Best National Parks to Visit this Winter
We’re reveling the colder seasons by getting outdoors! Come explore these beautiful national parks with us, as we travel through snowcapped mountains, down to swamplands and gator-infested waters. America’s parks have it all, and the National Park Service is celebrating its centennial this year.
See why thousands of acres have remained protected for your enjoyment, as well as the well-being of the creatures that live in them. From Bryce Canyon spires and hoodoos, to volcanic lake formations in Crater Lake, winter has never looked so good. Pack a tent, you’ll want to camp out in these slices of natural heaven. Thank you, NPS!
If you’re searching for a true – and truly untouched – winter wonderland, then you have to make your way to the Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Bryce Canyon was made a national park in 1928, and there are more than 30,000 acres to explore within its boundaries.
Bryce Canyon is in a relatively remote location, but is perfect for winter, because of the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival, an annual event held every year in February. The festival comes complete with all kinds of outdoor activities, including ski tours and guided trips, snowshoeing, yoga and hiking daytrips, photography walks, and kid-friendly activities, like arts and crafts. Snowmobiling is just about the only activity not allowed on park grounds, but there are nearby rental facilities that will take you on guided snowmobiling tours near the park, so that you can stay in close proximity to its natural beauty. Check out Ruby’s Inn for more information on trips, activities, and accommodations.
Winter kayaking demonstrations are also available, and the visitor’s center will rent out skis and snowshoes for convenience. Bryce Canyon also offers shuttle services. However, they do not run in the wintertime, so if you need shuttle services, you’ll have to make your own adjustments, but the winter scenery is worth every minute.
Imagine a forest made entirely of stone. Tree-like “hoodoos,” or skinny spires of colorful rock, poke out along the valleys, and the evergreens are dusted with snow. Just over 1,000 feet higher than Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon is centered around the largest natural collection of hoodoos in the entire world. Descriptions do no justice to this wonder, and if you’re visiting, you’ll want to bring a camera, or three.
Thick, luscious fir and spruce forests line the park, and within them you can find more than 100 species of birds alone, including swallows, eagles, and owls. The park is also home to cougars, mule deer, and coyotes, especially in the wintertime, as they’ll be moving to lower altitudes. Bundle up when visiting this park in the winter though, as temperatures can reach an average low of 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and extreme lows of -20 and under!
Looking for a warmer winter park destination? There’s no place better to escape to than the Everglades National Park in Florida. Usually starting in December, the Everglades experiences what is known as a true winter dry season. Being that the Everglades has a subtropical climate, the best time to visit the park (in our opinion) is during this dry season. Temperatures are beautiful for the area, with highs in the 70s and average lows right around the 50s. The best part about this dry season is that the humidity is low, so visiting the park during this season makes for a much more enjoyable experience if you’re including outdoor activities in your itinerary, like hiking and nature walks.
The Everglades is the largest tropical wilderness in the United States. The Everglades became protected in 1934, after it was discovered that the habitat was quickly diminishing. Its ecosystem is so intricate and so fragile, that more than 1.5 million acres had to be protected in order to ensure the safety of the wildlife and water systems within them. There are more than 30 endangered or threatened species that thrive in the Everglades, including the Florida panther, West Indian manatee, and the American crocodile. There are approximately 350 species of birds in the park as well, and more than 300 species of freshwater and saltwater fish.
Camping overnight and visiting for several days is encouraged, but we suggest that you make reservations ahead of time, as the winter season is the busiest season in the Everglades. Park rangers provide tours and educational programs to visitors, and you may often be hiking in crowds. Bring your camera! Wildlife within the park is much easier to spot during the dry season.
When searching for peace in winter, found only in the crisp mountain air and the wakening chill of a soft breeze, you’ll have to make room in your itinerary for Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. Winter in Crater Lake is known as “quiet time.” The drop of a pin can be heard for miles in the pristine white backdrop, and the lake looks like frosted glass, bordered by sugar-dusted pines. The first snowfall usually hits Crater Lake right around early November, and will continue all the way into June.
Due to the almost constant snowfall, you must check weather conditions in Crater Lake before venturing out into its wilderness. Be prepared for slippery walks, as the sun during the days will melt a layer of snow, which will ultimately transform into a sheet of ice, causing dangerous routes for walking and hiking. Always wear the proper gear, and notify park rangers before entering into Crater Lake.
Crater Lake was established in 1902, and is the only national park in the state of Oregon. The lake itself is also the deepest lake in the United States, and the 3rd deepest in the entire world (when comparing average depths), with its greatest depth being almost 2,000 feet. The lake is a singular body of water, making it even more unique, because it has no rivers or streams that flow out of it.
Crater Lake National Park contains more than 180,000 acres of untouched wilderness and is home to a variety of species of plants and animals. Within the park, you can look for Canadian lynxes, beavers, bobcats, muskrats, cougars, foxes, brown bears, timber wolves, and more. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a bald eagle!
No matter if you’re looking for a fun winter excursion with crowds and festivals, peaceful snow-covered nature walks, or a warmer weather escape, these parks will provide you with everything you need to enjoy preserved American nature at its finest. It is all thanks to the National Park Service, for protecting these lands and making the most of them for us to wander through and explore. Take your whole family out for a fun weekend, or travel in a more intimate setting. Be sure to pack the proper gear for wherever you decide on going, and always check conditions/check with park rangers before planning your trip.
For more information, visit the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov.