Spring is around the corner, and whether you’re a weary student or just someone who finds winter exhausting, there’s probably only one thing on your mind — spring break. As it turns out, our national parks are some of the best destinations in America, especially if you’re looking for a fun, affordable spring break.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Sleep out under the stars, explore the wide-open places, or simply bask in the warm desert air. Joshua Tree National Park is a perfect place to spend your spring break in a sunny, one-of-a-kind landscape. Be sure to check out some of the ranger-guided hikes that take place throughout spring, including those to the Oasis of Mara and Mastodon Peak.

joshua tree national park

Photo by Ian D. Keating via Flickr

joshua tree national park

Photo via Pixabay

Shenandoah National Park

Tumbling waterfalls, quiet forests, and mile after mile of rolling Blue Ridge mountains make Shenandoah National Park one of the most photogenic places in the United States, not to mention a great place to relax, take a hike, or pack a picnic. Watch the sun set along Skyline Drive, or bring your tent and spend the night in one of the park’s many campgrounds.

Shenandoah national park

Photo by Rob Shenk via Flickr

Shenandoah park

Photo via Pixabay

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona/Nevada

Lake Mead is a popular spring break destination, with thousands of boaters and partygoers attracted to its clear water, sandy beaches, and steep canyon walls every year. Lake Mead National Recreation Area offers an opportunity to either join the party or seek solitude, exploring the 1.5 million-acre landscape by bike, kayak, on horseback, or on foot.

lake mead

Photo via Flickr

Saguaro National Park

You haven’t seen a sunset until you watch the sun slowly sink down behind the rocky hills and towering cacti of Saguaro National Park. The park’s namesake saguaro cacti are the largest in the United States, growing up to 60 feet tall. Spring rains bring vibrant wildflower blooms to the desert floor, creating a great opportunity for photographers, but the real winners are the cacti, which soak up enough water to balloon up to 3,000 pounds or more.

saguaro national park

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

saguaro national park

Photo via Pixabay

Canaveral National Seashore, Florida

Unlike a lot of Florida’s beaches, Canaveral National Seashore stays relatively quiet during spring break season, which is good news for anyone who wants to hit the beach while avoiding the crowds. Camping is permitted, but there are no developed facilities in the park, so be sure to bring everything you need, including food and drinking water.

canaveral national seashore

Photo via Pixabay

Photo by Peter and Michelle S via Flickr

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina/Virginia

For your spring break road trip, there’s no better route then the Blue Ridge Parkway. Traversing 469 miles of the Appalachian Mountains’ most beautiful terrain, the parkway provides access to dozens of hiking trails, campgrounds, picnic areas, and historic sites. With trees and wildflowers coming to life all over the mountains, spring is one of the best times to visit.

blue ridge parkway

Photo by Bruce Tuten via Flickr

blue ridge parkway

Photo by Kolin Toney via Flickr

G0lden Gate National Recreation Area, California

This urban oasis includes several different sites in and around San Francisco. Whether you want to swim at a nearby beach, hike through the redwoods, take a guided tour of Alcatraz Island, or explore the sights and sounds of Fisherman’s Wharf, Golden Gate National Recreation Area provides an idea spring break experience like no other.

National parks provide an enticing alternative to predictable getaways this spring, offering a variety of fun and affordable spring break destinations. Whether you go hiking in the wilderness, swimming on a secluded beach, or exploring in the big city, national parks are where it’s at for spring break.

golden gate recreation area

Photo by John Menard via Flickr

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas

This 70-mile stretch of untamed barrier island on the Texas Gulf Coast couldn’t be a more perfect spring break setting. Just south of Corpus Christi, Padre Island National Seashore offers unique bird-watching opportunities, beach camping, swimming, fishing, picnicking, and beach driving.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

This story was first published here and here.

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