Spring is such a special time of year to get outside and explore. Snowy landscapes transform into brightly-colored hills of wildflowers, animals reemerge from their long winter naps, and all the while our knees finally get the sunshine they’ve been waiting for since October!
Whether you’re heading out for a much-needed spring break road trip, or just a quick weekend getaway, consider stopping at any of these amazing parks to see the magic of springtime:
17. Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most magical places to visit during the spring due to the appearance of synchronous fireflies in early May. It’s one of the only places in the world where fireflies gather in such large numbers, which creates a stunning display.
16. Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is colorful any time of the year, but especially in the spring as the wildflowers bloom and add to the already-vibrant landscape. The park is busiest in the summer, so planning a spring visit is ideal for avoiding large crowds. It’s also prime bicycling season as the bike trails open in late April once the snow thaws and is cleared away.
15. Yosemite National Park, California
There are reasons to love Yosemite at any time of year, but in the spring, the snow melts and feeds the waterfalls. The crowds come to Yosemite in the summer, but by then they’ve missed the waterfalls at their biggest and most powerful!
Plus, you’ll get cooler weather. Believe me, hiking on that granite rock in the summertime gets HOT.
14. Olympic National Park, Washington
Like many of the parks on this list, Olympic National Park in Washington is brimming with beautiful wildflowers in the spring. You can also catch a glimpse of Gray Whales from March to May as they migrate north–just in time for the park to open up after being closed for the snowy winter.
Spring is also the idea time to go because the crowds become much larger during high season in the summer.
Check out our Washington National Parks itinerary here.
13. Arches National Park, Utah
As the winter snow melts, Arches National Park opens up and slowly becomes a desert paradise as wildflowers bloom. The nights are chilly, but warm enough to get outside and stargaze. The park gets very hot beginning in June, so make sure to make the most of the cooler temperatures in the spring.
12. Big Bend National Park, Texas
Texas is known for its large swaths of bluebonnets along the highways in the spring. Fall and winter rains soak the deserts in and around Big Bend National Park, yielding thousands of plant species from March to May. It’s no wonder springtime is high season at Big Bend, but the crowds aren’t nearly as crowded as other larger National Parks.
Check out the park’s many Plant Trails for plant enthusiasts to get the most out of your visit!
11. Channel Islands National Park, California
Channel Islands is a springtime must-stop for wildlife enthusiasts. If you go in early spring, you can catch the end of Gray Whale season as they migrate north. Stick around to see California Sea Lions and Northern Fur Seals return to their rocky coastal homes after a long winter. Spring also marks the beginning of seabird season as they migrate to the islands to nest.
10. Death Valley National Park, California and Nevada
Death Valley is one of the hottest places in the world, but it’s also one of the driest, except for the winter rains. These rains help break the scorching temperatures that linger into fall and make it possible for a layer of wildflowers to grow across the desert in spring.
The temperatures are often too high in the summer to be comfortable for hikers, so planning in your trip in the spring is a great way to enjoy the park before it gets too hot.
Clear night skies attract visitors to stargaze. There’s even a Dark Sky Festival that happens in the spring to celebrate the amazing nighttime views.
Watch how you can spend 2 days in Death Valley National Park here:
9. Everglades National Park, Florida
If you’re looking to head south for your spring adventure, consider making Everglades National Park your destination. The park is best enjoyed during the dry season, which lasts from November to May when the water levels are lowest and more food becomes accessible to wildlife. There’s a greater diversity of creatures in the park during this time of year.
Spring is also high time for bird migrations to the area, making it a great opportunity for some bird watching.
You might associate Florida with high humidity and mosquitoes. However, this time of year tends to be less humid and has fewer mosquitoes, making it the perfect time to go enjoy everything Everglades has to offer.
8. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park is a prime example of spring doing its thing–animals coming out of hibernation after a long winter, moving into the grasslands as bird return from their migrations south.
Dawn and dusk are the best times of day to see wildlife at the park. Consider taking a Mountain Safari during your visit to get a more in-depth experience.
7. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
If you’re thinking about taking a trip to Colorado to see what happens after all the snow melts, you can’t miss Great Sand Dunes. While the sand gets pretty hot to the touch in the summer, spring brings cooler temperatures that make sandboarding and sand sledding much more enjoyable.
The absolute best time for dune sports is right after a big rainstorm when the sand is more stable. It’s also prime time to see some beautiful wildflowers throughout the area.
6. Joshua Tree National Park, California
Beginning at the lower elevations, vibrant wildflowers begin popping up starting as early as February and continue to bloom throughout the spring months at Joshua Tree. Catch a glimpse of the crimson flowers atop the tall cactuses and all the critters coming out of their winter hibernation to bask in the warm sun atop the rocks.
Spring temperatures here are much more tolerable than the scorching summer heat, even if that means drawing larger crowds this time of year. Joshua tree has made its way onto plenty of BMTM lists because of its beauty and amazing scenery. The spring flowers are just another reason to go!
5. Redwoods National Park, California
Redwoods National Park in California is known for the pink rhododendrons that bloom in early May. These bright flowers decorate the forests and make for an amazing site in the springtime.
Trails also become more accessible and programs start up again as the temperatures rise in the spring. Whether you’re taking a scenic drive through the park or getting out onto the backwoods trails, you’re sure to find plenty of wildlife emerging from their winter hiding places.
4. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
While Shenandoah National Park is most well known for its brilliant fall colors, spring has its own beauty to behold. Beginning in late March, the park becomes overwhelmed with vibrant wildflower colors, boasting 850 species of flowering plants.
The park is also much less crowded in the spring, compared with the more popular fall and summer months.
3. Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
It’s no secret that Minnesota is famous for its heavy snows in the winter. As the snow and ice begin to melt, Voyageurs National Park begins to transform. There is no longer enough snow for the rowdy snowmobiles to ride through the park and the lake isn’t quite thawed enough for motorboats to launch.
Visitors can move through the icy waters by kayak or canoe before the big boats take over the lake, making spring the best time to enjoy the peace and quiet of the park.
Migratory birds come back to this part of Minnesota as the temperatures climb, and many species of animals are being born during this time of year as well. Make sure to keep an eye out for violets throughout the park, too!
2. White Sands National Park, New Mexico
Named after its rolling hills of white sand desert, White Sands National Park is truly a sight for sore eyes–or might actually make your eyes sore because of the intense reflection of the sun on the sand.
The white sand dunes are the world’s largest gypsum dunefield, taking up 275 square miles of desert. What makes this park an amazing site in the spring is the yucca plants that pop up all over the dunes. These plants speckle the landscape and are part of the reason why they say there really isn’t anywhere on earth quite like it.
Make sure to stay for one of the park’s famous sunsets, and keep in mind that the winds are particularly strong in the spring so come prepared!
1. Buffalo National River, Arkansas
I can’t think of a better way to welcome spring than to float down a river and take in all the beautiful wildflowers along the way. You can do just that at Buffalo National River in Arkansas, where the rivers and waterfalls are at their fullest in the spring. In this area, wildflowers are fullest and most vibrant around the waterfalls, making it a beautiful site during this time of year.
There truly is no better way to welcome the changing of seasons (especially from winter to spring) than to get outdoors and make the most of the incredible state and national parks that the USA has to offer. Spring truly is a time of rebirth in nature and a great time to witness the earth coming alive after the chill of winter.