Our Favorite National Parks to Visit in the Winter
When we think of grand winter escapes, many of us have thoughts of sailing the Caribbean or relaxing at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. But we sometimes overlook the beauty winter brings to places within our backyard. Some of America’s national parks are perfect for winter getaways.
Here are some of our favorite parks to visit during the winter season.
Everglades National Park, Florida
Travel to a place where water covers nearly every inch. The Everglades National Park, the largest remaining subtropical wilderness in the nation, is a diverse and intricately linked series of habitats sheltering a variety of plants and animals, including 39 species listed as threatened or endangered, or are candidates for listing. The most popular time to visit the Everglades is during the dry season, from December to April, as many tourists escape from winter’s wrath to the warm, pleasant weather of Florida.
- Anhinga Trail – Starting 4 miles inside the park at the Royal Palm Nature Center, the Anhinga Trail follows an elevated boardwalk. During the winter alligators, snowy egrets, anhingas, and garfish can be seen
- Shark Valley – With several short self-guiding trails, it’s easy to explore the area. Bobcat Boardwalk passes through a bayhead tree island, while Otter Cave Hammock Trail leads through limestone formations and a tropical hammock. Self-guiding bicycle trails and bicycle rentals are available.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park is a great place to get lost—really lost, as far away from the mainstream as your heart desires. It’s one of the highest-elevation parks in the United States with peaks reaching over 14,000 feet. The winter months bring a special kind of serenity, as pristine snow blankets the hiking trails, rests haphazardly on tree branches and crowns graceful peaks. Click into a pair of cross-country skis and explore this winter wonderland. Stand motionless and be silent—the sounds of chattering birds and small animals rustling through the snowdrifts will echo across the dramatic landscape. Don a pair of snowshoes and make the first and only tracks of the day as you journey across starkly beautiful alpine tundra.
- Stanley Hotel Tours – If you’re a movie buff, you’ll enjoy the Stanley Hotel Tours that takes place at the historic Stanley Hotel, which is said to be the inspiration of author Stephen King’s “The Shining” novel.
- Bear Lake Road - Immerse yourself in alpine splendor by embarking on a scenic drive. Bear Lake Road runs from Upper Beaver Meadows to Bear Lake, the site of several hiking trails that entice cross-country skiers during winter.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho
Covering 2.2 million acres in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, Yellowstone National Park is a dazzling mountain retreat, even without its 10,000 geologic wonders. But if you’re looking for a true winter wonderland, Yellowstone National Park offers many magical ways to enjoy the winter season. Winter often sees fewer crowds due to the frigid temperatures and features beautiful blankets of white, fluffy snow, and fun winter activities. Due to the roads being closed, lakes and rivers freezing over, and the blankets of snow, the best way to get around the park is by skis, snowmobiles, snowshoes, and snowcoaches – tall, snow friendly vehicles with oversized tires that easily travel on winter roads.
Favorite Things to Do:
- Wildlife Watching – As with any time of year, the wildlife is easy to spot and enjoy in Yellowstone. From snow-covered bison and foxes pouncing in the snow to grazing herds of elk and howling gray wolves, Yellowstone has a vibrant array of animals waiting to capture your attention. Don’t forget to bring your camera!
- Gazing at Geysers – There are more geysers in Yellowstone than anywhere else in the world. Old Faithful, the most famous geyser in the park, is one of many geysers, such as Riverside Geyser, Castle Geyser, Grand Geyser, and Steamboat Geyser (the largest in the world). With the colder temperatures, the heat of the geysers provides an even more dramatic eruption than in the summertime.
Zion National Park, Utah
Zion National Park is a destination that consistently ranks within the top 10 most visited national parks in America. Millions come every year to gaze in awe at what one early traveler called “A New Valley of Wonders,” and for many, the experience will be likened to an encounter with the Divine.
With over 300 days of sunshine per year, Zion National Park, open year-round, is a great place to enjoy the sun’s rays during the winter season. The scenery is breathtaking at Zion, especially during sunrise when you can enjoy the landscapes dusted in snow that typically melt down throughout the day.
- Take a Scenic Drive – Shuttle buses that take visitors to Zion’s main canyon during the height of tourist season, are typically suspended during winter months, from December through mid-February, so you can enjoy a memorable drive through Zion Canyon at your leisure, and from the comfort of your own vehicle.
- Hiking – With most trails remaining open during the wintertime, winter hikes are some of the best things to do in Zion. Many times, you’ll find many sections of the canyon with less people, leaving you to enjoy the spectacular views to yourself. Winter can be unpredictable, so make sure you well-equipped with the right gear and clothing before you set off on your adventure. Additionally, some trails may be closed off due to snow or ice, so hikers will need to check trail conditions prior to their hike.