One of the best ways to enjoy the natural beauty of the U.S. is by visiting one of its 58 national parks. While some parks are much more popular than others, they all provide a unique landscape and a great way to experience the outdoors. National parks are generally much more crowded during the summer and fall months when the weather is nice and most schools are not in session. One alternative to battling mobs of people and crowded parking lots is to plan to visit a national park during the winter. Not only will you avoid crowds, but you might also see scenery and wildlife that can’t be enjoyed any other time of the year. Here are four national parks to visit this winter:
Winter is a great time to explore Zion for quite a few reasons. During the busy summer and fall months, cars aren’t even allowed in much of the park and visitors are required to take an often crowded park shuttle. In the winter however, cars are allowed on all roads in the park and crowds are almost never an issue. Temperatures in the park generally remain bearable and daytime highs are often in the 50°- 60° Fahrenheit range, making day hikes through the high walled canyons very enjoyable. If you do make a trip to Zion this winter, make sure to hike the world famous Angels Landing, but also consider giving the much less popular but just as stunning Observation Point trail a try.
Arches National Park, home of picturesque landmarks such as Delicate and Double O Arch attracts over a million visitors per year, but obviously most of these tourists and adventurers come during the warmer months. One great trick to avoiding the masses and getting pictures of the beautiful arches without having other visitors in your shots is to visit in January or February. These months are also when you’re most likely to see the arches with a layer of snow on top. Other than immediately following snow storms, the park roads and most of the hiking trails are open the entire year. As long as you’re willing to combat the cooler weather and on occasion snow and ice, you’ll get to experience this desert wilderness much like the original explorers did.
Because of it’s location, Yellowstone receives much more snow than any of the other parks in this list. If you’re prepared for it though, the park can be just as exciting in the winter months as it is in the summer. Because most roads in the park are closed from November to April, you’ll have to access the park on cross country skis or a type of over-snow vehicle. Be sure to check out the Park’s website for more details on winter rules and regulations. If you do decide to brave the snow and frigid weather, you’ll have prime access to viewing incredible wildlife, steaming geysers, and some of the prettiest mountain landscapes anywhere. It’s also important to note that two of Yellowstone’s lodges remain open during the winter months, perfect for those who don’t want to worry about camping in the freezing weather.
Although it’s located just a couple hours from Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon has a much more wintery feel than its neighbor. Because it receives more snow than the rest of Utah’s national parks, there are a wide range of winter activities that can be enjoyed in Bryce Canyon. Cross country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking are some common winter activities, and there is even a ranger guided snowshoe tour available for free, granted that there’s enough snow. So whether you’re exploring the canyon on snowshoes and skis, or just venturing from the toasty car for a few minutes at some of the various scenic lookouts, Bryce Canyon National Park is a must see this snowy season.
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