15 BEST National Parks to Visit in April [for Families]

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Looking for a spring break adventure or a way to enjoy the beauty of spring after all those long winter months? If so, the U.S. National Parks may be calling your name. I’ve curated this list of the BEST national parks to visit in April so you can start planning your escape ASAP.

I’ve explored dozens of national parks over the years with my own family in tow. The 17 parks on this list are especially beautiful in April, with spring wildflowers blooming, wildlife baby season beginning, and just the right mix of warmer weather activities allowing you to have the best time without being overheated. Plus, you can beat all the crowds the summer months bring (trust me, this is a MAJOR perk!)

So grab your kids, pack the car, and get ready for some amazing national park adventures!

collage of the best 15 national parks to visit with your family in AprilPin

1. Zion National Park

Zion National Park in Utah is a must-visit in April! In fact, April falls neatly into shoulder season at Zion (the time period right before and right after peak season when swarms of people head into the parks).

In April, the daytime temps are usually in the low 60s to high 50s—perfect for outdoor activities such as hiking and camping. The park is also one of the most visually stunning ones in the United States and boasts beautiful red sandstone cliffs, lush greenery, and plenty of waterfalls to explore.

Plus, you may even be lucky enough to see some adorable baby animals roaming around—and even your surly teens will love that!

Here are some of my top picks for the best things to do at Zion National Park in April:

three kids next to the Zion National Park Kolob Canyon sign in UtahPin

Take a Hike

The most famous hike in Zion is undoubtedly The Narrows, which is gorgeous but requires you to hike in the Virgin River. Depending on the temperature, water levels, and the ages of your children, this may or may not be a good fit for your family.

Additionally, the trail can be closed for high water levels or the presence of dangerous algae, which sadly was the case during my trip there last year!

That being said, there are so many other gorgeous trails to take.

I highly recommend The Riverside Walk, particularly for young children. It’s flat and even stroller-friendly!

Pa’rus Trail was another family favorite that offered stunning views. You can see the Virgin River, cross bridges, and get a glimpse of The Watchman and The Towers of the Virgin!

Want more options? I have plenty! Here is an entire post filled with the best hikes in Zion National Park!

Go Camping (or Glamping!)

There is one lodge, and three campgrounds available at Zion. The lodge, and two of the campgrounds , Watchman Campground and South Campground, are open in April.

As you can imagine, lodge rooms and campsites tend to fill up quickly, so I recommend booking when they open slots, six months ahead of your travel date for campsites, or 1-year in advance for lodge rooms.

Camping not your thing? No problem! Glamping is the best of both worlds—you still get to enjoy the great outdoors, but with more amenities and a bit more comfort.

Interested? Don’t worry, I did the research for you. Here are the 15 best-family friendly glamping options around Zion!

Zion National Park Lodge in UtahPin
Zion Lodge

Try Canyoneering

Zion National Park is also known for its adrenaline-inducing outdoor activities. Canyoneering (a combination of swimming, hiking, and repelling) is a favorite, as it offers a unique and exciting way to explore the park’s beauty while also getting your heart racing!

Sure, you can do this on your own (just make sure to get a permit!), but if you are like most of us and don’t exactly know, there are several companies that offer guided canyoneering tours, making it accessible for families with children as young as 8 years old.

exploring slot canyons with a guide in Zion National ParkPin
Swimming in canyons in chilly April not your bag? I get it! Try a guided hike through a slot canyon, (like we did above) instead. Or, check the NPS website for ranger-led activities happening during your stay.

Watch for Wildlife

With the arrival of spring, many animals start to emerge from their winter hibernation. This is a great opportunity for animal lovers to spot and photograph some incredible wildlife in their natural habitats.

In Zion National Park, you can find animals such as bighorn sheep, mule deer, and even mountain lions! Be sure to stay alert and follow park safety guidelines when encountering wildlife.

Wildlife spotting was one of our favorite parts of our trip to Zion…so much so that I wrote an entire guide on how to do it. Read this ultimate spotting guide to Zion wildlife for more info and tips!

a bighorn sheep on a steep mountain side in Zion National ParkPin
a bighorn sheep – a local Zion NP resident

2. Grand Canyon National Park

Next on the list is Grand Canyon National Park, located in Arizona. Whether you are visiting as part of an epic road trip or flying into a nearby airport, this is probably the most famous national park out there, not just in North America but the world! And that’s for good reason, as this spark offers some of the most breathtaking views you can imagine.

