National Parks in the USA to Explore in Winters

While many travelers think of visiting national parks during the warm summer months, some of America’s most iconic natural landscapes are truly magical in the winter. 

When the temperatures drop, national parks offer a completely different experience, with fewer crowds, pristine snowscapes, and opportunities for winter sports. 

Here are some top national parks to add to your winter travel bucket list.

Key Takeaways

National Parks in the USA to Explore in Winters

  1. Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho)
  2. Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)
  3. Glacier National Park (Montana)
  4. Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)
  5. Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)
  6. Arches National Park (Utah)
  7. Lassen Volcanic National Park (California)
  8. Big Bend National Park (Texas)
  9. Everglades National Park (Florida)

1. Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho)

Yellowstone National Park

Key Attractions: Old Faithful geyser, Grand Prismatic Spring, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, Mammoth Hot Springs

Activities: Guided snow coach tours, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, wildlife watching

Yellowstone is famous for its otherworldly geothermal features like the Old Faithful geyser, Grand Prismatic Spring’s rainbow colors, and the terraced Mammoth Hot Springs. 

In winter, this already alien landscape is transformed into a frosty wonderland. Steaming thermal areas create a stark contrast against frozen landscapes where wildlife like bison, elk, wolves, and foxes are more easily spotted.  

The park’s snowy interior roads are closed to regular vehicles from early November to late April. However, you can explore via guided snow coach, snowmobile, cross-country skis, or snowshoe hikes. 

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, with its two spectacular waterfalls, takes on an icy, mesmerizing form. Just dress very warmly, as Yellowstone has extremely cold winter temperatures.   

2. Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)

Grand Teton National Park

Key Attractions: Jagged Teton Range peaks, wildlife viewing, Mormon Row historic buildings

Activities: Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snow coach tours, sleigh rides, snowmobiling 

Just south of Yellowstone is the equally stunning Grand Teton National Park, where the jagged peaks of the Teton Range rise dramatically from relatively flat valleys. 

In winter, these iconic mountain vistas are even more breathtaking when frosted with fresh powder. The historic buildings of Mormon Row make for iconic photography spots.

Many hiking trails become wonderful cross-country skiing and snowshoeing routes. You can ride in a heated snow coach to view wildlife like bighorn sheep, moose, and elk or take a snowmobile tour. 

You can also enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snowy landscape. When skies are clear, the stargazing is unbeatable with the Milky Way visible. The town of Jackson makes a fun winter base.

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3. Glacier National Park (Montana) 

Glacier National Park

Key Attractions: Going-to-the-Sun Road, Lake McDonald, Avalanche Lake

Activities: Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice skating, wildlife watching

With over 700 miles of trails, Glacier is a popular summer hiking destination. But the park’s groomed trails and frozen lakes like Lake McDonald and Avalanche Lake also make it a winter wonderland for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice skating.

The famous Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed to vehicles, but you can journey part of it via guided snowshoe walks or ski trips to view the striking scenery. 

Keep an eye out for wildlife like bighorn sheep, mountain goats, elk, and potentially even bears. The charming town of Whitefish provides cozy lodges to use as a base camp.

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4. Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

Rocky Mountain National Park

Key Attractions: Longs Peak, Bear Lake, Alberta Falls  

Activities: Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, winter mountaineering, photography

Rocky Mountain National Park takes on a serene, snowy beauty in winter when crowds are minimal. Snowshoe or ski along trails like the Bear Lake Loop for panoramic views of snow-capped peaks like Longs Peak. 

More adventurous visitors can try winter mountaineering, climbing frozen waterfalls, and scaling some of the park’s highest summits. 

The alpine scenery makes for fantastic photography, especially around partially-frozen Alberta Falls. The roads can be treacherous in winter, so it may be better to stay in the gateway town of Estes Park and take shuttles in. Ranger-led snowshoe hikes around Bear Lake are also a great option.  

5. Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)

Bryce Canyon National Park

Key Attractions: Hoodoo rock formations, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point 

Activities: Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ranger programs, photography

Bryce Canyon’s whimsical red and orange hoodoo rock formations are always a sight to behold, but they look even more magical when blanketed in snow. When the skies are clear, viewpoints like Inspiration Point and Sunset Point provide stunning perspectives of the amphitheaters.

In winter, Bryce transforms into an outdoor playground. Snowshoe or ski along the Rim Trail for postcard-worthy vistas overlooking the main amphitheater. 

You can join a ranger-led skiing or snowshoeing trip into the canyon to hike among the hoodoos up close. Photography opportunities are unbeatable, especially at sunset when the snow glows warm red and orange hues.

6. Arches National Park (Utah)  

Key Attractions: Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch, Double Arch

Activities: Hiking, snowshoeing, photography

Most people picture the red rock arches of Arches National Park set against a bright blue sky. But add some fresh snow, and the contrasting scenery is simply stunning. 

The park’s easy trails around Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch, and Double Arch make for incredible winter hiking and snowshoeing when conditions are dry.

In winter, you’ll practically have the park to yourself for unobstructed views of the arches. A sunny snowfall creates marvelous opportunities for photographing the crimson rocks and arches against pristine white snow. Just be aware that some roads may be closed after major storms.  

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7. Lassen Volcanic National Park (California)

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Key Attractions: Lassen Peak, Bumpass Hell hydrothermal area, Manzanita Lake

Activities: Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, snow camping

One of the lesser-known but incredibly scenic national parks, Lassen Volcanic, becomes a snowy playground in winter. Volcanic eruptions formed the park’s striking landscape, leaving behind cinder cones, hydrothermal areas, and towering Lassen Peak itself.

With over 30 feet of annual snowfall, Lassen is a paradise for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. You can join a ranger-led snowshoe tour to the steaming Bumpass Hell area, where colorful hydrothermal pools will greet you. 

You can also glide along the trails around peaceful Manzanita Lake or rent a sled to sail down snowy hills. Experienced campers can even stay overnight in a heated snow camping tent. 

8. Big Bend National Park (Texas)

Big Bend National Park

Key Attractions: Chisos Mountains, Santa Elena Canyon, Boquillas Canyon

Activities: Winter hiking, mountain biking, stargazing, rafting

While much of the country is blanketed in snow, Big Bend offers a reprieve from winter with its warm, dry climate in the Texas desert. This rugged paradise along the Rio Grande was made for outdoor adventure. 

Be prepared to lace up your hiking boots to explore the winding trails through the dramatic Chisos Mountains, which look especially magical in the low winter light. You can go mountain biking along old mining roads or rafting through the striking Santa Elena or Boquillas canyons. 

After dark, Big Bend has some of the darkest skies in the lower 48 states for phenomenal stargazing.

9. Everglades National Park (Florida)

Everglades National Park

Key Attractions: Shark Valley, Nine Mile Pond, Gulf Coast beaches

Activities: Hiking, canoeing, kayaking, bird watching, camping 

While winters up north are bitterly cold, the Everglades offer a subtropical escape in the warmth of South Florida. This vast wetland wilderness provides the perfect setting for nature immersion.

People love to traverse the Shark Valley area via tram tour, hiking, biking, or even renting a canoe and gliding through the marsh. 

You can also spot alligators, turtles, wading birds, and more in this lush “river of grass.” The quiet Nine Mile Pond area and Gulf Coast make for excellent kayaking. If you want a more laidback outing, then pitch a tent at the park’s campgrounds for a prime home base.

Conclusion 

Whether you want to embark on an outdoor adventure like cross-country skiing or snowshoeing or simply take in awe-inspiring snow-covered scenery, America’s national parks offer some of the most spectacular settings in the colder months. 

With iconic landscapes completely transformed into winter wonderlands, you can experience these famous destinations from a fresh perspective. 

Prepare with the proper clothing and check ahead for any temporary closures, and you’ll be rewarded with the unmatched beauty and grandeur of our national parks in winter.

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