10 National Parks to Visit in the Winter


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Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
A group of tourists gathers at the Mather Point Overlook at the Grand Canyon in winter. Wild Horizons/UIG via Getty Images

Grand Canyon National Park is the nation's second most-popular national park in the U.S. — about 5.9 million people visited in 2016 alone (Great Smoky Mountains is No. 1, with 11.3 million annual visitors). And as with so many parks, the teeming hordes mostly descend in summertime, peaking in July when temperatures average around 90 degrees F (32 degrees C). November through February are by far the least crowded months [source: NPS].

The canyon is 277 miles (446 kilometers)long and in its most spectacular places, about 1 mile (1,609 meters) deep. The park is divided between the popular South Rim and the less-traveled North Rim. Due to its higher elevation, greater snowfall and more remote location, traffic on the North Rim dwindles in October and the park service ceases offering backcountry camping permits on October 31. But day use is still possible until the end of November, weather permitting [source: NPS].

On the South Rim, the reverse happens — roads that are typically closed to public traffic (due to huge volumes) may open, allowing you to drive the full stretch of the park normally reserved for only buses [source: Xanterra].

Whether you enjoy hiking, camping or just sightseeing, the mild temperatures and much smaller crowds can make the Grand Canyon an unforgettable wintertime experience.

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