When it comes to natural parks, most of us conjure a picture of widely varied environments including arid deserts, rocky mountains, dense forests and glittering lakes. Across America, there is no shortage of scenic national parks which are perfect for a wintry adventure.
SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS, CALIFORNIA
Lying side by side in the southern Sierra Nevada east of the San Joaquin Valley, Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks are the most beautiful places to visit during winter. These national parks are full of breathtaking views, gorgeous valleys, snowy white peaks and the world’s largest sequoia trees. Snow blankets the landscape and creates a magical wonderland of family-friendly activities. To really get a sense for how enormous these giant trees are, you can take a walk through the Giant Forest.
- Where: P.O. Box 89, Sequoia National Park, California
- Best for: hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, rock climbing or horseback riding
- Temperature: -8oC to 3oC
- Tip: Whether you prefer to stay in the national parks themselves or in the surrounding areas, there are plenty of lodging options to choose from.
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA
Situated at an ecological crossroads, where the high Mojave Desert meets the low Colorado desert spanning 800,000 acres, Joshua Tree National Park is home to an impressive range of plant species, boulders, rugged mountains, gold mining ruins and desert plains dotted with trees. It does not get more magical than seeing freshly fallen flakes gracing the smoothly rounded boulders in winter.
- Where: 74485 National Park Drive, Twentynine Palms, California
- Best for: rock climbing, hiking and biking
- Temperature: 10oC
- Tip: If you want to avoid the biggest crowds, then you should pay a visit midweek.
YELLOWSTONE IN WYOMING, MONTANA AND IDAHO
Located in the west of the United States in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, Yellowstone, America’s first national park, is a true marvel to behold and home to an amazing combination of natural beauty, rugged wilderness and abundant wildlife. During winter, Yellowstone becomes a spectacular snow-covered wonderland that allows visitors to engage in a variety of enthralling adventures. If you have not seen one of these best national parks in winter, you are missing out on one of the greatest experiences in the world.
- Where: P.O. Box 168 Yellowstone , Wyoming
- Best for: hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, wildlife watching, fishing and camping
- Temperature: -20 to -5° C
- Tip: Winter in the park begins December 15th, so take a snowy jaunt around the Mammoth Hot Springs or Nymph Lake and enjoy the geothermal beauty of this iconic Yellowstone region.
BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, TEXAS
Located in Southwestern Texas, snuggled up to the Mexican border, Big Bend National Park offers stunning panoramic views, hundreds of species of wildlife and an array of activities for visitors. Spanning an amazing area of 802,541 acres, winter in Big Bend provides a snowy solitude that is hard to replicate in many places. Spend your days strolling up Window View Trail for a photogenic view of the Window or Casa Grande (Big House).
- Where: PO Box 129, Big Bend National Park, Texas
- Best for: hiking, camping, fishing, river rafting, horseback riding and backpacking
- Temperature: 18 to 22oC (in November)
- Tip: No matter when you visit Big Bend, you should bring a sun hat, sunscreen and plenty of water.
EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, FLORIDA
Only a one-hour drive from the hustle and bustle of Miami, Everglades National Park encompasses 1.5 million acres of tropical and subtropical habitat and is home to one of the largest wetlands in the world. Here, visitors can see many species of birds, alligators, crocodiles or panthers. No Florida exploration is complete without stopping at one of these best national parks and taking an airboat tour to spot wildlife. If you are an adventure seeker, rent a canoe and then explore the mangroves on your own.
- Where: Everglades National Park, 40001 State Road 9336 Homestead, Florida
- Best for: birdwatching, camping and wildlife spotting
- Temperature: 11oC to 25oC
- Tip: The weather conditions in the Everglades can impact availability of certain activities, so check to see if a particular tour is currently running before making the trip.
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, ARIZONA
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, Grand Canyon is one of the world’s most renowned scenic national parks. During the winter months, the white snow contrasting with the colourful rocks makes for a powerful and inspiring landscape. Additionally, a winter visit to Arizona’s Grand Canyon is a great way to avoid crowds and enjoy festive activities. Take a stroll through its top attractions such as Yavapai Geology Museum, Bright Angel Trail or Desert View Watchtower for a stunning view.
- Where: Northwestern Arizona
- Best for: hiking, horseback riding, rafting, stargazing, wildlife watching and photography
- Temperature: -6oC to 4oC
- Tip: During winter, the Grand Canyon’s North Rim area is closed to visitors, so you should plan your accommodation and sightseeing outings near the park’s South Rim.
CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK, OREGON
Situated in Southern Oregon, Crater Lake National Park is home to the deepest lake in the United States. With an annual average of 43 feet of snow, Crater Lake is one of the snowiest places in the United States. Here, visitors can marvel at the panoramic views and natural formations of Wizard Island and the Phantom Ship. If you are looking for outdoor adventures in the winter or to simply relax and take in the views, then Crater Lake National Park should be added to your travel bucket list.
- Where: 570 Rim Village Dr Crater Lake, Oregon
- Best for: biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledging and snowmobiling
- Temperature: 0.9°C to -7oC
- Tip: In winter, only the park’s south entrance is open, so travellers from Seattle or Portland must drive south to the Medford/Jacksonville area, then approach the park from the south.