National Park Winter Wonderland

View the Winter Wonderland National Parks to visit.

Acadia National Park Winter Wonderland

Location: Maine

Top Winter Activities

Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, scenic driving, Ice fishing, snowmobiling, photography

Getting There

Car
From Boston take I-95 north to Augusta, Maine, then Route 3 east to Ellsworth, and on to Mount Desert Island. For an alternate route, continue on I-95 north to Bangor, Maine, then take Route 1A east to Ellsworth. In Ellsworth, take Route 3 to Mount Desert Island.

The drive from Boston to Acadia takes about 4.5 hours, or you may find a temptingly low-priced flight from Boston to Bangor, Maine, an hour from the park. Find the Winter Visitor Center 3 miles west of Bar Harbor. For an ocean- view drive, access a plowed section of Park Loop Road just one mile south of Bar Harbor; stay in the right lane, as snowmobiles will be using the unplowed left lane.

Plane
Direct flights from Boston’s Logan Airport land at the Hancock County Airport, 10 miles from Acadia National Park. National airlines serve the Bangor International Airport, about one hour from the park. Car rentals are available at both airports.

Public Transportation
Bus service from Boston to Bangor is available year-round via Concord Coach Lines and Greyhound.

Maine is known for is hard winters, while temperatures on the coast are milder. The Acadia National Park is a good place to visit if you want somewhere to enjoy the snowy scenery without all the visitors. Facilities are closed in the Acadia National Park other than the Winter Visitors Centre and the Park Headquarters during winter. Ocean Drive, Jordan Pond and the Blackwoods Campground are open with but as walk-in/pack-out camping by permit only. Head for Bar Harbour for warm and comfortable lodging and for renting equipment.

John D. Rockefeller built 40 miles of carriage trails ideal for cross-country skiing. Be prepared for icy hiking trials and remember to check the weather and have the right great and equipment with you. The visitor centre for your best options. Eagle Lake is a great place to go for ice skating.

Presidents Day weekend in February brings the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival. This is an ideal time to participate in all manner of winter activities and you will have amazing views. The sun sets and stargazing in Bryce Canyon are a sight to behold. Look out for the ranger-led night programs. Don’t forget to book to reserve many of the Winter Festival events. There are other ranger-let full moon snowshoe hikes throughout November and March and equipment is provided. You can snowshoe throughout the park and trails during winter, make sure you wear the right gear that is waterproof and snow boots that have a good tread.

Sunset Campground closes for winter, North Campground maintains campsites remain open all year-round. The Ruby’s Inn  complete with hotel, RV park, and campground is popular with travellers and is situated just outside the Parks North entrance. Offering activities during the Winter Festival including Yoga, art classes to ski archery competitions.

Bryce Canyon National Park Winter Wonderland

Location: Utah

Top Winter Activities

Winter hiking and backpacking, cross-country skiing, stargazing and astronomy lessons, snowshoeing,

Getting There

The north entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park is about 270 miles south of Salt Lake City and northeast of Las Vegas. Many park travellers like to combine a trip here with a visit to Zion National Park, 130 miles to the southwest; this is a great option in summer and fall, always make sure
to check the latest road conditions and closures in winter months before your visit.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Winter Wonderland

Location: Ohio

Top Winter Activities

Cross-country skiing, sledding, lodging, nature lecture series, music, train rides, bird watching, hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, lodging, nature lecture series, music and art series.

Getting There

This park runs along the Cuyahoga River Valley between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio (about a half hour from each), and it’s an easy escape from many other eastern cities: Columbus, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and Chicago

Winter allows nature to take a breath and the park is far from it urging local resistants and visitors to get out there and get involved. There are educational speakers, regular concerts, contra dances, and art workshops throughout the season. Kendall Lake Shelter’s Winter Sports Centre is a good place to lean a sport like snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. There is good hiking as the trails are open throughout the park and there are always organised park hikes proved by the rangers.

Inn at Brandywine Falls and Stanford House are ideal placing to pre-book a welcoming stay.

Glacier is an interesting visit with spectacular mountain views and this is possible with the Park Service keeping 10 miles of road from the park headquarters to the West Glassier Lake – McDonald Lodge open.

