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9 of The Most Scenic Winter Hikes in USA National Parks

Scenic Winter Hikes

When it comes to national park travel, many people think of warm summer days spent hiking through verdant forests and along cascading streams. While the warmer months certainly have their charms, there is something truly magical about exploring national parks in the winter. 

The landscape takes on a different character, with snow-capped peaks, frozen waterfalls, and glittering ice formations. And, of course, the crowds are much smaller, meaning you can enjoy the peace and solitude of the wilderness in a way that is simply not possible during the busier seasons.

If you are planning a winter national park trip and are looking for some of the most scenic hikes to add to your itinerary, look no further. Here are 9 of the most breathtaking winter hikes in national parks across the USA:

Old Faithful Snowshoe Loop, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Old Faithful Snowshoe Loop in Yellowstone National Park is a must-do winter hike for anyone visiting the park during the colder months. Located in the heart of the park, the 3.5-mile loop takes you past some of Yellowstone’s most iconic geothermal features, including Old Faithful and Castle Geyser. The snowshoe trail is well-maintained and relatively easy, making it a great option for hikers of all skill levels.

Old Faithful Snowshoe Loop

As you make your way along the trail, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the surrounding wilderness. The snow-covered trees and frozen streams create a picture-perfect winter wonderland. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to observe the geothermal features up close, marveling at the steam rising from the hot springs and geysers.

One of the highlights of the Old Faithful Snowshoe Loop is, of course, Old Faithful itself. This famous geyser is known for its predictable eruptions, which can reach heights of up to 184 feet. Watching Old Faithful erupt is a truly awe-inspiring experience, and one that you won’t soon forget.

While the Old Faithful Snowshoe Loop is a relatively easy hike, it is important to come prepared. The weather in Yellowstone in the winter can be quite chilly, with temperatures often dropping well below freezing. Be sure to dress in layers and bring warm gloves, a hat, and a scarf to keep yourself comfortable.

Overall, the Old Faithful Snowshoe Loop is a must-do winter hike for anyone visiting Yellowstone National Park. With its stunning views and iconic geothermal features, it is an experience you won’t soon forget.

Avalanche Peak, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Avalanche Peak in Mount Rainier National Park is a must-do winter hike for experienced hikers looking for a challenge. At 6 miles roundtrip, the trail can be quite steep in places, but the reward at the top is more than worth the effort. From the summit, hikers are treated to panoramic views of Mount Rainier and the surrounding Cascades.

Avalanche Peak winter hike

The Avalanche Peak trail begins at the White River Campground and follows a well-marked path through a dense forest. As you make your way up the mountain, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the valley below. The trail can be quite strenuous in places, with several steep sections and rocky outcrops to navigate. However, the views from the top are absolutely worth the effort.

Once you reach the summit of Avalanche Peak, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of Mount Rainier and the surrounding Cascades. On a clear day, you can see for miles in every direction. The summit is a great place to stop and rest, take in the views, and enjoy a snack or lunch. Just be sure to dress warmly, as the weather at the top of the mountain can be quite chilly.

Overall, Avalanche Peak is a challenging but rewarding winter hike in Mount Rainier National Park. With its stunning views and challenging terrain, it is an experience that experienced hikers will not want to miss. Just be sure to come prepared, as the weather in the Cascades can be quite unpredictable and the trail can be quite strenuous.

Guadalupe Peak, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas 

Guadalupe Peak, located in Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas, is a must-do winter hike for experienced hikers looking for a challenge. At 8.4 miles roundtrip, this is one of the longer hikes on our list, but the views from the top are truly breathtaking. As the highest point in Texas, Guadalupe Peak offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, with miles of rolling hills and rugged mountain ranges stretching out in every direction.

Guadalupe Peak winter

The Guadalupe Peak trail begins at the Pine Springs Visitor Center and follows a well-marked path through a dense pine forest. As you make your way up the mountain, you’ll pass through several different ecosystems, including grasslands, scrublands, and forests. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to observe a variety of wildlife, including deer, elk, and a variety of birds.

As you near the top of the mountain, the trail becomes quite steep, with several rocky sections to navigate. However, the views from the top are more than worth the effort. On a clear day, you can see for miles in every direction, with the rugged landscape stretching out to the horizon.

Just be sure to come prepared, as the weather in the Guadalupe Mountains can be quite unpredictable. The trail can also be quite strenuous, so it is recommended for experienced hikers only. However, for those who are up for the challenge, Guadalupe Peak is a truly unforgettable winter hiking destination.

Maroon Bells Snowshoe, Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, Colorado

The Maroon Bells Snowshoe in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is a must-do winter hike for anyone visiting the Colorado Rockies. Located in the heart of the wilderness, the 4.6-mile snowshoe loop takes you past some of the most breathtaking scenery in the state. The Maroon Bells are two iconic peaks located in the heart of the wilderness, and in the winter, the area is transformed into a winter wonderland, with snow-covered trees and sparkling ice formations.

