres), there are only two main roads running throughout. 
  • If you do plan to camp, or hike once the sun goes down, pack layers. Deserts get quite chilly at night so you will want to be prepared. 
  • The closest town to the park is called Twentynine Palms, and it offers sleeping accommodations if you do not plan to camp. 
  • To experience the highlights and landscapes of the park, you really only need two full days. If you plan to do more extensive hiking/climbing, more days may be appropriate. 
  • You may see some less-than-friendly creatures in the park, such as rattlesnakes, scorpions, and black widows. Be aware of your surroundings!

Big Bend National Park

Why I recommend this park: 

This underrated National Park is located in the southwestern corner of Texas. It’s no shock that a National Park in Texas bordering Mexico would be quite hot in summer months. For this reason, early spring is a great time to check out Big Bend, and get some fresh air if you’re starting to feel stir crazy from being cooped up all winter. From March-May, the highs will range from 67-81 degrees fahrenheit, with lows ranging from 44-58 degrees fahrenheit. This park also offers many natural wonders, such as the Chisos Mountain Range, Chihuahuan Desert, the Santa Elena Canyon, limestone cliffs, and the Langford Hot Springs. 

Top Hiking Trails:

  • Lost Mine Trail
  • The Window Trail
  • Emory Peak Trail
  • Laguna Meadow Trail
  • Basin Loop Trail
  • Pine Canyon Trail
  • Pinnacles Trail
  • South Rim Trail Loop
  • Juniper Canyon Trail

Must-Do Experiences:

-Hike/wade through the Santa Elena Canyon. If you’ve ever been awe-struck by the Zion Narrows, this canyon has a very similar allure but is much less known! Following the Rio Grande River into the canyon, you will experience vast canyon walls surrounding you on this short but rewarding hike!

-Soak in the Rio Grande Hot Springs! This is definitely a popular experience when visiting this area. As an add-on, you can also take the short (less than 1 mile) Hot Springs Loop Trail.

-Cross into Mexico for the day! Once you cross the border, you can take a quick ferry to the village of Boquillas. The village is a mile from where the boat will drop you off, but horses and burros are available for riding if you’d like to forego the walk!

-Enjoy sunset over Window View; one of the most iconic views in the park.

-Rent canoes on the Rio Grande for a few hours! This can be unique and fun way to enjoy the park.

-Take a drive on the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. You’ll likely want to stop at the Homer Wilson Ranch Overlook along the road!

Trip Considerations: 

-If you do plan to venture into Mexico, be sure to bring your passport.

-The nearby town of Marathon offers lodging accommodations if you don’t plan to camp within the park.

-Even in the spring, temperatures can get quite hot. Bring plenty of water, especially when hitting the trails! Sunglasses, sunscreen and coverings for skin are also advised.

-If you plan on rafting or canoeing, check water levels/conditions before your trip. Sometimes floating the river is banned due to conditions so it’s better to know before you go!

Bryce Canyon National Park

Why I recommend this park: 

Located just 1.5 hours from the extremely popular Zion National Park, Bryce is a smaller park with a completely different, unique landscape! But don’t let the fact that this park is located in Utah fool you; from March-May, temperatures slowly increase so just know that it will be much colder in March than in May. You can expect highs between 44 and 62 degrees fahrenheit and lows between 19 and 32 degrees fahrenheit. Even with slightly chilly temperatures, we still highly recommend visiting this park in the spring to enjoy the trails with fewer people and without the usual heat of summer and fall. This National Park has a unique feature that the other Utah parks don’t – tower-like natural structures called “hoodoos” formed over time from erosion in the canyon. People come from far and wide just to see and hike through these natural wonders. 

Top Hiking Trails:

  • Peekaboo Loop Trail
  • Navajo Loop Trail
  • Tower Bridge Trail
  • Wall Street and Queen’s Garden
  • Sunset Point to Sunrise Point
  • Fairyland Loop Trail
  • Bryce Point Trail
  • RimTrail: Bryce Point to Lower Inspiration Point

Must-Do Experiences:

-Take a drive on the breathtaking, 38-mile Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive. There are many lookouts along the way, so this is a great option for anyone who doesn’t want to or is unable to get out to hike. 