For this of you wishing to access the various trails around Lake

Consult ski/snowshoe trail maps to nd your favorite route. One option for beginners is to park at Lake McDonald Lodge (closed in winter) and continue traveling Going-to-the-Sun on foot to Avalanche Picnic Area. You can also make camp at Agpar Picnic Area (free in winter) at the West Glacier entrance and explore various trails around Lake McDonald in this more populated area.

For those less sure-footed on snow, ranger-led snowshoe walks also leave from the Agpar Visitor Center (where you can rent snowshoes) every Saturday and Sunday from January through March; this way, you’ll get instruction on local ora and fauna as well as on how to snowshoe.

On the eastern side of the park, St. Mary Campground stays open year-round (primitive, but free, in winter). From here, you can explore several trail loops near St. Mary Lake. You may also be able to nd non-camping lodging in the town of St. Mary.

Glacier National Park Winter Wonderland

Location: Montana

Top Winter Activities

Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, photography

Getting There

The Glacier national park is very remote in Winter and can be found In the northwest corner of Montana right on the border with Canada, The west entrance is 30 miles from Kalispell, 150 from Missoula; the east entrance is close to Browning and about 125 miles from Great Falls. Rather than driving, consider riding using the rails; Amtrak services both the east and west entrances, reservations are required.

Grand Canyon National Park Winter Wonderland

Arizona

Top Winter Activities

Photography, hiking, train rides, historic tours, camping

Getting There

A nice way to get to the Grand canyon is by train. The Grand Canyon Railway has been operating since 1901 and Williams to South Rim is 130 miles round trip. Arizona is about 30 miles from Flagstaff. It takes 2 hrs 15 mins and has some stunning views on the way. If you are driving it take around 4 hours (approximately 230 miles) from the South Rim north from Phoenix.

The North Rim is closed from 15 October to the 15 May for winter and the South Rim stays open throughout the year. The Grand Canyon is spectacular in winter as it is dramatic in all seasons throughout the year. View seekers and photographers will love the magnificent colours contrasting with the snow.

The Grand Canyon has few visitors during winter so why not take advantage of the slower pace of beauty. Lodges on the South rim are not booked up and the rates are much lower and if you are looking for a camping ground you will find plenty of room.

Bright Angel Trail and Phantom Ranch or Bright Angel Campground is a must for every hiker through the winter season. Remember to always have the right gear and equipment and always check the weather as it can change quickly.

You may also prefer to stay above the rim and explore the rich cultural history available El Tovar Historic Hotel, Hopi House, and the Yavapai Museum of Geology.

The Grand Teton Road is closed in winter from Taggart Lake Trailhead for 15 miles north to Signal Mountain Lodge. This stops access to many of the park’s favourite sites and trailheads by car, but for skiers and snowshoers you have the place to yourself. Many other trails throughout the park are worth a look. have a look at a ski/snowshoe trail map to plan your visit. There are ranger-guided snowshoe walks, from the Taggart Lake Trailhead from December to March weather permitting.

Grand Teton National Park Winter Wonderland

Wyoming

Top Winter Activities:

Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, photography, wildlife viewing, limited snowmobiling (similar to Yellowstone)

Getting There:

Snow plows keep the outer park road (Highway 26/89/191), heading north from Jackson, Wyoming, clear through winter; use this road to skirt along the eastern section of the park and north along Jackson Lake and the Snake River and to the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway toward Yellowstone. Jackson is approximately 550 miles north of Denver and 300 miles north of Salt Lake City. In Jackson, stop in the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center, open year-round (except for Christmas and Thanksgiving).

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Perserve Colorado Winter Wonderland

Top Winter Activities:

Sand/snow sledding and snow boarding, cross-country skiing, hiking, camping, backpacking, hunting

Getting There

To reach Great Sand Dunes, drive approximately 245 miles north from Albuquerque or 167 miles south from Colorado Springs. The closest non- camping lodging is in Alamosa, 35 miles south of the park entrance.

A national monument since 1932, Great Sand Dunes was redesignated a national park in 2000, and at the same time, 42,000 acres on the west and south sides of the park became national preserve, forming Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. The two sections, while both managed by the National Park Service, o er distinct ecosystems and opportunities for visitors. For example, while hunting is not permi ed in the park, licensed hunters may hunt in the preserve during designated legal seasons (including early winter).

The central sure at this park is, of course, the sand dunes — the tallest in North America formed by erosion of the San Juan Mountains and Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the San Luis Valley.

