National Parks are hotter than ever this summer, in temperature and popularity. In both cases, you may want to avoid them until their “hotness” wears off, or maybe you want to be a part of it.
We’ve researched to find the hottest national parks so you can make the decision for yourself.
Let’s jump in!
Hottest National Parks by Popularity
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The most popular national park is by far Great Smoky Mountains National Park, covering parts of North Carolina and Tennessee. It sees over 11 million people annually and saw more than 12 million in 2020 during the height of the pandemic.
This national park is hot because of its lush, vast forests, incredible hikes, flowing waterfalls, and beautiful scenic drives.
Pro Tip: As great as it might be, there are 5 reasons to avoid Smoky Mountain National Park.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park comes in second with only 3.8 million visitors. This park offers unique views of volcanic activity, wildlife, and wildflowers.
It’s ideal for photographers, pro or amateur. Yellowstone is also vast and provides plenty of opportunities for backcountry hiking, fishing, or winter snowmobiling.
Keep in mind: There are some great free campsites around Yellowstone National Park.
Zion National Park
Coming in a close third for most-visited is Zion National Park in Utah, with 3.6 million visitors. Zion was already a hot national park and became even more so after people began posting their adventures in this beautiful park.
Hiking Angel’s Landing is certainly on more bucket lists than ever before. Geology buffs, climbers, and hikers alike enjoy the towering sandstone cliffs and deep, layered canyons.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park, northwest of Denver, makes you feel like you’re on top of the world. It’s ranked as the fourth hottest national park with around 3.3 million visitors a year.
The park is popular because it lets people who couldn’t normally hike to 12,000 feet drive to stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Imagine the stars you can see from up there! Not to mention the abundant hiking trails, wildlife, and wildflowers.
Grand Teton National Park
Tied with Rocky Mountain National Park for most visited is Grand Teton National Park. It covers parts of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.
In fact, the park is at the south end of Yellowstone National Park. Here, you can hike alpine trails and enjoy a picnic lunch near a pristine mountain lake or float down the Snake River.
Here’s our favorite boondocking site near Grand Teton.
Grand Canyon National Park
What about Grand Canyon National Park? People talk about it so much that you’d think it would be in the top five most-visited. If you consider the above Rocky Mountain and Grand Teton as tied for fourth, then Grand Canyon sneaks in at number five with 2.9 million visitors.
This park is most famous for its immense canyon you can hike into for camping or a river trip. You can also take a train ride around the rim.
Hottest New National Park
White Sands just became a national park in December of 2019. Because of this, we feel White Sands will be a hot national park over the next few years.
National Park buffs who couldn’t get their stamp due to visitor center closures will want to go now so they can mark another park in their book. The park offers massive dunes of crystal white gypsum sand that you can drive through on the road they keep plowed.
You can also hike or sled the dunes, or take a sunset guided tour with a ranger.
Hottest National Parks by Temperature
Death Valley easily reaches the hottest temperatures of all the national parks. In fact, it holds the world record for the hottest temperature of 134 degrees. And that’s just air temperature. The highest recorded ground temperature was 201 degrees! That’s certainly not a time to visit, let alone go hiking.
Less famous, Saguaro National and Petrified Forest National Parks in Arizona have summer temperatures typically above 100 degrees.
Southern Utah’s national parks, such as Zion, Canyonlands, and Arches all see temperatures around 100 in July. In addition, June and August are typically in the high 90’s. Most also note extreme temperatures up to 116 degrees in the summer.
White Sands National Park is also up there, recording 97 as its average throughout June and July. In addition, Carlsbad Caverns, also in New Mexico, shows highs near 100 degrees during its hottest months.
Again, what about the Grand Canyon?
Well, on the North and South Rims, summertime highs only average between the high 70’s and mid-80’s, depending on your exact location. However, inside the canyon, the average temperatures in July reach 106 with June and August being nearly as hot.
The Hottest National Park
Looking at both popularity and heat, it seems Zion National Park is the hottest. However, any of these national parks can get too hot and crowded for exploring during the summer.
So, you might want to plan your trip for winter or the shoulder season if you can. Have you been to any of these parks during the summer? Was it too hot or just right for you?
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