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Winter, A Season of Contrasts Across the National Park System


Does winter mean you'd head to Cinnamon Bay in Virgin Islands National Park, rather than the boardwalk across the terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park? Top photo via wikipedia, bottom photo Kurt Repanshek.

Winter is a season of stark contrasts across the National Park System. You can endure the harsh, brutal cold and snow of Yellowstone National Park, or enjoy snorkeling and snoozing on a beach at Virgin Islands National Park.

Just because summer vacation is long gone doesn't mean you should turn your back on the national parks. The coming months can offer solitude, deals on lodging, and experiences you can't enjoy during the warm-weather months.

This week the Traveler offers you a series of stories to help you enjoy the coming months in the national parks. We'll take a look at some great lodges to call home for your visit, point out some cold-weather -- and warm-weather -- parks to enjoy (and how to enjoy them), touch on seasonal wildlife moves, and even offer some suggestions on how to stay safe in the parks.

Is your heart set on coming face-to-face with parrotfish in parks such as Virgin Islands, Biscayne, or Dry Tortugas? Would you rather skim along on cross-country skis in Acadia or Grand Teton, or take your kids sledding at Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park?

Winter is the high season at Death Valley National Park, which means lodging will be pricier than in summer, but it also means more reasonable temperatures for hiking across the park's dune fields or exploring its side canyons.

Big Bend National Park also cools off a tad in winter, and it's a great place to go birding as northern species head there to enjoy the milder climate, and southern species head to the region to breed late in winter.

Yes, there's lots to see and do in the national parks during the coming months, and beginning tomorrow we'll point out some of the highlights. We hope you enjoy the insights.

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My husband and I visited Yosemite last December after the first snowfall and it was fantastic! Absolutely gorgeous vistas, like a winter wonderland. The best part was that there was almost no one else in the park so we had it all to ourselves. We hiked the trails knee-deep in snow all alone and in complete silence....gorgeous and serene. Also, the cost of lodging was much cheaper than in high season and so we had an unexpected romantic weekend for two, complete with fireside dinner in the almost private dining room of the lodge. Give me the parks in winter anytime!

I love the peace & serenity that comes to the parks in the colder winter climes. Something about the crunching of snow underfoot, the sharp air, and the solitude...Very soul-cleansing.

We visited Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks last December (due to reading a similar article on the Traveler - thank you!!) and it was just wonderful. We got there right after their first big snowfall and it was beautiful! Much like the above post... we felt like we had the park to ourselves. Got to see General Sherman and General Grant without another person around. We rented showshoes and it enjoyed the wonderful, pristine snow. Dining was also very pleasant with the place pretty much empty. Would like to go back in the summer now and do some of the hikes we couldn't do but if I had to pick just one visit there it would be a winter visit.

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