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Why Winter Is The Best Time To Visit These 5 Popular U.S. National Parks

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Winter may not be the season you think of when it comes to visiting U.S. national parks.

Road tripping to a national park is a classic summer pastime, but you might be surprised to learn that winter can actually be a better time to plan your trip, especially for budget travelers.

Zion in Winter

Why? Winter is the off season at most national parks in the United States, which means that you can enjoy lower prices and fewer crowds.

Many national parks look different (but equally as beautiful) in the winter compared to the more popular summer season. As long as you don't mind bundling up for the cold weather, you can enjoy a great winter trip to U.S. national parks.

Here are the national parks that are best visited during the winter in order to save money, according to a study from The Manual.

Bison in Yellowstone in Winter

1. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is America's first national park and one of its most popular. November and December are the best months to visit Yellowstone to save money, with average hotel rates at 50% compared to the peak months of June and July.

Although Yellowstone gets very cold during the winter and some roads become impossible from mid-December to mid-March, a November or early December trip is a great time to visit to save money and still enjoy this iconic national park.

USA, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Prismatic Spring, mist over hot spring in winter landscape

2. Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is the fourth most-visited national park in the United States. Like Yellowstone, it's most expensive to visit in June and July.

But hotel rates in nearby Estes Park (the town closest to the national park) fall from $180 per night to $85 per night during the months of November, December, and January.

Winter is a fantastic time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park because of the beautiful snow-capped peaks and landscapes and numerous outdoor recreation options. You can try snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, and more during the winter.

Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter

3. Zion National Park

Summer is a popular time to visit Zion National Park, along with spring and fall. In fact, hotel rates near Zion in the towns of St. George and Hurricane are highest from February through April, while they are 25% to 30% less in December and January.

Winter is a good time to visit Zion because, unlike the previous two parks on this list, the weather is not nearly as cold in December and January (although you'll still want to bundle up!)

Zion's rocky red cliffs and peaks are even prettier during the winter when covered by a light dusting of snow, and you can enjoy this park without the usual major crowds.

Zion National Park in Winter

4. Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona is the second most popular national park in the United States. Millions of visitors flock to this national park every year to see the iconic landscapes of the Grand Canyon, which is 277 miles long and 18 miles wide.

The most expensive time to visit this national park is April, May, and June when hotel rates top $200 per night. However, in December and January, you can find hotels nearby for as little as $75 per night and enjoy this popular national park without the crowds.

Grand Canyon in the winter with snow topped peaks

5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Finally, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a great one to visit in the winter. This national park on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina is the most visited in the world.

Peak season is July through October, but those who visit during the winter months of December and January can find better deals on hotels in nearby Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

Being located in the Southern United States, winter in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not quite as cold as other parts of the country, although it can still be quite chilly.

Great Smoky Mountains Rainbow Falls in the Winter

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