When should you hike a trail? Some hikes lead to fascinating forests, some have tremendous views and others are rich in variety. Share your favorite trails with other hikers and nature lovers.
To escape the heat, spring and fall are the best times for hiking. In summer, it is oven-like and can get well above 100°F (38°C) and on the other side thunderstorms occur. If you go in midsummer avoid long hikes. Snow and ice can be an issue in winter unless that's what you’re looking for but mind, half of the annual rainfall comes during the winter.
This trail is not as popular as Angels Landing or The Narrows, the reason that it's less busy. However, start early to get shade along the exhausting switchbacks.
Avoiding Tourist Crowds:
Peak months are June to August. Fewer hikers in spring and fall. Very quiet in December, January, February but bear in mind road or trails can be closed. However, you can avoid crowds year-round by starting your hike or exploration right after sunrise. At that time, you’ll have the park almost for yourself. Most visitors don’t start before 10 a.m.
In the morning, there is also a better chance of spotting wildlife and the best light for photos.
From March to October you have to take the shuttle bus, cars are not permitted. From November to February you can park your car at a small parking lot at the trailhead. The scenic drive in Zion can be closed at weekends in February and shuttle bus transportation has to be taken. Check shuttle bus schedule for each season first, includes maps and hiking trail information.
In May, high chance for spectacular wildflowers along the trail, especially in Echo Canyon.
Sweet Spot Months:
The best months with usually good weather and less crowds than during peak months are: March/April and October/November.
Zion National Park is a great year-round destination. It's open every day and can definitely be visited in every season. Depending on what time of year you go, you will be faced with different conditions that you need to prepare for. Summer is hot and dry, spring and fall vary widely and winter is cold and wet. Also, the services available will vary based on the season.
The image is showing Zion in the hot summer with crowds and in spring (or fall) without the crowds (The Narrows)
The best time to visit Zion is during spring and fall. In April, the summer crowds have not arrived yet and the weather is pleasant with temperatures around 73°F (23°C). Between late September and October most crowds are gone, and it is still warm with an average of 78°F (26°C).
Find more tips in our complete guide below with every season and month explained in detail. We wrote down what you can expect to encounter on a monthly basis. The seasons are broken down based on the weather rather than the calendar. Finally we added tips and information about when The Narrows are open and the operating times for the Zion Shuttle System.
Always keep in mind that the difference between dayime temperatures (see above) and during the night can be 30°F (15°C). In summer, it is oven-like and can get well above 100°F (38°C) and on the other side thunderstorms occur. If you go in the middle of summer avoid long hikes. In the winter snow and ice can be an issue. However, winter is a great time without any crowds and an awesome experience. It's not too cold! Check out this video on YouTube: Zion in Winter Another huge advantage in the winter: Accommodation rates are at their lowest. Check the hotel deals below. For the official helpful season guide visit: NPS - Zion Seasons
Avoiding Busy Times
Official Zion National Park Visitors 2018/2019
Peak months are June to August. A little less crowded in spring and fall. Very quiet in December, January, February but bear in mind road or trails can be closed. However, you can avoid crowds year-round by starting your hike or exploration right after sunrise. At that time you’ll have the park almost for yourself. Most visitors don’t start before 10 a.m. In the morning there is also a better chance of spotting wildlife and the best light for photos.
Shuttle Overview: From March to October you have to take the shuttle bus, cars are not permitted. Usually, from November to February you can park your car at the available parking lots. The scenic drive in Zion can be closed on weekends in February and shuttle bus transportation has to be taken. Read more details about the shuttle system further below in our shuttle paragraph.
Spring | March and April
Spring is a great time to visit Zion NP as the temperature is not as hot as summer. Spring can be volatile so bring warm layers and rain gear as the weather can change quickly. Mornings tend to be cool but warm up as the sun heats the valley.
March is the start of spring in Zion which is an unpredictable transition time with warmer days but is also with up to 8 days of rain. The temperatures make for great hiking as it's not too hot and not too cold. Daylight is getting longer as well which means you will have more time to explore.
