Planning a trip to the US national parks in March but don’t know which ones to visit? March brings warmer temperatures to most of the United States. Travel begins to pick up during this month, both because of the warmer weather and because families are hitting the road for spring break. There are a lot of great national parks to visit in March, which we cover in this guide, plus two road trip ideas that links several of these national parks together.
About this National Park Series
This article is part of a series about the best national parks to visit each month. In this series, every national park is listed at least once and many are listed multiple times. It is a series of 12 articles, one for each month of the year. More popular parks, like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, may show up in as many as four of these articles, but lesser known parks like Gates of the Arctic may only show up once.
These articles take into account weather, crowd levels, the best time to go hiking, special events, road closures, and our personal experiences in the parks. Based on these factors, we picked out what we think are the optimal times to visit each park.
For an overview of the best time to visit each national park, check out our Best National Parks by Season guide. This guide has graphs that list each park and the optimal time to plan your visit. And at the end of this article, we have links to the other articles in our Best National Parks by Month series.
Visiting the National Parks in March
March is a great month to visit the national parks. With the warmer temperatures and the beginning of spring, the list of parks that you can visit without braving freezing temperatures gets bigger. The days are getting longer, flowers start to bloom, and in some parts of the US, trees begin to get their first leaves.
Overall, park visitation still remains low for the year, but there are a few hotspots that get busier, as people visit the national parks for spring break. Even so, crowds are still quieter than the summer, which is the busiest time to visit the US national parks.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The information we provide for each national park does not include temporary road closures, since these dates are constantly changing. Roads can close in the national parks at any time, so I recommend getting updates on the National Park Service website while planning your trip.
Best National Parks in March
1. Arches National Park
This small, easy to visit national park is a joy to explore. It’s also the cover photo for this guide.
You can see several arches and unique rock formations without ever stepping out of your car. With just a little bit of walking, you can get to many of the top sights in Arches National Park, such as the Windows and Double Arch. And for those who like hiking, don’t miss the Devils Garden Trail, a thrilling hike where you get to see eight arches and hike on a primitive trail.
Why Visit Arches in March: March is a great time to visit Arches National Park, because the weather is getting warmer and crowds are still relatively low for the year. In 2021, Arches National Park had 150,000 visitors in March. Peak visitation for that year was in May, when 225,000 people visited the park. If you want to visit Arches with even lower crowds, plan your visit from December through February, but be prepared for freezing temperatures.
Weather: In March, the average high is 62°F (17°C) and the average low is 37°F (3°C). Rainfall is very low.
Sunrise & Sunset: Sunrise is at 7:30 am and sunset is at 7:25 pm.
North Window Arch | Best National Parks in March
Devils Garden Trail | Best National Parks in March
Landscape Arch | Best National Parks in March
Top Experiences: Hike to Delicate Arch, see Balanced Rock and the Fiery Furnace, visit Double Arch, Turret Arch, and Windows Arch, hike Park Avenue.
Ultimate Adventure: Hike the Devils Garden Trail. To reach Landscape Arch, one of the most iconic arches in the park, it is only 1.6 miles round trip. But for the ultimate adventure, continue past Landscape Arch to Double O Arch and Dark Angel and return on the Primitive Trail.
How Much Time Do You Need? One day in Arches is all you need to see the highlights, but it will be a very busy day. With two days, you can visit the park at a more leisurely pace or go off the beaten path.
2. Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park is one of our favorite national parks in the USA. Why? The landscapes, the hiking trails, and the off the beaten path experiences make this one of the top parks for those who crave adventure.
Journey below the rim of the Island in the Sky mesa for an unforgettable experience. Drive the twisting Shafer Canyon switchbacks onto the White Rim and then spend a few days driving through remote landscapes. Called the White Rim Road, this is one of the best experiences in the national park system.
You can also explore The Needles, where zebra-striped rocks form one of the most unique hiking destinations in the USA.
Why Visit Canyonlands in March: Just like Arches, park visitation remains relatively low and the warmer temperatures make March a better time to visit than the winter months. Canyonlands only gets a fraction of the visitors that flood Arches National Park, so this park will feel delightfully empty compared to Arches. March is also a good time to drive the White Rim Road, since permits are a little easier to get than late spring through early fall.
