NPS 100: Winter in the Parks

This is the first in a series of posts I’ll be writing over the course of 2016 focused on celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the National Park Service. My passion for photography began with my first visits to a series of the parks and it’s been a love affair ever since. I hope you enjoy the ride this year and are inspired to visit, support, and/or educate others on the importance of why these special places exist.

 When old man winter comes calling many put their boots and trekking poles away in the closet until spring time returns. Opting to save vacation and time spent with nature during the warm, lengthy summer days. While I love perfect summer days spent in one of my favorite parks, winter can be an adventure of its own. Here’s a few reasons to get out and see your parks once winter season settles in.

1. You’re able to see a park in unique conditions.

Grand_Teton_Winter_Light_at_Oxbow _Bend_234

Winter at Oxbow Bend – Grand Teton National Park

Winter brings beautiful conditions to many of the northern and higher elevation parks. Winter storms can drop feet of snow during the winter month giving a park a unique look from your typical summer greens and fall yellows. Parks like Crater Lake, Grand Teton, and Mount Rainier wear their winter coats very well and create beautiful conditions for exploration and photography.

2. Less crowds


Solo Sunset at Delicate Arch – Arches National Park

Winter tends to keep the crowds away from many of the National Parks. In most parks visiting will be much quieter during the colder winter months. It’s likely some trails and vistas will be near empty, even deserted leaving it for you and you alone to enjoy. Two years ago I spent several blustery winter days in Arches National Park, deciding one stormy late afternoon to catch sunset at Delicate Arch – I had it all to myself, not another soul around. Not often you can say that about such an iconic location like Delicate Arch!

3. Get your workout in

Frosted forest along the rim of Crater Lake- Crater Lake National Park


Frosted Forest Along the Rim of Crater Lake – Crater Lake National Park



When snow covers the trails and hill sides of our parks it takes work to see views normally driven to. Many viewpoints require a trek via snowshoe or cross-county ski. Anyone who’s done either of those knows it’s quite the workout. Crater Lake is one of my personal favorites – winter brings minimal access points in the park, requiring work for the best views. So once winter hits, grab your gear and get out there to burn off some of those extra holiday calories!


4. Escape the winter blues


A Warm Desert Day Gives Way to Warm Side Lighting at Sunset – Joshua Tree National Park


I’ve talked a lot about stormy and snowy weather conditions, but what if your just not into that? Head south. Many of the far southern parks, such as Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Saguaro, and Big Bend National Parks provide some of their best weather during the winter months. Warm days and cool nights make for a perfect escape if snow isn’t your thing. I recently spent several days in December camping, hiking, and photographing Death Valley and Joshua Tree – a perfect escape for anyone needing a break from the winter blues.

I’ve really enjoyed spending more time this winter exploring several of our National Parks. However before you go keep in mind most parks are open year round, but some have restrictions on what roads they plow, what services are open, and even certain opening/closing times for visitor safety. And also be sure to prep for winter weather and quick changing circumstances. A great resource for more details and specifics for each park is the NPS website. Happy #NPS100

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