If there is a high amount of snow up on top of the canyons then the many seasonal waterfalls will start to flow. They are usually dried up by summer so it is a treat to see. This meltwater can make the Virgin River a raging torrent so keep away from the banks. The Narrows is closed during spring due to the water levels and current.
Flash Flood Danger: Always check with the visitor center for any flash flood warnings and the daily weather forecast. I've witnessed the sheer power of nature as we watched from upon a ledge a trickling stream transform into a wall of water in seconds. With steep terrain when it rains it will all get funneled to the low points which tend to be the canyons so you might not know it's coming because it rained many miles away. If when hiking in a canyon and you hear a rumble upstream and feel a cool damp breeze, get to high ground as this may signal an imminent flash flood.
While down low is becoming warmer and lush the trails up atop the canyon may still have snow and ice late into March so bring traction devices if you plan to hike at the higher elevations. The trees start to bud and the canyon floor appears to come back to life after a winter slumber. But winter and the spring melt can take a toll on the trails with flood damage and downed trees, so check at the visitor center or the Zion National Park webpage to find out about current trail conditions.
In the month of April the wildflowers really start to bloom. Longer days, less rain and warmer temperatures make this an almost idyllic time to visit. Early April is one of our favorite times to go as it's not too hot, waterfalls are often still flowing and the crowds aren't excessive. By this point, all of the trails but the Narrows are open. The snow is melted and the rock dry so rock climbing is often perfect during this window as well.
Backpacking Tip: If you want to go backpacking then consider going in on the northwest side at Kolob Canyon or on the east side for the East Rim Trail. There are local shuttle services that will take you from one trailhead to another and you can hike back to your car. There are also loop routes that will bring you back to where you started. If your route starts or ends in the main canyon make sure you are finished before the shuttles stop running as there is no camping in that part of the park. You will require a backcountry camping permit that is available online or in-person at the Visitor Center.
Weather: Warm days with cool nights and mornings. Wettest time of year with regular rain.
|Daily High||63°F (17°C)||73°F (23°C)|
|Daily Low||36°F (2°C)||43°F (6°C)|
|Days of Rain||8||6|
|Rainfall||1.7 inches||1.3 inches|
Park Services: The shuttle buses start running in March so private vehicles are not allowed on the canyon road. The shuttles are free with park admission. While the visitor center is open year-round, other amenities like the South Campground and Human History Museum open back up for the season in the spring.
Crowds: March sees a huge spike in traffic over February due to the improving weather and spring break but is still only half of the peak traffic in the summer. April ramps up again as it may be one of the best months for hiking, climbing and general exploring. During weekends and spring break it's advised to get to the park early in the morning (before 8 am) to get a parking spot and avoid crowds on the trails, especially Angel's Landing.
Summer | May, June, July, August, September
With the warm weather comes the crowds. The span from May to September is the busiest time of year with over half a million people visiting the park each month. May marks the beginning of summer in Zion. Daily high temperatures are getting to be over 80°F (27°C). At this point, any damage from spring flooding will usually be repaired so all the hiking trails should be open spreading the crowds out.
From June to Mid August you will find a lot of families with children on summer vacation so the park has several programs for kids and shorter easier hikes. There are ranger-led walks and talks that will give you an understanding of Zion NP while being easy enough for even young kids. There are also nature games, music, and storytelling on the lawn of the Zion Lodge. Check for the schedule each day.
Parking in Summer: During the busy times of June, July, and August you avoid parking issues in the park with one must-know tip: Use the free shuttle service from Springdale to the entrance of Zion NP! It runs roughly every 10 minutes and the pick-up spots are close to the hotels in town. Tip: Read our shuttle section below the season guide.
