America’s best idea seems even better after a long cold winter. While it might seem a distant dream right now, we will be enjoying the outdoors without the aid of gloves and parkas in no time at all. That’s why the best time to plan your spring adventures is now.
We’ve outlined some of the best places for spring visits—from bird-watching on the longest stretch of undeveloped beach on the east coast to attending the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in Great Smoky Mountains National Park—these are the top parks you need to visit in the spring.
A quick 75 miles from the epicenter of Washington D.C., Shenandoah National Park offers visitors 200,000 acres of pristine mountains, waterfalls and wildlife. Visit in the spring to catch the waterfalls at their most powerful and hike a section of the Appalachian Trail in comfortable 50 to 60-degree weather. The 850 species of budding flowers and plants usually make their appearance in March, making the vistas even more spectacular.
Though Glacier National Park is normally chilly in the spring, it is the best time to visit. The 700+ miles of hiking trails and abundance of wildlife are best experienced when the crowds are sparse. Bears, moose, elk, goats and sheep roam on more than 1 million acres, sharing the land with more than 1,000 different species of plants. Glacier is spectacular any time of year, but is perhaps best enjoyed in the spring.
The stunning natural beauty of Zion National Park is breathtaking any time of year, but the scorching temperatures of summer can make it hard to enjoy all the park has to offer. Whether visitors come for hiking, canyoneering or sightseeing, the moderate spring climate saves most from heat exhaustion (though it can still be an issue in the spring, as well). Spring visitors get to experience waterfalls at their most powerful and can see a bit of greenery (depending on the year), which is a striking contrast against the red-orange rock that is so abundant in the park.
Certainly not as popular as it’s neighbors Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, this park straddles the Bighorn River as it passes through thousand-foot-high canyon walls and incredible scenery. The park is home to wild horses, bighorn sheep and mountain lions, but the major attraction in the spring is fishing in Bighorn Lake—it’s a world-class trout fishery that should be on every angler’s list.
The longest stretch of undeveloped beach on the east coast is a big hit when summer rolls around, but springtime offers big benefits for visitors too. Bird watchers will find early spring particularly exciting, as the park is conveniently set in the Atlantic Flyway. In addition to wildlife viewing, camping and fishing are popular activities in the temperate climate of spring in Florida.
The snowcapped Teton Mountains are reflected in the pristine lakes of this iconic Wyoming park as flowers slowly begin to bloom. Spring is a great time to enjoy all that Grand Teton National Park has to offer. Whether you visit in early spring and take advantage of the lingering snow to cross country ski or visit later on to enjoy the blooming flowers on a hike, there’s something for every outdoor adventurer.
The Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited National Park in the country with more than nine million visitors a year—and for good reason. More than 800 miles of recreation trails wind through breathtaking scenery and beautiful wildflowers. In fact, the park is home to the largest number of flowering plants of any park in the country—more than 1,600 different species. The budding phenomenon is so stunning that the park hosts a wildflower festival each spring, which includes guided walks, photo tours, seminars and art classes.
Budding flowers on the forest floor, vibrant green leaves sprouting from some of the tallest trees in the world and gray whales migrating up the coast are staples of spring in Redwood National Park. Pair those delightful sights with limited foot traffic and a visit to this park turns into a magical experience.
Craigs and spires shoot up in spectacular fashion in this 244,000-acre park that draws visitors from around the world. The rock formations here are some of the fastest eroding landscapes on earth and they’re also rich with the fossils of long-extinct animals like the saber-toothed cat or the rhino horse. Visit Badlands National Park in the spring to beat the crowds, enjoy temperate weather and get a glimpse of wildlife like bison, prairie dogs and the endangered black-footed ferret.