Bears in Katmai National Park, Alaska

26 Best US National Parks To Visit In The Summer

Summer is high season for travel in most places in the US, and National Parks have become some of the most popular destinations. This means it might be a challenge to visit the most popular ones during this time.

Still, many of them are at their best during the summer, in which case you’ll just either have to deal with crowds, or find ways to avoid them.

In the past several years, some parks started limiting their daily visitors. In this case, you just need to plan ahead, and make sure you get a pass. We visited Yosemite with a pass last summer, and it was less crowded than we expected.

Most often is better to visit in the middle of the week rather than on a weekend, if you can choose your dates. Or, you can find less popular parks to enjoy in the summer.

The following includes several travel bloggers’ favorite National Parks to visit in the summer.

1. Katmai National Park, Alaska

Favorite of Jami of Celiac Travel Pack

Katmai National Park, Alaska
Bears in Katmai National Park. photo credit: Jami of Celiac Travel Pack

Stepping off a float plane in Katmai National Park and entering bear country is surreal; a beautiful lake, stunning mountains, and more bears than you can imagine. Located south west of Anchorage, Alaska the park is only accessible by float plane.

Spend your day watching bears fish, play and swim. There are two viewing areas with a trail connecting them. The bears use the trail too so you may have an adrenaline pumping encounter on the path!

The bears are only active in summer. The park isn’t even staffed outside of the summer months. Visit in July to see the bears fishing for salmon swimming up stream to spawn. Visit in September to see plump bears eating the salmon that float downstream. The most iconic photos come in July but you’ll find fewer crowds in September.

Flights to Katmai are limited and book out early since the planes are small so it’s helpful to be flexible and plan your trip early. One day is plenty in Katmai. If you’d like to stay a night there is one lodge in Brooks Falls. It’s expensive and fills up fast. If you’re brave, there is an option to camp in an enclosure with an electric fence for protection. Check out the bear cam to get a taste of what it’s like to visit Katmai National Park.

2. Denali National Park, Alaska

Recommended by Lina of Bucket List Places

Denali National Park photo credit Lina R. 1
Denali National Park. photo credit: Lina of Bucket List Places

While many may consider Alaska to be out of reach, Denali National Park, home to the tallest peak in North America, is a must-visit national park summer destination. This park is one of thebest places to visit in Alaska.

You’ll find dozens of flights daily from Seattle and direct flights from many other cities in the U.S. to Anchorage. From there, a five-hour drive will bring you to one of the most incredible national parks in the United States.

Starting in late spring and throughout the summer, you’ll see beautiful wild flowers in the park. You can enjoy them during a nearly 24 hours of daylight with the approach of the summer solstice. Wildlife is abundant at this park where you can see black and brown bears, moose, porcupine and even reindeer. Make sure to take a hike to enjoy all of it. Unlike in most other national parks, rangers here actually encourage you to forge your own path and explore off trail.

If you’d rather not hike much, you can take a scenic bus ride deep into the park on a road no car can travel on. Here you will come face to face with the incredible Denali peak if you’re lucky. On sunny days, the views are absolutely breathtaking.

The best time to visit Denali is in June before rainy season sets in or beginning of September when the leaves turn bright oranges and yellows.

3. Glacier National Park, Montana

Recommended by Nikki of Inspired Routes

avalanche trail montana
Avalanche Trail in Glacier National Park. photo credit: Nikki of Inspired Routes

If you’re planning a national parks trip for summer, then Glacier National Park in Montana absolutely must be on your list! Considering its northern location, the park is covered in snow for 8 months of the year. In the summertime it really comes to life!!

Gorgeous wildflowers, gushing waterfalls and sunny days welcome you in Glacier NP. Known for its stunning alpine lakes, the park has so much to offer visitors. If you’re into hiking, theAvalanche Lake Trailis one of the best hikes in the park. Or if you’d rather take it easy, the reflective shore of Lake McDonald is a good place to hang out for the day.

One of the most famous features within Glacier National Park is the Going-to-the-Sun Road. It is one of the most scenic drives in the USA, taking you up in elevation as you witness the majestic mountains, hiking trails, roadside waterfalls and so much more.

Since summer is the busiest time in Glacier National Park, you’ll need a timed entry reservation during peak hours. Or, arrive to the park really early in the morning to avoid this requirement.