The Narrows: In May the chances of hiking The Narrows are good. However, the water is freezingly cold (see below). The first time we ever went to Zion was in May 2000. No shuttle, no gear (neoprene) to rent, nothing. We are experienced hikes had to return after a few minutes due to the freezingly cold water. June is a safe bet for the Narrows hike to be open. This hike is in the Virgin River walking either from the canyon upstream or a longer multi day trek downstream. To hike the whole downstream stretch requires a permit but a day outing upstream as far as Big Spring. We’ve done the upstream hike (no permit required) in the summer and while it is extremely hot out the water, the river was surprisingly cold. You will want to wear water hiking shoes and use poles as the uneven rocky bottom and the current makes it treacherous in places. To do the downstream hike which is 16 miles you will also need to arrange a shuttle to Chamberlain's Ranch as it starts outside the park. If you are interested in this hike always check with the Visitor Center as flash floods happen in the summer due to thunderstorms. You can rent canyoneering boots and neoprene socks if you find the water too cold. If a thunderstorm is forecast the Narrows is closed to avoid dangerous conditions.
Hiking and other activities in June, July and August should be started early in the morning or later afternoon due to the heat. Wear a wide-brimmed hat as well as UV protective clothing and sunglasses to protect against the sun. Cover any exposed skin with sunscreen. The hot dry air will dehydrate you faster than you would expect if you are not used to it. Bring about a quart of water per hour of hiking. Electrolyte drink mix added to your water can help your body retain moisture and replace what you are sweating out. There are places to fill water bottles at the Visitor Center, Grotto, and Zion Lodge.
September is still busy but slightly less than the peak of summer. If you visit in September, go after Labor Day weekend and try to avoid the other weekends as well. That way you’ll avoid most of the crowds Temperatures are slightly cooler making hikes more enjoyable.
Weather: Hot days with warm nights. Relatively dry but frequent thunderstorms which can lead to flash floods.
|Daily High||83°F (28°C)||93°F (34°C)||100°F (38°C)||97°F (36°C)||91°F (33°C)|
|Daily Low||52°F (2°C)||60°F (16°C)||68°F (20°C)||66°F (19°C)||60°F (16°C)|
|Days of Rain||5||3||5||6||4|
|Rainfall||0.7 inches||0.6 inches||0.8 inches||1.3 inches||0.8 inches|
Park Services: Summer is the time where the park is going full speed. Unless otherwise posted all programs are running and all the attractions are open. The shuttle buses will be running roughly every seven minutes so you don't have to wait long if you missed one. >> raus und in generellen Shuttle Abschnitt: There are shuttles from Springdale to the park and shuttles within the park so you have options on where you park.
Crowds: This is the high traffic time of year with more planning and reservations needed. July is the peak month with over 600,000 people going through the gates. Because this is peak season expect lineups for shuttle buses and parking to be harder to find. If you plan to head to Zion NP during the summer make sure you book accommodation in Springdale or the park campsites months in advance as everything books up quickly.
Fall | October and November
Aside from cool temperatures, October and November bring the fall colors. One of the coolest things you will see is the descent of the color change as it starts at the top of the canyon and works its way to lower elevations with the peak in the valley in late October.
Temps: In fall the temperatures can vary so bring layers for warmth as well as sun protection. The temperature can vary by 30 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. We carry beanie hats, light thermal gloves and some light layers which will let us adjust our comfort level if the temperatures drop or the wind picks up.
Crowds: This is our favorite time to visit as the crowds are decreasing and the weather is more pleasant if you are hiking or climbing. Just make sure you have a headlamp with you as the days are getting shorter and you don't want to accidentally get stuck out after dark.
The Narrows: In the fall, the Narrows start to get too cold to go bare-legged so insulated water gear is suggested. You can rent canyoneering boots, wading pole, dry pants, waterproof backpack, and neoprene socks from Zion Outfitters in Springdale right by the Visitor Center. You can rent the boots and socks in the warmer weather if you just need better traction as well.
Drive: Fall is the best time to drive the Mt. Carmel Highway and experience the tunnel. The tunnel is about a mile long with hole cut in the rock so you can see out. The switchbacking road has many pull-offs that let you get beautiful views. Just after the tunnel, there is a pull out on the right to park and hike the Canyon Overlook Trail. This will give you a great view of the canyon.
Weather: Moderate daytime temperatures with cool nights and mornings. November can see snow at higher altitudes.
TypeError: Argument 1 passed to xmlsitemap_node_create_link() must be an instance of stdClass, boolean given, called in /var/www/html/wtbw/sites/all/modules/xmlsitemap/xmlsitemap_node/xmlsitemap_node.module on line 28 in xmlsitemap_node_create_link() (line 194 of /var/www/html/wtbw/sites/all/modules/xmlsitemap/xmlsitemap_node/xmlsitemap_node.module).
