Key Takeaways:

  1. Winter transforms national parks into serene landscapes, offering clearer views and ethereal scenery with fewer crowds.
  2. The season provides exclusive wildlife viewing, unique photographic opportunities, and special winter-only activities like snowshoeing and skiing.
  3. Partnering with organizations like Road Scholar, visitors can experience educational and expert-led tours, enhancing their winter national park adventure.


inter's arrival transforms the national parks into ethereal landscapes, offering a unique and serene experience. During this "secret season," the usual crowds diminish, allowing for a more personal and peaceful exploration of nature’s wonders. 

Discover eight compelling reasons to venture into these majestic parks during the winter months. And, find out about the enriching opportunities presented by Road Scholar, an organization renowned for its educational tours, including unique winter national park experiences.

Here Are 8 Reasons Why You Should Visit National Parks this Winter:

1. Experience the Serene Winter Scenery

The serene winter scenery is perhaps the most compelling reason to visit national parks in the colder months. The season brings a cool blanket of snow that gives the already beautiful landscape a pristine and serene feeling. There's a kind of hush all over the land that sprawls to the far horizon. 

For example, in places like the Grand Canyon National Park, the winter months often offer clearer skies. Mountain peaks some 200 miles away can be visible from some viewing spots on a clear winter day! 

Or, in Yellowstone, Glacier, and Rocky Mountain national parks, the landscapes become even more striking against winter’s icy backdrop when the muted light bathes all in an ethereal glow. Yellowstone’s famous geysers appear even more stunning in the cool air. And, Yellowstone offers its famous guided snow coach tours to shuttle visitors around the park in winter!

2.  Enjoy the Peace of Fewer Crowds

Another significant advantage of visiting national parks in winter is the reduced crowds. Frigid winter weather in parks like Glacier, Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone may deter many visitors, but it guarantees a slower pace and more peace and solitude than in peak periods. 

True park aficionados love this time- when they can commune with nature undisturbed and untrammeled by the masses. With only a handful of people on park trails, it can feel like you have them all to yourself. For instance, in the winter season, the Grand Canyon experiences a significant decrease in visitor numbers per National Park Statistics, with Jan and Feb averaging 50% fewer visitors compared to other times of the year.

3. Participate in Winter-Only Activities

Winter is the time to embrace snow-based sports and activities in the national parks. Snowshoeing, skiing, and snowmobiling are wonderful ways to experience off-the-beaten-path spots. 

Yellowstone, for example, is a paradise for cross-country skiers, with more than 100 miles of trails for all ability levels, and the roads are groomed for snowmobiles (and snow coaches). 

4. Witness Spectacular Wildlife 

Winter also brings some of the best wildlife-viewing opportunities in the parks, when the heightened contrast against the snowy scenery makes the animals more visible — especially the larger animals. 

For example, in Carlsbad Canyon, experience the desert's charm with sightings of mule deer, clever coyotes, and swift jackrabbits. Yoho National Park is a treasure trove of wildlife diversity, boasting elk, moose, deer, mountain goats, and rare sightings of wolverines and lynx.

Each park presents a unique opportunity to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural habitats.

5. Marvel at the Stargazing Opportunities

Many national parks are recognized for their dark skies, making them fantastic for stargazing. Parks like Death Valley and the Grand Canyon offer clear, unpolluted skies for viewing constellations and celestial events. These stargazing experiences can be awe-inspiring and deeply moving, especially in the quiet of winter.

6. Enjoy Milder Climates in Some Parks

During winter, some of the typically hot national parks become pleasantly mild, offering an ideal setting for outdoor activities. 

Death Valley, notorious for its scorching summer temperatures reaching up to 120°F, cools down to a comfortable mid-60s or 50s during December and January. Similarly, Joshua Tree National Park in California, known for its high desert landscape, experiences daytime temperatures in the 60s during the winter months, making it an excellent time for hiking. The average temperature in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in December is 73°F and a low of 65°F, perfect for hiking and exploring an active volcano.