They’re magical, and they’re a whole lot of fun. While special (but easy-to- get) sand sledding and sand boarding equipment is needed during warm months, regular snow sleds and snow boards will work when the dunes are covered in snow. So bring the kids and get ready to ride.

Expect winter days to be clear and chilly and the view of snow-covered dunes on a Sangre de Cristo Mountains backdrop to be unmatched. While camping and backpacking are allowed in winter, options are limited. The popular Piñon Flats Campground closes for the season, but you can nd other campground options in surrounding federal land, or get a free permit from the visitor center to backpack in or at the perimeter of the dune eld.

Winter is a great time to stop by one of America’s most-visited parks, as this is the least busy season. Even when higher elevations at Great Smoky are covered in snow and roads through mountain passes close, many trails and roads in the foothills are accessible.

Cades Cove and Smokemont camp- grounds remain open year-round, rst- come, rst-served; backcountry sites and shelters, including those along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (also part of the National Park System), are available by reservation with a permit. Hikers, including backpackers, should plan carefully; check road closures and make sure you can access desired trailheads. Remember that trails covered in fallen leaves may be slick, and ice can form quickly.

Even in winter, the sh are still biting in Great Smoky, and the park enjoys a year-round shing season (state license required). Try popular trout shing streams at lower elevations, especially when the water is above 45 degrees, to catch rainbows, browns, and the prized brook trout.

Anyone who visits this park leaves wanting more. To truly immerse yourself in the Smokies experience, sign up for a workshop, ranging from winter photography to lichen identi cation, through the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, which operates year-round. Tremont is a self-contained campus within the park, with a dorm, dining hall, library and more.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Winter Wonderland

Tennessee and North Carolina

Top Winter Activities

Hiking, camping, fly fishing, touring historic sites, outdoor education

Getting There

Great Smoky Mountains has three park entrances: Gatlinburg and Townsend
in Tennessee, and Cherokee in North Carolina. Knoxville, about an hour away from the Tennessee entrances, has

the closest airport. The park is about a 4-hour drive from Atlanta. Tremont is closest to the park entrance near Townsend.

Lassen Volcanic National Park Winter Wonderland

California

Top Winter Activities

Sledding, skiing, snowshoeing

Getting There

Access Manzanita Lake from the northwest park entrance, 50 miles east of Redding, California, and 180 miles west of Reno, Nevada. Reach the southwest entrance, 45 miles east of Red Bluff, California, or 160 miles west of Reno. Remember that once you reach either entrance in winter, the main road will be closed but the park remains open.

Just because the Lassen Volcanic Highway leading through this northern California park is closed in winter doesn’t mean you can’t explore. As soon as the highway closes to vehicles, it opens to cross-country skiers and snowshoers. So grab your gear and head out into miles of wilderness completely unfe ered by auto tra c from around mid-November to late March each year.

The Manzanita Lake area in the northwest corner of the park o ers several options for winter sports. Beginners can try snowshoeing the 1.6-mile Manzanita Lake Snowshoe Loop and skiing the 1.5-mile Manzanita Campground Loop, while more experienced skiers can head up Manzanita Creek or Nobles Emigrant Trail, and snowshoers can try Chaos Crags Trail. Rocky terrain and elevation gain earned these trails their more advanced status, so be prepared and don’t overdo it.

Looking for less strenuous activity? Bring a sled and simply spend some time playing in the snow, or learn how to snowshoe from a park ranger during a guided walk. Check the park’s event calendar from January to March to book such ranger-led jaunts where snowshoes and expert advice on snowshoeing, winter survival, and ecology are provided free of charge.

With distinct zones — mountains, forests, coast — Olympic is like three parks in one, and all are accessible in winter (with a li le extra prep, of course).

For true winter sports, Hurricane Ridge is the favorite. This mountainous area receives plenty of snow for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. For an all-ages excursion, schedule a snowshoe walk with a ranger, available mid-December through March with park-provided gear. It’s a great way for inexperienced snowshoers to experience the snow. Avalanches can occur in the Olympic Mountains, so be sure to heed all signs and warnings about avalanche-prone areas.