TypeError: Argument 1 passed to xmlsitemap_node_create_link() must be an instance of stdClass, boolean given, called in /var/www/html/wtbw/sites/all/modules/xmlsitemap/xmlsitemap_node/xmlsitemap_node.module on line 28 in xmlsitemap_node_create_link() (line 194 of /var/www/html/wtbw/sites/all/modules/xmlsitemap/xmlsitemap_node/xmlsitemap_node.module).
Yosemite National Park! Mesmerizing and spectacular views! Read on for our complete season guide updated in 2019 or scroll down even further for tips about the most breathtaking places. You can use our quick navigation to find your desired subject:
- Spring Months | Season Guide
- Summer Months | Season Guide
- Autumn Months | Season Guide
- Winter Months | Season Guide
- Winter Special | Winter Quick Tips
- Avoiding Crowds - Busy Times
- 3 Must-Know Lodging Alternatives
- Glacier Point-Lower-Yosemite Falls-Half Dome
- 9 Yosemite Top Tips
Special Tip: If you have limited time and like it hassle-free, take a look at these tours: Yosemite National Park Tours (Service by the excellent provider GetYourGuide). Outstanding guides, stunning experience, and you get picked up and dropped off again at your hotel in case you're staying in San Francisco (depending on the tour)! Quote from a recent visitor: 'Brilliant guides very knowledgeable, had a brilliant day, an amazing place to see, absolutely outstanding!' The tours are also great in winter, as it takes away the headache of driving with tire chains. You might love these (the third one is not available in winter):
The Best Time
The best time to visit Yosemite National Park with mostly pleasant temperatures and fewer crowds is either from mid-May until early-June or from late September until mid-October. But still, try to visit mid-week and not on weekends. July and August are always ridiculously busy.
However, despite the crowds, summer brings the most pleasant weather of course. If you plan a summer visit, read our tips to avoid crowds (see below). Waterfalls are at their best in late May, and skiing the Badger Pass lasts through the end of March. Backpackers thrive into early October, while those who prefer to drive do best when all roads are likely to be open July through September. Take a look at our seasonal breakdown. We went to Yosemite ourselves many times, also analyzed thousands of reviews to help you determine the advantages of each season:
Season Guide | Monthly Weather & Highlights
Please note: These are temperatures for lower elevations. It gets a lot cooler at higher elevations!
SPRING (April - May)
April's showers (and melting snowcaps) bring May's spectacular waterfalls.
Weather: Though it varies, temperatures are getting warmer. Average daytime highs hover around 70, though it is always possible to encounter a late winter snowstorm.
Accessible Areas: Lower elevation and good roads make Yosemite Valley and Wawona accessible all year long. It is difficult to predict the likelihood to enter Tioga and Glacier Point Roads due to residual snow. Crews begin clearing snow April 15, but work can last well into May. Weekends can be especially busy, be sure to arrive early to avoid unnecessary delays.
Highlights: Water is abundant in spring. Well-known rivers and waterfalls reach peak runoff in late May, and this is by far the most popular time to see them. Check out the booming rush of water at Ribbon Falls, which only flows through June. It is one of the tallest waterfalls in all of North America. Don't expect to be wowed by the wildflowers; it's still too early for the blooms, though you might catch a few poppies or redwood along the way.
Crowds: Light in April. It gets busier in May. Especially weekends are crowded in late spring, visit midweek, and get to the main hot spots first thing in the morning. Try to avoid the extremely congested Memorial Day weekend.
SUMMER (June, July, August, early September)
Sweet summer weather brings peak level crowds.
Weather: Ample sunshine. Average temps soar to nearly 90, but cool down significantly under the night sky.
Accessible Areas: Most of the park is accessible now, but it is still possible to discover your own private paradise. Venture outside of Yosemite Valley, and away from the crowds. Take in the stunning views in High Sierra where you will be met by little more than a cool mountain breeze.
