In Photos: Best National Parks to Visit During Winter

Winter wonderlands

yellowstone fox

A fox trots across Yellowstone's snowy grounds. (Image credit: NPS)

The couch is a tempting place to snuggle during the cold winter months, but shed the Snuggie and strap on snow boots - the great outdoors are calling.

These six National Parks are true winter wonderlands (and one wonderful winter escape). From snowy hot springs to breathtaking wildlife, these parks are the perfect places to melt those holiday pounds.

Yellowstone National Park - Wyoming, Montana and Idaho

yellowstone hot springs

Hotsprings are just as impressive in the winter. (Image credit: NPS)

There's a secret to visiting Yellowstone that's especially true in winter. Walk a few paces on any trail, or just stand still and listen you'll find solitude in this celebrated, special place.

Picture a vast frozen landscape interrupted by copious billows of steam indicating active hydrothermal features bubbling mud cauldrons, sulfur-scented steam vents, and violent geysers that know no respite even in the deepest cold.

While most Yellowstone hotels, lodges, and campgrounds are buttoned up in winter, the park stays plenty busy. Hotels, closed briefly between seasons, reopen in December at Mammoth Hot Springs at the north end of the park and at Old Faithful, where the Snow Lodge can be reached by snowmobile or snowcoach. Commercial guides provide snowmobile, snowcoach, and cross-country ski tours of the park.

Arches National Park - Utah

arches national park with snow

(Image credit: NPS)

Arches National Park preserves over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, like the world-famous Delicate Arch, as well as many other unusual rock formations. In some areas, the forces of nature have exposed millions of years of geologic history.

The extraordinary features of the park create a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms and textures that is unlike any other in the world. For a unique look at this stunning landscape, visiting during the winter. Be careful, however, winters here are cold, with highs averaging 30 to 50 F (minus 1 to 10 C), and lows averaging 0 to 20 F (minus 18 to minus 7). Large snowfalls are uncommon (except in nearby mountains), but even small amounts of snow or ice can make local trails and roads impassable.

Glacier National Park - Montana

glacier national park

(Image credit: NPS)

Glacier's pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains and spectacular lakes are stunning during the winter.

With over 700 miles (1,126 kilometers) of trails, Glacier is a hiker's paradise for adventurous visitors seeking wilderness and solitude. Relive the days of old through historic chalets, lodges, transportation, and stories of Native Americans. Explore Glacier National Park and discover what awaits you.

Mesa Verde National Park - Colorado

Spruce Tree House in winter

Spruce Tree House in winter. (Image credit: NPS)

Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300.

Today, the park protects over 4,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States. Visit during the winter to experience the cold conditions that these ancient peoples braved.

Grand Canyon National Park - Arizona

Grand Canyon Village on Dec. 4, 2011.

Grand Canyon Village on Dec. 4, 2011. (Image credit: NPS)

The Grand Canyon is no less stunning in the winter. This year has not been an exception. A winter storm hit the Grand Canyon Village on Dec. 4, coating the park in snow.

Winter conditions on the canyon's South Rim can be extreme. Be prepared for snow, icy roads and trails, and possible road closures. Winter weather typically begins by November and becomes well entrenched by December and January, with frequent light to moderate snows and increasingly colder weather. Low temperatures are generally in the teens along the rim; however afternoon high temperatures still average in the 40s F (4-9 C), due to the amount of sunshine the area receives.

Everglades National Park - Florida

American Alligator, Alligator mississippiensis.

American Alligator, Alligator mississippiensis. (Image credit: Rodney Cammauf/NPS)

Sick of the snow? Head down to Everglades National Park, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, and see some rare and endangered species. The park's dry season runs from December to April, which means pleasant weather and lots of visitors and ranger-led programs.

The Everglades are mild and pleasant from December through April, with low humidity and clear skies. Temperatures reach average highs of 77 F (25 C) and lows of 53 (12 C). Because of the pleasant weather, the dry season is the most popular time to visit the park. Reservations are encouraged for camping and tours.

Live Science Staff
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