First, you’ll want to be aware up front that this iconic park is split into two sections, the South Rim and the North Rim. The South Rim is open all year round, while the North Rim is only open from mid-May until October, meaning an April trip won’t give you access to the roads or any amenities there. However, you can still access parts by hiking trails from the South Rim.

The South Rim has most of the major viewpoints and is where you’ll find the Grand Canyon Village, a hub of dining and shopping options. There are also fewer crowds in April than in the high season when millions of tourists descend on the park. But, if you have your heart set on seeing the North Rim, hold off on this park until it’s open in mid-May.

All of that being said, there is still SO much to do at Grand Canyon in April! Here are a few of my top picks for early spring activities:

3 children sitting by Grand Canyon National Park sign at the south rim of the canyonPin

Take in the Views (and Photograph Them Too!)

The most obvious activity at Grand Canyon National Park is taking in the views! With so many lookout points and trails, it’s easy to spend hours just wandering and admiring the stunning scenery.

After you’ve enjoyed it with your eyes, snap a few photos to share with the world (talk about the perfect place for an Instagram opportunity!). Some of the most popular photo spots on the South Rim include:

  • Mather Point
  • Mohave Point
  • Hopi Point
  • Yaki Point

You can also get some pretty incredible nighttime shots of the sky and stars if you have the right equipment. For more info, check out this Grand Canyon photography guide from the NPS!

Thibodeau clan at the South Rim, Grand Canyon National ParkPin
our family at the South Rim in late March

Hike the Rim Trail

As mentioned, while the North Rim may be closed in April, there are still plenty of hiking options on the South Rim that will give you breathtaking views of the canyon.

As you can imagine, many of the hikes are quite steep, which may or may not fit with your family’s dynamics. I always recommend the Rim Trail as it is fairly flat and also shaded, but still provides gorgeous views. Just know that there are some sections without railings…so if you’re anything like me, your heart rate may be elevated in places on the trail!

Also, make sure to check the NP website for closures before you head out!

view from South Rim, Grand Canyon National ParkPin
another gorgeous viewpoint from the South Rim Trail

Go on a Mule Ride

If steep hiking isn’t your thing, but you still want to get up close and personal with the canyon, consider going on a mule ride! It’s just like horseback riding, only much sturdier.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to bring your own mule. There are a few tour companies that offer this unique way to experience the park’s beauty.

Children must be at least 9 years old to participate, and all riders must be under 225 pounds dressed. Reservations are highly recommended, as this is a popular activity that can book up quickly.

mule train at the grand canyon national parkPin

Spot Wildlife

Believe it or not, Grand Canyon National Park is home to a variety of wildlife—many of which start to become more active in the springtime. Keep your eyes peeled for animals such as elk, mule deer, and bighorn sheep.

If you’re lucky, you may even spot some of the park’s more elusive residents, including mountain lions and black bears (from a safe distance, of course!).

My own family spent a lot of time searching for wildlife—you can read about the 25 Grand Canyon animals you can see (and the best times to find them).

California Condor in flight over the Grand CanyonPin
catching a glimpse of a huge California Condor over the Grand Canyon is a sight you won’t forget if you are lucky enough to spot one!

3. Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Next up on our list of must-visit national parks in April is Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Located on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, this park offers stunning mountain views, cascading waterfalls, and a rich history of early American settlers.

It also happens to be the most visited National Park in the entire US, so the fact that April is slightly off-season is a HUGE bonus in my book! Don’t let that fool you, however. There is still a ton to do and see at Great Smoky in early spring. Some of my top picks include:

three kids next to great smoky mountains national parkPin

See the Wildflowers

If you do one thing while at this park, let it be checking out all the gorgeous wildflowers! Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for its stunning wildflower displays. In fact, the park’s nickname is “Wildflower National Park” as it has more flowering plants than any other US park.

As part of spring, April is prime time for catching a glimpse of these colorful blooms, with over 1,500 species found in the park.

purple wildflowers in Great Smoky Mountains National ParkPin
blooming rhododendron in the park

Hike to Waterfalls

Here’s another great option to help you enjoy the gorgeous spring weather! Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to over 100 waterfalls, many of which are accessible via hiking trails. Some of the most popular and easy-to-reach include:

  • Laurel Falls: a 2.6 mile round-trip hike with stunning views. The 80-foot waterfall is one of the most popular attractions in the park!
  • Grotto Falls: another 2.6-mile round trip, but this one has the opportunity to walk behind the waterfall.
  • Abrams Falls: this is a somewhat difficult 5-mile round-trip hike but the gorgeous gushing waterfall is well worth the effort.
my crew in front of one of many waterfalls found in Great Smoky Mountains National ParkPin
my crew in front of one of the many waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains NP

Take a Picnic

April is the perfect time to pack a picnic and enjoy a meal surrounded by nature. Great Smoky Mountains National Park has several designated picnic areas, including Cades Cove, which offers views of the mountains and opportunities for wildlife sightings.

