Winter isn’t usually the season associated with hiking and camping, but that doesn’t mean you should shy away from visiting America’s national parks. During the winter, the crowds that fill the park avenues and popular viewpoints disappear during the summer. Hiking trails remain open and those that are closed to hikers can often be explored on sleds or snowshoes. Snowfall of varying amounts has drastically altered the landscape of these beautiful national parks, providing great photography opportunities. So if you don’t have much time for an island vacation with warm weather, consider visiting one of these national parks during the winter for an unforgettable experience.
Bryce Canyon National Park; Utah
Looking for a little solitude while hiking in one of the most beautiful national parks in the United States? During the winter, the blankets of red rocks in Bryce Valley are covered in a dust of snow, imparting a magical feel. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular activities, and there’s also a winter festival held every year during President’s Day weekend. Ranger-led astronomy programs provide visitors with an opportunity to learn about constellations in the night sky. However, be aware that Bryce Canyon receives a great deal of snowfall and there are hazards. Make sure to prepare properly and check in with the park service for the most up-to-date information.
Get ready for winter hiking with us 9 winter hiking tips for your next cold-weather adventure.
Grand Canyon National Park; Arizona
One of America’s most recognizable landmarks, the Grand Canyon is a natural wonder that you have to see to believe. Grand Canyon National Park stretches 277 miles (445 kilometers) from end to end. Its rock walls slope more than a mile to the valley floor, where the wild Colorado River traces a rapid southwesterly course. Layers of colorful rocks, revealing millions of years of geological history, are sometimes covered with snow on the edges during the winter creating a photo jackpot. Winter temperatures are ideal for long walks without too much heat to drain your energy. Plus, you’re unlikely to come across more than a handful of people on the hiking trails. Challenge yourself to hike from the Rim to the Rim Trail in both directions!
Another benefit of visiting during the winter is that accommodation prices are much lower than in the summer months. You don’t need to book months in advance which allows flexibility for last minute getaways. Before you head to Grand Canyon National Park, be sure to read our Visitor’s Guide to Grand Canyon National Park.
Additional reading: Top reasons to visit Grand Canyon National Park
Arches National Park; Utah
You’ll escape the crowds by visiting Arches National Park during the winter. Daytime temperatures drop significantly during the winter months, making hiking an enjoyable activity. Snowfall occurs frequently but rarely in large quantities and usually only lasts for 2-3 days. Layers of ice over the red rock formations create fantastic landscapes for photographers. Choosing to spend the night camping offers some great stargazing opportunities.
In-depth reading: The most important excursions in the arches
Yosemite National Park; California
Yosemite National Park covers nearly 1,200 square miles of wilderness in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. The park features towering waterfalls, prominent cliff faces, giant sequoia groves, and stunning views. Some of the best scenic views in the United States can be found in Yosemite. Yosemite’s natural beauty becomes even more surreal during the winter months when snow covers the peaks and the waterfalls freeze over. Visitors can also enjoy the Curry Village ice rink, located under the backdrop of Half Dome.
Yosemite cannot be visited during the winter. No worry. Hiking and camping adventures can be found all year round. Learn more by reading a visitor’s guide to Yosemite National Park.️
Rocky Mountain National Park; Colorado
Colorado itself is one of the most sought-after winter destinations in America, so of course, Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the best national parks to visit during winter. This park, which stretches across the Continental Divide, truly is a winter wonderland. Besides snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling, visitors will find plenty of other winter activities within the park. The skates in Hidden Valley are popular with children and adults alike, which always brings excitement to the day. If you’re worried about road driving, join a winter bus tour with the Rocky Mountain Conservancy.
For those interested in hiking, the eastern side of Rocky Mountain National Park doesn’t receive as much snow as the western side of the park, so it’s much easier to hike without snowshoes or cross-country sleds.
Need a new pair of hiking boots? Read our guide Hiking Shoes Guide To help you find the perfect walking shoe.
Yellowstone National Park; Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho
Imagine you’re riding on a snowmobile through a snow-covered valley with herds of bison in every direction. Imagine yourself strolling along boardwalks that float aside geothermal pools and geysers. Head deep into the countryside on a cross-country ski adventure and follow the trails of moose and elk. Winter in Yellowstone is filled with amazing fun activities for all levels of adventurers.
Before visiting Yellowstone National Park, be sure to read the Visitor’s Guide to Yellowstone National Park.
Acadia National Park; who
Often referred to as the “Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast,” Acadia National Park offers stunning scenery around every corner, stunning scenery, and a rich cultural history.
During the winter months, visitor numbers drop dramatically as freezing temperatures move into Acadia National Park. Many hiking trails and sections of the Park Loop Road are closed but there are still plenty of fun activities like ice fishing and snowboarding. Transportation routes that crisscross the park remain open for cross-country skiing, and several trails are accessible for snowshoeing as well. Perhaps the most unique experience is ice climbing. Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School will teach you basic waterfall climbing techniques.
Acadia National Park is home to some of the most stunning scenery on the Northeast Coast. Check out a visitor’s guide to Acadia National Park to plan your trip.
Zion National Park; Utah
One of Utah’s epic national parks, Zion National Park is an amazing network of colorful canyons and stunning forests and deserts. Hiking trails follow the same paths of the ancient aborigines while slot canyons form a fascinating labyrinth of wilderness to explore. A visit to Zion during the winter offers quieter walks, beautiful scenic winter tours, and unique wildlife viewing opportunities.
Here are the top reasons why Zion National Park is on the US bucket list.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park; North Carolina
During the winter months, Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be significantly less crowded. You may find yourself with famous hiking trails and visitor sites for yourself. The park does not see a large amount of snow during most years, except in the higher elevations. Snow is a major concern on hiking trails and while driving around the park. However, ice can also be a great sight as waterfalls and streams freeze and the park takes on a unique look in winter.
Smoky Mountain National Park is a great winter hiking destination, but one distinct winter hike is Mount Kamerer. This low-rise peak is usually covered with trees but gives you expansive views when the leaves fall in the winter months. In addition, this famous mountain is much quieter under the snow cover.
In-depth reading: Peak hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Most people head to Jackson Hole during the winter to drive the ski slopes. Although if you are heading to this ski destination, you have to visit Grand Teton National Park as well. Inside the park, you can cross-country ski or snowshoe through snow-covered roads and trails, seeing elk and elk along the way. Local outfitters offer photography tours and workshops, providing opportunities to frame the stunning Grand Tetons scene. The Grand Tetons is also home to some of the best ski areas in the United States.
Additional reading: Top excursions in Grand Teton National Park
Big Bend National Park, Texas
Mountains, steep cliffs, rocky terrain, the Rio Grande, and vistas as far as the eye can see, Big Bend National Park is a top attraction in the far west of Texas. The 800,000-acre national park contains three primary habitats: river, desert, and mountains. Hiking trails stretch for miles over a variety of terrain. One of the park’s best hikes, the South Rim Trail is a collection of several trails that wind along the southern edge of the Chisos Mountains and offer views of Mexico. Visitors will find miles of paved roads within the park offering a variety of scenic excursions to take in the park’s landscapes and take in the geological splendor. And don’t worry, you absolutely won’t encounter any snow in Big Bend National Park.
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