Typically one would not think of a national park as the ideal winter outing.
There’s so much to get ready and prepare before a chilly destination – there’s the winter gear to lug out of storage, the thermoses for hot chocolate, and don’t forget your earmuffs so you can’t hear the kids complain about how they want to go home five-minutes after you get there.
But these 5 national parks are so much more than the average day at the playground or RV park – it’s an experience that will warm your mind and soul so much, you won’t mind the brisk breeze.
Summer is the most popular time to travel as I’m sure you’ve come to discover in your own adventures.
However, there are things you’ll get to experience at a National Forest in the winter that you wouldn’t in the summer – like a view that isn’t lined with tourists or a picture that doesn’t have the head of the guy who hiked on your heels all the way up the Pa’rus Trail in Utah.
So get out your winter gear checklist and plan for a peaceful farewell to the hectic year by escaping to one of these national parks of unequivocal beauty.
1. Zion National Park, Utah
Walking through Zion National Park’s 15 mile-long canyon and its picturesque backdrop of sandstone walls, blue streams, and crooked green branches makes this destination an artist’s dreamland.
While Utah’s gem is not so hidden with over 4.5 million visitors every year, there is one secret that’s been kept for only the most adventurous explorers.
This park is even better in the winter!
Zion National Park can get a light dusting of snow, but is accessible all year round – including the popular Pa’rus Trail and Canyon Overlook which remains blissfully bare during the winter so you can view the rust-colored peaks in silence.
Don’t forget to start and end the day in the cozy Zion Lodge with a hot drink and good company.
2. Acadia National Park, Maine
Maine is a bit cooler all year round than much of the United States, but it’s also an area of exceptional outdoor amazement.
Get views of untouched ecosystems at Arcadia National Park by taking Ocean Drive from Schooner Head down to the Fabbri Memorial.
And don’t worry about getting stuck because according to Condé Nast Traveler, this stretch of Ocean Drive is paved all winter long.
And if you are a cross-country skier, then you’ll be in heaven along the 45 miles of crushed stone carriage roads that offers one of the most coveted winter trails in the nation.
3. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Hawaii is one of those destinations busy all year long, but winter is still your best bet to get a great experience with minimal impediments by tourists.
Whether you are looking to relax on the black sand beaches at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or catch a glimpse of a recent lava flow, there’s always something to amaze you around every corner.
You may be thinking, “Why would I run toward a volcano?”
Well, turns out they are mostly safe, just be sure to do your research before you leave.
Bring your camera because the snowbirds are waiting to have their picture taken in the rainforest surrounding the park.
4. Big Bend National Park, Texas
Everything is bigger in Texas, including Big Bend National Park.
Here you will witness the natural wonder “Big Bend” – a massive “bend” in the Rio Grande River that acts as a divide between West Texas and Mexico.
The Chisos Mountains Lodge is where you need to check-in to view the Window Formation Trail that you’ll be doing with the whole family.
The gentle gradient and intriguing plant-life make this hike the treasure of Big Bend National Park – and in the winter, you won’t have to battle the unforgiving Texas summer sun.
5. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Colorado is the perfect getaway for the outdoor adventurer, and this is one state where winter only increases the fun.
The kids will get lost in the winter wonderland and squeal with delight as they sled down Hidden Valley or walk the quaint roads of Estes Park, venturing through lit passages fit for any imagination.
And if you’re taking the winter plunge to explore Rocky Mountain National Park this chilly season, you’ll have to take a hike down Longs Peak, which made Proud American Traveler’s top list for day hikes.
Warm up your frozen bones at the Stanley Hotel’s Whiskey Bar and then call it a night in one of the upscale rooms upstairs.
So don’t waste the winter curled up in a blanket wishing for warmer days ahead.
Get up and see the world, one national park at a time.
(h/t Proud American Traveler)