Are you looking to explore some of the best national parks in the summer? Get ready to be amazed by the breathtaking landscapes, majestic mountains, and pristine lakes that the US National Parks have to offer!
From Glacier National Park in Montana to Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota, there’s a perfect destination for anyone searching for an unforgettable outdoor experience.
From more popular spots to those that are a little more off the beaten path, we have some great recommendations for parks you should visit this summer.
Perfect National Parks to Visit in the Summer
Summer is the perfect time to visit some of America’s most spectacular national parks. Whether you’re looking for an epic outdoor adventure or a peaceful retreat, there is a national park perfect for your summer vacation!
For example, Glacier National Park in Montana and Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota are both great choices for those who want to explore the stunning natural beauty, but for many different reasons. You can tailor your national park experience to fit your own interests.
Remember that while these parks are perfect destinations during summertime, they can also get crowded quickly due to their popularity. So if you want to avoid big crowds, plan your trip ahead of time and try visiting during weekdays instead.
Additionally, keep in mind that temperatures can reach high levels during the summer months so make sure to bring along sunscreen and have plenty of water with you at all times.
No matter where you choose to visit this summer, remember that America’s national parks are some of our country’s greatest treasures – so take some time to appreciate them!
1. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is a destination you definitely need to check out this summer! This awe-inspiring park is home to some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the country, featuring over 300 miles of hiking trails.
In the summer months, you’ll still be able to witness snow-capped mountain peaks, sparkling alpine lakes, and even some wildlife like elk, mule deer, and moose.
Plus, with its wide variety of trails accessible for all skill levels, Rocky Mountain National Park is perfect for everyone from first-time hikers to experienced outdoors enthusiasts.
If you want to get an amazing view of this stunning landscape, then be sure to drive along Trail Ridge Road, which is only open during the summer and fall due to snow. At such a high elevation, the drive offers stunning views of the mountains.
Another great activity while visiting Rocky Mountain National Park is a hike along one of its many trails – from a family-friendly walk along Sprague Lake to a more challenging trek up to Sky Pond. These are two of our favorite hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.
So if you’re looking for an unforgettable outdoor experience this summer, make sure you add Rocky Mountain National Park to your must-visit list!
2. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky is the perfect summer destination for those looking to experience a unique and historic adventure.
Located in the heart of Kentucky, Mammoth Cave has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve due to its rich biodiversity.
Once you’ve arrived, be sure to take part in one of the ranger-led tours that will lead you through some of the world’s largest cave systems! You can explore stunning formations and listen to stories about the park’s early cave explorers.
For outdoorsy types, Mammoth Cave offers a plethora of activities as well. Hikers will love exploring miles of trails around the park, while anglers can cast their lines into trout-filled streams for a chance at a big catch.
Afterward, relax with friends and family on one of Mammoth Cave’s scenic overlooks or picnic spots as you soak up all this natural beauty has to offer.
The best part about visiting Mammoth Cave is that the temperature inside is pretty consistent throughout the year, so the cave air will feel like air conditioning during the summer. Make sure you pack a sweatshirt for your adventure into Mammoth Cave.
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3. Glacier National Park, Montana
Glacier National Park in Montana is an absolutely stunning destination to visit this summer! This picturesque park is often referred to as the “Crown of the Continent” and it’s easy to see why.
With its breathtaking mountain peaks, cascading waterfalls, glittering glaciers, and turquoise lakes, Glacier National Park offers an unforgettable outdoor experience.
Plus, since it connects with Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada, the pair has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site – making this one of the most unique parks in North America.
There’s no better time to visit Glacier National Park than during the summer months when its main road, Going-to-the-Sun Road, opens up for visitors.
Whether you want to take a leisurely drive along this iconic road or hike up one of its many trails, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views in all of Montana.
4. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming is a must-visit destination for any outdoor enthusiast this summer.
Located just south of Yellowstone National Park, this park offers some of the most stunning mountain views found anywhere in the United States.
The Teton mountain range rises straight up out of the plain, making for picture postcard views. One of the most popular things to do here is to check out the well-known lookouts.
Visit Oxbow Bend, where a scenic bend of the Snake River makes for that perfect photo, or Signal Mountain, for a more aerial perspective.
The Teton Park Road is also a great way to take in all the beauty of this area – it’s a scenic drive through the park and you’ll get incredible views of both mountains and potential wildlife sightings along the way.
