Looking for the best national parks to visit in August?
It’s your chance to squeeze in your last trips before the end of summer. Sure, you can visit many of the national parks any time of year, but we learned the hard way that some parks are only fully open in July and August, and some parks are plain miserable with the summer heat.
Learn from our mistakes. Here’s a monthly guide for visiting all the national parks at the most optimal times due to weather and accessibility.
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Last Updated: October 12, 2022
Before we get into it, we want to remind everyone to explore the parks responsibly using the 7 Leave no Trace Principles. Have a plan, stay on established trails, carry out anything you carry in, leave what you find, minimize campfire impact, respect wildlife, and be considerate of others.
About the National Park by month Series
To put together this list, we’ve combined our personal experiences and tips we gathered from locals and cross-referenced them with the weather, accessibility, local forums, seasonal attractions like fall foliage or wildflowers, and special events happening in the area. We also took into account any unique adventures only offered at certain times of the year to find the most optimal months to visit each National Park. Phew! that was a lot!
It took me a whole week of research, but since I’m a maximizer, it was completely worth having a year-round calendar of adventures (publishing that soon!). Also, check out our complete list of all the national parks and all national park units that include soon-to-be national parks.
We mostly stayed away from the hardest-to-access national parks in Alaska and the ones in U.S. territories in this series.
15 Best National Parks to Visit in August
1. Mt Rainier National Park, Washington
Sunrise Park Rd, Ashford, WA 98304, map
Average Temperatures: 75°F / 46°F
Why Visit: July to August is the best time to visit Mt Rainier to catch it covered in a carpet of wildflowers. The weather is optimal for hiking, and the days are long. Plus, it’s one of the driest months of the year, so you’re more likely to get clear skies to see Rainier.
Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Photography
- To Do – Skyline Trail, Myrtle Falls, Comet Falls
- Wildlife – Black Bears, Cougars, Coyotes, Red Foxes, Deer
Pro Tip: It’s crowded this time of year, so you should visit during the weekday or check out lesser-known areas if you’re going on the weekend, like the Mowich Lake Entrance.
Crater Lake National Park, Rim Village, OR 97604, map
Average Temperatures: 69°F / 41°F
Why Visit: Visiting from July to September is ideal because all the roads and facilities are typically open and the weather is warm. On our first visit, we went in June, and half of the park loop was closed due to snow (they average 40 feet of snow each year). Since snowfall and snowmelt can vary year to year, check their website for closures.
Best For / Top Activities: Hikers and Backpackers, Tours, Photography, Scenic Drives, Swimming
- To Do – Rim Drive, Boat Tour, Visit Wizard Island
- Wildlife – Black Bears, Porcupines, Elks, Coyotes, Mazama Newt
Pro Tip: Be prepared for chilly water if you plan to swim!
376 Newhalem St, Marblemount, WA 98267, map
Average Temperatures: 54°F / 30°F
Why Visit: We visited North Cascades and did the scenic drive, which has a few notable spots. To truly experience and access most of the park, however, you must hike in. August is a great time to visit because the weather is warmer, and it’s still not crowded since it’s one of the least visited national parks in the US.
Best For / Top Activities: Hikers / Backpackers, Fishing
- To Do – Scenic Drive along North Cascades Highway, Cascade Pass, Sahale Arm, Washington Pass Overlook, Diablo Lake Vista Point, Stehekin
- Wildlife – Black Bears, Gray Wolves, Elks, Beavers, Bobcats
- How many days do you need? 1-3
Pro Tip: Plan ahead of time if you want to visit Stehekin Valley since you can only access Stehekin Vally by foot, boat, or plane.
47050 Generals Hwy, Three Rivers, CA 93271, map
Average Temperatures: Kings Canyon 70°F / 32°F || Sequoia 71°F / 44°F
Why Visit: Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are next to each other, so most people visit both parks in one visit. The weather is amazing from June to August, but you’ll get fewer visitors in August than in June and July.
