Sledding Paradises in National Parks
There’s nothing quite like the euphoric thrill of sliding down a hill – the sudden rush of wind in your face as you soar along the slopes. Sledding and other fun winter activities can help us connect to our national parks, and parks across the country provide the perfect spots to pick up a sled and cruise downhill in style. Explore a few of the sledding spots in national parks, as well as how NPF’s support and programs help connect others to these parks.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Winter activities abound at Rocky Mountain National Park, but Hidden Valley is the one place in the park where visitors can sled to their hearts’ content. Formerly the bottom of the bunny slope in the park’s ski area, this gentle slope is perfect for sledders of all ages. The opportunity to sled is available throughout the winter, as long as snow conditions are right. There is a nearby restroom, plus a warming room that is open most weekends. Just bring your own sledding vehicle of choice – a plastic sled, saucer, or tube – and enjoy!
Connections to this iconic park don’t just happen when there’s snow on the ground. In 2018, NPF helped introduce nearly 70 youth from families with low incomes to the park by providing free outings that combined recreation and education in mountain safety and ecology. Youth enjoyed ranger-led hikes in the park, Leave No Trace demonstrations, and aquatic ecology lessons, creating a lasting bond between these youth and national parks.
Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Ready to take your sledding skills to the next level? Try sand-sledding at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve. Sand sports like sandboarding, sand-skiing, and sand-sledding are permitted year-round on the dune field at this Colorado park, as long as you stay away from vegetated areas that might cause a potentially dangerous ride. Check the sand surface temperatures at the visitor center before heading out to the park and use sandboards and sleds designed specifically for sliding on sand. These sleds feature an extra slick base and special wax that keep your ride down smooth and safe. Make sure to follow all the park’s safety tips to ensure everyone enjoys an unforgettable, unique sledding experience.
Sand sledding on the dunes’ exterior surface is one way to explore the park but digging to discover what’s underneath is just as exciting! In 2016, NPF partnered with the Haas Fund to sponsor a five-day Junior Archaeologist Camp where local youth learned the basics of archeology and its links to history and culture. Youth spent a day exploring collections at Great Sand Dunes through hands-on activities and participating in fieldwork alongside archaeologists.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Take advantage of the annual snowfall at Lassen Volcanic National Park – as much as 30 feet of snowfall occurs annually. Find smaller, gentler slopes close to Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, where you can also warm up and purchase hot drinks on weekends. Walk just a bit further along the snow-covered park highway to access steeper slopes popular with experienced sledders. Grab your own sled before you head out to the park and pack a picnic to enjoy in the fireside dining area in Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center after hours of frosty fun.
Every rock at the park, including those you sled over, originates from volcanoes, and the park boasts a rich variety of plant and wildlife. In 2019, NPF supported a program to help introduce youth to the park’s volcanic geology and recreational opportunities. The summer enrichment program, a partnership between the park and Lassen Foundation, provided educational and outdoor recreational activities for youth in northern California, as well as field trips with accompanying classroom lessons and activities for students to learn more about the park.
White Sands National Park
The powdery white gypsum dunes at White Sands National Park may look like snow-covered hills, but don’t let them fool you – these slopes don’t come with the usual winter temperatures! Visitors to the park can glide down the faces of the dunes along the loop portion of Dunes Drive using plastic snow saucers brought from home or waxed ones purchased in the park’s gift shop. Just make sure to use the proper sand-sledding technique and choose your sledding path carefully to avoid injury!
Yosemite National Park
One unique way to experience the vast, iconic landscape of Yosemite National Park is visiting in the winter months and taking advantage of all the winter activities available. While you can strap on some skis or snowshoes for a walk in a winter wonderland or lace up your skates for laps on the outdoor ice-skating rink in Yosemite Valley, you can also grab your sled or snow tube and enjoy family-friendly fun at Badger Pass. Yosemite Hospitality, an authorized concessioner, sells passes for winter visitors ready to ski, snowshoe, and sled.
Yosemite is full of rich experiences for visitors to explore year-round. In 2016, NPF supported a series of day trips and a multi-night camping trip for Native American youth in the park. Led by a world-renowned climber and a Tribal Elder from the Southern Sierra Miwok Nation, the youth learned about the natural landscapes of Yosemite and the important of being stewards of natural world. Yosemite is also one of three pioneer parks part of NPF’s Don’t Feed the Landfills initiative: a multi-year waste reduction project that has diverted 16 million pounds of waste out of landfills since 2015.
No matter the temperature, there is a national park waiting for you to grab a sled and hit the slopes – be they covered in snow or sand. Make sure you follow visitor guidelines to keep yourself and others safe during your visit and remember to #RecreateResponsibly!