The Best National Parks to Visit in April This Year
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April is the best time to look into a vacation if you are trying to save some money and deal with fewer crowds. It is considered part of the “off-season” in many places, so it can be a good time to take a break from school or work and get out of town for a while and take a road trip. So here is a list of the best national parks you can visit in April,
Badlands National Park Is One Of The Best Places To Start
Badlands National Park can be found in the southwestern corner of South Dakota. This national park contains 244,000 acres of stunning topography and is combined with a vast area of prairie. This park was originally created to be the Badlands National Monument in 1939. In 1978 it was changed to a national park.
Badlands National Park contains a very large grass prairie. The Badlands prairie is comprised of over 56 different varieties of prairie grasses. Some of the grasses flourish during cooler weather and other grasses flourish during the heat of the summer. The majority of the prairie grasses that grow in Badlands National Park are native grasses that have grown in this area for many years.
Badlands National Park also contains geological formations that are both colorful and beautiful. The formations are a result of the Rocky Mountains forming and spreading their volcanic sediments over the neighboring prairie regions. There are many interesting and unique rock shapes that add unique beauty to the scenic landscape of the park.
There are areas that allow camping at Badlands National Park. The Sage Creek Campground has free campsites that are provided to campers without reservations necessary. Visitors who are backpacking within the park boundaries are allowed to camp in any spots that are a minimum of a half-mile away from roads or trails. Camping is recommended during the spring or fall when temperatures are not extremely hot. Campfires are never allowed anywhere within the park boundaries.
There is a lodge located within the park boundaries that serve food. It has public restrooms, telephones, and a gift shop. Cabins can be rented between April and October.
Hiking For A Great Time
The Castle Trail is a ten-mile loop trail and is the longest hiking trail in Badlands National Park. This easy hike trail is generally a level trail, walks along some of the geological formations, and it is possible to encounter wildlife while hiking on this trail. There are six other hiking trails. Some are suitable for novice hikers and others involve varying degrees of hiking experience and stamina.
Biking is permissible on paved, dirt, and gravel roads only. No off-road biking is allowed. It is recommended that bikers be very careful while biking on the roads within the park boundaries because there are no bike lanes.
Grand Canyon National Park Is Great For Outdoor Activities
Carved into eternity by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon is firmly established as one of the world’s wonders. Sunrise sets the stage for a journey into serenity.
Slashing through the landscape in Northern Arizona, the Grand Canyon looms larger than anything in anyone’s wildest imagination. The Colorado River has taken millions of years to carve a scene that would take a lifetime to describe.
On a scenic drive from the east, towards the Grand Canyon’s southern rim region, the desert scenery of the nearby Navajo Reservation begins to give way to the green pines of the Kaibab National Forest. A night camping in the forest, amongst the panoramic star-filled skies, starts a journey that turns into a morning of peaceful tranquility.
Rising in the clean, crisp forest morning air and greeted by herds of elk and sporadic lone deer, it becomes easy to forget the reason for the trek is to view this American treasure.
Moving further down the winding road, the canyon becomes visible, and the spectacle is beyond words. The sheer size and scope of the canyon become something incomprehensible. Stopping and gazing upon the Grand Canyon, within that first view, establishes the immensity of nature, while reinforcing the reality of human frailty. A sight that must be seen to be truly believed, and even then it seems surreal.
The minutes tick quietly by as the manifestation of nature’s monument is absorbed. Sunrise trails slowly across the rim and shine into the wonder. The canyon’s rock scene becomes illuminated with numerous shades of orange, red, green, and brown. The cool, crisp morning air, filled with the scents of the wilderness pines, allows one to temporarily forget cities of concrete and steel.
Back to Civilization
A short drive further west along the road brings the visitor center, hotels, and some semblance of society. Vacation tourists unload off of buses and visitors scramble for views and pictures along the top of the canyon. The mule handlers begin moving the animals towards the holding pens in preparation for providing visitors a ride down into the waking canyon.
Looking down into the mile-plus depth of the canyon brings awe and wonderment. Shrubs and trees growing into the sides walls add to the ever-changing color schemes within the canyon. At the canyon center is the Colorado River, in its aqua-greenish blues, carelessly flowing unabated, seemingly oblivious to the vision it and time have created.
