America's National Parks: Winter Edition

With all of the holiday obligations of wrapping presents, preparing turkey dinners, and migrating back home to see friends and family behind us in 2016, it is time to shift our focus towards something more fun: adventure and travel. Start your year off right by visiting a national park in the off-season; bonus points if you can save some cash and visit on a free entrance day.

Everglades National Park, Florida
Due to the tropical climate of Florida, the best time to visit Everglades National Park is actually in winter. The average temperature throughout the day runs in the 70s, dropping at night to an average in the 50s. Being in mild temperatures, all activities such as hikes and airboat rides are more feasible during the colder months. The winter season is also the dry season for Florida, so humidity is low (along with biting insects like mosquitos) and water levels are low, spurring animals to be more visible as they gather around waterholes. Winter is also the season when birds migrate south (to Florida and other warmer climates), so Everglades National Park in winter is perfect for birdwatchers and for those looking for some wildlife.

Acadia National Park, Maine
Sunrise in Acadia National Park, MaineGetty Images/iStockphoto

Since most people do not migrate north when the days get shorter and the temperatures start dropping, visiting Acadia National Park in the winter offers plenty of outdoor activities with a low concentration of tourists. Cross country skiing, ice fishing, winter hiking, winter camping, and snowmobiling are all offered in the park. Maine also boasts the easternmost point of the contiguous United States, so you could plan your trip around the end of the year and be the first to greet sunrise of the new year.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
What is there not to do in Rocky Mountain National Park during the winter months? As a national park that is stunning all year long, RMNP becomes a winter wonderland for those looking for cold-weather outdoor activities. If you're a beginner at these winter activities, rental gear is available in the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake, and you can attend a ranger-led program to gain some guidance on how to successfully move throughout the park. Trail Ridge Road, a scenic byway that spans the park and the highest continuously paved road in the United States, is closed during the winter, so plan driving around the park accordingly to maximize your time spent doing fun stuff on trails and not sitting in the car looking at maps.

Joshua Tree National Park, California
Joshua TreesErnst Haas

Since snow rarely falls in the desert climate of Joshua Tree National Park, it is an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts (especially climbers) who want less cold and less crowds. In the summer, temperatures can get over a hundred during the day and usually don't drop below 75 during the day. Hiking, camping, and rock climbing are the main outdoor activities that can be enjoyed here during the winter, along with taking advantage of the shorter days and enjoying the cloudless skies and endless stars at night.

Jillian is a Denver-based writer who is trying to occupy herself with writing while waiting for the warmer months and longer days to roll around.