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15 Best National Parks to Visit in Summer

Don’t miss these National Parks this summer!

Summer brings out both the heat and the crowds! As we’ve been road tripping around the US with a goal to visit every National Park (and all the National Park units), we realized that some parks are only open during a small window and some parks are just plain better during one season out of the year.

The dates and seasons for these parks may change year to year, but here’s a list of parks we think you should explore during the summer.

15 Best National Parks to Visit in SummerPin

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Last Updated: April 18, 2024

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Parks with Short Summers

A lot of the National Parks located further North have very limited seasons. Some of their winters last well into June or July. Snow keeps everything hidden away and much harder to navigate. These are some of the best parks to visit during the summer just because you can’t really see much in the winter.

Since they have such a short season compared to other parks, it’s best to prioritize them for summer! Be sure to check each parks’ site to get the most up-to-date information.

See More: These US National Parks Are Now Requiring Reservations to Get In

1. Glacier National Park, MT →

64 Grinnell Dr, West Glacier, MT 59936, map

The iconic Going to the Sun Road typically opens late June or early July (check their site for the most recent info since the season can change year to year). Otherwise, what you can see in the park is very limited. Even if Going to the Sun Road is open, the hikes can have an even shorter season. When we went in late June, several hikes we wanted to do near Logan’s Pass were still snowed in.

Local Tip: Bear Spray is a must at Glacier.

See More: 9 Incredible Things to do in Glacier National Park Montana

2. Grand Teton National Park (& Yellowstone National Park), WY →

1 Teton Park Rd, Moose, WY 83012, map

These parks won’t get you away from the crowds, but the summer will give you the easiest access to the majority of the park. Roads are closed through Winter and it takes time for them to get them ready again for the summer crowds.

See More: 11 Incredible Things to do in Grand Teton National Park

3. North Cascades National Park, WA →

48.6663472,-121.2689664, map

North Cascades National Park is one the hardest national parks to access because there are no roads leading into the park. You can drive to the surrounding park units, but you will have to hike to step foot in the actual park. Because of this, you want to be sure the hikes are open and snow free to experience the beautiful wilderness! Check their site to see what is currently open. Also, if you’re there to see the blue color of the glacial lakes, like Diablo Lake.

Local Tip: Diablo Lake changes color throughout the year and the color is best during late July or August after you get more glacial melt.

See More: 7 Best Things to Do in North Cascades National Park

4. Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA

21820 Lassen Peak Hwy, Mineral, CA 96063, map

This National Park has portions that stay closed late into summer because of its high altitude. Once it’s open, you can explore volcanic landscapes.

Lassen Volcanic National ParkPin

5. Mount Rainier National Park, WA

21820 Lassen Peak Hwy, Mineral, CA 96063, map

Summer brings wildflowers, bear grass, and beautiful views of the mountain (assuming you get lucky and the clouds aren’t around!). The bloom is limited and typically peaks in mid-July and August.

Washington Summerland Trail Mt Rainier National Park + 15 Best Day Hikes in the USPin

More Parks with Limited Seasons

  • Denali National Park, AK
  • Gates of the Arctic National Park, AK 
  • Glacier Bay National Park, AK
  • Katmai National Park, AK
  • Kenai Fjords National Park, AK
  • Kobuk Valley National Park, AK 
  • Lake Clark National Park, AK 
  • Wrangell-St.Elias National Park and Preserve, AK
  • Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

See More: 17 Unforgettable Things to Do in Denali National Park

Best Things to Do in Denali National Park AlaskaPin

Parks to Avoid the Heat

Some parks are better enjoyed in the winter, and some are better enjoyed in the summer. As much as we love Joshua Tree and Death Valley, it is miserable in the summer.

The last time we went during the turn of the season, we spent a lot of time in the car with the AC blasting rather than exploring the park. The parks below, however, are perfect for the summer!

6. Crater Lake National Park, OR →

Rim Dr, Oregon 97604, map

Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the US and has some of the bluest and cleanest water you’ll ever see! The weather stays temperate throughout the summer and you may even still find some patches of snow. Check their site to see what roads are open. The last time we went in the summer, parts of the loop road were still closed off.