Clouds form and dissipate above the canyon center right before the eyes. Winged wildlife soar along the air streams searching for meals. For the bold, the hike down into the chasm of sweltering day-time heat begins and the true enormity of the Grand Canyon is fully realized.
Redwood National Park Is Great Any Time Of The Year
The Redwood National and State Parks is one of the most visited national parks and it stretches 450 miles between Monterey Bay and the northern California and Oregon border. When you drive on Highway 101 heading north, you will notice a distinct change in vegetation from California oak woodlands to the Douglas-fir and coast redwood forests.
The World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve is home to giant redwood trees as well as rhododendron, azalea, huckleberry, and maples. Enjoy a scenic drive, or an afternoon hike and horseback riding or stay overnight in one of the campgrounds and take advantage of the activities and picturesque scenery available in the Redwood National Park.
Redwoods Are Something To See In Late Spring
Redwoods are one of the world’s oldest and tallest trees and ancestors of the modern coast redwood existed more than 100 million years ago. Approximately 20 million years ago, redwoods became established along the west coast of North America.
Today, the Redwood National Park is the only redwood forest still in existence anywhere in the world. The national park protects old-growth redwoods and all of the trees in the parklands are protected from logging, so you will be able to walk among the giant coast redwoods and Sequoias that grow over 300 feet tall. Many of the trees are more than 500 years old.
While the marbled murrelets live primarily at sea the majority of the marbled murrelet population in California nests within Redwood National and State Parks. They are listed as a Threatened Species of Concern by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Part of the reason the species has become endangered is due to the increased human activity in the park. When campers or hikers leave behind discarded food in the park, corvids, Steller’s jays, ravens, or crows, repeatedly fly over the messy sites seeking a source of food.
As the corvids are circling, they may spot a murrelet nest hidden high in the redwood forest. Although adult murrelets’ feathers provide camouflage, blending into redwood branches, any movement by murrelet or their babies may draw the attention of a corvid.
Once spotted, a corvid may make a meal out of murrelet chicks and eggs as well as disrupt the nesting patterns of an adult murrelet pair. Visitors to the park can help protect the marbled murrelet by maintaining a clean camp, removing all trash and food as well as refraining from feeding any wild animals or birds.
The park offers numerous scenic drives of various lengths, including the 10-mile drive through ancient redwoods on the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway and the 8 miles along the Coastal Drive that winds along the Pacific Ocean to eventually descends into the redwood forest at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Consider stopping at one of the marked overlooks to enjoy the scenery and well as to look for migrating gray whales and several species of seabirds.
The California Department of Parks and Recreation operates four developed campgrounds within the Redwood National and State Parks, with three campsites in the redwood forest and one near the Pacific Ocean.
All of the forest campsites provide restrooms, showers, bear-proof lockers, and fire pits. The Jedediah Smith Redwoods campsite, situated off Highway 199 at Hiouchi, and the Elk Prairie campsite, located on the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, are both open year-round.
The Mill Creek campsite, located approximately six miles south of Crescent City, is usually open from the beginning of April until the end of September. The Gold Bluffs Beach campsite, located in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, is open all year and provides restrooms, solar showers, and fire pits.
Depending upon their skills and the needs of the park, volunteers are trained to staff park visitor centers, lead educational children’s programs, host campgrounds or build and maintain trails. Volunteers may also be asked to assist in plant or animal field studies, provide research assistance, help organize and maintain the park library as well as conduct weed and invasive species control.
Although a government vehicle may be provided during work hours, volunteers are generally required to have their own reliable vehicle for personal transportation. Free housing may be available for volunteers who work at least 32 hours a week.
Big Bend National Park Is A Great Way To Spend Your Vacation
Looking for a place where the night skies are so dark and filled with stars and the air is fresh and clean? A place where you can feel like you’ve reached the end of the earth and the beginning of paradise? Consider visiting Big Bend National Park, tucked deep in southwest Texas, far from any city or town, where cacti bloom in the moonlight, and a variety of desert species, from sidewinder snakes to Gila monsters, roam freely.
It Might Not Be Easy To Get To
Big Bend is way, way off the beaten path. Accessible from Alpine, Texas on Texas Route 118, Farm to Market Road 170 from Presidio to US Highways 90 or 385 through Marathon, this is a park that you need to be well prepared for when you visit. This means having plenty of water, food, gas, and a car in good condition; once you arrive in the park, you’re a long way from civilization.
