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The Best National Parks for Hiking This Spring

BY: SARAH GORR | 4.27.2017 |

America's National Park System encompasses nearly 60 protected areas—that's millions of acres where you could discover amazing views and unparalleled beauty. The sooner you go, the better, too, because no one wants to face the crush of the summer crowds. If you're wondering where to find the best national parks for hiking this spring, let us turn your attention to the waterfalls of Half Dome, the wildflowers of Cuyahoga Valley, and the vast plains of the Badlands. In fact, we've hand-selected six trails to take you far away from everything and help you revel in the blooming wilderness of spring.

Castle Trail | Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Length: 10 miles round trip
Difficulty: Moderate
What It's Like: Though this is a longer hike, the trail passes over mostly level ground with sweeping views of the prairie along the way. Keep an eye out for bison and prairie dogs.
Why It's Best in Spring: The park's beautiful mariposa lilies start to bloom in early June.
What to Bring: An umbrella and poncho. It's a good idea to dress in layers, as the Badlands are known for sudden, drastic changes in weather.
Where to Stay: Rapid City, SD

Mist Trail | Yosemite National Park, California

Length: 2.4 miles round trip to the top of Vernal Falls; 5.4 miles round trip to the top of Nevada Falls
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
What It's Like: Connected to the infamous Half Dome Trail, the Mist Trail is one of the most popular day hikes in the park. It brings visitors up close to the impressive Vernal and Nevada Falls—so close, in fact, that the trail's name comes from the fine spray of mist that coats passersby.
Why It's Best in Spring: It's the best time of year to catch the park's stunning waterfalls in full flow, making for amazing photo ops.
What to Bring: The spray from the mist is unavoidable, so bring a poncho and some zip-top bags to protect any electronics.
Where to Stay: Merced, CA

Cohab Canyon Trail | Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Length: 3.12 miles round trip
Difficulty: Moderate
What It's Like: Wind your way up the initial steep incline to be rewarded with views of the stunning red rocks. The varying terrain keeps things interesting without being too tough for younger kids.
Why It's Best in Spring: Cooler temperatures make a long hike more enjoyable, and there's a chance of catching some rare desert wildflowers in bloom.
What to Bring: Plenty of sunscreen to combat the desert sun. And don't forget to pack enough water for the day, as stops along the trail are infrequent.
Where to Stay: Fruita Campground in the park.

Ledges Trail | Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Length: 2.2 miles
Difficulty: Easy
What It's Like: This simple 2.2-mile loop takes you through the forests on a family-friendly trail that winds past Ice Box Cave, a 50-foot cavern that's home to icy temperatures and a thriving bat population.
Why It's Best in Spring: The salamanders and songbirds are finally waking up after a long winter, and the wildflowers are in full bloom.
What to Bring: A pair of binoculars to take in the breathtaking view from the Ledges Overlook, and a headlamp if you want to peer inside Ice Box Cave.
Where to Stay: Cuyahoga Falls, OH

The Soda Lake Trail | Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Length: 0.9 miles round trip
Difficulty: Easy
What It's Like: Wander down a boardwalk trail made from recycled milk cartons for great views of wildflowers and aquatic birds.
Why It's Best in Spring: Wildflowers are the stars of the show, but in 2017 the monument was in the midst of the infamous super bloom, making it all the more stunning. But don't worry—the area's blooms are still worth checking out every spring.
What to Bring: A camera with a good macro setting to take closeups of the blooms.
Where to Stay: San Luis Obispo, CA

Turtle Mound Trail | Canaveral National Seashore, Florida

Length: 0.5 miles round trip
Difficulty: Easy
What It's Like: This quick jaunt leads you up the boardwalk to the top of Turtle Mound, providing you with a view of Mosquito Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean. Before and after your hike, take advantage of the undeveloped beach by strolling through the surf.
Why It's Best in Spring: Plan it correctly, and you'll miss both the spring breakers and the summer crowds. You might also spot migrating birds on the Atlantic Flyway.
What to Bring: A bird-watching guide to help you recognize the many species flying overhead.
Where to Stay: Edgewater, FL

Gif: Brandon Shade, Groupon.


Guide Staff Writer
BY: Sarah Gorr Guide Staff Writer