Ten of the Best U.S. National Parks to Visit by Condé Nast Traveler


Yellowstone National Park

Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming

Visitor numbers drop beginning in September each year and continue to progressively slow until the snow coaches begin their winter travels in December. “It’s my favorite time of year in the park,” says Kipp Saille of Rockin’ HK Outfitters, who has been running horse-packing trips in Yellowstone’s backcountry for 17 years. By early November, most roads in the park close, save for one through the Lamar Valley, a popular wintering ground for wildlife. Autumn weather can range from the 70s to the 20s with snow, but bring your swimsuit and warm up with a dip in the Boiling River or a visit to nearby Chico Hot Springs.


Zion National Park


Expected to break 3 million visitors for the first time in 2014, Zion National Park is getting more difficult to navigate with its single road through the park and a mandatory shuttle system in the busy months. You can explore it more freely in the offseason, whether that’s fall or spring. For golden autumn colors and remnants of summer’s warmth, go in October through mid-November. But visit in April for mild temperatures and seasonal waterfalls.

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 Grand Teton National Park


November is, by far, the quietest month in this park. Snow has fallen, elk and bighorn sheep have come down to their wintering grounds, and a sense of tranquility fills the landscape. It’s the perfect time to enjoy views of the Teton range, whether on skis or from the warmth of a fireplace. The resort town of Jackson Hole also has a relaxed pace this time of year.

© Michele and Tom Grimm / Alamy


Denali National Park


It’s easy to get romanced by the endless summer days of Alaska, but the shoulder seasons (spring and fall) have their special moments, too. In either, you’ll find the snow-capped peaks more dramatic, though it’s wise to keep a close eye on the weather. In early May, with so little car traffic, biking the park road becomes a popular activity. Fall, which begins in late August in this region, provides a spectacular display of foliage and glimpses of the northern lights.

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The Grand Canyon


“It doesn’t matter if you are seeing the Grand Canyon for the first or the 50th time; if you haven’t seen it in the winter, you are missing a glorious experience,” says Bruce Brossman, regional director of sales for theXanterra South Rim lodge in the Grand Canyon. While the North Rim of the park closes to visitors during the winter, you’ll find lodging and services at the South Rim. Hop on the Grand Canyon Train and enjoy a scenic 60-mile ride (they also run a special Polar Express train during the holidays). If there’s enough snow, it’s possible to cross-country ski or snowshoe along the Rim Trail.

© Allen Thornton / Alamy


Olympic National Park


Just a few hours from Seattle, the diversity of Olympic National Park is unmatched, with rainforests, mountain peaks, lakes, streams, and the stunning Pacific coastline. If snow is your thing, Hurricane Ridge offers winter recreation opportunities. But you’ll rainforest is also a lush green during its winter rainy season, while the beaches remain relatively snow-free. It’s also the perfect time to enjoy the area’s hot springs and old lodges.

© Aurora Photos / Alamy


Arches National Park


The crowds flock to view these unusual rock formations in the spring and fall, so try winter or early spring if you want a quieter visit. The average high in February is 52 degrees Fahrenheit; March is 64. You can still expect plenty of sunshine and some great hiking. And it’s also a photographer’s dream: imagine the reds of the desert sandstone with the snow-covered La Sal Mountains as a backdrop.

© Brian Jannsen / Alamy


Yosemite National Park


Everything but the traffic and lodging is bursting at the seams during spring—specifically, April and May—in Yosemite Valley. Waterfalls swell with snowmelt from the mountains, dogwoods are in bloom, and wildlife begins to stir. Hike in the lower elevations, visit the waterfalls, picnic in El Capitan meadow, and watch rock climbers on the big wall. Feeling adventurous? Spend a day basking in the sun while you take rock-climbing lessons in the sports mecca.

© Don Smith / Alamy


Everglades National Park


The heat and insects of the wet season scare off most visitors during spring and summer months, but visit this park in May or June to find a good dose of solitude not far from bustling Miami. While the wildlife viewing isn’t as plentiful this time of year, you’ll be treated to the peak bloom time for orchids and other wildflowers.

© Tom Till / Alamy


 Glacier National Park


Winter and fall both have their advantages in Glacier National Park, but you can experience the bike ride of a lifetime if you hit this snow-studded park on the Canadian border just prior to its summer season. By June, much of the road is plowed and open only to bicycle and foot travel, with weekends being your best bet for unrestricted access. You won’t be alone, as the narrow road fills with cyclists of every age, shape, and ability. Before you go, be sure to check the park’s road status updates for plowing progress and closure info.

Jennifer Duffield White

Article Written By Jennifer Duffield White


In-House Editor

To say Hamyar has traveled would be something of an understatement. His passion for travelling has taken him from Tanzania to Dubai and an enviable number of places between, and the memories he captures always make for interesting reading. As well as travel, other subjects which fall into his expert remit include culture, design, fashion and cars - in other words, a born globetrotting who is destined for great things if his aspirations so far are anything to go by.

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