10 National Parks That Are Better in Winter

Big Bend National Park, Texas (Photo: National Park Service)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on February 17, 2014. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: Big Bend National Park, Bryce Canyon, Crater Lake, destination, Grand Canyon, Jamie Moore, national park, Sequoia National Park, Yellowstone National Park.

Bryce Canyon National Park (Photo: National Park Service)

Since Punxsutawney Phil is predicting six more weeks of winter, why not give the season one last hurrah. We tracked down countless wintry pleasures worth bundling up for at 10 great national parks. Read on to find out where you can drive on an ice road, see snow beards on bison, venture out on the best ranger-led snowshoe walks, stargaze some of the country's darkest skies, and—in case you're not embracing winter—snorkel in glorious denial.


Yellowstone National Park

At Yellowstone, the weirdest and most wonderful anomalies happen in winter. Cold air enhances even the smallest steamy thermal feature, and below-freezing temps can turn geyser rain into ice pellets. Frozen hydrothermal mist hangs in the air as ice fog, the sun glimmering through the floating crystals. It coats "ghost" trees, giving them an eerie appearance especially after a dusting of snow. In winter, snowshoe hares turn white, bison get snow beards, and tiny yellow monkey flowers grow near hot springs.

If You Go: Take a wildlife excursion in a historic Bombardier snow coach. Winter is the best time to see the park's reintroduced wolves running through fields and herding pups in the Lamar Valley. Photo tours lead you to the most dramatic Yellowstone sites. There are also guided snowshoeing and snowmobiling excursions. Two new skier shuttles whisk you to tree-lined trails and geyser viewpoints.

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