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Home Travel Adventure Seekers Try a Winter Fun Getaway in One of the Nation’s National Parks

Try a Winter Fun Getaway in One of the Nation’s National Parks

We Compile a List of Winter Travel Adventures in the West for Your Consideration

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If you are thinking about a snow-style winter vacation, think about visiting a National Park. There are a large variety of winter activities available to visitors, and whether you want snow, or even desert sun, the National Park Service (NPS) can offer both.

The following is a list we assembled from the National Park Service of places in the West you might consider, starting with Alaska. Check back often with us as we get nearer to winter for more information, as some of the National Parks have yet to post their winter events. As we receive their event offerings we'll post them for you.

If you do go on a winter holiday during the 2008-2009 season, drop us an email and let us know about your adventure.

Alaska

denali_national_park_sled
Denali National Park and Preserve:
As you might expect, there are plenty of winter activities at this Alaska national treasure. Denali offers a peaceful, stunning landscape for the winter recreationalist. Popular winter activities include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and dog mushing.

The winter visitor center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with an 18-minute park film, free snowshoe rental, interactive displays, trail information and permits, which are free and required for multi-day trips into Denali's backcountry. Ranger-led snowshoe walks are held at 1 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday in the months of February and March. Be prepared, as temperatures can dip well below zero.

The Talkeetna Ranger Station, approximately 2 hours south of the Denali National Park and Preserve headquarters, is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. As the center for mountaineering, the Ranger Station offers a film about climbing Mt. McKinley. Rangers can also answer your climbing/mountaineering related questions.
www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/mountaineering.htm

Denali has the only dog sled teams in the National Park Service - and has more or less since the park was established 90 years ago. Usually the kennels have around 30 dogs. For information about sled dogs, contact www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/kennels.htm. Denali maintains trails for dog mushers, skiers, snowshoers, etc. There are also commercial outfitters that do trips into the park for visitors who don't bring their own dog teams. For more information, contact the park at (907) 683-2294 or visit the website at www.nps.gov/dena/.

An annual event not to be missed is the park's Winterfest celebration in February. Look for the schedule on the park's web site.

The Park entrance fee is $10 per person or $20 per vehicle. This fee provides the visitor a seven-day entrance permit. Fees are paid at the Murie Science and Learning Center. For more information contact the park at (907) 683-2294 or visit the website at
www.nps.gov/dena/

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve: For the truly adventurous and well-heeled visitor, Gates of the Arctic NP offers a real adventure. Gates of the Arctic NP and Preserve is a remote wilderness area located above the Arctic Circle and far from any roads. Most visitors access the park and preserve by bush plane, starting from local villages.

There is a fairly thriving little business in some towns near Gates of the Arctic NP to go out on skis/dog sleds and into the park for several days. Visitors will stay in heated tents, watch the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), and enjoy the solitude and quiet of the area. Visitors should be prepared to pay concessioners top dollar for this adventure. For more information, contact the park at (907 457-5752 or visit the website at
www.nps.gov/gaar/

Kenai Fjords National Park: The park is a 2.5-hour drive from Anchorage where visitors can rent the Willow Cabin near Exit Glacier for $35/night. They will have to ski or snow machine in to the cabin though. More information about this is available at www.nps.gov/kefj/planyourvisit/willow-winter-public-use-cabin.htm.

This is a beautiful and fun spot, where visitors can hear the sound of avalanches rolling down way up the valley, and can enjoy easy skiing or snowshoeing. For more information, contact the park at (907) 224-7500 or visit the website at
http://www.nps.gov/kefj/

Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve: The park helps host the Yukon Quest dog sled race which runs annually between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. The trail goes up the Yukon River where there is a feed stop at Slaven's Roadhouse, an early 1900s riverboat and dog team stop that was restored by the National Park Service several years ago. Park staff keeps a pot of stew going for several days as mushers roll in, eat, rest, check dogs, etc. The sled race begins in early February and usually runs 12 days or so. For more information, contact the park at (907) 547-2233 or visit the website at www.nps.gov/yuch/

Arizona

Saguaro National Park: When most of the country is shivering from the cold of winter, Saguaro National Park is just starting its peak season. The park is ready for visitors with a full array of interpretive programming currently being offered.

On tap are a host of fun things, from nature walks, night walks, star parties, outdoor and auditorium lectures, to bird walks and tortoise tracking. For more information, contact the park at (520) 733-5100 ort visit the website at
http://www.nps.gov/sagu/

California

Golden Gate National Recreation Area (Alcatraz Island): The winter months are a good time to visit Alcatraz Island. The weather tends to be mild in San Francisco, making it the perfect escape from snow and ice. For locals, this time of year means fewer tourists. For everyone, it means more availability of tickets to Alcatraz. The timing of the night tour means that visitors purchasing that ticket will be treated to a gorgeous sun setting below the famous Golden Gate Bridge.

As always, the award-winning Alcatraz cell house audio tour (included in ticket price), provides an in-depth, detailed and insightful look into the history of this infamous site. For more information, contact the park at (415) 561-4700 or visit the website at
www.nps.gov/alca/. Go to www.alcatrazcruises.com or call (415) 981-7625 for tickets and more information. Advance purchase is recommended. Save time and print your ticket at home!

Death Valley National Park: Here you will find  the answer for those visitors who are looking to get away from the cold and snowy weather. An abundance of ranger conducted activities are available at Death Valley including living history guided tours of Scotty's Castle (a 1920s mansion with all original furnishings and stories to match).

In addition to ranger conducted activities the park's 3.4 million acres are available for exploration on foot or by car and/or 4x4 vehicles. With the longer winter nights, Death Valley is an excellent place to enjoy the brilliant night sky! The park has some of the best and clearest skies in Southern California, and Death Valley's dark night sky exposes the stars like few people have ever seen.

If you are dreaming of the days to come where you can hike in shorts and a light jacket and see spectacular scenery and relive the early history of the west, why wait until June, July or August - head to Death Valley and experience it during the winter. The park's web site provides all kinds of information about trip planning, places to visit and things to explore. For more information, contact the park at (760) 786-3200 or visit the web site at
www.nps.gov/deva/

Yosemite National Park: There are a variety of activities available to visitor to the Yosemite Valley. Following is a brief list.

Glacier Point Overnight Ski Trips offer adventurous visitors the opportunity to experience Yosemite's spectacular winter beauty from a unique perspective. Situated at Glacier Point with panoramic views of Half Dome and the High Country, the Glacier Point Ski Hut is accessible via a 10.5-mile guided ski trip from Badger Pass.

Experienced cross-country guides lead participants on intermediate groomed terrain to the rustic accommodations of the stone-and-log building, stopping along the way to appreciate the serene beauty of winter in Yosemite. The Glacier Point Ski Hut has wood heat, indoor lavatory facilities and sleeps up to 20 skiers dormitory style (one big room) in bunk beds.

Ice Skating at the Curry Village outdoor ice skating rink offers guests the pleasure of ice-skating under the shadow of two of Yosemite's most dramatic sites - Half Dome and Glacier Point. First established in 1928 when the Yosemite Winter Club flooded a parking lot, the rink is located in the western part of Curry Village and offers all the amenities of a modern skating surface. A large supply of rental skates is maintained and skaters may take advantage of the warming hut, cubbies for shoe storage and hot drinks and snacks. Helmets are available at no charge.

For those not skating, a large open area adjacent to the rink offers a warm fire pit where guests can gather, watch the activities, sip hot chocolate and revel in the beauty of Yosemite in winter. Subject to conditions, skating sessions are from 3:30 to 6 p.m. and 7 to 9:30 p.m. early November through March. The rink is open for an additional morning (8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.) and afternoon session (noon to 2:30 p.m.) on weekends. For ice conditions and more information, call 209-372-8341.

Interpretive Programs are available all winter. The number of free and fee-based interpretive programs offered by park concessionaire DNC Parks and Resorts has doubled since the company created an interpretive services department in 1999. Winter programs include Wee Wild Ones for kids six and under, Full Moon snowshoe walks with interpretive messaging, Historic Ahwahnee tours and a number of wildlife and ecology-based programs.

Guided Sightseeing Tours are the best way to see and learn about Yosemite's spectacular sights is by guided sightseeing tour. The two-hour Valley Tour, conducted in a heated coach, stops frequently at Yosemite's most popular and picturesque locations. For pricing and reservations, call the tour office at (209) 372-1240.

Photography Walks offer visitors the opportunity to spend time with a professional photographer and learn how to capture memories of your Yosemite winter vacation on film. Guides, provided by the Ansel Adams Gallery, discuss photo tips at all levels of competency and advise on such topics as lighting, composition, effects and technique. The photography walks range from approximately 90 minutes to two hours, and take participants along a flat or slightly elevated one-mile route.

