15 Best U.S. National Parks To Visit During Winter

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From underwater worlds and towering mountains to red rocks and lush forests, the US National Parks offer a multitude of stunning landscapes to explore year-round. Whether you are searching for a warm weather destination or looking for serene winter landscapes, these National Parks offer it all.

While some parks, like Glacier National Park, North Cascades, or Olympic National Park, are fantastic during summer, they also offer unique opportunities for exploration and solitude during the winter months. Only one US National Park closes its gates completely in winter: Isle Royale National Park in Michigan, making your choices plentiful when considering what National Parks to visit in winter. 

I’ve been to all of these National Parks on this list at least once, and while I wouldn’t recommend winter visits to the more extreme weather parks for first-time visitors, it’s absolutely worth doing if it’s the only time you have. From avoiding crowds to enjoying cool sunny weather to embracing winter activities such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, these U.S. National Parks are some of the best to visit in winter!

Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park is one of the best National Parks to visit in winter. With multiple entrances near Miami, Florida, you can easily find accommodation near the park for a more extended getaway. The dry season is from November to April, known for sunny weather and clear skies. Visiting the Everglades during winter means desirable weather in the 70℉, allowing you to explore the Everglades without the intense Florida heat and high humidity and with fewer pesky bugs. For the ultimate experience, consider following my Everglades National Park itinerary.

Death Valley National Park

The hottest place on earth, Death Valley National Park is one of the best national parks to visit in winter for comfortable weather and unique natural landscapes. In the summer months (May-September), temperatures average over 100°F and often exceed 120°F, making a day in Death Valley almost unbearable. However, in the winter months, the weather is mild, with cool nights creating a pleasant atmosphere to admire the park’s natural landscapes or camp at one of the park’s many campsites.

While many tourists want to experience the hottest place on earth and choose to visit in the summer to experience the intense heat, you’ll want to visit in the wintertime to actually enjoy the stunning and varied landscapes of Death Valley, such as the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Zabriskie’s Point and Badwater Basin.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree has always been a hub for creative and adventurous souls. It connects two ecosystems and acts as a gathering point for people looking for a majestic escape from the ordinary. The park is a mecca for rock-climbing enthusiasts and outdoor lovers passionate about Mother Nature.

A scenic drive through the park is one of the best things to do while visiting Joshua Tree National Park. The large boulders, cholla cacti and Joshua Trees create stunning landscapes unlike anywhere else in the world.

For an adventurous winter vacation try camping inside the park. Joshua Tree offers excellent camping conditions during winter. For fascinating scenery, choose Indian Cove Campground, but if you are camping with the whole family, you might find Cottonwood Campground more suitable. 

Grand Teton National Park 

Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming is one of the best national parks to visit in winter if you love snow sports and dreamy, snowy landscapes. The park is covered in snow from November to May and borders the resort town of Jackson Hole. While some roads are closed during the winter months, the park remains open for those willing to brave the freezing climate. 

Enjoy cross-country skiing, fat biking, or snowshoeing along the park’s trails-it’s a fantastic way to get outside and spot wildlife. With the snowy conditions and freezing temperatures, the campgrounds close during winter, but Triangle X Ranch and Dornan’s Spur Ranch Cabins are open December through March for a unique dude ranch-style experience.

Saguaro National Park 

If you want to escape the cold winter season, Saguaro National Park is one of the best choices for sunshine and stunning desert scenery. Arizona’s warm temperatures are exactly what you need if you dislike snowy and freezing temperatures. Saguaro National Park makes a great addition to any Arizona Road trip!

Enjoy hiking or horseback riding through the Sonoran desert landscapes, spotting unique cacti and wildlife along the way. Saguaro Stables is located on the park’s east side and guides riders through the wild horse trails in Rincon Mountain District. 

The Tucson Mountain District on the park’s west side also has abundant hiking and horseback riding trails. Although both sides are worth a visit, the west side is known for its dense cacti population, where you can spot some of the largest cacti in the world.

White Sands National Park 

White Sands National Park is one of my favorite places on earth. It’s definitely worth exploring, but it gets very hot in the summer, making winter and spring fantastic times to admire the powder-white sand dunes. 

The park offers several hiking trails, recreation areas, and ranger-led programs during certain times of the year. Enjoy a guided sunset stroll, or take part in a full moon or Lake Lucero hike for an extraordinary perspective of White Sands National Park. 

A visit to White Sands is incomplete without a hike through the Alkali Flat Trail. It’s an incredible area to watch the sunset over the dunes and enjoy a quiet slice of heaven. The trail isn’t clearly marked, so make sure to pin your parking spot. The dunes all look the same the further you walk out, and you do not want to get lost on the way back. 

Big Bend National Park 

Big Bend National Park is an isolated retreat in south Texas where peacefulness and tranquility take center stage. This is one of the warmest national parks, with summer highs in the 90s and winter highs in the 60s. It’s ideal for escaping the cold months of winter. If you want desert landscapes and solitary mountain ranges, this national park is for you. 

The park is rich in flora and fauna and has a healthy bird population. Big Bend is home to more types of birds, bats, butterflies, ants, and scorpions than any other national park in the United States. Hike through the Santa Elena Canyon, visit a ghost town, cross the border into Mexico (with a valid passport), and watch the sunset from beyond the Rio Grande, all in a day’s visit at Big Bend National Park.

Arches National Park 

Arches National Park in Moab, Utah, is one of the best national parks to visit in winter for fewer crowds, cooler weather, and unique scenery. The park is known for its stunning red rock arches, which are made even more spectacular with a light dusting of snow. The snow won’t stick around for long, but the red landscapes truly transform and will leave you in awe.

