The national parks are a treasure—beautiful, wild, and full of wonders to see. But there’s more to experience than taking in gorgeous scenery from your vehicle or lookout points. National parks are natural playgrounds, full of possible adventures.
The most famous National Park Service (NPS) offerings are the 63 national parks including Arches, Great Smoky Mountains, and Grand Canyon. But 424 NPS units across the country also include national monuments, seashores, recreation areas, battlefields, and memorials. These sites are outside the main focus of this guide.
Planning a trip to America’s national parks in April but don’t know which ones to visit? April brings warmer temperatures to most of the US. Travel begins to pick up during this month both because of the warmer weather and because families are hitting the road for spring break. There are many great national parks to visit in April that I cover in this guide plus six bonus parks and a road trip that links several of these parks together.
About this National Park series
This guide is part of a series about the best national parks to visit each month. In this series, every national park is listed at least once and many are listed multiple times. It is a series of 12 articles, one for each month of the year.
These articles take into account weather, crowd levels, the best time to go hiking, special events, road closures, and my personal experiences in the parks. Based on these factors, I picked out what I think are the optimal times to visit each park. Since I haven’t been to all of the national parks I include only the parks we have visited on at lease one occasion.
For an overview of the best time to visit each national park, check out my Best National Parks by Season guide. This guide will cover the best time to visit each national park based on these factors. First are the links to my posts about the best parks to visit, month-by-month. This is followed by a list that illustrates the best time to visit each national park based on weather and crowd levels. Please note this overview will be posted following the completion of this 12 month guide in February 2024.
And at the end of this article, I have links to the other guides in my Best National Parks by Month series.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The information I provide for each national park does not include temporary road closures since these dates are constantly changing. Roads can close in the national parks at any time so I recommend getting updates on the National Park Service website while planning your trip.
Visiting the National Parks in April
If you are seeking the best national parks to visit in April, this guide’s for you! It will detail eight beautiful National Parks to visit in April, why you should go to them, and what to expect during this month.
April is a big month for spring break travel. The warmer weather also draws more crowds now that much of the country is warming up.
That warmer weather means that a bunch of parks are now warm enough to visit without facing freezing temperatures and the chance of snow. For the most part, you won’t need a warm coat and gloves to visit the majority of the national parks on this list and in some places, shorts and a t-shirt is what you’ll be packing in your RV.
If you want to visit the national parks with great weather and lower crowds that flood the parks in the summer months, April is a great time to plan your trip.
1. Grand Canyon National Park
People from around the world travel to the Grand Canyon, making it one of the most visited national parks in the U.S. It also makes the list of Seven Natural Wonders of the World and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
For millions of years, the Colorado River has been carving out this massive canyon. Grand Canyon National Park is enormous and with four rims to visit, there are many different ways to visit this park.
In April, the North Rim is not yet open (it typically opens in mid-May). The South Rim is the most spectacular area of the park to visit in April with sweeping, iconic views of the Grand Canyon and several epic hiking trails to choose from.
Why visit the Grand Canyon in April: In April, daytime highs finally climb up into the 60s and with a low chance of rain the weather is very pleasant this time of year. Crowds are large in April but not as big as they are in the summer months so if you want good weather and lower crowds, April is a good time to visit the Grand Canyon. This is also one of the best times to go hiking in the Grand Canyon since the days are cool, rainfall is low, and you have over 12 hours of daylight.
Weather: The average high is 61°F and the average low is 29°F. April is one of the driest months of the year to visit the Grand Canyon.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 5:50 am and sunset is at 7 pm.
Top experiences: Visit the South Rim viewpoints, watch the sunset, hike below the rim on the Bright Angel or South Kaibab Trail, raft the Colorado River, and take a flightseeing tour or a ranger-guided tour.
Ultimate adventure: Hike below the rim of the Grand Canyon. You can either hike a portion of the South Kaibab or Bright Angel trails out-and-back or combine them into one big loop. Called the rim to river to rim hike, only those who are very fit with lots of hiking experience should attempt it.
