National Park of American Samoa
National Park of American Samoa is not only one of the least visited national parks, but it’s also the only U.S. national park south of the equator. And it’s the perfect place to shake off seasonal affective disorder.
Located on three different islands, this national park has coral reefs for snorkeling and lush rainforests for exploring. It’s also largely underdeveloped, making it desirable for those hoping to escape the crowds of it’s closest U.S. neighbor, Hawaii, which is a 5-hour flight away.
It may be a much longer trip than any of the other national parks, but this remote, jungle location will be well worth the visit.
Channel Islands National Park
Often referred to as “The American Galapagos,” the Channel Islands make for a much easier trip. Only 40 miles off the California coast, this archipelago is comprised of five different islands: Anacapa, San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Santa Barbara.
Only accessible by boat, the Channel Islands offers diving, snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, and sea cave exploration. In fact, the island of Santa Cruz has the deepest sea caves in the world. Plus, winter is the best time for whale watching, as Pacific Gray Whales are active in this area between December and April.
The Channel Islands has several campsites available for intrepid travelers, but can also be an easy day trip from Los Angeles.
Joshua Tree National Park
Only two hours from Los Angeles, and with a plethora of outdoor activities, Joshua Tree is the perfect winter getaway for the adventurous traveler.
The unique desert landscape, which has relatively mild temperatures in the winter, is named for the strange and spiky yucca tree that pervades the landscape.
Visitors can choose to explore Joshua Tree via the park’s auto tour, which winds through the area’s high and low desert. If you prefer to stretch your legs, park activities range from day hiking and backpacking, geological tours, horseback riding, mountain biking, and rock climbing. The location is also perfect for stargazing and meteor showers.
Death Valley National Park
Don’t let the name deter you. Death Valley is actually teeming with life, even in winter. And while the average temperature is 115 degrees Fahrenheit in August, the average temperature in January is a pleasant 67 degrees.
While the mountains may be topped with snow, the valleys remain warm and dry for visitors. In fact, the best time to hike in Death Valley is between November and March, before the dangerously hot temperatures arrive in the summer months.
The park also offers guided ranger tours and paleontology hikes, which feature a remote area of the park and must be booked ahead of time.
Biscayne National Park
With the visitor center only an hour’s drive from Miami, Biscayne National Park is an easy getaway for ocean enthusiasts. The park, which is 95% water, is the perfect place to explore all that the Florida coast has to offer.
Campgrounds are available on Boca Chita and Elliot Key (the northernmost island of the Florida Keys), but much of the park can be explored by boat, kayak, or canoe. Plus, Biscayne has underwater trails for snorkelers and scuba divers, which explore the remains of old shipwrecks.
Wildlife watching is also an excellent activity for visitors, and manatees are known to frequent the warm and gentle waters of this Biscayne Bay.
From underwater adventures to dry desert landscapes, the national park system is filled with getaways that will help you escape the cold grasp of winter. Which park are you hoping to visit?
Jersey Griggs is a wellness and travel writer for hire. This year, her winter escape plans include a trip to New Mexico, where she hopes to enjoy some sunshine and spring skiing. To learn more about Jersey, visit her website or follow her on Twitter.