Just be mindful of wildlife—don’t feed any of the animals, no matter how much they may beg. Plus, be sure to completely pack up and remove your trash when you are done.

family enjoying snacks and board games at Under Canvas Great Smoky MountainsPin
Our family always packs a few favorite travel games, and enjoys eating outdoors whenever/wherever we can, like at our fave glamping spot in the Smokies!

Visit Cades Cove

Speaking of Cades Cove, this preserved historic settlement is a must-visit when in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here, you can drive or bike the 11-mile loop road and see firsthand how early settlers lived in the mountains.

It also happens to be an excellent spot for wildlife viewing, particularly white tailed dear, but there have also been sightings of black bears, hogs, coyotes, and more!

Don’t miss the Cades Cove Visitor Center for more information on the history of the area and nearby hiking trails.

Cades Cove Grist Mill, Great Smoky Mountains National ParkPin
Cades Cove grist mill

Attend a Ranger Program

One of my favorite things about national parks is their commitment to educating visitors about nature and conservation. Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers daily ranger programs that cover a variety of topics, from wildlife to history and more.

These programs are a great way to learn more about the park and its unique ecosystem while also getting the chance to interact with knowledgeable rangers.

National Parks Mom family with longest serving Yellowstone National Park ranger, Harlan KreditPin
We are HUGE fans of ranger programs in the national parks, so we try to catch as many as possible in every park we travel to. Here we are with a LEGEND of a park ranger, Harlan Kredit at Yellowstone NP who has served in that park for more than 50 years!

4. Death Valley National Park

Located in eastern California, Death Valley National Park is known for its extreme temperatures and vast desert landscapes. However, visiting in April provides a more moderate climate, making it an enjoyable time to explore the park’s diverse terrain.

You’ll have quite a range of temperatures in the month of April. You can expect the temperature to be anywhere from the high 90s to the low 60s, depending on the day.

However, this is a lot more manageable than the summer heat at Death Valley, making spring the most popular season to visit the park. This means you’ll want to make any camping reservations well in advance to ensure a spot.

Some top activities to consider during your April visit include:

NPS welcome sign, Death Valley National Park, CaliforniaPin

Spot Wildflowers

Yes, even the desert experiences a burst of color in the springtime! While you won’t see fields of wildflowers like in other parks during April, there is definitely an added splash of color that is quite beautiful!

That being said, when weather conditions are just right, Death Valley does experience a Superbloom about once a decade where the desert is blanketed in stunning wildflowers.

Visit Badwater Basin

As the lowest point in North America, Badwater Basin is a must-see location in Death Valley National Park. In April, you can expect milder temperatures while still experiencing the unique salt flats and other geological formations.

Hiking the salt flat is fairly easy as it is quite flat. You can choose to do a 1 mile hike to the edge of the flat and back, or a longer 5 mile hike across it. Either way, you’ll enjoy the beautiful views!

Plus, if you’re lucky, you may spot some of the park’s elusive wildlife, such as desert bighorn sheep.

sign for Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, CaliforniaPin

Take a Scenic Drive

One of the best ways to explore Death Valley National Park is by taking a scenic drive. April offers more moderate temperatures for this activity, allowing you to comfortably roll up the windows and take in the breathtaking views.

Plus, Star Wars fans will especially love driving through the park, as parts of it were used as a filming location for the movie.

Some top drives to consider include:

  • Artist’s Drive: a 9-mile loop that showcases colorful mineral deposits and unique geological formations.
  • Artist’s Palette: a scenic overlook along Artist’s Drive known for its vibrant colors.
  • Dante’s View: this drive offers stunning views of the park from over 5,000 feet in elevation.
paved road in Death Valley National Park, CaliforniaPin
road through Death Valley NP

Stargaze at Night

Being located in a remote desert location means that Death Valley National Park offers some of the best stargazing opportunities in the country. In April, you can see a variety of constellations and even catch a glimpse of the Milky Way.

The park also offers ranger-led night sky programs throughout the month, including telescope viewings and presentations on astronomy. Don’t forget to bring a blanket and a hot chocolate for a cozy night under the stars!

stars above Death Valley NPPin
dark sky parks like Death Valley are the best for stargazing

5. Yosemite National Park

Known for its iconic granite cliffs and towering waterfalls, Yosemite National Park in California is a must-visit destination for any nature lover. In April, the park begins to thaw from its winter freeze, with highs in the upper 60s, making it an ideal time to visit before the summer crowds descend.

