There is Snow Much Fun to be Had in National Parks!

Hollis HughesNPF Blog
Redish-orange alpenglow lighting up the snow-covered mountains and snow-covered sand dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve — Patrick Myers/NPS

Brrrr! There’s definitely a nip in the air, or is that jack frost at your toes? When the cold weather settles in and winter arrives, that means snow for many of our national parks!

Did you know that national parks are winter wonderlands? Those sloping valleys, grassy knolls, and rolling hills may be beautiful in the summer, but with a coating of snow they become a powdery playground! There are tons of activities you’ll “glove” very much, so we’ve chosen some our favorites that are best in “snow” for spending time with family and friends. You’re sure to be smitten!


Is there any better sound than the crunch of snow under your boots? Taking a walk in the parks is great all year round, but it’s a can’t miss experience during the winter. Whether you’re visiting a park for the first time or visiting your “tried and true”, it’ll look and feel like a whole new world under a blanket of snow. Take a traditional winter trek across the frosty plains at Theodore Roosevelt National Park or take it to the next-level and walk across the frozen surface of Lake Superior at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Don’t forget to bring: snow boots!


There’s a reason snowshoes have been used for thousands of years to get around in the snow — they’re a fun way to travel and exercise! Snowshoeing helps you float on top of snow, making it the best way to explore a national park that has deep powder or trails that cover long distances. Try a popular path like the Trego Lake Trail at Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway or roam the practically endless snowshoeing-friendly areas at Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Don’t forget to bring: snowshoes!


A snowy hill with a couple people in the distance walking up Kendall Hill with sleds in front of a row of bare trees at Cuyahoga Valley National Park
National Park Service

Let’s be honest — we’ve all seen a grassy hill at a national park and thought to ourselves, “that would be perfect for sledding.” Well at some parks, they truly are! When the snow starts falling, dust off your sled and get your loved ones together to play on the slopes. Have a blast and make great memories riding the hills at Battery Kemble Park in the Civil War Defenses of Washington or Kendall Hills at Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Don’t forget to bring: sleds and/or tube!

Cross-Country Skiing

If you prefer gliding to stepping, try exploring a national park atop a pair of cross-country skis. This sport is ideal for traveling long distances, as group recreation, as an aerobic workout, and for exploring backcountry wilderness or a well-worn trail. Looking for a unique experience? Try cross-country skiing with your family and friends across the snow-covered sands of Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve. Want to challenge yourself? Circumnavigate the entire lake at Crater Lake National Park on an 18-hour overnight ski adventure.

Don’t forget to pack: skis and poles!

Ice Skating

People ice skating in a risk with a snowy Half Dome in the back at Yosemite National Park
National Park Service

You don’t have to love snow to enjoy wintertime in the national parks! With more than 11,000 miles of shorelines, 32 wild and scenic rivers, and 2.5 million acres of ocean and Great Lakes waters under NPS management, ice activities are a cold weather staple across the National Park System. Ready to lace up your skates? Visit the historic and popular outdoor Half Dome Village Ice Rink at Yosemite National Park!

Don’t forget to pack: ice skates!

With so many fun winter activities found in our national parks, there’s no reason to keep this year’s holiday celebrations indoors! Try making these experiences a new tradition for family and friends. A great place to start is your local L.L.Bean store to get outfitted for all your outdoor adventures. For even more ideas on national parks to explore this season, download our free Winter Wonderlands Owner’s Guide.

What are your favorite winter activities to do in the national parks? Share your own experience in the comments below.

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