Best For / Top Activities: Hikers / Backpackers, Scenic Drive, Photography, Swimming
- To Do – Grant Drove, Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, General Sherman Tree, Moro Rock
- Wildlife – Coyotes, Badgers, Black Bears, Deer, Wolverines, Beavers
Pro Tip: On warm days, jump in the river at Road’s End.
Logan’s Pass Visitor Center, Browning, MT 59417, map
Average Temperatures: 70°F / 45°F
Why Visit: July and August are the best in terms of weather to visit Glacier National Park since everything is open. The main road into the park is closed most of the year. Although both months are crowded, August is less crowded than July.
Best For / Top Activities: Scenic Drive, Hiking / Backpacking, Kayaking, Tours, Fishing, Wildlife Viewing
- To Do – Going-to-the-Sun Road (requires a permit), Red Bus Tour, Lake McDonald, Goose Island (from The Shining)
- Wildlife – Deer, Marmots, Mountain Goats, Big Horned Sheep, Grizzly Bears, Black Bears
Pro Tip: Some people say you should go in September, since you may also get a chance to see fall colors. It’s cooler, and much less crowded since school will have started back up, but you risk parts of the park closing due to weather. Be sure to check the conditions before you go.
6. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
800 E Lakeshore Dr, Houghton, MI 49931, map
Average Temperatures: 71°F / 55°F
Why Visit: Isle Royale is made up of over 400 islands. Because of its location, you can only visit from mid-April to late October. Though July-Aug is peak season, it’s still not that busy since it’s one of the least visited national parks in the US.
Best For / Top Activities: Hikers / Backpackers, Camping, Fishing, Canoeing, Kayaking, Scuba Diving
- To Do – Ferry Ride, Greenstone Ridge Trail, Tour the 3 Lighthouses
- Wildlife – Moose, Wolves, Elk, Snowshoe Hares, Foxes, Mink, Beavers
Local Tip: Locals prefer June/early fall shoulder season because it’s quieter.
7. Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
1212 4th Ave, Seward, AK 99664, map
Average Temperatures: 48°F / 35°F
We’re planning to go this August, and we can’t wait!
Why Visit: Like many of these other parks in the PNW, the weather is best in July and August (slightly less crowded in August). Kenai Fjords is known for Harding Icefield, the largest icefield entirely within the US.
Best For / Top Activities: Wildlife Viewing, Cruises, Hikers, Kayaking, Ice Climbing
- To Do – Exit Glacier, Wildlife Cruise, Glacier Kayaking
- Wildlife – Moose, Black Bears, Brown Bears, Wolves, Sea Lions, Seals, Dolphins, Humpback Whales, Orcas, Sea Otters, Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Tufted and Horned Puffins
Pro Tip: Exit Glacier is the only portion of the park accessible by road. If you don’t have much wilderness training, hire an outfitter to take you to other areas of the park.
8. Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
38050 Hwy 36 E, Mineral, CA 96063, map
Average Temperatures: 75°F / 41°F
Why Visit: See steaming fumaroles, flower-filled meadows, and clear alpine lakes at Lassen Volcanic. August is a great time to visit because the roads are open, and it’s less crowded than July. We missed much of the park on our visit because it was still closed.
Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Scenic Drives, Swimming, Kayaking
- To Do – Bumpass Hell Trail, Lassen Peak, Lassen Park Highway, Manzanita Lake, Kings Creek Falls, Devils Kitchen
- Wildlife – Black Bear, Bobcat, Mountain Lion, Coyote, Fox, Skunk
9. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
1000 US-36, Estes Park, CO 80517, map
Average Temperatures: 66°F / 44°F
Why Visit: Hiking is great from June to September since the snow is mostly melted. There are over 300 miles of trails, but if you want a more leisurely experience, the Scenic Drives are also great.
Best For / Top Activities: Hikers / Backpackers, Wildlife Viewing, Scenic Drives, Stargazing
- To Do – Trail Ridge Road, Sprague Lake, Bear Lake Road, Alpine Ridge Trail, Emerald Lakes, Alberta Falls
- Wildlife – Elk, Moose, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Lions, Deer, Bears, Bobcats
Pro Tip: To explore Bear Lake Road, you must obtain a permit.