Weather: The average high is 54°F (12°C) and the average low is 35°F (2°C). Rainfall is low. Even though Canyonlands sits next to Arches National Park, it is at a higher elevation so the temperatures are a bit lower here.
Sunrise & Sunset: Sunrise is at 7:30 am and sunset is at 7:25 pm.
Mesa Arch | Best National Parks in March
The Needles | Best National Parks in March
Driving the White Rim Road. Can you see our Jeep?
Top Experiences: Visit the overlooks on Island in the Sky, watch the sunrise at Mesa Arch, go hiking in The Needles, drive Shafer Canyon Road, hike below the rim of the Island in the Sky mesa, explore The Maze.
Ultimate Adventure: Drive or mountain bike the White Rim Road. This is a 100-mile unpaved road that makes a loop around the Island in the Sky mesa. It takes 2 to 3 days to do this drive. It can be done in the winter, but snow can close Shafer Canyon Road and cold temperatures will make camping uncomfortable for some people.
How Much Time Do You Need? Ideally, you need at least two full days in Canyonlands National Park. Spend one day in Island in the Sky and one day in the Needles. But even more time is better if you want to venture deeper into the park.
3. Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park is an underrated gem in the national park system.
This national park is full of many wonderful surprises. With an amazing scenic drive, hiking trails that rival those in Zion, rugged, remote areas to explore by 4×4, short, easy slot canyons, historical landmarks, and even delicious pie, this is another one of our favorite national parks.
Most people drive right through the heart of the park, visiting the sights along Highway 24, which are nice. But those who venture farther into the park, either on the hiking trails or the backcountry roads, are rewarded with incredible views of remote, rugged landscapes.
Why Visit Capitol Reef in March: Temperatures are finally getting a bit warmer and crowd visitation is relatively low. You could still have some cold mornings, but Capitol Reef warms up nicely during the day and the cooler temperatures make this a great time to go hiking.
Weather: In March, the average high is 57°F (14°C) and the average low is 34°F (1°C). Rainfall is low.
Sunrise & Sunset: Sunrise is at 7:40 am and sunset is at 7:30 pm.
Capitol Reef Scenic Drive | Best National Parks in March
Cathedral Valley | Best National Parks in March
Headquarters Canyon | Best National Parks in March
Top Experiences: Drive the 16-mile round-trip drive along Scenic Drive, drive Capitol Gorge Road, hike to Hickman Bridge, and watch the sunset from Sunset Point, hike to Cassidy Arch, and Loop the Fold.
Ultimate Adventure: For the ultimate adventure, drive the Cathedral Valley Loop. This rugged, remote district of Capitol Reef National Park is one of the best backcountry experiences in the national parks if you like exploring by 4WD.
How Much Time Do You Need? Plan on spending two to three days in Capitol Reef. This gives you enough time to explore and hike the trails in the core of the park (along Scenic Drive and Highway 24) and venture into the backcountry, either in Cathedral Valley or by looping the fold.
4. Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park…a fantasyland of hoodoos, bizarre rock formations, and sandstone pillars.
This is an extraordinary place to visit and its unique landscape sets it apart from other national parks. Although Bryce Canyon may not have the same sweeping, expansive vistas as the Grand Canyon, it’s still a breathtaking experience the first time you see this view.
Why Visit Bryce Canyon in March: For the chance to see Bryce Canyon with a dusting of snow. Temperatures are a bit warmer than January and February, but snowfall is a possibility, especially at the beginning of the month, so you don’t have to brave frigid temps for the chance to see Bryce Canyon covered in snow.
Weather: In March, the average high is 46°F (8°C) and the average low is 23°F (-5°C). There is a good chance of snow, and on average, Bryce Canyon receives about 13 inches of snow in March. Bryce Canyon has the highest elevation of the parks in Utah’s Mighty 5, making this the coolest one to visit (pun intended).
Sunrise & Sunset: Sunrise is at 7:40 am and sunset is at 7:35 pm.
photo credit: ASGARALY LOULOUA/shutterstock.com
Top Experiences: Some of the best viewpoints are right along the rim, which are easily accessible by car or the shuttle: Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, and Bryce Point. Hike the Queens Garden and Navajo Loop, a 3-mile hike past some of the best scenery in the park. Rainbow Point and Yovimpa Point are also nice viewpoints.
Ultimate Adventure: Hike the Fairyland Loop Trail, an 8-mile strenuous hike.
