10 State Parks to Visit This Winter
If winter weather has kept you cooped up indoors too much this winter, it's probably time for an outdoor expedition. Although you probably associate state parks with warm weather, winter's a great time to plan a visit. Many transform into snowy wonderlands perfect for skiing, sledding, and other outdoor adventures. Plus, they're often less busy in colder months, meaning you can take in the snowy beauty in peace. Here are 10 state parks perfect for breaking your cabin fever this winter.
Eldorado Canyon State Park in Eldorado Springs, Colorado
"A hidden treasure right in Boulder's backyard," this park has tons of places to climb, hike, fish, and more. When winter hits, it's an idea place to cross country ski and snowshoe, with plenty of trails available for both activities. And if you're not feeling active, just head there to experience the quiet beauty of the park in its off-season.
Go: $4 individual walk-in/bike-in entry, $9 vehicle entry; cpw.state.co.us
Niagara Falls State Park in Niagara Falls, New York
It's a super popular attraction in spring and summer, but Niagara Falls is not to be missed in winter. "You haven't really experienced the Falls until you've seen them in their snow-white frosted majesty," as the website says, so layer up and take in the beauty that is frozen falls and snow-covered hills. Bonus: You'll save yourself the large crowds (and hokey tourist traps) that swarm the place in warmer weather.
Go: Free entry, $10 parking; niagarafallsusa.com
Emerald Bay State Park in South Lake Tahoe, California
Sitting right on the border of Nevada in South Lake Tahoe, California, Emerald Bay is a popular destination for hiking and camping. In the winter, there are designated areas for sledding and snow tubing (which sounds amazing), making this a great destination for kids and kids-at-heart alike.
Go: Entry fees vary, $5 parking fee; parks.ca.gov
Red Rock State Park in Sedona, Arizona
Looking to escape the cold and snow on your winter state park trip? The cold months at this southwestern destination are on the mild side, with snow being a rare (but beautiful) occurrence. Head here for a quiet, scenic hike through the colorful park—snowsuit not required.
Go: $7 adult pass,$4 youth pass; azstateparks.com
Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne, Oregon
Year-round campers, this park is for you. Located in Terrebonne, Oregon, which is in the central part of the state, it's most well-known for its vast rock climbing opportunities. But it's also got miles of hiking, gorgeous views of the crooked river, and lots of wildlife. And with year-round camping facilities, it's a perfect place to escape to this winter.
Go: $8 for hikers/bikers, $5 parking fee; oregonstateparks.org
Grandfather Mountain in Banner Elk, North Carolina
Whether you're looking for a challenging hike or just some sweeping views, this 300 million-year-old mountain has all you need. One of the highest peaks in the Blue Ridge Mountains, it boasts over 12 miles of hiking trails at varying levels of difficulty. (If you're looking for a challenging hike, head to the mountain's backcountry where things get steeper and more rugged.) If you'd rather take the views in from the comfort of your car, you can drive through the park at a leisurely place and pull off as you please. Regardless, don't miss the Mile High Swinging Bridge, a 228-foot bride that is the highest suspension footbridge in the country. It sounds (and looks) a little scary, but it affords you amazing views of Grandfather Mountain's Linville Peak.
Go: Hiking is free; Drive-through attraction pass is $22 for adults, $20 for seniors, $9 for children; grandfather.com
Chugach State Park in Anchorage, Alaska
One of the four largest state parks in the United States, Chugach State Park has around 495,000 acres of land perfect for backpacking, camping, climbing, glacier traversing, hiking, skiing, snowmachining, snowshoeing, whale watching, and a whole lot more. You could spend a whole week in this park and not even come close to seeing and doing all there is to see and do. Come here to satisfy your urge for adventure—and then some.
Go: $10 entry fee; dnr.alaska.gov
Itasca State Park in Park Rapids, Minnesota
Itasca State Park is recognized as the oldest state park in Minnesota. Being that it's in the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," it should come as no shock that there are over 100 lakes through the 32,000-acre park, which are extremely pleasant to walk around. We know it sounds a little wild to make frigid Minnesota your winter destination, but the park has a whole winter weekend itinerary mapped out for you that mixes outdoor activities like cross-country skiing and star gazing with plenty of warm indoor activities like playing cards in front of the visitor center fireplace. (Skiers, during the snow season, there are 13 miles of groomed ski trails for you to enjoy.)
Go: $7 entry fee; dnr.state.mn.us
Lake Wapello State Park in Davis County, Iowa
One of southern Iowa's "best-kept secrets," according to the website, Lake Wapello has 1,150 acres of hillside, picnic areas, lakes, and more. Although it's perfect for summer picnics, hikes, and swimming, it's got plenty of wintertime fun, too. There are various areas and trails designated for cross country skiing and snowmobiling, plus trails that make for beautiful winter walks. Stay for the weekend in a cabin along the snowy lakeshore.
Go: Free entry; iowadnr.gov
Wasatch Mountain State Park in Midway, Utah
Another great destination for skiers, snowmobilers, snowshoers, and snow tubers, Wasatch Mountain State Parkis a fantastic destination for a family winter getaway. Rent a cabin, enjoy French toast at the Wasatch Mountain Cafe, and test your skills at the in-line skating facilities at Soldier Hollow (which is where the 2002 Winter Olympic Games were held). There's plenty for everyone at this year-round, winter-friendly destination.
Go: $7 parking fee; stateparks.utah.gov