Skip to main content

These national parks have the most gorgeous winter hiking trails

Here are some of the best national parks for winter hiking.

Teton National Park in winter.
Trevor Hayes / Unsplash

As the winter season starts to creep into your favorite US national parks, you might be thinking that it’s time to put away your hiking boots. Not so fast! There are several national parks that have trails open during the winter time. In this article, we’ll discuss four gorgeous national parks and what hiking opportunities lie in store for you.

Yellowstone National Park in the Winter.
Brynn Pedrick/Unsplash / NPS

Yellowstone National Park

While many roads are closed at Yellowstone National Park during the winter season, there are several trails that remain accessible to hikers. You’ll need to go to the North entrance in Montana because that’s the only one that’s open in winter. They have guided skiing and snowshoeing tours. Roads can close in snowy weather, so make sure you check the conditions before you visit.

  1. Old Faithful: See Old Faithful in the cold winter by booking a guided trip. Authorized tours provide insights into the geyser’s natural wonders.
  2. Mammoth Hot Springs: The Lower Terraces Trail at Mammoth Hot Springs provides a stunning tour of intricate terraces and is accessible in winter.
  3. Lamar Valley: This valley is known for its abundant wildlife, and winter is an excellent time to observe bison, wolves, and other animals against a snow-covered backdrop.

To make the most of your visit, consider these tips:

  • Road closures and travel: Most park roads are closed to cars, but the road between the North and Northeast entrances remains open year-round. Limited snowmobile travel is available from mid-December to mid-March. Drive cautiously and use pullouts.
  • Limited services during the winter: Most park facilities are closed during winter. Check winter operating hours and conditions by downloading the National Park Service app.
  • Camping and lodging: Reserve accommodations well in advance at Old Faithful Snow Lodge or nearby communities. All campgrounds are closed during winter.

Yellowstone’s winter offers a unique and memorable experience. Plan ahead, respect the park, and embrace the serene beauty of the season. Whether it’s witnessing the magic of Old Faithful, encountering wildlife, or exploring snowy landscapes, Yellowstone’s winter promises an adventure like no other, worth every cold-weather moment.

Grand Teton National Park in winter.
Owen Rupp/Unsplash

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming offers dramatic mountain landscapes and excellent winter hiking opportunities.

  1. Taggart Lake Trail: This moderate trail is relatively sheltered, making it a great choice for a winter hike with beautiful views of the Teton Range.
  2. Bradley Lake Trail: This year-round trail provides a unique perspective of the park in winter, with frozen lakes surrounded by the majestic Teton peaks.
  3. Jenny Lake: This trail is great for snowshoeing and takes about three hours to complete in the winter.

Here’s how to enjoy Grand Teton National Park:

  1. Park facilities and visitor centers: The National Elk Refuge and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center remain open year-round.
  2. Winter facilities: Restrooms or portable toilets can be found at Taggart Lake Trailhead, Signal Mountain Lodge, Colter Bay Visitor Center, and Headwaters Lodge at Flagg Ranch. Gas stations with pay-at-the-pump service are available at Signal Mountain, Jackson Lake Lodge, and Headwaters Lodge at Flagg Ranch.
  3. Avalanche & backcountry information: If you plan to explore the backcountry during the winter, always check the local avalanche forecast and avoid known avalanche paths. Skiers and climbers traveling in avalanche terrain should carry and know how to use avalanche beacons, probe poles, and shovels.

Although some facilities close for the season, the Grand Teton National Park retains its captivating charm with opportunities for exploration and adventure.

Shenandoah National Park in winter.
Zach Josephson / Unsplash

Shenandoah National Park

Located in Virginia, Shenandoah National Park’s winter beauty is a hidden gem. While Skyline Drive may be closed on and off in winter, the park’s trails offer a peaceful escape.

  1. Dark Hollow Falls: This short, scenic hike leads to a picturesque waterfall which often freezes in the colder months.
  2. Limberlost Trail: This accessible trail takes you through a serene winter forest, perfect for those who prefer a leisurely walk.
  3. Bearfence Mountain: For those looking for a bit more adventure, the Bearfence Mountain Trail offers panoramic views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.

Make the most of your visit with:

  • Spectacular scenic drives: While some park roads may close due to weather conditions, the Skyline Drive often remains open, providing an opportunity to enjoy breathtaking vistas of snow-covered mountains and valleys.
  • Wildlife encounters: Winter offers a unique chance to observe wildlife in their natural habitat. Keep your eyes peeled for white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and other cold-weather creatures as they forage for food in the quiet winter woods.
  • Restrooms: The Dickey Ridge Visitor Center, Elkwallow Picnic Grounds, Thornton Gap Entrance Station, Panorama, Pinnacles Picnic Grounds, Byrd Visitor Center, South River Picnic Grounds, Swift Run Entrance Station, and the Dundo Picnic Grounds all have restroom facilities open in the winter.