Highlights: Waterfall flow is typically still at its peak in early June and often remains high by mid-June. It begins to slow in July due to warmer weather. Vernal, Nevada, and Bridalveil Falls run all year; however, their flow can be very low by late summer. Yosemite Falls may dry out completely by August. Check Yosemite Falls Webcam to see the current flow. Your draw in summer is the spectacular colors of the wildflowers. In the valley, the blooms burst in June. Follow the winding river in Tuolumne Meadows, and enjoy the sub-alpine flowers like gentium or shooting stars. Explore one of the many trails that begin in these meadows, including the route to the summit of Mount Lyell, the highest in the park.
Crowds: June is already busy, while July and August are extremely jammed. Popular spots will be crowded all season, and expect long lines at entrance points. Take a chance and hike a lesser-known trail instead.
AUTUMN (early September, October, November)
Crisp breeze and colorful trees, along with dwindling crowds make fall one of the best times to visit the park.
Weather: Varies. Average daytime temps are in the 50's, but it is not unusual to see drastic ranges. Snow and rain are also possible, especially at higher elevations. Yosemite Valley is your best bet for comfortable daytime weather; though expect it to turn chilly when the sun goes down.
Accessible Areas: Most areas in the park remain open through October, though this is fully dependent on the weather. Services begin to shut down in mid-September, and the park does not allow overnight parking after mid-October. However, most hotels and lodges in Yosemite Valley, El Portal or other nearby accommodations are open year-round. Check our 'Lodging Tips' below. While it's not very likely at lower elevations, you may require tire chains in November.
Highlights: As the snow begins to fall, so does the water. Yosemite Falls has been dry all late summer and early autumn but resumes its flow quickly usually by November (after a little snowfall). From Wawona, your best bet is Chilnualna Falls. You will have to hike to it, but the way it twists and turns through the rocks makes it completely worth the effort. Fall colors peak around mid-October, though don't expect to see radiant hues throughout. Most trees are evergreen, but shades of yellows, orange, and even some purples can be found sprinkled among the trees.
Crowds: Warning! Early September (Labor Day Weekend) sees the highest crowds. After Labor Day it's less crowded but still busy. Even if you visit mid-September avoid weekends and try to get up early. Crowds start to thin out by late September. In October everything is much quieter. As long as the roads remain open, you are likely to have the place to yourself in late autumn, particularly in November
WINTER (December, January, February, March)
If solitude is what you seek, winter will be a treat. Check out the official NPS tips: NPS Yosemite Winter Tips
Weather: Cold but not freezingly cold. Snow and wind are a constant presence, though you might find a few sunny days in between storms. Temperatures in Yosemite Valley are more moderate, averages remain in the low 50's, though evening lows can dip below zero.
Accessible Areas: There are few trails visible enough to hike during winter, and once Tioga Road is closed vehicles are prohibited for your safety. However, Yosemite Valley is accessible by car via Highway 140 (El Portal Road). Although you're required to carry tire chains in your car. Alternatively book a hotel in El Portal and use YARTS (read our winter tips at the top and lodging tips below the seasons guide for details about YARTS and El Portal) Ski areas remain open, as the Badger Pass is plowed often. Both downhill and cross-country activities are popular here, and there are some great runs for snowboarders as well.
Highlights: Water is flowing again, thanks to the snow and rain, and it is possible to get some great winter shots of the falls. If you get to Yosemite Falls early enough, it is possible to see it frozen solid. If possible, consider visiting the Horsetail Fall Firefall. Only occurring in winter when the sun is at just the right angle, this natural beauty looks just like a cascading flow of fire. It is truly unforgettable. The peak time for the Firefall is usually from February 17-19. However, it can vary. The sweeping snowy vistas are magical in the winter, and the lack of crowds makes it even better. Yosemite Valley is your best bet to find a route to hike, keep in mind the trails range in difficulty and distance, so plan accordingly.
Crowds: None. You are likely to encounter some crowds at the ski areas, but if your intent is just to visit the park, you may be lucky enough to never see another person.
