The 8 Best National Parks to Visit During the Winter
If you’re only thinking of American national parks only in terms of summer vacations, you are missing out on some of the most incredible excursion opportunities imaginable! To help you build your national parks winter itinerary, here are the 8 best national parks to visit during the winter.
Olympic National Park
There are few national parks that offer more options during the winter than this Washington treasure. Some consider this one of the absolute best locations in the US for skiing, snowshoeing, tubing, sledding, and snowboarding. Snow sports aside, you can take one of the most exhilarating hikes there is by hiking the Pacific shoreline with waves crashing next to you. Watch the waves throw around the trees that have traveled downstream and into the ocean. Super cool is an understatement. There are many other great winter hikes to choose from as well.
Yosemite National Park
Before we deviate from the winter sports conversation, we couldn’t leave California’s Yosemite off the list. At the Badger Pass Ski Area, you can engage in just about every winter sport imaginable in one of the most majestic places on Earth. The downhill skiing is legendary here. Yosemite Valley’s outdoor ice skating rink is a national parks winter favorite as it has one of the most beautiful backdrops you’ll ever see. With warm food available and hot chocolate, your winning. Add overnight snowy adventure options and this Park easily makes the cut.
Biscayne National Park
Not everyone likes snow so let’s leave that behind for the next one and head to Florida. The dry season here starts in the middle of December so the winter months are the perfect to visit. 95% of this park is water so prepare to get wet. Every imaginable aquatic activity is what you’ll be doing here. Try a reef cruise (rent a vessel with a glass bottom!), scuba and snorkel tours (some last up to all day), or just pack up the kids and beach gear and hit the beach!
Bryce Canyon National Park
This eye-candy overload in Southern Utah is stunning no matter what season you travel there. But during the winter, it is something else. The famous multicolored hoodoo sandstone formations capped with beautiful white snow is unlike anything you will ever see anywhere in the world. The silence of the off-season elevates hiking in Bryce to a whole other level. Hit up great locations like Thor’s Hammer and Silent City inside the popular Bryce Amphitheater. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing through the ponderosa forests is fantastic as well.
Rocky Mountain National Park
The world-famous Rocky Mountains in Colorado certainly don’t need an introduction. This winter wonderland is the quintessential sledding location so bring the kids and get ready for some old-fashioned fun! Don’t forget about snowball fights, building snowmen, toboggan rides, and of course snowmobiling. The stretch of land between some National Forest trails and the town of Grand Lake is prime for snowmobiling. And that’s only one of many fantastic snowmobiling areas. Overnight camping in the national parks winter wilderness is also very popular here.
Voyageurs National Park
Visiting this Minnesota park during the winter has an elevated sense of adventure solely from the fact that the only way to get there is by floatplane or boat! Voyageurs is specifically known for one thing: snowmobiling. This activity is typically quite restricted in most national parks. But here, over 100 miles of land is designated for snowmobiling. If this is your thing, you need to come here during the winter. You just have to. The other winter activity this Park is known for is ice fishing. Over 80,000 acres of frozen water is accessible of those who prefer the solitude of this pastime.
Channel Islands National Park
Two words: whale watching. From December to March is prime whale watching season off this sunny Southern California coastal area. If you’ve never done this, you’ve just got to put it on your bucket list. You can head out to sea on public or private boats and see them up close or you can view them from land with telescopes. In addition to many different species of whale, you’ll likely see dolphins, orcas, and many other exciting forms of aquatic life. All five islands that make up this park contain all sorts of lush vegetation and flora and are immensely fun to explore. This location is a prime national parks winter candidate.
Zion National Park
We’re not intentionally playing favorites by mentioning another Utah national park, but this truly is an unsung winter location that deserves much more attention. Zion gets most of its visitors during the peak summer months (as do the majority of national parks) but there are many tourists who’ve discovered the magic of Zion in the off-season and make it a yearly excursion. The shuttle system shuts down in the off-season allowing for some of the most magnificent scenic drives available in the US. And virtually all of the hikes inside the Park are open year round. Many lower canyon trails that get excruciatingly hot in the summer can be explored comfortably during the off-season. Coming during the winter means no traffic, lots of hotel vacancy, and no excess heat. And contrary to what you may have heard (or seen in photographs), snow in Zion National Park is extremely rare. A little ice, maybe. Snow, hardly ever.