Are you looking to explore a national park during winter? We've got you covered! Here you will find the best national parks to visit in winter to enjoy breathtaking views, outdoor activities and fewer crowds than during peak seasons.
It's no secret that winter can be a magical time to visit National Parks. From snow-capped mountaintops and frozen lakes to steaming hot springs and dramatic icicles, there is a unique beauty that comes alive during this time of year.
Getting outside in nature is something the family will remember for years, and a winter trip to a national park can be enriching. Lucky for you, there are tons of beautiful American National Parks to choose from, whether you want to embrace the snow or leave it behind for a few days.
But what are the best national parks to visit in the winter? After researching and exploring some of the country’s most beautiful parks, we have compiled a list of the favorite national parks to visit in winter.
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Yellowstone National Park is legendary in the national park community because it is the world's first national park. Nature lovers across America and the world travel through Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho to experience the volcanic activity at Yellowstone.
As a consequence of being situated on top of a dormant supervolcano, you can witness Yellowstone National Park's incredible geysers and brightly colored hot springs. Be amazed by Yellowstone's unique environment, some of which can be found nowhere else in the world.
Why fight the summer crowds when Yellowstone is just as enjoyable in the winter as in the summer? Experience an Old Faithful eruption on your snowmobile tour of the park, or rent snowshoes at one of the park lodges and set out on a trail. If a heated drive through the park is more your speed, book a snow coach ride.
If you plan to visit a national park during winter, there are specific rules you need to know before your trip. Before your winter visit to Yellowstone National Park, it is essential to note that personal vehicles are not permitted into the park due to the heavy snowfall from November to April.
The only exception is a slight stretch of road on the North Fork. Alternatively, visitors are encouraged to enter the park via snowmobile, snow coach, snowshoes, or cross-country skis.
Since it is the offseason, expect hotels to be cheaper and readily available. The highest-rated accommodations near Yellowstone National Park, which can be found on Booking.com, are Cody Cowboy Village, Inn on The Creek, The Cody, and Owen D.
Also Read: Tips for Visiting Yellowstone National Park
If you are looking for a US National Park to visit in winter, you should check out the park where three vastly different environments converge. From the alpine mountains of Hurricane Ridge to the lush forests of the Hoh Rainforest, and finally, the unique stone-stacked beaches, you can experience a bit of everything at Olympic National Park in Washington.
With one of the only ski lifts in a national park, Hurricane Ridge is the place to go for winter activities in Olympic National Park. Choose from snowshoeing, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowboarding, or tubing, and spend the day having fun and looking at one of the picturesque mountainous views in the park.
The winter season causes a spectacular phenomenon that can be found on the opposite end of the Olympic. Along the Pacific Coast, wind, rain, and tides create powerful swells that are a thrill to spectate. Olympic beaches stay almost snow free making perfect conditions for storm watching.
Winter storms from the sea bring the Hoh Rainforest into its wet season. The rainforest becomes lush and alive, with an average of 12 feet of rain per year. The best way to explore the rainforest is to hike the famous Hall of Mosses and Spruce Nature Trail.
Going on a ranger-led program is an excellent way to explore Olympic National Park in the winter. They are not only informational, but the rangers will check the safety of the volatile weather.
Also Read: Things To Do in Olympic National Park
Northern California snow brings Yosemite National Park into its best season. Imagine El Capitan glistening from the dusted snow while hiking trails are wide open would make for quite a beautiful sight. Luckily, winter brings snowfall and quiet to the ordinarily bustling Yosemite. Striking no matter the season, Yosemite National Park is arguably the best national park to visit this winter.
Take advantage of the uncrowded national park; there are many activities like hiking, a guided bus tour, or a scenic drive. Valley Floor Loop is a popular hiking trail that passes through many of the park's best features, including Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, and Yosemite Valley. Not a fan of hiking? The Yosemite Valley Scenic Loop will take you past Yosemite's famous landmarks.
