Most of us associate summer with some form of camping or outdoor recreation. But not all national parks are great summer destinations. Many parks in the Sun Belt, for example, experience sweltering temperatures. So if you want to check off a few destinations on your national parks bucket list this year, you’ll need to focus on the best national parks to visit in the summer in the U.S.
As a general tip, many U.S. parks experience the height of visitation during the summer months. You’ll need to plan ahead to secure campsite reservations, book guided tours and research safety tips for the activities you want to do once you reach your destination.
Because national park campgrounds fill up quickly, consider campgrounds outside the park too. Park campgrounds can also get expensive, and because they see such high visitation, keeping up with maintenance can be tough for park staff, especially toward the end of the camping season.
Good Sam Parks provide an affordable alternative to camping inside the parks during peak season. Good Sam members can save big with a 10 percent discount at any of our 2,000-plus Good Sam Parks across North America. Sign up online to purchase a membership or simply buy it at the Good Sam Park you visit (discounts apply immediately).
The 10 Best U.S. National Parks To Visit in the Summer
That being said, your journey begins with a simple decision: deciding which park to visit and planning your national parks road trip! So here are a few of the best U.S. national parks for summer trips:
Crater Lake National Park
It’s honestly hard to find a more iconic park than Crater Lake. The lake’s caldera is one of America’s most picturesque natural features. Visiting this park during the summer provides the best chance to experience everything that Crater Lake has to offer.
RV sites are available in Mazama Campground, and the Rim Drive is accessible to most RVs and travel trailers, even if it has speed restrictions. Rent an RV while at Crater Lake and enjoy no shortage of hiking trails, fishing opportunities, and guided tours to check out during your visit.
Before your visit, check out our complete guide to RVing Crater Lake National Park.
Good Sam Campgrounds Nearby
- Big Pines RV Park: Located in Crescent, OR, about 45 minutes north of the park.
- Waterwheel RV Park and Campground: Located in Chiloquin, OR, about 50 minutes southeast of the park.
- Seven Feathers RV Resort: Located in Canyonville, OR, about 2.5 hours from the park.
Glacier National Park
Because it’s one of the northernmost parks in the contiguous U.S., summer is the only time when the park’s higher elevations are accessible. Glacier National Park is a hiker’s paradise, and many hikes come with the chance to cool off in a crisp alpine lake.
The park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the most iconic scenic drives you’ll find in any national park. In addition, you’ll find views of some of the few remaining glaciers in the lower 48 states in this mind-blowing park. Rent an RV and see it all while you’re there.
Read Camping World’s Guide to RVing Glacier National Park for more tips to help you plan your visit.
Good Sam Campgrounds Nearby
- West Glacier RV Park & Cabins: Located in West Glacier, MT, about 10 minutes from the Apgar Visitor Center.
- Mountain Meadow RV Park & Cabins: Located in Hungry Horse, MT, about 20 minutes from the Apgar Visitor Center.
- Mountain View RV Park: Located in Columbia Falls, MT, about 30 minutes from the Apgar Visitor Center.
- Glacier Peaks RV Park: Located in Columbia Falls, MT, about 30 minutes from the Apgar Visitor Center.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
When folks are flocking to the valleys and waterfalls in Yosemite National Park, you can find a much quieter experience in nearby Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. These neighboring parks are often overlooked, so they’re a great option if you’re looking to beat the summer crowds.
One of the coolest attractions in these parks is the General Grant Tree. Standing at a height of roughly 270 feet and with an estimated circumference of 107 feet, this sequoia is the second-largest tree in the world (and it’s over 3,000 years old!).
- Lemon Cove Village RV Park: Located in Lemon Cove, CA, about 35 minutes from the Foothills Visitor Center.
- Sequoia RV Ranch: Located in Three Rivers, CA, about 20 minutes from the Foothills Visitor Center.
- Sequoia RV Park: Located in Dunlap, CA, about 30 minutes from the Kings Canyon Visitor Center.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Hikers love exploring the many trails in the Great Smoky Mountains. The Appalachian Trail runs through the park, but there are also several shorter and easier hikes to choose from. As a major bonus, the park is home to many beautiful waterfalls that can help you cool down on a hot summer day.
At more than 100 feet tall, Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in the park. But some of the other notable falls you should explore include Grotto, Laurel, Abrams, and Rainbow Falls. Early summer is also a great time for wildflower viewing in the Smoky Mountains.
Good Sam Campgrounds Nearby
- Greenbrier Campground: Located in Gatlinburg, TN, about 25 minutes from the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
- Riveredge RV Park: Located in Pigeon Forge, TN, about 20 minutes from the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
- Stonebridge RV Resort: Located in Maggie Valley, NC, about 40 minutes from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.
- Smoky Mountain Meadows Campground: Located in Bryson City, NC, about 30 minutes from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.
Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords is one of several fascinating national parks in Alaska. Seward is the jumping-off point for adventures in the park. It’s also the best place to set up your RV basecamp if you are planning on RVing to this national park.
Much of the park is inaccessible to vehicles, which means smaller crowds and only those willing to explore by alternative means of transportation. In addition to hiking, boat tours and kayaking are two of the most popular forms of water-based transport in Kenai Fjords.
Check out Camping World’s Guide to RVing Kenai Fjords National Park to learn how to maximize your visit to this beautiful national park including RV rentals in Alaska.
