When bison snort out steam at Yellowstone, snow bunnies traverse Yosemite’s slopes, and mosquitoes vacate the Everglades, it’s nature’s way of telling travelers to consider a counter intuitive winter trip to a national park.

Visiting the crown jewels of the American landscape during summer with kids in tow is a cherished ritual, but it’s a ritual for the masses: The 391 parks in the system, including the 58 major ones, drew 275.6 million visitors last year, and almost 40% of them came June through August.

A savvier 13% visited from December through February and took advantage of such winter-only activities as cross-country skiing at Montana’s Glacier National Park, storm-watching in Washington’s Olympic National Park, ice-fishing in Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, fireplace-snuggling at Triangle X Ranch in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, and no-broil backpacking in California’s Death Valley National Park.

Falling gas prices and the still-steep cost of traveling abroad this winter could give a short-term boost to what some see as a growing long-term trend.

“As the Baby Boom wave moves into retirement, we’ll see some interesting changes in the demographics of the people visiting the parks and the times they visit,” says Jim Burnett, a retired park ranger/outdoors writer.

To get a sense of what awaits in the great outdoors, consider five parks that show their best sides in winter.

Read more at USA Today


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