Winter Special | November - December - January - February
Besides our ‘Autumn Guide,’ we collected some special tips for your November and December visit. November is a great time to visit Yosemite National Park with the crowds gone and mostly pleasant temperatures. In December it gets a little colder but it's still worth visiting. You'll love it! Don't forget read our quick tips for your winter visit below the November/December section.
- Crowds? It’s not busy at all, as the visitor count drops to 30% in the month of November compared to the very busy summer months. It's even less busy in December and January.
- Road Accessibility: It’s very likely that Glacier Point Road and Tioga Road will be open until mid-November. However, both roads usually close by the end of November. Check the historic closures here: NPS - Glacier Point Road and Tioga Road Opening & Closing Dates. Tire Chains? When driving in lower elevations (like El Portal Road, Highway 140) tire chains are usually not required. But still, visiting in late November, December or any other winter month means, that you should carry them in your car.
- Weather? While often still pleasant with temps around 45-50°F, it can also rain and even snow, especially at higher elevations. However, the first snowfall in October/November is usually light and the snow melts very quickly. In late November the ground is generally cold enough for the snow to accumulate, but mostly at higher elevations above Yosemite Valley. In December there can be snow on the ground in Yosemite Valley, but usually for a few days only. Often it's simply cold and chilly with a clear ground in the valley.
3 Quick Tips for Winter
- Road Conditions: Tioga Road and Glacier Point Road are both closed throughout the winter from late November until late May (sometimes until early June). All other Yosemite Park roads including Wawona Road (Highway 41) and El Portal Road (Highway 140), remain open year-round. However, you are required to carry tire chains in your car in case you need to use them. Find more information about road closures here: NPS Yosemite - Winter Road Closures And detailed information about tire chains: NPS Yosemite - Tire Chain Requirements. Always check current road conditions before you drive: NPS Yosemite - Road Conditions Don’t want to use tire chains? Check our winter accommodation tip just below.
- Accommodation: Since El Portal Road and Wawona Road are open in winter, you may drive to Yosemite Valley and stay there. However, there are two drawbacks: 1) You’re required to tie carry tire chains and mount them during certain weather conditions. 2) The lodging options in Yosemite Valley are very(!) pricey, actually the most expensive ones there. Solution: You stay in El Portal and decide if you use the YARTS service, which gets you directly into Yosemite Valley or you drive by yourself, depending on the weather conditions. The great thing about YARTS: It operates year-round, regardless of the weather, and picks you up in El Portal right at the ‘Yosemite View Lodge’ (via booking.com). Check out our ‘Lodging Tips for El Portal’ below.
- Walks/Hikes: The great thing about a winter visit, is the missing crowds. Places which are crowded from summer to fall can be visited now almost in solitude. Even if you don’t want to hike, you should do the super easy walks: Bridalveil Fall Trail, Lower Yosemite Fall Trail, and Cook’s Meadow Loop. Each only requires a 0.5 miles - 1 mile (loop) walk and is open in winter as well. A little more strenuous is the equally stunning Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall Trails. Find great trail information and tips about all the trails on the official NPS website: NPS Yosemite - Hikes
Summer offers the best and driest weather in July and August. However, bad weather can still occur. Always check the forecast, bring rain gear and dress in layers to be prepared for every kind of weather. If you want to avoid the most snow, don’t go before June. In May even places like Paradise are still covered with snow. In most years the area is usually snow-free from about mid-July through late September.
Avoiding the Crowds
July and August are also the peak tourist months. Paradise and Sunrise will be quite crowded. If you can, visit in June or September: After the first Labor Day weekend (early September) tourist crowds dissipate. However, there are 3 simple ways dodge the crowds and get a parking lot even during peak season in the summer:
- Be there early in the morning. Preferably before 9 AM. The earlier, the better. Stay at a nearby hotel or lodge (see our tips below).
- Alternatively, you could arrive late, between 5 PM and 6 PM. Most visitors have left the park at 6 PM. You'd avoid most crowds and enjoy one of the fascinating Shorter Hikes.
- Try to avoid weekends and visit mid-week if possible.
