The 15 Best U.S. National Parks to Visit in May 

Are you going to be in the US in May? Are you looking for a memorable Memorial Day getaway? If so, why not consider beating the super-sized summer crowds and consider visiting one of the U.S. National Parks? Here to assist you with your decision-making, are the 15 best U.S. National Parks to visit in May.

The 15 Best U.S. National Parks to Visit in May 

1. Yosemite National Park, California


Both May and September are the best months to visit this park, except if you have kids, they’re already back in school in September. Temperatures are usually warm, with highs in the 70s and 80s depending on the time of the month. While it can be busy, it’s nothing like the crowds you encounter in the summer.

This is arguably the best time to see Yosemite’s numerous waterfalls because the rivers that feed them are roaring. You simply must see Yosemite Falls and Bridalveil Falls too. You can already see wildflowers at the lower elevations as well.

Visit the Giant Sequoias via Mariposa Grove Road. Get there early though as these trees are very popular. If you enjoy hiking, don’t visit too early in May though as the winter snow may still have some roads or trails closed. Check on conditions before you go. 

15 Breathtaking Things to do in Yosemite National Park


2.Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

This park is located at a comparatively higher elevation. Thus, the best season to see this place starts in May. Temperatures are not higher than 63 degrees Fahrenheit and since the facilities here are just starting to open, it’s not yet too busy.

Famous for its rugged, rust rock columns, a.k.a. Hoodoos, this park has a unique landscape. Visit the various viewpoints along the rim and don’t miss Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunrise Point, and Sunset Point. Check them out at different times of the day to notice how the light influences their appearance.

It is a comparatively small national park so you can easily combine a visit here with a visit to popular Zion National Park. Be sure to go hiking in Bryce Canyon. Not only is it a bit warmer than the rim but there are also fewer visitors.

The 11 Top-Rated Hikes In Bryce Canyon National Park

3.Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

in May

Most people visit this park in the summer or the early fall. In May, the weather is mild and the temperature never goes higher than 71 degrees Fahrenheit. One disadvantage to visiting in May is that the ranger-led tours to the well-known cliff dwellings here are only available during the park’s peak season.

Nevertheless, some of the tours do run in May and the tour of the famous Cliff Palace is available at the end of the month. Additionally, there are fewer people there in May than in the summer. Drive the scenic road, enjoy the overlooks, and check out the Wetherill Mesa area. 

Wetherill Mesa Road opens at the start of the month so you can bike or hike the popular five-mile Long House Loop. Tour Balcony House too. If you visit later in the month, you can take the ranger-led tour of Long House as well. 


4.Joshua Tree National Park, California

in Mayin May
In May the average high temperature is 86 degrees Fahrenheit. While veteran visitors can confirm it can sometimes be a bit hotter, it is actually a dry heat so it doesn’t feel as bad. Weather-wise, the shoulder season is best for outdoor activities.

Once June hits, the temperatures climb a bit too high to really enjoy this place. Hence, the beginning of May is the best time to visit. Spring is also not a bad time to visit but the most popular areas are busy and campsites in and even near the park are often booked to the limit.  

Avoid weekends if at all possible, get there early, and feel free to wander off the beaten path. Enjoy biking, hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and even stargazing. Don’t miss Cholla Cactus Garden either. It’s a short, enjoyable walk full of cacti and other plants.

5 .Arches National Park, Utah


The weather here in May is usually perfect for a visit. It’s generally not too hot yet as the temperature never breaks 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus, you can enjoy the striking scenery and everything this place has to offer without the summer heat.  

Mind you, May can still be one of the busiest times of the year even without the summer tourists. Some say the visitor numbers have actually been higher in May but let’s remember that school is still in session so just avoid weekends. Also, keep in mind that arriving early is also a good idea since the main road here, Arches Scenic Drive can get congested and like any other place, the parking lots closest to the most popular attractions and hiking trailheads will fill up first. Mind you, some enjoyable hiking trails here are rated easy and off-road tours are also available.

11 Amazing Things to do in Arches National Park

6.Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

in Mayin May

This national park offers exercise and relaxation. You can go hiking and then head for the historic bathhouses and soak in the hot spring water. May is a great time to visit too because it doesn’t get hotter than 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once you’ve had your fill of hiking you can also dine and even shop in town where the park is located. This is possibly one of the more luxurious national park visits, all things considered. Even if it gets a tad humid, there’s plenty to do here both outside and inside.  

The bathhouses of Hot Springs have been a must-visit place since the 1800s. In fact, the Buckstaff Baths have been open for more than a century! Where else can you relax and soak up the history, right?

7.Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Regular readers know that while your rovin’ writer hiked the world-famous Grand Canyon rim to rim in the summer, there is no doubt it would have been easier in the month of May. In fact, the comparatively mild spring weather of May is a great time to visit this park (and other state attractions) as it is generally not hotter than 71 degrees Fahrenheit. At night it might get cold in the canyon so do your hiking during the day.  

If you do any of the lengthier hikes, be aware that during the day it’s warmer in the canyon than at the rim, so carry enough water and dress appropriately. If you plan on checking out the North Rim, visit there in the last half of May in case of a road closure. Then again, the most iconic viewpoints are found at the South Rim.  

The 15 Best Grand Canyon Viewpoints on the South Rim

8.Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

The best time to see North America’s tallest sand dunes is in May. If you visit earlier, there could be an afternoon storm, the winds are higher and it might still snow. In the summer, the temperature of the sand can soar to a sizzling 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

In May this park doesn’t get hotter than 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Mind you, this place is actually a great location for stargazing and hiking. It’s also home to a surprisingly diverse landscape. 

So after you go sand-sledding or sandboarding, explore the forests, grasslands, wetlands, and alpine lakes. (Note that if you’re only planning on visiting the alpine lakes, summer, though more crowded is better weather-wise.) Visit in late May and you can enjoy Medano Creek’s “surge flow” and float down the waves on flat inflatables. Be aware though that the end of May and the start of June are the most popular times to do this so at least avoid the weekend!  

9Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands is a great nature destination to see in the month of May. It is often less busy than other national parks in Utah and in May it’s no hotter than 78 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t spend too much time in the lower areas though, it may even be a little cooler.

If you plan on hiking the more challenging trails or doing off-roading in this huge park, you should be especially aware of current weather conditions and plan accordingly. The most popular section of this park is the awesome Island in the Sky district. It is comparatively compact and has paved roads and stunning overlooks. Be sure to see the massive Mesa Arch too! If you like road trips you can even visit Arches National Park on the same trip.

The 15 Best Hikes in Canyonlands National Park


10.Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

in Mayin May

The temperature in this unique, popular park is never higher than 80 degrees Fahrenheit in May. More importantly, the winters are cold and snowy and summer not only means higher temperatures but, believe it or not, it’s monsoon season. Here you will discover ancient, colorful towering trees that are more than 200 million years old.

The lovely landscape of the rainbow-colored Painted Desert is also impressive. There are many things to do here including biking, hiking, and taking ranger-led tours. You can even drive around and enjoy an outlook or two.

Be sure to see Puerco Pueblo. It features the remains of an ancient 12th and 13th-century village. Stop in at the historic Painted Desert Inn which is now a museum. Check out the intriguing Newspaper Rock petroglyphs and Hopi murals as well.  

11.Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

Veteran visitors can confirm that Spring is the best time to see this park. More specifically, see it in the month of May. Indeed, spending on the elevation, it can be very hot in certain sections but in the month of May the temperature peaks at 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

The main activity here is arguably hiking. The mild yet sunny days are perfect for exploring the park and even hiking all the way up Guadalupe Peak, if you’re up for it. It is the highest peak in the entire state with an elevation of 8,751 feet.

If you’d prefer something less challenging, consider the various hiking trails that follow the park’s canyons.  Remember though that the temperatures are warmer at lower elevations. Yes, May is admittedly one of the busiest, most popular months here, but it is rarely busy if you’re actually hiking in the Guadalupe Mountains.

12.Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park, another one of the state’s “Mighty 5” national parks, is another great place to be in May. The temperature peaks at 73 degrees Fahrenheit so the weather is sunny and mild. May is one of the busiest months here, but it is also not crowded either because it is one of the state’s lesser-visited national parks.

There are a lot of pretty wildflowers here in May and the rivers are rushing with water too. Still, it’s very large and includes three distinctly different sections. They are the Fruita Historic District, the North District (also called Cathedral Valley), and the South District (also known as Waterpocket).

The weather can be different in each area. You can take one of the scenic drives but why not explore this place being active outdoors? Here you can go biking, hiking, canyoneering, fishing, horseback riding, and rock climbing. Be sure you see Cassidy Arch too!

The 15 Best Things to Do In Capitol Reef National Park

13.Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

May is a great time to visit this park. While the temperature can climb as high as 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the climate is moderate and, to be honest, if you’re only going to visit the popular Mammoth Cave itself, the weather isn’t a major issue. This is actually the longest underground cave system known to man.

Here you can explore over 400 miles of passageways. You can choose from several different tours. They range from a good hour to two and a half hours. Most are rated easy, and family-friendly and should be reserved in advance to avoid a lengthy wait.  Of course, while the caves here are the main attraction, there are a number of different things to do and see here.  You can go biking, canoeing, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and more!  

14.Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii  

Travel to your wanderin’ wordsmith’s birth state. There on the Big Island, you will find this wonderful national park. Travel there in May and you will discover the weather gets no warmer than 84 degrees Fahrenheit.

Yes, this is a year-round travel destination, but late spring is actually the best time to visit if you’d like a vacation that includes a blend of beach time, nature, and culture. While the eruption of the Kilauea volcano in 2018 forever impacted the scenery, the park is still one of the planet’s most special travel destinations. Cruise Crater Rim Drive and don’t miss Nāhuku a.k.a. The Thurston Lava Tube. 

Check out the steam vents and smell the unforgettable sulfur gas near Kilauea’s crater. Go whale-watching, snorkeling, and swimming. Take an island-hopping tour, see Haleakalā National Park, and visit all the other islands’ attractions as well.

The Most Breathtaking Places To Visit In Hawaii

15.Zion National Park, Utah

in May


Last but not least on our list is Zion. Temperatures here never go higher than 84 degrees Fahrenheit in May. Indeed, it’s dry and sunny and the weather is cooler at higher elevations. The majority of the hiking trails here are open, and you can enjoy them without the summer crowds and scorching heat.

Nevertheless, always check the park’s official website. Even if the weather is fine, sometimes trails are closed due to construction efforts or even flooding. In May the Virgin River has high water levels so it’s also a great time to check out the waterfalls.  

Unfortunately, May is also the start of the peak season, so while all facilities are generally open, the park can still be quite busy even if school is still in session. Avoid weekends if you can; especially Memorial Day weekend. Start your day as early as possible too!


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