Depending on which day you visit, you may need to purchase a day-use reservation in advance. You’ll also want to secure lodging early, as things can book up in advance. Want some options? Here are my 13 top picks for where to stay when visiting Yosemite.

It’s also important to note that snow and ice may still be present in some areas of the park, so it’s essential to check the current conditions before planning your trip.

But fear not, there are still plenty of activities to enjoy in Yosemite during April:

family at Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park, CaliforniaPin
our family at Yosemite’s “tunnel view” in April

Take in the Gorgeous Views

When we went to Yosemite, we were expecting it to be beautiful, but nothing prepares you for just how incredible the views are there! We had a blast exploring the best viewpoints in the park, but my top picks are:

  • Tunnel View
  • Glacier Point
  • Valley View
  • Yosemite Falls
  • El Capitan Meadow
  • Mariposa Grove

Hike to Waterfalls

Yosemite is home to some of the most breathtaking waterfalls in the world, and April is the perfect time to see them at their fullest. The snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada mountains feeds these massive falls, creating a spectacular sight.

The most well-known is its namesake waterfall, Yosemite Falls, which happens to be the tallest waterfall in America. It can be viewed from various locations throughout the park.

lower yosemite falls as seen from the short trail on the valley floorPin
Lower Yosemite Falls in April

See the Giant Sequoias at Mariposa Grove

One of Yosemite’s most beloved features is Mariposa Grove, home to over 500 giant sequoia trees. If weather permits, April is an exciting time to visit and see these ancient giants up close. Depending on the date, there may be a shuttle service available to get to the Grove. Otherwise, you can drive yourself (if you have a disability tag) or hike in.

Take a leisurely walk through the grove or opt for a more challenging hike up to the famous Grizzly Giant. You can also learn about the history and ecology of these magnificent trees at the newly renovated Mariposa Grove Visitor Center.

Grizzly Giant is one of the most famous seqouia trees in this grove in YosemitePin
pictures of the Grizzly Giant tree in the Mariposa Grove of Sequoia trees, Yosemite National Park

Explore Rock Formations

Yosemite’s granite cliffs and monoliths are world-renowned for their beauty, and April is a great time to explore them. The milder temperatures make for more comfortable hiking conditions (weather permitting), and you can even try your hand at rock climbing!

Some popular formations to see include Half Dome, El Capitan, Three Brothers, and Glacier Point. Don’t forget to bring your camera for some amazing photo opportunities!

6. Shenandoah National Park

Situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, just 75 miles away from Washington D.C., Shenandoah National Park is a peaceful escape from city life. In April, you can expect moderate temperatures with daytime highs in the mid-70s and chilly evenings that can drop to the 40s.

Weather conditions are absolutely ideal for outdoor activities and exploring all that this park has to offer this month, including:

shenandoah national park entrance signPin

Take a Scenic Drive on Skyline Drive

For a relaxing way to take in the beauty of Shenandoah National Park, hop in your car and drive along Skyline Drive. This famous 105-mile roadway offers stunning views of the park’s rolling hills, waterfalls, and wildlife. There are also several designated overlooks where you can stop and take pictures or have a picnic.

Make sure not to skip Mary’s Rock Tunnel, a famous landmark on the drive, located at mile 32.2. Those bringing RVs and campers will want to note that the height is 12’8″.

along skyline drive in a tree tunnelPin
Skyline Drive

Go Hiking

Shenandoah National Park is a hiker’s paradise, with over 500 miles of trails ranging from easy to challenging. April offers moderate temperatures for comfortable hiking conditions, and you can witness the park coming back to life after its winter slumber.

One of the things I love in particular about Shenandoah is that there are so many amazing hikes for kids! Some of my favorite options include:

  • Appalachian Trail: parts of this famous east coast trek meander through the park. Choose a couple mile stretch (our article on family-friendly Shenandoah hikes has some specifics) and then proudly proclaim you’ve hiked the AT!
  • Blackrock Summit: a 1-mile roundtrip hike with stunning views of the valley below. This trail is especially fun for kids since there is a self-guided brochure designed especially for them!
  • Fox Hollow Trail: another great option with a self-guided brochure for kids, this moderate 2.8-mile hike that takes you through streams, woodlands, and even a cemetery! They’ll love the waterfall at the end.
appalachian trail marker in shenandoah national park, virginiaPin
Appalachian Trail marker in Shenandoah NP

Birdwatching

April is an excellent time for birdwatching in Shenandoah National Park. As the park’s flora and fauna begin to wake up from winter, you can spot a variety of birds returning or passing through, including warblers, vireos, and thrushes.

