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16 Best National Parks to Visit in Winter

Check out the best National Parks to visit in winter so you can get outside year-round and avoid the high-season crowds.

Sun setting behind Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. Red rock landscape is dusted with snow

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We all know that National Parks can get crazy busy during the summer months, so why not plan a trip during winter? In fact, some National Parks are the perfect winter getaway whether you’re looking to hit the beach or experience a snow-dusted winter wonderland.

In this post, we’ve rounded up our favorite National Parks to visit when the snow flies including both warm weather destinations as well as those that offer great winter adventures.

Important Reminder: 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 (including toilet paper), being respectful to others, and following the established rules.


Best Winter National Parks – Mapped!

Here is a map of all the best National Parks to visit in winter included in this roundup.

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    Joshua Tree National Park, California

    With the average temps exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer, outdoor enthusiasts who love National Parks but hate the heat will love the cooler climate of Joshua Tree during the winter. Plan your visit here during the cooler months for comfortable hiking temps and incredible stargazing without the huge crowds. Just be aware that while daytime temps here are generally mild in the winter, nighttime temps in the desert can drop below freezing!

    To help you plan your trip, here are a few Joshua Tree guides:

    A Sprinter van parked near to a Joshua Tree in Joshua Tree National Park
    Driving our Sprinter Van through Joshua Tree National Park

    Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

    Make winter 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 cooler in winter, but snow is rare. But don’t forget those warm layers for when temps drop at night!

    Panoramic views of badlands and stratified bluffs in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona with windy road running through landscape
    Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona is one of the most unique Parks I’ve visited

    >> Read Next: Best Arizona Road Trip Stops

    Everglades National Park, Florida

    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.

    Narrow canal lined with tall grasses and lily pads in Everglades National Park
    The Everglades in Florida

    Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

    From November through May, Wyoming is a winter wonderland for alpine and cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and other winter outdoor enthusiasts thanks to the abundance of terrain that is open during the snowy season. It’s also a great time of year for wildlife photographers who want to capture the majestic bison trudging through the snow.

    Teton Park Road from the Taggart Lake Trailhead to Signal Mountain Lodge is generally open in winter for snowshoeing, touring, and cross-country skiing. Plus, visitors can explore tons of other trails including Colter Bay, Antelope Flats Road, Taggart Lake, and Flagg Ranch.

    It doesn’t hurt that Grand Teton National Park is just a stone’s throw from Jackson Hole Ski Resort, either, or you can opt to book a snowmobiling trip to Togwotee Pass. For lodging, check out the tiny houses at the Fireside Resort or book a weekend at the Triangle X Dude Ranch.

    Buffalo walking through snowy field at base of tall snow-covered Teton Mountains in Wyoming
    Grand Teton National Park in winter

    Arches National Park, Utah

    Head out to see the red rocks at Arches National Park during the area’s most peaceful time of year – winter. 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 51 sites available on a first-come, first-served basis between November 1st and February 28th including 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 for winter conditions. Nighttime temps will often drop below freezing!

    For more tips on exploring this area, check out these blog posts:

    Red rock arch in Arches National Park with dusting of snow covering landscape
    Winter is our favorite time of year to experience Arches National Park

    Saguaro National Park, Arizona

    Enjoy the stunning desert landscape of Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona where visitors can experience the beauty of the largest cactus in the United States – the giant Saguaro cacti.

    Winter is the perfect time to visit Saguaro National Park because the temperatures are mild with an average high of 65 degrees and the winter light gives the desert a golden glow – this is one of the warmest National Parks to visit in winter!

    There are a variety of hiking options within the park and we’ve put together The Ultimate Saguaro National Park Outdoor Adventure Guide to help you make the most of your winter trip.

    Giant Saguaro cacti in desert landscape in Tucson, Arizona

    Yosemite National Park, California

    Winter is a cold but beautiful time to visit Yosemite National Park. Hiking options are limited but snow in the valley brings plenty of options for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Plus cozying up at the Yosemite Valley Lodge after a day out in the snow sounds like a dream.

    Tioga Road and Glacier Point Road close each winter season due to snow and ice (generally from November – May), but Yosemite Valley and Wawona are accessible by car year-round.

    Many of the activities and information in our Yosemite National Park guide are suited for winter visits.

    Tip: Planning a winter trip? Check out our tips for cold-weather camping so you can stay cozy and warm while enjoying the winter wonderland.

    Landscape view of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in winter with snow dusting the mountains

    Great Basin National Park, Nevada

    Don your cross-country skis or strap on your snowshoes for a snowy trek along the Great Basin National Park’s trail system. In the winter, Great Basin offers a tranquil wilderness experience and miles of snow-covered trails for the winter-loving outdoor enthusiast to explore.

    Keep your eyes peeled for 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.

    Snow-covered desert valley in Great Basin National Park in Nevada

    Death Valley National Park, California

    The secret might be out about how beautiful Death Valley National Park is in the winter – during this time the crowds are typically the lowest and the snow-capped peaks (if you’re lucky) paired with the winter lighting are a photographer’s dream. January and February are especially great in Death Valley with average temperatures in the upper 60s to mid-70s.

    Check out our 3-day Death Valley National Park itinerary to plan your winter road trip.

