National Parks in the United States That Are Even Better in the Winter

I love national parks, whether they’re in the United States or elsewhere. However, for the purpose of this post, I’ll focus solely on national parks in the United States, specifically ones that I’ve been to during the winter months. There are several advantages to traveling to national parks during the winter versus during the summer, including they are less crowded during the winter and prices for flights and hotels are often lower during the winter than during the summer.

I’ll begin with Everglades National Park in Florida. Last December, I visited a friend of mine who lives in Miami and she took my family and I here. She often takes friends who come to visit her to Everglades National Park and she told me it’s much more pleasant to come during the “cooler” months than during the summer, not that it cools off that much in the winter, but when you live there, it’s winter to you and you notice the drop in temperature. We didn’t see any mosquitoes or other bugs, but she told me when she was with a visiting friend earlier that year in the summer, they were nearly eaten alive by bugs at Everglades National Park.

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Airboat tour through Everglades National Park

We took an airboat tour through Everglades National Park, which I had done before on a previous vacation to the area several years prior. You’ll mostly see some alligators and many different types of birds as you zip around the wetlands. There are also manatees, the Florida panther, and turtles in the area that you may see if you’re lucky (well, probably not a panther because they’re so elusive).

My post on Miami and Everglades National Park

National Park Service link to Everglades National Park

I also visited some national parks in Utah during February one year including Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park. Both parks are located in the southwestern part of Utah, about an hour or so from each other by car. When I think of Bryce Canyon, I think of watching the falling snow on the hoodoos and red rocks while we were walking around the serenely quiet park, with almost no one else there but the three of us. There’s a winter festival scheduled from February 16-18 in 2020 that includes cross-country ski tours, photography clinics, ranger-led snowshoe excursions under the full moon, and guided fat bike rides. There are two ski resorts nearby, Brian Head Resort and Eagle Point. We stayed at Ruby’s Inn, which is the closest lodging to the park entrance, and they even have an ice-skating rink across the street during the winter.

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Bryce Canyon National Park in the winter

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah in the Winter

National Park Service link to Bryce Canyon National Park

Zion National Park is bigger and more people go there annually than Bryce Canyon National Park, so chances are you won’t be the only ones hiking there even in the winter but the crowds will be thinner than during the summer. Zion National Park is known for its slot canyon, Zion Narrows, which you can wade through given the right conditions (I did not do this). Winding through the main section of the park is Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. The Virgin River flows to the Emerald Pools, which have waterfalls and a hanging garden. Another famous part of Zion National Park is Angel’s Landing trail, known for its sheer drops on either side of the narrow trail. We stayed at Cable Mountain Lodge, which you can literally walk to the park from, and the rooms are spacious, clean, comfortable, and quiet.

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There wasn’t nearly as much snow in Zion as Bryce Canyon in the winter

Hiking in Zion National Park in Late Winter

National Park Service link to Zion National Park

It’s possible to combine Bryce Canyon, Zion, and the Grand Canyon National Park all in one vacation, like I did (plus we had a couple of other stops as well). Grand Canyon National Park as you might imagine is one of the most visited national parks, so going there in the winter is a great idea. If you can go during the week as opposed to on a weekend in the winter, not only will there be less people to contend with, you’ll have an easier chance scoring a place to stay within the park. Seeing snow on the Grand Canyon is something I will always remember. I’ve been there twice during the winter months and both times it was beautiful and peaceful.

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The Grand Canyon is beautiful any time of year but less-crowded in the winter

Grand Canyon National Park in Late Winter- the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

National Park Service link to Grand Canyon National Park

Although not a national park, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is a great place to visit in the winter. In the 18th century, dozens of Spanish missions were constructed across southern Texas. Four of the best preserved are in San Antonio, and can be visited as part of the national historical park. The 12 mile route near the San Antonio River is connected by the Mission Trail and links The Alamo with Mission Espada.

photo of people near church
Photo by Viajero Cool on Pexels.com

I have a brief post on the half marathon I ran in San Antonio, which also discusses the area, that you can find here:  Marathon of the Americas and Half Marathon, Texas-10th state.

