Spectacular Winter Destinations Across America for Avoiding Crowds

family in snowy winter landscape on cross-country-ski


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family in snowy winter landscape on cross-country-ski

Cool Escapes

As the holiday season winds down, a winter vacation may be on your mind. But is traveling with the ongoing public health concerns wise? As the coronavirus pandemic enters its second year, travel restrictions are ramping up and travelers’ concerns are on the rise. Fortunately, there are plenty of roads less traveled in the U.S. where you can more easily enjoy a winter getaway without the crowds. 

Related: Gorgeous Winter Wonderlands Around the World

Snowshoe walker running in powder snow

Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan

It is difficult to find a place that is more of a winter wonderland than the Keweenaw Peninsula. The tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula averages over 270 inches of snow a year and is overflowing with activities, but not people. You’re going to want to bundle up for a visit, but the remoteness makes social distancing a breeze. Activities you won’t want to miss include snowmobiling, ice fishing, ice skating, or observing the Copper Dog 150 sled race. Michigan Technological University’s annual Winter Carnival, which celebrates its 100th year in 2022, is another must-see. 

Related: Serene and Secluded Lakes Worth the Drive

Beautiful view of the winter mountains

Asheville, North Carolina

If milder weather is more up your alley, Asheville is a pleasant place to visit in the winter. The warmer temperatures mean you can still get out and enjoy the mountains without freezing your toes off. You’ll also have fewer crowds to contend with. Can’t miss winter activities in Asheville include a visit to the Blueridge Parkway, either on foot or by car, or a hike to one of the many nearby waterfalls. Winter at Biltmore, America’s largest home, which feels more like a castle, is more crowded but is also worth adding to your list. 

Related: The Best Remote Vacation Spot in Every State

Alpine skiing at Mt Bachelor ski resort in Bend, Oregon

Bend, Oregon

Bend offers a mix of shops, restaurants, and breweries plus the great outdoors. In the winter, Mount Bachelor is less crowded than some other high-profile resorts and the smaller Hoodoo Ski Area is often even less crowded.  Once you get past the base area, the crowds tend to thin out thanks to all the skiable terrain at both of these resorts. If skiing and boarding aren’t your thing, a hike at Smith Rock State Park or a guided snow bike tour might appeal. 

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Pacific Ocean surf pounding the rocky Oregon coast forest shore

Coos Bay, Oregon

You’ll almost certainly get rained on if you visit Oregon’s coast in the winter, but don’t let that stop you. Even in the summer months, Coos Bay has much fewer visitors than the areas further north and closer to Portland. So toss in your raincoat and enjoy the rocky coast. Cape Arago State Park is one of the best places on the entire coast to look at tidepools. Meanwhile, Shore Acres State Park is a unique mix of otherworldly rocks and beautifully manicured gardens that begin to bloom as early as February. And don’t forget about whale watching during the winter or early spring migration. 

Related: 50 of the Most Beautiful Beaches in America

A Snowy Evening over the Grand Marais Lighthouse on Lake Superior

Grand Marais, Minnesota

Bundle up if you’re brave enough to visit Grand Marais in the winter. Although not for the faint of heart, you’ll be rewarded with few crowds and beautiful views. Nearby is Lutsen Ski Area, one of the best places to hit the slopes in the Midwest. The surrounding area also has over 450 miles of snowmobile trails, some 250 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails, and access to the frozen shores of Lake Superior. 

Related: Spectacular Photos of Hard-to-Reach Places

Snowboarder in Action and Chairlift

Powder Mountain, Utah

Many travel guides say Solitude Mountain is Utah’s go-to resort for fewer crowds. But the real secret destination is Powder Mountain. It is the largest ski resort in North America and also one of the least crowded. The daily cap of 1,500 lift tickets coupled with only 3,000 season passes sold means you can almost always find powder. Even better, you don’t have to worry about getting run over on an overcrowded slope as you do at many busier resorts. 

Fantastic day for skiing

Big Sky, Montana

Another less crowded winter ski destination in the United States is Big Sky. Like any mountain, powder days are more crowded. However, Big Sky’s remote location makes it a less popular destination than other Rocky Mountain resorts. During your stay, you can also tour Yellowstone by snowmobile, cross-country ski, or even take a ride on a dog sled. 

Related: America's Best Ski-In/Ski-Out Vacation Rentals

Wonderful Winter in Stowe

Stowe, Vermont

If you want to feel like you’re in a Hallmark Christmas movie, you’ll want to visit Stowe in the winter. The town of Stowe and Stowe ski resort offer many eateries and places to shop. If you prefer to get outside, skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and even sleigh rides are available. There is also an impressive calendar of events all throughout the winter months. For travelers seeking a safer vacation experience, many of the on-mountain restaurants require proof of vaccination and reservations

Winter At The Point Betsie Lighthouse On Lake Michigan

Traverse City, Michigan

The Cherry Capital of the world is worth visiting, even when the cherries aren’t ripe for the picking. Traverse City can get crowded in the summer as travelers flock to Lake Michigan’s shores. However, in the winter, there are fewer visitors. You can go for a walk by the lake, visit one of the many shops downtown, or even sled at the nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes. 