    Desert badlands and rocky mountain range in Death Valley National Park at sunset
    The winter light in Death Valley National Park is stunning

    White Sands National Park, New Mexico

    Open year-round to outdoor enthusiasts, White Sands National Park in New Mexico is one of the best National Parks to visit in the winter for many reasons. For one, it’s a less-visited park in general, so you’re likely to see very few people, so you can sled down the dunes all by yourself! Plus, as soon as you hike a little ways into the dunes, you’re very unlikely to encounter other hikers. New Mexico does get chilly in winter, but it rarely sees a lot of snow this far south.

    Person standing on top of large sand dune in White Sands National Park with a colorful sunset sky overhead

    Read Next: Best Sand Dunes in the US for Outdoor Adventure

    Biscayne National Park, Florida

    Take a deep dive into Biscayne National Park (literally) by exploring underwater coral reefs and shipwrecks at this beautiful marine park. There is also plenty of beach camping, kayaking, and other seaside outdoor activities, so there’s something for every outdoor enthusiast.

    We highly recommend taking an entire week off and visiting all three of Florida’s stunning National Parks with our Florida National Park Roadtrip itinerary.

    White seaside lighthouse in Biscayne National Park in Florida

    Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

    Winter in Grand Canyon National Park is peaceful and quiet compared to the hustle and bustle of the high season. While the North Rim closes for the winter, the South Rim stays open year-round where you can walk along the rim and into the canyon or take a scenic drive.

    If conditions are good and you want to join the 1% of visitors that explore below the rim, hike the Bright Angel Trail down to Indian Gardens.

    Landscape view out over the Grand Canyon National Park in winter with light dusting of snow
    Avoid the crowds by visiting the Grand Canyon National Park in winter

    Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

    Dry Tortugas National Park is the southernmost National Park in the US and it can only be reached by boat or seaplane. Located 70 miles west of Florida’s Key West, it’s comprised of 7 islands and protected coral reefs.

    Spend your winter days snorkeling, diving, swimming, kayaking, or simply enjoying the sandy beaches. If your idea of winter in a National Park includes plenty of sunshine and warmth, Dry Tortugas is a perfect destination!

    Historic brick fort on the ocean in Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida

    Rocky Mountain National Park

    If you’re a winter lover, you’ll love visiting Rocky Mountain National Park during the snowy months. Winter visitors can enjoy solitude beneath the snowy peaks and embrace winter activities such as hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, wildlife watching, and cozying up by the fire at the Stanely Hotel. One of our favorite hikes is the 3-mile trail to Emerald Lake, a very popular destination in summer, but quiet and peaceful in the winter.

    For more tips and recommendations, check out our complete guide to visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in the winter.

    Frozen over blue lake in Rocky Mountain National Park surrounded by snowy mountains

    Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

    Bryce Canyon is one of our favorite National Parks to visit in winter because seeing the red rock hoodoos dusted in snow is a magical experience, especially at sunrise or sunset.

    The Park is situated at 8,000 feet, so some of the roads and trails are closed due to snow and ice, but there are still plenty of things to do, especially if you time your visit with the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival. Just be sure to pack warm clothes and be prepared for winter conditions.

    >> Read Next: Bryce Canyon National Park Guide

    Red hoodoo rock formations in Bryce Canyon National Park poking through blanket of snow

    Big Bend National Park, Texas

    Located in the southwest corner of the state on the border of Mexico in the massive Chihuahuan Desert, Big Bend National Park is best visited in winter or early spring before the heat kicks in. BFT Team Member Courtney visited in January and had mild temperatures in the low 60s with nighttime temps around 40F.

    This National Park flies under the radar for many people, but it boasts incredible landscapes from rocky mountains to deep canyons and rivers. If you’re looking to really get off the beaten path this winter, plan a trip to Big Bend National Park.

    This guide to the top Big Bend hikes in the National Park includes distances, elevation gain, hiking trail descriptions, and more.
    Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park

    Other Top Winter Destinations

    We love getting outside in the winter and if you’re looking for more winter activities outside of National Parks, be sure to check out a few more of our favorite winter adventures and destinations:

    Which are your favorite National Parks to visit in the winter? Which ones are on your list? If you have any additional tips or advice about visiting National Parks in the winter, leave a comment below!

    Check out the best National Parks to visit in winter so you can get outside year-round and avoid the high-season crowds.

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    7 Comments

    1. Sorry but Dry Tortugas National Park should be on this list. It is far better than some of the parks you’ve listed.
      Why did you exclude it?

      1. Hi Sarah! We love Dry Tortugas, it is an incredible park and we have a Florida National Parks roadtrip itinerary that talks all about visiting DT. Winter in Florida can be very popular and also very crowded–lots of people flock to Florida for the winter. It was definitely hard for us to finalize our list as there are lots of great parks to visit in the winter! Dry Tortugas is indeed a great recommendation! Have a great upcoming summer.

    2. The Utah national parks are all amazing to visit in the winter. I’ll have to try some of these other parks you mention here, especially Death Valley and White Sands.

    3. Saguaro National Park would be another you should add to the list as the winter months are great for hiking and it is just outside Tucson so it is easy to get to.

    4. We love to visit Bryce Canyon in February. We have done both snowshoeing and driven to the various points. Both have been excellent!