Get Out Of The Grumps And Into A Park: 5+ Guided Winter Activities
Winter is not a time to shut your adventuring spirit indoors and get grumpy. Several National Parks (and nearby facilities) offer all kinds of group trips so you can learn and explore in a winter environment. Here are 5+ ideas for National Park guided winter activities, ranging from highly active to more laid back. You’ll have to pay for some of them, but others are free.
At Crater Lake National Park. Snowshoeing is a great way to enjoy nature in winter. Many National Parks offer short expeditions led by rangers. It’s actually one of their most popular winter activities. They even provide the snowshoes (expect a small fee).
Snowshoeing is invigorating (translation: you don’t want to go out there with a heart condition), but it’s very easy to learn. With a few steps in a pair, you’ll move along like a pro. Nonetheless, Muddy Boots’ does recommend you take your trekking poles (outfitted with snow baskets) or an old pair of ski poles: these help considerably with balance and speed.
Follow-up reading: 7+ Things To Consider When Choosing Trekking Poles
Where there’s snow and a National Park, there’s likely to be a snowshoe tour. If you’re not planning to be in Oregon in the middle of winter (though Crater Lake has deep snow late into May), you could try Bryce, Rainier, Olympics, Yellowstone, and Yosemite.
#2 Take a respectful walk
At Sequoia National Park. As far as winter activities go, this one’s pretty unique.
Every year during the holiday season, Park visitors, local bands, and relevant groups pay their respects and lay a wreath at the General Grant tree, the biggest big Sequoia.
#3 Ride aboard a snowmobile or snowcoach
In Yellowstone. During the winter, most roads in Yellowstone are closed to regular vehicles. Snowmobiles are a great way to visit geysers in a snowy landscape, spot wintering wildlife, bison and wolves, and get brisky cheeks as well. And if that sounds a little too nippy, try a snowcoach. You’ll need to use an NPS-approved provider, but since there are many, there should be a variety of options in price and route.
#4 Cross-country ski
At Acadia National Park. That’s in Maine: a whole lot of winter up there, a variety of winter activities, and Acadia has vehicle-free carriage roads. This means you can really get out there in a snow-smothered landscape that’s perfect for both beginners and advanced skiers.
And, if you’re not up to a whole lot of lung activity, guide yourselves and your trusty auto along the cleared highways in the park. Not a whole lot of opportunity for getting lost on these one-way drives.
#5 Mosey up to the elk
South of Grand Teton National Park at the National Elk Refuge. All you need to do is gather relevant information and show up. There is a ride fee, but, hey, this is special.
As always with winter activities, especially
Check with the applicable national park for weather conditions, openings, alerts, and clothing recommendations. From personal experience, Muddy Boots suggests you bring spikes along for any winter outing where you might encounter ice or a densely-packed trail.
Relevant: 4+ Ways To Get A Grip In Winter
Photo credits: Featured image: Grand Canyon in winter: Public Domain by NPS. Top…Winter wildlife viewing at its finest: CC BY 2.0 by USFWS Mountain-Prairie via Flickr. Snowshoe Crater Lake: Courtesy National Park Service. Sequoia and Kings Canyon Trek to the Tree: Courtesy National Park Service. Yellowstone snowmobile and snowcoaches: Neal Herbert via National Park Service. Acadia Cross-Country Skiing: Courtesy National Park Service. National Elk Refuge, A Unique Wildlife Viewing Experience: CC BY 2.0 by USFWS Mountain-Prairie via Flickr. Bottom panel… Bald eagle at Yellowstone: Courtesy National Park Service. Moose at Yellowstone: CC BY-SA 2.0 by Harvey Barrison via Flickr. Bison in deep snow at Yellowstone: Public Domain by Jim Peaco via NPS. A group of elk bulls in the morning light: CC BY 2.0 by USFWS Mountain-Prairie via Flickr.