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Winter is the best time to visit some of the southern National Parks that have extreme summer weather. Here are 7 beautiful National Parks to visit in winter.
7 National Parks to Visit in the Winter
In a post-lockdown world, it seems like everyone is spending their vacation days traveling to one of our nation’s 63 national parks. With floods of people hitting the parks in the summer, it might be worth considering a wintertime national parks experience! Despite what you may think, travel isn’t completely off-limits in the winter. In fact, there are a lot of perks to choosing this season of the year. For one, going to a national park during off-peak season means fewer crowds and likely easier-to-find accommodations.
Additionally, you might even be able to save money because flights, food, and attractions could be discounted during this time of year. Lastly, planning a wintertime vacation can get you through some dreary months by offering you an opportunity to see some of our nation’s national parks in a light most never get to see them in. The beauty of winter can be astounding!
Here are seven national parks I would recommend visiting in the wintertime.
Humidity, high temperatures, and mosquitoes plague Everglades National Park in Florida during the summer months, but in the wintertime this park is pure delight! This flat, swampy land with tranquil waters holds many surprises and secrets, like low-lying alligators and nesting birds. The Anhinga trail is one of my favorites, with a wooden boardwalk path that makes you feel like you’re floating above the water! On this trail, if you’re lucky, you might get to witness the complex ecosystem of the wetlands at play: egrets and herons snacking on fish, waterlilies covering the edges of the water, and tall grasses reaching towards the sky.
2. Carlsbad Caverns
Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico is famous for its limestone formations that are often compared to underground jellyfish. Wintertime here is wonderful because the cave temperature is the same all year round at a cool 56 degrees, despite whatever the weather is doing above ground. Ranger-led tours are the way to go if you want to hear the history and facts about this amazing place, but a few locations inside are open to more intrepid travelers who want to go it alone too.
3. Big Bend
Since Big Bend boasts some of the hottest summer temperatures of any national park, a winter visit here is grand! This Texas national park is larger-than-life and truly has it all: mountain hikes in the Chisos, boating opportunities along the Rio Grande, proximity to Mexico, and the clearest of skies for nighttime stargazing. The remote nature of this park means that it doesn’t see as many visitors as several other national parks do, but in my opinion, it’s a hidden gem that more people should know about!
4. Death Valley
Death Valley is, as its name suggests, excruciatingly hot in the summer months. This makes it a great location for a wintertime trip to view Badwater Basin, Artist’s Palette, and more. Temperatures in the winter hover around 70, the perfect hiking weather. Driving through or hitting the trails on foot both treat visitors to spectacular views. Ubehebe Crater, a deep impression in the earth caused by a volcano, is a must-see, as are the charcoal kilns. These kilns were constructed towards the end of the 19th century by workers in a nearby lead and silver mine.
The salt flat Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America. I caught sunset there – easily one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen.
5. Black Canyon of the Gunnison
This gorgeous park is located in the heart of the Colorado Rockies. In the winter, you can ski or snowshoe your way around the 7-mile South Rim Drive, which offers gorgeous clifftop scenery and breathtaking photo opportunities. There are wonderful opportunities to view wildlife, such as mule deer, elk, coyotes, weasels, black bears, bobcats, and more. When the sun goes down, the clear skies provide an excellent view of the stars that is truly unmatched!
Yellowstone National Park is one of the most-visited parks in the country, seeing a whopping 4.7 million visitors each year. The crowds are horrendous in the summer months, but if you take a winter trip you might be able to see the park in all its snowy splendor, a way that most don’t get to view it! However, it will be cold and snowy, so expect to bring lots of layers and deal with a road closure or two throughout the park. Mammoth Hot Springs road is open all year, however, and most other places can still be accessed by snowmobile. You can also view the famous Old Faithful geyser, erupting at intervals of 44-125 minutes all year long.
7. Hawaii Volcanoes
If you live in snowy, chilly climes, a trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island could give you the dose of vitamin D your skin has been missing. Gorgeous black sand beaches, lava flows from erupting volcanoes, and rainforests teeming with plant and animal life make this park such a unique experience. Circle of Fire helicopter tours are a popular way to view volcanic activity from the air, and the Chain of Craters and Crater Rim drive provide excellent views along the coast of Kilauea.
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