When it comes to national parks in North America, you’ve got a wealth of options. There are 63 such protected parks in the United States, 37 in Canada, and 67 in Mexico, plus over 100 preserved destinations throughout Central America and the Caribbean.
Of these, there is a handful that reigns supreme during the summer months, offering unique experiences you won’t find anywhere else. So, as you pack your sunscreen and floppy hat for your summer trek, pin these North American national parks to the top of your itinerary.
El Yunque National Park
This 28,000-acre Puerto Rican park is the only tropical rainforest within the United States National Forest System. Tucked 45 minutes southeast of San Juan, the summer month temperatures peak in the upper-80s and do bring more rain. This, however, equates to sparser crowds to combat than the spring, daily refreshing rain shower reprieves among the most stringent of canopy-covered hikes, and wet-season mating conditions for one of Puerto Rico’s most beloved animals, the coquí. Get used to the coquí’s signature call—CO-KEE!—there is nothing quite like the never-ending chorus of it.
Jasper National Park
The Canadian Rockies get a lot of love in the wintertime, but summer is ideal for visitors who’d prefer to avoid negative-degree temps. Summer 2023 is the perfect time to visit Jasper National Park, Canada’s largest, which is situated approximately three hours north of Banff. Not only can you witness black bears wandering through wildflowers and massive rainbow trout bubbling below canoes, but there are some new modern lodging options to enjoy. Forest Park Hotel just became the first property to open in the park in 40 years, and Pyramid Lake Lodge has opened six new cabins with panoramic vistas of the 9,000-foot-plus Pyramid Mountain.
Lagunas de Montebello National Park
Tulum and its adjacent national park may thump with partiers all summer long, but there are other options in Mexico including a secluded park with Mayan ruins and glimmering waters, typically minus the masses. Lagunas de Montebello National Park hugs the Guatemalan border in the state of Chiapas, with its 59 lakes exuding the most striking of greens, purples, and seemingly every color in between. Summertime is the ideal time for kayaking, canoeing, or taking a dip in a cenote after a horseback ride. There are also more than 200 buildings to explore within the Mayan ruins.
Olympic National Park
Washington, United States
If the stereotypical drizzle-filled day in Washington State doesn’t strike your fancy, perhaps a summer trip to Olympic National Park will. Temperatures are regionally warm—with highs often hovering in the upper 60s—and the average monthly rainfall is at its lowest. With such prime conditions, the crowds come out en masse, and for good reason. Friendly, bushy-tailed marmots are often seen crawling about, and it is the pinnacle of stargazing season at the likes of the oft-snowcapped Hurricane Ridge.
Yellowstone National Park
Wyoming, United States
Come summertime, the elk and bison are roaming as white geraniums and forget-me-nots hit peak bloom. Pair the scenery with the staples—Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs being among them—and you’ve found Yellowstone at its peak. These months attract families out on summer vacation. Among other highlights, they’re lured by daily highs in the lower-70s, compared to the mid-20s come winter. Pro-tip: Make sure to book accommodations as soon as you can, as you’ll be competing against two million other summer visitors.