How Much Time Do You Need? One day is all you need to see the views from the rim and hike one to two trails in the park.
5. Pinnacles National Park
Pinnacles National Park preserves and protects the mountains on the eastern end of Salinas Valley. These mountains are the remnants of an extinct volcano. The rocky pinnacles are a popular rock climbing destination and wildflowers in the spring draw the biggest crowds of the year. This park is also one of the few locations where you can spot the California condor in the wild.
This is one of the newest national parks (it became a national park in 2013) and least visited national parks (it was the 19th least visited park in 2021).
Why Visit Pinnacles in March: March through May is the peak blooming season for the flowers in Pinnacles National Park.
Weather: The average high is 68°F (20°C) and the average low is 38°F (3°C). March is the end of the rainy season, getting about 3 inches of rain during this month.
Sunrise & Sunset: Sunrise is at 7:15 am and sunset is at 7:12 pm.
Bear Gulch Reservoir | photo credit: MWP/iStockphoto.com
Top Experiences: See the wildflowers in the spring, hike the High Peaks Loop, hike the Bear Gulch Cave Trail, explore the Balconies cave, spot California condors, enjoy the view from Condor Gulch Overlook, and go rock climbing.
How Much Time Do You Need? Pinnacles National Park can be visited in one busy day but for the best experience, spend two days here, which gives you enough time to visit both sections of the park.
Plan Your Visit
This is one of the last parks on our to-do list. For more information to help you plan your trip, visit the National Park Service website.
6. Big Bend National Park
Isolated, remote, wild, rugged…this is Big Bend National Park.
Located on the southwestern corner of Texas, within the Chihuahuan Desert, is an extraordinary mountain range that is a haven for hikers, backpackers, and outdoor enthusiasts.
This is one of the most remote parks in the lower 48 states, so crowd levels tend to be low all year round. But even when it is at its busiest, Big Bend feels rather quiet.
Why Visit Big Bend in March: We visited Big Bend in March and had a great experience. The weather was warm, and in early March, crowds are low. The second and third weeks in March get busy because this is when Texans go on spring break. If you can, plan your visit for the first week in March to take advantage of great weather and low crowds.
Weather: The average high is 74°F (23°C) and the average low is 47°F (8°C). Rainfall is very low this time of year.
Sunrise & Sunset: Sunrise is at 8 am and sunset is at 8 pm.
Balanced Rock | Best National Parks in March
Emory Peak | Best National Parks in March
Top Experiences: Hike the Lost Mine Trail, go star gazing, hike Santa Elena Canyon, go for a drive on Maxwell Scenic Drive, visit Boquillas del Carmen, hike to Balanced Rock, and hike to Emory Peak, the highest peak in the Chisos Mountains.
Ultimate Adventure: For the ultimate adventure in Big Bend, go on a half-day to multi-day canoeing trip on the Rio Grande.
How Much Time Do You Need? Plan on spending at least two to three days here. Because of its large size and remote location, it takes a while to get here, and you need a few days to explore it, so 3 days is the perfect amount of time, in my opinion.
7. Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is located in Texas. Canyons, gypsum sand dunes, fossilized coral reefs, and some of the highest peaks in Texas are all things that you can see in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
If you like hiking, you’ll love this park. Almost everything in the park requires some sort of short walk or hike…there is very little that you can see from your car. And you have a wide variety of hikes to choose from. Hike to Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas, hike to a slot canyon, and explore the quieter trails in the remote areas of the park.
Why Visit Guadalupe Mountains in March: The weather in March is perfect for hiking, with sunny skies and low temperatures. We visited Guadalupe Mountains in March and we had a great experience. For low crowds, plan your visit for early March, before spring break. The second and third weeks of March tend to be one of the busiest times of year to visit Guadalupe Mountains.
Weather: The average high is 63°F (17°C) and the average low is 40°F (4°C). March is one of the driest months of the year to visit Guadalupe Mountains National Park. On some days, high winds can make hiking difficult/unpleasant.
Sunrise & Sunset: Sunrise is at 7:10 am and sunset is at 7:10 pm.
El Capitan Lookout | Best National Parks in March
Devils Hall | Best National Parks in March
Top Experiences: Hike to the top of Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas. Visit the Salt Basin Dunes, hike to Devil’s Hall, visit El Capitan Lookout, hike the McKittrick Canyon Trail or the Permian Reef Trail, and visit Dog Canyon.