Hit the trails by 9:00am to avoid some congestion and crowds. Sunrises and sunsets in Glacier NP are magical, and it’s also a quieter time, since many people haven’t arrived or have already left the park. Also – if you’re up for it – , Glacier NP is an incredible destination for stargazing, considering it’s been listed as a top dark sky park.

4. Yellowstone National Park

Recommended by Emilie of Love Life Abroad

Yellowstone Lake. photo credit Emilie of Love Life Abroad
Yellowstone Lake. photo credit Emilie of Love Life Abroad

Yellowstone National Park is the first national park in the United States and one of the oldest in the world. It’s a real natural beauty, no wonder that is more than 4.5 million visitors each year.

Yellowstone is a huge park. Plan for no less than 3 days to explore, ideally 5 days to have time to discover the different sections of the park and all the geothermal features that Yellowstone has to offer.

Of course, the summer is the busiest time of the year, so plan on waiting in line while waiting for a parking spot. Plus, camping and lodging options in and around the park book up really early in the year, so plan in advance.

Because the park is so big, if possible, try to spend each night in different sections of the park so you can limit the driving and enjoy the beauty of the park.

Yellowstone National Park is really famous for its Grand Prismatic hot spring, but there is so much more to see. Don’t miss the Midway Geyser Bason, the Lamar Valley to see the herds of bison, the Upper Geyser Basin, the Yellowstone Lake, the terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs and the waterfalls. And make sure to check the schedule for the Old Faithful geyser eruption.

5. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Recommended by Catherine Xu of Nomadicated

Grand Teton National Park. photo credit: Catherine of Nomadicated
Grand Teton National Park. photo credit: Catherine of Nomadicated

Escape the summer crowds of Yellowstone National Park for its lesser-known but an equally stunning next-door neighbor, Grand Teton National Park. Explore the dramatic jagged Teton peaks by hiking, kayaking, camping, rafting, watching wildlife, and horseback riding; Grand Teton is very much an activity-based park. The summer months are the best time to visit Grand Teton to avoid road closures, freezing temperatures, and snowy hiking conditions.

Situated between the well-known Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park is a mecca for outdoor activities. Summer brings warm, sunny weather for comfortably visiting park favorites likekayaking Jenny Lake to Hidden Fallsor road tripping to scenic vistas of Signal Mountain and Jackson Lake Overlook. For the brave ones, jump into the icy glacial waters of Taggart Lake and Leigh Lake while hiking through alpine forests.

Photographers shouldn’t miss sunrises at Mormon Row Historic District or the famous Ansel Adam’s photograph of the pink mountain hues reflecting off Snake River Overlook. Oxbow Bend is another favorite for perfectly still reflections of Mount Moran.

Aside from immersing yourself in the beautiful scenery, Grand Teton National Park is home to sixty species of mammals and 300 species of birds. Bring binoculars at the end of summer to spot rutting moose or herds of bison migrating through the Grand Tetons.

6. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

My Own Recommendation

Mount Rainier National Park
“This is Paradise!” – Mount Rainier in August

My favorite National Park for a summer visit is Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state. Over the yeas, we’ve spent time in the Pacific Northwest often; and Mount Rainier has always been one of our favorite stops.

Established in 1899, the National Park surrounds the 14,410 feet tall Mount Rainier, and features 25 major glaciers. You’ll find several Visitor Centers, campgrounds, scenic roads, and most of all, miles upon miles of hiking trails though some of the most gorgeous alpine scenery.

You’ll find trails through old-growth forests where you’ll be surrounded by ancient giants, along others you’ll find roaring waterfalls. From the easiest trails fit for toddlers to the most strenuous ones, everyone who visits can find something to enjoy.

Everything is vibrant green here in the summer, but if you go early in the season, you can also experience a bit of winter, walking on snow-covered ground.

To see the meadows in Paradise blanketed with wildflowers, you’ll need to visit in August. However, this is also the high season for visiting the park though, so you will encounter crowds, especially on the weekends. Try to time your visit for mid-week, or earlier in the season. June is pleasant already, but not as popular. You might not see wildflowers, but the landscape is still gorgeous.

7. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Contributed by Debbie Fettback from World Adventurists

Crater Lake. photo credit: Debbie of World Adventurists
Crater Lake. photo credit: Debbie of World Adventurists

Crater lakeis one of Oregon’s most impressive features. Created over 7,700 years ago, a volcano erupted and collapsed, causing the peak of Mount Mazama, a 12,000-foot-tall-volcano, to break down. Rainwater and snowmelt over 600-800 years contributed to the impressive beauty you see today. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and one of the deepest in the world. The water is a breathtaking bold blue because there are no streams that flow into it, keeping the water pure.

Driving the 33-mile Rim Road is a must-do. It is one of the most scenic byways in the United States. It features several areas to pull over to enjoy the lake from a variety of perspectives. For a different vantage point, there are several hikes with stunning views you cannot see from road level.

The only way to explore Crater Lake by water is by boat tour, to avoid bringing in invasive species. Personal boats and flotation devices are not allowed on the lake, though you can swim in designated areas. There are a few different cruise options, but one of the highlights is getting out to the famous Wizard Island.

The best time to visit Crater Lake National Park is during the summer months of July and August. You will have the most roads, amenities, and trails open during this time. During winter many roads close due to heavy snowfall.

8. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Recommended by Samantha Meabon of PA on Pause

Rocky Lake Superior Shores on Isle Royale
Rocky Lake Superior Shores of Isle Royale National Park. photo credit: Samantha Mean of PA on Pause

Isle Royale National Park is a remote island national park located in Lake Superior. While the land is technically a part of the state of Michigan, it’s actually closer to the shores of Minnesota.

Summer is the best time to visit Isle Royale National Park since temperature and weather conditions are by far the best during those months. The weather is such a concern in this remote corner of Lake Superior that the park closes during the winter months, and it’s only open from mid-April to the end of October.

This park is rugged, and the only way to reach the grounds is by ferry, seaplane, or private boat. There is only one lodge on the island, located in Rock Harbor. Otherwise, you’ll be backcountry camping on Isle Royale, and these campsites are fantastic! You’ll be up close and personal with the wildlife, including beavers, foxes, and moose!

The Greenstone Ridge Trail is the most popular way to get from one end of the island to the other over 40+ miles. Get out into the middle of the island and get away from the crowds at the larger, more popular campsites. You might just wake up to a moose having breakfast in one of the inland lakes.

The feeling in Isle Royale National Park is just different. That’s why so many visitors decide to return to the park each summer.

9. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Recommended by Rebecca from Veggies Abroad

Miner's Castle in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. photo credit: Rebecca of Veggies Abroad
Miner’s Castle in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. photo credit: Rebecca of Veggies Abroad

Michigan’s jaw-dropping Upper Peninsula probably doesn’t make it onto many people’s top 10 lists of places that feature turquoise waters, secluded beaches, and dramatic cliffs, but it should! Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is well known by Michiganders as one of the best summer destinations. And for a good reason.

It’s only one of four national lakeshores in the US, and in the summer, it comes alive — offering visitors a myriad of activities to explore its trails, learn about its kaleidoscope cliffs, and check out from the stresses of life (cell service isn’t the best!).

Now that I have piqued your interest in visiting Pictured Rocks, make sure you don’t miss a few key activities. First, plan at least one hike! The Chapel Loop Trail is perfect if you can only fit in one hike; The 10-mile loop features a wandering trail through a thick forest, a secluded white sand beach, along the edge of dramatic cliffs, and a waterfall — how amazing is all of that!?

Second, one of the best ways to see the cliffs is from the wate, so try to plan a kayaking adventure. For something a little less strenuous, Pictured Rocks Cruises offers multiple options to sit back and enjoy the beauty.

The area is expansive, and it might be challenging to decidewhere to stay to enjoy Pictured Rocks. I suggest the little town of Munising. It is close to many of the main Pictured Rocks sights, cafes, and restaurants.

10. Acadia National Park, Maine

Contributed by Emily ofEmily Embarks

Acadia National Park in Summer Emily Embarks
Acadia National Park. photo credit: Emily of Emily Embarks

About halfway up the eastern coast of Maine, Acadia National Park dominates most of Mount Desert Island and lures in travelers from across the nation year after year. Easily recognized for its rugged coastlines, dense forestry, and stunning landscapes filled with roaming wildlife, Acadia is one of the best U.S. national parks to visit in the summer!

No wonder it’s so popular, often overflowing with seemingly endless crowds of tourists everywhere you turn. However, there ways of escaping the summer crowds. Visiting on the weekends is likely to be problematic for your patience levels, so to visit in the early mornings during the week.

This is when you’ll find plenty of parking spots and reservation openings for driving up Cadillac Mountain (you can book your reservation You’ll also experience less crowded hiking trails, shorter wait times at the bars and restaurants in Bar Harbor, and even fewer cars on Park Loop Road.

While you can visit Acadia off-season when you won’t have to battle as many tourists, summer is when this park is at its most beautiful. This is when you’ll witness lush green trees covering the mountains, nesting loons, and stunning reflections of the Bubbles in Jordan Pond.

But, if you are planning on visiting Acadia National Park in the summer months, it may benefit you tolearn a few useful French phrasessince there is a large influx of French-speaking tourists come June! Overall, Acadia National Park is easily one of the best national parks to visit in the summer and is definitely worth a visit of any length.

11. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Recommended by Shelly of Almost There Adventures

Cuhayoga Valley National Park. photo credit: Shelly of Almost There Adventures
Cuhayoga Valley National Park. photo credit: Shelly of Almost There Adventures

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a great option for a summer vacation. It’s located between Cleveland and Akron in Ohio. This park includes a diverse landscape of thick forest, gorges, green wetlands, rocky waterfalls, and the Cuyahoga River winds through it all.

There is so much to do including great hiking, biking on carriage roads, or paddling the Cuyahoga River. A fun option is to bike or hike the Towpath Trail in one direction and then ride the train back. There are bike rentals inside or right outside the park. Riding this scenic railroad is so much fun and provides a great view of the park. Brandywine Falls is a popular waterfall that’s accessible by a short hike if you’re short on time. Go before 10am to beat the crowds and find parking more easily. Summer is a great time to view the best that this park has to offer. Cuyahoga Valley could be considered as a part of a larger east coast national parks road trip.

12. Shenandoah National Park

Recommended by Sam Opp of Find Love & Travel

Shenandoah National Park. photo credit: Sam of Find Love and Travel
Shenandoah National Park. photo credit: Sam of Find Love and Travel

Shenandoah National Park is an incredible National Park to add to your summer bucket list. It is located in the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia within the Shenandoah Valley. During a visit, you will get to experience driving down the famous Skyline Drive.

Skyline Drive is 105 miles that run north to south through Shenandoah National Park. Throughout your drive, you will experience incredible vistas, 516 miles of hiking trails, lovely waterfalls, and overlooks. 101 of those miles are even a part of the Appalachian Trail! This under-rated National Park is also great for those looking to beat the summer National Park crowds.

Additionally, the summer offers lush green mountains and since the elevations range from 2,000 to over 4,000 ft, the air is somewhat cooler. Some of the best views in Shenandoah include Franklin Cliffs Overlook and Hawksbill Mountain which is the highest peak in the park.

Best yet, the hike to Hawksbill summit is an easy to moderate 1.7-mile round trip hike and includes two incredible viewpoints.

If you love traveling with your pet, Shenandoah is mostly a dog-friendly park with some restrictions depending on the trail. You also have the opportunity to see wildlife including white-tail deer and black bear during a summer visit!

13. Assateague National Seashore, Maryland

Recommended by Denise ofChef Denise

Assateague National Seashore. photo credit: Denise of Chef Denise
Assateague National Seashore. photo credit: Denise of Chef Denise

A barrier Island off the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Assateague National Seashore is a hidden gem on the DelMarva Peninsula accessible by a short bridge.

Nature lovers can walk the trails or bike-ride through sand, forest, and wooden trails over the marshes. Bring binoculars for bird watching—herons, eagles, egrets and over 200 species of birds live on the island. You may also spot deer, fox, and the star of Assateague, the wild horses that roam freely.

While Assateague Island is gorgeous all year round, if you want to take advantage of the 37 miles of coastline, you’ll want to visit in the summer. The white sandy beaches on the Atlantic Ocean side seem to extend endlessly—perfect for swimming, surfing, and sunbathing. On the bay side, kayaking and kite surfing are popular.

The resort town of Ocean City on the mainland bustles with tourists in the summer. But as a wildlife preserve, Assateague limits the number of visitors each day, so it never feels too crowded.

However, if you don’t bring your own food, you may need to visit therestaurants in Ocean Cityas there are none on Assateague. Since there are no hotels in this National Seashore either, stay in Ocean City or the nearby charming small town of Berlin.

14. Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina & Tennessee

Recommended by Laura of Gallivanting Laura

National Parks summer collab – Great Smoky Mountains
Great Smoky Mountains. photo credit: Laura from Galivanting Laura

Spanning both North Carolina and Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains is one of the nation’s most popular national parks. Located within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the U.S. population, and with no entrance fee, it’s easy to see why.

The park offers an array oftrails and sights, ranging from family-friendly interpretive boardwalks, stunning waterfalls, scenic drives, historical structures, challenging hikes, and river tubing. There truly is an activity in this national park for everyone to enjoy.

The best time to visit the park is during the summer. The elevation range changes quite a bit throughout the park, but the warmer summer temperatures keep things pleasant no matter where you explore. It is a good idea to pack a mix of layers such as a sweater or rain jacket as the weather can change quickly.

Two of the most popular areas, Clingmans Dome and Cades Cove, can become extremely crowded. Head there first thing in the morning to try and beat the rush. Cades Cove is vehicle free every Wednesday (all day) and Saturday morning during the summer months. Visitors can walk or cycle the loop road and enjoy a less crowded experience. The lack of vehicles also means there is a higher chance of spotting some wildlife in the area.

15. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Contributed by Meg of Fox in the Forest

Rocky Mountain NP photo by Meg

Summer is the ideal time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park, since all of the roads and trails are open. Therefore, from mid-June through mid-October you’ll enjoy warm weather, beautiful trails lined with wildflowers, and can access the stunning Trail Ridge Road through the park.

However, this is also when the park is at its most crowded since it receives 4.4 million visitors annually since it is one of the top five most visited parks in the country. So, to avoid the crowds at some of the most popularhikes in Rocky Mountain National Park,plan to get up well before sunrise.

That means that you should arrive at Longs Peak Trailhead before 2:00 am, Bear Lake Trailhead before 4:45 am (there is shuttle access), Glacier Gorge Trailhead before 4:00 am (there is shuttle access), and Lumpy Ridge Trailhead before 8:00 am.

You are also required to reserve a permit in advance for $25 per car and can obtain one that does or does not include access to the Bear Lake Road corridor. In terms of weather, expect beautiful sunny mornings that are followed by brief, but intense, hour-long thunderstorms in the afternoon. Therefore, steer clear of the treeline since lightning strikes are a real hazard.

Temperatures are also pleasant with highs in the mid-70s and lows in the 40s, allowing you to enjoy park highlights like wildlife spotting, bike riding the Peak to Peak Highway, visiting Many Parks Overlook for sunrise, and more!

16. Sequoia National Park, California

Recommended by Jenna of Up and Away Magazine

Sequoia National Park. photo credit: Jenna of Up and Away Magazine
Sequoia National Park. photo credit: Jenna of Up and Away Magazine

Situated in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Sequoia National Park is located 330 miles from Los Angeles and 280 miles from San Francisco. The location alone makes it the perfect summer road trip destination!

Summer is a fantastic time to visit Sequoia since all roads and visitor attractions are open, and the weather is at its best for campers and hikers. Given its high elevation, summer daytime highs hover around 70°F, and at night temperatures can drop down to the mid-40s°F. Even in summer, it’s still a good idea to bring a jacket.

As the name suggests, Sequoia is famous for its groves of giant sequoia trees, including the largest tree on earth – the General Sherman Tree. Set in the popular Giant Forest region of the park, The General Sherman Tree sits near a host of other mammoth trees that can be seen from several walking trails. Morro Rock and Tunnel Log are also worthwhile nearby attractions. When it comes toSequoia Lodging, Lodgepole is the most popular campground, and Wuksachi Lodge is the park’s signature hotel.

If you’re looking to avoid summer crowds, venture outside the Giant Forest and explore more remote sections of the park, like Cedar Grove and Mineral King. Known for its rock formations, Cedar Grove is home to various wilderness trails, two favorites of which include Canyon View Lookout and Roaring River Falls.

Alternatively, take the winding 25-mile-long road to the beautiful Mineral King area, the highest point that vehicles can reach. Mineral King is known for its spectacular views, granite landscapes, hiking trails, and multi-day backpacking routes. Hiking trails in the area range from the one-mile Cold Springs Nature Loop to strenuous trails that sweep across vast swaths of the eastern section of Sequoia National Park.

17. Yosemite National Park, California

Favorite of Daria of The Discovery Nut

Yosemite. photo credit Daria
Yosemite. photo credit: Daria of Discovery Nut

Located in the heart of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, Yosemite National Park is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also home to Yosemite Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in the world that plunges from the astonishing 2,425 feet.

The main attraction of the park – theYosemite Valleyboasts incredible views and hikes for all levels – whether you want to hike all the way to the top of Yosemite Falls, check out the incredible sequoia trees or make your way to the iconic Glacier Point.

Early summer is the best time to see this iconic waterfall in its full glory. You can also take a hike to the top of Yosemite Falls, for the ultimate challenge, but come prepared with good hiking shoes, plenty of water and snacks because it is a difficult hike.

This national park famous for its steep granite mountains, deep valleys and giant sequoias attracts visitors from all over the world. While summer is the best time for hiking and exploring Yosemite, it’s also the busiest time, and the park now requires reservations to curb the number of visitors.

Early to mid June is a perfect time to visit Yosemite as it is less busy and you get to see the majestic landscapes still covered by snow in many places.

18. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Recommended by Gabby at theOffice Escape Artist

Bryce Canyon scenic view. photo credit: Gabby of The Office Escape Artist
Bryce Canyon scenic view. photo credit: Gabby of The Office Escape Artist

Bryce Canyon National Park, located in southwestern Utah, is one of the Mighty 5 National Parks in Utah and is the perfect destination to visit in the summer.

The other national parks in Utah are located in what is called the “high desert” – meaning they are dry and scorchingly hot in the summer. Bryce Canyon, however, is different. With an elevation topping out over 7,600′, you can miss most of the summer heat at this gorgeous park. Daytime temps rarely reach the 80s and overnight lows are a brisk 40-something, so you might even need to pack a jacket!
Bryce Canyon is famous for “hoodoos”, the tall, skinny formations that rise out of the canyon depths. Hoodoos are pretty rare globally, which is reason enough to visit Bryce.

Although Bryce is super popular during the summer, you can skip the crowds by waking up early. Start your morning 30 minutes before sunrise at Sunrise Point. Bring a blanket and some coffee and watch the sunrise over the hoodoos. Once you’ve gotten your fill, stash your belongings back at your car and begin your trek into the canyon. I recommend going down Navajo Loop via Wall Street and coming back up Queen’s Garden. If you’re feeling really motivated, take the branch to Peek-a-Boo Loop. This is a strenuous trail, but well worth the trek.

Don’t forget the scenic drive when you’ve gotten your fill of hiking! After refreshing at your hotel, head to nearby Tropic for dinner. You can delight in either BBQ at idk BBQ or a delicious steak dinner at the Stonehearthe Grill. Really, you can’t go wrong with either option.

19. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Recommended by Jamie of Photo Jeepers

Capitol Reef Gifford Place Photo Jeepers 2048x1152 1

One of the best US National Parks to visit in the summer is Capitol Reef National Park in Utah.
Because while most people flock to Arches and Canyonlanda National Parks, Capitol Reef in the summer is a hidden gem.
In fact, it’s brimming over with stunning cliffs, mesmerixzing canyons, and incredible bridges that span the Waterpocket Fold, a unique monocline that stretches out for 100 miles and that creates a fold in the Earth.
That being said, it is a place that still gets crowded. So, to avoid both the intense mid-day heat and the crowds, try to visit early in the morning when the weather is cooler.
Also dress in layers since this is the desert and temperatures vary greatly from night to day.
Other than that, enjoy all this park has to offer since you can eat locally made fruit pies at the historic Gifford Homestead or take scenic drives through the Cathedral vallery District and the Waterpcoket District.
Just be sure to stop by the visitor center first to check road conditions since roads can become treacherous as a result ot recent weather events.
Then, tackle some of the most picturesque hikes in the park, including Hickman Bridge, Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge Wash.
Be sure to take these hikes slow though since this park sits at an elevation of 5,500 feet. Therefore, these hikes feel a lot more difficult than they first appear.

20. Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Recommended by Elen Pradera of Elen Pradera

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands. photo credit: Elen Pradera
Mesa Arch in Canyonlands. photo credit: Elen Pradera

If you are headed to Utah for the summer and looking for one of the best national parks to visit, you should stop byCanyonlands National Park.

Canyonlands is the largest national park in Utah and is located 30 miles from Moab (very close to Arches). While summer crowds are drawn to other national parks, such as Arches and Grand Canyon, Canyonlands is still a bit overlooked. So, visitors can roam in the 338,000 acres of beautiful wilderness of the park reasonably crowd-free.

The highlight of a visit to Canyonlands National Park is Mesa Arch, a short 0.5-mile hike (out and back) to the edge of a cliff overlooking the stunning mountains. To avoid the midday heat and crowds, the best time to visit Mesa Arch is early morning. This comes with the bonus of a spectacular sunrise rewarding you after an early wake-up call.

Lastly, another activity to beat the summer heat in Canyonlands is the 34-mile scenic drive. Along this road, you can have stunning views of the park – and all from the comfort of your car! Additionally, you can stop on the road’s overlooks with short hikes (such as Gooseneck, Green River, and White Rim) to explore more and soak in the impressive views.

21. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Recommended by Sarah of On the Road with Sarah

GC View

Being the most popular National Park in Arizona, many visitors to the Grand Canyon National Park might tell you not to visit in the summer. Crowds can be high from May through October, but with the right planning, a visit during the summer months can be a great experience.

One of the best ways to navigate the crowds during the summer is to stay on site. My family camped in Trailer Village RV Park in the South Rim, and I truly believe this made our visit a great experience.

Trailer Village RV Park is open year round and is the only in-park RV campground with full hookups (including sewage, water, and electrical sites). Once my family parked our RV there, we were able to take advantage of the free shuttle service that gives guests a ride to different areas around the South Rim. Because of the shuttle service, we avoided getting lost or having to fight for a parking space since we didn’t drive ourselves around the park.

Other campgrounds in the area such as Mather Campground and Desert View Campground have tent camping and RV spaces, but do not offer full hookups like Trailer Village does.

Visiting the Grand Canyon early in the morning to catch the sunrise or late in the afternoon to catch the sunset is the best time to explore during the summer months. The temperatures are cooler at those times of the day, and the colors of the canyon are indescribably beautiful.

22. Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico

Recommended by Erin of Erin’s Travel Tips

Carlsbad Caverns. photo credit: Erin of Erin's Travel Tips
Carlsbad Caverns. photo credit: Erin of Erin’s Travel Tips

Take a break from the summer heat and head underground to one of the most unique national park experiences. Carlbad Caverns is in the Chihuahuan Desert in southern New Mexico. It has over 100 caves spanning miles underground. In this hot desert climate, you will love the caverns temperatures at a chilly 56 degrees!

The most popular attraction and a personal favorite is the Big Room Trail. This 1.25-mile underground walk will take you approximately 1.5 hours. Here you will find nature’s sculpture formations, stalagmites, and stalactites. You will be impressed by the grandeur and unbelievable views. There is a shorter trail for those that prefer less distance to walk.

Beyond the spectacular Big Room experience, you can take guided tours of more exclusive chambers such as the King’s Palace, Left Hand Tunnel, and the Hall of the White Giant. These are for the more adventurous traveler who likes crawling or squeezing through tight dark passageways lit by candlelight.

If you prefer outdoor hiking, you will want to check out the Guadalupe Ridge Trail. In the summer the conditions can be extremely hot, and therefore it is critical you have plenty of water, skin protective clothing, and sturdy shoes. There is also the Walnut Canyon Desert Drive that extends through 9-miles of serene desert scenery.

If you are visiting between the months of May through October, be sure to stay for the Free Bat Program. Take a seat in the Bat Flight Amphitheater to watch thousands depart the cavern for the night. You will need to arrive before sunset to fully enjoy seeing this memorable experience. Keep in mind photos and videos are not permitted to protect the bats flight path.

After a full day of park activities, relax at one of thesehotels nearby Carlsbad Caverns.

23. Gulf Islands National Seashore, Mississippi and Florida

Recommended by Roshni fromThe Wanderlust Within

fort pickens florida.Gulf Island National Seashore. photo by Roshni
Fort Pickens in the Gulf Island National Seashore. photo credit: Roshni of The Wanderlust Within

The Gulf Islands National Seashore is visited by over 5 million visitors a year, and spans both the Florida and Mississippi coast. This part of the Northern Gulf of Mexico has emerald green waters, beautiful white sand beaches made up of quartz crystals, and even historical forts.

Summer is the best time to visit as the most popular things to do are outdoor activities such as fishing, boating, bird watching, camping, hiking, snorkeling, diving and swimming. Another great activity in the summer is sailing, as there are plenty of dolphins and sea turtles who swim close to the shore.

