Venturing out to the national parks in the winter months may mean packing a few more layers and wearing liners underneath your wool socks; however, it is worth the additional prep to see the snowy landscapes without the bustling crowds and Instagram boyfriends. No need to crop other amateur park photographers out of your pictures once you and yours are the only people there! The following include some of the country's finest winter-struck natural beauties.
Arches National Park, Utah
The contrast between white snow, blue skies, and red rocks is breathtaking while trekking around Arches National Park in the winter months. Temperatures can drop to 30°F during the day and 0°F at night in the winter, making the drive along the 36-mile road through Arches to view all the glorious panoramic views warmer and more enjoyable than some. With more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches to see right outside of Moab or a 3.5 hour drive from Salt Lake City, Arches is worth the trip. To note, November through February, The Devils Garden Campground is first-come, first-served, meaning it is way less crowded than the peak months of spring into fall.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
Including a large portion of the Chihuahuan Desert as well as the entire Chisos mountain range, Big Bend in Southwest Texas is closest to Odessa, Texas. Odessa is a charming town with 37 Jamboree Jackrabbits painted freeform by individual artists dotting the city, a sight to see in and of itself. With mild winter temperatures reaching up to 70°F during the day, Big Bend makes for an ideal winter locale to get into more strenuous outdoor adventures such as mountain biking and hiking. It will get chilly at night so be sure to pack all the layers. Beautiful guest houses and casitas are plentiful around the park, making a weekend trip (or longer) easy and comfortable.
Denali National Park, Alaska
Blanketed by snow and with only one road, Denali is for the more adventurous and adept at braving the, at times, -40°F weather during winter months. The park may close some roads and paths due to weather, but those that are open are fantastic for an afternoon of biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. For ease, snowshoes can be rented for free from the Winter Visitor Center. In addition, visiting Denali's Sled Dog kennels in winter is possible and best done on the weekends after checking in with a ranger on if/when the dogs will be returning from their training.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
The perfect day trip from Seattle, this 369 square mile reserve surrounds the glacier-capped Mount Rainier. Come late December, the snow play area of Paradise opens up for sledding as does the schedule for Ranger-guided snowshoe walks. Snowmobiling can also be done in and around the reserve along the Westside Road and on the road loops of Cougar Rock Campground. For breathtaking views, be sure to take the gondola up to the Crystal Mountain Summit. From there, skiers and snowboarders can drop back into the epic terrain as well as non-winter sport players simply enjoying the view.
Death Valley National Park, California
With average winter daytime temperatures ranging from the mid-60’s into the 70’s, Death Valley becomes a bearable and lovely desert wonderland. Nothing beats the stars from Telescope Peak, which is the highest point in the park, or alternatively Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes on the evening of a new moon. A new moon will be less visible in the night sky, making the stars that much brighter. Due to summer’s brutal temperatures, the best time to hike in Death Valley is from November through March. The park has easy, moderate, and difficult hikes, so any nature-lover can get their fix without the blistering heat.
For any winter adventures, be sure to do you research on campgrounds, weather, road closures, and of course the best layer-able and comfy pieces!
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