Related: The Most Popular Towns for Retirees Moving Away From Cities

Scenic view of the central Colorado Collegiate Peaks mountain peaks  near Buena Vista
John Morrison/istockphoto

Buena Vista, Colorado

If you want to beat the crowds of Denver and the nearby bustling ski resorts, Buena Vista is the place to be. This mountain town is a chill place to relax or escape into the mountains for a backcountry adventure. Twelve 14ers (mountains that are over 14,000 feet tall) surround the county in which Buena Vista sits. There are two ski resorts, Monarch Mountain and Ski Cooper, both 45 minutes away. Snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and fat-tire biking also give visitors more than one way to enjoy the scenery. 

St Francis de Assisi

Taos, New Mexico

New Mexico is an incredibly underrated state, speaking as someone who lived there for two years. If you want to enjoy a mix of history, culture, and the great outdoors without the crowds, there is no better place than Taos. This village is home to many historical buildings, such as the church of St. Francisco de Asis, one of the most photographed churches. It also has many local shops and restaurants, and the iconic Taos Ski Valley, which has many ski-in, ski-out Airbnb rentals

Hocking Hills State Park after a winter storm

Hocking Hills, Ohio

In general, travel destinations in the Midwest tend to be less crowded, especially in the winter. Although Hocking Hills isn’t as frigid as some more northern Midwest destinations, it still sees quite a drop-off in visitors during the winter. This provides winter travelers with the perfect opportunity to take a hike to frozen waterfalls and ice-covered caves sometimes without another soul in sight. 

Related: The Best State Park in Every State

Hot Air Balloon

St. George, Utah

Although St. George is a popular spring break and summer destination, it isn’t nearly as crowded in the winter. When you stay here, you’ll be an hour’s drive from Zion National Park. In the summer, the park is totally overrun, but winter travelers can beat the crowds. If you want something more low-key, there are several state parks nearby. 

Sedona, Arizona
Waves in the Atlantic Ocean and beachfront homes at sunrise, Edisto Beach, South Carolina
Jon Bilous/istockphoto

Edisto Island, South Carolina

Edisto Island is one of the few uncommercialized beach areas in South Carolina. This means that although it is a popular destination for travelers, it simply isn’t as crowded as other beach towns. Winter is also an ideal time to visit, with temperatures averaging 55 degrees Fahrenheit and fewer crowds than any other time of year. You will also see much lower vacation rental prices during the winter. 

Grand Isle State Park

Grand Isle, Louisiana

If you’re in search of an island adventure without the crowds, check out Grand Isle. The remote location makes it a less sought-after vacation destination, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be on your list. The area is known for its Gulf of Mexico beaches that offer relaxing, fishing, and bird-watching opportunities. Delicious seafood will also be in your future when you book a trip here. 

Related: 31 Charming Seaside Villages Across America

Bentonville Arkansas
Bentonville Arkansas by Alfredo Carrillo (CC BY)

Bentonville, Arkansas

The Ozarks are a popular vacation destination, but if you want to beat the crowds, the town of Bentonville is a hidden gem. The town has something for everyone. Whether it's a trip to Hobbs State Park, a visit to one of the many museums, or a day of foodie immersion, you can find it in Bentonville. The town is also the birthplace of Walmart’s founder, and several relatives still live here. 

View of beautiful Colorado river flowing through Canyon
Bhushan Thakurdwarkar/istockphoto

Page, Arizona

The town of Page is often overrun at the peak of summer as travelers flock to the shores of Lake Powell. However, in the winter, you’ll be able to easily avoid crowds as you visit Horseshoe Bend or the Antelope Slot Canyon. Even better, hotel prices are much lower in the early winter. For example, in 2022, prices at the Lake Powell Hyatt are up to 40% off through the end of February. 

Garden of Gods
Garden of Gods by Marcus O. Bst (CC BY-NC-ND)

Shawnee Forest Country, Illinois

The Shawnee Forest Country area is a hidden gem. This seclusion means you’ll be able to enjoy scenic views at Garden of the Gods, one of the most photographed locations in the state, and hiking nearly all to yourself in the winter. There is also a wine tasting tour that has special deals during the off-season, making it an ideal location for a Valentine’s Day retreat. 

A group of snow dogs pulling a sleigh together

Fairbanks, Alaska

Visiting Alaska in the winter might seem crazy, but there are several reasons to add it to your destination list. In the summer, Fairbanks, which is near Denali National Park, is extremely crowded, but visiting in the winter lets you avoid the masses. Additionally, there are some activities you can do only in winter. “The most popular things to do in Fairbanks in winter include dog sledding, visiting reindeer ranches, chasing the Northern Lights, and then warming up after a long day at a hot spring,” says travel expert Kay Kingsman of the Awkward Traveller. 