Badger Pass Activities. Since opening in 1935, Yosemite's Badger Pass Ski Area has been a favorite ski destination for generations of winter adventurers. Fewer crowds, family-friendly activities and a dedicated and skilled staff combine to make your time at Badger Pass fun and fulfilling. Open daily 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. mid-December through late-March (weather permitting); Badger Pass Ski Area is accessible via free shuttle bus from all Yosemite Valley hotel units.

Downhill Skiing. With five lifts, spacious groomed runs and quick access to the slopes, Badger Pass has been the learning ground for generations of skiers. Eighty-five percent of Badger's slopes are beginner and intermediate level, including several runs that are perfect for the first-time skier. Lift tickets and rentals are available at Badger Pass.

The Yosemite Ski School, recognized as one of the best for 70 years, teaches both beginner's basics and refresher courses with a staff of 25 American and international instructors - all members of the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA.) A variety of learn-to-ski packages are available daily for both children and adults. For more information, contact Yosemite's Badger Pass Ski & Snowboard School Desk at (209) 372-8430.

The Badger Pups Program for children ages four to six is designed to accommodate the needs of preschool students and introduce them to downhill skiing. The Pups program includes group ski lessons, rental equipment and admission to the Badger Pups Den, where certified babysitters/ski instructors provide a range of activities and games for children to enjoy while their parents are out on the slopes. Parents are required to lunch with their child.

Snowboarding. Badger Pass is a great place to learn the secrets of snowboarding. You'll find enhanced terrain, plenty of room to practice new maneuvers and up-to-date rental equipment and instruction. Beginning, intermediate and advanced instruction is available from qualified instructors who make learning and improvement fun and easy. Snowboarding equipment rental is available in the Badger Pass rental shop. For more information, call (209) 372-8430.

Snow Tubing. Snow tubing combines the thrill of a roller coaster with the childhood joy of sledding, making it ideal for snow enthusiasts of all ages. One of Badger Pass' newest offerings, snow tubing was introduced in the 2002 season and has proved to be a fun and affordable activity for people of all ages. Tube rental is available at the Badger Pass cross-country center.

Cross-country Skiing. Beginning cross-country skiers find the 25 miles (40 km) of machine-set track at Badger a great way to start, and 90 miles of marked trails leave plenty of room for exploration and improvement. Founded in 1970, Yosemite's Cross-Country Ski School is manned by PSIA-certified instructors who teach all ski levels and also lead ski tours into the Yosemite backcountry and overnight excursions to Glacier Point. Skiers may rent striding, skating and Telemark equipment at the school. For more information and equipment-specific rates, call (209) 372-8444.

Overnight Cross-Country Ski to Glacier Point Ski Hut. A guided ski trip on intermediate groomed terrain through Yosemite's magnificent snow-country takes you to the rustic accommodations of the beautiful stone-and-log Glacier Point Ski Hut. Overlooking Yosemite Valley, Half Dome and the Yosemite High Country, this newly renovated ski hut is located 10½ miles beyond Badger Pass Ski Area along Glacier Point Road. The Alpine-inspired hut has wood heat, indoor lavatory facilities and sleeps up to 20 skiers dormitory style. Meals are included on both one-night and two-night trips.

Snowshoeing. With snowshoes and powder snow, you're set for some great hiking in Yosemite's winter wonderland. National Park Service naturalists lead snowshoe walks several days a week from the Badger Pass ranger station. Each walk takes approximately two hours and participants learn about snow physics and plant and wildlife adaptations in winter. There is no rental fee for these walks, but there is a small maintenance fee. For those interested in exploring on their own, snowshoes may be rented from the Yosemite Cross-Country Ski School Center, or from the Yosemite Mountaineering Center at Curry Village when conditions permit.

For more information about these activities, contact the park at 209/372-0200 or visit the website at
www.nps.gov/yose/

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks: The park conducts free snowshoe walks among the largest trees in the world. Wuksachi Lodge offers package deals and cross country ski classes. The following are just a few of the special winter activities and packages at Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park:

With the new Wuksachi Winter Family Fun package, a family sharing the same room receives a night's lodging at the resort, and free rentals of snow play equipment to use around the property and at nearby Wolverton Snow Play area. The equipment includes sleds for the kids (which they can keep), standard snowshoes for adults and teens and special "monster track" snowshoes for children under ten. The snowshoes have specially designed bottoms so the little ones can walk like an animal, leaving behind a set of tracks. The Wolverton Snow Play area is also just a couple of miles from the Sherman Tree.

Wuksachi's new Ski Explorers package offers toasty accommodations and gear rentals for two.

For more information on Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, go to the web site at
http://www.nps.gov/seki/ or call (559) 565-3341.

Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park: Winter at Rocky Mountain offers natural beauty and plenty of snow for recreational activities. Elk, mule deer, coyotes abound in the lower valleys while ravens, magpies and several species of jays winter in the park. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular activities through out the park during the winter. A sledding area is open at Hidden Valley.

The Beaver Meadows Visitor Center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with a 23-minute park film and offers a weekend Skins and Skulls program. The Fall River Visitor Center is open weekends and the Kawuneeche Visitor Center is open daily 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Ranger-led Snowshoe Ecology Walks for Beginners are offered from January-March on the east side of the park. On the west side of the park Ranger-led Snowshoe Walks and Skiing programs are offered. Saturday Evening Programs are available on both sides of the park. All programs are free and open to the public. For more information on winter activities or programs:
www.nps.gov/romo/ or call (970) 586-1206 for park information.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve: Winter at Great Sand Dunes offers solitude, natural quiet, and incredibly clear days and night skies. Days are generally sunny and chilly, and the sand often feels warm in the intense alpine sun.

Winter visitors may discover the park has a completely different ‘feel' in winter than in summer, with few human visitors but abundant wildlife visible. Elk, mule deer, coyotes, ravens, magpies and several species of jays winter in the grasslands around the dunes and are generally easy to observe.

Snowplay. When snow lingers on the dunes, sledding, snowboarding or skiing are fantastic, with no trees or rocks as obstacles. Snow on the dunes tends to melt soon after winter storms pass, so call the Visitor Center for snow conditions, and plan to bring your own gear.

Winter hiking and photography. It can be tough to find open trails in Colorado in winter, but because the dunes are often snow-free, winter hikes are definitely possible, even when the surrounding grasslands and mountains are still snow-covered. Animal tracks, ridges and textures in the sand, icy patterns in the frozen creek, and the patterns of bare cottonwood trees against an azure sky make fabulous photographic subjects. A dunes-accessible wheelchair is available for those unable to walk in the dunes.

Winter camping and backpacking. Pinyon Flats Campground is open all year, with one accessible restroom and running water. Backcountry camping and backpacking permits are available free at the Visitor Center. Be prepared for sub-zero temperatures and plenty of solitude!

The Visitor Center is open every day from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except winter federal holidays. Call (719) 378-6399 to reach a ranger at the Visitor Center or visit the park website at
www.nps.gov/grsa/

Montana

Glacier National Park: Glacier is open year-round and winter visitors can explore Glacier's spectacular scenery on cross-country skis or on snowshoes. Numerous trails provide outstanding recreational opportunities, or visitors can break trail in less frequented areas.

Join a park interpreter for a free two-hour snowshoe exploration to discover how Glacier's winter residents survive these lean times. Hikes are held at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through mid-March (weather and snow dependent) and are suitable for visitors of all ages and abilities.

Participants should wear winter footwear, dress in layers for a variety of winter conditions, and bring water. Visitors are reminded that although the snowshoe programs are free, the winter entrance fee to Glacier National Park is $15.

In the event of severe weather or insufficient snow, the public should call the Apgar Visitor Center, which is only open on weekends in the winter, at (406) 888-7939. For general information about Glacier National Park, contact the park at (406) 888-7800 or visit the website at
www.nps.gov/glac. The park's skiing and snowshoeing Web site (http://home.nps.gov/applications/glac/ski/xcski.htm) provides trail maps, safety messages and comments, including those added by visitors, on current trail conditions.

Nevada

Great Basin National Park: When winter arrives in Great Basin National Park visitors can truly experience the meaning of solitude and silence. Regular snowstorms provide fresh powder for cross country skiing and snowshoeing on little visited roads and trails. Services and amenities are limited during the winter months, and no equipment rentals are available at this time.

Both the Lehman Caves Visitor Center and the Great Basin Visitor Center in Baker are open year round from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Pacific Time), featuring exhibits and short films on the park.

If you go, don't miss a visit to the beautiful Lehman Caves and enjoy the underground wonders at a time of year with very small tour sizes. Tours are offered daily year round. During the winter, sixty minute tours are at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Ninety minute tours are offered at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Reservations are accepted by calling (775) 234-7331 ext. 242, though they are usually not necessary.

