National Parks to Wander this Winter – Neckies Great Adventures
To some people, Summer is there most favorite season; even spring and Fall, a lot will agree. But what about Winter? Yes, it’s cold, but to some, Winter is the best. After all, there’s the snow, sitting by a lovely warm fireplace sipping on hot coco, and skiing in the mountains at some of the most beautiful National parks in the country. Just in case you miss the chance to go to the national parks during Fall, where the fall foliage is at its best. You’re in luck for this Winter. Freezing temperatures will give a fresh take on four national parks where you can witness winter wonders.
Death Valley National Park is the hottest, driest, and lowest national park in the U.S., making Winter an excellent time to explore this desert gem. Located in eastern California, near the Nevada border (just a 2.5-hour drive from Sin City), this below-sea-level basin is home to a great diversity of life, despite its dark and morbid name. Since this area is the hottest place on the planet and the driest continent, sporadic rain showers are a seasonal treat during wintertime. Another seasonal treat you can’t miss is visiting one of the most popular places in the park, Badwater Basin. It’s a salt flat that boasts the lowest elevation on the continent, and in the depths of Winter, it’s cool enough to walk out onto the salt flat and see iconic geometric formations on the earth, known as salt polygons. When you go, take an afternoon drive through Artist’s Palette on Artist’s Drive, a 9-mile scenic route that snakes through multicolored and snow-covered badlands.
This park welcomes visitors year-round, but winter visitors experience a different kind of experience during snowy seasons in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Winter in Yellowstone means fewer crowds, more wildlife, frigid temperatures, and steaming geysers. In Winter, skiers will get a serene experience that ski towns can’t match. You’ll feel like the only person in the park visiting Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. There you can watch the world’s most famous geyser erupt and feel steam from hot springs, which appear even more dramatic in the single-digit winter air – typically, temperatures range between -30°F and 30°F in winter months. Bighorn sheep, bison, elk, moose, and wolves tend to appear in the park during Winter. Around mid-December, skis, snowshoes, snow coaches, and snowmobiles become the main modes of transportation since roads close, rivers and lakes freeze, and once-crowded trails turn into tranquil getaways. The only open road year-round is from Mammoth Hot Springs to the northeast entrance.
Winter ups the ante with the strange and stunning landscapes found in Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park. The stark white snow contrasts perfectly with the park’s renowned red rocks, pink ice-coated cliffs, evergreen trees, and dark blue skies. Plus, the most extensive collection of gravity-defying limestone spires – called hoodoos – look even more spectacular when sparkling from ice. Bryce Canyon’s scenery drastically changes in the colder months, providing unique opportunities to brave the cold for an unforgettable, icy escape from November to February. While winter weather here can get incredibly chilly (typical temperatures fall below freezing almost every night), the cold air and high elevation offer visitors perks. Cross-country skiing, world-class stargazing, ranger-led full moon hikes, and annual winter events. Get close to famous formations like Thor’s Hammer, Tower Bridge, and the Bryce Amphitheater. Plus, you can’t miss the yearly Bryce Canyon Winter Festival.
Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona is one of the most-visited national parks in the U.S., and Winter is a beautiful time to beat the crowds. Just 10% of the number of summer visitors usually find less traveled paths throughout the 277-mile park during Winter. While the canyon’s north rim closes every Fall, the south edge is open year-round, with temperatures typically peaking in the 40s and dropping into the 20s. Winter wildlife is grand at the Grand Canyon, where there’s a chance to see elk, California condors, ravens, and Abert’s squirrels along the rim and in the ponderosa pine forests. The Bright Angel Trail is a popular place to feel the fresh and frigid winter air and see the sunrise or sunset during the snowy season. The Grand Canyon is more extraordinary from December through February when early mornings are foggy and afternoons sunny.