The Best National Parks In The Winter

The Best National Parks in the Winter

America's "best idea" – its beautiful national parks – offer visitors a chance to see some of nature's best work such as lavish forests, jagged summits and deep valleys all year round. These wonders become totally new places – but just as stunning – in the winter when covered in soft snow.

Death Valley National Park, California

The Death Valley is famous for being the hottest place in North America. It is, therefore, best to go there in the winter. Most days in this desert are sunny. This is a favorite place for hikers. Most routes in the park are cross-country, up canyons, or along ridges. Camping is another favorite because you have a lot of choices – more than 3 million acres of wilderness and almost 700 miles of backcountry dirt roads.

Acadia National Park in Maine

Among the standard winter activities, the Acadia National Park offers the especially fun ice fishing and dog sledding or skijoring. If you go to the shores, you can see sea smoke rising from Frenchman Bay. Winter is the season when the Snowy Owls fly over the park, so go to one of the designated sightings to witness the migration of these enigmatic birds.

Yosemite National Park, California

Rent a snowmobile and explore the scenic land. In wintertime peaks get snowy, and waterfalls and streams freeze. Ice skating outdoors is a family favorite activity. Skiers and snowboarders can easily get to the famous Badger Pass ski area, home to the oldest downhill skiing area in California, as roads are nicely plowed. People can go fishing in the winter in the Merced River. Don't miss out on going camping in the winter wilderness.

Arches National Park, Utah

If you want to have an arch to yourself, you must go in the winter. People usually go to the park in the summer, so that means more of this beautiful region just for you and your fellow-tourists. Have you seen arches and red rocks sparkle with ice and snow contrasting the clear blue sky? This natural phenomenon doesn't happen in a lot of places. Most hiking trails remain open year-round. Ranger-led hikes are not offered in the winter but you can go camping.

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Winter looks like wonderland after a snowfall at the Mount Rainier National Park. With fresh white powder and glaciers galore, you won't want to miss this beautiful scenery. There is always a lot of snow there, which makes the ranger-guided snowshoe walks, camping, snowboarding and skiing all the more fun. Overnight winter camping is a great opportunity relax and enjoy the abundance of snow in the mountain.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park is among the most famous ones in the country. Its alpine meadows and rugged mountains are what make it perfect to visit in the winter. Go on one of the guided snowshoe walks or watch the sunset at Lake McDonald. You can also go camping – auto camping is available at the Apgar Picnic Area and St. Mary Campground. There is no charge, but you need to get a backcountry permit. People love skiing and snowshoeing so they can see spectacular scenery.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon is most beautiful when it's covered in snow. So go now and enjoy a snowshoe planet walk or try some cross-country skiing on the Red Canyon Bike Path. Or maybe rent snowshoes to explore the region; they are provided for free when you go on a hike led by a ranger (that may be the safer option anyway). Because the air and skies are so clear in the winter, astronomy programs are very popular; so are different full moon snowshoe adventures.

Zion National Park, Utah

Winters in this beautiful park are not too harsh, which makes it a favorite time for hiking among many outdoor adventures. Some trails get more ice than others so consider getting crampons or yaktrax. The more off the beaten path you go, the more snow you'll encounter. Some of the most popular trails are Weeping Rock, Emerald Pools, Riverside Walk, Angels Landing, and Observation Point. A lot of people also go to the park in the winter for scenic drives, camping and photography.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

If you want a scenic adventure, explore the Rocky Mountains in the winter. Backcountry skiing and sledding in Hidden Valley are common among locals and tourists. While you are skiing around, you are most likely going to see many elk, deer and moose run around the park. Snowshoeing has become increasingly popular over the years. It's much easier to explore the park this way as opposed to in the summer when you're bumping into people all the time and walking is not as gentle as skiing.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The Grand Canyon is on a lot of people's bucket list. If you just want to visit the park once, do it in the wintertime. The soft white snow in contrast with the rocks makes for one of the most incredible sunsets you'll ever see. The south rim is open year-round and not a lot of people go. A fun activity is Virtual Caching. Sign up and you will be led to discover a certain location on the rim. Who knows where that will take you...If you're looking for some of the best lodging options, historical sights and views of the Grand Canyon, head to the Grand Canyon Village.

Denali National Park, Alaska

Winters are powerful in Denali which makes them a must experience for any snow lovers out there. The park is actually covered in snow for many months, but there is a lot more in the winter as rivers and lakes form an unbreakable ice cover. The lucky visitors may even get to see the Northern Lights. Go in February for the Winterfest and you will see some remarkable snow sculptures and ice carvings.

Apostle Island National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Now is the time to go see amazing ice caves. They are located at the western end of the Mainland Unit of the park, in far northern Bayfield County. By February, an ice bridge may have formed to connect Sand Island to the mainland, according to the NPS. The lake surface is usually a frozen white expanse, which is a stunning view in itself. A dreamland of needlelike ice columns forms inside and they change every day.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

The variety of activities you can engage in at Yellowstone during the winter that don't include skis is enormous. Take a sleigh ride through an elk herd in Jackson Hole or watch wolves in Lamar Valley. If you feel a bit chilly, dip in a hot spring inside the park. Camping at Mammoth Campground is another great idea; it is the only one open year-round. Sites for tents and RVs up to 75 feet are available (no hookups). Wonder what it's like to take care of a national park of Yellowstone proportions? Attend a ranger program.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

The stunning Table Mountain Pines covered in snow is a truly unforgettable sight. The Smokies are completely serene in wintertime. A record number of Elks pass through. The wildlife in general is abundant there. Hikes that are not too hard and low elevations provide comfortable conditions for people who are not looking for taxing physical activities. Visit the Cades Cove, a large valley and the most popular destination in the park. Another reason to visit in the winter is the better prices.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska

Winter arrives early here. Snow covers most of the ground by mid-September. The good news is that the park never really closes as it has no designated entrances, according to NPS. It is immaculate, silent, and icy in the winter. You may even see the majestic Northern Lights. You can get to Kennecott only by foot, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or snowmachine. You can hike on any of the trails throughout the winter.