Galena Illinois
Galena Illinois by David Wilson (CC BY)
Madison Indiana
Madison Indiana by Paul (CC BY-NC-ND)
Healdsburg California
Healdsburg California by Wayne Hsieh (CC BY-NC)

Healdsburg, California

Wine lovers take note, Healdsburg is in the heart of Sonoma Wine Country but with a more small-town feel than other popular destinations. Beyond wine tasting with fewer crowds, there are plenty of other activities to do in Healdsburg. There is also shopping, dining, and outdoor recreation galore. 

Humpback Whale with Tail Raised Above Ocean Surface

Monterey, California

There are plenty of reasons to visit Monterey in the winter. Although not the warmest of destinations, the temperatures are warm enough that you don’t have to worry about snow. Winter is also the ideal time to see migrating whales right off the coast or on a whale-watching tour. Depending on when you time your visit, you can also catch some festive holiday events. All these perks without the crowds of summer make this a perfect winter destination for an escape. 

Related: Amazing West Coast Beach Houses to Rent

San Antonio River Walk, Texas
Port Angeles, WA
Marshall Pittman/istockphoto

Port Angeles, Washington

The Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Park await you during your stay in Port Angeles. In the summer, the trails are usually packed, and getting a picture without anyone in the background can feel impossible. Not so in the winter. Local Sydney Rubin, owner of Maitland Manor, says winter is one of the best times to visit to avoid the crowds. Local accommodations, such as Rubin’s B&B, are also available at a steep discount during the winter. 

Related: The World's Coolest Rainforests

Rocky Mountains in Winter

Estes Park, Colorado

“When the snow starts to fall in the Colorado Rockies, most people divert their attention to the major ski areas up I-70, which can involve bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours on end,” says local Dan Meyer of Back and Pack. Meanwhile, Estes Park has few visitors and endless outdoor adventures to be had. You can cross-country ski, view wildlife, snowshoe, or simply walk around town without the crowds in the winter. 

Dirt Road Moab Utah Canyonlands

Moab, Utah

There is plenty to see and do in and around Moab. However, in the summer months, the trails are packed, lodging costs are high, and it’s hotter than blazes. Moab’s crown jewel, Arches National Park, is also best seen in the winter to beat the crowds, says travel expert Micha Herber-Bleich of Best Time to Travel. Starting in 2022, the National Park Service is also implementing a reservation system for Arches. From April to October, you won’t be able to enter the park and reservations will be limited and on a first-come-first-served basis making a winter trip all the more appealing. 

Related: 32 Bucket-List Experiences in America's National Parks

Valley of Fire State Park Landscape at Sunrise near Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Las Vegas

Las Vegas is always going to be busy if you want to visit casinos and go out on the town. However, the secret to an uncrowded experience in Vegas is for nature lovers. Las Vegas local Bryan Mullennix of Feeling Vegas specializes in all things Vegas. He says winter is the best time to avoid crowds and see sights like Red Rock Canyon or Nelson Ghost Town. You’ll also be about 2 hours from Death Valley National Park for a day trip without the deathly hot temperatures of summer.   

Related: Spooky Ghost Towns Across America

Rapid City, South Dakota

Rapid City, South Dakota

“Rapid City is a vibrant destination that is packed in spring and summer with tourists coming to see Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills, but empties out in the winter. However, that doesn't mean it's short on winter activities,” says Rapid City media relations specialist Andrea Braunstein. In addition to outdoor activities, Rapid City is also home to the Dahl Art Museum, the WaTiki Indoor Water Park, and numerous eateries and breweries.  

Winter Windmill

Chatham, Massachusetts

This Cape Cod beach town will be all yours when you book a winter vacation, says Jillian Kelley of the Chatham Wayside Inn. There is so much to do right in town, you won’t have to venture far. For example you can see lighthouses, eat delicious seafood, stroll along the beach, or take a walk down the mile of boutique shops. 

Related: 18 Spectacular Lighthouses Across America

Alpine Helen & White County, Georgia
Alpine Helen & White County, Georgia by llee_wu (CC BY-ND)

Helen, Georgia

A winter escape to this Bavarian-style mountain village should be on everyone’s to-do list. Helen has just over 500 residents and offers a peaceful escape in the winter months once most of the summer tourists clear out. It is truly magical around Christmastime with all the holiday lights. There is also plenty of hiking nearby with trails accessible even in the winter. In addition, you won’t want to miss the Winterfest Art Tour or browsing the local boutiques. 

Related: 18 Places to 'Travel Abroad' Without Leaving the Country

Skiers Paradise
Silverton Colorado in the Snow surrounded by peaks

Silverton, Colorado

Another place to escape the crowds for a winter getaway is Silverton, Colorado. For less experienced skiers, Kendall Mountain Ski Area or Purgatory Resort are the places to go. Or for expert-only, lift-serviced backcountry terrain and powder all day, head to Silverton Mountain Resort. Silverton Mountain Resort averages less than 400 skiers a day and even offers heli-skiing. Its logo is someone falling head-first off a mountain though, so please take the experts-only advice to heart. 

Related: The One Thing You Must Do in Every State