Shenandoah National Park in the winter offers a fantastic escape for winter adventures that your family is sure to love.

Shenandoah national park
beklaus/Getty Images / beklaus/Getty Images

Acadia National Park

It’s no surprise that Acadia National Park gets chilly in the winter, which makes it a great place to find some winter fun. While many trails may be icy, they can be a real win with the right equipment.

  1. Jordan Pond Path: This flat trail circles the scenic Jordan Pond, offering splendid views of the Bubbles mountains, especially when covered in snow.
  2. Gorham Mountain Trail: This moderate hike provides a mix of forest and coastal views. The trail is especially captivating with a fresh coat of snow.
  3. Cadillac Mountain: The South Ridge Trail up Cadillac Mountain can be a challenging winter hike, but the reward is an unparalleled view of the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding islands.

You can participate in a bunch of different activities like snowshoeing, ice fishing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. Here’s why Acadia National Park is the perfect destination for cold-weather adventurers:

  • Winter safety: This park can have unfavorable conditions and early darkness, so be prepared to turn back when necessary. Dress appropriately to guard against frostbite and hypothermia, and avoid relying solely on your phone for navigation or lighting.
  • Leash requirement: Federal law requires that all pets must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet (1.8 meters). This rule is in place to protect wildlife and ensure the safety of all park visitors.
  • Public restrooms: Seven public restrooms are maintained across the park throughout the winter, ensuring convenience and comfort for visitors.

Before embarking on a winter hike in any of these national parks, it’s essential to be prepared. Ensure you have the right clothing and gear, including warm layers, waterproof boots, and traction devices for slippery terrain. Travel in groups and carry bear spray. Checking trail conditions, weather forecasts, and park regulations is also crucial.

Sarah Joseph
Sarah is a lover of all things outdoors. With a bright sense of adventure and a heart for the mountains, she is always…
A quick guide on how to clean hiking boots
Tips to ready your boots for the next outdoor adventure
Dirty, muddy hiking boots

No matter where you hike or what you hike in, one thing is for sure: Hiking boots are supposed to get dirty. Your new boots might look fresh and clean right out of the box, and after that, every scrape and stain may be a badge of honor. But that doesn't mean they should stay that way.

Follow the tips outlined below to keep your hiking boots clean, functional, and ready to hit the next trail.
How to clean your hiking boots

Read more
The 20 best U.S. national parks to explore now
There are a lot of national parks to see, so here's a list to start with
Hidden Lake, Glacier National Park

Soaring mountains, dune-covered deserts, glacial lakes, primeval forests, and red rock canyons set the stage for memorable adventures in splendid U.S. national parks — "America’s best idea," as filmmaker Ken Burns rightly described it. You could spend years exploring the countless wonders of these cherished reserves, but if time is limited, then focus your attention on the best of the best. Below is our admittedly subjective list of the top 20 parks, presenting a wide variety of landscapes and locales.
National Park Pass programs
Before we get into the list of U.S. national parks, let's cover how you can save money if you're going to be visiting several of America's best national parks. The National Park Pass is a program offered by the National Park Service that allows entrance to many federal recreation sites across the country. Depending on your needs, there are different types of passes to choose from.

Annual Pass: This pass costs $80 and is valid for one year at over 2,000 federal recreation sites managed by six different agencies, including the National Park Service. This is a good option if you plan on visiting several parks throughout the year.
Senior Pass: Citizens 62 and older can purchase a lifetime Senior Pass for $80. It grants the same access as the annual pass.
America the Beautiful Pass: This pass costs $80 and covers entrance fees for a single vehicle, including rentals and RVs, at national parks and federal recreational lands for 12 months.
Military Pass: Veterans get a free lifetime pass to national parks and other federal recreational lands. Here are some additional things to keep in mind about national park passes:

Read more
The Cape Flattery Trail offers wild coastal views that are worth the trek
Why you need to visit the Cape Flattery Trail
Image of the cape flattery reef at the end of the trail off a cliff

When Washingtonians told me I needed to take a trip to Cape Flattery, the northwesternmost point of the contiguous U.S., I assumed it was just for bragging rights. I added a short detour to the trail before returning to well-known sites on the Olympic Peninsula, like Lake Quinault's rainforest or Mount Olympus' cloudy peaks.
But to my surprise, my journey to Cape Flattery trail, through the idyllic Neah Bay, was as, if not more stunning than the neighboring Olympic National Park and completely worth the additional drive.
Along the trail, you're privy to lush rainforest views, craggy cliffs, marine life, and millennia of Indigenous and ecological history, all within a 1.5-mile hike.
Ready to visit this Pacific northwestern gem, located just 160 miles north of Seattle? Here's how to get there and what you'll see along the way.

How to Get to the Cape Flattery Trail

Read more