4 That Are Even Better This Time of Year
By Kristan Schiller
The perks of hitting these national parks in winter include tranquility—since the number of visitors drops significantly, you feel like you have them almost entirely to yourself—and the unforgettable reward of spotting wildlife against the white snows of the season. So grab your beanie and your fuzzy mittens, and prepare to immerse yourself in some of America’s most magnificent winter wilderness.
Grand Canyon National Park
Teddy Roosevelt said all Americans should see it. And in winter, when the sun’s not scorching and the masses have departed, the Grand Canyon is an ideal spot for sightseeing while you hike. Though the North Rim is closed for the season, all South Rim trails are open—and the popular South Kaibab trail includes the aptly named Ooh Ah Point (the first panoramic view of the canyon). Trails can be icy so crampons are useful, but backcountry permits are easy to get and overlooks are blissfully crowd-free.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park, California
Cross-country ski along the secluded trails of Yosemite National Park and enjoy outstanding views of giant sequoias, lakes, rivers and granite peaks. Choose a trail to suit your skill level from among 350 miles worth of options. Glide beside the banks of the Merced River in Yosemite Valley or head to Badger Pass, the oldest operating ski area in California and gateway to some of the park’s most glorious routes. Here you can rent equipment, take a lesson, break for lunch, join a guided excursion and take the free shuttle back to the valley after a cocktail in the lounge.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Just 100,000 of Yellowstone’s 3 million yearly visitors show up during the winter months, so the road through the Lamar Valley is the only one open to traffic. Marvel at Old Faithful’s dramatic eruptions (you can’t miss them if you stay at nearby Old Faithful Snow Lodge & Cabins, open mid-December through early March). Or suit up in a pair of skis or snowshoes and soak in peace and quiet along the trails. Snowmobiling is a high-energy, adrenaline-charged way to experience Yellowstone, though it remains controversial due to the resulting pollution and disruption of animal habitats. (Snowmobilers must be accompanied by a licensed guide, arranged through the park’s lodges.)
Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier, Washington
Deep snows make Mt. Rainier a snowshoer’s utopia, with more than 16 trails to match all skill levels. The historic Paradise Inn in Paradise Valley—where well-groomed trails pass snow-covered meadows and alpine lakes—has become, hands-down, the most popular place to stay. The main trail, Skyline, offers panoramic views of Mount Rainier, the Nisqually River Valley and Mount St. Helens. Definitely worth the snowshoe-clad climb! Ranger-guided excursions are available for beginners, and snowshoes can be rented in and near the park.
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This is the third in a series of Winter Getaways stories on Chevy Culture.
Kristan Schiller is a New York-based travel writer and blogger whose articles have appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure and Fodor’s, as well as on Forbestraveler.com and Salon.com.