A National Park for every season – What’s your favorite?

The natural elements shape our experiences in the National Parks, revealing characteristics that seem to emerge only with the changing seasons.

Visitors crowd into Parks across the country during the summer months taking advantage of the long days and freedom to roam that is ushered in with the last day of school.

But for many National Parks, summer may not be the peak season.

Acadia National Park in fall is hard to beat

Fall foliage in Acadia National ParkI personally had the good fortune to visit Acadia National Park in late September a few years back.  Believe it or not, that is when the season begins to wind down.  Though the fall foliage was still in full effect many of the businesses had started to break down operations for the season knowing winter was just around the corner.

I can not imagine how much different the Park would be without such an impressive color palette.

The “cottages” that pepper the forest often play a supporting role to their multi-color surroundings.  Leaves change and fall, blow in all directions, and form near perfect landing piles everywhere.

Would Acadia National Park have been just as rewarding for us in early spring?  I personally don’t think so.

Have you seen the fall foliage in Acadia?  Do you have another fall favorite?

Winter is kind to Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree in Winter

Resembling a fantastic movie set or rugged section of the lunar landscape, Joshua Tree National Park is a climber’s wet dream.  There are more than 5000 documented climbing routes in this vertical wonderland.

But for a non-climber, JTree can be much more appealing in winter when snow creates a stark contrast between the rock and flakes.  Hot summer temps give way to cooler nights and ultimately the soft cover of the season’s first snow.

Climbers move south as the joshua trees stand firm.  The snow fills the gaps between the alien piles of rock revealing a completely new side of the Park.

Is this better than summer?  Maybe, though not for climbers.  But it does show a softer side.  Winter is kind to JTree.

Ever been to Joshua Tree in winter?  What other Parks make your list of Winter favorites?

Saquaro blooms usher in Spring

Saguaro flowers in Saguaro National ParkThe beauty of cacti is overlooked by many, especially those not living in the desert southwest.  But for anyone that’s witnessed the bloom of prickly pear or saguaro, the beauty is worth the wait.  The desert can produce a very vivid scene as these various species bloom in Spring.

Rain can spark an early season bloom in Saguaro National Park like it did this year adding a soft colorful touch to an otherwise limited palette.  But don’t drag your feet too long because the desert is unforgiving and the saguaro blooms won’t last for very long.

Have you ever seen Saguaro or any other desert environments light up with spring cacti blooms?  What’s your favorite Park to visit in Spring?

What National Park owns the summer season?

I didn’t forget Summer, nor am I at a loss for a favorite.  But coming off a summer defined by the sale of a house we called home for more than 10 years I thought I’d let this one up to you.  You explored.  You wandered.  You experienced.

What’s your favorite National Park of the summer season?  How about the other three seasons?  Does any one Park rank at the top of your list for more than one season? 

Comments

  1. Wilderness Dave says:

    My favorite National Park for Summer has got to be Grand Canyon. Here in the desert, the upper plateaus around the canyon are a little cooler than the lower desert. And Summer means it’s storm season!

    For my money, there is no better spectacle that the Grand Canyon in a Summer storm. The light is amazing and the only subject that compete with the massiveness of a cloudy Summer sky is something like the Grand Canyon. That place really comes alive during the Summer, everything there is more intense.

    • The only time I have visited the Grand Canyon was in the winter and I loved it. The contrast of the dessert colors against the snow. Of course it could have been the reduced crowds, the fact I was on my honeymoon or maybe that I haven’t been in the summer (although I have been to southern Utah in the summer). I didn’t really have a desire to go in the summer because of the crowds, but maybe I will need to reconsider. Thanks for helping me reconsider.

      • Wilderness Dave says:

        Mae,

        Absolutely, the crowds are an issue. My recommendation is to get away from the main village. Most people crowd around Mather Campground and the main village center. If you get toward the east end, by the Watchtower the crowds are less. And if you get out on some of the more obscure trails, you will see no one. We went in July, the height of tourist season, and still did hikes where we saw NO other people. So it’s possible….and the Summer storms are amazing.

        Bring rain gear.

  2. Fall in Acadia National Park is extraordinary. Crisp air and every color of the rainbow. Bar Harbor is right outside the gate and offers a lot of lodging options. Plus, fall foliage actually comes at the end of their season so the crowds are minimal. Kids are back to school – except for the bad parents like us that pull them out for epic adventures! The only drawback is that many businesses start to board up for winter so that should be considered.

  3. Heather Balogh says:

    Acadia is definitely stunning in the fall! I really RMNP in the fall too because of the aspen 🙂 I’m heading to Yellowstone this January and I’ve heard that it’s even more beautiful in the winter than the summer, so I have high hopes!

  4. Maybe it’s just the magic of the leaves changing around me right now in Kentucky (no National Parks nearby though), but I just LOVE fall in general. It wins as my favorite season – but I think that nothing beats winter in the desert. Capturing that snow day in Joshua Tree was one of the highlights of my yearlong trip. Arches in the snow is next on my list!

  5. For the last seveal years, I’ve celebrated my birthday (in February, every year whether I like it or not) at JTree. In each of those cases, snow has decorated the park making for a most compelling visit. It brings a quality to that landscape that’s hard to find anywhere else.

  6. For the last seveal years, I’ve celebrated my birthday (in February, every year whether I like it or not) at JTree. In each of those cases, snow has decorated the park making for a most compelling visit. The snow provides a unique quality to the rocks and Joshua Trees. Hiking in the snow was easy as it doesn’t get too deep there and melts by late afternoon. The cool weather makes for the enjoyment of hot beverages in camp or car after the hike.

  7. For the last seveal years, I’ve celebrated my birthday (in February, every year whether I like it or not) at JTree. In each of those cases, snow has decorated the park making for a most compelling visit. The snow provides a unique quality to the rocks and Joshua Trees. Hiking in the snow was easy as it doesn’t get too deep there and melts by late afternoon. The cool weather makes for the enjoyment of hot beverages in camp or car after the hike.

  8. Wilderness Dave says:

    All excellent choices! I think Summer in Redwood National Park would be awesome…not too hot and lots of shady trails and creeks. Zion in Spring is epic….loved it.

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