The best national parks to visit in winter

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National parks are for more than just summer hiking. Break out of your cold-weather hibernation and visit these seven parks that are at their best in winter.

Big Bend National Park, Texas
Big Bend National Park serves as a border between the United States and Mexico, and offers a unique way to cross between the two countries – by rowboat. Visitors can pay $5 to be ferried across the Rio Grande on a small boat, or you can walk across for free (at your own risk, and only at a designated area when the water levels are low).

Winter is one of the best times to visit Big Bend National Park, as the temperatures average around 60-70 degrees during the day, whereas in the summer it can get dangerously hot (over 100 degrees).

Where to stay: Chisos Mountains Lodge is the only hotel option within the park. Make your reservation well in advance, as it tends to book up early.

Olympic National Park, Washington
Olympic is one of only three national parks that has a full ski area in the winter. (To find out the other two, keep reading.) The Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area has one lift and two rope tows, and operates from mid-December through March depending on conditions. Ski here, and you’ll be able to brag “I skied in the Olympics” without technically lying.

Death Valley National Park, California
Death Valley is the hottest and driest place in North America, and has set the world record for the highest air temperature (134 degrees). Unsurprisingly, it’s not a place you want to visit in the summer. In the winter, you’ll get mild temperatures that rarely drop below freezing, plus smaller crowds – the weeks after Thanksgiving and before Christmas are the least-busy time of the year, according to the NPS.

Where to stay: The Ranch at Death Valley is located next to the NPS Visitor Center, offering easy access to the park. The 224-room hotel has restaurants, a general store and even a saloon to keep you entertained.

 

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