Taking a winter vacation is a great way to either get away from the cold or embrace all that it has to offer. And while camping in the winter might not seem appealing at first, there are locations across the country that make for great winter getaways. Whether you’re new to the activity or are a seasoned pro, here are five places to consider for your winter camping destination.
The Adirondack Park, New York
The Adirondack Park, located in upstate New York, has more than six million acres of protected nature in the Adirondack Mountains. It’s divided up into ten regions, each offering visitors their own unique experiences. Winter campers should be prepared for low temperatures and a lot of snow, but you should also expect beautiful sunrises over the mountains and a great time out in the expansive nature preserve. You can opt to camp in one of the many lean-tos located throughout the park, set up camp at one of the more primitive sites, or book a cabin with heat and private rooms. There’s a lot to see and do in the park, giving you the chance to explore any of the 3,000 freshwater areas, go ice climbing in the mountains, or visit the numerous small towns situated throughout the Adirondack Mountains.
With two year-round campgrounds, Black Canyon is a must-visit in the winter months. Winter campers can choose from the South Rim campground, which has eighty-eight closely packed sites, or the North Rim campground and its thirteen remote sites. The park offers visitors the chance to check out the oldest and steepest rock spires in North America, explore the inner canyon of the rock formations, and hike along eight different trails ranging from easy to strenuous.
All visitors are in for a celestial experience since Black Canyon is also an International Dark Sky Park, a certification it received from the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) in 2015. The IDA recognizes lands that have been actively protected from light pollution, which allows for exceptional views of the night sky. So on cloudless nights, visitors can often catch a glimpse of the International Space Station and even the Milky Way.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina
This popular park offers a variety of campgrounds, including primitive areas for the advanced camper and hiker and more developed locations for those looking to camp in comfort. The Cades Cove, Look Rock, and Smokemont Campgrounds are open year-round, allowing you to camp out in the beautiful Smokies and explore all that the area has to offer. There are 150 developed hiking trails and over 40 waterfalls located throughout the park, so if it has recently snowed, you’re bound to see frozen and snow-covered waterfalls on your trip. As a bonus, the Smokies are a short drive to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, towns with several family-friendly offerings including novelty shops, skiing, snow tubing, and ice-skating at Ober Mountain.
If you need some winter sun, this is the destination for you. Located off the southern coast of Texas, Padre Island National Seashore is the world’s longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island with sixty-six miles of beaches and natural habitats. The national park offers year-round camping at five different locations, so you can pick your favorite campsite and wake each morning to the amazing sunrise over the beach. You can opt to camp right on the beach on one of the primitive campgrounds or find your spot near the dunes or laguna at one of the developed campsites with running water. You can also explore the dunes throughout the park via four-wheel-drive vehicles, go fishing in the morning, or try to spot local wildlife. Whatever you choose to do, you’re sure to have a unique and unforgettable camping experience with warm nights and beautiful mornings on the beach.
Yosemite National Park, California
With more than 750 miles of trails to explore, Yosemite National Park is a dream destination for hikers throughout the year. But the winter months offer a unique opportunity to explore Yosemite’s snow-covered trails. Visitors have the option to travel throughout the park via cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, seeing the landscape from a brand-new perspective. With ranger-led snowshoe walks out of Badger Pass Ski Area, it’s a great opportunity for both avid and novice hikers to encounter the beauty of Yosemite. There are several other fun winter activities, including snowboarding, downhill skiing, ice-skating, and snow tubing, that make the park a must-visit in the winter months. Visitors can camp at one of Yosemite’s four year-round campgrounds: Upper Pines, Camp 4, Wawona, and Hodgdon Meadow (though camp closures vary according to weather conditions). You can camp out in the snow and then wake up and explore all that Yosemite has to offer.