Do not worry about driving in the snow once you reach the park; the Yosemite Valley free shuttle runs daily. All personal vehicles must have AWD or 4WD with snow tires and/or tire chains.
Also Read: Things To Do in Yosemite National Park
The park's scenic drive, Going-to-the-Sun Road, is a 50-mile stretch renowned among the national park community for its landscape views. Glacier National Park may be a hiker's dream during the summer, but as soon as the snow falls, expect to see winter sports lovers enjoying the gorgeous setting. Be sure to check out One of America's most beloved national parks this winter season.
The winter draws all winter sports enthusiasts to Glacier National Park. Some of the most popular activities during this time are hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. Favorite places to cross-country ski are Apgar-West Glacier, St. Mary, the North Fork, and Two Medicine.
A well-liked trail during this time is to hike to the Apgar Lookout, but if you are searching for something that requires a little more experience, there is the 32-mile trek to Grinnell Glacier.
Like most wintry American national parks in winter, Glacier National Park experiences its fair share of road closures. Unfortunately, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is mostly unkempt except for the 11-mile stretch to the Lake McDonald Lodge and a small portion to St. Mary Campground.
Also Read: Most Beautiful National Parks in the USA
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the US. In the summer, it is almost impossible to find a parking spot, and a true blessing if the hiking trail is not packed.
As soon as the clear blue alpine lakes freeze over and the snow drifts down from the mountain peaks, the Rockies change into a completely different world. This usually packed park is blanketed by snow, making it more beautiful and enjoyable. Explore this mountainous winter wonderland in its best season.
Although your choices of activities in Rocky Mountain National Park become slimmer, they become more undisturbed. The quiet season brings herds of elk down from the high country. Trekking through the snow-covered forests and exploring the frozen lakes and waterfalls.
Popular winter hikes include Cub Lake, Mills Lake, and Bear Lake Loop. A unique activity to do is the free ranger-led snowshoe trips. There are animal programs and full moon walks.
Like most alpine national parks, Rocky Mountain National Park experiences volatile weather changes. The best tip is to overpack. Bring layers of warm clothing, extra socks, hats, and gloves, and make sure to carry plenty of water.
Also Read: Things To Do in Rocky Mountain National Park
Spectacular orange colors against the cold blue sky are highlighted by the white snow from the scene of Grand Canyon National Park in the winter. The Grand Canyon is one of the best national parks to see during winter because of the comfortable hiking temperatures as well as the smaller crowds. With layers upon layers of packed sediment and unbelievable rock formations hidden, it is hard not to be amazed by this incredible national park.
The sunrise and sunset is the best time to view the Grand Canyon. The canyon is set aflame when the sun hits the layered rock just right. Winter is the best time to make the trek down to the bottom of the canyon as long as there are no icy conditions.
The deeper you hike into the canyon, the warmer it gets. This means that it is best to hike down when it is colder at the top. The Rim Trail is a walk you can take no matter the outside conditions. This paved path goes around the top of the canyon, allowing for different viewpoints.
It is important to note that the north rim of the canyon closes in the winter. Do not fret because, generally, the south rim is more popular.
A few smaller towns are situated in close proximity to Grand Canyon National Park, including Flagstaff and Kanab. Highly rated hotels in these towns are The Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon, Kanab Suites, and Canyons Boutique Hotel.
Also Read: Things To Do in Grand Canyon National Park
Big Bend is a desert oasis national park to visit in the winter. This park is perfect for a desert getaway, with its hot springs, wild animals, and wild west ghost town. You can even go to Mexico without having the expenses of Cancun. Big Bend National Park is such an underrated national park.
People don't know there is much to do in Big Bend in the winter. There are unique opportunities, like hiking to Hot Springs along the Rio Grande or walking through the stunning canyon of Santa Elena.
Another fun activity is the lost mine trail, but hold onto your hats because it can get pretty windy. Possibly the best winter activity to do in Big Bend is to cross the Rio Grande into Mexico. After your boat ride across the Rio Grande, hop on a burro and have a margarita in Mexico.