Ultimate Adventure: For the ultimate adventure, go on a multi-day backpacking trip through the park.
How Much Time Do You Need? One day is all you need to hike one trail and visit the highlights of the park. For those who love hiking and for those who like the idea of venturing off the beaten path, a total of 3 days gives you plenty of time to hike a few trails, visit Dog Canyon, and explore the Salt Basin Dunes.
8. Biscayne National Park
Biscayne National Park is 95% water. This park protects one of the largest reef systems in the world.
The best way to explore it is by boat, which makes it very unique from many of the other US national parks. If you love snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming, or simply cruising around by boat, you will love this underrated gem of park.
Why Visit Biscayne in March: March is a great time to visit Biscayne National Park because the weather is nearly perfect and water temperatures are heating up.
Weather: The average high is 77°F (25°C) and the average low is 66°F (19°C). Rainfall is relatively low for the year. The water temperature is 76°F (24°C).
Sunrise & Sunset: Sunrise is at 7:30 am and sunset is at 7:30 pm.
Boca Chita Key | Best National Parks in March
Top Experiences: Visit Boca Chita Key, go kayaking or paddle boarding in Jones Lagoon, snorkel or scuba dive along the Maritime Heritage Trail, visit Elliott Key, go snorkeling at Fowey Rocks Lighthouse, and cruise through Stiltsville.
How Much Time Do You Need? Just one day is all you need to take a boat tour of Biscayne and see the highlights. With more time, you can go camping or take several different tours of the park.
Plan Your Visit
9. Congaree National Park
Congaree National Park protects the oldest old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the southeastern United States.
This is one of the smallest, least visited national parks in the United States. A visit here is quick and easy to plan.
Walk the boardwalk trail through the forest, go kayaking or canoeing on Cedar Creek, go birdwatching and fishing, and, if you like, venture farther into the park on a number of other woodland trails.
Why Visit Congaree in March: This is a good time to visit Congaree because it’s warm and mosquitoes aren’t too much of an issue (the worst time for mosquitoes is from late spring through summer). March is one of the wetter months to visit Congaree, so there is also a good chance that you will see some flooding in the forests, which is a very unique sight to see (the peak time for flooding is the winter months).
Weather: In March, the average high is 68°F (20°C) and the average low is 43°F (6°C). Rainfall is above average for the year, with park getting about 4 inches (100 mm) of rain this month.
Sunrise & Sunset: Sunrise is at 7:30 am and sunset is at 7:30 pm.
Congaree National Park | Best National Parks in March
Location: South Carolina
Top Experiences: Walk the Boardwalk Loop Trail, go canoeing or kayaking on Cedar Creek, hike the Weston Loop Trail, and hike to the General Greene Tree.
Ultimate Adventure: For the ultimate adventure, go on a multi-day canoe trip on the Congaree River.
How Much Time Do You Need? One day in Congaree is all you need to see the highlights. Walk the boardwalk trails and go for a canoe trip on Cedar Creek.
10. White Sands National Park
White Sands is a small, easy, fun park to visit.
This national park protects the largest gypsum dunefield in the world. Sledding on the dunes is one of the best things to do here, but you can also hike out farther into the dunes on several different hiking trails or take a ranger-guided tour.
Why Visit White Sands in March: White Sands is one of the warmer national parks to visit in March, and with temperatures in the low 70’s, the weather is great for hiking and exploring. We visited White Sands in March and had a wonderful experience. It’s cool enough to do a long hike without getting hot and the mild midday temperatures make this a great time to spend all day on the dunes. Just be aware that March is one of the busiest months to visit the park.
Weather: In March, the average high is 71°F (22°F) and the average low is 33°F (1°C). This is one of the driest months to visit the park.
Sunrise & Sunset: Sunrise is at 7:15 am and sunset is at 7:15 pm.
View of the dunes from the Alkali Flat Trail
White Sand Dunes National Park | Best National Parks in March
Dune Life Nature Trail | Best National Parks in March
Location: New Mexico
Top Experiences: Drive Dunes Drive, go sledding in the gypsum dunes, walk the Dune Life Nature Trail, take a ranger-guided hike, and go backcountry camping.
