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Where to Visit This Winter?


Ynpbisontree_6    As I noted the other day, Yellowstone is shutting down its summer and fall operations and will, after a brief respite of about six weeks, open for the winter season. It's long been said winter in the park is a magical season, one with far fewer tourists than one encounters in summer, one when it's easy to see what animals were out and about thanks to the tracks they've left in the snow.
    But Yellowstone is only one of nearly 400 units of the National Park Service worthy of winter exploration. Which are best to spend your vacation at? The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees has its thoughts on the matter, having developed a list of seven parks after surveying its membership. Among the coalition's favorites are Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Mount Rainier National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park for those looking for a warm, sandy getaway during a normally cold season, and Big Bend National Park, to name four of the seven.
    I have favorites of my own, naturally. They include Zion National Park, where you can enjoy relative solitude in redrock splendor and much nicer hiking weather than in July or August, Acadia National Park, which also will allow you some time alone with your thoughts in winter, a season that often blesses this park with deep snows perfect for cross-country skiing along Acadia's famed carriage paths, and Olympic National Park, where you can split your time between watching winter storms born in the Pacific create watery explosions as waves smash into sea stacks along the coast and skiing or snowshoeing along Hurricane Ridge.
    Truth be told, the parks listed above just barely scratch the surface of the incredible places in the national park system worthy of a winter escape. Ask a dozen park fans where to go and you'll likely get a dozen different lists.
    But rather than taking someone else's advice, make your winter trip a true trip of discovery by visiting the National Park Service's website, doing a little research, and begin building your own list.


All good choices, but I think one of the best has been left out: Death Valley. Many say that one should wait for spring and a potential Wildflower explosion, but that can be very iffy. Going during the winter is best for exploring on foot (during the summer it tends to be too hot for serious hiking) and the weather conditions tend to make for less haze and much better landscape pictures! I've probably already tipped you that DV is one of my all-time favorites - it could almost be from another planet with the harsh beauty and extremes of everything. And that makes it special. It seems that many agree with me. When I was there last spring, most of the visitors were from Europe!

James, Perfect addition. Not sure how it slipped past me, actually. Of course, winter in Death Valley is also the high season, so rooms will be pricier and more difficult to come by than during those long hot dog days of August. Still, Death Valley does offer a very atypical park experience, one that's very cool if you like the other-worldly nature of the park. If anyone is thinking about heading to Death Valley -- this winter or next summer -- be sure to visit Scotty's Castle. It's an incredible place that's a key part of the park's history.

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