Best National Parks in Winter
The holiday season is lovely and all, but very year come Winter we find ourselves pining for the days of warm Summer.
Sure it’s nice to bundle up, sip warm hot cider, play in the snow, gather round a fire. But what if we want to go someplace where it is warm and sunny?
It turns out there’s a place for that. And it’s right here in your own backyard, the National Parks! We’ve ranked the 10 best national parks in winter 2022.
This list is split up into two sections:
- 5 National Parks to Escape Winter
- 5 National Parks to Embrace Winter
Our National Park Ranking Criteria
You’re probably wondering how exactly we chose to rank the 5 best national parks to escape winter. Well, we rated based on a few key factors:
- Warmth & Sunshine – How warm is the park during the winter seasons and how much sun does it receive. This is probably the main factor in deciding our best winter escapes as it’s what we’re all looking for. Give us that sunshine and turn up that heat!
- Location – The more exotic the better; make us think of anything other than cold. We’re thinking Mai Tais. With that being said, if it’s relatively easy to get to that’s going to score bonus points.
- What’s Open – Many parks have facilities that close seasonally, especially during winter. We want parks where all the options are still on the table.
Best National Parks to Escape Winter
5. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
Warm temperatures with less humidity than Summer, long nights, beautiful sunsets, and fiery volcanic beauty comprise this stunning park.
Visitors to Hawai’i Volcanoes should read up on how the park has changed since the 2018 eruption. Activities include exploring Thurston Lava Tube, seeing the Kilauea Crater, driving the Chain of Craters Road and more!
4. Saguaro National Park
If there’s one thing two things that southern Arizona has in abundance it’s sunshine and cacti, none more famous than the Saguaro whose namesake park (Saguaro National Park) is an excellent place to escape winter.
Sunsets here are worth the trip alone, seemingly lasting hours and filling up the sky with magnificent yellow, orange, and deep purple hues.
In the winter months, average high temperatures range in the mid 60s and sunshine is no stranger!
In the remote reaches of the island of Maui in the heart of the Pacific Ocean you will find this tropical paradise.
Here you can journey to the house of the sun and discover ancient volcanoes steeped in legend, rugged mountains, dense rainforests, hidden beaches, and the last wild home to spectacular wildlife.
The park is a feast for the eyes from the coast to the summit and is bound to leave you breathless (quite literally at the summit area).
Choosing between the top two best parks to escape winter was a really difficult task for us and could have gone either way but we decided to drop Death Valley at the number two spot this year.
Situated in the Mojave Desert, Death Valley National Park is the hottest place on earth in Summer soaring to temperatures in the 130s! But winter in Death Valley is a different story altogether.
Average winter high temperatures are in the 70s in Death Valley National Park which makes for incredible adventure weather. Despite the morbid name this park has an unbelievable amount of things to see and do as the largest national park in the contiguous united states.
Nothing quite says forget all your troubles (including cold weather) and relax like the island paradise that is Virgin Islands National Park. With average high temperatures in the 80s in the winter months, it’s nearly impossible to beat this park for a winter escape.
Beautiful white sand beaches, turquoise water, sea turtles, palm trees, abandoned ruins to explore, and more makes Virgin Islands National Park the best to escape winter.
Best National Parks (& Forests) to Embrace Winter
Located in the spectacular Jackson Hole Valley and encompassing nearly 500 square miles, Grand Teton National Park boasts an awe-inspiring array of pristine wilderness, glacial lakes, winding rivers, diverse wildlife, and the magnificent Teton Range.
In winter, Grand Teton National Park takes on a whole new life with the scenery getting a thick coat of white snow. The amount of trails you can easily traverse might be limited but the amount of incredible activities is insane.
4. Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is an absolutely spectacular and magical national park. A landscape dotted with otherworldly thermal works, bison holdouts from a time when they ruled the prairie, a thriving wolf population, and an encapsulation of the great American west.
In the winter, Yellowstone National Park transforms completely into a veritable winter wonderland complete with snow-coated bison. While access is severely limited in the winter there are few experiences that rival the majesty of Yellowstone in the snow.
3. Ashley National Forest
The Ashley National Forest is tucked away into the top right corner of Utah and is one of the lesser-visited pieces of public lands in the state. But don’t let that stop you from visiting this incredible place.
In the Ashley visitors can explore stunning gorges, incredible valleys, sprawling forests, red deserts, and beautiful meadows in this remote and beautiful landscape.
In winter, the red rock landscape is coated with white making for a stunning contrast. With the few amount of people who visit you’ll feel like you’ve got it all to yourself.
2. Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
Massive mountains, beautiful valleys, lush forests, deep canyons, and pristine meadows make up the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. This place is home to some of north America’s most treasured animals and landscapes.
In the winter, the UWC is a mecca for skiers who travel from all over the world to experience the epic slopes of the canyons here.
1. Deschutes National Forest
The Deschutes National Forest is possibly the most diverse in the entire system (of 155!).
Travel to a land sculpted by ancient volcanoes, where crystal blue rivers carve their way through primeval forests, towering mountains give way to lush valleys and pristine lakes, and deep below the surface lie vast networks of cavernous wonders.
In the winter the Deschutes is one of America’s most breathtaking playgrounds with every winter activity imaginable available here.
Best National Parks in Winter: Our Conclusion
That’s a wrap folks! Hopefully you feel like you’ve got a good handle on your next trip to to the national parks in winter. Please leave me a comment below and let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Hope to see you on the trails sometime soon!