Temperatures are cold, with lows in the teens during winter, but you’ll be able to drive through the park and see plenty of scenery from the road, as road closures are not common. They may close for plowing after a snowfall but usually open back up in a few hours. Most of the hiking trails are open year-round but may have snow and ice, so wear appropriate footwear, such as crampons, to make the trek more manageable and safer. 

Another great thing about visiting this National Park in the winter is that you won’t have to worry about an entrance permit, as the timed entry system is only in effect from April 1 to October 31st. This means no long waiting lines to enter the park!

Zion National Park 

Another fantastic park to visit in the winter for fewer crowds and stunning scenery is Zion National Park. While still chilly, winter (December-February) temperatures are mild in Zion, with highs in the 50-60s but with freezing overnight lows. 

Winter is quite wet, and some trails and roads may close due to ice and snow. You’ll be able to drive through the park as the shuttle buses only run during the high season and around holidays. With fewer crowds, you’ll be able to enjoy the park’s tranquillity, take advantage of lower accommodation rates, and encounter fewer booking hassles. Wildlife is often more active and easier to spot in winter, as animals may come down from higher elevations in search of food and water. 

Bryce Canyon National Park 

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, transforms into a beautiful red and white Winter Wonderland come winter. The park is home to impressive rock formations, called hoodoos, that become even more magical in contrasting white snow. 

While most horseback riding, biking, and ATV trails are closed in the winter, Bryce Canyon offers excellent hiking opportunities and winter activities. Visit in February and enjoy the annual Bryce Canyon Winter Festival, held yearly on President’s Day.
Bring proper footwear to walk the winter trails. Head to the Queen’s Garden or Peekaboo Trails for the most spectacular winter scenery. 

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is the world’s first national park and one of the best ones to visit in winter for adventurous souls who love unique winter activities and don’t mind the cold.

Winter temperatures range from 0-20℉ during the day, so expect freezing temperatures, along with ice and snow.

Although many facilities, roads, and attractions close in the winter, the road between the North and Northeast entrances is open to automobiles year-round, and many others are open to snowmobiling and snow coaches. A few hotels are also open year-round and offer tours of the park’s main attractions, such as Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Lamar Valley.

Just like any winter destination, it’s essential to be prepared for cold temperatures and potentially hazardous weather conditions, but with proper planning, a winter visit to Yellowstone can be truly rewarding.

Grand Canyon National Park 

The Grand Canyon is one of the most famous national parks in the US, and rightfully so. It gets close to 6 million visitors a year, most arriving in spring. The winter months are a great time to visit for fewer crowds, less congestion and a quieter pace.  

The North Rim closes for winter, but the scenic South Rim stays open all year round. Dramatic snowstorms contrast with sunny days, and you’ll enjoy the snow-dusted landscapes and stunning views of the canyon’s rigid walls, rivers, and wildlife.

Take the Bright Angel Trail to walk into the canyon and savor the park’s magic to the fullest. Remember to bring crampons to hike on the steep, icy trails! And don’t forget a camera—the South Rim is full of majestic viewpoints you’ll want to capture. 

Yosemite National Park 

Yosemite National Park looks wondrous in winter and is perfect for photographers searching for unique landscapes and winter sports enthusiasts. The park is usually covered in snow during the winter and has some seasonal closures, such as the iconic Tioga Road, but offers many winter activities like snowing and skiing at the Badger Pass ski area.

The park’s most scenic area (depending on who you ask) is Yosemite Valley, which is open during the colder months. Here, you can freely explore and admire iconic views such as Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls against a backdrop of snow and ice.

Rocky Mountain National Park 

Rocky Mountain National Park, located in Estes Park, Colorado, is one of the best national parks to visit in winter. The park offers miraculous winter landscapes, so even if you are not into skiing or snowboarding, you will be amazed by the scenery. 

You can count on snowshoeing, hiking, sledding, cross-country skiing, and wildlife viewing inside the park during winter. On days when the park may be closed due to weather, the charming town of Estes Park has plenty to keep you entertained! 

Make sure to bring base layers, waterproof outer layers, a wool hat, and warm gloves for cold-weather hiking!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park 

Even after all the beautiful leaves have faded, America’s most visited National Park still gets plenty of visitors. The Great Smoky Mountains are the perfect place to visit in winter to take a break from the city’s bustle. Temperatures are mild with occasional extremes, especially in higher elevations. You can expect highs in the upper 40s to 50s (and sometimes warmer), with overnight lows at or below freezing.

The nearby towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, known as the gateway to the Smokys, offer plenty of activities for families throughout the year. 

When visiting the Great Smoky Mountains in winter expect fewer crowds, providing a more intimate experience with nature wildlife and a serene atmosphere with snow-dusted peaks and frost-covered forests. With no entrance fee, it’s a lovely area for a scenic drive!

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park, with its towering Sequoias and giant Red Woods, is a stunning National park to visit in winter. It offers a serene escape with fewer crowds, allowing for intimate encounters with its majestic trees draped in snow.

The landscape transforms into a pristine winter wonderland, perfect for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and peaceful hikes among dramatic vistas. View the iconic General Sherman Tree and stand against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks while spotting wildlife such as Mule Deer, sheep, and the occasional bobcat.

While visiting Sequoia National Park in winter presents challenges such as unpredictable weather conditions, including heavy snowfall and icy roads, if you plan accordingly, you’ll get the chance to experience nature’s quiet beauty in a unique and tranquil setting.

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While some National Parks require thorough preparation and flexibility when visiting in winter, with proper planning, you really can’t go wrong when choosing a U.S. National Park to enjoy in winter!

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