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Once spring has sprung, it’s time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. And what better way to experience nature than in some of our magnificent national parks? This year, plan a trip for April 19th or 20th, when all park entry fees are waived in honor of the start of National Park Week. Spring is a great time to visit Yosemite National Park, which celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2014, but there are plenty of other places to see around the country. We’ve handpicked the 10 best national parks for springtime revelry, from Tennessee to Alaska to California. Now it’s your turn to start planning a trip.
Yosemite National Park
The spring thaw rapidly melts the snow, fueling Yosemite National Park’s peak waterfall season. By April, even the smallest creeks gush with water, and the park’s iconic waterfalls flow at full throttle. Mirror Lake fills to the brim, offering a stunning reflection of Half Dome that can’t be seen during drier times of the year. Visit in late April or early May to catch the eruption of dogwood blossoms, which some would argue rival even the waterfalls.
Insider Tip: Tioga Pass and Glacier Point Roads typically remain closed until late May, but there’s still plenty to see in Yosemite Valley and Wawona.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Yosemite National Park Guide
Kenai Fjords National Park
Located on the edge of the Kenai Peninsula, the ice fields, icebergs, and glaciers of Kenai Fjords National Park are spectacular in any season. But the park is perhaps the most awe-inspiring in the spring when gray whales return to Alaska to feed, and millions of birds begin their annual journey to the rookeries of the rocky coasts. It’s also a likely time to observe black bears in their natural habitat.
Insider Tip: The new Disneynature film, Bears, opens April 18th. During opening week (April 18–24), Disney will donate a portion of the film’s ticket prices to the National Park Foundation to protect wildlife and wild places.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Kenai Fjords National Park Guide
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
With 1,500 types of flowering plants, more than any other North American park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is often referred to as "Wildflower National Park." The milder temperatures and reduced haze in spring make for ideal visiting conditions, but don’t expect fewer people. As the most visited national park in the US, Great Smokey is popular year-round.
Insider Tip: April 15–19 is the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage at Great Smokey National Park. The annual event showcases a variety of wildflower, fauna, and natural history walks, as well as art classes, photographic tours, and seminars.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Great Smoky Mountains National Park Guide
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