- Stoney Creek RV Park: Located in Seward, AK, about 10 minutes from the national park visitor center.
- Waterfront Park: Located in Seward, AK, about two minutes from the national park visitor center.
- Kenai Princess RV Park: Located in Cooper Landing, AK, about one hour from the national park visitor center.
- Military Park Seward Resort: Located in Seward, AK, about five minutes from the national park visitor center.
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve
Staying up in Alaska, it makes sense to utilize your summer visit to check out Lake Clark National Park as well. The park is situated in southwest Alaska, where the Alaskan mountains meet the Aleutian Islands.
The park is incredibly diverse. You’ll get a chance to walk under the shadow of active volcanoes, fish in salmon-filled rivers, hike through glaciated valleys, and view the park’s abundance of caribou, moose, brown bears, Dall sheep, bald eagles, and other wildlife.
Here’s everything you need to plan your visit to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve.
- Anchorage Ship Creek RV Park: Located in Anchorage, AK, about a one-hour flight from Port Alsworth.
- Ocean Shores RV Park & Resort: Located in Homer, AK, about a 1-1.5-hour flight from Port Alsworth.
- Heritage RV Park: Located in Homer, AK, about a 1-1.5-hour flight from Port Alsworth.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Not to be confused with Glacier National Park in Montana, Glacier Bay is the world’s largest protected area and is also designated a World Heritage site. Occupying oughly 3.3 million acres, the terrain stretches from sea level to the high peaks of the Fairweather Mountain Range.
Don’t let their cozy name confuse you, though. This Alaskan wilderness is harsh in the winter but incredibly lovely during the summer. Visitors to this park in southeastern Alaska can experience everything from walking beaches at low tide to scrambling up rugged mountainsides at higher elevations.
Use Camping World’s Guide to RVing Glacier Bay National Park to prepare for your visit to this Alaskan national park.
- Haines Hitch-up RV Park: Located in Haines, AK, about a 1.5-hour flight from Gustavus, AK, which is a 20-minute drive from the park’s visitor center.
- Glacier Nalu Campground Resort: Located in Juneau, AK, about a 30-minute flight from Gustavus, AK.
- Garden City RV Park: Located in Skagway, AK, about a three-hour flight from Gustavus, AK.
Great Basin National Park
Eastern Nevada might not be top-of-mind when it comes to a summer national park visit, but Great Basin National Park is one of the park service’s true hidden gems. Situated along the Lonely Highway (U.S. 50), the park is a stop for anyone seeking a unique road trip through Nevada’s many mountain ranges.
The park includes peaks above 13,000 feet in elevation, 5,000-year-old bristlecone pines, and more than 40 caves. The arid region along the Nevada-Utah border might not be the place you’d expect to find a glacier, but that’s exactly the case if you visit this national park.
Find out how to visit one of America’s least-visited national parks in our guide to RVing Great Basin National Park.
- Whispering Elms Motel, Campground, and RV Park: Located in Baker, NV, about one minute from the Great Basin Visitor Center.
- The Border Inn & RV Park: Located in Baker, NV, about 15 minutes from the Great Basin Visitor Center.
Shenandoah National Park
When the weather gets hot and humid around the Washington D.C./northern Virginia area, Shenandoah National Park offers a great chance to escape to cooler air at higher elevations. There are more than 500 miles of trails winding through the Blue Ridge Mountains in the park.
Another reason Shenandoah is a popular summer choice is its abundance of natural waterfalls. With more than two dozen cascades scattered through the park’s canyons, hollows, and gorges, there’s no shortage of places to soak your cap and cool off.
Our guide to RVing Shenandoah National Park has more tips for the best seasons to visit and how to prepare for your adventure in this gorgeous park including renting an RV in Shenandoah National Park.
Good Sam Campgrounds Nearby
- Misty Mountain Camp Resort: Located in Greenwood, VA, about 25 minutes from the Rockfish Gap Entrance Station.
- Shenandoah Valley Campground: Located in Verona, VA, about 40 minutes from the Rockfish Gap Entrance Station.
- North Fork Resort: Located in Front Royal, VA, about 20 minutes from the Front Royal Entrance Station.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
While summer temperatures on the surface in southern New Mexico can be scorching, Carlsbad Caverns remains a popular summer destination because the park’s main attractions are underground.
The caverns here stay a cool 56 degrees year-round, and there are several miles to explore. Time up your cave exploration to end around sunset. April through October is also the best time to view the nightly flight of the cave’s Brazilian free-tailed bat colony.
Check out the complete guide to RVing Carlsbad Caverns National Park to make the most of this destination during the summer.
Good Sam Campgrounds Nearby
- Bud’s Place RV Park & Cabins: Located in Carlsbad, NM, about 35 minutes from the visitor’s center.
- Bonnie & Clyde’s Getaway RV Park: Located in Carlsbad, NM, about 45 minutes from the visitor’s center.
- Carlsbad RV Park & Campground: Located in Carlsbad, NM, about 30 minutes from the visitor’s center.
- Sun West Mobile City: Located in Carlsbad, NM, about 30 minutes from the visitor’s center.
Of course, there are plenty of other U.S. national parks to visit in the summer, but these are some of our favorites. Hopefully, you now have plenty of options to help you plan your next national parks RV road trip!