Uinta National Forest

Top Ten: Winter Weekend Getaways from the City

February 18, 2011, 8:22 am

Sunset at Biscayne National Park. Source: nps.gov.Sometimes living in a big city can make nature seem so far away. In honor of Presidents Day, we’ve decided to compile a list of parks that are located close to major metropolitan areas and perfect for a winter weekend getaway. So strap on your snowshoes and grab your skis, it’s time to go out for some fun in the snow!

1. Detroit - Belle Isle Park (5 mi, approximately 15 minutes)
Situated at the bottom of Lake St. Clair on the U.S. – Canada border, Belle Isle is an excellent getaway from Detroit. Take a trip over the Detroit River to Belle Isle and explore the park. Check out the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory. The Conservatory was modeled after Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Inside the building are permanent displays of cacti, ferns, palms and one of the largest collections of orchids in the country. The building is open from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily, including holidays. For those looking to explore outdoors, sledding is extremely popular during the winter. During the summer, Kid’s Row playground and the Scott Memorial Fountain are two must-see features.

2. Phoenix –Tonto National Monument (110 mi, 2 hours)
Located just two hours away from Phoenix, Tonto National Monument features cliff dwellings that date back 700 years set in the gorgeous desert. One of the ways to get closer look at these former homes is to take a hike on the Lower Cliff Dwelling Trail or Upper Cliff Dwelling Trail. Tours can get crowded, so it is advised to make a reservation ahead of time. Be sure to check out the museum or hop on a photo tour. There is camping nearby for those who want to go explore Roosevelt Lake and Tonto Basin. Special moonlight hikes and off-site hikes may also be available so make sure to consult the activity calendar before heading out! These hikes vary from the traditional trails and go deeper into the desert around the monument.

3. Miami – Biscayne National Park (45 mi, 1 hour 15 minutes)
Let’s face it; even people in Miami need vacations. If you are looking to go on a weekend getaway be sure to check out Biscayne National Park. Activities include snorkeling, swimming, fishing, boating, wildlife watching and bird watching. Be sure to check out the glass bottom boat tours to see the hundreds of different kinds of fish that live in the parks waters. Camping is permitted in the park during the winter but visitors must rent a private boat to get to the campgrounds. So get out there and go adventuring!

4. Los Angeles – Joshua Tree National Park (168 mi, 3 hours)
Escape from the hustle and bustle of L.A. life by getting out to Joshua Tree National Park. The desert conditions of the park in the winter yield perfect conditions for a hike into the backcountry or some rock climbing. Even those who don’t have technical climbing experience will enjoy scrambling their way up the park’s famed boulders. The landscape is littered with cacti as well as, go figure, Joshua Trees. Camping is open for the winter, as are plenty of trails suited for horseback riding, biking and hiking.

5. Seattle – Olympic National Park (85 mi, 2 hours)
For those looking for a long weekend getaway, Olympic National Park provides all the winter fun a family could want. Hurricane Ridge provides action-packed winter sports. Go skiing or snowboarding down the mountains. For those looking for a little less speed, cross country skiing and snowshoeing trails are extremely abundant and travel through snow covered forests. Let the kids have some fun sledding or tubing down the hills.

6. Denver – Rocky Mountain National Park (80 mi, 2 hours)
When the west side of the park becomes covered in snow, it’s the perfect place for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Skiing is also permitted but there is no ski lift, making these areas suitable for the highly motivated and experienced skiers. The North Supply Access Trail on the west side of the park is open to snowmobiling and runs two miles. The east side of the park is limited, but Happy Valley provides a winter playground suitable for sledding with kids. Always be sure to check weather conditions before heading out.

7. Salt Lake City – Uinta National Forest (75 mi, 1 hour 45 minutes)
Set in the Wasatch Mountain Range, Uinta Forest to creates an amazing winter getaway. In total, the forest is a snowmobilers dream with over 50 miles of well-kept trails plus additional acres for backcountry exploration. For those in the mood for a more traditional winter activity, there are a multiple alpine skiing resorts located in the forest. Four are located in the Cottonwood Canyon area, right in the heart of Uinta National Forest. Additionally, there are multiple shared trails laid out for cross-country skiing.

8. NYC – Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (75 mi, 1 hour 45 minutes)
Located just 75 miles from Manhattan, this recreation area will wash away all your city stress. Hit the trails for cross-country skiing at any level of difficulty. Ski past frozen ponds and snow-covered forests. The McDade Recreational Trail, upon completion, will offer over 37 miles of cross-country skiing. Currently, there is a 5-mile loop and 2.7 mile trail open. Snowshoeing is also a popular activity on the trails. Greyhound buses depart from the Port Authority and stop in Delaware Water Gap, PA.

9. Chicago – Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie (63 mi, 1 hour 10 minutes)
Although large portions of birds in the prairie migrate south, Midewin is still a great location to spot some feathered friends. Waterfowl often congregate in the prairie in the winter while others make it a stopping place on their way farther south. Also during the winter months, the visitor center offers public lectures about conservation, endangered species, plants and more. Reservations do not need to be made.

10. Cleveland – Cuyahoga Valley National Park (16 mi, 20 minutes)
Hop on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad through the park! The train operates all 12 months of the year and is a great way to see the park in winter while staying warm. Audio tours are also available while riding the train. For those looking to get outside, there is 125 miles of trail open for the winter perfect for either cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Ice fishing is permitted in the park but there is no monitoring so it is at your own risk.

Image: Sunset at Biscayne National Park. Source: nps.gov.