I’ve often said that visiting a U.S. National Park in the off-season is something that any park aficionado should consider. After all, there are few things better than natural splendor sans the crowds, right? Well, perhaps there’s one thing that’s better: visiting a U.S. National Park just as it opens. As spring slowly creeps up on us, the first shoulder season of park visitation is beginning, and it’s an excellent time to beat the masses to the parks you’ve had on your bucket list. Let’s take a look at a few that are opening their gates soon, or are transitioning from partly operational to fully functioning.
Yosemite National Park is home to the Half Dome, as well as near-endless acres of magnificent hiking and gorgeous waterfalls. In fact, many of those falls begin to shine just as the snowmelt peaks, making early spring an excellent time to visit this region of California. Tioga Road is the thoroughfare that takes you right through the heart of the park, with road clearing expected to begin on April 15. From there, it usually takes one or two months to fully clear. It’s been a pretty mild winter, and in 2012 the pass opened on May 7. With any luck, park goers can traverse it in its entirety by mid-May this year as well.
Yellowstone National Park isn’t just the world’s first national park, it’s also one of the most vast, breathtaking sections of the United States. In the summer, the masses that flock to gawk at Old Faithful can frankly take away from the aura, but visitors who make their way down in May/June will find a lot more peace. In mid-May, a handful of additional openings will allow motorists to explore around half of the park’s roadways, while a few campgrounds open up for those willing to brave the chilly nights. In early June, the park opens its doors for summer activities. Best of all, hotel rates surrounding the park can be up to 50 percent less in the shoulder season versus July or August.
Acadia National Park will always be known as the first National Park east of the Mississippi River, and it’s also one of the first northern parks to reopen after winter. The famed Park Loop Road, which allows motorists to see the pristine waters and forests that dot the Maine coastline, is scheduled to open on April 15. Maine’s assortment of locally owned B&Bs fill up quickly in the summer months, but it’s far easier to find excellent lodging deals in and around Bar Harbor during the shoulder season. For those in New England, now’s the time to start planning your trip to Vacationland.
What’s your favorite National Park?
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