GOVERNMENT VACATION REWARDS

03.20.2017

The 6 Best National Parks to Visit in the Winter

Travel

For intrepid explorers, these famous National Parks are best visited during the chilly winter months.


While visits to the United State’s elaborate National Parks System are typically associated with summertime road trips and warm hiking weather, the 131,250 square miles of federally protected land still have a lot to offer during the winter months.

Because there are parks spread across the entirety of the U.S., no matter where you are, you’re not far from the perfect winter wilderness vacation. Here are six of the best National Parks to check out when the frost sets in:

1. Rocky Mountain National Park

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Rocky Mountain National Park is a true winter wonderland. With its miles of snowshoe trails, ice-climbing routes, and designated ski slopes, this park offers no shortage of activities for the winter sports enthusiast. Climbers and hikers will also be thrilled by the park’s 60-plus mountain peaks that rise an average of 12,000 feet in elevation. It’s also one of the few National Parks that allows campers to obtain a backcountry camping permit during the wintertime.

2. Joshua Tree National Park

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Usually, this desert monument turned National Park is almost too hot to enjoy during the summer months. But during the winter, daytime temperatures hover in the upper 60s, making it the perfect season for exploration. Joshua Tree is named for a unique, tentacle-like tree that blankets the desert floor, filling in gaps between notorious rock formations that would thrill any climbing enthusiast. Lookout points from the peaks surrounding the valley offer impeccable and breathtaking views. While you’re there, don’t miss out on the Lost Horse Mine, a now-shuttered gold mine that produced some 10,000 ounces of gold in its heyday.

3. Yellowstone National Park

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Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, sits on top of an active, subterranean volcano that makes wintertime visits surreal. The hot springs and geysers for which the park is known become significantly more dramatic in the wintertime, when the eruptions transform piles of snow into theatrical plumes of steam. You can take in this elaborate scene during a snowmobile tour offered by park officials, or on one of the park’s many cross-country ski trails. But take note: if you visit during the winter, only the Montana entrances will be open, and the average temperature in the park hovers around 24 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Big Bend National Park

Big Bend, the largest piece of protected land in Texas, is an exceptional winter destination. With its warm year-round temperatures and 200 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, it’s a great place to shake off your cabin fever. Perhaps most enticingly, the Rio Grande runs along the southern boundary of the park, where visitors can participate in canoe float trips during all four seasons. If you’d rather keep your feet on dry land, Big Bend is also home to the Chisos Mountains, which rise up to nearly 8,000 feet and offer great views for adventurous hikers.

5. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

While this park won’t give you a break from the freezing cold, it will certainly take your breath away. The Aurora Borealis is most captivating in the wintertime, and it’s well worth the trip up to remote Alaska to bear witness to this incomparable atmospheric phenomenon. Nights here are filled with a celestial light show like nothing else on earth, covering the sky in a blanket of blue and green hues. And during the daylight hours, you can make your way across the spectacular glaciers that comprise the majority of the park.

6. Everglades National Park

One of the most ecologically diverse national parks becomes even more diverse in the winter months, as falling water levels and migratory aviation routes bring new animals into the park. It’s common to see crocodiles, alligators, and egrets in the Everglades National Park — and although it’s an increasingly rare sight, you might even be lucky enough to spot a Florida Panther. A trip along the Anhinga Trail also brings you close to an incredible array of migratory birds. Best of all, the consistent warmth of southern Florida makes this park a great break from freezing winter temperatures.

This article originally appeared on Travel Daily News

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