April Parks and the Outdoors Travel Guide

Monthly Activity Guides

Get the lowdown on when to go where:


Olympic National Park, WA
Spring is a time of rebirth and is typically a feast for the eyes. But it’s also the perfect time to reflect on the sounds of nature—and what better place to do that then by visiting the quietest place on Earth? One Square Inch of Silence represents the sounds of nature in their most pure state. It was designated on Earth Day, April 22, 2005, in the Hoh Rain Forest at Olympic National Park to protect and manage the natural soundscape of the backcountry wilderness. The logic is simple: If a loud noise can impact many square miles, then a natural place, if maintained in an externally-noise-free condition, would have the same impact.

Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
Fiordland has made headlines as the big-screen backdrop of a certain Tolkien trilogy. But it’s equally famous among outdoors lovers as the home of the Milford Track, a 33-mile trail through some of the most dramatic mountain country in the world. You’ll need to sign up months in advance for a chance at the hike, but other tracks in the park, such as Routeburn and Kepler, see much less traffic. Kayaking trips through Milford Sound are also easy to arrange. April ends the tourist season in the park, and while it might be getting cold, most of the crowds will have dwindled.

Valley of Fire State Park, NV
Vegas isn't the only hot attraction in Nevada, and spring is a great time to discover how the Valley of Fire State Park got its name (besides the scorching temps in summer). Located six miles from Lake Mead and 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada's oldest and largest state park hides 3,000-year-old Indian petroglyphs and sits on 34,880 acres of red sandstone formations. It is said that when the sun sets, the sandstone seems to ignite in flames.

Amicalola Falls State Park, GA
Amicalola comes from the Cherokee Indian word meaning tumbling waters. Considering the 729-foot falls within Amicalola Falls State Park, the connection seems appropriate. But in April, wildflowers are also bursting to life, as dogwood, mountain laurel, and rhododendron color the park. Check out the scenery along the 8.5-mile Appalachian Approach Trail; it passes through the park on its way to Springer Mountain and is a scenic—and shorter—alternative to the entire 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail.

Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
Corcovado National Park may be only a speck on a map of the Americas, but it’s home to more than ten percent of the continents’ mammals. The park's 160 square miles embrace eight different protected habitats, including mangrove swamp, jolillo palm groves, and montane forests. The 2,471-acre Corcovado Lagoon, in the mid-western section of the park, is a prime spot to see wildlife such as crocodiles or the elusive jaguar. The dry season, January through April, is the best time to visit this part of Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula.

Dead Horse Point State Park, UT
Utah’s Dead Horse Point State Park outside of Moab has been called the state’s most spectacular state park, which puts it in some great company considering Utah's wealth of natural riches. The park's 6,000-foot rim overlooks the Colorado River as it winds its way from the Continental Divide to the Gulf of California. The canyon's eroded façade is a 150-million-year work-in-progress. This is mostly desert country, so visiting in spring is your best bet.

Wind Cave National Park, SD
Visiting Wind Cave National Park is like stepping back 100 years. The South Dakota Black Hills are chock-full of bison, elk, pronghorn, and all the other critters that once crowded the park's more popular—and more people-congested—neighbor, Yellowstone. One of the longest and most complex caves in the world, Wind Cave is protected by the western Rockies and northern Black Hills, so it stays warmer and drier in the spring. And when the park’s 30 miles of hiking trails get old, you've got plenty nearby attractions from which to choose: Black Hills National Forest, Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Jewel Cave National Monument, and Custer State Park, to name but a few.

Isle Royale National Park, MI
Michigan gets its fair share of heat for car-spewing Detroit, but the stunning national park in the state's northern reaches doesn't get nearly the press—and thank the outdoor gods for that. Isle Royale is the least visited park in the contiguous U.S.; the 200-island archipelago can only be reached by ferry or seaplane, thereby discouraging most day-trippers. For the best way to see the stunning Lake Superior scenery, grab hold of an oar. Late spring sees considerably less rain than the summer months, and all that empty scenery makes carrying an extra sweater worth its bulk.

Nantahala National Forest, NC
No other forest in the southern half of the Appalachian ridge system can match the Nantahala's stark contrast between whitewater mayhem and backwoods solitude. Equal parts intensity and serenity, this primeval forest is hidden away in the Blue Ridge and Nantahala Mountains and simply has no equal in the Southeast. If you plan to paddle the river, be warned: The water is still very cold this time of year. In fact, the river is notorious for being cold year round, as the sun warms the valley floor only at midday. Nantahala is, after all, a Cherokee word meaning 'land of the noon day sun.' For dryer pursuits try mountain biking or hiking. The Appalachian, Bartram, and Mountain-to-Sea trails all cross the forest.

Big Thicket National Preserve, TX
Big Thicket comes to life in the spring as wildflowers burst onto the scene and migratory birds make their way through the Central and Mississippi flyways. Boating, fishing, and hiking are the most popular ways to enjoy the park and its flora and fauna. And by visiting in April, you'll miss the winter hunters and beat the summer heat.

Published: 24 Nov 2009 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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