The 6 Best National Parks For Winter Fun

Bryce Canyon National Park | Photo: Akos Kokai/CC by 2.0
Bryce Canyon National Park | Photo: Akos Kokai/CC by 2.0

It’s no secret that America’s national parks are the premier outdoor destinations in the US during the summer, but that in-the-know will tell you (or maybe not if they want it to remain a secret) that these amazing places take on a completely new look during the winter.

Spectacular prairies becoming cross-country skiing paradises, pristine lakes and ponds ice over to perfectly reflect the stunning landscape, and most noticeably, views that are typically marred by the congestion of crowds of visitors are left unspoiled, as if it’s the first time they’ve ever been seen.

While any park can attract visitors during the summer months, there are some parks that provide another level of excitement in the winter months.

  1. Acadia National Park – Located along the rugged coast of Maine, Acadia National Park is the ultimate summer destination. With sandy beaches and oceanfront vistas, it’s no wonder that roughly 3 million people visit this park each year. But, if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, plan your trip during the winter months. While many of the park roads and facilities close for the season, the park is still open. With 45 miles of carriage roads to snowshoe and cross-country ski, it’s like having the park to yourself.

    Acadia - Otter Cliffs in Winter
    Otter Cliffs in Winter, Acadia National Park (David Patterson)
  2. Yosemite National Park – Like Acadia, Yosemite National Park sees the vast majority of its visitors in the summer and closes off roads and facilities in the winter. But, as long as you have chains for your tires, you can still reach many of the most iconic locations. For photographers, snow-covered photographs of Yosemite Valley and Tunnel View provide the trophy shot of a lifetime.

    Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park
  3. Bryce Canyon National Park – Few iconic national park landmarks wear winter as well as Bryce Canyon National Park and the Bryce Amphitheater. The stunning contrast of white snow against the other-worldly shades of red rock hoodoos is worth the trip alone. For those looking to get an even more unique vantage, the Ranger-guided full moon snowshoe hikes are prime for your bucket list.

    Bryce Canyon National Park in the winter.
  4. Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Snow is fickle in the Great Smoky Mountains, but when it does fall, it’s a sight to be seen. Depending on the elevation, the smokies provide a thrilling spectacle during the winter that showcases varying shades of whites, grays, greens, and blues. Better grab your camera!

    Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the winter.
  5. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area – While it may not register on your mental checklist of iconic national park units, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is known for hosting one winter activity that isn’t often allowed in national parks: ice fishing. That’s right! Grab your traps head for the ice. Flag Up!

    Bighorn Canyon North District.
  6. Yellowstone National Park – Finally, Yellowstone National Park, like Bighorn Canyon, offers a unique winter activity that can’t be found in all national parks. Snowmobiling is a very popular activity in the park. With its 3,472 square miles, there’s plenty of space to explore.

    A male bison (American Buffalo) trudges through the snow in Yellowstone National Park.

No matter where you go or what you like to do in the national parks during the winter, be sure to take the free National Parks app by Chimani with you. Available for iOS and Android in the Apple App Store and Google Play.