Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park photo by skeeze, Pixabay License

If you’re like me and you dislike cold weather, the best part about winter is that spring is just around the corner!

Although there are opportunities for landscape photography in all seasons, spring is particularly special due to the vibrant greens of new growth, flowing water after the snow melts, and the emergence of beautiful flowers and plant life.

While autumn foliage is stunning, spring has become my preferred season for photography. There’s something exhilarating about capturing the sights of the spring months after a long winter.

If you’re planning a spring photo outing, why not visit a national park? You may be wondering which national parks offer the best photo opportunities in the spring. So, let’s explore ten national parks that are excellent choices for your upcoming spring photography trip. These parks are scattered across the country, so chances are, one of them is within reach.

Before you embark on your trip, here are a few helpful articles:

  • 10 Tips for Stunning Spring Photos
  • 8 Tips for Photographing Plants and Wildflowers
  • How to Protect Your Photography Gear While Traveling

1. Joshua Tree National Park

Location: Southern California

Why You Should Visit: This desert park is a favorite among photographers all year round. The desert landscape, unique Joshua trees, and breathtaking night sky make it a worthy destination. It’s easily accessible from cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas, with relatively short drives.

Why Spring is a Great Time to Visit: As a desert location, summer temperatures can be scorching. Surprisingly, spring is the park’s busiest season, but for good reason. In spring (typically April and May), the cacti bloom with flowers, creating perfect photo opportunities. Additionally, lizards are more active during this time.

2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Location: Tennessee and North Carolina

Why You Should Visit: Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited national park in the United States. It is beautiful year-round, attracting visitors from all corners. While popular spots like Cades Cove draw crowds, the park offers plenty of secluded areas for those seeking solitude. To truly experience the park’s best features, some hiking is required, and there are numerous trails to choose from.

Why Spring is a Great Time to Visit: Spring brings colorful flowers and vibrant greens, adding a stunning touch to photos. The park also boasts a number of waterfalls that are at their most magnificent during the spring months.

3. Shenandoah National Park

Location: Virginia

Why You Should Visit: Shenandoah National Park is just a two-hour drive from Washington, DC, yet it feels like a secluded oasis. The park is highlighted by Skyline Drive, a scenic road that spans around 100 miles along the mountaintops. With 75 scenic overlooks along the drive, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views.

While most visitors stick to Skyline Drive, the park offers excellent hiking opportunities to escape the crowds. Be prepared for changing elevations as most hikes involve uphill or downhill sections.

Why Spring is a Great Time to Visit: Spring in Shenandoah is similar to the Smoky Mountains. The season brings blooming flowers, vibrant colors, and several waterfalls with a strong flow. Don’t miss the Dark Hollow Falls and White Oak Canyon trails if you want to witness beautiful waterfalls.

4. Saguaro National Park

Location: Arizona

Why You Should Visit: Saguaro National Park is divided into two sections, one east and one west of Tucson. The park’s proximity to Tucson makes it easily accessible. Named after the majestic Saguaro cactus, the park offers great photo opportunities year-round, regardless of the time of day or night.

Why Spring is a Great Time to Visit: Spring is ideal for visiting Saguaro National Park because the cacti are in bloom. The desert landscape also comes alive with stunning wildflowers, adding vibrant colors to the scenery.

5. Kenai Fjords National Park

Location: Southern Alaska

Why You Should Visit: Kenai Fjords is a beloved destination, known for the magnificent Exit Glacier and Harding Icefield.

Why Spring is a Great Time to Visit: This park is popular among cruise visitors, who mostly arrive during the summer months. By visiting in mid-to-late spring, you can avoid some of the crowds. Spring is also an ideal time to observe the gray whales that make this park special.

6. Glacier Bay National Park

Location: Southern Alaska

Why You Should Visit: Glacier Bay, located northwest of Juneau, can be reached via a cruise. The park is renowned for its humpback and orca whales, as well as its awe-inspiring glaciers.

Why Spring is a Great Time to Visit: As temperatures rise in spring, the glaciers begin to melt and crack. Witnessing the spectacle of ice cracking and falling into the water is a highlight of a spring visit to Glacier Bay National Park.

7. Capitol Reef National Park

Location: Utah

Why You Should Visit: Capitol Reef may not receive as much attention as other national parks in Utah, such as Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Arches, but it should not be overlooked. Many visitors access the park via Scenic Byway 12.

Why Spring is a Great Time to Visit: Summers can be scorching in Capitol Reef, so visiting in spring allows you to enjoy the park without extreme heat. Despite warmer temperatures, some distant peaks may still be snow-covered, creating stunning photo opportunities. The park is also home to blossoming orchards during the spring.

8. Everglades National Park

Location: South Florida

Why You Should Visit: Everglades National Park is a unique destination, known for its diverse wildlife, including alligators and crocodiles.

Why Spring is a Great Time to Visit: Summer temperatures can be scorching, and even spring can be hot. However, an early spring visit helps you avoid the hottest period of the year. Another advantage of visiting in early spring is encountering fewer mosquitoes compared to the summer months.

9. Great Sand Dunes National Park

Location: Colorado

Why You Should Visit: As the name suggests, the main attraction of Great Sand Dunes National Park is its vast sand dunes, the largest in North America, reaching heights of up to 750 feet. Visitors can hike, sled, or sandboard on the dunes.

Why Spring is a Great Time to Visit: While the summer air temperatures are bearable, the sand surface can become scorching hot. Therefore, spring is a better time to visit. Although snow is common during spring, the cold temperatures typically don’t last long, and most days are comfortable.

10. Redwood National Park

Location: Northern California

Why You Should Visit: Giant trees, enchanting forests, and stunning coastline make Redwood National Park a must-visit and photograph.

Why Spring is a Great Time to Visit: In spring, the forest floor is adorned with a variety of wildflowers. Another advantage of a spring visit is the possibility of spotting migrating whales along the coast.

If you’re searching for a destination for a spring photography trip, any of these national parks would be a fantastic choice. Select the one that appeals to you the most or one that is conveniently located near you.