How many days do you need? I recommend spending three to four days on the South Rim to visit the highlights. Four days gives you enough time to visit the best overlooks on the South Rim, go on a helicopter ride, and spend some time hiking below the rim.
Plan your visit
- The Ultimate Guide to Grand Canyon National Park
- Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon
- Grand Canyon National Park Celebrates Its 100th Anniversary Today
- Making a Grand Trip Grander
- The Grand Canyon Is Hosting a Star Party This Week—and It’s Totally Free
2. Badlands National Park
Location: South Dakota
Badlands National Park is a highly underrated park in the United States.
The colorful buttes, spires, and pinnacles create one of the most photogenic landscapes in the country (it’s the feature photo for this article). Bison and bighorn sheep roam the largest mixed-grass prairie in the United States. The sunrises and sunsets are magical, the hiking trails are short and sweet, and for those looking for more solitude, you can take your pick from a handful of backcountry experiences.
Why visit Badlands in April: In April, the weather is getting warmer and this is the last quiet month in the park before visitation really picks up. In 2022, 35,000 people visited Badlands in April and this number jumped to 100,000 in May and increased throughout the summer months. So, in April, you can take advantage of good weather and low crowds.
Weather: The average high is 62°F and the average low is 35°F. April is the start of the rainy season. March is drier but with low temperatures and the chance of snow, I think April is a better time to visit.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 6 am and sunset is at 7:30 pm.
Top experiences: Drive Badlands Loop Road and visit the overlooks, watch the sunrise and/or the sunset, hike the Notch Trail, hike the Door and Fossil Exhibit Trails, drive Sage Creek Rim Road, visit Roberts Prairie Dog Town, hike the Castle Trail, and count how many bison you can find.
Ultimate adventure: For the ultimate experience, venture into the backcountry. In Badlands National Park, you are permitted to hike off-trail and the Sage Creek Wilderness and Deer Haven Wilderness are great places to go hiking and spot wildlife.
How many days do you need? One day in Badlands National Park gives you just enough time to visit the highlights and hike a few short trails. Make sure you catch either sunrise or sunset in the park because these are one of the best times of day to look out across the landscape. To explore beyond the basics plan a second day.
Plan your visit
- The Ultimate Guide to Badlands National Park
- Doorway to Forever: Badlands National Park
- Badlands National Park: Place of Otherworldly Beauty
3. Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park is located in southwestern Texas. It bumps up against Mexico and the Rio Grande forms the border between Mexico and Big Bend National Park. Big Bend gets its name from the prominent bend in the Rio Grande on this border.
This national park protects the largest area of the Chihuahuan Desert in the US as well as the Chisos Mountains. Big Bend is a top hiking destination in with trails leading high into these mountains and into canyons along the Rio Grande.
Why visit Big Bend in April: In April, crowds are diminishing (March tends to be the busiest month of the year to visit Big Bend) and the weather is warm and sunny. However, if you are here during a heat wave temperatures can get up into the 90s, even reaching 100 degrees, so early April is the better time of the month to visit in order to avoid these hotter temperatures. By May, this park really begins to heat up.
Weather: The average high is 82°F and the average low is 54°F. Rainfall is very low.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 7:30 am and sunset is at 8:20 pm.
Top experiences: Hike the Lost Mine Trail, go star gazing, hike Santa Elena Canyon, go for a drive on Maxwell Scenic Drive, visit Boquillas del Carmen, hike to Balanced Rock, and hike to Emory Peak, the highest peak in the Chisos Mountains.
Ultimate adventure: For the ultimate adventure in Big Bend, go on a half-day to multi-day canoeing trip on the Rio Grande.
How much time do you need? Spend at least three to four days in the park. Because of its large size and remote location, it takes a while to get here and you need a few days to explore it, so four days should work for most people.