If you really want to maximize your time at Grand Teton National Park, stay overnight! There are several campgrounds located within the park where you can pitch your tent and spend an evening under the stars.
And while it may be hot during summer days, evenings tend to cool off so make sure to bring warm clothing if you plan on doing some stargazing.
Sometimes overshadowed by nearby Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton is a beautiful park you definitely should not skip.
As a bonus, you can also spend one day in Yellowstone if you have more time after Grand Teton, so you can visit two national parks in one go!
5. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
Isle Royale National Park in Michigan is the perfect summer destination for those seeking a true escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Located in Lake Superior, this remote park can only be reached by ferry, private boat, or float plane. Visitors are also only permitted to visit from April through October due to Lake Superior’s harsh winter conditions, making it one of America’s least-visited national parks.
The best way to experience Isle Royale is to spend a few days or even a week exploring its pristine wilderness with your backpack.
Hike over 40 miles along the Greenstone Ridge Trail and take in stunning panoramic views of the island terrain with Lake Superior in the distance.
You may even spot some wildlife while you’re out there – keep an eye out for the island’s resident moose population! We were able to watch a female moose enjoying an evening meal in one of the inland lakes for quite some time, from a distance.
If you decide to stay overnight, there are only primitive campgrounds available within the park and no cars on the island.
Otherwise, you’ll have to snag a room at the Rock Harbor Lodge. A day trip isn’t really enough time to get a sense of the beauty of the island, and we’d absolutely recommend camping.
And don’t forget: some nights tend to be cool here, even during the summer months, make sure to bring warm clothing with you if you plan on stargazing!
6. Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park in Maine is a must-visit for anyone looking for the perfect summer getaway on the east coast. With its stunning views of the Atlantic, this park is sure to take your breath away.
Take in the beauty of this national park on foot by exploring one of its many hiking trails. The Beehive Trail is one of the most popular trails, as it takes you up ladders to reach breathtaking views from atop granite cliffs. It can be difficult for those who have a fear of heights, like me!
If you’re looking for something a little more relaxed, hop on a bike and explore Cadillac Mountain Road – it’s the perfect way to enjoy the park at a more leisurely pace, during a 3-mile ride to the top of the tallest mountain in the park.
Of course, no summer visit to Acadia National Park is complete without spending some time at the beach! Sand Beach and Echo Lake are the two most popular spots. Make sure to bring plenty of sunscreen, though, as temperatures can get very hot during peak season, even though the water is often still chilly!
7. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee is an absolute must-visit for anyone looking for a national park to visit this summer.
Located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, straddling the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, this park is home to some of the most stunning mountain landscapes on the East side of the United States!
The Great Smoky Mountains are packed with picturesque highlights, such as Cade’s Cove, Clingman’s Dome, and Newfound Gap Road.
Take a hike through lush forests filled with wildflowers and wildlife, or spend some time fishing in one of its trout-filled streams. If you’re feeling adventurous, rent a canoe or kayak and paddle down Little River.
For those who want to really relax on their vacation, there are plenty of camping sites available for reservation. Pack your camping gear and set up camp for a night or two.
No matter how long your visit is, Great Smoky Mountains National Park will provide you with an unforgettable national park experience.
8. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Mount Rainier National Park in Washington is the perfect destination for those looking to experience some of the most breathtaking views in the Pacific Northwest.
Located just outside of Seattle, this national park is home to a towering volcanic peak that stands at 14,410 feet above sea level.
In the summertime, when the snow melts and sunny skies are in abundance, Mount Rainier showcases flower-carpeted meadows and amazing vistas.
Sunrise and Paradise are two of the main areas to visit within the park, where visitors can enjoy grassy meadows filled with wildflowers and often wildlife.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed experience, camping sites abound at Mount Rainier. Set up camp for a night or two – it’s the perfect way to experience Mount Rainier in the summertime.
9. Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota is the perfect summer destination for those looking to get away and enjoy some time on the water.
Located near the Canadian border, Voyageurs boasts a vast network of lakes that make up one of America’s most breathtaking landscapes.
You can explore the park by boat or kayak, as you take in its rich wildlife and scenic views. The park is home to lots of bald eagles and other wildlife. Fishing is one of the top reasons people visit this park.
When night falls, be sure to head out underneath the park’s dark skies on a clear night for some of the best stargazing opportunities.
While summer may not be the best time to see the Northern Lights, there is a chance you can see them in Voyageurs National Park if conditions are right.