The most important piece of information to remember is to bring your passport to the park. If you wish to cross into Mexico and get back, you will need your passport to go through American customs. Another piece of advice is to plan enough time to see this massive park.
Terlingua, Texas, is the closest town to Big Bend National Park. A few of the best options for accommodations in this town are Lajitas Golf Resort, Terlingua Ranch Lodge, and Space Cowboys, all of which can be booked using Booking.com.
Arches National Park is another one of the best national parks to visit in the winter. With the most arches of anywhere in an area, Arches national park is quite an interesting site. There is not one of the same arches, as they come in all shapes and sizes. Arches National Park is located in Moab, Utah, which is usually blazing in any other season, but winter provides some relief from the heat. With fewer crowds and more mild temperatures, winter is the best time to see arches in the national park.
Some of the most popular winter activities to do in Arches National Park are the devil's garden hike, the hike to the delicate arch, and rock climbing. All of these activities are more enjoyable to do in the winter because there are fewer crowds. Arguably the best activity in the park is to watch the sunset and wait for the stars to come out. Arches national park is a dark park that makes for beautiful stargazing.
The best tip for arches national park is to be the first one at the arch. If you want a famous picture at an arch, try to be the first one there because it gets crowded very quickly.
The upcoming and modern town of Moab provides excellent hotels to stay in a while visiting Arches National Park. A few of your options are Radcliffe Moab, Moab Springs Ranch, Hoodoo Moab, and Modern Mesa.
Crystal blue waters and sunny 80° weather are what you will be greeted with in Biscayne National Park. Down in sunny Florida, you will find Biscayne, a national park primarily in the water. The park has a diverse array of coral reefs, mangrove forests, keys, islands and beaches that are home to some spectacular marine life, such as dolphins, sea turtles, manatees, sharks and more than 500 species of fish. If you want to escape the cold and snow, check out one of the best US national parks to visit in winter, Biscayne National Park.
There are tons of water activities that you can do year-round at Biscayne National Park. There are water sports, like kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving. There is even informational ranger lead tours out into the park, which can be done by kayaking, scuba diving, or snorkeling.
An important tip for Biscayne National Park is to remember to bring your swimsuit. The crystal Bluewater and warm temperatures will be enough to entice you to get into the water.
Have yourself a white Christmas without the hassle of the snow. White Sands National Park is one of the best national parks to see during winter because the brilliantly colored white sand against the cold blue sky is simply magnificent. These gypsum dunes have created a park that is exactly what it sounds like white sand. It feels like you’re on a snowbank when you are in the middle of the desert.
The most popular thing to do in the park is to play in the dunes. Enjoy the park by sledding, playing, and running in the dunes. This park has no restrictions on where you can go, so make the most of it. A wonderful informational video is also available to watch in the visitor center, which is highly recommended.
A rarity at a national park is for pets to be allowed in the park. White Sands national park is an exception to that. Pets are welcome to play on the dunes along with their human owners. Let your furry friend join in on your adventure; obviously, be sure to clean up after them.
The only town near White Sands National Park in Alamogordo. This small town offers accommodations, including White Sands Motel, White Sands Retreat & Grill 4 BBQ, Hampton Inn Alamogordo, and much more.
In the Arizona desert, a peculiar natural phenomenon causes a freak of nature, 40 feet tall and different unique shapes. The saguaro cactus is the tallest in the world and can hold many gallons of water. Saguaro National Park is broken into two parts that are both worth visiting because they are both unique. Saguaro is a US national park in winter that should be visited.
The best winter activities are at the start and the end of the day. The red desert sunsets are like nothing you have seen before. Take an early morning or an evening hike to catch the sunrise or the sunset; you will not regret it. Bring a camera because there are some gorgeous photo opportunities at sunrise and sunset.
Beware of rattlesnakes, scorpions, and other dangerous wildlife that prowl the Arizona desert. Ensure safety measures are in place just in case of contact with dangerous wildlife. Another thing to look out for is break-ins at the park. Check with rangers about break-ins into cars sitting in parking lots and what you can do to prevent that.
