Five Great National Parks to Visit During the Holiday Season

The summertime is notorious for outdoor getaways, but you’d be missing out if you overlooked some of the most-popular national parks during the holiday season. Sprinkled snow, morning fog, and a wide-open sky make national parks ideal for hitting up during the holidays.
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Yosemite National Park in the winter, California
Yosemite National Park in the winter, California  (Hemera)

National parks are great destinations for holiday getaways for three primary reasons: The summertime throngs are typically a fading memory; the superlative views are even more magical with a sprinkling of snow; and there is nothing like watching the night sky for Santa amid twinkling stars when you’re miles away from the nearest city. So gather the gifts and head for the hills this holiday season for yuletide getaways, cheap family holidays, and just about everything in between. Here are five of our favorite national parks to find yourself in during the holiday season.

Yosemite National Park, California
The winter holidays in Yosemite mean it's time for the Bracebridge Dinner at the regal Ahwahnee Hotel. On numerous December nights (including Christmas), the three-hour-plus feast takes its cues from Washington Irving's A Christmas at Bracebridge Hall with a costumed cast of royals, jesters, singers, squires, and an eight-course menu fit for a king. Plus, it's ski season at Badger Pass, California's oldest ski area and one of the best for beginners, and cross-country season on the trails that encircle the Yosemite Valley. Its majestic granite monoliths like Half Dome and El Capitan are even more glorious when crowned with snow. Outside of the valley, Evergreen Lodge is about as family-friendly as they come, with family activities and special tours planned for Christmas week.

Death Valley National Park, California and Nevada
The blazing summers deep in the California desert give way to mild winters by December. Holiday time is a great season to visit Death Valley, one of the largest national parks in the United States. Base yourself in Furnace Creek and hike the canyons, explore the dunes, and meditate on the bleakly beautiful panoramas. Be sure to see Badwater Basin, the lowest spot in North America at 282 feet below sea level. Equally offbeat and historic, Scotty’s Castle is a manmade must-see, though guided tours are popular during the holiday season and advance reservations are highly recommended. Make time for a side trip to the nearby ghost town of Rhyolite, Nevada, home to the Goldwell Open Air Museum, an impressive outdoor gallery of contemporary sculptures and the ruins of a once-thriving gold-rush town.

Published: 10 Dec 2012 | Last Updated: 21 Dec 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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