Plan your visit
- The Ultimate Big Bend National Park Road Trip
- The Complete Guide to the Gorgeous Deserts and Canyons of Big Bend National Park
- Road Trip from Austin to El Paso: 9 Stops along the Way
4. Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park is both the largest and the least visited national park in Utah. I also think that it is one of the most underrated national parks.
This enormous national park preserves the canyons, buttes, and mesas that have been carved out by the Colorado and Green Rivers.
Enjoy the overlooks at Island in the Sky, go hiking in The Needles, drive the White Rim Road, and photograph Mesa Arch at sunrise. The list of things to do here is long and wonderful whether you prefer to visit the overlooks, hike a trail or two, or venture into the backcountry.
Why visit Canyonlands in April: The weather is great for hiking and exploring and the crowd levels are increasing but not yet near their peak for the year.
Weather: The average high is 62°F and the average low is 40°F. Rainfall is very low.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 6:40 am and sunset is at 8 pm.
Top experiences: Visit the overlooks on Island in the Sky, watch the sunrise at Mesa Arch, go hiking in The Needle, drive Shafer Canyon Road, hike below the rim of the Island in the Sky mesa, and explore The Maze.
Ultimate adventure: Drive or mountain bike the White Rim Road. This is a 100-mile unpaved road that makes a loop around the Island in the Sky mesa. It takes 2 to 3 days to do this drive.
How much time do you need? You need at least two full days in Canyonlands National Park. Spend one day in Island in the Sky and one day in the Needles. But more time is better if you want to venture deeper into the park.
Plan your visit
- The Ultimate Guide to Canyonlands National Park
- Ultimate Guide to National Park Tripping in Utah: Arches and Canyonlands
- A Lifetime of Exploration Awaits at Canyonlands (National Park)
- Canyonlands: Colorado River and Canyon Vistas
- Arches and Canyonlands: Two Parks Contrasted
5. Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest National Park is small and easy to visit. This park is named for the petrified wood that dates back millions of years to a time when this land was lush and fertile.
But there is more to this park than looking at chunks of crystallized wood. The Painted Desert and the Blue Forest with their colorful, zebra-striped hills are a beautiful sight to see and they are very similar to Badlands National Park, mentioned earlier. There are also a few great trails to hike which are perfect for all ages and ability levels.
Petrified Forest is another park that can go on the underrated national parks list.
Why visit Petrified Forest in April: With highs near 70°F, this is one of the best months to visit Petrified Forest with regards to weather. It also makes a great addition to an Arizona or American Southwest road trip if you also plan to visit places like Monument Valley, Sedona, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Weather: The average high is 68°F and the average low is 35°F. Rainfall is very low.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 5:45 am and sunset is at 6:50 pm.
Top experiences: View the Painted Desert from the overlooks, see the petroglyphs at Newspaper Rock, see the Teepees on Petrified Forest Road, hike the Blue Mesa Trail, and see the petrified wood at Crystal Forest and along the Giant Logs Trail.
Ultimate adventure: The Blue Forest hike is a favorite experience in Petrified Forest National Park. This 3-mile trail takes you through the badlands, one of the most beautiful parts of the park.
How much time do you need? One day is plenty of time to drive through the park, visit the overlooks, and hike a few short trails but I recommend a second day to explore hikes you missed on the first day.
Plan your visit
- The Ultimate Guide to Petrified Forest National Park
- Kaleidoscope Colors and Serene Landscape Shine in Petrified Forest
- Triassic World: Petrified Forest National Park
6. Capitol Reef National Park
With beautiful scenic drives, thrilling hikes, historical sites, backcountry roads, slot canyons, and unique desert landscapes, Capitol Reef National Park is an unexpectedly amazing national park to visit.
If you love the idea of leaving the crowds behind and exploring a vast, remote area, you have several options. Cathedral Valley with its sandstone monoliths and sweeping desert vistas is a beautiful, unique way to spend one day in Capitol Reef. Or you can Loop the Fold, another remote driving day along the waterpocket fold.