See More: The Ultimate Guide to Crater Lake National Park

7. Mammoth Cave National Park, KY

1 Mammoth Cave Pkwy, Mammoth Cave, KY 42259, map

Although the surrounding area may be hot and humid, you can escape into the world’s longest cave system and explore this other-worldly park.

mammoth cave entrancePin

8. Zion National Park, UT →

1101 Zion – Mount Carmel Hwy, Hurricane, UT 84737, map

The Virgin River stays cold year round, so summer is a great time to hike through the canyon. We still want to do the Subway, but the Narrows is still one of our favorite hikes in the US.

See More: 15 Incredible Things to do in Zion National Park

9. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, CA →

47050 Generals Hwy, Three Rivers, CA 93271, map

Walk amongst the giant trees and stay cool in their shade. Since the parks are higher elevation, the temperatures are much nicer here. Plus on hot days, you can jump in the river at Road’s End or explore Boyden Cavern.

See More: 15 Amazing Things to do in Sequoia National Park + Kings Canyon

15 Amazing Things to Do in Sequoia National Park + Kings Canyon National Park // Local Adventurer #sequoia #findyourpark #visittheusa #usa #outdoorsusaPin

10. Great Basin National Park, NV →

National Park, 100 Great Basin, Baker, NV 89311, map

Some of the highlights of this park include the Lehman Caves, Bristlecone pines, the oldest living organisms on earth, and astronomy. This park is better when there are no lights!

The high elevation and extremely low light pollution make this one of the best places in the continental U.S. to see the Milky Way. It’s best to visit in the summer when the Milky Way is most visible in North America, plus when we were there in their busiest season, we weren’t competing with crowds.

See More: The Ultimate Guide to Great Basin National Park

Where to Avoid the Crowds

As awesome and beautiful as they are, forget the popular parks like Yellowstone, YosemiteGrand Canyon, and the Great Smoky Mountains. Take advantage of the less popular parks and you’ll find a quiet spot to yourselves. Feeling connected to nature is what we love most about the National Parks, not being elbow to elbow with other people.

11. Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, ID

1266 Craters Loop Road, Arco, ID 83213, map

Even though Craters of the Moon is not one of the official 60+ National Parks, it’s a park managed by the National Park Service.

The remote location of this park along with its miles and miles of black lava really make it feel like you’ve left the planet! You can explore this park in near solitude and don’t forget to stick around to see the night sky too.


12. Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO →

11999 CO-150, Mosca, CO 81146, map

Great Sand Dunes is tucked against the Rockies and has the tallest dunes in North America. Get your hands on a sandboard for a truly unique experience or splash around in the creek to cool off from the heat.

See More: 9 Things You Can’t Miss at Great Sand Dunes National Park

13. Isle Royale National Park, MI

48.0008597,-88.9619611, map

Take a Park Service operated ferry to this archipelago that makes its home in one of the world’s largest freshwater lakes. Wildlife is abundant in this untamed land! Be sure to note that all visitors do need to stop to hear a ranger-led discussion on the area.

isle royale lighthouse national parkPin

14. Channel Islands National Park, CA →

1901 Spinnaker Dr, Ventura, CA 93001, map

Take a Park Service operated ferry to this archipelago that makes its home in one of the world’s largest freshwater lakes. Wildlife is abundant in this untamed land! Be sure to note that all visitors do need to stop to hear a ranger-led discussion on the area.

See More: Kayaking Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands KayakingPin

15. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, CO →

10346 CO-347, Montrose, CO 81401, map

This park offers everything from a leisurely drive to jaw-dropping overlooks, to extreme rock climbing! Regardless of what you’re looking for, you’re sure to stay away from large crowds.

See More: 9 Things to do in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Map of the Best National Parks to Visit in the Summer

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Which National parks did you visit this summer? What did you like or dislike about them?

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Esther and JacobPin

Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.

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