A Bird Lover’s Paradise
But, once there, it’s worth the effort. Located on main bird migration routes, Big Bend National Park is a great place for bird-watching year-round. Northern species fly here for the warm weather in winter, and birds from the tropics to the south use it as a spring breeding ground.
There are a number of locations within the park from which visitors can get a good view of the more than 450 species of birds that can be sent in Big Bend throughout the year, including the Colima warbler, which can only be found in the US in the park’s Chisos Mountains between April and September.
Check Out the Rocks
The sparse vegetation in this part of the state makes Big Bend the perfect place for studying the geology of the region. Rock formations that are around 500 million years old are easily observed and studied. For more than 200 million years, until some 300 million years ago, Big Bend was at the western end of a deep ocean trough that extended from present-day Arkansas and Oklahoma. The sediment washed down from the north collected in the bottom of the trough, forming layers of sand, gravel, and clay.
These layers eventually became beds of shale and limestone, which were squeezed up to form the Ouachita Mountains. Over 160 million years of erosion have left only the roots of these mountains today. When the sea that once covered this land receded, it left behind the twisted rock formations that can be seen today.
Take a Hike
Big Bend contains the largest tract of roadless public land in Texas, and with its more than 150 miles of trails, is a great place for hiking the longer hikes. Whether just go for a short hike or camping, the chances to see a variety of plant and animal species in early spring like bald eagles, grizzly bears and black bears, and unforgettable scenic vistas are unparalleled.
To assist in planning a trip to Big Bend National Park, a Visitor’s Guide of the US National Parks can be downloaded from the National Park Service Website. Entrance and camping fees for Big Bend are reasonable, and the entrance fees are waived for educational groups who are visiting the park as part of their coursework, provided the request is submitted at least two weeks prior to the visit.
Everglades Is Great For Wildlife Viewing In The Spring Season
Everglades National Park preserves about a fifth of the interconnected swamp lands, estuaries, and pinelands that make up the everglades ecosystem in southern Florida. Only 25% of the historic everglades remain.
The park preserves approximately 1.5 million acres. It is the third largest national park in the continental United States, behind Death Valley National Park and Yellowstone National Park. It was the first national park ever created for its biological diversity. Before the inception of Everglades National Park, federal parks were always chosen based on aesthetic merit.
It is a preserve
For this reason, the park serves first and foremost as a biological preserve. Though some of the large, more formidable species such as the American Crocodile and the manatee garner more public attention, there are also rare and fragile plant and aquatic systems found in few places on earth outside the Everglades.
The diversity of species originates in the diversity of ecosystems found within the park’s boundaries. The ecosystems within the everglades range from pineland to freshwater slough; from marine estuaries and saltwater mangrove forests to coastal prairie land. Over 1,000 species of plants thrive in the Everglades.
There is an ethical imperative pervasive throughout the park that prompts visitors to ‘leave no trace’ of their passage. Photographers and families are welcome to hike and explore, but all who enter the park are asked to follow these guidelines:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Despite the fact that endangered species inside the boundaries of the park are protected by law, many are still declining in number. The everglades outside the park’s boundaries continue to be defiled and reduced by human activity. Drainage has compromised the integrity of wetlands, and the loss of seagrass in Florida bay was followed by losses to avian, marine, and plant populations.
People often release exotic snakes into the Everglades that have become too large or aggressive to care for. Large snakes, such as the Burmese Python, end up competing with the American Alligator for prey. Snakes have had an impact on bird populations, as they will eat both birds and eggs. They can pose a threat to visitors who are not wary when exploring the Everglades.
Safety should be part of your agenda when planning a trip to the Everglades. Know your route, and book a guide if you are unsure what areas are safe to explore. Keep a safe distance from all manner of reptiles. Do not enter standing water, or exit a boat before reaching dry land. Small children should remain in populated park areas, and not be taken into the backcountry. Never leave a child unattended when you are camping or hiking in the park.
The park is always open, but many of the facilities operate on a seasonal schedule. Shark Valley Entrance is open from 8:30 am to 6 pm.
As you can tell, April is a great time to visit several different National parks. When visiting any National Park, remember to respect any wildlife you come across and adhere to all safety guidelines. With a little bit of preparation and research, you’ll be sure to make the most of your visit. Enjoy!