-Watch sunset over the hoodoos at Sunset Point. It’s a very short walk from parking but absolutely worthwhile. And bring a blanket, because it will get chilly as the sun starts to set!

-Look for natural rock formations in the park such as Natural Bridge and Thor’s Hammer!

-Enjoy as much of the canyon as possible by hiking! There is beauty at every turn in the unique landscape made up of orange and white hoodoos. Another option is horseback riding through the park if you prefer to give your legs a rest! 

Trip Considerations: 

-While spring will bring less crowds and a lot of beauty, depending on snow there is also a chance certain trails will be closed due to ice accumulation. Be sure to check local forecasts and trail closures prior to your trip. You may even consider bringing spikes for your hiking boots depending on how early in the spring you plan to visit. 

-Bryce Canyon has a lot of beauty to offer, but is a fairly small park. Spending two days exploring the park is sufficient, making a weekend trip the perfect amount!

-Don’t let the desert landscape fool you; Bryce Canyon does get quite cold, especially as the sun goes down. If you plan to hike early or late into the evening, have layers on hand. 

-You can enjoy camping within the park, or lodging at nearby towns like Panguitch or Hatch, Utah.

Yellowstone National Park

Why I recommend this park: 

Yellowstone is not only America’s first National Park, but also one of the most visited annually. Spring, however, is a less busy time to visit the park. The temperatures aren’t extremely warm just yet, but the landscapes are the most dynamic this time of year with new colors, life, and growth all around. During spring months you can expect highs between 40 and 53 degrees fahrenheit and lows between 10 and 28 degrees fahrenheit. So while you may want to leave your camping stuff at home and pack your extra layers, Spring is certainly a beautiful and ideal time of year to enjoy the famous Yellowstone National Park. 

Top Hiking Trails:

  • West Thumb Geyser Basin Trail
  • Yellowstone Lake Overlook
  • Heart Lake Trail
  • Lewis Lake Trail
  • Mount Sheridan Trail
  • Yellowstone Natural Bridge Trail
  • Upper Geyser Basin and Old Faithful Observation Point Loop
  • Solitary Geyser
  • Old Faithful to Madison Junction

Must-Do Experiences:

-Visit Grand Prismatic Hot Springs; the largest natural hot spring in the country! To put its sheer size into perspective, the hot spring is larger than a football field and as deep as a 10-story building! It’s just one of the many wonders Yellowstone National Park has to offer. 

-See the famous Old Faithful Geyser. Although Old Faithful is one of 500 geysers in the park, it’s gained its fame due to its dramatic and regular eruptions. While you may have to wait to see it erupt, it’s certainly worth the wait to experience this natural phenomenon. 

-Experience Upper Geyser Basin and Morning Glory Pool. These spots will be less crowded than Grand Prismatic Hot Springs and Old Faithful, and can be accessed by walking paths. 

-See the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even take Uncle Tom’s stairway trail down into the Canyon.

-Enjoy the wildlife in Lamar Valley. Hundreds to thousands of wild bison will be roaming and grazing here, which is quite a sight to see!

-Check out Mammoth Hot Springs. This can be done by foot or even by car. 

Trip Considerations: 

-While crowds will be lesser during spring months, weekends (especially holiday weekends) will still be quite crowded generally compared to other National Parks. If you plan to visit some of the above mentioned popular destinations in the park, prepare for a bit of waiting and car traffic. For this reason, I recommend visiting on weekdays if possible. 

-Depending on how much you hope to see and hike while in the park, 3 or more days are advised. This park is quite large and much time will be spent simply driving from one destination to the next (especially if you run into any traffic). 

-As mentioned above, be prepared for cold temperatures, particularly if you are visiting in early spring. 

-Much of Yellowstone can be experienced without long, strenuous hiking, as many of the main destinations are easy walk-ups from a parking lot. However, I recommend at least one day getting off the beaten path to experience some of Yellowstone’s lesser-traveled hiking trails! Perhaps plan to do this if your trip falls on a weekend day. 

I hope this guide is extremely helpful as you begin planning some spring time adventures! Which of these National Park destinations is on YOUR list for spring this year? Drop any questions you have in the comments. 

Happy Trails!

Bradee XO

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