5 National Parks Great for Winter Exploring

All of America’s National Parks offer something special. Among them are spectacular natural environments where a variety of adventures await. These parks present their own unique perspectives of the land and the seasons.

While most visitors come during the spring through autumn, there are parks that beg to be toured in the winter, too. Don’t miss out on these five frosty beauties.

Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite is a winter sports paradise and ideal getaway for the enthusiast who craves activities like downhill skiing, ice skating, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Bring the kids and take a whirl on the outdoor ice rink tucked beneath Half Dome and Glacier Point. You couldn’t ask for a more majestic backdrop! There’s even a fire ring for warming up, and hot cocoa and other warm snacks in the nearby store.

From mid-December through March Badger Pass Ski Area is open for downhill skiing, snowboarding, tubing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Located in the heart of the park, it’s the oldest downhill skiing area in the state with more than 90 miles of marked trails and 25 miles of machine-groomed track to beckon backcountry skiers.

There are plenty of usable hiking trails available even in the coldest months when the park takes on a ethereal look with rocks and trees iced in white.

Olympic National Park, Washington

This beautiful national park has three distinct ecosystems: subalpine forest and wildflower meadow, temperate forest, and the rugged Pacific shore.

The coziest stay during winter may be atop the bluffs at Kalaloch Lodge where you can view the action on the shoreline as giant waves crash inland.

The forests here come to life when winter rains cause mosses, lichens, and trees to pop with green even when temperatures hover in the 30-40 degree range. In the park’s lower elevations visitors might feel an invigorating nip in the air but it’s still comfortable enough to hike.

Named for the forceful winds that blow through this area of the park, Hurricane Ridge is the mountainous venue for more traditional winter outdoor activities like skiing, snowboarding, sledding, tubing, cross-country and snowshoeing.

Olympic National Park is one great place to have three uniquely different winter outdoor experiences.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

More than one million visitors annually flock to spectacular Bryce Canyon National Park attracted by the giant sandstone creations known as hoodoos, formed by natural erosion and standing like skyscrapers in a rock city. If you have never seen them covered in snow, you’re missing a beautiful sight.

Hiking the park is incredible in winter. With fewer visitors you are able to appreciate the peace of nature along the trails and hear only the crunch of snow beneath your boots.

The park’s most iconic attraction is Bryce Amphitheater where you can enjoy a full day of hiking to discover its landmarks, Thor’s Hammer and Silent City. The amber and pink formations are colorful all year and really special when covered in their blankets of sparkling snow.

The park offers areas for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing so backcountry enthusiasts of all skill levels can slip through the ponderosa pine forests and take in views from the canyon rim.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Because the amount of winter snow accumulation varies tremendously across Rocky Mountain National Park there are a variety of activities for visitors in the colder months. The west side of the park gets the deepest snows while the east side is likely to have relatively patchy areas of snow.

Set against the backdrop of spectacular mountain peaks, Hidden Valley is a fun family area with a safe but speedy area for sledding. It’s a favorite location for building snow forts and snowball fights, rides on toboggans, and frolicking in the fluffy white stuff.

Those with a need for speed head to the southwest corner of the park and find a great snowmobiling area where a two-mile stretch of the North Supply Access Train connects the town of Grand Lake to a system of national forest trails adjacent to the park. The Grand Lake area is a famed snowmobiling destination.

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the few parks in the country that allows camping and backcountry camping in the winter, with three campgrounds remaining open all year. Keep in mind that these campgrounds have no water during the winter months. If the idea of sleeping on snow makes you shiver, check into one of the lodges surrounding the park and head out to ski, snowshoe and ice skate.

Biscayne National Park, Florida

If you’ve had it with shoveling and layering clothes for warmth, head to Biscayne National Park for a sunny retreat far removed from snowmen and winter’s blustery weather. Only 5% of this park is land, so prepare for the wet and wild.

This is a great choice for those looking to relax in the sun. Tour the park on a reef cruise: traveling in a glass-bottom boat you can peek into the world below and see some of more than 325 types of fish, shrimp, crabs, spiny lobster and observe many species of birds that make their homes here.

The park is a popular place for boating, snorkeling and scuba. Slip into that warm water and swim along the coral with yellow snapper fish, manatees, and angelfish.

December marks the beginning of Florida’s dry season so the winter is the perfect time to head south if you need a break from the cold still enveloping most other parts of the country.

© Americanspirit | Dreamstime.com – Merced River in Winter, Yosemite National Park, California