National Parks in Winter

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fishmonger
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National Parks in Winter

Post by fishmonger »

Family and I even before the pandemic made it a plan to spend the next few years taking vacations in the US, mainly the national park system. Feel even more strongly about that now.

Wondering if anyone could recommend a good Natl Park to visit in the winter (late Feb/early March)? Two years ago we did Key West/Dry Tortugas, which was fantastic. And we want it to be mild - ideally temps in the 60s/70s. I visited the Grand Canyon in early March years ago and was not prepared for how cold it was at night. Thankfully girlfriend and I were too young/dumb for it to have much of an impact.

We live in NH, so not looking for a place where we would travel to deal with the same harsh winter weather we get in New England
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jimgour
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by jimgour »

Check out Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas and maybe Death Valley National Park in California. By "check out", I mean look at the historical average and lowest temperatures for the months you are considering. Both of those parks are off the beaten path and there are no fancy restaurants nearby, but both have interesting aspects. Death Valley has some beautiful scenery and you can visit the lowest airport in the United States which is well below sea level. There can also be amazing wildflowers in early spring in both parks.

We've been to both parks a few times and loved them, but we like remote areas. PM me if you want to see some of our photos.
johan_s
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by johan_s »

I second Death Valley, though the desert parks can still get chilly at night. The daytime temps will be great. You could also check out the southern Arizona parks: Saguaro, Organ Pipe.
runner3081
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by runner3081 »

Can add Joshua tree to the list.
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jimgour
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by jimgour »

I agree with johan on the southern Arizona parks and also with runner8081 on Joshua Tree. We have been to all of them. There are many good restaurants in the Tucson area and you always have the possibility of seeing peccary (also called javelina or skunk pig), among the saguaro cacti. There are also javlina in Big Bend, but there are no saguaro in Texas).
tibbitts
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by tibbitts »

Where you can visit may be mostly determined by what may be open at the time. Many park facilities and surrounding businesses are closed due to Covid-19 and that may be even more of a limitation by February or March.
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CardinalRule
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by CardinalRule »

johan_s wrote: Sun Sep 06, 2020 7:29 am I second Death Valley, though the desert parks can still get chilly at night. The daytime temps will be great. You could also check out the southern Arizona parks: Saguaro, Organ Pipe.
Organ Pipe is not a national park, per se, but certainly worth a visit if you are going to Saguaro NP. And your national park pass will get you into national monuments.

In addition to ones already mentioned, Carlsbad, Everglades, Biscayne, and Guadalupe Mountains come to mind. Zion's wintertime weather is also relatively mild.
livesoft
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by livesoft »

I camped in Big Bend NP in March and some nights the overnight temps were in the 20s. Like the Grand Canyon NP, these places are at higher elevation than the Everglades and Florida. That's makes them colder even though they are in the southern USA. And there could be snow at higher elevations.

You may wish to consider the National Seashores in Texas which would be at sea level (duh!).
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bberris
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by bberris »

livesoft wrote: Sun Sep 06, 2020 9:04 am I camped in Big Bend NP in March and some nights the overnight temps were in the 20s. Like the Grand Canyon NP, these places are at higher elevation than the Everglades and Florida. That's makes them colder even though they are in the southern USA. And there could be snow at higher elevations.

You may wish to consider the National Seashores in Texas which would be at sea level (duh!).
The popular and arguably most scenic campground in BB is the Chisos Basin at about 5000 ft. There are lots of other places to camp at about 2,000 ft. That should be about 15 deg warmer.
livesoft
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by livesoft »

bberris wrote: Sun Sep 06, 2020 9:37 amThe popular and arguably most scenic campground in BB is the Chisos Basin at about 5000 ft. There are lots of other places to camp at about 2,000 ft. That should be about 15 deg warmer.
I would argue the most scenic campsites are up on the South Rim at even higher elevation. :)
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by willthrill81 »

Several years ago, my wife and I visited Yellowstone in January. We were skiing at Big Sky, and it's only about an hour's drive down to West Yellowstone, where most of the winter tours originate. We went on a snowcoach tour, and the park was absolutely amazing, though it was rather cold at -25 F. Seeing Old Faithful create a massive cloud of water vapor was incredible, and the ice crystals that coated all of the trees surrounding the pools were exquisite. I highly recommend it. :thumbsup
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by retiredjg »

Gulf Islands National Seashore - Florida or Mississippi districts.
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by Nestegg_User »

livesoft wrote: Sun Sep 06, 2020 9:04 am I camped in Big Bend NP in March and some nights the overnight temps were in the 20s. Like the Grand Canyon NP, these places are at higher elevation than the Everglades and Florida. That's makes them colder even though they are in the southern USA. And there could be snow at higher elevations.

You may wish to consider the National Seashores in Texas which would be at sea level (duh!).
Livesoft

since you're across the pond, you might not have heard...
Corpus Christi just had a real surge in Corona cases and it's a concern if they continue the conditions that brought them to that position. I would think that farther south (South Padre Island), which is heavily tourist with large influxes of partying students, might have similar concerns.

