Best National Parks to Visit in December


If you look at the front of many Christmas cards, the picture-perfect holiday involves fat, white snowflakes falling gently on a scenic landscape. Fir trees enrobed in white. Mountain peaks snow-capped and glistening. To wrap yourself in this idyllic holiday setting, head to one of America’s beautiful national parks. Some of the best national parks to visit in December will create a truly beautiful holiday.

yellowstone national park december waterfallYellowstone National Park, Wyoming

If you are dreaming of a white Christmas, one of the very best national parks to visit in December is Yellowstone National Park. Much of the park closes for the winter, which means you have this incredible outdoor playground almost to yourself. The star of the show is still Old Faithful , which in the depths of winter adds frozen mist and ice to its list of spectacular visuals. The geyser's steam coats the needles of nearby pine trees, creating what the locals call “ghost trees.” The best way to see it is to go cross-country skiing along the Black Sand Basin Trail or the Fern Cascades Loop Trail . Stop by the Old Faithful Snow Lodge after for a hot chocolate by their roaring fire.

Yosemite National Park, California

You may not find snow in Yosemite Valley proper, but there is plenty of snow in the
surrounding mountains. Book a Yosemite vacation rental and head to Badger Pass , the local
ski resort where you’ll find cross country and downhill skiing. Some hiking trails are still open,
including the Cook's Meadow Loop that starts at the visitor’s center and offers excellent views
of the Royal Arches .

Make sure to use tire chains; they are required on the park roads that are still open. For a real
culinary treat, make a dinner reservation at the Ahwahnee Dining Room in the Ahwahnee Hotel
for a Christmas dinner of herb-roasted prime rib served with the stunning backdrop of Glacier
, Half Dome , and Yosemite Falls .

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Many people will tell you that Grand Canyon National Park is best experienced in the winter.
Its winter hiking and children's holiday programs makes it one of the best national parks to
visit in December. The park is virtually empty, with no one but you and the sound of your boots
squeaking on the freshly fallen snow.

One of the most fun adventures for children is the Polar Express , which during the holidays
leaves Williams Depot for a nighttime train ride to the "North Pole." As the train heads through
the scenic landscape, Santa's chefs and elves treat the kids to cookies and hot chocolate while
they sing holiday songs and listen to the story of "The Polar Express." When the train arrives at
the "North Pole," Santa himself boards the train, visits every boy and girl, and gives each one a
special gift.

emerald pools trail zion national parkZion National Park, Utah

December weather in the Zion National Park is mild and sunny. The hiking trails are open, but
the sun can create icy conditions, so bring crampons for safety. The views from the Emerald
Pools Trail
and the Angel’s Landing Trail are unparalleled, so bring your camera for some
spectacular winter photography. Don't miss taking some time to visit Zion Canyon , where you’ll
take some of your best pictures. Winter-full rivers create new waterfalls in the canyon that
summer visitors will never see. Make sure to contact the Zion Canyon Visitor Center before
heading out on any winter hike.

Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington

When the snow has fallen, and the sun is shining, Mount Rainier is one of the best national
parks to visit in December for snowshoeing. There are 16 snowshoe trails crisscrossing the
wilderness surrounding one of America’s most beautiful and most active volcanoes.

If you’ve never tried snowshoeing, Mt. Rainier National Park is an ideal place to start, because
the park offers ranger-guided snowshoe walks into the forests where they teach you all about
the local flora and fauna. The hikes are open to anyone over the age of eight, you only need
sign up at the Jackson Visitor Center an hour before the walk, and snowshoes are included.

Once you've figured out the best national parks to visit in December, you can choose the best one for your crew, and then book a vacation rental with great natural views and access to the activities.

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