Sweet Spot Months
Sweet spot months with fewer crowds and a high chance of good weather are June and September (immediately after Labor Day crowds disappear). In September it’s even snow free, and the visitor centers and all its facilities are usually open until the end of September. But still, try to avoid weekends in September if possible or start early in the morning.
Otherworldly! The Wave - Coyote Buttes North. One of the most fascinating hikes on our planet! However, there is one catch: You have to win a permit! How to increase your chances and answers to every other possible questions you might have are covered here. You'll learn things no one else tells you about 'The Wave'! Read our powerful planning guide below (check our huge infographic!). This guide was updated 2019.
5 Proven Quick-Tips | Winning a Permit
Our famous 5 proven must-know tips for the lottery (how to win a permit) at a glance:
- Months: Highest chance for a permit in January / early February
- Walk-In Lottery: Enter the lottery for at least 2 consecutive days
- Walk-In Lottery: Between November and March. Plus: Enter on a Friday as well
- Online-Lottery: Wait until the end of the month before entering the lottery (it's NOT first-come, first-served!)
- Online-Lottery: Select 3 dates with the fewest applicants
Read on for more detailed tips and everything you should know before you go.
There is no more real off-season in terms of lottery applicants. Don't trust older reviews and articles. Winning becomes less likely every year. However, the chances to win a permit are still a little better in the winter months. Especially in January and early February. Find more insider tips on how to win a permit in the text and big infographic further below.
Crowds and Weather
Since only 20 persons per day are allowed, crowds are not an issue. However, Kanab (Visitor Center) and Page are less crowded if you avoid peak tourist months (late June, July, August). In terms of weather, we recommend spring (March, April, May) or fall (September, October, November): The temperatures are moderate and the cloud cover is reasonable, particularly in April/May. In summer (June/July/August) it gets very hot (100°F, 40°C). You should start very early to beat the heat. In the winter the ground might be snow covered and muddy. This may result in an impassable road sometimes. The cloud cover is higher in winter as well. However, you should keep in mind that the weather doesn't matter that much: Try to win a permit for this unique hike, regardless of the weather.
Photography (Time of Day)
A sixty foot buttes causes massive shadows and the best time to take photos there is often not sunrise/sunset. However, almost any time for a photo is great when you're at this otherworldly place. Extra tip: Look for puddles to capture great reflections.
The best time to visit Acadia National Park in terms of pleasant weather is between late spring and fall. However, it's often crowded. A less busy time with great weather is the two weeks after Labor Day in September until mid-September, just before the leaf-peeping crowds arrive.
Read our complete overview for every season below with many useful tips. Tip: If you'd like experience something special in Maine and get away from the crowds, check out these great tours: Lighthouse, Coastal & Sailing Tours in Maine. And one of the best guidebooks out there for Acadia N.P.: Acadia - The Complete Guide (via Amazon)
We also collected the the best tips for short hikes and walks, as well as insider tips on how to avoid the crowds during peak season and fall color tips (direct navigation):
Season Tips for Acadia National Park
May - June | Spring
Both months bring warmer and drier conditions. However, in May the trees aren't green yet and it might be too cold for water activities. Temperatures: Up to 51-75°F / 11-22°C in June. It’s pleasant weather for hiking and other outdoor activities. The downside is, depending on how rainy it has been before, there are biting bugs from mid-May until mid-June. Many facilities are open and May is still a quiet month, except for Memorial Day Weekend (end of May). In June it gets already busier but not as crowded as in July and August.
July - August | Summer
Warm, most pleasant temperatures. Peak season. It gets very busy, even more in August. Booked accommodations, waiting lines, crowded parking lots, congested Park Loop Road and busy view points. To avoid the crowds during peak season, get to the park early in the morning or in the late afternoon around dinner time. More tips on how to avoid the crowds can be found below.
September - October | Autumn - Fall Colors
Early September after Labor Day until mid-September is a nice time to visit the park: The weather is pleasant (49-68°F / 9-20°C), it's not super quiet, but the heavy summer crowds are gone and the 'leaf peeping' crowds haven't arrived yet. It gets very busy again from late September until mid-October as thousands want to see the leaf color explosion in fall. The best time to experience the amazing colors is usually mid-October. Tip: Read our '7 Must-Know Fall Color Tips' below in the main text. Book ahead of time if you need accommodation during the ‘leaf peeping’ weeks. After Columbus Day in mid-October crowds dissipate and rates drop. This is another sweet spot time without the heavy crowds. The last week of October ist often still ok for watching the fall colors, but it also gets cold and rainy.
