Home #WHERETONEXT Canada National Parks in Winter – America’s Best Kept Secret

National Parks in Winter – America’s Best Kept Secret

National Parks – including Yellowstone, Zion, Death Valley, and Grand Canyon South Rim are OPEN, SPACIOUS and FULL of ADVENTURE in the Winter.


Just ask the locals. “I’m here year-round, but what I love about my job is that I get to work here in the winter,” says Karoline Sleichter.

During the peak tourist season, from late May to mid-October, Sleichter works as a guide for Xanterra Travel Collection, which manages the lodges and concessions at Yellowstone. Come winter, she’s behind the wheel of a specially outfitted snowcoach shuttling visitors between Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.

“I work summers so I can work winters,” she declares. “I don’t think you can match the beauty. This is why they call it a wonderland.”  Yes, temperatures plummet. But so do the visitation levels. In an age of social distancing, this makes the winter even better.

Moreover, some of the best wildlife – and geyser-viewing – opportunities are in the height of winter (especially the grey wolves), when the snowy landscape provides the sort of contrast that makes animals and thermal features even more dramatic.

Two classic park lodges — Old Faithful Snow Lodge, open for daytime use only, and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, about 50 miles apart — remain open from mid-December to late February to accommodate winter guests.

For more information visit yellowstonenationalparklodges.com.


Named for the Hebrew word “refuge,” Zion National Park in Utah is one of the most beautiful places on earth with its apricot-colored canyon and is open in the winter.  Zion is famed for seemingly endless breathtaking views. Only 166 miles from Las Vegas the juxtaposition of city verses nature could not be more apparent.

After careful consideration and consultation with local and state health authorities, Zion opened in May and will continue to welcome visitors this winter.  While temperatures and the weather vary, the winter can be a good time to bike the scenic drive, hike, cross-country ski, snowshoe up to Kolob Terrace Road, and view the wildlife. There are many sunshine filled days with moderate temperatures throughout the winter.
Xanterra Travel Collection operates the only “in-park” lodging and is your direct in-park source for activities and lodging in Zion National Park. There are no booking fees for Zion reservations. Right now, you can book a winter escape with the Zion To-Go Package for select dates from Nov. 1, 2020 through March 5, 2021.  

Get out and explore a dazzling time of year in Zion National Park. Stay in one of the spacious lodge rooms, or one of the quaint Western Cabins. Embrace the special delights of the season – celebrate your holidays at Zion National Park Lodge and take advantage of exceptional rates.

Find everything you need to know about making a reservation at Zion Lodge by visiting zionlodge.com for more information.

Death Valley

Death Valley?  You’re kidding!  Well, the average high temperature in January is 68 degrees and 75 degrees in February.  This is where escape artists find the great escape, that romantic getaway, stunning landscapes, the darkest of star-filled skies and seemingly endless outdoor activities, including a must-play, USGA golf course – the lowest elevated golf course on the planet.  It’s warm in the winter with an abundance of sunshine, almost no rain, earth warmed waters of 85 degrees, massive pools and a resort, called The Oasis at Death Valley. It’s legendary not only for its location, but for the movies and movie stars on location (Clark Gable, Ronald Regan, George Lucas…).
In a world where location is everything, especially in a post-quarantine world, The Oasis at Death Valley is certainly in a “universe far, far away” and is 61 miles from the nearest town, sits within Death Valley National Park, the largest national park in the Lower 48 States (3.4 million acres which translates to about 710 acres of land per staff and guest).  Social distancing, for that matter civilization distancing, is one of the resorts primary features. Yet it is still very accessible. Just a two hour drive,  120 miles northwest of Las Vegas, NV and a four and a half hour drive,  275 miles northeast of Los Angeles, CA … in the middle of nowhere you’d rather be.  
Just off of a $100-million renaissance, The Oasis at Death Valley encompasses two hotels — The AAA Four-Diamond historic Inn at Death Valley  with 66 completely renovated rooms and 22 new private casitas (outfitted with a personal golf cart) and the family-friendly Ranch at Death Valley where guest rooms open directly to the outdoors and the spacious lawns, massive spring fed pool and abundant open green space create an ideal environment to create your own adventure. The Ranch also features the lowest elevation golf course in the world with some of the most spectacular views during the day, and a great location for stargazing in this “gold tier” dark sky park.
Visit oasisatdeathvalley.com for more information and reservations.

Grand Canyon South Rim & Grand Canyon Railway

Winter at Grand Canyon South Rim is magical and offers a wholly different perspective on this world wonder. Come for mild-temperatures, sunrise and sunset, smaller crowds, wildlife and even one of America’s great historic train rides…all without the crowds.

The crowds thin out to less than 10% of the number of annual visitors — the pace slows down, and everything at Grand Canyon’s South Rim is quieter. Except for the Christmas holidays, securing lodging within the park is almost assured. Similarly, backcountry permits are easier to obtain. And overnight rates and packages tend to be lower, too. 

This winter El Tovar, Kachina Lodge, Thunderbird Lodge, Phantom Ranch and the Grand Hotel (outside the park in Tusayan) are all open for overnight visitation.  Go to grandcanyonlodges.com for information and reservations.

The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel is 65 miles away in Williams, AZ where the Grand Canyon Railway starts its daily roundtrips to South Rim.  Check out the thetrain.com for more information on the hotel and daily rail service.

Sunrise and sunset are phenomenal. Not only do the crowds lessen, but because the winter sun is lower in the sky meaning it doesn’t set directly over the canyon, but instead cloaks the rocky peaks and crevasses in lovely purple, pink, and orange hues. And the nights sparkle in this certified dark sky park where you can see the Milky Way with your naked eye. Sunrises can be equally spectacular. In-the-know photographers appreciate this time of year for the clarity of the light, especially just after a snowstorm. Because of clear skies, the visibility is highest in this season. Mountain peaks some 200 miles away can be seen from some viewpoints on a clear winter day. 

Additionally, wildlife is plentiful. You may see mule deer, elk, ravens, rock squirrels, and other creatures foraging among the ponderosa pine forests and soaring overhead on the rim. And they can even be easier to spot against a new blanket of snow. 

The Grand Canyon Railway operates every day except Christmas and runs from Williams, AZ on historic Route 66 to literally steps from El Tovar, the Hopi House, South Rim, Bright Angel Trail and all the attractions found at South Rim.  Trains leave in the morning and return late afternoon, affording guests around 3 hours at the Grand Canyon.  The train is comprised of various classes of service from basic coach cars to luxury dome cars with beverages and tastings, and even features an open rear platform observation car.  It is possible to charter your own private luxury railroad cars on this train as well. For more information visit thetrain.com.


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