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12 North American National Parks to Visit This Winter for Epic Adventures

For some, winter means putting away your camping gear and trail runners and settling in for a few months until spring. The cold temperatures and short days can make it hard to find the motivation to get outdoors. However, there are at least a dozen North American national parks that are great to visit in the winter. 

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From beautiful winter wonderlands to finding relief from the freezing temperatures, here are some amazing destinations to ditch the winter blues.

Winter Wonderlands

These destinations are for those who love the winter weather, can handle cold conditions and appreciate the beauty of snow-covered landscapes.

Rocky Mountain National Park

RMNP snow
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Heading to Colorado in the wintertime is always a popular choice. The state is known for its world-class ski resorts, but you can also find some solitude at Rocky Mountain National Park. The well-known destination is way quieter in the winter, and it’s easy to hike with snowshoes in this snow-covered landscape. Plus, you can still ski, snowboard, or tube at the park in Hidden Valley, a former ski resort.

Glacier National Park

visit Glacier in the winter
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Heading north of Colorado, the Rocky Mountains will eventually lead you to Glacier National Park. While many sections of the park do close for winter, which starts in early fall, there are still plenty of spots to explore. Winter visitors can travel through the park on cross-country skis, and if you’re brave enough, there are campsites available too. Just be prepared for temperatures that stay below freezing most days.

Banff National Park

Banff cold
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Want to head even further north? The ultimate North American national park for the winter may be Canada’s Banff National Park. This destination is one of the most popular national parks in the world. Besides the park’s breathtaking views, visitors can enjoy unique ways to get outdoors. There are plenty of guide services that will take people dog sledding and even on horse-drawn sleigh rides.

Voyageurs National Park

winter camping
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Back in the U.S., one of the quietest winter escapes will take you to northern Minnesota. Voyageurs National Park may very well be the coldest destination on the list, with January and February averaging below zero degrees Fahrenheit overnight. However, Voyageurs is unique as the area goes from a popular canoeing destination to a fantastic place for ice fishing and snowmobiling

Yosemite National Park

Winter national park visits
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Yosemite National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the country. The park is also one of the most crowded, sometimes with gridlocked roadways. For a truly unique experience and to avoid these crowds, you can head to the park in the winter. Just be aware that many parts of the park are inaccessible to cars during this time of year. However, you can still take in the snow-covered views from Yosemite Valley.

Pacific Rim National Park

Canada national park
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You’ll want to dress warmly and bring waterproof layers as you head to this Canadian national park near Vancouver. Pacific Rim National Park is on Vancouver Island, just north of Washington State. You can expect plenty of wet weather, as you would in the Pacific Northwest, but snow chances are slim. The park is located between the ocean and mountains, so there are views all around. Pacific Rim is an excellent destination for those who enjoy warming up with hot chocolate after a long day on a chilly coast.

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Get out of the Cold

If you’re looking for some warmer temperatures and some extra sunlight, these are the destinations for you.

White Sands National Park

sleds in white sands
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If you want to go sledding but not in the snow, White Sands National Park may be for you. While temperatures can still drop below freezing overnight, most days will get into the low 50s and 60s. The southern New Mexico destination is known for its white gypsum dunes throughout the park, and many visitors bring a saucer to slide down the hills. Basically, this desert park looks snow-covered, just without the icy temperatures.

Virgin Islands National Park

virgin islands
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You can go totally tropical at Virgin Islands National Park. The Caribbean destination is packed with history, trails, and, of course, beautiful beaches. A good chunk of the park (40%) is underwater, and visitors can enjoy fish and other wildlife while snorkeling. There is a campground within the park, but guests will also find plenty of nearby hotels and resorts.

Cabo Pulmo National Park

winter destinations
A nearby beach in Cabo. (Source: Jordan Siemens/Getty Images)

Located on Mexico’s California Baja Peninsula, Cabo Pulmo National Park is a great winter destination. Most days will be in the 70s, and visitors can snorkel to coral reefs, search for hidden beaches, and see plenty of wildlife. It is not uncommon to see sea lions and whales while on the beach. The park sits about 60 miles from the famous resort town of Cabo San Lucas. 

Congaree National Park

winter national parks
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If you want warmer weather while avoiding the crowds in Florida, you can head to one of the least-visited national parks in the lower 48 states. Congaree National Park is a great alternative for East Coast visitors, with the park centrally located in South Carolina. Visitors can learn about the marshlands that make up the park, see massive trees, and canoe the wetlands. The best part of visiting Congaree in the winter is avoiding the hordes of mosquitoes.

Death Valley National Park

death valley in the winter
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It makes sense that if you want to ditch that winter chill, you head to one of the hottest places on the planet. While you won’t find the scorching triple-digit temperatures in Death Valley National Park, you will find some pleasant weather. The temperatures range from the 40s overnight to around 60 or 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. The temperatures make it a lot easier to visit the park and enjoy the trails without the threat of extreme heat.

Cumbres de Monterrey National Park

north american national parks
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Just because it’s cold in most places doesn’t mean you need to go to the beach. You can still enjoy mountain views, hiking, and even some rock climbing in Cumbres de Monterrey National Park. Located outside Monterrey, New Mexico, the park has rugged terrain and towering peaks. Plus, visitors will find waterfalls and rivers throughout the park. Like any mountainous area, you can expect cooler weather, but with most days in the 50s, you’ll have ideal hiking temperatures.

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