The park even provides a list of recommended hikes for spotting these gorgeous creatures!

bearfence mountain at sunset shenandoah national park, virginiaPin
vista view at Bearfence Mountain…a great lookout for birds and other wildlife

Enjoy Wildflower Season

April is when wildflower season begins in Shenandoah National Park, with more than 850 vibrant blooms sprouting up throughout the park. You can spot a variety of wildflowers, including trilliums, violets, and daisies, along the trails or even just driving along Skyline Drive.

Looking for a particular bloom? This wildflower calendar will help you know when dozens of flowers are most spotted.

For an immersive experience, check out some wildflower walks and talks offered in the park by knowledgeable rangers. Make sure to bring a camera and capture the beauty of these delicate flowers!

wildflowers along the Appalachian Trail in VAPin
wildflowers along the Appalachian Trail in VA

7. Saguaro National Park

Located in southern Arizona, Saguaro National Park is home to its namesake iconic saguaro cactus, a symbol of the American West.

In April, temperatures start to warm up here, with highs reaching the 80s and lows dropping down to the mid-50s. This makes for comfortable weather for outdoor activities and gives visitors plenty of opportunities to explore this unique landscape. Some must-see activities in Saguaro National Park this month include:

three kids next to the Saguaro National Park sign in ArizonaPin
our family in Saguaro at the end of March/beginning of April – the kids LOVED this park.

Drive the Cactus Forest Loop

One of the best ways to take in the vastness and diversity of Saguaro National Park is by taking a scenic drive along the Cactus Forest Loop. Depending on if you drive East or West, the trail ranges between 6 to 8-miles of paved road winding through the park’s dense saguaro forests.

You’ll also get breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and can stop along the way at pullouts to take pictures, have a picnic, or even do some short hikes.

car driving in Saguaro NP with cacti seen in side mirrorPin
sights along the Cactus Forest Loop

Go Hiking

Saguaro National Park has numerous hiking trails that allow visitors to immerse themselves in this unique desert landscape. In April, you can expect comfortable temperatures for hiking and a chance to see some of the park’s unique wildlife if you are lucky!

Some recommended hikes for this month include:

  • Freeman Homestead Trail: this is an easy hike with a short 1-mile trail that takes you past an old homestead. This was a hit with the kids who liked to imagine what life was like living in the desert!
  • Cactus Garden Trail/Visitor Center Trail: There are some short, wheelchair and stroller-accessible trails that are right next to the Red Hills Visitor Center (west side of the park). These are flat but winding paths that have a lot of the local desert plants within close proximity. You can also leave the paved portion to make the walk a bit longer if the kids are up for it, but you’ll never stray too far from the visitor center.
  • Desert Discovery Nature Trail: We loved this short, flat, paved 0.5 mile loop trail punctuated with lots of informational signs along the way which taught us about flora, fauna and the desert ecosystem as a whole.

Spot Petroglyphs

Saguaro National Park is home to numerous petroglyphs, which are ancient rock carvings left by Native Americans. You can spot these fascinating pieces of history on the short 0.3 mile Signal Hill Petroglyph Trail, where you’ll spot hundreds of petroglyphs. Just make sure to coach children beforehand that they can’t touch them!

informational sign in Saguaro National ParkPin

8. Joshua Tree National Park

Located in California, Joshua Tree National Park is another unique desert landscape filled with stunning rock formations and its namesake, Joshua trees.

In April, the weather begins to warm up here, with highs reaching into the 70s and lows dropping down to the 50s. This makes it an ideal time to visit before summer temperatures become too extreme. Here are some must-do activities while you are there:

Joshua Tree National Park road signPin

Explore the Unique Landscape

One of my favorite things about Joshua Tree National Park is that there are so many different landscapes to explore, from the famous Joshua trees to huge rock formations and even a desert oasis! Some must-see places include:

  • Keys View: offers stunning panoramic views of Coachella Valley and is also wheelchair (and stroller) friendly.
  • Hidden Valley: check out the trailhead for a beautiful view of the rock formations, or take the Hidden Valley Nature Trail for an easy one-mile loop that takes you through valley filled with rock formations and Joshua trees.
  • Cholla Cactus Garden: this is a must-see! This beautiful walking trail is surrounded by thousands of cholla cacti, along with many other species of cacti.
joshua tree against the sunrise in Joshua Tree National ParkPin

Go Climbing

Joshua Tree National Park is a popular destination for climbers because of its unique rock formations and challenging routes. This is one of the best places to enjoy climbing, as there are over 8,000 climbing routes within the park!

