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Spring is the best time to visit some of America’s most beautiful national parks. While summer typically brings on the heat, and the crowds, spring can bring the chance to enjoy more uninterrupted sights, colorful flowers, powerful waterfalls and so much more. If you’d like to visit one or more of the most amazing national parks this spring, these are sure to provide an unforgettable experience.
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Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park is beautiful year-round, but if you visit in May, you’ll have the opportunity to see its many waterfalls at their peak as the spring thaw melts winter’s snow quickly, resulting in powerful flows. In late April and early May, the dogwood blossoms erupt, and some say that colorful sight can even rival the falls. Either way, you’ll have lots of perfect photo-ops with famous outdoor attractions, including the Half Dome as the backdrop. Don’t miss Mirror Lake, as it’s likely to be full, providing a spectacular reflection of the majestic granite dome at the eastern end of Yosemite Valley.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
Spring is the best time to take advantage of the natural splendors of Joshua Tree National Park. Not only is the weather often idyllic, with highs averaging 80 to 85 degrees, but this is also when the wildflowers create a kaleidoscope of color across the region. Typically, they begin to bloom in the lower elevations of the Pinto Basin and along the park’s south boundary a few weeks before spring has officially arrived, with the higher elevations bursting with color in March and April, and in regions about 5,000 feet, plants may bloom as late as June. When there’s enough spring rain, the tall, spindly vine cacti bust into surprisingly crimson flowers. The 18 species of lizards that reside here are most abundant now too, often seen basking in the sunshine about the boulders.
Zion National Park, Utah
Summer in Zion National Park is sizzling, and while the heat can be a problem in the spring, the earlier in the season you go, the better, and you’ll also find fewer crowds to contend with along with powerfully flowing waterfalls due to the rapidly melting snow. The massive canyon walls soar into the sky, while the miles and miles of trails to hike bring views of the colorful pink and orange canyons and sandstone cliffs. In the spring, the glimpses of green offer a striking contrast against the orange rock that glistens in the sun. The park is also home to 75 mammal species, nearly 300 species of birds and almost 900 plant species, with gorgeous flowers blooming in the spring.
Saguaro National Park, Arizona
Saguaro National Park in Southern Arizona protects and preserves a giant saguaro cactus forest that stretches across the valley floor near the city of Tucson. In the spring, not only will you see America’s largest cacti that cover the beautiful desert landscape, but a rainbow of color in between. The blooming wildflowers include desert marigolds, gold Mexican poppy and red penstemons, while many of the shrubs, trees cacti are in bloom too, including the chollas, hedgehogs and creosote bushes. There are also prehistoric petroglyphs to explore, historic sites and wildlife viewing to enjoy. Watch for animals like coyotes, desert tortoises and javelinas in the lower elevations, and the Mexican spotted owl, deer and black bear in the upper elevations of the park.
Death Valley National Park, California
Death Valley is the hottest place on Earth during the summer when temperatures soar to 120 degrees, but in the spring, it’s much more pleasant and filled with life, bringing a spectacular display of vibrant wildflowers. During a good year that brings the ideal conditions, the desert is blanketed in a sea of gold, purple, pink or white flowers. If you arrive during an “off” year, you can always check out the phenomenon known as the sailing stones. The stones that weigh around 700 pounds mysteriously move across the sandy surface of the playa on their own – sometimes at a distance of more than 650 feet, leaving visible tracks in their wake. All sorts of things have been blamed, from aliens and paranormal activity to magnetic fields and winter’s wet clay and strong winds, but no one is 100 percent certain what causes it.
Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park is renowned for its stunning dramatic beauty – and it’s at its peak in the spring. This is when the misty clouds can be seen hanging low, enveloping the fjords, while the light brings out the vibrant blues of the glaciers. The glaciers begin to crack and rumble, plunging into the icy waters, echoing throughout the region. Visitors can also watch for the myriad of marine life, including humpback and orca whales, by taking a boat tour, as well as enjoy scenic hikes, kayaking, and more.
Arches National Park, Utah
This park in southeastern Utah boasts the highest density of natural sandstone arches on the planet, with over 2,000 of them, including the famous Delicate Arch. In March and early April, you’re not only likely to have it to yourself, but temperatures will be much more comfortable than they will during late spring and summer. Typically, the La Sal Mountains will still have at least a dusting of snow, making for some incredible photos of the fiery orange arches against the almost always brilliant blue skies.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee
Springtime in Great Smokey Mountain National Park is ideal for hikers with an array of scenic hikes to explore. The temperatures begin to warm in spring, and the more than 800 miles of trails offering the chance to see the flowers in bloom, as well as the striking natural beauty around nearly every turn. There are nearly 1,700 types of wildflowers in the park, including the spring ephemerals which make their appearance in early spring, while other flowers like the trilliums, orchids, violets, and iris and typically bloom through the months of March and April.
Great Sand Dunes, Colorado
Many visitors head to Colorado for spring skiing, but snowy slopes aren’t the only mountains that are ideal for visits this time of year. At Great Sand Dunes National Park, there are 30 square miles of massive sand dunes, the largest on the continent, some peaking as high as 750 feet. Visitors can hike, snowboard or even sled down them. Just don’t go too late in the spring, or the sand can get too hot to touch.