Best National Parks to Visit in Winter

Denali National Park


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Denali National Park
Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park | Florida

As the largest subtropical wilderness area in the U.S., it's no surprise that Everglades National Park gets extremely hot and humid in summer. But winter brings the dry season, during which temperatures range from average highs of 77 to lows of 53. With less precipitation, animals tend to congregate around watering holes, providing a great opportunity for viewing wildlife like turtles, birds, and alligators.

Related: 31 Bucket-List Experiences in America's National Parks

Death Valley Stargazing

Death Valley National Park | California & Nevada

In summer, Death Valley National Park is the country's hottest and driest national park, with temperatures that can exceed 120 degrees. Winter in Death Valley brings pleasant weather: Daytime highs average between 65 and 77 degrees, while nights occasionally dip below freezing. With clear skies, this national park offers some of the best stargazing in the country.

Related: The Best Remote Vacation Spot in Every State

Big Bend National Park in Snow
Matthew A. Barrett/istockphoto

Big Bend National Park | Texas

True to Texas style, Big Bend National Park is big — bigger, in fact, than the entire state of Rhode Island. Winters here are usually mild, though you should come prepared because temperatures can range from freezing to above 80 degrees. Often called Texas' "gift to the nation," Big Bend National Park offers great hiking, birdwatching, scenic overlooks, and two public prehistoric archaeological sites. 

Related: 16 Under-the-Radar National Parks

Glacier National Park in Glacier National Park, Montana
Andy Austin/Youtube

Glacier National Park | Montana

Visiting Glacier National Park in winter isn't exactly easy. The weather can be frigid and unpredictable, and snowfall often forces roads to close. But if you're up for braving the temperatures (and potential encounters with grizzly bears), then you can enjoy mountaineering, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and the views at St. Mary Lake.

Related: 30 Serene and Secluded Lakes Worth the Drive

Elk in Snowy Rocky Mountains

Rocky Mountain National Park | Colorado

With more than 350 miles of hiking trails, there's plenty of exploring to do in Rocky Mountain National Park. Sure, the majority of visitors come here in the summer. But winter offers less crowded conditions, and activities like snowshoeing, skiing, and wildlife watching (especially elk, mule deer, and moose). Just note that winter weather in the Rocky Mountains can be sudden and unpredictable.

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Bryce Canyon, Utah
Kit Leong / shutterstock

Bryce Canyon National Park | Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park is unique for its geological structures, including gigantic natural amphitheatres and orangish rock spires called hoodoos. In winter, temperatures in the park average around freezing, but there are also fewer crowds there then. Visitors can enjoy skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, sightseeing and stargazing. Note: The canyon sits 9,000 feet above sea level, so altitude sickness is a potential problem.

Related: 33 Historic National Park Photos for Vintage Views

Skiing in Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park | Washington

Because Olympic National Park features three major ecosystems — coast, rainforest, and alpine — the winter weather can change drastically depending on where you are. But that variability means there are plenty of things to do, such as hiking the rainforest, skiing at Hurricane Ridge, and watching winter storms along the Pacific coast.

Related: Stunning Photos of Every National Park in America

Arches National Park
Jason Cameron/Getty Images CC

Arches National Park | Utah

While snow sometimes falls during winter in Arches National Park, daytime temperatures often reach 50 degrees, making for a comfortable off-season visit. As the name suggests, the park is famous for its more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, the most famous of which is the 52-foot-tall Delicate Arch. The standout activities here are photography and stargazing, thanks to the park's unique geology and lack of light pollution.

Related: 14 Beautiful and Budget-Friendly Road Trips Across America

Lassen Volcanic National Park
Melissa Kopka/istockphoto

Lassen Volcanic National Park | California

Don't let the word "volcanic" fool you: Lassen Volcanic National Park receives up to 30 feet of snow in the colder months, making it an ideal spot to ski, sled, and snowshoe. As the only national park with all four types of volcanoes, visitors can check out geothermal oddities like fumaroles, mud pots, and boiling pools. Just remember to stay on the trails: Some hikers have been severely burned after accidentally stepping in boiling acidic water.

Related: 24 Beautiful Destinations Threatened By Overtourism — and Where to Go Instead

Joshua Tree, CA

Joshua Tree National Park | California

Winters are pleasant in Joshua Tree National Park, with daytime temperature averaging around 60 degrees. Renowned for its rock climbing and bouldering spots, the park offers plenty of outdoor recreational opportunities, like horseback riding, hiking, biking, camping, photography, and birdwatching. If nothing else, the park is worth visiting for its unique geology, which includes Pinto gneiss rocks that are approximately 1.7 billion years old.

Related: Awe-Inspiring Photos of National Parks in Winter

Mount Rainier, WA

Mount Rainier National Park | Washington

With cold temperatures and heavy snowfall, winter usually hits Mount Rainier National Park hard, often forcing roads to close. But if you come prepared, you can take advantage of the off-season with activities like winter camping, skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. If the weather's nice enough, consider hiking or biking Carbon River Road, which was closed to motor-vehicle traffic due to flooding in 2006.

Related: 50 Picturesque Road Trips for Safer Travel During the Pandemic

Haleakalā National Park

Haleakalā National Park | Hawaii

Named after the dormant shield volcano it encompasses, Haleakalā National Park lies tucked away in a remote section of the Hawaiian island of Maui. Winters in the park are usually pleasant, though temperatures can drop below freezing near Haleakalā's 10,023-foot summit, where visitors often hike to view sunrises. Not up for scaling the mountain? Consider checking out the Pools of 'Ohe'o, the Hana Highway, and the rare Haleakala silversword plant, all located within the park.

Related: The Best of Hawaii on a Budget

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
Bryan Allen/Getty

White Sands National Park | New Mexico

White Sands National Park is perhaps the only national park where you don't need cold weather to go sledding. That's because this park is home to the world's largest gypsum dunefield, containing 275 square miles of sand that looks and behaves like snow, making it a popular destination for sand sledding. The winter months bring daytime temperatures of around 60 degrees, while nights often dip below freezing, so keep that in mind if you're planning to camp.

Related: 18 National Park Webcams Where You Can See the Wilderness from Home