In April, the weather is perfect for climbing, not too hot or cold, making it an ideal time to test your skills. But, if you aren’t an expert climber just yet, it’s well worth it to hire a guide to show you the ropes (so to speak). Just make sure they are permitted through the park.

Camp Under the Stars

With mild temperatures at night and beautiful clear skies, April is the perfect time to camp in Joshua Tree National Park. You can choose from nine different campgrounds within the park, with some sites offering reservations and others on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Make sure to reserve your spot in advance if possible, as campsites tend to fill up quickly during peak months like April.

Even if you opt not to camp there, you should definitely stay to stargaze. Joshua Tree offers some of the darkest skies in the US, and it’s well worth enjoying!

Camping not your thing? Why not try glamping instead? It’s as fun as it sounds! Here are the 17 BEST glamping spots around Joshua Tree!

two tents against the sunset in Joshua Tree National ParkPin

9. Capitol Reef National Park

Next up on our list of must-visit parks in April is beautiful Capitol Reef National Park. This south-central Utah park is another stunning desert landscape that offers unique geological formations and vibrant colors.

In April, there is a slight chance of snow, but for the most part, the weather begins to warm up here, with highs reaching the 60s and lows dropping down to the 30s. There is plenty to do and see in this spot, but here are my family’s favorites:

family at Capitol Reef National Park sign in UtahPin

Take Some Kid-Friendly Hikes

There are plenty of hiking trails to explore in Capitol Reef National Park, but some standout options for families include:

  • Goosenecks Overlook Trail: this .2 mile trail will take you 15 minutes and is the perfect way to introduce young kids to hiking!
  • Sulphur Creek Waterfall Trail: if you are after something a bit more challenging, this 5-mile hike takes you to a beautiful waterfall and natural swimming hole.
  • Cohab Canyon Trail: this moderate 3.5-mile hike takes you through a canyon and offers stunning views of the park. This one also offers some shade, so it’s nice for a sunny day!

Want more hiking ideas at Capitol Reef? Read this post for 9 more spots that the entire family will enjoy hiking!

Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park, UtahPin
Sulphur Creek

Explore the Cathedral Valley District

One of my favorite areas to explore in Capitol Reef National Park is the Cathedral Valley District. This rugged and remote area offers stunning views of the park’s monoliths, cliffs, and domes.

I would set aside at least 1-2 days for this area, as there is plenty to see and do. Our favorite way of touring is to drive the Cathedral Valley Loop, which takes about 6-8 hours to complete.

Don’t worry, though…you won’t be stuck in the car the entire time. There are so many spots to stop and look at sites or take a hike. But I like that you can take in so many pretty sights from the car too—perfect for tired little legs!

view of Cathedral Mountain from upper Cathedral Valley overlook; Capitol Reef National Park, UtahPin
view of Cathedral Mountain from upper Cathedral Valley overlook

Pick Fruit

Yes, you can pick fruit at this park! The Fruita Historic District is a unique area in the park where you can pick fruit from trees that were planted by early Mormon settlers.

There are over 2,700 fruit trees here to enjoy, including apricots, pears, apples, and cherries, and there is no better time to pick fruit than April!

Do note that there is a small fee to pick fruit, and only certain areas are open for picking at different times. It’s worth checking in with the visitor center to see what’s available during your visit. We love stopping here because it feels like such a unique experience (and the fruit is delicious!).

Fruita district, Capitol Reef NP, UtahPin
large trees in the Fruita district are fruit trees planted by Mormon settlers

Go Back in Time

If you are a history buff, you will love Capitol Reef National Park. Fruita Schoolhouse is one of the best-preserved examples of pioneer-era architecture and education in Utah. You can tour this schoolhouse on your own or join a ranger-guided tour.

Plus, there are other historic buildings and sites throughout the park, such as the Gifford Homestead, where you can learn even more about the early settlers in this area. It’s a great way to get some education while having fun!

10. Olympic National Park

Next up is Olympic National Park in Washington State. I love this spot because there’s something for everyone, from breathtaking mountain ranges to rugged coastlines and temperate rainforests. It’s one of the most diverse spots in the U.S.!

In April, it will still be chilly, with temps ranging between the 20s-40s. It will also be quite rainy with an average of 14 days of rain. So, make sure to pack a rain jacket and some waterproof boots when you visit.