November | Late Autumn
Even in early November, it's usually too late for spotting the beautiful fall colors. Temperatures drop (33-48°F / 1-9°C ), try to visit until mid-November. It’s colder, but still worth to visit the park without the crowds, almost in solitude. Many facilities are closed though. Definitely, drive the Loop Road which is usually still open in November.
December - March | Winter
It’s off season and very cold. Average temperature in January: 14-32 °F / 0-(-)10 °C . Time for snowmobiling and skiing. Most hotels, restaurants, campsites and attractions are closed. The scenic Park Loop Road is also closed from December until mid-April (weather dependant). More winter activity info: NPS Acadia Winter Activities
April | Early Spring
Many visitors would say that April ist is still not pleasant with melting snow and muddy ground. Average temperatures are between 25-41° F / 1-11° C. However, we'd definitely recommend this month. You might be wondering why? First of all, from mid-April the scenic Park Loop Road usually opens. Second, it's still quiet without any heavy crowds of other tourist. You'll have no issues with parking and can enjoy some places almost in solitude. While there are still signs of winter, the scenery is just breathtaking. Some say the views are even more amazing with no leaves on the trees. Bottom line: We think a visit between mid and late April is a great time!
Photo by Mick Haupt via Unsplash
Regardless of monthly temperatures we described above, you should know that in Maine the weather can change dramatically during the year. However, temperatures along the coast in Acadia N.P. are moderated by the ocean. In the graph below you'll find the average monthly highs. Least rainfall is in June, July and August. But still, keep in mind that the weather is often unpredictable and can change instantly. Be prepared for rain at any time.
Avoiding Tourist Crowds
It gets crowded in Acadia National Park in summer and fall. A sweet spot time without the heavy crowds but mostly pleasant temperatures used to be those two weeks in September (after Labor Day until mid-September). However, it's not that quiet anymore during this time, especially in the recent years as visitation increased. Otherwise, there are two different sweet spots weeks with mostly pleasant weather and few visitors: A) The weeks after Columbus Day (mid-October) until early November. B) Early June until mid-June: Although it's already busy at places like Bar Harbor, visitors report that most hiking trails in the park are not crowded.
However, if you plan to visit during the summer and leaf peeping time in fall, we have three great tips to avoid crowds:
1. Be Early or Late:
The majority of people tend to visit Acadia from mid-morning to afternoon. Get up early and try to be at the most visited spots or trailheads before 9:00 AM. Usually, the crowds start to arrive around 10:00 AM. Incredibly popular spots like the summit of Cadillac Mountain can be crowded earlier. Be there at 8:00 A.M. and you'll dodge the heavy crowds at the top. Another advantage to visiting early is the great light for photos and the higher chance of spotting wildlife. Check out this great Ranger Early Bird Video. Alternatively, visit the favorite spots later around dinner time or head out on a short trail just before sunset. Just after 5 P.M. is a perfect time since most are heading back for dinner around that time. However, make sure to be back when there is still daylight. It's too dangerous to hike in the dark.
2. Visit Quieter Areas:
Head to the less traveled places and trails. On the 'quiet side' of Mount Desert Island west of Somes Sound, try out Acadia Mountain Loop or the Beech Cliff Trail (see below in the hiking section). Or you could head to Schoodic Peninsula (Google Maps) on the mainland, or the quietest side of Isle au Haut, accessible only by mail boat.
3. Use the Shuttle:
If you are visiting between late June and Columbus day, use the free Island Explorer Shuttle. It takes away all the worries of full parking lots at trailheads and congested parking areas at popular places like Cadillac Mountain or Bar Harbor. There are bus stops at all well-known places. They even added one for the trailhead of Caddilac North Ridge Trail (see below in the hiking section). Additionaly, you can always ask the bus driver to let you off, even if it’s not an official stop.