Top Five National Parks for Winter Fun

Surprise! America's national parks are open for business during winter. Sure, your options may be a bit different than in the popular summer months, but adventurous souls will be mightily rewarded for their efforts.
Winter in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Winter in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon  (iStockphoto)

Come wintertime, America’s national parks are overshadowed by flashy ski resorts—and that's a good thing as far as we’re concerned. Gone are the traffic jams and “No Vacancy” signs; instead there’s peace and quiet in these truly wild places. So, this winter, strap on your skis or snowshoes and tackle the trails at these five great national parks.

Yosemite National Park, California
One of three ski areas with lifts in the national park system, Badger Pass operates within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park and has four chairlifts and a cable tow. It's an oldie but a goodie, although not terribly challenging; the vertical drop is just 800 feet, with three black-diamond trails among the 10 runs. You'll find winter solitude on more than 350 miles of cross-country trails and skiable roads in the park, including 25 miles of groomed trails in the Badger Pass area.

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Because it’s 1,943 feet deep, Crater Lake rarely freezes, in spite of the 500-plus inches of snowfall the namesake park gets in the winter. This makes it a centerpiece for one of the best multiday cross-country skiing trips in the United States. The loop on the rim around the lake is about 30 miles long and typically requires three days. March and April are good months; the weather is better but the snow is still plenty deep.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are the winter sports of choice in Rocky Mountain National Park. The less-visited Wild Basin area, south of Estes Park off Colorado Highway 7 near Allenspark, is a great destination for a winter daytrip. The trek to Ouzel Falls is only 2.7 miles one-way, but it’s also a good jumping-off point for overnight trips (permit required).

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho
Yellowstone's winter activities include cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, wildlife watching, snow-coach tours, and hunkering down by the fireplace in the Old Faithful Snow Lodge & Cabins. Of the cross-country trails, Fairy Falls near Old Faithful is one of the best, running about three miles to a giant ice stalactite of a waterfall.

Glacier National Park, Montana
You won't hear the roar of snowmobiles in Glacier, as it’s not permitted within the park’s boundaries. Instead you’ll find a peaceful backdrop for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The trails near the park's southern border, accessed from the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, are some of Montana's best.

Published: 30 Nov 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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