Parks in Southern Utah, including Bryce, Arches, Zion, and Canyonlands, which can see summer temperatures soaring above 100°F, become more hospitable in winter. The Grand Canyon also drops from its high summer temperatures to more moderate conditions in late winter. 

However, it's important to remember that while daytime temperatures can be pleasant in these desert parks during winter, temperatures often drop significantly at night. 

7. Capture Unique Photographic Opportunities

The winter landscape in national parks provides unique photographic opportunities. The snow-covered terrain, along with the winter light, creates stunning scenes, ideal for capturing breathtaking photographs. For example, Denali National Park in Alaska offers such diverse wildlife with its grizzly and black bears, caribou, moose, Dall sheep, wolves, foxes, lynx, marmots, and a wide variety of birds, allowing for great photo opportunities! 

8. And Finally, Benefit from Fewer Bugs!

A cool-weather vacation offers the added benefit of encountering fewer mosquitoes. These insects thrive in temperatures over 80°F but struggle to survive when temperatures dip below 50°F. This makes winter an ideal season for those looking to avoid mosquito bites!

Visiting national parks in winter offers a blend of tranquility, adventure, and natural beauty, making it an ideal time for those who prefer a quieter yet equally captivating experience. Whether it's for the serene scenery, unique wildlife viewing, engaging in winter sports, or simply enjoying the peacefulness, national parks have something special to offer in winter.

Discover the Adventure of a Lifetime with Road Scholar

To enrich your experience of visiting national parks in the winter, consider exploring with Road Scholar, an organization dedicated to creating unforgettable learning adventures. Road Scholar, known for its expert-led educational tours, offers programs specifically designed to delve into the beauty and wonders of national parks during the winter season.

What Road Scholar Offers:

  • Educational Tours: Road Scholar’s tours are more than just sightseeing. They combine the joy of discovering new places with learning about the natural and cultural history of the area.
  • Expert Guides: Each adventure is led by knowledgeable guides who provide in-depth insights and stories that bring the park to life. 
  • Tailored Experiences: Whether you're interested in wildlife, photography, or the geological wonders of the parks, Road Scholar designs its programs to cater to a wide range of interests and activity levels.
  • Specifically Designed for Older Adults: Road Scholar is committed to the belief that life should be lived to the fullest at any age. Their adventures are thoughtfully tailored for older adults, focusing on comfort and accessibility to ensure a fulfilling experience. 
  • Ideal for Solo Travelers: Road Scholars tours are perfect for solo travelers, offering a safe and welcoming environment. Participants can enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded individuals while exploring new places.
  • Hassle-Free Experience: With meticulous attention to detail, Road Scholar handles all aspects of the journey, from itinerary planning to accommodations, offering a stress-free, enjoyable adventure for all participants.
  • Unbeatable Value: As a nonprofit, Road Scholar focuses on enriching educational experiences rather than profit-making. With support from generous donors, they offer their high-quality programs at affordable prices, providing exceptional value to participants.

How to Go on an Adventure:

  1. Choose Your Park: Road Scholar offers trips to various national parks, each with its own unique winter charm. Select a park that piques your interest, be it the geothermal wonders of Yellowstone or the serene beauty of the Grand Canyon.
  2. Select a Program: Browse through the available programs on Road Scholar's website to find one that aligns with your interests and physical abilities.
  3. Prepare for the Journey: Once you've chosen a program, Road Scholar provides all the information you need to prepare, from packing lists to itinerary details.

Joining a Road Scholar tour means you'll not only witness the breathtaking beauty of national parks in winter but also gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of these natural treasures. It's an opportunity to combine leisure with learning, adventure with camaraderie, and to make memories that will last a lifetime.

For more information and to find a tour that resonates with your adventurous spirit, visit Road Scholar’s website.

Jan 8, 2024

Classes by:

Megan Fox

View All
No items found.