There are also slot canyons to explore, low-traffic hiking trails in remote areas of the park, and some of the most dramatic landscapes in Utah which you can see right from your car.
Why visit Capitol Reef in April: Because the weather is pretty close to perfect. In April, Capitol Reef gets an uptick in visitation but it’s not as busy as it will be in May and June.
Weather: The average high is 65°F and the average low is 39°F. Rainfall is very low.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 6:50 am and sunset is at 8 pm.
Top experiences: Drive the 16-mile round-trip drive along Scenic Drive, drive Capitol Gorge Road, hike to Hickman Bridge, and watch the sunset from Sunset Point, hike to Cassidy Arch, and Loop the Fold.
Ultimate adventure: For the ultimate adventure, drive the Cathedral Valley Loop. This rugged, remote district of Capitol Reef National Park is one of the best backcountry experiences in the national parks if you like exploring by 4WD.
How much time do you need? Plan to spend three to four days in Capitol Reef. This gives you enough time to explore and hike the trails in the core of the park (along Scenic Drive and Highway 24) and venture into the backcountry either in Cathedral Valley or by looping the fold.
Plan your visit
- The Ultimate Guide to Capitol Reef National Park
- Getting Closer to Nature at Capitol Reef
- Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef: A Great American Road Trip
7. Pinnacles National Park
Pinnacles National Park protects the mountains on the eastern end of Salinas Valley. These mountains are the remnants of an extinct volcano. The rocky pinnacles are a popular rock climbing destination and wildflowers in the spring draw the biggest crowds of the year. This park is also one of the few locations where you can spot the California condor in the wild.
Why visit Pinnacles in April: April is the best month to visit Pinnacles to see the wildflowers in bloom. Plus, the weather is fabulous.
Weather: In April, the average high is 72°F and the average low is 39°F. Rainfall is low.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 6:30 am and sunset is at 7:40 pm.
Top experiences: See the wildflowers in the spring, hike the High Peaks Loop, hike the Bear Gulch Cave Trail, explore the Balconies cave, spot California condors, enjoy the view from Condor Gulch Overlook, and go rock climbing.
How much time do you need? Pinnacles National Park can be visited in one busy day but for the best experience spend two days here which gives you enough time to visit both sections of the park.
Plan your visit
8. Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is small and easy to visit. With several days, you can hike through a garden of hoodoos, take in the view from multiple viewpoints, and thoroughly explore the park.
What’s a hoodoo? Hoodoo can also be defined as a tall, thin spire of rock that protrudes from the bottom of an arid drainage basin. Geologically, hoodoos are found all around the world but they occur in the most abundance in Bryce Canyon. Here, hoodoos are the main ingredient of this unique landscape. The thousands of hoodoos in Bryce are what attract so many visitors every year.
Why visit Bryce Canyon in April: April is the end of the shoulder season in Bryce Canyon when the weather is cool and park visitation is still relatively low for the year. Go now, because in May, this park really begins to get busy.
Weather: In April, the average temperature is 54°F and the average low is 29°F. There is a small chance of snow in April.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 6:50 am and sunset is at 8 pm.
Top experiences: Some of the best viewpoints are right along the rim and easily accessible by car or the seasonal shuttle (mid-April to mid-September): Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, and Bryce Point. Hike the Queens Garden and Navajo Loop, a 3-mile hike past some of the best scenery in the park. Rainbow Point and Yovimpa Point are also nice viewpoints.
Ultimate adventure: Hike the Fairyland Loop Trail, an 8-mile strenuous hike.
How much time do you need? One day is all you need to see the views from the rim and hike one to two short trails in the park. I recommend another day or two for additional time to hike into the canyon. You won’t regret it
Plan your visit
- The Ultimate Guide to Bryce Canyon National Park
- Bryce Canyon National Park: “A Hell of a Place to Lose a Cow”
- Bryce Canyon National Park: 5 Things to Know Before Visiting
- Make Bryce Canyon National Park Your Next RV Trip
- Do You Hoodoo?
