The summer months have always been extremely popular times to visit National Parks. With the warm temperatures and no school enjoying nature in this prime season always leads to lots of enjoyment. Often we forget that winter can be just as, if not more memorable a time to visit some of our Nations parks. We have put together a list of some of the best parks to explore in the winter months. From parks where you can play in the snow to one’s where you can still enjoy warm temperatures you will be sure to find one that fits your style.
1. Bryce Canyon National Park- Utah
Bryce Canyon is a fantastic place to visit in the winter and it’s just a 4-hour drive from Las Vegas. With a higher elevation than most of the Grand Staircase there is a lot of winter fun in and around Bryce. Hike through the magnificent hoodoos on a ranger led snowshoeing expedition. Cross country ski through sunset point or on the Red Canyon Bike path. Go sledding, ice skating, snowmobiling or on a winter horseback ride. You can even do some winter astronomy, just make sure you don’t forget your mittens.
Head there during the winter festival over president’s day weekend for lots of winter fun and festivities for the whole family. Compete in a winter biathlon, photo contest or kids snow boot race. Take a western dance class, participate in a geology talk or just do crafts with the kids.
2. Saguaro National Park- Tucson, AZ
Tucson is home to the largest cacti and universal symbol of the American West the giant Saguaro. If you don’t want to be stuck in the snow, this might be the perfect place for you. The desert is beautiful in the winter and alive with life with over 165 miles of hiking trails there is plenty to do in this prickly landscape.
Learn about mountain lions with the rangers or take a guided hike through some of the cactus forest. Be surprised by desert waterfalls, Native American Petroglyphs and miles and miles of open space.
There are even sunset and moonlight hikes in the winter for amazing stargazing as well as monthly star party from October through April.
3. Biscayne National Marine Park - Miami Florida
Located within minutes of the booming city of Miami, Biscayne protects a rare combination of waters, islands and coral reefs. Outdoor enthusiasts can boat, snorkel, kayak, scuba dive, camp or just watch the wildlife. The winter months usually mean clearer water. Making it one of the best times to snorkel and scuba dive in South Florida. Kayak or canoe through the mangrove forests while you watch for herons, dolphins and manatees. This is a park for the water lover as there is only 1 mile of paved roads in the park.
4. Channel Islands National Park
The Channel Islands are located off the coast of Ventura California. Although the summer months means you can spend more time on the water, the winter months offer their own bit of spectacular. There are five islands in the National Park which stretch for more than 160 miles. In the winter only two of the five islands are open to visitors, unless you have your own boat. Santa Cruz island and Anacapa Island both have a number of fantatic activites for would be visitors.
Colder temperatures help the kelp forests really take over and this is a great time to kayak or scuba dive around the islands. Santa Cruz island is home to dozens of sea caves, where you might just sea harbour seals enjoying the safety of the shallows. Head out with one of the adventure companies like Channel Island Outfitters for an amazing day exploring caves and coves. This tour includes kayaking, snorkeling, and there is even time for a hike. You can even camp out for a night or two if you want to stay for an amazing winter sunset.
Some of the best sunsets appear in the winter months, this is also the time of year when elephant and harbor seals start to have pups. In the late winter months, the wildflowers begin to bloom and the islands turn green. The California brown pelicans also begin to nest. Hop on board one of the ferry services which depart from Oxnard or Ventura. Island Packers ferry service goes to both Santa Cruz & Anacapa islands in the winter.
Winter whale watching trips are also offered from Dec 26 – April.
The waters surrounding the islands are one of the best places to Whale watch from the months of December to April. You may get to spot migrating Gray Whales, seals, sea lions, dolphins and maybe even Orca whales.
5. Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park- Big Isalnd Hawaii
If you want a wintery tropical getaway to a National Park that’s full of adventure, then Hawaii Volcanoes is the place for you. And who hasn’t dreamt of going to the tropical beaches of Hawaii for a wonderful winter break. Kilauea is an active volcano and a visit here will get you up close and personal with real flowing lava. There is nothing more exciting than seeing the real fury of nature with your own eyes. From the Kalapana side of the volcano you can see lava erupting in a colorful spew of steam as it enters the ocean. For hikers you have the option to do a grueling 7.4-mile hike to the lava flow. There is also a crater rim drive for those not wanting to get out of the car.
And of course there’s always that cool tropical drink you can enjoy beachside when it’s all over.
For more information visit the National Park Service: https://www.nps.gov/havo/index.htm