Despite temporary park closures, the U.S. National Parks still saw more than 237 million recreational visitors in 2020! Right now, we are smack-dab in the middle of peak season, as April through August are the busiest months for the National Parks. The best time to visit is really September or October, though. The weather is cooler and the parks are far less busy. It's time to start planning, so here are three parks you've gotta see!
Best All Around: Zion National Park
Skip the Grand Canyon this year, and opt for the steep red cliffs of Zion Canyon in Springdale, Utah. Instead of looking down on the canyon, the amazing views are all around you. If you're feeling brave, there's a hike in Zion that will change your life! The trek to Angel's Landing is treacherous at some points, (do NOT attempt with children!) but you'll be rewarded with the most incredible vantage point. This park also boasts scenic drives through the canyon, and campsites surrounded by towering red rock. There are shower and laundry facilities easily accesible just outside of the park gates. Coffee shops, cafes, and a small grocery store are just minutes away.
Most Secluded: Grand Teton National Park
If you're looking to reconnect with yourself and with nature, Grand Teton is the place to go. The long drive into the heart of the park is interrupted only by the occasional passing car (so make sure your gas tank is full!). Put on your favorite indie folk songs and take in the rising mountains before you. The trails circling Jenny Lake gradually rise in elevation and let you choose your own adventure - higher on the mountain or back down to the lake - but the 0.3 mile detour to Hidden Falls is a must-see. Another benefit of this park? You're only a hop, skip and a jump (a.k.a. a two-hour drive) away from Yellowstone!
Most Unique: Joshua Tree National Park
On the road to Palm Springs, two distinct desert ecosystems meet in Joshua Tree. The NPS website says it best, "Dark night skies, a rich cultural history, and surreal geologic features add to the wonder of this vast wilderness in southern California." Hiking among the unique rock formations and Joshua trees (for which the park is named) feels other-worldly. And you'll have an unobstructed view to watch pink and purple sunsets paint the desert sky. Fall is really the best time to visit, because during the summer months the conditions in the park can become so unbearable that guests are encouraged (and almost forced) to find shelter between the hours of 10am-4pm. You'll beat the heat and have a better time if you go later in the year!
Honorable Mention: Bryce Canyon
Have you visited any of the National Parks? Which one is your favorite? Which one are you dying to see?
Tell us in the comments!
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I love buying a National Park Pass and visiting our beautiful resources. Top favorites are Glacier (Montana) and Acadia (Maine). Some of the lesser known parks have ended up being my tops because they aren't overrun with crowds. I enjoyed the North Rim of the Grand Canyon far more than the South Rim which was too jammed with crowds, noise from helicopters, etc. The bonus of the North Rim is that you could hit Bryce and Zion as well.
I hope we do something dramatic about climate change before Zion and Joshua are decimated. The parks are unworldy and I desperately want to see them all.
We are planning on starting at Glacier in September then down to Yellowstone and ending in the Grand Teton. This has been a dream of ours.
I haven't been to any of these parks but I would love to go to Joshua Tree
No. I wish I can go
I've been to all three and they each have their own unique wonderful experience. Love them!
I want to go to all of these places!!
i've only been to state parks. would love to go to the yosemite.
I have been to none .I would love to go to Zion national park.