By Emily Reeves
Brought to you by Sierra Trading Post
Didn’t make it to a national park this summer or fall? It’s not too late! It turns out winter is one of the best times to visit. If that comes as a surprise, it won’t be after you see all of the reasons why your winter wanderings will make for a memorable adventure.
National parks have been seeing record numbers of visitors in the past couple of years, and some are seeing overcrowded trails, roads and parking lots. It’s safe to say that most people don’t go to national parks to see people. They go to experience the solitude and beauty of the great outdoors. So how do you avoid the crowds in national parks? Go in the winter!
You’ll be enjoying the beautiful, quiet vistas and deserted trails during the day, but you don’t get as many hours of daylight to explore parks when you visit in the winter. Naturally, the place where you relax and enjoy your evenings becomes even more important when you’re spending less time outside. Be sure to stay in a really awesome place to make the most of your visit to a national park in the winter. Some inns, lodges and cabins aren’t open year-round, so you should always check seasonal availability.
Here are ten of the best options for wintertime lodging in national parks:
- National Park Inn, Mount Rainier National Park
- Bright Angel Lodge, Grand Canyon National Park
- Furnace Creek Inn, Death Valley National Park
- Pear Lake Winter Hut, Sequoia National Park (snowshoe or ski in)
- Wuksachi Lodge, Sequoia National Park (no snowshoeing required)
- Ostrander and Glacier Point Ski Huts, Yosemite National Park (snowshoe or ski in)
- Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, Yosemite National Park (no snowshoeing required)
- Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins, Yellowstone National Park (accessible via snowcoach)
- Roosevelt Cabins at Lake Crescent Lodge, Olympic National Park
- Belton Chalet, Glacier National Park
- Novel and dramatic views
There’s something awe-inspiring about taking in a quiet, snow-covered vista in a beautiful setting. The bright softness of fallen snow offers a drastic juxtaposition to the sheer canyon walls of the Grand Canyon, red-hued landscape of Arches National Park, and imposing mountains of Glacier National Park, for instance.
There’s no better place to get in some quality night-sky watching than in the wilderness of a national park. Look to the sky in the winter and get a good look at some grand constellations like Gemini, Orion, Taurus, Cassiopeia, and Canis Major. You can also spot some of the brightest stars in the winter sky; try spotting Castor and Pollux, Sirius, Capella and Betelgeuse on a clear night.
Want to experience something unforgettable this winter? Try Nordic skiing, snowshoeing or backcountry skiing in a national park. You can snowshoe on practically any snow-covered trail in a national park (as long as the trail is open, of course), and many national parks are well-known for their Nordic skiing opportunities.
Rocky Mountain National Park is well known for its epic alpine touring. Cross-country skiing is a wonderful way to see Glacier, Grand Teton, Mount Rainier and Banff National Parks in the winter. Try snowshoeing in Lassen Volcanic National Park for some unique views. Or, get on the fat tire bandwagon and ride on the sled dog trails in Denali National Park. Yosemite National Park features an ice skating rink in Half Dome Village, as well as a Ski and Snowboard Area with Ski School instructors.
While cooler temperatures aren’t a positive thing for many park-goers in the north, it’s a huge boon for explorers in the southern states. You can escape the cold of the north in the winter and avoid the debilitating heat of the summer if you explore our nation’s southernmost national parks during the winter months. Big Bend, Death Valley and Everglades National Parks are all great parks with mild winter weather.
There you have it — five great reasons why winter is the best time to visit a National Park. I hope that’s more than enough to convince you to start planning your adventure today.