While camping on the shoreline of one of the many lakes and waterways is a beautiful way to spend the night in the park, you can also rent a houseboat and there are campsites specifically arranged to dock them, so you can enjoy a little luxury while in a remote location. It’s quite the contrast!
But don’t let the tranquil lake atmosphere fool you – there are plenty of activities to keep you busy during your visit to Voyageurs National Park.
From guided tours to interpretive programs, there’s always something going on during the summer. Plus, with so much room to roam around, crowds are rarely an issue!
10. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota is one of the best national parks to visit in summer because the weather is at its best. This national park serves up stunning views with its rolling hills and sprawling prairies.
Plus, it’s the only national park in North Dakota and requires a little more driving effort to reach, so you can expect fewer crowds than many other parks!
Whether you’re looking for an adventure or just some peace and quiet, Theodore Roosevelt has great outdoor activities.
From hiking trails to a scenic drive on the park road, you won’t run out of things to do here. Keep your eyes peeled for bison, wild horses, and prairie dogs as you explore the area.
No matter what brings you to Theodore Roosevelt National Park this summer, one visit won’t be enough – once you experience this unique spot first-hand, we know you’ll want to be back again soon!
More National Park Sites to Visit in Summer
Summer is the perfect time to explore many of the national parks in the United States! From soaring mountains and thunderous waterfalls, and wide open grassy meadows to crystal clear lakes, there are so many incredible sites to see.
These are some of our favorite sites that are not national parks, but they’re still managed by the NPS. You shouldn’t skip them, just because of their “lesser” designations.
You just might be surprised by the natural beauty!
11. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin
Located in Wisconsin’s beautiful Bayfield County, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is an outdoor lover’s dream come true! With 21 islands and 12 miles of mainland shoreline, it’s the perfect place to escape and enjoy the water.
Whether you’re looking for a peaceful day on the beach or an adventurous kayak trip around the islands, you’ll find it here. The area is also known for its stunning views of Lake Superior – don’t forget your camera!
In addition to all its natural beauty, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore offers plenty of activities to enjoy. Camping is allowed on some islands (permit required), as well as fishing and boating in designated areas. There are several lighthouses scattered throughout the park that make great photo ops, too!
The Apostle Islands are lesser-known but are one of the best national park sites to visit during the summer in Wisconsin.
12. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a stunning stretch of coastline along Lake Superior. With over 40 miles of shoreline, it’s the perfect spot for exploring and experiencing northern Michigan.
The park is known for its colorful sandstone cliffs, which have been naturally sculpted into unique shapes by time and the elements. With countless lakeside coves and beaches to explore, you’ll never run out of things to do!
For those looking for an outdoor adventure this summer, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is the perfect place to go. Kayak on Lake Superior to explore the cliffs up close, or take a fishing trip in Lake Superior’s crystal clear waters.
Hiking is also popular in Pictured Rocks, and the lakeshore is home to one of the best hikes in Michigan, the Chapel Loop. And if that wasn’t enough to convince you, don’t forget about the breathtaking views from the top of the cliffs!
Enjoying a spectacular sunset over Lake Superior is the best way to end your day in Pictured Rocks.
13. Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Idaho
Located in Idaho’s Snake River Plain, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is a unique national park that many people don’t know about. It’s made up of over 700,000 acres of stark lava flows, cinder cones, and ancient volcanoes that look like something out of a science fiction movie.
The park offers opportunities for hikers and campers alike to explore its craggy landscape. You can wander through the caves and fissures formed by lava tubes or climb up one of the cinder cones to get a bird’s eye view of the terrain.
There are also plenty of trails that take you past areas with colorful volcanic deposits and interesting geological features.
But what really makes this national park stand out is its remote location in southern Idaho. So if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure this summer, then Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve should be at the top of your list.
Final Thoughts: Best National Parks to Visit in the Summer
The United States is home to some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring National Parks, and summertime is the best time to visit many of them.
From the rugged mountains of Montana to the lakes of the Midwest, there is a wide variety of landscapes to enjoy. Pack up your car, grab your hiking boots, and hit the road this summer to explore the natural wonders that these parks have to offer. Who knows, you might just find your new favorite spot in one of the best National Parks to visit in summer!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Samantha is the owner and creator behind PAonPause, exploring travel around the US’s Great Lakes and National Parks. She believes that any occasion can be a great excuse to travel and does so as much as possible while working in the medical field. She loves to share her time exploring the outdoors with her 2 rescue dogs.