Skiing and Snowshoeing. For those looking for a backcountry experience, Great Basin provides many opportunities for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive and Baker Creek Roads are closed to vehicles, and open for recreation. Trails/roads are not groomed.

Winter Camping and Backpacking. The Lower Lehman Creek Campground remains open year round (no water). Backcountry camping is available for the adventurous. Permits are not required, but registration at a visitor center is highly recommended.

For details on winter activities, safety issues, and available goods and services, visit the park's website at
www.nps.gov/grba. Call (775) 234-7331 ext. 212 for information on current snow conditions.

For more information about these packages and other programs, contact the park at (559) 565-3341 or visit the website at
http://www.nps.gov/seki/

Washington

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park-Seattle Unit: Klondike Gold Rush NHP-Seattle Unit is an unexpected gem of a park in the middle of downtown Seattle. During the winter months the park holds a winter lectures series. For more information about the lectures, contact the park at (206) 220-4240 or visit the web site at
www.nps.gov/klse/

Olympic National Park: The park offers ranger-guided snowshoe walks at Hurricane Ridge (weather permitting!) on weekends during the winter. They are offered free (though a small donation for snowshoe upkeep and replacement is encouraged) of charge for all ages. Walks last about 90 minutes and are billed as "easy" with mostly level terrain and a leisurely pace.

Winter activities at Olympic National Park in Washington's Olympic Peninsula can be as varied as storm watching to hiking in one of three temperate rainforests in the continental U.S. or fishing the great streams and ocean.

Storm Watching. For the past three years, winter vacationers from around the world have been flocking to the historic ocean-front cabins of Kalaloch Lodge on the Olympic Peninsula to go storm watching. Storm watching is a relatively new tourism phenomenon and this year's record storm season in the Pacific Northwest was magnificent with waves tumbling and weather brewing.

During the winter storm watching season there are usually at least 10 to 15 sizeable storms each month. With high waves and strong winds creating interesting rain patterns - and over 150 inches of annual rainfall to the Kalaloch Beach area - storm-watching is best experienced from the Kalaloch Lodge, a rustic resort with cabins perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. Offering a 20 percent savings "Storm Catcher Package," Kalaloch Lodge provides an incredible setting to watch the waves of the Pacific crash below.

Just a three-hour drive from Seattle, visitors can experience the ultimate storm-watching at the Kalaloch Lodge, with 44 cozy ocean-front cabins that sleep four to eight people and stunning views of the coast. Guests can burrow up by the Franklin wood burner stove in a log cabin and enjoy Starbucks coffee and Kalaloch mugs, breakfast for two for $149/night. For the adventurous, two rain ponchos are also included in the package.

The getaway is perfect for those who enjoy snuggling up inside or braving the wet winds and sea outdoors. And when the weather clears, Kalaloch's seven adjacent beaches offer great tide pooling, fishing, and even razor clam digging, plus phenomenal hiking in the nearby rainforest and on the natural, untouched beaches.

Other winter activities at Kalaloch Lodge in the Olympic National Park include:

Hiking. Trek along the coast or within the coastal forests in the Olympic Mountains. Olympic National Park is located in one of only three temperate rain forests in the world, housing hundreds of rare animals and plants. Maps and hiking tips are available at www.visitkalaloch.com.

Beaches. There are seven unique beaches for guests to visit during their stay, two of the most popular are Ruby Beach and Beach Trail #4. During the summer, Olympic National Park Service interpretive rangers lead daily beach and tide pool walks.

Clam digging. Kalaloch Beach is a great spot for its razor clam digging in the fall. Contact the lodge for details, including available dates for legal clam digging.

Bird & whale watching. Fall is the best time to watch as the birds and whales make their migration along the Kalaloch coast.

For more information about these fantastic programs, contact the park at (360) 565-3130 or visit the website at
www.nps.gov/olym/

Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park: One of the most unusual and enjoyable winter activities for any national park occurs in Grand Teton with the ranger-led snowshoe hikes. These hikes take place everyday, and the park supplies visitors with classic wooden Yukon or Alaskan-style snowshoes for their outing with the ranger to explore the winter beauty of the park.

Visitors learn about how the harsh conditions of winter determines which animals and plants survive as they amble over hill and dell in search of wildlife and/or signs of wildlife. The trip eventually brings the visitors to the banks of the Snake River. For more information, contact the park at (307) 739-3300 or visit the website at
www.nps.gov/grte/


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