Looking for the best National Parks to visit in May? Here are the ones to visit this May.

May is an ideal time to visit the national parks, whether you’re looking for peak wildflower bloom, relaxing hiking weather, or wildlife encounters.

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Last Updated: April 15, 2024

Before we get into it, we want to remind everyone to explore the parks responsibly using the 7 Leave No Trace Principles. Have a plan, stay on established trails, carry out anything you carry in, leave what you find, minimize campfire impact, respect wildlife, and be considerate of others.

About the National Park by Month Series

To put together this list, we’ve combined our personal experiences and tips we gathered from locals and cross-referenced them with the weather, accessibility, local forums, seasonal attractions like fall foliage or wildflowers, and special events happening in the area. We also considered any unique adventures only offered at certain times of the year to find the most optimal months to visit each National Park. Phew! That was a lot!

It took me a whole week of research, but since I’m a maximizer, it was completely worth having a year-round calendar of adventures (publishing that soon!). Also, check out our complete list of all the national parks and all national park units that include soon-to-be national parks.

We also chose not to include the hardest-to-access national parks in Alaska and the ones in U.S. territories in this series.

National Parks By Month: Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec

Is May a Good Time to Visit National Parks?

May is a great time to visit National Parks for a few reasons. The weather is generally mild in most regions making it great for outdoor activities. It also marks the beginning of Spring in many parks so the flowers are blooming. For wildlife, animals begin emerging from winter hibernation or start preparing for mating season so they are active. Lastly, the crowds are typically smaller than summer crowds.

Plan on visiting more than two national parks this year? Pick up an America the Beautiful annual pass to save money (entrance fees to each park are, on average, $30-35 per vehicle). Plus, you are helping support the Parks that always need funding.

15 Best National Parks to Visit in May

1. Congaree National Park SC for Fireflies →

100 National Park Rd, Hopkins, SC 29061, map

Average Temperatures: 81° F / 59° F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 6:21 AM / 8:17 PM

Why Visit: The biggest highlight of the park is the synchronous fireflies that occur every year between mid-May and mid-June. During this time, the fireflies search for their mates and synchronize their flashes. It’s a truly magical natural phenomenon. When we visited, we had missed it by two days.

Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Canoeing, Kayaking, Fishing, Camping

Don’t Miss:

To Do – Boardwalk Loop Trail, Canoe or Kayak, Bluff Trail

Wildlife – Bobcats, Deer, Feral Pigs, Coyotes, Armadillos, Otters

How many days do you need? 1-2

Pro Tip: Other places to see synchronous fireflies include Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Rainbow Falls in TN, Rocky Fork State Park in TN, Cataloochee Valley in NC, and Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in NC.

See More: 11 Unique Things to Do in Congaree National Park

2. Saguaro National Park AZ for Wildflowers →

2700 N Kinney Rd, Tucson, AZ 85743, map

Average Temperatures: 81° F / 56° F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 5:24 AM / 7:13 PM

Why Visit: Visit Saguaro National Park in May to see the flowers blooming. During the first week of May, you will typically find a variety of species in bloom. Saguaro cacti usually bloom at the end of May.

Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Scenic Drive, Photography, Camping, Ranger Programs

Don’t Miss:

To Do – Valley View Overlook, Bajada Loop Drive, Signal Hill Trail

Wildlife – Bats, Bobcats, Javelina, Mountain Lions, Gray Fox, Coyotes, Ringtail

How many days do you need? 1-3

Local Tip: The park has an East and West portion separated by the city (roughly 30-45 mins). In our Saguaro National Park guide, we break down which side is better for each activity or view.

See More: 11 Beautiful Things to Do in Saguaro National Park

3. Grand Teton National Park WY for Wildflowers →

36.0306029,-113.8290033, map

Average Temperatures: 57° F / 29° F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 5:56 AM / 8:42 PM

Why Visit: May offer some of the best weather, and wildflowers start blooming. Snow begins melting, and it is warm enough to enjoy the trails with snowcapped mountains in the backdrop. We’ve been during the summer and winter, but next time we need to time our trip in May.

Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Backpacking, Wildlife Viewing, Photography, Scenic Drive, Rafting, Fishing

Don’t Miss:

To Do – Jenny Lake Trail, Snake River, Mormon Row

Wildlife – Pronghorn, Bison, Elk, Moose, Gray Wolf, Mountain Lion, Bobcat

How many days do you need? 2-4

See More: 11 Incredible Things to Do in Grand Teton National Park

4. Sequoia National Park CA for Wildflowers →

47050 Generals Hwy, Three Rivers, CA 93271, map

Average Temperatures: 52° F / 29° F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 5:47 AM / 7:55 PM

Why Visit: In May, the weather warms up in Sequoia National Park, allowing access to attractions at higher elevations. Wildflowers start blooming at lower elevations, too!

Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, Wildflowers

Don’t Miss:

To Do – General Sherman, Moro Rock, Tunnel Log

Wildlife – Gray Fox, Bobcat, Black Bear, Pika, Pocket Gopher

How many days do you need? 2-4

Local Tip: If you’re not comfortable paddling down a river yourself, you can sign up for ranger-led paddles.

See More: 15 Amazing Things to Do in Sequoia National Park + Kings Canyon

5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park TN + NC For Wildflowers

2 Everett St, Bryson City, NC 28713, map

Average Temperatures: 69° F / 43° F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 6:29 AM / 8:32 PM

Why Visit: Wildflowers are so popular in the Great Smoky Mountains that there is an Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage. This year, the dates are May 1-4, 2024. The temperatures are mild for hiking and exploring all day.

Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Camping, Scenic Drives, Biking, Wildflowers

Don’t Miss:

To Do – Charlies Bunion, Alum Cave Bluffs, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway

Wildlife – Elk, Black Bears, Bobcats, Whitetail Deer, Coyote, Pygmy Shrew

How many days do you need? 2-4

Pro Tip: To avoid crowds, get out of the car and take longer hikes. The further from easy-access attractions, the less crowded.

See More: 11 Can’t Miss Things to Do in Pigeon Forge TN

6. Shenandoah National Park VA for wildflowers

Skyline Drive Milepost 51, Stanley, VA 22851, map

Average Temperatures: 64° F / 45° F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 6:01 AM / 8:19 PM

Why Visit: Shenandoah is another excellent national park for wildflowers, which typically peak in April and May. See mountain laurels, rhododendrons, pink lady’s slippers, wild geraniums, and more.

Best For / Top Activities: Scenic Drives, Hiking, Backpacking, Wildlife Viewing, Fishing

Don’t Miss:

To Do – Skyline Drive, Old Rag Mountain, Big Meadows, The Point Overlook, Dickey Ridge

Wildlife – Black Bear, Big Brown Bat, Skunks, White-Tailed Deer

How many days do you need? 2-4

7. Cuyahoga Valley National Park OH for wildflowers

6947 Riverview Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264, map

Average Temperatures: 71° F / 52° F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 6:07 AM / 8:38 PM

Why Visit: Snow sticks around at Cuyahoga Valley until March. You’ll start seeing wildflowers by mid-April, but they explode in late April to mid-May. You can catch them until the trees grow leaves and cast too much of a shadow.

Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Biking, Fishing, Scenic Train Ride

Don’t Miss:

To Do – Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, Ledges Overlook, Brandywine Falls, Canal Exploration Center

Wildlife – Coyotes, Red Foxes, Gray Foxes, Bats, Deer, Mink

How many days do you need? 2-3

8. Dry Tortugas National Park FL for Birding and Sea Turtles

281 Trumbo Rd, Key West, FL 33040, map

Average Temperatures: 86° F / 74° F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 6:47 AM / 8:08 PM

Why Visit: May is a great month for wildlife and birding at Dry Tortugas. Spring migrations typically peak from April to mid-May, when you can spot more than 200 species of birds. It’s also the start of sea turtle season, which runs from May to June. You’ll find the largest concentration of sea turtles in the area at this time.

Best For / Top Activities: Snorkel, Fishing, Boating, Paddle Sports, Diving

Don’t Miss:

To Do – Bush Key, Fort Jefferson, Snorkel, Garden Key, Kayak Tour

Wildlife – Nurse Sharks, Reef Fish, Sea Turtles, ~300 Species of Birds

How many days do you need? 1-3

Local Tip: Start planning early. You must book a way to get to the park and remember that parts of the park may be closed to protect natural resources.

