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The month of August rounds out the summer travel season, arriving before the school year kicks off and cooler temperatures creep back in. If you’re looking to book an outdoor adventure before the end of the season, consider a visit to one of the extraordinary U.S. national parks. Experts have specific recommendations for which parks to visit next month, and that might help you squeeze in a last-minute excursion. Read on to find out the nine best national parks that provide the ideal August vacation.
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A less widely known stop, Voyageurs National Park is nestled up north in Minnesota, near the Canadian border. Several national parks are busiest during the summer, Kassidy Olson, writer for Kassidy’s Journey, a travel blog about Minnesota, says—but that isn’t a concern at Voyageurs.
“Voyageurs is really one of the best national parks to visit in August because it’s not busy and there are awesome activities to check out during the summer,” Olson explains. This park offers typical national park activities like hiking, kayaking, and canoeing, but Voyageurs sets itself apart, as nearly 40 percent of the park is covered by water, according to Olson, with some areas strictly accessible by boat.
And you may also want to seek out Voyageurs for optimal stargazing. “On a clear night, you might see the Milky Way above the park, which sees little light pollution and is peaceful at night,” she adds.
Looking to head to the Pacific Northwest? Be sure to check out Olympic National Park in Washington. This is another park that you’ll find to be less crowded in August, compared with those in the “top 10,” Carly Brown, travel blogger and owner of Seek Out Serenity LLC, says. But thanks to all this park has to offer, it probably should claim a spot among the elite.
“Along the Pacific coastal beaches in Olympic National Park, visitors are encouraged to explore the colorful marine life that exists within the tide pools, and August falls within the best time of year for this activity,” Brown tells Best Life. “Vibrant wildflowers in full bloom cover the mountainsides and valleys during the month of August as well.”
And while you may be wary about the grey weather associated with this region, Brown dispels those fears. “The month of August offers the driest and sunniest climate for the year, allowing visitors to fully embrace all of the outdoor adventurers this park has to offer,” she says.
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One of the bigger names to make the list, Zion National Park in Utah is actually a great destination for the late summer months.
“It might seem counterintuitive to visit Zion in August because Utah can get pretty hot during the summer,” Taylor Beal, owner and author of the travel blog Traverse With Taylor, says. “However, this is the absolute best time to hike the Narrows, one of the most famous hikes in the United States.”
According to Beal, the water of the Narrows “is warm enough not to be frigid” in August, offering “a cool respite from the heat.” Water is also a bit calmer, as this area can get choppy and flooded in the spring.
Not sure where you want to stay? Consider setting up camp. “What better way to spend a weekend in August than to hike in refreshing water all day long, and then enjoy the coolness of the night sky in the evening?” Beal asks.
Frequently recommended by travel enthusiasts and bloggers alike is North Cascades National Park in Washington.
“This is one of the least visited national parks, but in my opinion, [it] is the prettiest park in the country,” Chantelle Kincy, owner and author of the Flannels or Flip Flops travel blog, tells Best Life. Check out mountain peaks and over 300 glaciers at this sprawling park, which also provides different options to camp and magnificent views from the Diablo Lake Overlook.
According to Kincy, there are limited times to visit North Cascades, thanks to the heavy snowfall it experiences annually. “Snow often lingers into late summer, and comes early in the fall, making August one of the best time of year to experience all that the park has to offer,” she explains.
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If you’re California dreamin’, you might want to check out Redwood National Park next month. According to Will Pattiz, co-founder of the website More Than Just Parks, not only is Redwood significantly less crowded than other parks, but you can enjoy cooler weather beneath the shade of these enormous trees.
“While August is one of the hottest months in the country, Redwood National Park stays cool with high temperatures reaching the mid-70s,” Pattiz says. This is particularly beneficial for families with youngsters, as they can explore the trails without running the risk of overheating.
And similar to Voyageurs National Park, Pattiz explains that Redwood offers incomparable views of the night sky. The park is “typically known for its foggy conditions,” he says, but stargazing is optimal with clearer summer skies.
Head to Glacier National Park in Montana this August and explore glacial lakes, peaks and valleys, and waterfalls. Many of these sites are only open and accessible in the summer, Sean Lau, founder of the travel and outdoor blog LiveOutLau, explains.
“August is a particularly good time to visit Glacier National Park because all the features of the park are open and the weather is least likely to interrupt your plans,” Lau says. “Visitors can drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, hike along the continental divide at Logan Pass, and attempt some of the harder treks in the park without worrying about bad weather.”
This park is another excellent option if you want to beat the heat, Alex Schnee, of Alex on the Map, tells Best Life. “Glacier is cooler temperature-wise than most parks in the summer because of its higher elevation, and with its iconic views, you’re certain to come home with some incredible photos,” she says.
If you’ve been waiting to book your trip to Yosemite, you might want to consider setting a date in August. According to Michelle Steinhardt, founder of the luxury travel blog The Trav Nav, there are fewer visitors to Yosemite later in the summer.
“Visitors can enjoy the park highlights without jockeying for position on a trail or competing with one another over the best places to take an Instagram-worthy photo,” Steinhardt says, adding that the weather is great for both hiking and exploring.
And if you’re looking to take in a gorgeous California sunset, Jenny Ly, professional travel blogger and entrepreneur at Go Wanderly, recommends the Tunnel View, accessed via the southern entrance to the park.
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This island is described as both “rugged” and “isolated,” per the Isle Royale National Park website, and comes highly recommended for those looking to explore the Great Lakes region. Only accessible by ferry, seaplane, or watercraft, the park is a bit off the beaten path.
“Isle Royale is located in the middle of Lake Superior, so the weather is very unpredictable during much of the year,” Samantha Meabon, owner and creator of PA on Pause, explains. And as the park is only open from mid-April through October, planning a late-summer trip is ideal.
“Since the best thing to do in this national park is explore the backcountry and camp, you’ll want to visit during the best weather,” Meabon says. Looking to check out the island’s moose population? According to Meabon, August is a great time for a trip, as you’ll be getting there before mating season begins in late September.
Great Sand Dunes—officially designated a national park in 2004—is a perfect option for adventurers, according to Ly. And with the cool Colorado climate in the summer, consider visiting in August. “This national park offers a wide range of sand sledding and sandboarding activities,” she says. “Additionally, it provides you with opportunities to go hiking, swimming, and ride a horse.”
This park offers the tallest sand dunes in all of North America. And if you opt to visit on a moonless night, Great Sand Dunes is another go-to destination to see star-studded skies at Dark Sky Park.