Park Rd, Denali National Park and Preserve, AK 99755, map
Average Temperatures: 61°F / 46°F
Why Visit: Long days and warmer weather make August a great time to visit Denali. It’s also drier so you can hopefully catch glimpses of Mount Denali not shrouded in clouds. Only one road leads to the park’s center, but this is also one of the few national parks in Alaska you can drive to. During the summer, shuttle buses run up and down Denali Park Road.
Best For / Top Activities: Hikers / Backpackers, Scenic Drive, Wildlife Viewing, Photography, Tours
- To Do – Tundra Wilderness Tour, Flightseeing Tour, Canine Rangers
- Wildlife – Dall Sheep, Moose, Caribou, Wolves, Grizzly Bears, Foxes
Pro Tip: Private vehicles can only drive for the first 15 miles (except for rare circumstances like the Denali Road lottery which is very difficult to get). Beyond this point, you will have to ride the park shuttle.
3002 Mt Angeles Rd, Port Angeles, WA 98362, map
Average Temperatures: 62°F / 44°F
Why Visit: August is a busy time at Olympic National Park but for good reason. The weather is great, and it’s typically drier. There’s never a guarantee for clear skies since it rains year-round in this temperate rainforest, but heavy downpours usually start later in the year.
Best For / Top Activities: Hiking / Backpacking, Tidepools, Scenic Drives, White Water Rafting, Kayaking
- To Do – Hurricane Ridge, Hoh Rainforest, Rialto Beach, Storm King, Sol Duc Falls, Shi Shi Beach
- Wildlife – Deer, Elk, Cougars, Bears, Beaver, Mink, Salmon
Pro Tip: It’s always smart to have a raincoat with you just in case.
12. Apostle Islands National Park, Wisconsin
415 Washington Ave, Bayfield, WI 54814, map
Average Temperatures: 76°F / 55°F
Why Visit: Apostle Islands comprises 21 islands with beautiful beaches and trails. August is an amazing time to visit because you enjoy the weather and water. Of course, there is some great hiking as well.
Best For / Top Activities: Hikers / Backpackers, Water Sports, Kayak, Scuba Dive, Fishing, Boating
- To Do – Mainland Lakeshore Trail, Meyers Beach, Kayak to Sea Caves, Apostle Islands Cruise
- Wildlife – Bears, Otters, Coyotes, Deer, Vole
1901 Spinnaker Dr, Ventura, CA 93001, map
Average Temperatures: 72°F / 57°F
Why Visit: Explore the five islands of the Channel Islands in August to enjoy the warmer weather, especially if you’re doing water activities. It’s also a great time to see Blue and Humpback Whales.
Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Kayaking, Snorkeling, Diving
- To Do – Whale Watching, Kayaking to Sea Caves, Pelican Bay Trail, Fishing, Snorkeling / Diving
- Wildlife – Whales (Blue, Humpback, Fin, Gray), Orcas, Dolphins, Sea Lions, Elephant Seals, Island Fox, Skunks
- How many days do you need? 1-3
Pro Tip: Watch out for the local foxes. They’re cute but sneaky, and they will come to steal your food.
100 Great Basin, Baker, NV 89311, map
Average Temperatures: 76°F / 51°F
Why Visit: Great Basin in August is a great time to explore the park (you get great hiking weather from May-Sep). The weather makes it ideal for climbing the second-highest peak in Nevada, touring Lehman Caves, and seeing wildlife and wildflowers. It’s also a national park known for stargazing, and August is a great month to see the Milky Way.
Best For / Top Activities: Hikers / Backpackers, Stargazing
- To Do – Bristlecone Trail, Lehman Caves, Wheelers Peak, Stella Lake
- Wildlife – Water Shrews, Voles, Porcupines, Beavers, Ringtail Cats, Marmots, Bobcats, Mountain Lions
Local Tip: If you’re super into astronomy, visit in September when they have their annual Astronomy Festival.
15. Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve, Alaska
101 Dunkel St, Fairbanks, AK 99701, map
Average Temperatures: 63°F / 44°F
Why Visit: If you’re looking for a true adventure, this is it. Gates of the Arctic is the least visited National Park in the US, and you pick your own adventure since there are no roads, no established trails, or campsites. Summer (mid-June to September) is your best and only option.
