It is that festivity-filled season of the year when the cold sets in and snow flurries begin to hit as the new normal. As much as people enjoy summer camping, such excursions during winter can be fun as well. There are actually numerous camping destinations in the U.S. that offer an exceptional experience even during the coldest time of the year.
Whether you plan to beat the crowds and see snow-covered landscapes, or head towards the southern hemisphere for a warmer camping experience, you’re sure to enjoy the outdoors in the winter months.
Camping during winter may help fight SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as the the winter blues), an illness affecting about 4 percent of Americans. Beat the blues by spending lots of time soaking in as much fresh air and sunlight as you can. Furthermore, there are lots of winter fun activities to enjoy since most camping sites are located in national parks with space for activities like snowboarding, snowshoeing, or skiing.
For an exceptional experience during the cold season, you need to choose the right location.
How to choose the right campsite
Finding the right winter campsite takes time. Considering the season’s shorter days, plan to arrive early so you can have more time to find the best site and set up your camp. Keep these key factors in mind when looking for a winter campsite:
- Wind – Strong winter winds come with setbacks and risks, but you can work around them. Look for areas with natural windbreaks so you can protect yourself from the dangers of strong winds.
- Scenery – Waking up to the sight of fresh snow, a mountain top, or a lake view can be inspiring and make for incredible photo ops.
- Temperature – Cold air tends to settle in valleys and depressions, so you should expect colder nights if you camp in low spots. By understanding the temperature patterns of your chosen area, you can find the warmest areas to set up camp.
- Water – With a source of water near the campsite, you can easily gather enough water for cooking or drinking. Look for areas with fast-moving streams since they have lower chances of freezing. If the only available source is frozen, you can use an ice ax or hatchet to break through the ice.
- Avalanche risk – Before choosing a site near or on a slope, assess the avalanche risk.
Top five breathtaking winter camping locations in the US
Do not miss waking up to these amazing areas this winter:
1. Mt. Baker and Snoqualmie National Forest – Seattle, WA
If you want to stay in one of America’s favorite tourist destinations and access one of the country’s best natural forests, this is the place for you. Mt. Baker boasts truly incredible land forms and old-growth vegetation. Expect stunning views and numerous activities to explore. Visiting during winter promises a completely different experience compared to summer.
Skiing and snowmobiling
Within the park’s boundaries, you’ll find four ski resorts, including:
- The Summit at Snoqualmie
- Stevens Pass Ski Resort
- Crystal Mountain Ski Resort
- Baker Ski Area
You can also enjoy hundreds of miles of cross country and snowmobile trails.
The region is popular for its bald eagles, and winter is a great season to see them. Volunteers have designated watching areas equipped with binoculars and spotting scopes.
2. Joshua Tree National Park – California
With its vast deserts, rugged mountains, strange trees, and gold mine ruins, Joshua Tree is one of the most photographed national parks in the country. Choosing to visit the park in winter means less traffic and unique views.
The location boasts more than 8,000 climbing routes spread across more than 400 granite formations.
With more than 250 miles of equestrian trails, both you and your horse will enjoy truly fabulous adventures.
Simply driving or walking around to take in the amazing views of nature might be your favorite part of the visit. Visit the Cholla Garden for a chance to encounter the jumping cholla cacti, or check out the Barker Dam for a glimpse of the desert animals quenching their thirst. Enjoy the sights of the Joshua trees that give life to lots of desert dwellers.
3. Hot Springs National Park – Arkansas
It may be the smallest among the country’s national parks, but Hot Springs National Park ranks among the top winter camping destinations. For more than 200 years, the natural baths in this region have provided relaxation and healing to visitors from across the globe. However, you should adhere to signs as some springs reach up to 143 degrees Fahrenheit. Here are some enjoyable activities to enjoy.
Head to the center of downtown and enjoy the benefits of bathhouses constructed in the mid-19th century. Luxury reigns at Quapaw Bathhouse.
The hot springs may steal the area’s spotlight, but you can also enjoy fabulous day-hikes on more than 26 miles of trails.
4. Grand Canyon National Park – Arizona
With an average of 2 million visitors each year, the Grand Canyon is no secret. Most travelers adventure here during summer and spring, but winter is a great season to avoid crowds and take in views.
Smaller crowds mean that more wildlife emerge. The popular animals you’re likely to spot include bald eagles and mule deer. You may also come across ravens, condors, elk, and squirrels.
Bring your driver’s license with you and enjoy drives around the wondrous area. With fewer crowds, you’re likely to see more and capture fabulous pictures of light snow.
Grand Canyon offers endless trails, but make sure you prepare for the additional risks of winter hiking. Check out our hiking tips, and be sure to check trail conditions.
5. Acadia National Park – Maine
The Blackwoods Campground remains open during winter, but you must obtain a mandatory permit from the camp headquarters. Enjoy a range of fun winter activities like dog sledding, skijoring, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, hiking, and snowmobiling.
As part of your winter adventure preparations, pack your KÜHL gear for a comfortable camping experience.
Featured image: Alaska’s Denali National Park by Paxson Woelber.