(as you're aware, neither Freeport/Clute nor Galveston are really worth going out to)
mesaverde
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by mesaverde »

fishmonger wrote: Sun Sep 06, 2020 7:04 am Family and I even before the pandemic made it a plan to spend the next few years taking vacations in the US, mainly the national park system. Feel even more strongly about that now.

Wondering if anyone could recommend a good Natl Park to visit in the winter (late Feb/early March)? Two years ago we did Key West/Dry Tortugas, which was fantastic. And we want it to be mild - ideally temps in the 60s/70s. I visited the Grand Canyon in early March years ago and was not prepared for how cold it was at night. Thankfully girlfriend and I were too young/dumb for it to have much of an impact.

We live in NH, so not looking for a place where we would travel to deal with the same harsh winter weather we get in New England
If/when your kids are old enough to backpack, I highly recommend returning to the Grand Canyon to truly soak it up. What that means is: being fit and hiking to the bottom of the canyon (preferably rim to rim) and spending at least 2-3 nights in the canyon. Preferably in the middle of winter. Even in the middle of winter, the temp is mild at the bottom of the canyon (it's a rare event to even get below freezing). Plus you have the added color of snow on the rims, little risk of overheating, and no crowds. You'll feel like you're on another planet... unforgettable!

I also recommend Big Bend NP in the winter. Even in the fall/spring it's borderline hot, and just forget about it in the summer. It's well worth going out of your way to go to this park! But just like anywhere else, be sure to get well away from your vehicle/the pavement to truly experience it.
Last edited by mesaverde on Sun Sep 06, 2020 11:36 am, edited 4 times in total.
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bberris
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by bberris »

livesoft wrote: Sun Sep 06, 2020 10:18 am
bberris wrote: Sun Sep 06, 2020 9:37 amThe popular and arguably most scenic campground in BB is the Chisos Basin at about 5000 ft. There are lots of other places to camp at about 2,000 ft. That should be about 15 deg warmer.
I would argue the most scenic campsites are up on the South Rim at even higher elevation. :)
I agree. I was thinking about drive up.

https://photos.google.com/search/big%20 ... uGd4Vn-q4O
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by BionicBillWalsh »

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Random Poster
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by Random Poster »

White Sands.

Relatively nearby if you are going to Big Bend, Carlsbad, and Guadalupe Mountains.
livesoft
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by livesoft »

Random Poster wrote: Sun Sep 06, 2020 3:16 pm White Sands.

Relatively nearby if you are going to Big Bend, ....
Yep, it is about the same as driving from Boston, MA to Washington, DC.
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CardinalRule
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by CardinalRule »

Random Poster wrote: Sun Sep 06, 2020 3:16 pm White Sands.

Relatively nearby if you are going to Big Bend, Carlsbad, and Guadalupe Mountains.
Good suggestion. I need to add this new NP to my visit list. DW and I are hoping to hit all of them in our lifetimes.
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celia
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by celia »

Of course, you want to confirm which are open before you book a reservation or head over to it.

https://www.nps.gov/index.htm
adamthesmythe
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by adamthesmythe »

As far as I can tell, OP is not specifically looking to camp.

If not camping- a great many places in the southwest will USUALLY have pleasantly warm daytime weather. Hiking, etc. is very comfortable for most easterners (speaking as a former easterner).

However- it is not impossible to have snowstorms, with significant snow accumulations above 4000 ft or so, with much more at higher altitudes. At lower altitudes the snow may not last a day. Although a year ago or so we had a foot or so at 4000 ft and it was around for a few days. Unlikely, and if it happens you can adjust your plans to stay lower in altitude.

The Phoenix mountain parks are delightful in the winter and winter is a great time to visit the Desert Museum in Tucson.
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Random Musings
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by Random Musings »

Everglades - best wildlife viewing and missing those wonderful mosquitoes.

I second Yellowstone. Have been there three times but never in winter. Friends who have done winter visits love it. But it is COLD.

Death Valley - mid March is a good average time to visit, flowers are in bloom at that time, especially in the lower elevations. Temperature is comfortable at that time. Cooler in higher elevations.

Zion and South Rim Grand Canyon are fine, crowds will be muted. I think Arches, Canyonland and Capitol Reef would be cool to see as well that time of year, but that's me.

Big Bend would make sense as well. That is one NP I have not visited.

Any NP cave is fine, just check what tours are available as they are far more limited in winter months.

Each NP exhibits their beauty in different ways all year, and some of it depends on the travelers perspective (and willingness) to see certain parks "off peak", as it is called.

RM
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by mtmingus »

Random Musings wrote: Sun Sep 06, 2020 7:46 pm Zion and South Rim Grand Canyon are fine, crowds will be muted. I think Arches, Canyonland and Capitol Reef would be cool to see as well that time of year, but that's me.
We visited the NPs in Southern Utah in a summer but would love to go in the winter. How safe it's to drive in the winter? Are the roads icy sometimes?
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fishmonger
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by fishmonger »

Thanks for the replies. Never really considered Gulf Shores, could possibly do a week between that and New Orleans?