That being said, you’ll be amazed at just how much you can see and do in this spot. Some favorites include:

three kids next to the Olympic National Park sign in WashingtonPin

Hiking in the Rainforest

One of my favorite things to do at Olympic National Park is hiking through the temperate rainforests. The Hoh Rainforest is a must-visit spot, with its lush green trees and moss-covered forest floors.

The Quinault Valley is another gorgeous spot, with a variety of trails ranging from easy to difficult. I recommend checking out the Quinault Loop Trail for a moderate 4-mile loop that takes you through rainforests and the southern shore of the Quinault Lake.

Quinault Rainforest Trail, Olympic National Park, WashingtonPin
new tree sprouting from the stump of an old tree along the Quinault Rainforest Trail

Explore the Coastline

The coastline of Olympic National Park is truly breathtaking, with its rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, and rocky tide pools. Ruby Beach is one of the most popular spots to explore, with its iconic sea stacks and stunning sunset views.

I also highly recommend the Kalaloch area. There, you’ll have a chance to spot plenty of sea life, including seals, otters, and even gray whales!

Make sure you check out the tide time tables and head to the beach at low tide to catch the marine life in the tidepools. You’ll see an abundance of colorful starfish, crabs, and other sea creatures!

Ruby Beach , Olympic National Park, WashingtonPin
Ruby Beach at sunset

See the World’s Largest Sitka Spruce Tree

Last but not least, make sure to visit the world’s largest Sitka spruce tree in Olympic National Park. The Quinault Big Spruce Tree has a circumference of over 58 feet and is almost 200 feet tall!

Quinault Giant Sitka Spruce, Olympic National Park, WashingtonPin
my kids at the base of the world’s largest Sitka Spruce in Olympic NP

Spot Wildlife

This was one of our favorite activities at Olympic! In the spring months, you can find a variety of wildlife on both land and sea! Some common spottings for April include:

  • Gray whale
  • Sea lions
  • Blacktail deer
  • Souty grouse
  • Bald eagle

Check out this post about our experience wildlife spotting at Olympic for more info! It’s filled with tips as well as where to go to have the best chance of seeing the animals.

Olympic marmot standing on hind legs in Olympic National ParkPin
Olympic Marmot

11. Big Bend National Park

Finally, we come to Big Bend National Park in Texas. The weather is perfect in April, with warm and breezy temperatures peaking in the 80s and lows only dipping down to the 50s. It’s the perfect time to explore this vast and diverse park. Here are my top picks:

family at the NPS sign for Big Bend National Park, TexasPin
our family enjoying Big Bend during the spring

Hike the Trails

Big Bend National Park has over 150 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy to challenging. The scenery can be quite diverse too, with hikes that will take you through desert, river, and mountainsides. Here are my favorite family-friendly hikes:

  • The Lost Mine Trail is a popular choice, with its stunning views of the Chisos Mountains and surrounding desert. It’s just under 5 miles roundtrip, with an elevation gain of about 1,100 feet. It’s important to note that this hike cuts through black bear and mountain lion areas, so keep your small children close. While the entire trail is beautiful, we often hike just the first mile, which stops at a scenic overlook.
  • Rio Grande Village Nature Trail is an easy trail under a mile long that is perfect for spotting birds and other wildlife. The trail has a gradual elevation and peeks at a panoramic viewpoint—I highly recommend doing this one close to sunset!
  • Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail is another easy hike that takes you on a .5-mile loop. Here you’ll have great views of the Chisos Mountains. This one is perfect for young kids, as it features educational signs about the desert environment.
kids sitting on rocks in the Rio Grande at the end of the Santa Elena Canyon Trail hikePin
My kids sitting in the Santa Elena Canyon along the Rio Grande River – this trail is VERY scenic, but IMHO quite harrowing as a parent since you’re walking on a narrow trail on the edge of a steep cliff

Go Fish! (Or just Wade)

Want an unusual desert activity? Try fishing! The Rio Grande River runs through Big Bend National Park, and fishing is allowed with a free permit. We found that this was a good activity for almost everyone in our family and made for a nice change of pace after a day of hiking.

That said, I’m being honest, the kids liked fishing, but they enjoyed just wading in the river even more ;).

riverbed near the beginning of the Santa Elena Canyon Trail in Big Bend NP, TexasPin
for our crew, wading in the river was a highlight

Soak in the Hot Springs

After all that hiking and fishing, you’ll want to relax those muscles. Head to Langford Hot Springs. There you can soak away your cares in a naturally heated pool with a temperature of 105 degrees.