Saguaro National Park is situated right outside Arizona's second-largest city, Tucson. This means there are plenty of choices of where to stay during your visit. Hotels found to be highly rated on booking.com are Hampton Inn, Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort, and Hotel McCoy.
To be among the largest trees in the world has a bit of a fantasy field to it. You will feel dwarfed in a world of giant trees with snow, adding to the magical effect. See the biggest tree in the world, General Sherman, highlighted by a sprinkling of snow at Sequoia National Park. Sequoia National Park makes for an excellent American National park in winter.
The most iconic thing about visiting Sequoia National Park is seeing General Sherman, the largest tree in the world. The tree stands 275 feet tall and is over 36 feet in diameter at the base. The tree is an impressive 2200 to 2700 years old. You have to get a picture comparing your size to the tree because it is simply unbelievable.
The best tip for sequoia national park is not to bust your butt on the ice. Come prepared with proper snow gear and especially proper snow shoes. Roads can get slippery, so be prepared with snow chains for your car.
Along the northern California coast, a wondrous phenomenon is occurring. The ocean creates clouds that bring water to the land, while the mountains protect the world's tallest trees from harm as they grow. This recipe is what makes the redwoods in the Redwood National Park. With beautiful beaches and a magical forest, redwoods are where the forest meets the sea.
There is no shortage of winter fun in the Redwood National Park. You can visit the location of the Star Wars film scene at the fern wall, enjoy Klamath River with its salmon and seals, and stop at the ranger station to learn more about the different kinds of wildlife at the park or take pictures to compare your size to the tree.
Be sure to thoroughly cover both parts of the park, ocean, and forest. Both of these sections of redwoods have their own features, so be sure to spend enough time with each.
Achieve a different perspective while visiting one of the best US national parks in winter, Zion National Park. Zion allows a unique experience by being inside the canon versus on top of it. Adventure through the canyon while being dwarfed by the impressive canyon walls. If you have luck, you'll be able to spot the elusive California condor.
Angels Landing is the hike for you if you aren't afraid of heights. The next trail follows along a cliff edge, but you will be rewarded with the most amazing views in the park. Angels Landing is also Zion's most iconic hike, while following close behind is the Narrows. The Narrows is a good hike for anyone because it is paid for the first mile. If you are looking for a little more adventure, you can hop right into the water and follow the river up to the canyon.
The best tidbit of advice is to watch out for flash flooding in the Narrows. The cause of most accidents in Zion national park is drownings while hiking in the Narrows. Be sure to double-check your forecast and a park ranger before setting out on this hike.
Everglades National Park is the best national park to visit in winter to escape the cold. This wetlands national park is mainly humid swampland. Little do people know what a staple it is in nature. This lush green area supports tons of wildlife, especially alligators.
Enjoy your time in the sunshine because the Everglades have warm winter temperatures. You have no problems watching wildlife because many species are found in the park, including gators, manatees, flamingos, cranes, and snapping turtles.
This park also has a unique history. The Nike missile site has become a treasured part of the park since its time during the Cuban Nike missile crisis. Arguably the most iconic activity to do in the Everglades is the airboat tour. This unique airboat glides across the swamp land without destroying it in its wake.
A problem that plays Everglades national park happens to be a seemingly harmless animal. Beware of the crows that pack and rip the rubber on your windshield wipers. This is such a problem at the park that rangers cover their cars with tarps. The park is even put in a “playground” of sorts to entertain these intelligent creatures.
All in all, you cannot go wrong with choosing to visit a national park during the winter. There are plenty of national parks across America to choose from, allowing you to spend time outdoors during the winter season.
There are winter activities such as hiking, snowboarding, and skiing, or if you are into summer activities, there are parks in the southern United States that offer scuba diving, snorkeling and more. Whatever you enjoy doing, there is a US national park in winter that has things to do that match.