THE BEST NATIONAL PARKS TO VISIT IN THE WINTER
From the moment we at Bearfoot Theory start to get stir crazy we know it’s time to get outside. One of the best ways to do that when the temps drop is by visiting a National Park or Monument. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast who prefers to avoid crowds, these popular spots are the best National Parks to visit in the winter to help you do that and more.
As it goes in all of the destinations we share, please practice good trail etiquette and remember to Leave No Trace. This means packing out all of your garbage, being respectful to others on the trail, and following the established rules.
Whether you’re a skier or a snorkeler, each National Park has something to offer every kind of outdoor lover, all year round. Here are the best National Parks to visit in the winter.
Map of National Parks to Visit in Winter
Joshua Tree National Park
With the average temps exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer, outdoor enthusiasts who love national parks and hate the heat will love the cooler climate here during the winter. Plan your visit to Joshua Tree in the winter for comfortable hiking temps and incredible stargazing without the crowds. See our favorite Joshua Tree hikes for first-time visitors or go big with a backpacking trip on the California Hiking & Riding Trail through Joshua Tree National Park.
Petrified Forest National Park
Make plans to visit a warmer locale in Arizona’s Petrified National Park, where park-goers can see the Painted Desert, drive past Blue Mesa and see the Crystal Forest up close. I drove through here a few years ago on a whim, and it was one of the most unique National Parks I’ve ever been to. The weather may be milder in winter, but make sure you bring plenty of water, food, and sunscreen to protect from the desert sun. And don’t forget those warm layers for when temps drop at night!
Everglades National Park
During this season, Florida’s Everglades National Park is one of the most popular national parks to visit in the winter. Beginning in November, the typically hot and humid subtropical climate becomes a mild and pleasant dry season. The clear and sunny skies make for perfect “winter” camping, hiking, kayaking and more. Check in at the Visitors Center to make a reservation before heading out. Better yet, plan an action-packed weeklong road trip to visit all three of Florida’s National Parks.
Grand Teton National Park
From November through May, Wyoming is a winter wonderland for alpine and cross-country skiers alike thanks to the abundance of terrain that is open during the season. Teton Park Road from the Taggart Lake Trailhead to Signal Mountain Lodge is open for snowshoeing, touring and cross-country skiing. Plus, explore tons of other trails, including Colter Bay, Antelope Flats Road, Taggart Lake, and Flagg Ranch, which makes Grand Teton one of the best national parks to visit in the winter. It doesn’t hurt that it’s just a stone’s throw from Jackson Hole Ski Resort or snowmobiling at Togwotee Pass. For lodging check, out the tiny-houses at the Fireside Resort.
If you’re not a fan of the winter check out our winter hater’s guide to loving winter!
Arches National Park
Head out to see the Red Rocks at Arches National Park during the area’s most peaceful time of year. We’ve included all of our favorite hikes in this Arches National Parks hiking blog post. For winter camping and hiking, the Devils Garden Campground is open year-round with 25 sites available at first-come, first-served basis between November and February, plus restrooms and drinking water at the campground. Bring microspikes (just in case you are lucky enough to get some snow), trekking poles and plenty of warm winter layers. Also be sure to stop at the Arches Visitor Center to check the conditions and get a free orientation so you’re prepared.
We are huge fans of Moab & Utah’s National Parks, here are some great posts to support your visit:
- Where to Camp & Glamp in Moab + Our Favorite AirBnB Options
- Hiking to Corona Arch in Moab
- How to do Moab Like a Local: Tips for Your First Visit
- Interested in seeing all of Utah’s National Parks this winter? Check out our Utah National Park Roadtrip Itinerary
Gulf Islands National Seashore
The nation’s largest National Seashore stretches along the coastline of Florida and Mississippi for 160 miles in the Gulf Islands National Seashore. You’ll find white sands, sparkling blue waters, warm weather, and oh yeah, tons of beach camping in Davis Bayou Campground, Ship and Cat Islands and Horn and Petit Bois. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast whose idea of the best national parks in the winter includes a perfect offshore breeze and kayaking to your campsite, then this is for you.
Great Basin National Park
Don your cross-country skis or strap on your snowshoes for a snowy trek along Great Basin National Park’s trails. Like many of the best National Parks to visit in the winter, Great Basin offers a tranquil wilderness and miles of snow-covered trails for the winter-loving outdoor enthusiast to explore. Keep watch to glimpse the park’s mule deer on their seasonal migration to lower elevations. Also don’t miss Lehman Caves! I did the ranger-led tour during my visit, and it was such a cool experience.
Don’t miss our 10 tips for staying warm on the trail during the winter
Death Valley National Park
The secret might be out about how beautiful Death Valley National Park is in the winter unless you plan your trip between Thanksgiving and Christmas. During this time the crowds are the lowest and the snow-capped peaks (if you’re lucky) paired with the winter lighting are a photographer’s dream. We’ve got a 3-day Death Valley National Park itinerary to break down the park into sections for you. Don’t forget to also visit the Death Valley NPS website to make your reservation for camping or lodging ahead of time.
White Sands National Monument
Open year-round to outdoor enthusiasts, White Sands National Monument is one of the best National Monuments to visit in the winter for a few reasons. One, of course, being fewer crowds and the other being mild temperatures that make long hikes here less difficult and more pleasant. The third is that on a clear and sunny winter day, you can sled down the dunes all by yourself.
Biscayne National Park
Take a deep dive into Biscayne National Park (literally) by exploring underwater coral reefs and shipwrecks, plus, plenty of beach camping, kayaking and more. What makes this one of the best National Parks to visit in the winter is its close proximity to Miami for an easy entry point to these gorgeous aquamarine waters and emerald islands. Take an entire week off and visit all three of Florida’s stunning National Parks with our Florida National Park Roadtrip itinerary.
Still Looking for More Adventurous Winter Vacation Ideas?
We love getting outdoors in the winter and exploring new areas; whether in a National Park or even internationally. Here are some more of our favorite options for winter travel:
- Hop across the pond and explore Hawaii’s Haleakala National Park or Volcanoes National Park
- Travel internationally and go backpack the Copland trek in New Zealand
- Snowshoe volcanoes at Lassen National Park
- Explore winter wilderness with a backcountry hut rental
- Admire more of Utah’s red rock in Zion National Park
- Looking for a new hobby? Learn to ski! It’s never too late, I didn’t learn until I was 31. Skim my top convincing reasons to give skiing a try this winter.
- See even more Snow & Sun Winter Destinations for Outdoor Adventure Lovers