Park it Here: 6 US National Parks to Visit in May
The United States has a dazzling array of national parks to visit, and what better way to start off your summer? Visiting national parks in May is fantastic: the temperatures are milder and the parks are far less crowded. Here are our six picks for the best US national parks to visit during May.
Photos via Chris Lawton, Jack Finnigan, Rakshith Hatwar & Roberto Nickson
Located in central California, average May temperatures at Yosemite are 45-71°F. Yosemite is known for its beautiful waterfalls, and May is the best time to see these gorgeous falls due to the snow beginning to melt. Although the snow melt leads to great waterfalls, this means that some areas of the park may still be closed due to snow in May. Don’t let this deter you, though! Everything at lower elevations should be open this time of year. Yosemite is great for hiking and camping, and you can travel the Mariposa Grove Road to see the giant sequoias!
Photos via Matt Noble, Colin Lloyd, Ian Dooley & Vincent Ledvina
This park, located in southern Colorado, has average May temperatures of 40-68°F. Late spring is the ideal time to visit the dunes—the sand can reach over 150°F during the summer and summer lightning storms are common. Great Sand Dunes National Park has the tallest sand dune in North America, standing at 750 feet! In addition, the “surge flow” of Medano Creek peaks at the end of May/beginning of June. When the waters are high enough, you can float down the creek on inflatable rafts. You can also round off your trip by gazing at the Milky Way as Sand Dunes National Park is one of the best places in the United States to stargaze.
Photos via Brent Cox, Joshua Earle, Greg Ortega & Roberto Nickson
This Southern California park typically has temperatures from 55-86°F in May. May is the best time to visit this park because it often gets *very* hot during the summer. Joshua Tree National Park is fantastic for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, rock climbing, and stargazing. Late spring is also peak wildflower and cactus-blooming season, depending on rainfall. You can see hundreds of beautiful colors displayed this time of year. One thing to keep in mind about Joshua Tree is that it’s very popular around May, so try to avoid weekends if you can.
Photos via Evan Sanchez & James Lee
Capitol Reef is located in Utah and average May temperatures here are 46-73°F. The weather is mild, the creeks and rivers are full of water, and wildflowers are in full bloom this time of year. Also, this national park is typically less crowded than Zion National Park or Arches National Park while still showing off similarly beautiful scenery. This park has a bunch of recreational offerings. Visitors can choose from many outdoor activities: the classic climbing and hiking, or you can opt for a scenic drive through the park.
Photos via Matej Rieciciar, Alex Donnachie, Karan Chawla & Courtney Kenady
Rounding out our list of US National Parks, Saguaro Park (also located in Utah) boasts May temperatures between 52-84°F. Weather this time of year usually consists of sunny skies and perfect weather at higher elevations. Most hiking trails in Zion National Park open in May, and it’s a perfect time to see waterfalls. In May, Zion is filled with a beautiful variety of colors, ranging from red, orange, and pink rocks to dusky green and blue vegetation. But, as mentioned: this is a popular park for tourists. Plan to make some friends!
Photos via Dylan Sauerwein & James Lee
Saguaro National Park, located just outside of Tucson, Arizona, has average May temperatures between 59-91°F. While this is one of the hotter parks all year round, May is a great time to visit before the summer *really* heats up. In this park, you can hike the relatively easy Valley View Overlook trail to see dense cacti populations or check out the Signal Hill Petroglyphs—prehistoric rock drawings dating back 800 years to the Hohokam people. In May, the cacti and shrubs are beginning to bloom, providing a gorgeous view.