You don’t have stay to holed up inside all winter. This is the best time of year to get some hikes and nature in at some of the nation’s most iconic national parks.
Here’s a list of some of the best national parks to visit during winter.
1. Joshua Tree National Park, California
Joshua trees are evergreen, so they don’t shift or lose their needles during the winter. The area is great for bouldering, with rock formations created from molten liquid that “oozed upward and cooled while still below the surface,” according to the National Park Service.
The night skies are also incomparable because of the sheer size of the park and openness of the desert.
“Winter temperatures can reach 60°F, making it the opportune time to visit the otherwise-sweltering Joshua Tree,” Wilderness.org writes.
Palm Springs is also just an hour away, where there are resorts and shopping for the less outdoorsy types.
2. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
Temperatures inside the caves remain the same year-round, so ranger-led and self-led tours are open year-round. The park hosts multiple entrances and tours, and the striking formations and big open spaces offer a window into understanding the world beneath us.
3. Zion National Park, Utah
Each year, 4.5 million people flood this national park, according to Condé Nast. It’s popular for a reason. One perk of going in winter means it’s much less crowded, and the snow can make for some spectacular views contrasting on the iconic red rocks.
Canyon Overlook is a great spot that is normally overrun with people during busier times, and hiking Emerald Pool Trail is another great spot. Just make sure you have shoes with good traction and stay far from the edge.
4. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
Located off the coast of Florida on a small island, getting to Dry Tortugas National Park is very much a day trip, but it’s worth it.
Because it’s Florida, it remains somewhat balmy year-round, and ranger-guided tours that take you on a ferry to the island offer a glimpse into the history of Florida and America.
5. Death Valley National Park, Nevada
Beat the heat in the hottest place on earth by visiting Death Valley National Park in the winter. The park offers colorful badlands and moderate temperatures in winter. Condé Nast recommends watching the sunrise at Zabriskie Point and taking a hike through Golden Canyon.
6. Everglades National Park, Florida
The Everglades can provide a sunny escape during the winter months, as well as intimate interactions with swamp wildlife like alligators, turtles, frogs, fish and many species of birds. There’s also less rain during winter months and cooler days, Travel+Leisure reported.
You can easily book airboat tours just outside the park to get the feel of swamp adventuring or you could rent a bike inside the park to get around.
7. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Because the mountain is home to “the continental U.S.’s most glaciated peak,” it’s often covered in snow, even in the summer. Visiting the park in winter means enjoying the scenic winter views with more prep for the winter weather. Condé Nast recommends a guided snowshoe walk and warming up in the National Park Inn.
8. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Seeing the iconic orange hoodoo spires topped with snow makes clear the fact that some of the most popular hiking trails do close in the winter. You can still catch spectacular views from Sunrise and Sunset Points, and driving the Highway 63 is still open. Travel+Leisure recommends a snowshoe hike.
9. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Is there anything more American than the Grand Canyon? It’s the only place Ron Swanson on “Parks and Recreation” says it’s OK for a man to cry. He includes it for a reason — even though men can cry anytime they like. The north rim closes, but the south rim stays open all year. Winter might be the only time you can view the vistas without tons of people also clamoring for a view.
10. Saguaro National Park, Arizona
Sunny Arizona has a sunset on its flag for a reason. It’s a great place to catch some rays. It’s easily accessible by a 11⁄2-to-2-hour drive from Phoenix and can offer incredible looks at saguaro that could be over 200 years old.
11. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Of course Hawaii made the winter list. Winter is the peak season for the volcanic mountain and offers unique looks into black sand beaches. Condé Nast recommends taking the Circle of Fire helicopter tour if you’re ready to drop some cash to get an aerial view of the area.