See More: 7+ Remarkable Things to Do in Key West Florida

9. Yosemite National Park CA for waterfalls →

9035 Village Dr, Yosemite Valley, CA 95389, map

Average Temperatures: 73° F / 44° F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 5:48 AM / 8:01 PM

Why Visit: May is a beautiful time to visit Yosemite before the summer crowds arrive. The waterfalls are extra full and will be roaring. Plus, you’ll find wildflowers at specific elevations. There are over 1400 species of wildflowers, and though you can see flowers year-round, March-April is the best for wildflowers at lower elevations, while the summer is best at higher elevations. Stop by the visitor center to get the most up-to-date wildflower reports.

Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, Scenic Drives, Tours

Don’t Miss:

To Do – Taft Point, Glacier Point, Half Dome, Tunnel View

Wildlife – Bears, Mule Deer, Big Horn Sheep, Great Gray Owl, Bighorn Sheep, Bobcats, Porcupines, Red Foxes

How many days do you need? 2-4

See More: 17 Breathtaking Things to Do in Yosemite National Park

10. Bryce Canyon National Park UT for hiking temps →

UT-63, Bryce Canyon City, UT 84764, map

Average Temperatures: 62° F / 32° F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 6:18 AM / 8:31 PM

Why Visit: May brings warmer temperatures to Bryce Canyon, making it perfect for hiking and exploring its otherworldly landscapes.

Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Viewpoints, Photography

Don’t Miss:

To Do – 15 Amazing Things to Do in Bryce Canyon

Wildlife – Mule Deer, Pronghorn, Prairie Dog, Golden Eagle

How many days do you need? 1-2

See More: 15 Amazing Things to Do in Bryce Canyon National Park

11. Capitol Reef National Park UT for Wildflowers

38.2914642,-111.264238, map

Average Temperatures: 73° F / 46° F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 6:13 AM / 8:30 PM

Why Visit: In May, Capitol Reef’s desert bursts with color. Wildflowers bloom, fruit orchards come to life in the historic Fruita district, and the mild temperatures make it perfect for hiking.

Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Camping, Backpacking, Scenic Drives, Ranger Programs

Don’t Miss:

To Do – Fruita, Cathedral Valley, Sulpher Creek, Petroglyph Panel, Gifford House, Pick Fruits

Wildlife – Bighorn Sheep, Mule Deer, Mountain Lion, Ringtail, Marmots, Gray Fox, Canyon Bat

How many days do you need? 2-4

See More: Complete List of National Parks by State

12. Grand Canyon National Park AZ for weather →

36.0591278,-112.1114996, map

Average Temperatures: 81° F / 51° F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 5:21 AM / 7:28 PM

Why Visit: The Grand Canyon gets exceptionally crowded during the summers and is blistering hot. If you can visit in May, you’ll miss the crowds and still have pleasant weather.

Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Wildlife Viewing, Scenic Drives, Stargazing

Don’t Miss:

To Do – Trail Ridge Road, Sprague Lake, Bear Lake Road, Alpine Ridge Trail, Emerald Lakes, Alberta Falls

Wildlife – Desert Bighorn Sheep, Mule Deer, Mountain Lions, Coyotes, Gray Fox

How many days do you need? 1-3

Local Tip: Grand Canyon West is not part of Grand Canyon National Park but on Hualapai Tribal land.

See More: 17 Breathtaking Things to Do at the Grand Canyon National Park

13. Mesa Verde National Park, New Mexico →

35853 Rd H.5, Mancos, CO 81328, map

Average Temperatures: 67° F / 39° F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 6:04 AM / 8:16 PM

Why Visit: Tour the ancient cliff dwellings and archaeological sites at Mesa Verde. Guided tours are the best way to see the park, and May has excellent weather for them. Did you know this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Guided Tours, Wildlife Viewing, Scenic Drive

Don’t Miss:

To Do – Cliff Palace, Balcony House, Step House, Mesa Top Loop Road, Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum

Wildlife – Mule Deer, Black Bear, Coyote, Bobcat, Spotted Bat, Great Horned Owl

How many days do you need? 1-3

Local Tip: To purchase tickets for the guided tours, stop by the Visitors Center, Museum, or the Durango Welcome Center.

