If you love spending time outside, there's a good chance you look forward to summertime, when the sun is warm and the trees are green. But every season offers its own kind of beauty -- even winter with it's chilly temps and snowy landscapes. The summer is the peak time for travel to most national parks. But many of them offer outdoor adventures in the wintertime, too. You'll get to skip the crowds and enjoy a landscape that's a little different than the photos you see from everyone else.
Tourists flock to the Grand Canyon during summer, but with sweltering temperatures and crowds galore, the majestic national park can be a little overwhelming. Alternatively, the Grand Canyon in the winter looks like a whole different place. It's much quieter, and snow often blankets the expanse of red rock cliffs. Just remember, the North Rim closes to visitors each fall until spring. If you are planning a winter trip, the South Rim is the way to go!
Joshua Tree National Parkis known for its hot, arid climate. But once summer descends on this California desert region, the park turns chilly. Occasionally, the gnarled arms of the joshua trees are dusted with snow, but the white stuff is rare. Rock climbers are particularly drawn to Joshua Tree in the winter, as other popular climbing destinations receive much more snowfall. You'll get first dibs on popular campgrounds that are typically booked all winter, like Jumbo Rocks. Brings layers, and enjoy the solitude.
When fall turns to winter and the tour buses pull out of the third most popular park in the country, Yellowstone turns into a wintry wild west, equipped with horse-drawn carriages, steaming geyser basins, and frozen lakes. You can hit the trails on cross-country skis, spot even more wildlife than you would in the summer, and then warm up in a hot spring when you're done. Before you embark on your Yellowstone journey, be aware that most of the park’s roads close in the winter, which means you will have to make arrangements to be picked up either by snowmobile or snowcoach to access the grounds.
If you're lucky, Zion can offer the perfect combination of scenic snowfall and comfortable temperatures. Snow often blankets the higher elevation points, but the lower portions remain relatively warm. In other words, pack for 10-degrees, but you may enjoy a high of 60! Zion’s three major campgrounds close for the winter, so if you plan to camp, you'll have to do so in the backcountry. You may also choose to stay at a motel or cabin in the neighboring town of Springdale, where you can get cozy next to a fireplace after a long day of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing through the park's trails.
Maine’s coastal gem, Acadia National Park, is the “crown jewel of the North Atlantic Coast," even in the winter season. The park’s many trails turn into snowy labyrinths that wind and connect at the icy shores of the powerful Atlantic. Maine's weather isn't exactly hospitable in the wintertime, but if you're willing to brave the temperatures, you'll be awarded with a striking landscape of snow and ice. Some roads are closed in the winter months, but if weather allows, you can still enjoy scenic drives along Ocean Drive and Jordan Pond Road. You can also embark on some snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and winter camping at Blackwoods, the only Acadia campground that's designated for winter use. For any winter visit to a national park, keep a close eye on the forecast, check the parks' websites for seasonal closures, and make sure to stock up on winter gearbefore you go!
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