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.
When to go? It depends on what you’re looking for. Every season is different. Read on for the best tips to plan your visit:
Avoiding Tourist Crowds
Expect a busy National Park year-round except for winter (mid-November/December - February). The main season is from May until October with most tourists and highest rates. Heaviest crowds in July/August. A sweet spot month with mild climate but without heavy crowds is early-November until mid-November. Otherwise, March/April are considered months without massive crowds.
Insider Tip: There are several tips to avoid crowds year-round. A very nice and detailed information from a hiking point of view can be found here at TripAdvisor (close the pop-up and scroll down): Itinerary for Hikers to Avoid the Crowds
December - February (Winter): It’s usually cold and chilly. The average temperature is 7°C (45°F). Often snow, and tracks can be frozen, which makes even short walks on the top dangerous. However, it’s possible there are still some good days in the first half of December. During winter months there are virtually no tourist crowds. That means you can enjoy an amazing scenery during days with pleasant weather. In February the park is closed for 1 week.
March - April (Spring): First months with more tourists but still not high season. Mild temperatures: Up to 21°C (70°F) in April, which is a beautiful month and excellent for photography: Flowers are blooming, the forest in is full of vigor, leaves are verdant
May - August (Summer): Peak season. Temperatures climb to an average of 29°C (84°F) in August. The wet season, with most rain in May/June/July. However, some tourists don’t mind the rain: It creates an enchanting atmosphere with mountains surrounded by mist.
September - October (Autumn): Still high season but usually comfortable weather and less rain than in summer months. Temperatures 20-28°C (68-82°F)
November (Winter): Fewer tourists and still comfortable temperatures and even less rain. Beautiful autumn leaves. Some say from early-November until mid-November is one of the best times.
National Holidays: Avoid the national holidays at all cost. Even more crowds and highest rates:
- Chinese Spring Festival (New Year): Late Jan/early Feb
- International Labor Day: May 01 to 03
- National Day: Oct 01-07 (the heaviest crowds of all and highest rates)
The best time for hiking is usually from the end of May till the end of June, then September till the start of October. July and August are very hot and the glacier can melt very fast in the afternoon when the sun is out. It is necessary to start early in the morning to be sure you will get back down as soon as possible.
The best time to visit Canyonlands National Park depends on what you are looking for and if you are willing to avoid the noon and afternoon heat by getting up early. Read on for our detailed 'when to go' tips:
Best months regarding the weather are April/May and September/October. During these months daytime highs average 60 to 80 F and lows average 30 to 50 F. Summer months get boiling hot with temperatures > 100 F, especially The Needles district. Not recommended for strenuous day hikes. If you decide to hike in the summer: Get up very early and be back by lunch time. Thunderstorms can happen in late summer and early fall. Winters are cold: highs 30 to 50 F and lows 0 to 20 F. The Needles District stays slightly warmer during winter due to its lower elevation.
Avoiding Tourist Crowds
With 450,000 visitors/year it’s less crowded than the major parks. Most visitors come here in April/May and September/October. During these peak months the popular spots might be busy. Despite the high temperatures, summer became also slightly more busy recently. While 'Island in the Sky' receives the highest visitation, 'The Maze' is the least busiest. If you visit in the popular months and want to beat possible crowds: Avoid weekends and start your tour very early. Besides, if you drive or hike far enough you won’t be sharing with your trail with others regardless of the season. If you want total solitude: November to February. However, some roads could be inaccessible.
Best in summer, also spring and autumn are good seasons for this adventurous hike. Please note the days before should've been dry otherwise it is even more slippery and you often stuck in the mud.
It is a year round hiking trail but not recommended with snow and ice in winter time. After rainfall, some parts of the trail are muddy and slippery. Best time for hiking from April until October.
Glacier National Park can be visited year-round. However, the 'real' season is very short: June/July until August/September. June can only be recommended at lower elevations, as many areas are still snow covered. July and August are the pleasant peak months. September is still great in terms of weather and the crowds start to dissipate as well.
From late October until May/June you have to deal with snowfall or snow covered ground. June is 'rainy season' and most hiking trails are still snow covered well into June, on high elevations even until mid-July. July and August are the sunniest months. September is still great: Usually zero snowfall pleasant temperatures and less crowds (see below). New snow can be expected from mid October. However, heavier snowfall won't start before November.
The climate is often wet, windy and variable. Always be prepared for weather changes, even in the summer. Bring rain gear an dress in layers. Nights are much cooler. Also, be prepared for cooler temperatures at higher elevations. Popular areas like Logan Pass at higher elevations are usually 10-15°F (6-8°C) cooler. Bottom line: For a snow-free hiking adventure go between early July and mid-October. Please keep in mind that most services and lodges close between mid-September and end of September.
Avoiding Tourist Crowds
The park recently set new records for visitation. As of 2017 the number of visitors increased significantly in the peak summer months. Resulting in overcrowded parking lots, a congested Going to the Sun Road and very busy popular areas.
Besides visiting the less interesting spots in peak season, there are three main options to avoid the crowds:
Visit in Fall:
September after the extremely busy Labor Day weekend is an excellent time: Less crowds, still snow free areas and pleasant temperatures. The GTTS Road is still open and most services are available until mid-September, some until the end of the month. The first half of September is already significantly less busy compared to July and August. However, not super quiet: Try to start your activities early (see below) and go mid-week if possible. It’s even quieter and still pleasant temperature wise from mid-September until mid-October. An excellent time for hiking. However, hotels, lodges and cabins in the park are closed by the end of September. Solution in October: Lodging outside the park in West Glacier Lodging (Glacier Highland) If you consider visiting in spring to avoid the crowds: Not recommended for hiking adventures. The temperatures are often pleasant but the trails are snow covered well into June.
If you only can or want to visit in the summer, getting out early is the best way to avoid crowds. Even on popular hiking trails like Highline or Grinnel Glacier Trail you won’t see many others during peak season if you start your hike at or before 8 a.m. One visitor reported that he started the hike to Grinnel Glacier in August 2017 at 7 a.m. and had the whole trail for himself. On the way back about 200 people passed. Your scenic drive should begin even earlier if possible. Usually it starts to get busy around 9 a.m on GTTS Road in the summer months.
Alternatively begin your activites late. Start hiking between 4 and 5 p.m. Although only shorter hikes are possible at that time, the trails are much quieter. The best short hikes include Hidden Lake Overlook at Logan Pass, Redrock Falls and Virigina Falls. Starting your scenic drive later is a great option as well: On the GTTS Road it’s beginning to thin out around 4 p.m. Tip: Have a late lunch or an early diner between 3 and 4 p.m., as it’s much easier to get a seat at that time Then start your scenic drive on GTTSR.
Highlight (Going-to-the-Sun Road)
Some parts of the GTTS Road are open all year. However, the fascinating portions on higher elevations are only open in summer and early fall. There is no set date, but the road is usually fully open from early July until mid-October. All depending on the weather and road conditions. More details: Going to the Sun Road - NPS