Many US national parks offer special getaways during the winter and, with summer’s crowds gone, you can enjoy the relative solitude. Beyond that, the winter landscape offers snowy woods with icicle laced trees by hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and simply admiring the spectacular view. Another bonus: Winter lodging is less expensive than during summer’s high season.
Here are five parks that have winter adventures worth the effort to bundle up:
The snow heightens the impact of the spouting geysers, bubbling mudpots, and steaming hot springs – plus the white-blanketed grounds make it easier to spot animals. Coyotes, bison, moose, mule deer, and wolves mass in the lower elevations to protect themselves from the harsh high altitude weather, making them easier to see from the road. Yellowstone, with at least 99 wolves living in 10 packs, rates as one of best places in the world to see these animals, especially in the Lamar Valley. The park offers guided snowcoach tours so you don’t have to contend with the snow and ice on the roads.
Sequoia National Park, California
Take the opportunity to snowshoe and cross-country ski past giant redwood trees, some with trunks more than 30-feet wide. Naturalists offer guided snowshoe walks on Wednesdays and Saturdays. In the heart of the park, Wuksachi Lodge offers cross cross-country skiing on groomed and ungroomed trails and Wolverton Meadow entices winter enthusiasts with sledding as well as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Snowshoe and cross-country ski with rangers through the woods and meadows as you learn about the winter wildlife. It’s wise to reserve ahead for these free outings. On a full moon, complimentary guided walk through the park, savor the unique perspective on Rocky Mountain National Park.
Zion National Park, Utah
In the winter, snow laces the park’s towering red rock cliffs and mesas, but lower elevations may experience relatively mild temperatures. In January and February, average highs range around 50 degrees °F and lows hover just below freezing. Cross-country ski at the higher elevations or hike along the river valley, looking up to admire structures such as the Temple of Sinawava, whose cascading waterfall ices over.
Winter’s abundant snow makes it possible to snowboard in the park as well as zip through the woods on the 6.5-mile Westside Road trail. Cross-country ski and snowshoe through the frozen landscape and, to learn about winter habitats and wildlife, sign up for the free, ranger-guided snowshoe walks.