See More: 7 Things You Can’t Miss in Mesa Verde National Park

14. Theodore Roosevelt National Park ND for Good Temps

47.2544508,-104.6167041, map

Average Temperatures: 69° F / 40° F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 5:19 AM / 8:22 PM

Why Visit: Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the best national parks to visit in May because of the mild temperatures and blooming wildflowers. We visited in July, and it was way too hot.

Best For / Top Activities: Hiking / Backpacking, Stargazing, Kayaking, Fishing, Guided Tours

Don’t Miss:

To Do – Elkhorn Ranch Unit, North Unit, South Unit, River Bend Overlook, Oxbow Overlook

Wildlife – Bison, Feral Horses, Elk, Mule Deer, Pronghorn, Prairie Dogs

How many days do you need? 2-3

Local Tip: The park has three different areas.

See More: Complete National Parks List by State

15. Joshua Tree National Park CA For Stargazing →

6554 Park Blvd, Joshua Tree, CA 92252, map

Average Temperatures: 86° F / 55° F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 5:43 AM / 7:40 PM

Why Visit: May is the last month to explore Joshua Tree National Park before the summer heat sets in. It’s too hot to climb, but it’s finally Milky Way season for epic stargazing.

Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Backpacking, Stargazing, Camping, Scenic Drives, Climbing

Don’t Miss:

To Do – Arch Rock, Cholla Cactus Garden, Halls of Horror, Skull Rock

Wildlife – Bobcat, Mountain Lion, Coyote, Gray Fox, Desert Kit Fox, Black Bear, Bighorn Sheep, Desert Cottontail

How many days do you need? 1 or 2-3 if you climb

See More: 11 Amazing Things to Do in Joshua Tree National Park

Map of the Best National Parks to Visit in May

More National Parks to Visit in May

Arches National Park, Utah – great weather

Canyonlands National Park, Utah – great weather

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona – wildflowers

Pinnacles National Park, California – April is better, but flowers still are blooming in May

Redwood National Park, California – dogwood trees blooming

Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota – great weather

Zion National Park, Utah – wildflowers in April and May

Tips for Visiting National Parks in May

Use the Leave No Trace principles. Have a plan, stay on established trails, carry out anything you carry in, leave what you find, minimize campfire impact, respect wildlife, and be considerate of others.

Pick up the National Park Annual Pass if you plan on visiting multiple parks within the year. It saves you a lot of money.

Want to see spring blooms? Climate change and droughts can make timing unpredictable. We typically scroll through Instagram or TikTok and look for non-influencers. 

Packing layers is always a good idea when traveling. Some parks drastically change temperatures from day to night. Pay attention to the elevation change. A general rule is that it’s 5 degrees cooler for every 1000 ft elevation.

You may need a reservation. See national parks that now require reservations here.

Closures – Always check the park’s site and Visitors Center for the most up-to-date information on closures.

Remember that wildlife is wild. Be familiar with how to interact with animals and how much space you should have between you and them. Generally, you should stay 25 yards from most wildlife and 100 yards from predators, but each park has different rules.

What to Pack

How you pack depends on the parks and activities, but here are general items we always pack.

Camera Gear

Travel Backpack

Camping / Backpacking Equipment

National Park Annual Pass

National Park Passport

Layers (The Best Travel Jackets)

Solid Hiking Shoes

Planning Checklist

Get comprehensive insurance for your trip.

Download these helpful language apps.

Arrange a rental car for your trip.

Get airport lounge access.

Buy a travel charger to keep your devices charged.

Get a new backpack for your trip.

Pack the appropriate shoes for your trip.

Don’t forget your in-flight essentials.

Recap of the 15 Best National Parks to Visit in May

May is a great time to explore the National parks. Here is a list of parks we recommend visiting.

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Sequoia National Park, California

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee & North Carolina

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Yosemite National Park, California

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Mesa Verde National Park, New Mexico

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Joshua Tree National Park, California

National Parks By Month: Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec

Can you think of others that belong on this list of best National Parks to visit in May? Which ones are we missing?

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Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.

Follow on Instagram (E + J), YouTube, TikTok, and Pinterest.

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