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The best national parks to visit in the winter are (as you might imagine) the ones in the southern half of the United States.
But that doesn’t mean you have to travel clear down toward the border to experience winter national parks without freezing.
Different regions of the country feature various climates that make it possible to visit some in the winter. And some areas might surprise you.
We put together this list of national parks to help you plan and prepare for your trip during colder months. Let’s jump right in.
Why You Should Visit National Parks in the Winter
Many national parks will feature fewer crowds and easier access to gateway towns during the winter.
You’ll likely find hotels, campgrounds, restaurants, and shops near the park easier to get into and more affordable.
Also, even though we feature some that don’t freeze over for the winter, many of the parks we’ll explore here still get beautiful dustings of snow that enhance the park’s beauty.
Challenges to Visiting National Parks in the Winter
Even the southernmost reaches of the United States can experience freezing temps. If you RV to these national parks, you’ll want to ensure your RV can withstand the climate without freezing pipes or peeps.
Another challenge can be access. Always plan ahead when visiting parks in the winter because certain roads or sections may close for the season.
Lastly, the towns around national parks are heavily dependent on tourists. As a result, many businesses only run seasonal operations during the most popular times of the year and then close for the winter season.
Which National Park Is Warm in the Winter?
The warmest national park in the winter is Dry Tortugas National Park.
With an average February high of 76 degrees Fahrenheit and an average low of 65 degrees, you likely won’t ever need more than a light jacket. It lies about 70 miles west of Key West, Fla.
Which National Park Has the Most Snow?
Mount Rainier National Park consistently ranks as one of the snowiest national parks, averaging anywhere from 50-90 feet in snowfall yearly.
But, this isn’t a park you’d want to — or even could — visit during the winter. Snowfall shuts down roads and makes them impassible.
If you want to visit other parks with snow, take a trip to Bryce Canyon or Arches National Parks in Utah. They remain open and have the potential for snowfall, creating beautiful winter scenes.
However, these aren’t the only best national parks to visit in winter.
The Best National Parks to Visit in the Winter
The best national parks to visit in the winter offer a terrific blend of accessibility and beauty during the year’s coldest months.
We chose these parks based on their location in milder climates, overall beauty, and ease of access.
Arches National Park
Location: Moab, Utah
Average Winter Temperature: This park averages winter highs of 40 and lows of 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Why You Should Visit in the Winter: Arches features generally sunny weather to keep you toasty(ish) during the day.
You can check out the iconic sandstone towers, arches, and hikes that compose this park in Utah’s Mighty Five.
About: Nestled in southwestern Utah, this park features over 2,000 sandstone arches and a web of hiking trails ripe for exploring.
Because it’s in Utah’s high desert, you’ll see mountains in the distance and can often experience dustings of snow at Arches. The snowfall is beautiful — especially in that warm sunlight, usually not too far away.
Big Bend National Park
Location: Big Bend National Park, Texas (southern tip of the state).
Average Winter Temperature: Big Ben National Park experiences an average high of 57 and a low of 36 degrees.
Why You Should Visit in the Winter: This is one of the best national parks to visit in the winter due to its mild desert weather with calm sunny days. You can enjoy pleasant hiking temps that’ll keep you rolling through the park.
About: Big Bend is far removed from civilization. And it features some of the highest peaks in the Southwest juxtaposed against a seemingly endless prairie.
Big Bend is also personified by large canyons, creating visual masterpieces. Many hiking trails in the park take you in, around, and down these canyons.
Pro Tip: Get prepared for camping this winter with this list of our favorite Camping Gear for Cold Weather!
Death Valley National Park
Location: Death Valley, California (eastern California on the Nevada border)
Average Winter Temperature: This park sees average highs of 74 and lows of 46 degrees.
Why You Should Visit in the Winter: As one of the warmest winter national parks, you’ll have great weather when you visit Death Valley in the winter.
The brutally hot summers make visiting another time of year unbearable and dangerous. So winter offers you the chance to see many more sites without melting.
About: Within this park, you’ll find salt flats, one of the driest deserts in the world, and a ghost town.
Additionally, movie sets such as Star Wars and many more make up this iconic national park. It’s a very interesting place to visit due to the desert landscapes and hikes you can experience.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Location: Key West, Florida
Average Winter Temperature: Come enjoy summery highs in the 70s and lows in the mid-60s.
Why You Should Visit in the Winter: What could be better than a historic site in the Florida Keys with oceans, epic wildlife, and wonderful hikes at your fingertips? I bet you can’t snorkel in December at any other park.
About: Home to Fort Jefferson, a 19th-century landmark, and nestled in the Florida Keys, this national park is a must-see.
It features over seven islands, protected coral reefs, and sea turtle viewing off loggerhead reef. You can camp on the beach and go swimming, snorkeling, diving, boating, and more.
Everglades National Park
Location: 40001 State Road 9336, Homestead, FL 33034
Average Winter Temperature: Florida may feel like paradise with an average high of 73 and a low of 56 degrees at this national park.
Why You Should Visit in the Winter: This massive natural expanse features some of the best wildlife viewings in the world.
Visiting this park in the winter means you’ll experience milder weather. In summer, temps can be scorchingly humid with extra bugs.
About: The Everglades is a 1.5 million-acre wetland in Southern Florida. Camping and wildlife viewing opportunities abound.
This park is also very close to Miami, allowing you to experience a fun city life after enjoying some time in nature.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Location: Bryce, Utah
Average Winter Temperature: Bryce Canyon has an average high of 38 and a low of 13 degrees in the winter, but it has lots to love.
Why You Should Visit in the Winter: This is one of the colder national parks on our list to visit in the winter, but still one of the best.
Visits here will reward travelers with views of this iconic red canyon dusted with white snow. It’s a beautiful sight, and even though it can snow, it’s usually a light dusting followed by sunny days in the park.
About: Bryce is known for its hoodoos, large towering red rock formations, and a large and beautiful canyon. It makes a beautiful place for camping, RVing, epic hiking, and mountain biking.
Saguaro National Park
Location: Tucson, Arizona
Average Winter Temperature: The average high of 66 and low of 39 degrees makes this a pleasant spot for a winter vacation.
Why You Should Visit in the Winter: Tucson is a snowbird’s mecca because of warm and sunny winter days with cool, crisp evenings. Saguaro National Park makes one of the best ones to visit in the winter.
It encircles the northern end of Tucson, which features some of the world’s largest and most beautiful cacti.
About: Saguaro features two zones on the east and west sides of Tucson, Ariz. The park has many scenic hikes, backcountry tent camping opportunities, and fun city life just a stone’s throw away.
You can see the Saguaro cacti throughout the park and terrific natural beauties alongside them.
Keep in Mind: Start planning your winter escape with this Saguaro National Park Camping Guide to plan your next Arizona getaway!
Petrified Forest National Park
Location: Near Holbrook, Arizona
Average Winter Temperature: Winter in this national park has an average high of 55 and a low of 26 degrees.
Why You Should Visit in the Winter: The Petrified Forest in southeastern Arizona is the last on our list of the best national parks to visit in the winter.
It lies in a region you probably want to see in the winter anyway. With sunny days and cool nights, you can check out the park’s well-known forests with fewer crowds and pleasant weather.
About: As the name implies, this park features petrified wood forests that blast with color. The Rainbow Forest, for example, is a site to behold. The park also features ancient petroglyphs carved into Newspaper Rock.
And you can explore the ruins of a large Native American city called Puerco Pueblo that dates back to 1300 AD.
Find Your Version of a Winter Wonderland in a National Park
Winter is a terrific time to visit certain national parks. The weather at many northern parks can be so extreme that these places close many of their most popular attractions.
By seeking out national parks like the ones we’ve listed above, you can continue hiking, biking, and many outdoor activities during the thick of winter.
You can find fun adventures or even a summery paradise to escape the cold.
At some of these winter parks, you’ll benefit from lower crowds and easier access to the most popular spots.
So which ones will you head to this winter?