38.2136° N, 109.9025° W
SPRING IS A TIME OF WILDFLOWERS, PERFECT TEMPERATURES AND LONG SUNNY DAYS. HERE ARE THE 8 BEST NATIONAL PARKS TO EXPLORE DURING THIS VIBRANT SEASON.
For us, two people who grew up in the high mountains of Colorado, spring has always been this slightly awkward time of the year. This is mostly due to the fact that during spring the landscape is in this in-between phase: for example, usually the snow has melted just enough to make skiing not really possible, but still not enough to make hiking even remotely fun. In reality, you couldn't really do much in terms of adventure until May and even then there was still a chance of a late spring snowstorm rolling in and blanketing the mountains in one last winter dusting.
It honestly took us moving to California to realize that spring was in fact a great time of the year to head outdoors and do some exciting adventures, especially activities such as canyoneering, hiking and backpacking.
Overall, we would say that in the spring the desert national parks really hit their stride and become absolute wonderlands for exploring. Think comfortable daytime temperatures, blooming wildflowers, open and dry trails and great camping conditions. In fact, of the 8 best spring national parks below, 5 of them are located in the desert.
So if you are looking to head out on a national park adventure during the months of March, April or May - including maybe on a spring break trip - then make sure to check these 8 national parks out.
💬 INSIDER TIP: if planning to visit multiple national parks, not just in the spring but any time of the year, then we highly suggest purchasing the America the Beautiful Pass, which costs $80. This annual pass gets you into ALL national parks and national monuments, as well as national historical parks and sites, national preserves and national recreation areas.
➳ You can learn more and purchase your America the Beautiful Annual Pass here.
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8 BEST NATIONAL PARKS TO EXPLORE IN SPRING
1 | Capitol Reef National Park
As mentioned above, desert national parks really shine during the springtime. And this is especially true in Capitol Reef National Park, one of the five national parks found in the state of Utah.
Capitol Reef is famous for its wide array of unique desert landscapes - from the Waterpocket Fold (a wrinkle on the earth that extends for nearly 100 miles) to multi-colored rock domes to deep, slotty red canyons, the whole national park is just begging to be explored, especially on foot.
During the spring season, the weather is nice and temperate - think mid-50s (13° C) during the day and lots of sunshine. Similarly, during this time of year the flowers are starting to bloom and everything is lush and green. We recommend spending a couple of days exploring the park (at least 3) and heading out to all of the different areas; including, Cathedral Valley, home of the famous rock structures the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon.
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: there are a couple of camping areas in the national park; including, a large campground with all of the amenities (water, bathrooms, etc.) in the main Fruita area of the park, as well as a more rugged campground in Cathedral Valley and one off of Notom-Bullfrog Road.
► Explore our full Capitol Reef National Park Adventure Guide.
| WHERE: Utah
| COST TO ENTER: $20, good for 7 days
THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK IN THE SPRING
Capitol Reef National Park has a good number of hiking trails available, from the easy to the more difficult, all the way up to multi-day backpacking trips. Some of the best trails to head out on include Cassidy Arch, which is 1.7 miles round trip (and also a great trail for canyoneering), the Chimney Rock Loop, which is 3.6 miles round trip, and Hickman Bridge, which is a short hike (less than a mile long) that gives you great views of the historic Fruita area.
While hiking is a great option for exploring the national park - especially the area near Fruita, we also recommend checking out some of Capitol Reef's exciting canyoneering routes. The park has a lot of different routes available, from relatively short and easy canyons all the way up to highly technical, full-day adventures. Some of the best canyoneering routes in Capitol Reef are Stegosaur Slot, which has an amazing slot canyon section; The Wives, which is actually 7 different canyoneering routes all in the same area (we especially liked Wife 5); and Pandora's Box, which is extremely technical, but also a whole lot of fun.
➳ You can find all the canyoneering beta for Capitol Reef here.
💬 INSIDER TIP: besides exploring the stunning rock canyons, also give yourself some time to check out the historic town of Fruita, which is located in the middle of the national park. There you can explore some of the old buildings, pick fresh fruit, and after March 14th even buy a homemade pie.
HOW TO GET TO CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK
Capitol Reef is likely the hardest to reach of the five national parks in Utah due to its rather remote location. The closest “big” towns are Hanksville and Torrey, and while both do have grocery stores and lodging options, they don't have much else. Otherwise, the closest major cities are Salt Lake City, Utah which is approximately 3.5 hours away, and Las Vegas, Nevada, which is about 5 hours away.
EXPLORE MORE | OUR ULTIMATE ADVENTURE GUIDE TO CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK IN UTAH
2 | Canyonlands National Park
Another Utah national park that is equally as beautiful during the springtime is Canyonlands. This large park is actually split into four sections known as "districts." The most popular district to visit is Island in the Sky, which has some amazing hiking trails and off-road vehicle and mountain biking routes (most notably the White Rim Trail). The other three districts are The Needles, which is a bit further south of Island in the Sky, The Maze, which is extremely rugged, and Horseshoe Canyon, which is equally as rugged as The Maze, but it