The Best National Parks to Visit in the Winter
To help you discover some of the best national parks to visit in winter, we’ve put together an easy guide below, complete with cold-weather travel tips.
How to Visit National Parks in the Winter
Before you start planning which park to visit, read these tips to help make your trip more successful.
- Check on closures: Before you go, visit the park’s official website to get specific information on which trails will be open, what roads are closed, and if there are any recommended detours. It’s also smart to make note of the road conditions and check for any hazards or safety alerts. If you’re visiting a park where snow or ice will be present, travel in a reliable vehicle, preferably with 4WD, or consider taking a winter-equipped RV. (For more information on RV travel, check out 6 Tips for RV Camping in National Parks.)
- Watch the weather: It’s always important to be mindful of the weather, but when you’re traveling in the winter months it’s extra critical. Keep in mind that weather conditions can vary dramatically from location to location, especially in larger parks, so note the specific area you’ll be visiting. In parks with varied elevations, for example, you might find clear skies in one section while another area experiences a full-blown winter storm. Conditions can also change rapidly within one afternoon, so be sure to monitor the weather throughout the day. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a great resource for tracking weather alerts.
- Bring the right gear: When visiting national parks in the wintertime, it’s imperative to bring warm winter clothes and know how to layer for cold weather. Additionally, the National Parks Service recommends traveling with ample emergency gear. Even if you don’t plan to stay overnight, you should carry sleeping provisions, as well as extra food, water, and safety equipment, including a first aid kit, flashlight, whistle, and a knife. (For tips on how to bundle up, check out our guide to Staying Warm in Cold Weather.)
- Know your limits: Weather elements such as snow and ice can make hiking trails more difficult to navigate in the wintertime. Even walking paths and simple viewing areas can become slippery this time of year, so take extra precautions. It’s advisable to avoid hiking alone in the winter, and always have an emergency contact who knows where you are. For extra assistance, use the NPS Trip Planning Guide to help ensure your visit goes smoothly.
The Best National Parks to Visit in Winter
Yosemite National Park - California
For up-to-date info, check out Yosemite National Park’s website.
Acadia National Park - Maine
For up-to-date info, check out Acadia National Park’s website.
Grand Canyon National Park - Arizona
For up-to-date info, check out Grand Canyon National Park’s website.
Yellowstone National Park - Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho
For up-to-date info, check out Yellowstone National Park’s website.
Volcanoes National Park - Hawaii
For up-to-date info, check out Volcanoes National Park’s website.
Zion National Park - Utah
For up-to-date info, check out Zion National Park’s website.
Everglades National Park - Florida
For up-to-date info, check out Everglades National Park’s website.
Mount Rainier National Park - Washington
For up-to-date info, check out Mount Rainier National Park’s website.
Big Bend National Park - Texas
For up-to-date info, check out Big Bend National Park’s website.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park - North Carolina and Tennessee
For up-to-date info, check out Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s website.