Find Out The Best Time to Visit The National Parks

national park visual

Bay Area designer and engineer Jordan Vincent took his design skills and applied them to the national parks. In an extremely useful data visualization project, Vincent explores overnight stays at all US national parks and uncovers surprising patterns to help you decided when is the best time to visit.

As overnight stays data is made available to the public by the US National Park Service, Vincent took a look at the average monthly stays for the 2013–2018 period. He then plotted the number of nights spent per month in each park. Nightly stays are separated into four categories of accommodation–lodging, RV, tent, and backcountry–as each accommodation type comes with their own characteristics which determine their popularity over time.

Any parks with missing data was removed. Those parks include American Samoa, Wrangell-St. Elias, Gateway Arch, Pinnacles, Carlsbad Caverns, Petrified Forest, and Congaree.

Climate data from the National Center for Environmental Information (NOAA) was then overlaid on top of the nightly stays data to see how different lodging is affected by the weather. Vincent used temperature normals for the 1981–2010 period from the nearest weather station for each national park.

The result is a series of circular graphs that show you at a glance the most popular months for visitation and the average temperatures you are likely to encounter. For those of us that like to visit the national parks with as little people as possible and are willing to put up with cold weather, the graphs provide tons of ideas.

For example, if I want Yosemite all to myself it looks like late January to early February is the time to go. But if I want to do some backcountry camping, perhaps October is a better bet before the snows hit at the higher elevations and limit my options.

You can view all the graphs in detail over on Vincent’s website. He is also selling posters of all the data visualization for $25.

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