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When is the Best Time to Visit Each National Park? | A Quick Guide

Updated: Oct 2, 2021

Spread out over 30 different states, multiple climates, and vastly different elevations, the National Parks are all uniquely beautiful.

This also means that you'll need to plan your trip carefully based on where you're going. Some parks are better for viewing in one season over another, some close for harsh winters, and some have dangerous storm or fire seasons.

Today, I'm going to share with you a quick guide about the best times to visit each of the National Parks. Keep in mind that a majority of the National Parks are going to be more crowded in the summer. Usually around the start of September most of the kids are back in school which will take away most of the crowds. As a good rule of thumb for any park you visit, try to show up early since mid-day will usually be the busiest time.

That all being said, I'll be sharing both the peak visitation seasons along with the best times to visit to avoid the crowds. It's always smart to check the local weather and news before going to make sure your trip goes as smoothly as possible.

If you'd like to skip around to the National Parks that you're most interested in learning this information about, here are some shortcut links for you.

Acadia National Park (ACAD)

Arches National Park (ARCH)

Badlands National Park (BADL)

Big Bend National Park (BIBE)

Biscayne National Park (BISC)

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (BLCA)

Bryce Canyon National Park (BRCA)

Canyonlands National Park (CANY)

Capitol Reef National Park (CARE)

Carlsbad Caverns National Park (CAVE)

Channel Islands National Park (CHIS)

Congaree National Park (CONG)

Crater Lake National Park (CRLA)

Cuyahoa Valley National Park (CUVA)

Denali National Park (DENA)

Death Valley National Park (DEVA)

Dry Tortugas National Park (DRTO)

Everglades National Park (EVER)

Gates of the Arctic National Park (GAAR)

Gateway Arch National Park (JEFF)

Glacier National Park (GLAC)

Glacier Bay National Park (GLBA)

Great Basin National Park (GRBA)

Grand Canyon National Park (GRCA)

Great Sand Dunes National Park (GRSA)

Great Smokey Mountains National Park (GRSM)

Grand Teton National Park (GRTE)

Guadalupe Mountains National Park (GUMO)

Haleakala National Park (HALE)

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park (HAVO)

Hot Springs National Park (HOSP)

Indiana Dunes National Park (INDU)

Isle Royale National Park (ISRO)

Joshua Tree National Park (JOTR)

Katmai National Park (KATM)

Kenai Fjords National Park (KEFJ)

Kobuk Valley National Park (KOVA)

Lake Clark National Park (LACL)

Lassen Volcanic National Park (LAVO)

Mammoth Cave National Park (MACA)

Mesa Verde National Park (MEVE)

Mount Rainier National Park (MORA)

New River Gorge National Park (NERI)

North Cascades National Park (NOCA)

National Park of American Samoa (NPSA)

Olympic National Park (OLYM)

Petrified Forest National Park (PEFO)

Pinnacles National Park (PINN)

Redwood National Park (REDW)

Rocky Mountain National Park (ROMO

Saguaro National Park (SAGU)

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park (SEKI)

Shenandoah National Park (SHEN)

Theodore Roosevelt National Park (THRO)

Virgin Islands National Park (VIIS)

Voyageurs National Park (VOYA)

White Sands National Park (WHSA)

Wind Cave National Park (WICA)

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (WRST)

Yellowstone National Park (YELL)

Yosemite National Park (YOSE)

Zion National Park (ZION)


Acadia National Park (ACAD)

Best Time to Visit: Late Spring through Fall

To Avoid the Crowd: The First Half of September

Views of the water and fall foliage in Acadia National Park in Maine.
This was the first National Park created east of the Mississippi River.

This National Park offers more than 150 miles of hiking through forests, mountaintops , and rocky coastlines with great views of the Atlantic Ocean. Summer is definitely crown season for this park, but for good reasons.

However, it is also known for it's fall foliage as the leaves change color across the landscape. So if you want to skip the crowds and visit Acadia National Park in the fall, you won't be let down. In September, the average temperature here is 65 degrees which is plenty comfortable for hiking.

Arches National Park (ARCH)

Best Time to Visit: April through May and September through October

To avoid the Crowd: October

large natural rock arch formation in Arches National Park in Utah. One of the mighty 5 national parks.
When you visit Arches National Park, be sure to get a red dirt shirt!

This is one of the "Mighty Five" National Parks which are found in Utah. With temperatures getting past 100 degrees, summer is simply too hot out there to fully enjoy the trails. Arches is a lot of bare rock, so you won't be finding shade to take a break in.

I have been to Arches National Park once before during a spring break trip in high school. It was hot, but manageable. However, since it was spring break, it was very crowded which led to pictures full of other visitors and waiting in line to see the view.

Even in October, Arches has temperatures up to 70 degrees. Make sure to bring some water on your hiking and some sun protection.

Badlands National Park (BADL)

Best Time to Visit: Early Fall

To Avoid the Crowds: April through June and September through November

The striped mountains of Badlands National Parks.
These lands are so bad. Just like my jokes. But they are great to go visit!

