If you’re like me and you’re not a big fan of cold weather, the best thing about winter is that spring is right around the corner!
While there are some great opportunities for landscape photography in any season, spring is especially awesome because of the vibrant greens of new growth, water that is flowing aggressively after the snow melts, and beautiful flowers and plant life that pops up.
While I love the beautiful colors that come with peak fall foliage, spring has become my favorite season for photography. There is something exciting about getting out after a long winter and being able to capture the scenes of the spring months.
If you’re planning a photo outing for the spring, what better destination than a national park? And if you’d like to visit a national park, you may be wondering which ones will provide the best photo opportunities in the spring. With that in mind, let’s take a look at ten different national parks that would be an excellent choice for your upcoming spring photography trip. The parks covered in this article are spread out throughout the country, so chances are, one of them is not too far away from you.
And before you head off on your trip, here are a few other articles that may be helpful:
- 10 Tips for Beautiful Spring Photos
- 8 Tips for Photographing Plants and Wildflowers
- How to Keep Your Photography Gear Safe While Traveling
1. Joshua Tree National Park
Location: Southern California
Why You Should Visit: This desert park is a favorite of photographers just about all year round. The desert, namesake Joshua trees, and amazing night sky are all attractions that make this park worthy of a trip. The park is also easy to access with relatively short drives from cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas.
Why Spring is a Great Time to Visit: With its desert location, temperatures in the summer can be extremely hot. While avoiding the largest crowds is typically a priority for landscape photographers, spring is actually the busiest time of the year at Joshua Tree National Park, but there is a good reason for it. In spring (typically April and May), the cacti are blooming with flowers that are perfect for your photos. Lizards are also more active in the spring.
2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Location: Tennessee and North Carolina
Why You Should Visit: Great Smoky Mountains is the #1 most-visited national park in the United States. It is beautiful in any season, which is part of the reason why it attracts visitors all year round. Although it’s a very popular destination, there are plenty of places where you can get away from the crowds. Most of the visitors stick to the main roads in the park, or a few popular spots like Cades Cove. While you can see and photograph a lot from the roads, this is a park that requires some hiking if you truly want to see and photograph the best parts, and there are plenty of trails to choose from.
Why Spring is a Great Time to Visit: Spring flowers and vibrant greens make for very colorful photos. Additionally, the park features a number of waterfalls that are at their best during spring months.
→ Related reading: Photography Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park
3. Shenandoah National Park
Why You Should Visit: Only about a two-hour drive from Washington, DC, Shenandoah National Park feels much more secluded than it really is. Skyline Drive is the main feature of the park, running about 100 miles near the tops of the mountains. There are 75 scenic overlooks along Skyline Drive that provide plenty of amazing views.
Most of the park’s visitors don’t venture very far off of Skyline Drive, but there are plenty of excellent hikes if you want to get away from the traffic and crowds. Although you should be warned that most of the hikes involve a considerable change in elevation as you are either hiking up or down a mountain.
Why Spring is a Great Time to Visit: Spring in Shenandoah is a lot like Spring in the Smokies. The spring months will be flowers and bright colors, as well as several waterfalls that typically have a strong flow during the spring. If you like waterfalls, be sure to hike the Dark Hollow Falls and White Oak Canyon trails.
→ Related reading: Photography Guide to Shenandoah National Park
4. Saguaro National Park
Why You Should Visit: Saguaro National Park has two distinct sections: one section is east of Tucson and the other section is west of Tucson. Being located so close to Tucson makes it an easy park to visit. The park is named after the beautiful and impressive Saguaro cactus, which makes a great subject for photos any time of year (and any time of day or night).
Why Spring is a Great Time to Visit: A spring visit to Saguaro is ideal because the cacti are blooming, and you can also find plenty of wildflowers that add amazing color to the desert landscape.
5. Kenai Fjords National Park
Location: Southern Alaska
Why You Should Visit: Kenai Fjords is favorite destination for many people, in part because of the Exit Glacier and the Harding Icefield.
Why Spring is a Great Time to Visit: One of the reasons why this park is popular is the fact that its location makes it accessible for cruises, and the cruise visitors mostly arrive during summer months. However, arriving mid-to-late spring is also possible. Not only can that help you to avoid some of the crowds, but spring is also ideal for observing the gray whales that make this park so special.
6. Glacier Bay National Park
Location: Southern Alaska
Why You Should Visit: Located northwest of Juneau, Glacier Bay is another Alaskan park that can be visited by way of a cruise. The humpback and orca whales are among the most important points of interest, as well as the glaciers.
Why Spring is a Great Time to Visit: The temperatures are starting to warm up during the spring, which means the glaciers begin to melt and crack. Experiencing the sights and sounds of ice cracking and falling into the water is among the highlights of a spring visit to Glacier Bay National Park.
7. Capitol Reef National Park
Why You Should Visit: Capital Reef may not get as much love as some of the other national parks in Utah like Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Arches, but it certainly should not be ignored. Many of the park’s visitors arrive by Scenic Byway 12.
Why Spring is a Great Time to Visit: Summer can be extremely hot in this park, so arriving during spring months will allow you to enjoy the park without the intense heat. Despite the warmer temperatures here, some of the distant peaks may still be snow-covered in the spring, which makes for great photographs. The park is also home to many orchards that blossom during the spring.
8. Everglades National Park
Location: South Florida
Why You Should Visit: Everglades is a very unique national park. Wildlife is a big part of the draw of this park, including alligators and crocodiles.
Why Spring is a Great Time to Visit: Temperatures in the summer are very hot, and to be honest, spring can be hot too. A visit during early spring can help you to avoid the hottest time of the year, and another major benefit of early spring is the fact that mosquitoes won’t be as bad as they are during the summer.
9. Great Sand Dunes National Park
Why You Should Visit: It’s probably not much of a surprise that the main attraction at Great Sand Dunes National Park are the sand dunes. These dunes, the largest in North America, reach up to 750 feet in height. Visitors can hike, sled, or sandboard on the dunes.
Why Spring is a Great Time to Visit: While the summer air temperatures aren’t bad, the sand surface gets extremely hot. For this reason, spring is a better time to visit. Although snow is common during the spring, the cold temperatures typically don’t last very long and most of the days are more comfortable.
10. Redwood National Park
Location: Northern California
Why You Should Visit: Giant trees, amazing forests, and beautiful coastline make Redwood National Park an excellent place to visit and photograph.
Why Spring is a Great Time to Visit: The forest floor features many wildflowers in the spring. Another perk of a spring visit to this park is the possibility of spotting migrating whales along the coast.
If you’re looking for a destination for a spring photography trip, you can’t go wrong with any of these national parks. Pick one that appeals the most to you, or maybe one that is relatively close and easily accessible to you.
Photo license links: Pixabay license, Unsplash license
I have loved America’s national park since I was a kid. My first was the redwood forests in California, Yellowstone, Yosemite. This list has some real beauties that I hope to visit and photograph some day.