Top 7 National Parks to Visit in Winter

There are 59 National Parks in the United States that offer spectacular sights and adventures all year long. There are a few national parks to visit in winter that are particularly stunning. Whether you’re a traveler looking to escape the cold for warmer pastures or interested in exploring a snowy winter wonderland, below is a list of seven of the best National Parks to visit in winter. We know you will love each and every one.


1. Joshua Tree National Park, California

There is something magical about being in Joshua Tree National Park, a desert town only a few hours from Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, and Phoenix. Joshua Tree National Park consists of 800,000 acres of desert landscape, where 2.8 million visitors come to enjoy rock climbing, hiking, photography, and the serenity of the scenery. Unlike other places that experience hoards of tourists in the summer months, the busy season in Joshua Tree runs from September through May, when temperatures stay below 100 degrees. 

Road Scholar offers a six-day educational hiking adventure through Joshua Tree National Park in winter to learn about the unique natural history and human cultures of this desert region from expert naturalists.

2. Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park in Utah has more than 2,000 natural stone arches, giant balanced rocks, and hundreds of formations to hike through. In winter, the scenery is stunning. Get your camera out and marvel at the contrast between white snow on red rocks. Temperatures can be freezing in winter. Snowfall can make some trails impenetrable, but hiking trails are open year-round. As an added bonus, winter crowds are a fraction of the size they are in the summertime. 

Road Scholar has curated an 11-day trip, The Best of Utah’s Grand Circle of Parks and Monuments, that takes adventurers through Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in winter and all other seasons. 

3. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The biggest benefit of visiting the Grand Canyon National Park in winter is that there are 15% fewer visitors. In December, visitors have the trails to themselves, and the car traffic is minimal. Inside the canyon is a desert climate and it stays warm, even in the winter, with average highs in the high 50s. December is incredibly beautiful at Grand Canyon National Park, especially when there is snow dusting the grand cliffs. 

Road Scholar offers a number of trips in and around the Grand Canyon, including by way of rail. The six-day tour, Scenic Railroads of Arizona: Sedona and Grand Canyon, takes adventure seekers on an overnight adventure to Grand Canyon National Park via the historic Grand Canyon Railway. 

4. Yellowstone National Park

If you’re trying to decide which National Park to visit in winter, Yellowstone is unparalleled. Visitors are treated to stunning landscapes, and all the animals come out to play; elk, bison, wolves, and moose. The famous geysers look even more awe-inspiring in the wintertime.  

On the Road Scholar tour Winter Ventures in Yellowstone Country teaches adventure seekers how to snowmobile, snowshoe, and ski. The six-day tour will also explore unique wildlife and visit Old Faithful, fumaroles and bubbling hot springs in the winter. 

5. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park is a sight to behold in winter, as the landscape turns from greens and browns to whites and blues. November to May can be freezing cold and most visitors travel by ski or snowshoe since roads can be closed. 

Road Scholar has planned an amazing six-day winter trip through the Grand Tetons via ski, snowshoe, dogsled, and horse-drawn sleigh. Spend the week snowshoeing and skiing alongside the Teton Science Schools exploring the scenic trails. Experience this legendary wilderness destination in all her winter glory.

6. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

The average temperature in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in December is a high of 73°F (23°C) and a low of 65°F (18°C), pretty much perfect for hiking and exploring an active volcano. 

Road Scholar has many tours of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Among them is the 13-day trip called Exploring Four Islands from Volcanoes to Pearl Harbor where educational adventurers will join local experts for a deep dive into Hawaii’s volcanoes, to learn Hawaiian mythology, island ecology, and natural monuments.  

7. Death Valley National Park

The average high temperature December through February in Death Valley National Park is 65-73°F, which is a lot more tolerable than the triple-digit summer temps. Winter is the ideal time to visit this world-famous National Park to explore its narrow canyons, salt flats, and sand dunes that make up this fascinating landscape. 

Take a seven-day small group tour on a study of the geology, ecology, and human history of Death Valley through hikes and lectures with geologists and experts. Hiking Death Valley National Park is the Road Scholar’s popular trip on a 30-passenger bus with an upgraded video/audio system allowing our instructors to teach "on the go."

Road Scholar National Parks in Winter 

Still don’t know where to go for winter break? Road Scholar aims to provide immersive, educational, and memorial adventure travel for those seeking a warmer climate in the cold winter months.

We have curated tours for those who want warm places to travel during winter break. Enroll in a National Parks winter adventure today with Road Scholar!