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Reader Participation Day: Winter Park Visits, Snow or Sand?


So, are you in the mood for sand dunes, or snow, during a national park visit this winter? Top photo of Death Valley sand dunes by Kurt Repanshek, bottom photo of skiing at Acadia by NPS.

With winter not too far off here in the Rockies, it's only natural to begin to consider which national park to visit before the spring thaw arrives. Our question to you: Do you focus on snow, or sand, when you think of a winter national park escape?

The benefits of heading to snow country or the beach or desert are many. Heavy snows make for great snowshoeing, cross-country or alpine skiing, and, for some, snowmobiling, in such units of the National Park System as Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Rocky Mountain, Pictured Rocks, Indiana Dunes, Acadia, Mount Rainier, Olympic, Sequoia, Yosemite, Shenandoah, Great Smoky and on and on.

But heading to warmer climes isn't such a bad idea, either, as my wife and I found out last March with a retreat to Virgin Islands National Park with its palm-tree-lined beaches and great snorkeling. Death Valley National Park is a great winter destination, too, and you actually can enjoy both the snow and the sand by heading up to Telescope Peak one day (although it's no easy task) and into the sand dunes the next.

So, what will it be this winter? Snow, or sand?


I love snow and would love to spend Christmas in Yellowstone with the family one year.

I love snow but since I grew up in a very mild climate, I'm not that experienced in it. Because of that I don't want to explore parks in winter (unless I had a button I could easily push to get help....hehe). Since I'm much more experienced in the sun and sand, that's where I'd spend my winters. In fact I'm only an hour from Death Valley right now and have been spending a lot of time there. I'd also recommend of my favorite parks!

Ranger Holly

Kicking around the idea of a trip to Everglades or Padre I guess my answer is "sand."

Snow, of course ... can't wait to get on my skis -- see Tower Fall with no one around; ski right by the upper terraces at Mammoth, ski in the NE corner, and try something new ...

I actually got on my skis in Bozeman on October 10; not really good snow and not enough, but it was my birthday, and I was determined to do so and managed a few hundred yards in town; here's to a good season!

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

I had a blast snowshoeing in Yosemite a couple of years ago. The white stuff was coming down pretty hard too. My car was parked for only a couple of hours and there was maybe 3 inches of snow on the roof.

Our guide was actually Shelton Johnson:

I'm thinking of visiting the Seattle area sometime soon. While it doesn't snow much in Seattle, I'm wondering where might be a good opportunity to snowshoe nearby. I suppose the possibilities are either Mt Rainier or Olympic. I guess I'm leaning towards Olympic since there are other things to do in the area. Maybe snowshoeing at Hurricane Ridge. The only thing that would make it perfect would be if Sol Duc Hot Springs were open (apparently it's not in the winter) for snowshoeing in the afternoon followed by a mineral waters soak at night.

Snowshoe hiking is a great adventure at Sequoia National Park for winter time recreation. Pick a nice winter day when everything is pristine clear, grab your snowshoes and warm parka and on your way for good exercise with nature.

Both snow & ice. I live in N.W Indiana very close to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore & Michigan lakeshore. The ice shelves that form over the sand are incredible. Gotta make the best of what is available in the winter in the midwest!

Living in Southern California, we have both options, but I prefer the sand over the snow. Some are surprised to know (no one on this site, I'm sure) that deserts can get quite chilly as well as blistering hot. But on winter days, the temps are quite reasonable making hiking easier. I go out to the Mojave Desert about a dozen times a year, usually between the months of November and April. While skiiers wait in line for chairlifts and dodge others on the runs, I'm enjoying massive swaths of land all to myself!


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