Best For / Top Activities: Backpackers (Hikers), Fishing, Climbers, Experienced Pack Rafters/Canoers.
- To Do – Hiking and Backpacking, Rock Climbing/Mountaineering. For the less adventurous, you can do fly-over tours and stay the night in Anaktuvuk Pass.
- Eat – There are no food services in the park. make sure you pack it in (and out, obviously), and needs to be properly stored in an approved bear-resistant food container.
- Stay – Only backcountry camping.
- Wildlife – Grizzly Bears, Wolves, Muskox, Caribou, Moose, Wolverine, Fox, Dall Sheep
Pro Tip: This is truly untouched wilderness and visitors should be proficient in outdoor survival skills.
Tips for Visiting National Parks in August
- Pick up a National Park Annual Pass if you plan on visiting multiple parks within the year.
- It’s always a good idea to pack layers wherever you go. Some parks are warm during the day and cool at night or may vary in temperature depending on elevation changes.
- See which national parks now require reservations here.
- Always check the park’s website and Visitors Center for the most up-to-date information on closures.
- Explore the parks responsibly using Leave no Trace principles. Stay on established trails, carry out anything you carry in, etc.
- Remember that wildlife is wild. Be familiar with how to interact with animals and how much space you should have between you and them.
What to Pack
How you will pack depends on what you will be doing and which park you’re visiting, but here is a general guide on items we always try to pack.
- Camera Gear
- Travel Backpack
- Camping / Backpacking Equipment
- National Park Annual Pass
- National Park Passport
- Layers (The Best Travel Jackets)
- Solid Hiking Shoes
Are National Parks busy in August?
Yes, many parks are busiest in the summer and August is the tail end of that. Not all schools have started yet, so some parks will still be busy.
What is the best National Park to visit in summer?
It depends on what you want to do! Our list comprises parks you should visit because of the weather and accessibility.
What is the hardest National Park to visit?
Gates of the Arctic National Park is the hardest since it is true wilderness. It’s also the least visited park.
When should I visit the National Parks?
Each National Park has the best time to visit. It’s best to do research specifically do that park. We typically like visiting during shoulder seasons to get decent weather but fewer crowds.
Can you visit Grand Canyon in August?
The Grand Canyon is open year-round. August is a really hot time to visit with temps well over 100. You can visit, but it’s not ideal.
What is Glacier National Park like in August?
July and August are the best time to visit Glacier National Park but that also means it’s the busiest time.
What is the cheapest National Park to visit?
If you are factoring in travel, the cheapest national park is the park closest to you! If you love National Parks, pick up an Annual Pass to save on entrance fees.
How do I plan a trip to a National Park?
Check out blogs (like ours) and review National Park’s website for up-to-date info. Then check if reservations, permits, or bookings are required to start planning ahead. We prefer to plan one main activity a day, then have a list of other things we want to check out that we leave flexible.
What month are National Parks the busiest?
Typically July and August are the peak months for most National Parks but not all.
What National Parks are limiting visitors?
Would you look at that! We have a blog post about all the parks that require reservations.
Recap of the 15 Best National Parks to Visit in August
August is a great time to explore the National Parks. You get to take advantage of summer weather and some schools have started back up so it will be a bit less crowded than at the height of summer. Here is the list of parks we recommend visiting.
- Mt Rainier National Park (post coming soon!)
- Crater Lake National Park
- North Cascades National Park
- Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Park
- Glacier National Park
- Isle Royale National Park
- Kenai Fjords National Park (post coming soon!)
- Lassen Volcanic National Park (post coming soon!)
- Rocky Mountain National Park (post coming soon!)
- Denali National Park
- Olympic National Park
- Apostle Islands National Park
- Channel Islands National Park
- Great Basin National Park
- Gates of the Arctic National Park
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Can you think of others that belong on this list of best national parks to visit in August? Which ones are we missing?
SEE MORE NATIONAL PARK GUIDES
“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust