BY ALEX MORRIS

North America is graced with some of the most incredible landscapes in the world, and the best ones are preserved in the 106 national parks in the U.S. and Canada. There’s something to learn in each of these National Parks year-round, but some of these famous landscapes are better during winter time – and offer smaller crowds for more exclusive experiences. 


Whether you’re looking for a warm winter getaway or interested in exploring a snowy winter wonderland on skis or snowshoes—there’s a National Park for every type of traveler and learner to visit in winter. Road Scholar has created a list of the best national parks in winter where snow adventures and volcano exploration make this season an adventure in travel.

 

1 | Yellowstone

  • Average high temperature in December + January: 23°F (average annual snowfall: 150 inches)
  • Average high temperature in February: 46°F

Watch herds of snow-dusted buffalo as you journey across miles of winter wonderland via snowcoach, snowmobile, snowshoes or skis in Yellowstone National Park. Learn about geology of the park as you witness the steaming bubbles of Old Faithful in winter, mighty towering waterfalls, and learn about how flora and fauna adapt in winter.

What to Know: From Mammoth Hot Springs to the northeast entrance is the only road that remains open year round. Here is the fun part: in winter you can access most of the park via snowmobile or snowcoach. Just remember to dress warmly because snowmobiling through Yellowstone is a very cold but beautiful experience. 

Road Scholar Tours of Yellowstone: There are many adventures offered through Road Scholar. One of our best national parks in winter is the Yellowstone Safari.

2 | Everglades

  • Average temperatures from December through April: 77°F

Prefer an escape from the colder temperatures up north? Follow the birds to Florida and kayak or cycle through Everglades National Park. The Everglades are a birder’s delight in winter, as our feathered friends fly from all over the U.S. to nest during Florida’s dry season. Learn why the birds lay their eggs in Florida during winter and enjoy the subtropical sunshine of South Florida.

What To Know: There are three entrances to Everglades National Park, and they are many hours apart by car. To experience the ultimate Everglades wildlife up close, visit Shark Valley or the Homestead national park entrance. For an unforgettable experience mingling with alligators and birds, take a boat to the Everglades City entrance. Best time to see wildlife is in the winter! 


Road Scholar Tours of the Everglades: One of our favorite tours of the Everglades

 

3 | The Grand Canyon

  • Average temperatures from December to February on the rim range from 20-43°F (average annual snowfall: 8-12 inches)

Spanning 277 miles from end to end, this natural wonder is one of America’s most famous landmarks. Capture the beauty of the snow-covered canyon contrasted with the red rocks of nearby Sedona—a destination perfect for practicing your winter photography. Sedona is a lovely destination to celebrate the holidays, with lots of festivities and sparkling lights to enjoy, and the Grand Canyon’s candlelight service at the “Shrine of Ages” is a special sight to behold.

What To Know: Right now the Grand Canyon National Park does not require reservations to enter the park, and there is no timed entry. The South Rim is open year-round but the North Rim is closed during the winter season (it'll reopen on May 15, 2022). The first thing you need to do is secure your Grand Canyon National Park pass. It costs $35 per car and is good for a  week. Come with a full tank of gas because there is only one gas station inside the park. 

Hopi Point is a peaceful lookout point to watch the sunrise. And at the highest elevation, Navajo Point provides an almost 360-view of the canyon and Colorado River.


Road Scholar Tours of the Grand Canyon: Road Scholar offers more than a dozen tours in and around the Grand Canyon. One of our favorite tours of the Grand Canyon National Park to visit in winter is A Grand Christmas at the Grand Canyon.

 

  

4 | Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

  • Average high temperature for December through February: 68°F

Mythology, ecology, geology and more: there is so much to learn in Hawaii all year ‘round! The dryer, temperate climate makes winter a perfect time to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to study craters and enjoy a nighttime visit when lava flows and glows at the bottom of the clouds near the tops of the surrounding cliffs.

 

5 | Saguaro National Park

  • Average high in winter: 65°F

While the bears up north hibernate and the birds have flown south for the winter, Saguaro National Park is teeming with life. Learn about the hidden oases beneath the façade of the barren cacti-spotted desert. Hike among those saguaros across out-wash plains, bahada hillsides, foothills and desert dry washes as you learn about the world’s most recognized cactus.

 

6 | Grand Tetons

  • Average high temperature in December through January: 26-31°F (average annual snowfall: 28-43 inches)

Bundle up and head to the Grand Tetons this winter — a snowy paradise just waiting to be explored. Ride in a horse-drawn sleigh or mush a dog-sled team through Granite Canyon to natural hot springs as 7,000 wintering elk surround you. Learn about these locals at the National Elk Refuge, and ride a chairlift to the top of Snow King Mountain for stunning views of the sparkling Tetons in winter.

 

7 | Death Valley

  • Average high temperature December through February: 65-73°F

For those who can’t take the heat of the extreme 80-120F days in Death Valley for much of the year (which is most of us), winter is the ideal time to visit this world-famous National Park. Explore the golden hills, narrow canyons, salt flats and sand dunes that make up this beautiful and fascinating landscape. Learn about geology and how the plants and animals survive in this extreme climate.

 

8 | Big Bend

  • Average high temperature December through February: 60-67°F

Discover the mystique of a land that early Spanish explorers called “El Despoblado” – the empty land. Big Bend National Park in West Texas is home to three ecosystems with mountain peaks, deserts springs and river trails. Winter weather in Big Bend is perfect for hiking along the Rio Grande and a refreshing soak in the hot springs during cooler winter evenings.

 


Ready to plan your winter trip to one of these amazing National Parks? Need help narrowing down the list? Give us a call at 800-454-5768 or see our complete collection of National Park learning adventures.

Anonymous
  • I hate to point out errors but the average temp for Yellowstone in February is not 46F.  Here is a link to the official YNP website which shows an average high of 34F/1.1C for February. Even for Gardiner MT which is at the North entrance and at a low elevation compared to Yellowstone, the average high is well below 46F.

    www.nps.gov/.../weather.htm

    By the way - actual temps can be way below that.  I've been in winter when the temp in the AM was -32 (yes, that is 32 below zero and my eyelashes froze!)

    Oops...

  • I love RS--about to go on a Hawaii program.  However... though I can spot some saguaros in the background of your shot for Saguaro National Park, and the picture may indeed have been taken in the park, the two lovely specimens featured are organ pipes.  Oops.

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