Maroon Bells winter hike

The Maroon Bells Snowshoe begins at the Maroon Lake Trailhead and follows a well-marked path through a dense forest. Along the way, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. The trail is relatively easy, making it a great option for hikers of all skill levels. However, it is important to come prepared, as the weather in the Colorado Rockies can be quite chilly. Be sure to dress in layers and bring warm gloves, a hat, and a scarf to keep yourself comfortable.

One of the highlights of the Maroon Bells Snowshoe is the opportunity to observe the unique geology of the area. The Maroon Bells are two peaks formed from a type of rock called Maroon Conglomerate, which is made up of sandstone, shale, and other sedimentary rocks. The peaks are known for their distinctive reddish color, which is caused by iron oxide in the rock.

Overall, the Maroon Bells Snowshoe is a must-do winter hike for anyone visiting the Colorado Rockies. With its stunning views and unique geology, it is an experience you won’t soon forget. Just be sure to come prepared, as the weather in the Rockies can be quite unpredictable.

Rim Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona 

grand canyon rim winter

The Rim Trail is a popular hike in the Grand Canyon, offering panoramic views of the canyon from the South Rim. In the winter, the trail is covered in snow, adding an extra layer of beauty to an already stunning landscape. Just be sure to come prepared, as the trail can be quite strenuous and the weather can be quite chilly.

North Rim Trail, Yosemite National Park

north rim yosemite winter

Rim Trail is a must-do when visiting Yosemite National Park in winter. The trail takes you along the edge of Yosemite Valley with stunning views of Half Dome, El Capitan, and Bridalveil Fall. The trail is relatively flat and easy to hike, making it perfect for all skill levels. Snowshoes are recommended for deep snow.

Timberline Trail, Mount Hood National Forest

Timberline Trail mt hood winter

The Timberline Trail is a 40-mile loop that encircles Oregon’s Mount Hood. The trail traverses alpine meadows, subalpine forests, and glacial valleys, offering stunning views of the mountain the entire way. 

While the trail can be hiked in any season, winter is particularly special. Snow blanketed landscapes make for an extra magical experience. And on clear days, hikers are treated to views of Mount Hood, as well as other Cascade peaks like St. Helens and Adams. 

There are several places to access the Timberline Trail, but the most popular starting point is at Timberline Lodge. The lodge, which sits at 6,000 feet elevation, was built in the 1930s and has been used in several films, including The Shining. From Timberline Lodge, it’s about a 5-mile hike to reach the summit of Mount Hood.

Wonderland Trail, Mount Rainier National Park

The Wonderland Trail is a 93-mile loop that encircles Mount Rainier and is one of the most popular trails in the country. The trailhead is located at Longmire in Mount Rainier National Park and can be accessed year-round.

Wonderland Trail winter 1
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In the winter, the Wonderland Trail is a beautiful and challenging hike. The trail is covered in snow and ice, making it necessary to use crampons and ice axes. The views of Mount Rainier and the surrounding area are stunning, and the solitude of the winter landscape is an added bonus.

Hiking the Wonderland Trail in winter is not for the faint of heart, but those who are up for the challenge will be rewarded with some of the most incredible views in all of national parks.

Great Range Traverse, Adirondack Mountains

The Great Range Traverse is a popular winter hike in the Adirondack Mountains. The trail traverses the heart of the High Peaks region, offering stunning views of some of the most iconic mountains in the Northeast. 

The Great Range Traverse is a challenging hike, but it is well worth the effort. The trail is typically snow-covered and icy in winter, so be sure to bring appropriate gear and be prepared for changing conditions. 

Start your hike at the Adirondack Loj trailhead and follow the marked route through the woods. The first section of the hike climbs steeply up Little Haystack Mountain before leveling off as you walk along Franconia Ridge. 

 enjoy panoramic views of Mount Lincoln, Mount Lafayette, and Mount Garfield along the way. After reaching Mount Haystack, the highest point on the traverse, you will begin your descent towards Marcy Dam. 

This final section of the hike is relatively easy walking compared to what you’ve already done, and it’s a great opportunity to take in more views of the surrounding mountains before heading back to civilization.

Conclusion 

The national parks of the USA offer some of the most breathtaking winter hiking destinations in the world. From the geothermal wonders of Yellowstone to the frozen waterfalls of Olympic National Park, there is something for every type of winter hiker. 

Whether you are an experienced mountaineer looking for a challenging trek or a beginner looking for a peaceful snowshoe loop, there is a national park trail that is perfect for you. So why wait? Pack your bags, bundle up, and head out into the winter wilderness. 

You’ll be rewarded with stunning views, peaceful solitude, and a sense of adventure that can only be found in the great outdoors.

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