One of the best times to visit some of our beautiful national parks is during the winter. We’re going to tell you which ones so you can plan a campervan winter getaway.
We recommend visiting all of the national parks in the United States in the winter. However, some have piqued our interest more than others when it comes to this time of the year. Whether it’s the crisp snowy weather, less crowded visits, or particular activities that are only available in the winter – we share our favorites with you today.
If you want to plan the ultimate experience, why not visit the parks in a Travellers Autobarn campervan. This way, you can stay right in the park, move about as you please, and escape to the warmth of your blanket and hot cocoa anytime you feel just a bit too chilly. So book your fully-loaded campervan and get ready for the ultimate trip to one (or many) of the best national parks to take your campervan in the winter.
Picture this: 1,300 square miles of huge Sequoia trees you’ve been dreaming about, glistening white snow and the majestic bison strolling through the snow-layered canyon. Can you tell me a better time to see rarities like the General Sherman Tree- the most massive tree on Earth?
And it doesn’t stop there. There are several fun activities to try in Sequoia and Kings in the winter, like the Crystal Cave, King’s Canyon, and Moro Rock. Break out your snowshoes and skis and get ready for an adventure through the newly white landscapes.
There are also hills for sledding. Are you someone who lives in a place with little or no snow but always wondered what it would be like to do all those traditional winter activities? Well, here is your opportunity to try them!
Yosemite National Park, located in the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, is stunning in the winter months. Some parts are closed in the winter; however, many are open year-round to offer you a view of massive granite cliffs and ancient trees under the blanket of snow.
Badger Pass Road is plowed during the winter months to allow access to its beautiful ski area. Here you can do downhill and cross-country skiing. If it’s hiking you’re after, your options will be more limited, but still possible in Yosemite Valley and Wawona.
And if you’re ready to move inside for a break from the cold, or you’re not much of an outdoorsman, there are scenic drives that will blow you away! You’ll make memories that you will never forget. Don’t forget to take pictures!
I think we’d be pretty crazy not to mention Glacier National Park, in northwest Montana, in a post about parks to take a campervan during the winter. I mean, when would be the best time to see glaciers? Enough said.
With its incredible geology, Glacier is simply magical, especially during the winter. Apgar Village, 11 miles of Going-to-the-Sun Road, and about a mile on the east side of the park, are maintained during the winter and available for you to explore. Be sure to check that the roads are open before you start your journey!
Glacier National Park is a phenomenal place to break out the cross country skis or snowshoes. Snowshoe walks and tours in these open areas are available for you to book to get the most out of your time there. The Apgar visitor center is open during the winter months if you plan to DIY it and want to get tips and advice from park rangers.
The trails! Oh, the trails! Almost all of them stay open during the winter. Even if you’ve hiked there before, you’re in for an entirely new experience in the winter months. Can you imagine the striking red sandstone set against the contrast of a fresh layer of snow? We can!
Our favorite part of Zion is The Narrows hike! But there’s also Angels Landing, Hidden Canyon, Observation Point, too many to name them all!
Just remember, some of the hikes- particularly the Narrows where it starts cooling off in the evenings in the Summer- can get pretty chilly. So make sure to account for that with the proper hiking gear — a dry suit, or a dry pack.
The scenic canyon drive is open during the winter as well, and it’s one you will not want to miss. The shuttle doesn’t run in the winter, but with a converted campervan, you’ll be fine to make the drive yourself. And with far fewer visitors in the winter, you won’t be stuck in heavy traffic or struggling to find parking for photo ops.
First off, you should know that Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, reports nearly two million fewer visitors in the winter months. So you can enjoy the snow-covered scenery in solitude.
Not all activities are possible during the heavy snow months, but what is available is so very worth the trip. You can take a snowmobile or snowcoach tour around the park to spot wildlife and other notable sights like Old Faithful.
Just down the road at Grand Teton National Park, you can go snowshoeing and skiing in the areas that remain open in the winter. You can also book a wildlife tour, which is pretty amazing during the winter. The winter is when many of the big animals like moose, elk, bison, and sheep are out and about enjoying the chilly weather. You can also take in the beautiful Teton mountain range.
If you’d like to take a drive, note that the inner portions of the scenic drive are closed in the winter. The outer three miles in either direction are usually open in the winter months.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Free of the bigger crowds you’d typically find in the summer months, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is simply divine. Certain sections are usually densely covered in alpine snow but don’t think the entire park is off-limits. Indeed it is a winter wonderland!
If you’re up for a little challenge, dawn your skis or your snowshoes and get ready for an alpine expedition. Cross-country skiing is available on various trails, particularly in the Estes Park area, where rentals are available at the visitor center. If you’re looking for backcountry skiing, your best bet is the Hidden Valley area.
If you have kids or are young at heart, grab your sled and venture over to the lower portions. The aftermath of a winter snowstorm makes for some super fun sled races and snowman building competitions.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah is open year-round and spectacularly beautiful in the winter. Well known for its distinctive geological features, one of which is a hoodoo. Hoodoo, created by the weathering of sedimentary rock and river erosion, is what gives it a red or orange color. Another significant feature is the green bristlecone pine tree- both of which, when offset by a blanket of glistening white snow, is stunning to behold.
During the brisk, sunny days of Bryce Canyon’s winter months, you can go snowshoeing or site seeing on a ranger-led hike. In addition to the fascinating geological features, you might see a chipmunk, elk, prairie dog, or even a porcupine!
There is also cross-country skiing available in many of the unplowed trails. Snowshoe and ski rentals are available at the Ruby Inn.
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park in Washington State, is our last winter, must-see national park! Considering the snow-covered mountain peaks and sparkling evergreen trees, we couldn’t possibly leave this beauty off our list.
The majority of the park will remain open during the winter months. However, there are fewer ranger-led programs and facilities open during this time of the year. This park is generally covered in deep snow this time of year, so it is essential to check the weather conditions with the NPS on the day of your trip. Conditions are known to change quickly.
You will most likely find yourself over at Hurricane Ridge, where winter activities abound. Here you can find opportunities for both cross-country and downhill skiing, snowboarding, sledding or tubing, and snowshoeing.
We hope you will have a glorious winter road trip in America’s beautiful national parks. If you prefer to get trip suggestions on-site, most of the visitor centers in these parks are open year-round. Stop by one and talk to some of the rangers who can give you some excellent suggestions for sites to see and things to do! Also, be sure to check for any safety conditions, advisories, or special gear you might need to traverse the park during the winter.
About the Author
Bastian is the Sales & Marketing Manager here at Travellers Autobarn. He holds a Master of Commerce in Marketing and International Business Management, and 20+ years experience in campervan hire, road trips and travel.