With summer upon us, it’s once again time to plan that outdoorsy adventure. And one of the best playgrounds we know for such adventuring is our national parks.
But the heat of summer means that some parks lend themselves more to summer visitation than others. Saguaro National Park, for example, is a spectacular spot — but it’s also a place that could scorch you if you head there anytime in July or August.
That’s why we put together this list of the best national parks for you to visit this summer.
These are the places where the weather stays wonderful — even during the thick of summer. And these are also places that you usually wouldn’t want to visit in the winter (unless you’re just super brave and love snowshoeing, which is cool too 😀
RVs For Rent Near You
National Park Packing List
Before you hit the trail to any of these parks, there are some staple items that no trip should be without:
–Camping gear — Tents, tools, lights, sleeping bags, and more will open the door to soaking in all the zones within these parks.
–Fire stuff — Many parks feature day-use pull-off picnic areas where you can enjoy a fire even if you don’t stay the night. Just be sure to follow all fire rules for any park you visit.
–Hiking shoes — Our national parks feature trails for all skill levels. Even if you’ve never hiked before, a pair of good hiking shoes is the ticket to exploring all the spots you should see.
–Annual park pass — You’ll get your money’s worth off this bad mama jama if you plan to visit more than two parks this year. The more you visit, the more worth it this is.
–National Park guidebook — Ditch the screens and grab yourself an old-fashioned guidebook to explore the parks. You probably won’t have cell reception anyway, making guidebooks all the better.
Glacier National Park, Montana
Considering the main road through the park (Going-to-the-Sun Road) isn’t even open from October-May, this park is a must-visit during the summer.
It’s true that Glacier is open year-round and you can still do some amazing winter activities there, but virtually all the iconic Glacier photos you see on Instagram were taken in the summer.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Considering this spot gets 44 feet of snow in the winter, we say you shoot for a summer trip in this direction. The park’s namesake lake was formed over 7,000 years ago from a volcano that collapsed after an eruption.
With depths reaching 1,900 feet, Crater Lake is one of the deepest and bluest in the world. That’s why some of the favorite activities here are scenic drives over the 33-mile rim, hiking along the trails with vistas over the lake, and even swimming (we swear it’ll be life-changing if you can bear the frigid temps).
Top tip: Take a road trip from Medford along Oregon Route 62 for a scenic 75-mile journey to the park.
Olympic National Park, Washington
You might never get a guarantee of blue skies in this park, but your reward will come in the form of a rainforest ecosystem for you to explore. Olympic NP is bigger than Rhode Island and is mostly accessible via hiking trails.
So get that hiking gear ready to check out one of the most varied ecosystems in any of our national parks. We’re talking stomping grounds like 75 miles of undeveloped seashore, hot springs, rainforests, and glacier-covered mountains — all rolled into one park.
You can drive up from Seattle via the 101 or catch a ferry out there.
Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite might be year-round, but we say it’s one of the best national parks to visit this summer because of the wildflower super bloom that’ll be happening. While it’s true that summer is peak season ‘round here, you can beat the crowds by jetting in during shoulder season (May or September).
You could also hang your hat at Oudoorsy Yosemite — a camping and glamping spot just outside the park where you can enjoy low-crowd adventures with a private lake shore and spacious RV sites.
Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Jutting up like a Martian castle on the South Dakota plains, The Badlands capture everything that makes our national parks so magical: awe-inspiring vistas, otherworldly scenes, and unforgettable memories.
It’s one of the best national parks to visit during the summer because the crowds are generally manageable and South Dakota summers are more mild than those down south.
The best way to experience this park is by car to take in the vistas while stopping at the many lookout points and historical sites along the way.
Bonus: Try your hand boondocking at Buffalo Gap dispersed campground — a spot with awesomely high marks for its solitude, its views, and its Bison herds that roam the area.
Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana
This new kid on the block is one of our best national parks to visit in the summer because it’s one of the most unique ways to experience the cooling waters of the Great Lakes.
This massive system of dunes, trails, and beaches sits along Lake Michigan and even features views of the Chicago skyline. Despite its urban proximity, the park boasts loads of solitude and is the 4th most biodiverse spot in the national park system (you bird watchers out there can see over 370 species of birds at Indiana Dunes!).
Acadia National Park, Maine
One of the best reasons to visit this park in the summer is because you can combine it with the ultimate New England road trip. This region of the country is packed with history, small-town charm, and summer fun by the beach.
Acadia is known as the Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast and it features some of the most dramatic oceanside cliffs you can see in the U.S.
BONUS: Fathom Five National Marine Park, Ontario Canada
Let’s not forget that some of the best national parks to visit this summer sit just north of the border. Fathom Five is a coastal oasis not far from Toronto where you can explore rare orchids, and ancient rock formations. The scuba diving types among us can even swim around 24 historic shipwrecks in Georgian Bay.
RVs for rent near Fathom Five National Marine Park
It’s hard to believe summer is already here. And with that comes trip planning. The best national parks to visit this summer aren’t necessarily the ones like Yellowstone that are on everyone’s bucket list. The stops above feature some mainstays and some off-the-beaten-path parks that’ll make for a fun trip wherever you choose to roll.