However my favorite place to visit is Fort Pickens inPensacola Florida. It is a historical United States military fort on Santa Rosa Island with an interesting history going back before the American Revolution (if you want to learn more it is worth getting the full lowdown from one of the knowledgable park rangers).

It is America’s largest seashore at 160 miles long, and has an entry cost of $15 per person (it is however free on August 4th when it is the anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act).

24. Biscayne National Park, Florida

Recommended by Mary King from Wanderu

Boca Chita Biscayne National Park
Boca Chita in Biscayne National Park. photo credit: Mary King of Wanderu

Biscayne National Park is a unique park in that 95% of the park is underwater. This marine sanctuary is located in Southern Florida, on the way from Miami to Key West. Start your visit at the Dante Fascell Visitor Center, from which you can launch a kayak or paddleboard.

For a fuller exploration of the park, plan to rent a boat or join a boat tour. That’s the only way to get to offshore reefs, keys, and swamps to see the many ecosystems in Biscayne Bay.

The park is actually at its busiest in the winter months, when travelers are seeking some winter sun. This means that in the summer, there are far fewer visitors, and far more encounters with wildlife awaiting you. Summers do have warmer weather, but you’ll be spending your trip on the water, so it’s easy to cool off. Plus, lodging costs are often lower in the summer off-season.

The absolute best part of the park is Jones Lagoon, comprising shallow waters between Totten Key and Porgy Key. This peaceful mangrove swamp is ideal for kayaking or paddleboarding, and you can keep an eye out for sharks, sea turtles, and all kinds of fish. Just pack mosquito repellent!

Another can’t-miss experience is snorkeling around the shipwreck of the Mandalay. But the park also offers so much more: fishing, diving, camping, hiking on the keys, boating, the list goes on! Any visit to Biscayne National Park is sure to be filled with lifelong memories.

25. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Contributed by Cami Neves from Travel Cami

DryTortugas NP
Dry Tortugas National Park. photo credit: Cami Neves of Travel Cami

The Dry Tortugas National Park is a beautiful place to visit in the summer.

The park is made up of seven small islands and is located about 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. It is known for its clear turquoise waters, white-sand beaches, and abundant marine life – the islands are home to a variety of wildlife, including turtles, birds, and fish!

There, visitors can enjoy snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, picnicking, camping, and exploring Fort Jefferson, which was built in the 1800s and had major historical importance due to its role in the Civil War.

Also, Dry Tortugas is one of the best places in the country to see a sunset – make sure to catch one while you’re there!

During the summer months, Dry Tortugas is definitely one of the best national parks to visit in the United States. The weather is warm and sunny, making it ideal for swimming and enjoying the beach.

To get there, there are two main options: take a seaplane or visit by ferry. Ferries depart from Key West, and the entire journey takes about 2 hours each way – though, with beautiful views along the way, it feels like much less!

26. Haleakala National Park, Hawaii

Contributed by Ashlee Fechino ofThe Happiness Function

pipiwai trail hike maui
On the Pipiwai Trail. photo credit: Ashlee Fechino of The Happiness Function

What could be more thrilling than taking a road trip to the top of a 10,000-foot dormant volcano in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? If you’re looking for an adventure, Haleakala National Park is your place. The park is open year-round, but summer is the best time to visit. There’s plenty to see and do, from incredible hiking trails to panoramic views of the island. So, book your plane tickets, pack your bags, and get ready for an unforgettable experience!

The part consists of two areas: the Summit District and Kipahulu District. Spend an entire day trip driving the Haleakala Highway to the summit overlooking Haleakala Crater. Depending on your level of adventure, you might enjoy waking up early to catch the sunrise or instead embark on one of the epic backcountry hikes into the crater. The Sliding Sands Trail is a famous but strenuous day hike into the crater.

Spend another full day driving the Road to Hana, which ends at the park’s Kipahulu District on the southeast side of the island. The Kipahulu District is quite the contrast to the high-altitude terrain found in the Summit District. The most famous trails to hike here include thePipiwai Trailthrough a bamboo forest and ‘Ohe’o Gulch. These trails take hikers through Maui’s gorgeous cloud forest.

There are so many incredible outdoor adventures at Haleakala National Park. Don’t forget to bring your annual National Park Pass to enter! Start your adventures early to beat the crowds.

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