The sun is staying out longer, and the air is getting warmer. It’s time to get outdoors and explore what’s around you. This could include a spring break road trip or visits to your local park. While you're figuring out what to do with this nice weather, how about looking into some National Parks? These parks are great road trip destinations, or you may be lucky enough to have one nearby. Below, Ranger Mac will take a look at some of the National Parks that hit their peaks during the spring months and are great destinations during this time of year!
Joshua Tree National Park, California
When you think of Joshua Tree National Park, the first thing that come to mind is just a long stretch of desert land. This could not be more wrong. This park is full of interesting history, geology, and wildlife. It also shines in all its glory during the spring months!
In late February, the Joshua trees begin to bloom their large flowers, along with the rest of the park’s annual flowers popping up at all elevations. In April and May, the cacti burst with their brightly colored flowers as well. This National Park quickly becomes a desert in bloom. The lizards and birds are also most abundant here in the spring months, if animal watching is your thing.
Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park is home to more than 2,000 natural stone arches, and the drive through this park is a surreal experience. During the months of March and April, there’s a very likely chance that you could have this area mostly to yourselves. With the temperature at a mild 60 degrees, the mountains in the area are still snow-capped, making your photos even more amazing when paired with the orange sandstone and clear blue skies.
Due to the minimal light pollution in this area, it’s also a prime location to get in some good stargazing. Even better is that during the spring months, the sky is even clearer than most other times during the year!
Glacier National Park, Montana
Montana can be chilly during the spring months, but that means fewer visitors to its parks, making your experience all the more personal and up close with nature! During these months, you’re sure to see more wildlife than other people, including bears, moose, elk, and even some sheep.
Glacier National Park is close to 1 million acres large, and most of these acres are accessible during spring, with only a small portion being closed. During the month of May, after the road known as 'Going-to-the-Sun' road is plowed and before being opened to cars, the Park Service encourages bike riders to take a trip on this 50-mile stretch of road. So if cycling is your thing, then be sure and put this trip on your list!
Saguaro National Park, Arizona
The cactus that gives Saguaro National Park its name is often recognized as symbol of the American West, but is actually only found in a small part of the United States. The saguaro cactus is more than just a plant - it also acts as a shelter and water reserve for most of the wildlife that calls this National Park home. These large cacti come into full bloom during the spring months.
You know it’s spring when the cacti bloom into their full colors. The desert and saguaro forests bloom alongside many wildflowers, such as desert marigolds. This is also a great location for those who like to hike. Hikers can travel up to 8,000 feet elevation in about 15 miles. The park has a range of trails for everyone, including ones for leisurely hikes as well as for those who want a full backpacking experience.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Colorado is often known for its great skiing, especially in the spring months, but there are other slopes to hit while you’re visiting. Great Sand Dunes National Park is 30 square miles of large sand dunes, making it the biggest and tallest area of dunes in North America. When you visit, you can hike as high as 750 feet to the peaks, then sled or even snowboard back down the sand!
Spring is the best time to visit this park, before the sand becomes too hot to touch during the summer months. It’s often best to visit after a rainstorm as well, as this gives the sand the most durability. If you want to visit this park, plan to go in the morning hours, before the wind picks up and starts blowing the sand all around.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
1,500 types of flowering plants grow in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, making it the park with the most variety of flowering plants and giving it the nickname of 'Wildflower National Park.' With the milder temperatures and reduced haze in the mountains, visiting in the spring months is ideal. Keep in mind that this is one of the most popular National Parks to visit and is crowded year-round, regardless of the mild temperatures.
During the week of April 11, the Great Smoky National Park holds their Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage. This event showcases the wide variety of wildflowers throughout the park and is complete with history walks, art classes, seminars, and photographic tours!
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Shenandoah National Park includes over 100,000 acres of forested park, and is most popular for the fall foliage. The spring months bring fewer visitors to this park, but this is also the time when most of the 850 varieties of flowering plants are in bloom! The visitor facilities reopen to the public in March, and the wildflower blooms begin in late March.
Most of the park is open for backcountry camping, and there’s also a 105-mile road that winds through this park. If you take this drive in May, you'll be able to see all of the pink azaleas in bloom. If you want to experience a National Park mostly to yourself, then be sure to visit Shenandoah National Park during the spring months!
No matter where your vacation or road trip leads you, there are sure to be some great National Parks to stop and visit along the way. Our National Parks need our support now more than ever, as some of them have come under attack by the government (see Ranger Mac’s blog on losing our national parks here). It’s also a great way to get back to nature and see what makes our nation so beautiful!