If you’d rather escape the snow than embrace it, head for the coast instead. While temperatures will still be cold,

snow melts quickly here. Check tide schedules and plan a walk at low tide. Campgrounds at Mora Rialto Beach, Oze e Lake, and Kalaloch are open year-round; during some parts of the year, the popular Kalaloch campground requires reservations, but in winter, it’s rst-come, rst-served, or you can stay at the lovely Kalaloch Lodge with a prime view of the Paci c Ocean.

Olympic’s forests always feel other- worldly, like a trip back in time, and in late winter a er a snow melt, this e ect is heightened. A hike in the Hoh or Quinault rainforests awakens the senses in preparation for spring. The Hoh campground is open year-round, and you can also nd lodging in nearby Forks.

Olympic National Park Winter Wonderland

Washington

Top Winter Activities

Snowshoeing, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowboarding, tubing, beachcombing, hiking, camping, lodging

Getting There

Traveling from Olympia, Highway 101 circles the park, providing access to all areas and entry points. You’ll find Hurricane Ridge 17 miles south of Port Angeles in the north, complete with

a warm and cozy visitor center and rental shop for winter gear. Coastal destinations are on the west side and forests on the south to southwest.

Rocky Mountain National Park Winter Wonderland

Colorado

Top Winter Activities

Sledding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, wildlife watching

Getting There

While the middle, highest-elevation portion of Trail Ridge Road closes in winter, making it difficult to travel from one side of the park to the other, you can still enter the west side from near Grand Lake and the east side from Estes Park. Both towns offer plenty of amenities — restaurants, lodging, equipment rentals — and can serve as outposts for the park. The only park campground open year-round is Moraine Park on the east side; you may find a spot on limited loops, first-come, first-served. Both Grand Lake and Estes Park are about 2 hours from Denver; check the latest road conditions to plan your route.

Rocky Mountain is a tale of two parks: the east side and the west side. In winter, the east side may have less snow at lower points, but at higher elevations, it’s an arctic scene o en with blizzard conditions. The west side receives more snow, but it’s generally calm and clear. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are possible on either side, or you can try sledding in the one spot allowed inside the park: Hidden Valley, a former ski area on the east side near Estes Park. Find equipment either in Estes Park or Grand Lake.

Opportunities to see wildlife, especially large mammals, peak during the winter season, when human tra c slows and elk, moose, deer, and sheep come out in search of food and water. You’re likely to spot moose along the Colorado River on the west side and the elusive bighorn sheep along the Fall River on the east side. As you drive, look for elk and mule deer in meadow areas.

You may be tempted to breeze through this smaller park, and indeed you can experience a lot in a few hours that will make for a great day trip. For most visitors, it’s all about big trees — see giant sequoias dusted with snow in the Giant Forest Grove, including the largest living tree on earth: the General Sherman Tree. Near Giant Forest at Wuksachi Village, you can rent snowplay gear and a empt a sledding run or two. And on the Kings Canyon side, visit Grant Grove to meet the nation’s Christmas tree: the General Grant Tree.

However, if you have the time, a longer stay will reveal more of what Sequoia and Kings Canyon bring to the table. The Sequoia Natural History Association’s Sequoia Field Institute o era programs throughout winter to get you acquainted with winter outdoor activities like snowshoeing, skiing, and winter camping.

The Association also helps manage the Pear Lake Winter Hut, a historic cabin that’s available to the public from December through April. Advanced skiers and snowshoers who are experienced with the snowy backcountry can begin the 6-mile, 2,000-foot ascent at Wolverton to reach this cozy ski hut in the woods. Reservations are required and spots are lled by a lo ery that occurs each year in early November.

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks California Winter Wonderland

Top Winter Activities

Skiing, snowshoeing, giant sequoia spotting, ski-in lodging

Getting There

Reach the northern entrance about 60 miles from Fresno, or 4-5 hours from San Francisco, Sacramento, or San Jose; the southern entrance is roughly 4 hours from Los Angeles. It takes about 3 hours to drive the Generals Highway, the only major thru-park route open in winter, from entrance to entrance. This road is not open to vehicles over 22 feet; all others must carry tire chains and be prepared for driving mountain roads in winter conditions.

Voyageurs National Park Winter Wonderland

Minnesota

Top Winter Activities

Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing

Getting There

Find Rainy Lake Visitor Center on the northern side of the park, 11 miles east of International Falls, Minnesota. Call ahead or check the weekly winter report on the website for latest conditions — the trail and ice road openings depend solely on the weather and snow accumulation, so later in the winter season is often better.

