Unexpected Adventure

Unexpected National Park Winter Activities

Tired of being cooped up indoors in the winter time? Our national parks actually provide a variety of activities for all types of visitors. Did you know that you can strap on some skis, hook up your dogs, and go skijoring in some parks? How does a moon-lit snowshoe adventure through what looks like Martian landscape sound? Or maybe experience driving across roads made of frozen lakes? National parks provide a smorgasbord of winter activities for all types of adventurers!

Death Valley National Park

California
Walks and Talks Through the Valley

Despite its morbid name, Death Valley National Park harbors ecosystems ranging from snow-capped mountains to beautiful sand dunes to the driest and lowest spot in North America. These environments also house nearly 400 species of native wildlife and more than 1,000 described plant species. The winter months at Death Valley National Park give visitors an opportunity to avoid the deadly heat and also participate in the park's programs and tours offered from December through March. Through these walks and talks, visitors can explore the dessert below sea level and learn about the history of borax mining. For an even more unique experience, sign up for the paleontology tour lottery to explore a remote area of the park, usually closed to the public, for close-up encounters of fossilized tracks of mastodon-like creatures.

Things to Do

  • Birdwatching
  • Biking
  • Camping
  • Children's Programs
  • Geocaching
  • Hiking

Denali National Park and Preserve

Alaska
Following the Old Mushin' Ways

As the only park with canine rangers, Denali National Park & Preserve has a sled dog kennel managed by the National Park Service. Park rangers have continued a tradition of dog team patrols that began with the first rangers in 1920.  Though the kennels are open year-round, sled dog demonstrations are held in the summer and fall. During the winter months, these four-legged rangers are busy out patrolling the park, so visitors may catch teams harnessing up but find few dogs in the kennel. Visitors can recreate this tradition with their own dog teams — mushing and skijoring (it's like dog sledding, but on skis!) through the park, following trails already put in by rangers or setting off on their own paths. Don't have your own dogs? Book a visit with one of the local businesses that are permitted to guide mushing trips through the park.

Things to Do

  • Biking
  • Arts & Culture
  • Camping
  • Children's Programs
  • Climbing
  • Cross-Country Skiing

Yellowstone National Park

Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
Hitching a Ride on the Snowcoach

Winter is a beautiful and unique time to marvel at the geological wonders and observe the mighty bison in at Yellowstone National Park. Every year at the tail end of fall, most of Yellowstone National Park's roads close to regular traffic as the rangers prepare for the winter season. Once enough snow accumulates, roads are re-opened, but for "oversnow" travel only. One way visitors can explore this winter wonderland is with snowcoach tours through authorized companies to have a chance to go visit the iconic Old Faithful and see the epic landscape of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

Things to Do

  • Boating
  • Biking
  • Camping
  • Children's Programs
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Fishing

Big Bend National Park

Texas
Avian Migration Madness

Want to be a citizen scientist? You can be at Big Bend National Park, a paradise for birders as the park is in the middle of the continent and along a migration route. The National Audubon Society holds two bird counts annually at the end of the year. Volunteer birders have the opportunity to count every bird they see and hear all day and contribute to one of the largest, longest-running citizen science efforts in the world!

Things to Do

  • Birdwatching
  • Biking
  • Camping
  • Children's Programs
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking

Voyageurs National Park

Minnesota
Anglin' on the Ice

Looking for peacefulness? Solitude? A time for quiet contemplation away from everyone else while enjoying a winter wonderland? Time to check out Voyageurs National Park in the darkest time of the year. In the cold winters of Minnesota, this mosaic of land and water becomes a unique playground as the lakes freeze over. Home to the walleye, northern pike, lake trout, and sturgeon, Voyageurs National Park is an ice angler's dream. Just make sure you have your fishing license and registration, and check with the park on its regulations. If you prefer the comfort and heater of your car, these frozen lakes give visitors another opportunity - ice roading! When the lakes freeze over, roads open up access for you to drive your car up to islands that are normally only accessible by boat! Pay attention to hazards and check for conditions every day before you head out.

Things to Do

  • Biking
  • Arts & Culture
  • Birdwatching
  • Boating
  • Camping
  • Canoeing

Bryce Canyon National Park

Utah
Hoodoo You Do

Under a dusting of snow, the red, orange, and brown hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park manage to look even more other-worldly. With the striking contrast of the white snow, the red rock, and the blue sky, visitors can drive, hike, or snowshoe through the park. Keep an eye out for the unique opportunity to sign up for the ranger-guided full moon snowshoe hikes after the snow begins to fall. Bring your own waterproof boots; snowshoes, poles, creepy exploration, and moonlight provided

Things to Do

  • Children's Programs
  • Camping
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Shopping
Woman holding a camera walking in a field
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