2 more National Parks to visit in April
Arches National Park is a great place to visit in April. The weather is perfect but higher crowd levels kept if off of the list above. However, if you are planning a visit to Canyonlands or the other national parks in Utah, its worth including Arches on your list just get an early start and expect busy parking lots and hiking trails.
In April, the weather is just about perfect…daily highs of 75°F and one of the driest months of the year. However, those mosquitoes are starting to arrive and by the end of the month, the mosquito meter at Congaree with be ticking up to the mild to moderate levels.
Bonus! 4 NPS sites to visit in April
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
You can see many of Canyon de Chelly’s top sights from the rim roads, but you’ll get a deeper understanding of its significance on a jeep tour with a Navajo guide. The only self-guided hike, the White House Trail, zigzags 600 feet down (and back up) to the spectacular White House ruins. Don’t miss the staggeringly tall spire known as Spider Rock; it rises 830 feet from the canyon floor.
Natural Bridges National Monument
The amazing force of water has cut three spectacular natural bridges in White Canyon at Natural Bridges National Monument. These stunning rock bridges have Hopi Indian names: delicate Owachomo means rock mounds, massive Kachina means dancer while Sipapu, the second largest natural bridge in the state, means place of emergence. A nine-mile scenic drive overlooks the bridges, canyons, and a touch of history with ancient Puebloan ruins.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Encompassing over 1.25 million acres, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area stretches for hundreds of miles from Lees Ferry in Arizona to the Orange Cliffs of southern Utah. Outdoor activities are what Glen Canyon is all about. There is something for everyone’s taste.
Cumberland Island National Seashore
Cumberland Island National Seashore includes one of the largest undeveloped barrier islands in the world. The park is home to a herd of feral, free-ranging horses. Most visitors come to Cumberland for the natural glories, serenity, and fascinating history. Built by the Carnegies, the ruins of the opulent 59-room, Queen Anne-style Dungeness are a must-see for visitors.
April road trip idea
With 10 days, go on a road trip through four of the national parks in Utah—Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Arches National Park. This itinerary is perfect if you are looking for adventure, solitude, and unforgettable experiences. You also have enough time to journey into the backcountry where the real adventures await.
On this itinerary, you can also visit several state parks and national monuments in Utah which are just as great as the national parks. On this list are Natural Bridges National Monument and Dead Horse Point State Park.
More Information about the National Parks
- From Arches to Zion: The Essential Guide to America’s National Parks
- America the Beautiful: The National Parks
- Learn How America’s National Parks Got Their Names
- 10 of the Best Scenic Drives in National Parks
- 9 of the Best National Parks for RV Campers
- Guide to Adventure Activities in National Parks
- National Parks Inspire Love of Nature
- 12 Dog Friendly National Parks
- Plan Your Visit: Free Entrance Days in the National Parks for 2023
Best National Parks to visit by month
- January: Best National Parks to Visit in January (to be posted mid-December)
- February: Best National Parks to Visit in February (to be posted mid-January)
- March: Best National Parks to Visit in March (to be posted mid-February)
- April: Best National Parks to Visit in April
- May: Best National Parks to Visit in May (to be posted mid-April)
- June: Best National Parks to Visit in June (to be posted mid-May)
- July: Best National Parks to Visit in July (to be posted mid-June)
- August: Best National Parks to Visit in August (to be posted mid-July)
- September: Best National Parks to Visit in September (to be posted mid-August)
- October: Best National Parks to Visit in October (to be posted mid-September)
- November: Best National Parks to Visit in November (to be posted mid-October)
- December: Best National Parks to Visit in December (to be posted mid-November)
However one reaches the parks, the main thing is to slow down and absorb the natural wonders at leisure.