In the summer, visitors explore the interconnected watery trails of this park in the heart of North America just as early French explorers did hundreds of years ago and American Indians did for thousands of years. But in the winter, these waterways — and this entire park — become a frozen paradise. While other facilities in the park are closed from late September to late May (winters are long here), the Rainy Lake Visitor Center remains open year-round and provides an outpost for winter adventure.

Plan an excursion on snowshoes and cross-country skis. From Rainy Lake, where equipment rentals are available, you can use the Tilson Connector Trail to access the Tilson Creek Ski Trails, a 10-mile interconnected network, or strap on your snowshoes and hit the Oberholtzer Trail. You can also head for the Rainy Lake Ice Road (when open) to drive across the frozen water; very speci c auto size and speed limits apply.

For some anglers, an icehouse on a frozen lake in winter’s quiet and stillness sounds like utopia. Many locals set up icehouses here for the season; shing licenses and icehouse registration are required. Se ing up an icehouse may be easier here than nding housing for the night; look for lodging in International Falls or around Rainy Lake outside the park.

Winter use has been a constant topic of discussion at America’s rst national park since its founding in 1872. With the delicate Yellowstone ecosystem at its most fragile in winter, burgeoning use of OSVs (over-snow vehicles) brought questions of environmental impact into the forefront in the 1990s and 2000s. Now, OSV use is allowed with approved, permi ed commercial guides or on approved personal vehicles through an annual lo ery. So plan ahead for a guided tour of the park by snowmobile, which may be the only way to cover a lot of ground in winter.

But if seeing Yellowstone’s winter majesty up close is more your speed, skiing and snowshoeing are still the best options. Many trails are suitable; consult the trail maps designed specially for these

winter activities. Beginners should stick to developed areas, or opt for a guided trip, but those experienced in winter survival and adventure can explore the backcountry. Permits are required for overnight camping trips.

You can also opt for a li le more luxury. Two Yellowstone lodges stay open in winter: Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins at the north entrance and Old Faithful Snow Lodge (the newest of the park’s lodges) near the south entrance, with access to the famed Old Faithful Geyser, which erupts year-round.


Yellowstone National Park Winter Wonderland

Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho

Top Winter Activities

Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, geyser viewing, wildlife spotting, limited snowmobiling, lodging

Getting There

Call or check the park website for road statuses in winter; most roads are closed to wheeled traffic (OSVs only) from November through April, though the road from the northern entrance near Gardiner, Montana, to Cooke City remains open year-round. A stay at Mammoth Hot Springs and exploration of the northern section, by vehicle and on skis, suits most first-time visitors. To access and explore the south section, extensive planning is required.


Yosemite National Park Winter Wonderland

California

Top Winter Activities:

Lodging, fine dining, holiday dinner theater, ice-skating, downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking

Getting There:

Yosemite National Park is a short drive from many major cities: roughly 4 hours from San Francisco or Sacramento, 6 from Los Angeles, 8 from Las Vegas or San Diego. While the trip southwest from Reno/Lake Tahoe usually takes 5 hours, road conditions in winter make it an 8-hour journey.

During the winter holidays, Yosemite Valley transforms into a wonderland of revelry and pageantry steeped in traditions nearly a century old. Since 1927, the annual Bracebridge Dinner at the Ahwahnee Lodge has been celebrated with a Renaissance- inspired seven-course dinner and four- hour pageant of carols and Medieval entertainment. More than 100 players act in the extravaganza from mid- December to Christmas Day.

Plan far ahead to get a seat at the Bracebridge table. While it costs $400 and up (per person), it‘s an experience of a lifetime. In nearby Curry Village, a more economical lodging option, the whole family can also enjoy ice-skating from mid-November through March,

a winter tradition since the 1930s, and tour the Ahwahnee to revel in the Christmas decor.

Like many parks, Yosemite o ers opportunities for athletes to test their winter skills on skis, snowboards, and snowshoes. In fact, Yosemite also has one of the few downhill ski areas within a national park; Badger Pass, open mid-December through March, is the oldest ski area in California. While many higher-elevation trails are inaccessible due to snow cover and closed roads, you can hike many trails in Yosemite Valley. Check at the Valley Visitor Center for current trail conditions.

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