Ultimate Adventure: Hike the Alkali Flat Trail. This trail makes a 4.5-mile loop through the gypsum dunefield. It’s the longest, toughest hike in the park but your treat is stunning views of untouched dunes.
How Much Time Do You Need? For the best experience, plan on spending one full day in White Sands National Park. Hike the Alkali Flat Trail first thing in the morning, before the crowds arrive and the temperatures climb. Midday, go sledding on the dunes and have a picnic lunch. You can also do one of the shorter hiking trails. At the end of the day, take the ranger-guided Sunset Stroll.
Plan Your Visit
Bonus! 4 More Great Parks to Visit in March
Zion National Park
I would have included Zion National Park as a top pick for March, since the weather is gorgeous this time of year, but, and this is a big but, crowd levels skyrocket in March. In 2021, about 160,000 people visited Zion in February. In March, that number grew to 430,000 people. And that wasn’t even the highest month for visitation…June was the busiest month with 675,000 visitors!
The trend for traffic to jump from February to March is not unique to 2021. This has been occurring for the last 20 years.
If you plan to do a Mighty 5 road trip in March (it’s a good one!) you can include Zion, just be prepared for large crowds.
Grand Canyon National Park
In March, temperatures are beginning to warm up, and with that, the Grand Canyon begins to draw more crowds. Even though visitation picks up in March, it’s still a lot quieter to visit the park now than during the busy summer months.
Saguaro National Park
The weather is pretty much perfect in Saguaro in March, with daily highs of 75°F (24°C) and low rainfall. But this is the by far busiest month of the year to visit the park, so keep that in mind while planning your visit.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Like Saguaro, March is the busiest month to visit Carlsbad Caverns. But the weather is pleasant and this is a great time for a Texas – New Mexico road trip, so if you also have plans to visit Guadalupe Mountains, White Sands, and/or Big Bend, it is worth including Carlsbad Caverns in your travel plans.
March Road Trip Ideas
Here are two great road trip ideas for March. The best time for both of these is in early March, to avoid spring break traffic. If you are planning your visit for spring break, make your hotel reservations and rental car reservations in advance because this can be a busy time to visit some of these national parks.
#1 Texas & New Mexico
Combine Big Bend, Guadalupe Mountains, Carlsbad Caverns, and White Sands into one big road trip. With 10 days, you can fly into El Paso, Texas, rent a car, and drive this loop. I plan to write a detailed itinerary for this road trip, but if you have any questions, let us know in the comment section below.
#2 Utah’s Mighty 5
Visiting all of Utah’s Mighty 5 (Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches National Parks) is one of the best USA road trips. To do this, you need a bare minimum of 7 days, but 10 days is even better. This road trip is typically done point-to-point, from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City, or in the opposite direction.
Get all of the details on how to do this in our Utah’s Mighty 5 Itinerary & Travel Guide.
If you have any questions about the best national parks to visit in March, or if you want to share your favorite national parks to visit this month, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information about the US National Parks:
NATIONAL PARKS: In our Guide to the US National Parks, get the full list of national parks with important travel planning information, such as things to do in the parks and sample itineraries.
NATIONAL PARK ITINERARIES: For ideas on how to plan a national parks road trip, visit our National Parks Itinerary page. This has lots of road trip ideas and sample itineraries for many of the US national parks.
BEST US NATIONAL PARKS: Looking for your next big adventure? Read our post Best National Parks in the USA, where we narrow down the long list into 15 must-see parks.
MORE GREAT HIKES IN THE NATIONAL PARKS: From hikes to the tallest peaks to beautiful coast trails, read our Guide to the Best Day Hikes in the US National Parks. If you prefer to keep your hikes short and sweet, read our guide to the Best Short Hikes in the National Parks.
Best National Parks to Visit by Month:
JANUARY: Best National Parks to Visit in January
FEBRUARY: Best National Parks to Visit in February
APRIL: Best National Parks to Visit in April
MAY: Best National Parks to Visit in May
JUNE: Best National Parks to Visit in June
JULY: Best National Parks to Visit in July
AUGUST: Best National Parks to Visit in August
SEPTEMBER: Best National Parks to Visit in September
OCTOBER: Best National Parks to Visit in October
NOVEMBER: Best National Parks to Visit in November
DECEMBER: Best National Parks to Visit in December
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