This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Ken Burns was one of the many who’ve said it: The National Parks were America’s best idea. It seems like the rest of the US populace would agree. In 2016, 331 million visitors toured the parks, topping 2015’s record-breaking numbers by 23.7 million visits. Good for the park budget, bad for the serenity. Whether you want to avoid the summer plebs or you’re just ready to plan a vacation right now, here are the 10 best national parks to visit during winter.

1. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

In July of 2017, more than 416,000 people visited Bryce Canyon. But in March, there were only 82,000 folks tramping around. That’s a big difference for those who’d prefer to commune with nature versus a bunch of tourists. While the weather in March ranges from a chilly 18 to 44 degrees, the cold temperatures and high elevation offer winter visitors a fun opportunity: cross-country skiing — seriously. Outdoor enthusiasts can lay their own tracks or glide up groomed trails to check out the snow-capped hoodoos.

A sunrise shot of rock hoodoos at Sunset point of Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. Photo by Noppawat Tom Charoensinphon// Gettyimages
A sunrise shot of rock hoodoos at Sunset Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. Photo by Noppawat Tom Charoensinphon// Gettyimages

2. Everglades National Park, Florida

On the flip side of weather and popularity, Everglades National Park is busiest in the winter months. But it’s hotter than Hades when the wet season hits — and the ubiquitous mosquitos are the size of golf balls. Head over to the Gulf Coast side of the park to canoe through extraordinary coastal mangroves, sawgrass marshes and pine flatwoods. There’s a world-renowned variety of migrating birds, cute manatees and the only place on the planet where gators and crocs coexist.

Father and son in a rowing boat, Everglades, Florida, USA. Photo by Stefanie Grewel
Father and son in a rowing boat, Everglades, Florida, USA. Photo by Stefanie Grewel

3. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

This seven island park lies about 70 miles off the coast of Key West. It’s accessible via seaplane or ferry, which keeps a lot of the riff-raff (i.e. annoying sightseers) out. It’s beloved by divers and snorkelers for its crystal clear waters and thriving coral reefs. And history geeks dig the guided tours of Fort Jefferson, a massive, unfinished 19th-century fort that was built to protect one of the most important deep-water anchorages in North America.

Aerial view of Dry Tortugas National Park. Photo by Xuan Che// Getty Images
Aerial view of Dry Tortugas National Park. Photo by Xuan Che// Getty Images

4. Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite, one of the first tracts of land to receive the National Park denomination, is considered one of — if not the — most majestic places in the country. More than 4 million people made the pilgrimage to the home of the Half Dome and El Capitan last year. While most visitors come to stroll around the valley or hike the arduous Mist Trail in the warmer months, the park offers just as much outdoor activities during winter, with snow sports ranging from downhill and cross-country skiing to tubing, sledding and ice skating.

A landscape image of Yosemite valley with the Merced River in the foreground and El Capitan and Bridalveil Falls in the background. This was taken on the day when Yosemite was dusted with snow, on the cusp of winter while the trees still had the last of the autumn colors. Photo by Benjeev Rendhava // Getty Images
A landscape image of Yosemite valley with the Merced River in the foreground and El Capitan and Bridalveil Falls in the background. Photo by Benjeev Rendhava // Getty Images

5. Joshua Tree National Park, California

Home to the convergence of the Mojave and Colorado deserts, Joshua Tree has a captivating assortment of flora and fauna. The most famous of flora is obviously its Seussian namesake yucca. It’s a favorite among hikers, horseback riders, birders and rock climbers, who scale the cracks of giant monzogranite slabs. October through May is the best time to go, when daytime temps are in the 60s and 70s.

The Joshua Tree National Park is a desert landscape that has, not only the familiar Joshua trees, but many varieties of shrubs, plants, boulders and scrub land. Photo by Aubrey Stoll
The Joshua Tree National Park is a desert landscape that has not only the familiar Joshua trees, but many varieties of shrubs, plants, boulders and scrub land. Photo by Aubrey Stoll

6. Channel Islands National Park, California

Kind of like North America’s version of the Galapagos, the five islands that make up this park have been isolated for thousands of years, creating unique species (like the island fox, island deer mouse and Channel Island spotted skunk), found nowhere else on earth. It’s chilly AF December through March, but it’s the best time of year to watch migrating gray whales along with resident seals, sea lions, dolphins and the occasional pod of orcas.

Scene from Channel Islands National Park. Photo by Daniel Friend// Getty Images
Scene from Channel Islands National Park. Photo by Daniel Friend// Getty Images

7. Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns’ infamous bats fly south to warmer climes when the temperatures start to drop, so don’t expect to watch the nightly Bat Flight until Memorial Day. However, the 119 caves that gave this park its moniker maintains an internal temperature of 56 degrees throughout the year. Stroll around the Big Room, the largest single cave chamber by volume in North America, and admire the stalactites, lily pads and cave pools without hundreds of bumbling tourists snapping selfies at every bend.

USA, Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika, New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Carlsbad Höhlen, Tropfsteinhöhle, Stalaktiten, Stalagmiten und Stalagnaten, Big Room. Photo by Westend61// Getty Images
Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Photo by Westend61 // Getty Images

8. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

Although winter in Hawaii is considered the rainy season, with daytime temperatures averaging a balmy 79 to 83 degrees the weather is still far more desirable than in most of the US. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is one of the most impressive sights in the notoriously beautiful state. Visitors can watch two of the world’s most active volcanoes belch out molten lava. The shorter winter days offer more time to view Kilauea’s incandescent crater against the night sky.

Hawaii
Hawaii’s Kilauea Caldera at twilight. Photo by Kevin Thrash// Getty Images

9. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

There’s a reason the Grand Canyon is one of the most visited national parks: It’s one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World due to its awe-inspiring scale and size. The summer crowds and corresponding traffic, however, can put a damper on the wonderment. For those who aren’t trying to schlep down the canyon walls, winter is the ideal time of year to admire the layers of red rock capped with white snow from the popular Bright Angel Trail.

Scenic view of snow at canyon. Photo by Michael DeYoung// Getty Images
Scenic view of snow at the Grand Canyon. Photo by Michael DeYoung// Getty Images

10. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

The Colorado Rockies are America’s most popular winter playground. So, their designated national park is an obvious pick for a cold season trip. Visitors snowshoe, cross-country ski and sled through the pristine wilderness that serves as a backdrop for those idyllic Coors Brewing Company ads.

This shot is taken from Two Rivers Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park highlighting Notchtop Mountain. Photo by on Blake Photography// . Getty Images
This shot is taken from Two Rivers Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, highlighting Notchtop Mountain. Photo by on Blake Photography// Getty Images

Featured Image by Aubrey Stoll// Getty Images

Know before you go.

News and deals straight to your inbox every day.

The best beginner points and miles card out there.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 points! With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 60,000 point sign up bonus worth up to $1,200 in value, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.