America's Most Beautiful National Parks to Visit During a Cross-Country Winter Move

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If you’re moving during the winter, you likely need a break from the bitter cold and gray.  

Make the most of your winter move — and take a breather en route — with a stop at one of America’s stunning national parks. Truly, winter is a great time to visit many of these awe-inspiring public lands. After all, summer crowds have dwindled and the parks take on a magical quality with snowcapped vistas and frozen waterfalls.  

Just be sure to bundle up, grab some hot coffee or cocoa, and be prepared to see some of the country’s most gorgeous natural scenery. From the snowy slopes of Yosemite to the icy fjords of Glacier Bay, a winter wonderland awaits at these pristine parks.  

Want to dig deeper? Our national parks guide series was designed to spark memorable experiences — and lifelong memories — during your cross-country move. 

Tips for Visiting National Parks During a Long-Distance Move 

Most national parks — including Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite — are open 24/7, 365 days a year. However, sections of the parks may close seasonally due to weather conditions and inaccessibility. Do some research to determine which parks you want to visit before you hit the road. 

Check Road Conditions 

Visit each park’s website for current road closures or restrictions. In addition to certain roads being closed in winter, some require vehicles to have snow tires or chains. You don’t want to get halfway there only to find out you can’t access the park. 

Pack Essential Supplies 

Bring warm clothing, waterproof boots, gloves, hats, thermal undergarments as well as blankets, hand warmers, a shovel and other emergency gear — you’ll want to have most of these things on hand when you’re driving to your new home anyway. The weather can change quickly, especially at higher elevations, so be prepared for extreme cold and snow. 

Book Lodging in Advance 

Want to spend the night? Lodging inside national parks during winter may be limited. Reserve rooms, cabins or campsites well ahead of your trip. If camping, choose a campsite that is open year-round and has accessible facilities. 

Plan Winter Activities 

Some parks offer ranger-guided snowshoe walks, cross-country skiing, ice skating and wildlife-watching tours in winter. Check each park’s website to see what activities are available and sign up in advance when needed. 

The Best National Parks for Winter Scenery 

Some of the most stunning winter scenes can be found in America’s national parks. If you’re looking to be dazzled by snow and ice, here are a few of the best parks to visit: 

Yosemite National Park in California is a winter wonderland, with massive sequoia groves dusted in white and iconic waterfalls transformed into icy wonders. Head to Glacier Point for panoramic views of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley. 

Yellowstone National Park straddles Wyoming, Montana and Idaho and is home to the famous Old Faithful geyser which erupts even in winter. Spot bison, elk, and bighorn sheep against the snowy backdrop or go snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. 

The Grand Canyon in Arizona is a sight to behold in winter, the red and orange rocks dusted with snow. Desert View Drive offers stunning viewpoints, and winter crowds are smaller. You may even glimpse a rare California condor gliding over the canyon. 

Zion National Park in Utah has stunning red sandstone cliffs and canyons that are especially dramatic when lined with snow. Check out the Emerald Pools Trail or Observation Point Trail for panoramic views. 

White Sands National Park in south-central New Mexico is home to the world’s largest gypsum dune field. Bring a saucer sled and sled down to paper-white sands and hike on the trails through an undulating, otherworldly landscape. 

Big Bend National Park in West Texas is off the beaten path. For that, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking, diverse, mountainous landscapes, wildlife galore and, in spring, gorgeous wildflower blooms. 

Winter nights are long, so in many parks you’ll have front-row seats to vibrant sunrises and sunsets over snow-capped peaks and possibly even the Northern Lights. Whether you want to snowshoe, ski or just soak in the scenery with a mug of hot cocoa, America’s national parks in winter are sure to delight. 

Top Activities for Enjoying National Parks in Winter 

Once the summer crowds have thinned, winter opens up a whole new world of activities in America’s national parks. Here are some of the top things to do during a winter stop amid these stunning protected lands. 

Go Snowshoeing or Cross-Country Skiing 

National parks offer miles of trails perfect for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Glide through snow-covered forests in Yosemite, Yellowstone or Glacier national parks. Check park websites in advance — they often rent equipment if you don’t have your own or aren’t moving with yours in town. Some even offer groomed trails and warming huts along the way. 

Spot Wildlife in Their Winter Habitat 

Winter is the best time to spot wildlife like bison, elk, bighorn sheep or even wolves in their winter habitat. As the temperatures drop, many animals move to lower elevations making them easier to spot. Wake up early to see them during their most active feeding times. Look for their tracks in the snow to discover where they’ve been. 

