Many of Joshua Tree's prickly plants explode with color in spring, making it an excellent time to explore these craggy mountains, lush oases and jumbled rock formations. The town of Joshua Tree, on the park's north side, has the area's best lodging and restaurants. Spin and Margie's Desert Hide-a-way and the Crossroads Cafe are good bets. If you have an extra day, visit the odd structure known as the Integratron, a found-art assemblage at the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum. You could also check out Pioneertown, the location for numerous Gene Autry movies. — Photo by Richard Cummins/Corbis
Believe it or not, while spring is almost at an end, many of the West's national parks remain snow-covered until July. So why not explore some of the Southwest's desert parks before the heat and the crowds arrive? Now is also a good time to head to Yellowstone for an early view of the wildlife. If you plan to visit national parks in the spring, here are seven great ones to explore.