Best national parks to visit in August

With the school year just around the corner, visiting a national park in August is one of the best ways to maximize your summer vacation. Warmer August temperatures bring some of the best weather many national parks see all year. A little research into the best national parks will uncover one (or more) with the adventure you're looking for, whether you are into hiking, rafting, sandboarding, or simply taking pictures of some of the most stirring natural beauty in the United States.

Yosemite National Park, California

One of the most breathtaking places in the country (or the world, in fact), Yosemite National Park must be on the list of best national parks to visit in August. The weather in Yosemite in August is ideal for a relaxed outdoor vacation. With so many spectacular views that beg to be hiked or photographed, you can easily spend days just to get to all of them. There are many vacation rentals in Yosemite National Park itself, or outside the park in towns like Groveland.

Just past the south entrance, you should not miss Tunnel View. It is gorgeous at sunset, making it a good place to stop on your way home from a day in the park. The same can be said of sunset at Glacier Point, where an easy one-mile hike leads you to a panoramic view of the Sierra peaks. Another easy hike is the Mariposa Grove, where you will wander among some of the earth's oldest sequoias and can walk through the California Tunnel Tree.

For an easier trek through the park, Yosemite Mule and Horseback Rides offer a good way to get to the upper peaks at Clark's Point if your legs are not up to hiking. The four-hour trip may be hard on your bottom, but the views are well worth the time in the saddle.

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Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Majestic Grand Teton National Park is one of the best national parks to visit in August. The rugged peaks rising up in the brilliant Wyoming sun simply take your breath away, the flowers in the mountain meadows bloom in August and the park has some of the finest hiking trails in the country.

The best hiking trails in Grand Teton National Park are around Jenny Lake, where the wildlife abounds. One of the easy hikes is the Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point Trail that you reach by taking a boat across Jenny Lake.

For more of a challenge, if you push into the high mountains to Surprise Lake and Amphitheatre Lake you will get your exercise. Another more difficult hike is the Cascade Canyon Trail, the most popular in the park. You reach it by crossing Jenny Lake as well. Long-term vacation rentals in Jackson Hole are ideally suited for daily exploration of the park.

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Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park is humming in August. The weather is ideal for all outdoor activities, the rivers are flowing at their peak and the forests are alive with wildlife. August is the best month for horseback riding in the mountains. Swan Mountain Outfitters in West Glacier offers half day, two hour and one hour excursions on which you can explore the lower trails winding through the lodgepole pine and aspen forests. In August, the rivers of Glacier are at their warmest, which, to be honest, is not really warm. However, they provide whitewater rafting for families and adventurists, so don’t miss stopping in at the Glacier Outdoor Center to book a trip with the Glacier Raft Company.

Staying in a vacation rental near Glacier National Park allows you to savor the many August outdoor activities in the park, including fishing and hiking. They come in all sizes, from cozy mountain cabins to expansive mountain homes. There are several places to eat in the town of West Glacier when you get hungry. Try the West Glacier Restaurant, a standout for its country style cooking and tasty huckleberry ice cream.

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Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

In August, the temperatures in Colorado Sand Dunes National Park, the country's newest National Park, begin to lower to a more tolerable level, but it is still good to get out early if you want to go sand sledding or sandboarding. Before you go to the park, get your sledding gear at Kristi Mountain Sports in Alamosa. They have a variety of sandboards and sleds for rent at a very reasonable price.

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado Hiking, swimming and horseback riding in the park are at their peak in August. You can arrange for a guided horseback ride in the park by contacting Rocky Mountain Horseback Adventures in Alamosa or the Zapata Ranch in Mosca. Zapata Ranch, owned by The Nature Conservancy, is a working bison ranch that's home to 2,500 bison. Colorado Sand Dunes National Park is nearest to vacation rentals in towns in southwestern Colorado, such as South Fork.

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Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Mount Rainier National Park is one of the very best national parks to visit in August because it is the sunniest time of year to explore the high mountain meadows that are still in bloom. The best wildflower display is in the aptly named park area called Paradise. You may encounter snow lingering in the subalpine meadows, even in the last days of July. August is also the best month to view the majestic old growth forest. The old growth in Ohanapecosh, where the trees thrive on the normally wet climate, should be sunny and fairly dry in August.

There several easy hiking trails in Mount Rainier National Park. You may see marmots on the short Nisqually Vista Trail, and the mile-long loop Sourdough Ridge Trail takes you to the subalpine meadows. For the more adventurous, the Burroughs Mountain Trail is a strenuous 7-mile loop that takes you up to the mountain tundra. Whatever trail you walk or wherever you drive, Mount Rainier itself will be visible as a beacon and reminder of why the mountains are called the Rockies. Look for Mount Rainier vacation rentals in Ashford and Packwood.

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