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Five National Parks and the Best Time to Visit

Updated on October 21, 2015
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Shelby enjoys adventure travel and trying new things. She loves backpacking, camping, snorkeling, and being able to capture moments outdoors


Thinking of visiting a national park this summer? While planning a vacation takes lots of work, make sure that your work is not in vain. The last thing you want is to show up and the park be so crowded that you can't enjoy it. This is a list of some of the national parks in the U.S. with their peak seasons. This list also gives other alternative times to go that are less crowded but where you can still enjoy everything in the park.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is the world's oldest national park. It has millions of visitors each year, both from the U.S. and countless other countries. The diversity in Yellowstone makes it a popular site as well as the popularity of the iconic Old Faithful Geyser. With so many people funneling in, though, the nature and serenity can be lost.

Peak season for Yellowstone is from Memorial Day to Labor Day. While this ensures that everything is open and gives the best weather, it also means that you'll face thousands of other visitors who are looking to see the same things. You'll encounter lines everywhere and crowds swarming through all the popular hiking trails.

If you can, try visiting in early May or September and October. The weather is still nice; you'll get mostly warm sunny days with cool mornings and evenings. There can be a chance of light snow at these times, so remember to pack layers!

While some of the locations are not open at these times, you can still see everything. It just means you can't visit as many gift shops. Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs will still be open, so use these as your hubs. You can still drive to other locations for sightseeing and hikes, but you won't encounter nearly as many tourists.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park has a much shorter peak season than that of Yellowstone. Glacier's peak season is from July to Labor Day. If you're planning to visit Yellowstone, you should definitely plan a few extra days to drive up and spend in Glacier.

Glacier has beautiful, imposing mountains, crystal clear streams and lakes, and a magnificent, winding road view.

Plan to visit Glacier in June or late September when the crowds aren't as bad. Even if some of the locations inside the park are closed, Glacier has a good sized town located right outside of it where you can acquire anything you might need.

Grand Teton National Park

If you're going to be in Yellowstone, you might as well take a day to see Grand Teton as well. Grand Teton National Park shares its northern border with Yellowstone's southern border, and the same pass will get you into both parks. It's definitely worth taking a drive through to view the splendid peaks and beautiful lakes.

Because of its proximity to Yellowstone, Grand Teton has the same peak season: Memorial Day through Labor Day. The best time to go, especially if you're already planning to be in Yellowstone during one of the times, is earlier May or later September to October. The weather will still be nice, but the crowds will be much less.

While in Grand Teton, make sure to stop in the town of Jackson (formerly Jackson Hole), Wyoming. There's some great local shopping and eating here as well as being a good hub for activities during both the summer and winter.

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Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon, although comparatively small in size, is a wondrously breathtaking canyon. It's well worth a few days of sightseeing, hiking, and exploring the canyon.

Peak times are from late April to early October. I visited in mid-August and it was relatively crowded.

The best times to go are right on the edges of the season: the majority of April and the later part of October. Bryce Canyon has a small town situated outside of the park, with hotel rooms and a few places to eat.

The best times to hike are earlier in the morning before the buses of tourists pour in. Photography is best during the morning or evening hours, when the sunlight hits the canyon and makes marvelous views.

Try to get a photograph of you holding Thor's Hammer!

Zion National Park

Zion National Park is definitely a park worth checking out. Although it doesn't take too long to drive through it, there is much to see. From one entrance to another is not a very long drive, but the view is gorgeous, with its striped rock faces that reach up into the sky. The road meanders along the mountains, and there's even a long stretch of tunnel that goes through one of the mountains.

Much of Zion can only be accessed by a shuttle system in an effort to cut down on the number of vehicles in the park. If you're looking to see much of the park, you'll want to visit when the shuttle is running. The shuttle usually runs mid-March through late October.

Peak season is late April through early October. You can usually avoid the crowds and still use the shuttle system by visiting Zion in April or October, right on the edges of the season. Remember to pack layers. Even though the park isn't that far north, the high altitude can cause some chill!

show route and directions
A markerYellowstone National Park -
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190, USA
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B markerGlacier National Park -
Glacier National Park, West Glacier, MT 59936, USA
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C markerGrand Teton National Park -
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming 83012, USA
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D markerBryce Canyon -
Bryce Canyon, UT 84764, USA
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E markerZion National Park -
Zion National Park, Utah 84737, USA
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