National Park Service link to San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

Honestly, there isn’t a bad time of year to visit Hawaii, so visiting during the winter months can only be good. Not only would you get a break from your current winter weather, the crowds will be (a bit) thinner if you go after New Year’s Day and your airfare will be (a bit) lower than if you go in July or August. The temperature doesn’t change that much from one month to the next, but it will be a few degrees cooler in January than August. For example, the average temperature in Kona on the Big Island is 81 degrees in January and 87 degrees in August.

I’ve been to Hawaii three times, once in the fall (October), once in the summer (August), and once in the winter (February). All three times, I was swimming in the ocean, snorkeling, hiking, and loving life. I know my airfare was considerably more when I flew there in August and the lowest when I flew in February. I didn’t notice the crowds being any less in one month than another, however. The first time I went to Hawaii, I visited Haleakalā National Park in Maui and Volcanos National Park in Hawaii (the Big Island), but I wasn’t a blogger then so I don’t have a post on either of those parks but I can say they are both worth spending at least a day at. I’ve been to Volcanos National Park twice and would love to visit it again someday (plus go back to Haleakalā). I went to the islands of Kauai and Oahu on my most recent visit, neither of which have national parks, but still plenty of incredible hiking, including the Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park in Kauai and Diamond Head State Park in Oahu.

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Waimea Canyon in Kauai during the “winter” month of February

Rediscovering Kauai, Hawaii and Some of My Favorite Things

My First Time in Oahu, Hawaii- Even Better than Expected

National Park Service link to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

National Park Service link to Haleakalā National Park

What national parks do you like even better in the winter months? Have you been to any of these parks in the winter and/or other times of year? Any national parks in other countries that you loved during the winter?

Happy travels!

Donna

 

 

 

 

Author: runningtotravel

I'm a long distance runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the US. I also love to travel so I travel to other places when I'm not running races. Half the fun is planning where I'm going to go next!

10 thoughts on “National Parks in the United States That Are Even Better in the Winter”

  1. Going to southern park’s in the winter makes sense.
    We did The Narrows and Angel’s Landing. I could not imagine doing the Angel’s Landing hike in the winter. Any hint of ice and I’d pass on that one. And the Virgin river is cold in July, it must be frigid in the winter. I also hear that they do not have the shuttle buses in winter.
    I’ve been to Hawaii twice in December. One time as we were landing the pilot said “and it’s 85 and sunny just like it’s been for the past 50,000 years”. What’s not to love? It’s always nice in Hawaii but the water isn’t as warm as you might expect.
    Great post.
    Andy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you completely about Angel’s Landing and The Narrows in the winter. The rest of Zion in the winter is great, however!
      I’ve found the water in Hawaii can be cold even in the summer, depending on where you are, or it can be warm year-round. I remember snorkeling there and freezing one time in the summer but then swimming at other places. I wouldn’t think there would be that much variation in water temperature but there seems to be.

      Like

  2. Great post!
    We didn’t have time to do the Mission route when we were in San Antonio in October, but it would be a great thing to cycle if we ever get back there.
    I’ve never been to a national park in winter (teacher schedule and all…) but we’d like to do Death Valley and/or Joshua Tree in the winter to make hiking a possibility.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never been to a National Park in Winter. I have been to Bryce & Zion (now!). Also Acadia, Yosemite, Rocky Mountains, Great Smokies, I think Everglades. I haven’t been to the San Antonio Mission, but I went to the Alamo more times than I can count, since it was one of our go-to trips with visitors when we lived in TX.

    I really regret never making it to Big Bend!

    I have also been to man state parks, and I highly recommend Red Rocks & Valley of Fire in NV.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rocky Mountain NP is one I would NOT want to visit in the winter. I was there in June and there was so much snow that was scraped off the roads and piled off to the sides it was crazy.
      I regret not going to Red Rock Canyon or Valley of Fire in NV when we were there! We definitely could have gone to Red Rock because it’s so close!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Red Rock is nice, but even though we only went to Valley of Fire once, a long time ago, we were so impressed.

        We went to Rocky Mt in summer. I don’t remember what month. No snow.

        Oh, forgot Mr. Rainier! That one we visited the first time in May I think. You could only get to the lower park due to the snow. The other time was in summer, and it was lovely.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. After reading your posts I always am ready to travel! I love Everglades NP and have been there several times, always in the winter or early spring before all the bugs. I have been to the parks you write about out west, but never in winter. We plan to visit Grand Canyon NP this fall and Hawaii is on the short list too. So many places to visit!

    Liked by 1 person

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