The water is filled with dissolved mineral salts that are said to have healing properties. It’s a unique and rejuvenating experience!

More Parks to Consider

While the parks above are my top recommendations, it’s hard to narrow down! The U.S. National Park system is filled with so many beautiful spots that are lovely in the spring time. So, here are a few other suggestions to visit this April…

12. Arches National Park

Head to Utah and take in the beautiful views at Arches NP (which happens to be one of my family’s top 3 favorite national parks!). The Window Section will afford you the best view of the namesake arches, and you can also take a ranger-led hike through Fiery Furnace (it’s not as scary as it sounds!).

mom and three kids on the Park Avenue trail in Arches National ParkPin
my family at Arches on our favorite trail, Park Avenue

13. Yellowstone National Park

While the weather in Yellowstone NP is still quite chilly, you’ll have far fewer crowds than the summer months to contend with. Many of the roads may still be closed, but you can certainly enjoy the beautiful Grand Prismatic Spring.

Spring months mean wildlife is abundant, particularly bison and bears emerging from hibernation! And, of course, you can’t miss Old Faithful.

Thibodeau family at sign at Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook, Yellowstone National ParkPin
my family at the Grand Prismatic spring

14. Everglades National Park

Head to Everglades NP at the southern tip of Florida before the rainy season hits in May. The weather is lovely for outdoor activities and there are plenty of them, including biking, canoeing, and wildlife spotting!

three kids by the Everglades National Park signPin
Getting ready for the tram tour in the Shark Valley section of the park (don’t miss this tour…but be ready…it’s pretty long)!

15. Redwood National Park

Head to the Pacific Northwest, home of the tallest tree on Earth! April is a great time for wildflower spotting, and you can also catch some migrating whales along the coast. I also recommend checking out the tidepools for marine life!

best national parks to visit in april: sign pointing out big trees, Redwood National Park, CaliforniaPin

Quick Tips for Visiting National Parks in April

While what you need to prepare for depends on which park you visit, here are a few general tips for visiting national parks in April:

  • Be prepared for unpredictable weather. Springtime can bring rain, snow, or sunshine, depending on the location, so make sure to pack layers and waterproof gear. Don’t forget to bring plenty of sunscreen and drinking water to stay hydrated while exploring these beautiful parks.
  • Pack plenty of road trip essentials, as you’ll likely be spending a good amount of time inside the car.
  • Before your trip, make sure to check the park’s website for any closures or alerts that may affect your plans.
  • Make your reservations early. As mentioned before, some popular parks may fill up quickly in the spring months due to the combination of good weather and fewer crowds.
  • Help preserve these natural wonders for future generations by following Leave No Trace principles and properly disposing of any trash or waste you generate during your visit.
  • Keep an eye out for any special events or programs happening during your visit. National Parks often have ranger-led activities that are both educational and fun.
  • Consider purchasing a National Parks pass if you plan on visiting multiple parks throughout the year. It can save you money and support the preservation of our national parks.
  • Finally, take the time to appreciate the beauty and wonder of these parks. Disconnect from technology and immerse yourself in nature for a truly rejuvenating experience.

As you can see, April is a fantastic time to visit any of these parks. Whether you want to explore rainforests, coastlines, or deserts, there’s something for everyone! So pack your bags, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in the great outdoors!

Pin this article about the best national parks to visit in April for later! And if you found this article helpful, leave a comment on the pin. That helps others decide whether to use this information, too!

collage of the best 15 national parks to visit with your family in AprilPin
happy trails, heatherPin
Photo of author

About Heather Thibodeau

Heather Thibodeau is the founder and mom behind nationalparksmom.com.

She and her husband Dave (AKA Tib) are on a mission to travel to as many US national parks with their three kids in tow as they possibly can, doing their best to keep the little ones out in nature and off of screens in an increasingly digital world.

Heather has earned degrees in biology & chemistry from Virginia Tech (Go Hokies), and holds master's and doctorate degrees in physical therapy from Duke University (Go Blue Devils).

Heather is also the creative force behind The Heathered Nest where she shares her love of all things DIY and home decor.

Her work has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, House Beautiful, Good Housekeeping, This Old House, Today.com, The Washington Post, Boston Globe, and more.

2 thoughts on “15 BEST National Parks to Visit in April [for Families]”

  1. Heather, Your photos are stunning! What wonderful parks to visit in April. I was so captivated by this.
    I so appreciate you sharing with Sweet Tea & Friends June link up.

    Reply

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