What about the Virgin Islands?
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Re: National Parks in Winter

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fishmonger wrote: Sun Sep 06, 2020 8:05 pm Thanks for the replies. Never really considered Gulf Shores, could possibly do a week between that and New Orleans?
It's surprising, but the high humidity, frequent rain, and occasionally significant winds can make New Orleans rather chilly at times in the winter.
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by Random Musings »

mtmingus wrote: Sun Sep 06, 2020 7:55 pm
Random Musings wrote: Sun Sep 06, 2020 7:46 pm Zion and South Rim Grand Canyon are fine, crowds will be muted. I think Arches, Canyonland and Capitol Reef would be cool to see as well that time of year, but that's me.
We visited the NPs in Southern Utah in a summer but would love to go in the winter. How safe it's to drive in the winter? Are the roads icy sometimes?
The main canyon in Zion is usually good as elevation is lower. Kolub Canyon section is usually open, but since at higher elevation there are occasional road closures. I would not hike there unless experienced. With respect to daily trail conditions in the main canyon, talk to park rangers as those can be icy at higher elevations, like Angel's Landing. May need ice cleats for those trails. Southern Rim Grand Canyon typically is no problem unless a winter storm hits and have to wait until the roads are cleared. Bryce gets a lot of snow, but they do plow the main roads. Of the three, the main Zion Canyon typically has the best conditions. Layer up!!

RM
I figure the odds be fifty-fifty I just might have something to say. FZ
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by mtmingus »

Thanks RM!

Sounds like Zion from a Vegas winter getaway a good choice - We didn't try Angel's Landing even in the summer.
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willthrill81
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by willthrill81 »

mtmingus wrote: Mon Sep 07, 2020 10:16 am Thanks RM!

Sounds like Zion from a Vegas winter getaway a good choice - We didn't try Angel's Landing even in the summer.
I've heard that Angel's Landing is currently off limits due to the inability for people to socially distance themselves on it. You're handling the same chains, passing other people in close quarters, etc.
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by IowaFarmBoy »

I know you are looking for a warmer destination but at some point, I would highly recommend a Yellowstone trip in winter. We did a tour sponsored by the Yellowstone Forever foundation. We had a naturalist/guide for our week who led daily excursions including snowshoeing (cross country skiing is also an option.) Spectacular scenery and no crowds. We stayed in the Snow Lodge (near Old Faithful) and one day we went down about 4pm to see Old Faithful erupt and there were a total of about 6 of us down there. I hear it is thousands of viewers in the summer. Lots of wildlife viewing.

We did the package through the foundation but I think Xanterra offers many of our same activities on an ale carte basis. I suspect this isn't happening this year.
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Watty
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by Watty »

Here is a website that has really good charts about the seasonal use of national parks.

http://jordan-vincent.com/night-under-the-stars

You need to read through the instructions to figure out how to read the details but it is a really interesting way to present that information.
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by adamthesmythe »

I suppose I should take some responsibility as I did not specifically recommend a national park.

But I do find it interesting that- given OP's interest in getting away from New Hampshire winter weather- that there were several recommendations to go places with...winter weather that is similar or worse than NH.

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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by retiredjg »

fishmonger wrote: Sun Sep 06, 2020 8:05 pm Thanks for the replies. Never really considered Gulf Shores, could possibly do a week between that and New Orleans?
Gulf Islands National Seashore (Florida and Mississippi) is not the same as Gulf Shores (Alabama). :happy There is a state park near Gulf Shores though.
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by Random Musings »

mtmingus wrote: Mon Sep 07, 2020 10:16 am Thanks RM!

Sounds like Zion from a Vegas winter getaway a good choice - We didn't try Angel's Landing even in the summer.
While heading up there or on the way back, stop and visit the Valley of Fire State Park, not too far away from Vegas. Snow Canyon State Park, a bit cooler and near St. George UT, is another option. I prefer Valley of Fire. However, if you have the time, and road conditions are good, I would still consider a day trip from Zion to Bryce with an early start. Snow on the hoodoos is pretty cool, but so are the temps if you walk on the rim trail (average highs are mid 30's to mid 40's). Maybe you can get lucky with a warmer day. Be flexible.

RM
I figure the odds be fifty-fifty I just might have something to say. FZ
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Re: National Parks in Winter

Post by Northern Flicker »

Zion Nat'l Park is quite nice in winter. The canyon floor is not very high in elevation. Typical Fahrenheit temperatures might be afternoon highs around 50, overnight lows in the teens, 20's or 30's. Snow usually melts quickly. Higher elevations in the park are of course colder and not very accessible in the winter anyway, e.g. you won't be hiking/climbing up to Angel's Landing in winter (too icy to be safe), or hiking in the river to the Narrows (too cold in the water), but there is plenty to do down in the canyon (which is the main part of the park), and in the higher areas on the east side of the park, where there are some slot canyons.
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