Compared to other Parks in the National Park System, Badlands doesn't get too overcrowded. However, Summer is still going to be busy season. At least for visitor centers, bathrooms, and the Loop Road. By going in the spring and fall, you'll get great views with more comfortable temperatures and less crowds.

October will have great weather and a temperature high of 68 degrees during the day.

Big Bend National Park (BIBE)

Best Time to Visit: Spring and Fall

To Avoid the Crowds: Avoid February through April

A view of the river taking a big bend in Big Bend National Park.
This National Park gets its name from the big bend the river takes, as shown in the photo.

Since Big Bend National Park is in a dessert in Texas, summer and winter bring the extremes in terms of weather.

Sticking to spring and fall will ensure you're aren't too uncomfortable on the trails and will make the experience much more enjoyable.

Biscayne National Park (BISC)

Best Time to Visit: Mid-December to Mid-April for camping or Summer for Scuba Diving

To Avoid the Crowds: Fall or Winter

People snorkeling along the reefs and shipwrecks at Biscayne National Park.
This National Park is home to six shipwrecks and underwater trails! Bring your scuba gear!

Biscayne National Park known for it's underwater beauty, both natural and man made. Here, the water covers 95% of the park.

If you are planning on scuba diving, you will want to visit in the summer to avoid frigid waters. You might not even need a wet suit if you go in the summer.

If your reason for visiting is for the camping, then you'll want to plan your trip for the cooler months of winter and early spring. This park is in Florida, the sunshine state, so you won't need to worry about winter here. Do keep in mind that hurricane season is from June to November.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (BLCA)

Best Time to Visit: May through September

To Avoid the Crowds: May and September

A view of the river and cliffs of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
The rock that makes up this canyon really do have a black coloration to them that makes the canyon seem dark all the time.

This park does not really get overcrowded with less than 200,000 visitors each year, though the "busy season" is summer. You're best chances of beating the crowds, as small as they may be, will be May and September.

Most of the park is closed November through April, so traveling here in the late fall or winter isn't usually an option. Unless you want to cross country ski of course.

Bryce Canyon National Park (BRCA)

Best Time to Visit: May through September

To Avoid the Crowds: April and October

The world's largest collection of hoodoos (a type of rock formation) is found in Bryce Canyon National Park.
This National Park has the world's largest collection of "hoodoos", which are those unique rock formations.

July is the hottest month in Bryce Canyon, with a record high of 98 degrees. However, you'll find that temperatures don't get as hot in this park (63 to 80 degree) as some of the other parks, so visiting in the summer is still manageable.

Being one of the "Mighty Five" National Parks in Utah, Bryce Canyon receives a lot of visitors. Think over two million each year. So consider visiting in early spring or late fall to skip the crowds.

Canyonlands National Park (CANY)

Best Time to Visit: Spring and Fall

To Avoid the Crowds: Summer (if you can manage the heat)

The many canyons of Canyonlands National Park
This National Park is so big that they divided it into four sections.

Another one of the "Mighty Five" National Parks, you'll find Canyonlands to also be hot with little shade for shelter. This makes visiting in the summer difficult with temperatures regularly in the 90s.

For that reason, spring and fall are more popular times to visit so those will also be the crowded times. However, this park gets just over 400,000 visitors each year so the crowds won't be as bad.

If you are visiting in the late summer or early fall, you could potentially see some afternoon thunderstorms so keep that in mind.

Capitol Reef National Park (CARE)

Best Time to Visit: Spring through Fall

To Avoid the Crowds: Off season starting in November and going through March

Down in the canyon with a view of the red rock cliffs of Capitol Reef National Park.
This National Park has "reef" in the name as a reference to the rocky coral-like landscape.

Capitol Reef is the largest of the "Mighty Five" National Parks. It's so big, they split it into three zones, each with something different to offer.

Spring and fall are the most popular times to visit this park for the good weather.

July and August will be the hottest months here, and for that reason are less crowded. Another option for avoiding the crowds is visiting in the winter. Snowfall is rare and very light when it happens, but you will need to dress for the cold. The views will still be worth it though.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park (CAVE)

Best Time to Visit: Fall through Spring

To Avoid the Crowds: Late Fall and Winter

An inside view of the stalactites and stalagmites inside carlsbad caverns at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
Caves and caverns are some of my favorite places to explore! This one looks like the scene for a sci-fi movie.

It's easy to visit the Carlsbad Caverns year-round because the temperature inside the caverns stay pretty regular at 56 degrees with some humidity.

However, it would be best to avoid visiting in the summer. Outside the caverns, temperatures get to 100+ degrees with frequent afternoon downpours. Not really ideal for a vacation.

The slow season here starts in the fall and goes through the winter. Since the temperature and views inside the cavern don't change with the seasons, visiting during this time is great for viewing and avoiding the crowds.

Channel Islands National Park (CHIS)

Best Time to Visit: June through September

To Avoid the Crowds: Fall

Channel islands with cliffs and high view points in Channel Islands National Park of the coast of California.