Take a Winter Segway or Bus Tour 

If hiking through snow isn’t appealing, take a guided winter tour. Many parks like Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon offer Segway, bus or Jeep tours in winter. Learn about the park’s winter ecology from an experienced guide as you stay cozy riding from scenic vista to scenic vista. Some tours even take you to spots inaccessible by car. 

Go Stargazing at Night 

Winter nights are long, cold and clear, making them perfect for stargazing. As park visitation decreases, light pollution vanishes, providing pitch-black night skies. See the Milky Way, constellations and even meteor showers with stunning clarity. Many parks offer ranger-guided night sky viewing or astronomy programs to help you spot celestial highlights. 

Where to Stay When Visiting National Parks in Winter 

When visiting national parks in winter, finding suitable lodging is important for comfort and convenience. Here are some of your best options: 

Cabins and Lodges 

Many parks offer rustic cabins, lodges and resorts that are open year-round. These range from basic to upscale, with amenities like fireplaces, kitchenettes and daily housekeeping. Staying on-site means waking up already in the park, surrounded by snow-covered vistas. Popular choices include Yosemite’s Majestic Yosemite Hotel and Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Snow Lodge. 

RV and Camper Camping 

Perhaps you’re moving while traveling by RV, camper or trailer. Many campgrounds remain open for winter camping with reduced facilities. This allows you to stay right in the park for an affordable nightly rate. Be prepared for possible road closures and pack essential supplies in case hookups aren’t available. Check with each park for details on winter camping locations and amenities. 

Vacation Rentals 

Another budget-friendly option is renting a cabin, condo or home just outside the park entrance. Websites like VRBO, Airbnb and HomeAway offer winter rentals near most major national parks. Look for rentals within 30 minutes of the park that are properly insulated and have amenities like a fireplace, full kitchen, Wi-Fi and laundry. This way, you can enjoy park activities by day, then head to your cozy rental for the evening. 

Gateway Town Lodging 

The small towns surrounding national parks, known as gateway communities, often have motels, hotels, bed and breakfasts and vacation rentals that cater to park visitors year-round. While not directly in the park, they offer comfortable lodging within easy driving distance to trailheads and attractions. Do some research to find reputable lodging that meets your needs. The park’s website is a great resource for learning more about nearby gateway towns. 

Staying close to the park allows more time enjoying snowy vistas and winter adventures. With the right lodging choice, your national park getaway can be a magical winter escape. Plan ahead, pack for changing weather and get ready to discover these iconic lands in their quiet, pristine winter beauty. 

Packing Tips for Visiting National Parks in Winter 

Packing for a winter national park adventure requires some special considerations. Here are some tips to help you prepare for your icy escape. 

Dress in Layers 

The weather can change quickly, so pack clothing you can layer, like thermal undergarments, fleece jackets, and a heavy winter coat. Don’t forget waterproof pants, gloves, scarves and insulated boots. Wool socks will keep your toes toasty. Bring extras like hand warmers to put inside your gloves and boots. 

Prepare for Snow 

If there’s snow on the ground, you’ll want snow pants, waterproof boots, gloves, hat and a coat. Pack the proper gear for any snow activities like snowshoeing or cross country skiing. Don’t forget sunglasses – the sun reflecting off snow can be blinding! 

Bring the right gear 

In addition to clothes, pack gear like a sturdy backpack to carry everything, a first aid kit, flashlight, pocketknife, fire starter, compass, maps of the area, a sleeping bag, tent, sleeping pad, camp stove, food, water and any toiletries you may need. 

Plan Ahead 

Check the local weather forecast and road conditions before you go. Some areas may be inaccessible. Additionally, campsites may close in winter. Have emergency equipment in your vehicle in case of snow or ice. Let someone know your itinerary and schedule in case of emergencies. 

Be Flexible 

Weather can affect driving conditions, available activities and accessibility. Have backup plans for different scenarios. The beauty of national parks in winter is the solitude and pristine snow- covered vistas. Embrace whatever conditions you encounter. 

By stretching your legs at national parks en route to your new home, you can count on making magical memories. We hope your winter move is an adventure to remember — in the best of ways.  

Whether you’re looking for snow-covered paradise, dramatic ice formations or simply solitude, America’s parks have something for everyone even in the coldest months.  

Check out our national park guide series for inspiration: 

And be sure to visit our blog for immersive state and city guides that’ll help you hit the ground running and ready to explore once you arrive at your new abode. 

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