Virgin Islands National Park

Virgin Islands National Park

Top Ten Warm Winter Getaways

December 17, 2009, 10:38 am

Our national parks are home to beaches, deserts and subtropical wildernesses—all of which make great vacation destinations during the cold winter months. If you’re tired of all the snow and in search for an escape from your cold weather blues, check these Top 10 Warm Winter Getaways.

1. Death Valley National Park, NV
If you’d rather enjoy snow from a distance, then take in the spectacular views of Death Valley National Park’s snow-capped mountains. Despite its slightly ominous name, Death Valley proves to be a beautiful place to visit. Enjoy backpacking, camping, bicycling and birdwatching. If you prefer to spend your visit indoors, then be sure to explore the Borax Museum, located at Furnace Creek Ranch or take a tour of Scotty’s Castle. Your winter visit will also allow you to enjoy the walks, talks and slide presentations given by the rangers about the culture and history of the park. Pack a light jacket and spend your winter at Death Valley National Park.

2. Everglades National Park, FL
Comprised of approximately 2,500 square miles of sawgrass, mangrove and other endemic species, Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. While the winter season is the busiest, it is also the best time to visit. You will be able to take full advantage of the facilities, tours and programs. Camping, birdwatching, canoeing and bicycling are just a few of the activities that you can take part in during your visit. Wildlife watching is also a must. From the tiniest tree frogs to the largest alligators, the Everglades is home to a broad diversity of creatures. There are also 36 endangered or protected species, including the Florida panther, living throughout the park. A winter visit to this beautiful park will make you feel like you are on summer vacation again without any of the pesky mosquitoes.

3. Padre Island National Seashore, TX
Enjoy some much-needed relaxation at a destination that protects the longest undeveloped stretch of barrier islands in the world. Such unadulterated beauty is truly a sight to behold and commonplace in Padre Island National Seashore. Camping, fishing and birding are among our favorite activities when we visit. There’s also plenty of wildlife—be on the lookout for deer, coyotes, spotted ground squirrels and kangaroo rats! Made up of 70 miles of pristine beaches, dunes and tidal flats, Padre Island is a great place enjoy warm weather and sunshine and celebrate the new year.

4. Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Winter in Joshua Tree National Park brings temperatures in the 60s during the day, making a visit far more tolerable than during the intensely hot summers. The mild climate is perfect for hiking and backpacking. Joshua Tree, despite its desert climate, supports a wide variety of plants and wildlife. You can enroll in field seminars through the Desert Institute, enjoy the scenery from Keys View, search for the gold mills of Cottonwood Springs or go camping at Black Rock Canyon. Take advantage of the cool desert temperatures and go hiking in Indian Cove and Covington Flats. Just beyond the crowded highways of Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego, adventure awaits and welcomes you.

5. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
Word on the street is that the first family is heading to Hawaii this holiday and who wouldn’t want to spend the winter in our 50th state? If you are planning to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, expect good weather but don’t forget to bring rain gear. The park is home to the world’s most active volcano, Kilauea, which is currently erupting at two locations! The park tells a story of 70 million years of volcanism, migration and evolution. You can learn about the park’s history at Kilauea Visitor Center and Jaggar Museum, but you’ll also learn a lot outside biking, camping, or hiking through the park’s lava beds and rainforests. You may spot the endangered Hawaiian Monk seal or the Hawksbill turtle as you explore the park’s many life zones. If you happen to see the Hawaiian silverswords, make sure you keep your distance because their roots are shallow and they are endangered. Try to get a good look at them because they are said to be more rare than diamonds!

6. Big Bend National Park, TX
Comprised of more than 800,000 acres of desert and mountains your outdoor recreation options at Big Bend National Park are virtually unmatched. Consider taking a float trip along the Rio Grande—the natural barrier between Mexico and the United States. Guide companies offer short half-day trips and week-long excursions, there’s sure to be a trip for you. Despite the harsh environment, Big Bend is home to a spectacular variety of plants and wildlife. There are more than 1,000 species of plants, 600 species of animals, and an unsettling 3,600 species of insects. If you happen to be backpacking through the mountains keep an eye out for mountain lions, jackrabbits, coyotes and black bears. Don’t forget to pack your camera, which you’ll be happy you have as you watch a Big Bend sunset on the Window View Trail in the Chisos Basin.

7. Saguaro National Park, AZ
Cactus, cactus, cactus. With 25 species of cactus, Saguaro National Park lives up to its name. The park’s namesake, the Giant Saguaro cactus, silhouetted by the setting sun, is the universal symbol of the American West. The mild winters are cause for the peak in visitation between November and April. Hiking, bicycling and watching the sunset are some of our favorite activities in the park. With several bird species throughout the park, which is located along a major flyway, Saguaro is also a favorite place for birdwatching. Keep an eye out for species that can be seen few other places in the United States, such as vermilion flycatchers and whiskered screech owls. Kangaroo rats, lizards and roadrunners (yes, they’re a real animal!) are among other wildlife often seen at the park. The park is known for its spectacular sunsets, so be sure to stick around to see the sun go down! If you plan to visit late in the winter, then you may be around for the Annual Fiesta de Saguaro!

8. Channel Islands National Park, CA
Immerse yourself in the abundance of cultural and natural resources that Channel Islands National Park has to offer. The five islands that the park is made up of are Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rose, San Miguel and Santa Barbara. Take your pick of the islands and enjoy picnicking, camping and hiking. Winter is also prime seal and sea lion watching time! With 2,000 terrestrial plants and animals throughout the park, you will get your fill of wildlife and flora. While winters in the Channel Islands tend to get a lot of rain, you can also expect to enjoy warm and beautiful winter days.

9. Cumberland Island National Seashore, GA
It seems like Cumberland Island National Seashore offers it all. With average winter temperatures in the 60’s, you can enjoy hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, birdwatching, kayaking and wildlife viewing. While it may be too cold to go swimming, this time of year is perfect for walks along the beach. Cumberland Island, Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island, is famed for its marine forests, wide marshes and undeveloped beaches. With all the seashore offers it will be impossible to be at a loss for things to do during your winter visit.

10. Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin Islands
If you are seeking escape from a snow-filled winter, try soaking up the sun on the beautiful beaches of Virgin Islands National Park. With temperatures in the mid to upper 80s, expect to spend your visit in the water. Snorkeling, sailing, wind surfing, scuba diving and kayaking are just some of the activities you can enjoy. If you prefer to stay on land, then hiking and camping throughout the park will not disappoint, Virgin Islands National Park offers an amazing 40 species of birds, 302 species of fish, 7 species of amphibians, 22 species of mammals and 740 species of plants. Your trip to Virgin Island National Park wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Trunk Bay rated one of the most beautiful beaches in the world!