December 13, 2018
Best National Parks to Visit in the Winter
You may have heard the news that the National Park Service is considering raising entrance fees during the peak seasons at 17 highly visited parks. As early as May 1, 2018, visitors may need to pay $70 to get into the parks (up from about $20 per vehicle) in order to address badly-needed improvements to the aging infrastructure of our national parks.
While there is plenty of debate over whether they should raise entrance fees or not, we figure there’s no time like the present to enjoy our more popular national parks before peak season in May. Winter can be one of the best times of the year to go. Not only are there far fewer crowds, but our campervans allow you to keep warmer than a tent would at the campgrounds–many of which you do not need to reserve months in advance like you need to do in the summer.
Here are just a few of our top national parks to visit this winter.
Bryce Canyon National Park
The rock formations of Bryce Canyon draw more than 1 million visitors a year, most of whom visit in every season but winter–meaning you’ve got to take advantage of this opportunity. The iconic red rock spires (or “hoodoos”) look the most dramatic when they’re covered in snow, and the daytime temperature rarely drops below freezing in the desert here. Winter is also a great time of year for stargazing in Bryce, which offers free ranger-guided full moon snowshoe hikes and winter astronomy sessions.
Contrary to many other parks, this one is the most popular in the winter–and for good reason. Milder temperatures, less humidity, fewer mosquitoes make the Everglades a great destination this time of year. Plus, it’s the best time for wildlife viewing: birdwatching abounds, the gray fox and the white-tailed deer emerge, and you’ll still see plenty of the usual crocodiles and alligators.
It’s the hottest place on Earth in the summer (literally–temperatures can be over 120°F), but come winter, Death Valley is a comfortable 70 degrees. It’s also the largest national park outside of Alaska and features everything from snow-covered peaks to sand dunes. While folks have caught on that this is the best time of year to visit, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the least crowded–just be sure to make campsite reservations in advance.
Escape Tip: Death Valley is only 2 hours from our Las Vegas depot.
They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and Big Bend is no exception. Nearly 200 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails meander through the desert, the Rio Grande River, and the Chisos Mountains. Temperatures hang around the 60s in the winter, making it the perfect time of year for outdoor activities. Scenic canoe trips are available year-round.
Escape Tip: Getting here from an Escape depot will be a bit more of a road trip than the other national parks listed–but that makes it all the more fun! It’s 10.5 hours from Phoenix and 12.5 hours from Denver.
Grand Canyon National Park
Hardly any of this park’s 5 million visitors come during the winter, so it’s the one season when advanced reservations aren’t required. The South Rim is open year-round and has more accessibility than the North Rim. Highs are in the 40s, but Phantom Ranch offers incredible hiking trails and warmer temperatures in the 50s and 60s.
Escape Tip: The South Rim is less than 4 hours from our new Phoenix depot and 4.5 hours from our Las Vegas depot.