Visiting the country’s most popular national parks doesn’t have to mean fighting traffic and paying peak prices. During their off-seasons, crowds thin, prices often drop and it’s far easier to find a bit of solitude among some of the U.S.’s most celebrated landscapes. It can actually be a great time to visit.
Take a journey through three popular national parks during their off-peak seasons. This guide will take you from the spectacular granite monoliths of Yosemite to the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon, then east to the bubbling streams of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Yosemite National Park
Best Off-Peak Time to Visit: November to March
Yosemite Valley’s summer traffic jams and shoulder-to-shoulder crowds can be overwhelming. Avoid the stress by traveling to one of the country’s busiest parks in winter and early spring, when famed Yosemite Falls slows to a trickle along with the influx of visitors.
Because these seasons often bring snow and average daytime temps in the upper 40s and mid-50s, be aware when driving to and around the park that high-country Glacier Point Road and Tioga Road typically close for the winter starting in mid-November. However, access to Yosemite Valley is open year-round. Though crowds are light, it’s always a good idea to book hotel rooms in Yosemite Valley a few months in advance.