If you want to see the best winter landscapes that nature has to offer, you'll need to head to a national park when there's snow on the ground. In the winter, the only way to traverse immense expanses of rugged landscape is on snowshoe. Here are five of the best national parks in the U.S. for the perfect snowshoeing adventure. Don't let the cold weather deter you from experiencing the stunning scenery.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park features 415 square miles of pristine mountain terrain with more than 300 miles of hiking trails and peaks topping out at roughly 12,000 feet. Although the park is a popular destination for hiking during spring, summer, and fall, when winter hits, the crowds thin out. Lower elevations don’t typically see much snow, but as you ascend in elevation, the snow can get quite deep and blizzard-like conditions are common.
Despite the harsh weather, the months of January, February, and March offer pristine cross-country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities. You can snowshoe on most of the trails and witness the mountains in all their snow-capped winter glory. Just remember to come prepared — temperatures on the mountains can sometimes reach -35 degrees Fahrenheit!
Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park is known for its incredible waterfalls, valleys, domed mountains, and staggering giant sequoias. Most people like to visit the park in the fall when the leaves are changing color, but in winter, the landscape changes into a completely different world. The contrast of the mountains and snow with the deep blue sky enhances the landscape. Waterfalls and rivers freeze, while an eerie fog floats through the valleys.
During winter months, Yosemite is fun for the whole family and not just extreme adventurers. Many trails remain open for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, while some slopes are used for downhill skiing and snowboarding and include chair lifts. For people looking to try a winter activity for the first time, lessons and equipment rentals are available right in the park. Snow tubing, sledding, and ice skating are other available activities for those in search of a less strenuous winter activity.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Unlike Yosemite, Acadia National Park in Maine is meant for extreme adventurers only in the winter. Although the park remains open year-round, the steep hiking trails are not maintained in the winter and can become icy and dangerous. The carriage trails, however, are maintained and are perfect for snowshoeing.
The carriage trails were built by John D. Rockefeller to transport rich tourists around to see the landscape. By following these trails, you can snowshoe around beautiful Eagle Lake or continue on to watch the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crash over the rocks.
Yellowstone National Park; Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
Yellowstone National Park is unique no matter what season you visit in. The sweeping landscapes, geothermal pools, geysers, and wildlife can be enjoyed year-round. When winter comes, the crowds thin out and those brave enough to tough out the harsh weather can enjoy unrivaled tranquility.
If you want to see wildlife, Yellowstone is the place to be in the winter. Sixty-seven species of mammal call the park home including bears, bison, bighorn sheep, elk, moose, and wolves. Many species remain active during this frosty season. The park features 3,472 square miles of land, so in order to find wildlife in warmer months, you have to do some searching. In the winter, however, the animals tend to migrate to warmer areas of the park — the hot springs. Snowshoeing is the best way to reach the springs with more than 1,000 miles of hiking trails to explore.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Bryce Canyon National Park is known for its fiery red rocks. During warmer months, the rocks are unique on their own, but in winter, they become otherworldly. The white snow makes the orange hue of the rocks much more vibrant and creates a spectacular environment for exploring trails.
Sledding and skiing are prohibited in the park due to steep slopes and drop-offs, but snowshoeing is encouraged. The Bryce Canyon Snowshoe Program offers ranger-guided tours designed to teach beginners how to snowshoe and allow intermediate and advanced winter hikers to explore more difficult terrain. They even offer free equipment rentals for anyone that joins the program.