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In the book, Lonely Planet gives lots of great tips on how to get the most out of your national park experience. Here’s their advice on the best time to visit the most popular parks — and the one thing you ~must~ do while you’re there.
When to go: The park is open year-round, but it’s the most crowded in summer. Fall is a bit chilly, and in winter, roads and facilities may be closed.
Must-do activity: waterfall hopping. Abrams Falls (near Cades Cove), Grotto Falls, and Mingo Falls are all great.
© Sean Pavone / Getty
When to go: The South Rim is open all year, but it’s really crowded in summer and really cold in winter — which makes spring and fall the best times to visit. (And the North Rim is only open from May to October.)
Must-do activity: rafting. Trips range from about four to ten days, complete with riverside camping.
© Carl Finocchiaro / 500px
When to go: It’s open all year, but roads are often closed due to snow from mid-fall through winter. The park is most crowded in July and August, when the beautiful wildflowers are in bloom.
Must-do activity: mountain climbing, especially to the top of Longs Peak, the only ‘14er’ (a mountain higher than 14,000 feet) in the park. If you’re not a serious climber, there are lots of other beautiful trails, too.
When to go: The valley in the park is open all year. But areas that have high elevation — like Glacier Point Road — all close after the first major snowfall in fall. They don’t re-open until the following year, in late spring or early summer.
Must-do activity: canyoneering. Zion is known for its “slot canyons,” which are narrow canyon that are deeper than they are wide. Two of the most well-known slot canyons are the Narrows and the Subway.
When to go: The park gets the usual July/August rush, but it’s just as pretty (if a bit colder) in May, June, and September. October’s beautiful, too — the leaves are on ~fire.~
Must-do activity: high tea at Jordan Pond House in the summer. The house is famous for its wooden chairs and warm popovers with jam. Having tea there is one of the park’s longest-standing traditions, dating back to the 1890s.
Must-do activity: glacier viewing. Glaciers are actually endangered right now; the park has about 25 glaciers in comparison to the 150 it had back in 1850.
When to go: Most people go in spring, when the wildflowers are in bloom. But temperatures are mild in both spring and fall, too. Winter can be cold, but on the upside, it has clear, starry skies.
Must-do activity: rock climbing. Outdoor outfitters in the town rent and sell climbing gear, and they also teach essons. The park’s climbing ranger also holds open morning coffee sessions during the climbing season (roughly October to April) to answer any questions you may have.
Must-do activity: lava viewing. Ask at the visitor center if it’s even possible to see Kīlauea’s lava flow inside the park when you go, because it’s really unpredictable.
Must-do activity: stargazing. The park is super remote, which makes its night skies insanely clear for stargazing. You can see an average of 7,500 stars here, compared to only 2,500 in most parts of America. © Chris Martin / Getty
When to go: The park is open all year, but, like the others, it gets busy during the summer, especially during July. Winters are mild, and wildflowers begin blooming in February.
Must-do activity: bathing. People have been enjoying the hot springs here since 1912. The full traditional treatment takes about one and a half hours.
This article was posted on BUZZ FEED/written by Annie Daly.