Winter is coming! While the colder weather and shorter daylight hours can make it more challenging to get out and photograph, the results of your winter landscape and nature photography can be well worth the effort.
If you’re looking for beautiful places to photograph in the winter, what better choice than a national park? This article will showcase 10 of the best national parks to photograph in the winter.
If you’re looking for some tips to learn how to take better winter photos, please see:
- Tips for Shooting Better in Winter Weather
- Winter Landscape Photography Tips
- 10 Ideas for Winter Landscape Photos
1. Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon, one of Utah’s five national parks, is beautiful in any season, but especially in winter. The park is well known for its hoodoos, tall rock spires. The red and orange rock formations are stunning with snow to provide some contrast.
The park is open year round. Roads may close at times during and after snowstorms, but once they are plowed and safe for travel, the roads re-open.
Bryce Amphitheater, which is filled with hoodoos, is the most popular part of the park. There are four main viewpoints, all within a few miles of each other along the main road that runs for 18 miles through the park.
2. Death Valley
The main reason that makes winter a great time to visit Death Valley is the temperature. The park lies on the California and Nevada border and is the hottest, driest, and lowest of all the national parks. With extreme temperatures in the summer, many visitors would prefer the cooler temperatures of winter.
The snowcapped peaks and beautiful winter light make Death Valley a wonderful place to visit and photograph in the winter. Also, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the least crowded of any time throughout the year.
Yosemite National Park is a favorite for many photographers at any time of the year. Located in central California, Yosemite is home to stunning granite cliffs, mountains, lakes, waterfalls, and wilderness.
Most of the park’s visitors spend the vast majority of their time in the Yosemite Valley, which is open year-round. Certain roads within the park close during the winter, but with Yosemite Valley being accessible, there is plenty to see and photograph. Some trails are open in the winter and others will close due to weather. At times, tire chains may be required on park roads, so be sure to be prepared.
4. Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is, of course, one of the most popular and well-known national parks. The park includes areas along both the north rim and south rim of the canyon. The south rim is the more popular area, partly because the north rim is closed from December through May due to snow and winter weather. The south rim is open year-round with most services being available during winter months, but some facilities may be closed.
While the Grand Canyon is beautiful throughout the year, but there is something extra special about being able to see and photograph the rugged landscape with snow. And with the park being so popular, spring, summer, and fall can bring pretty large crowds that make it a challenge to photograph from the popular view points.
To plan your trip, be sure to read out guide to photographing the Grand Canyon.
Located in Maine, Acadia National Park is one of the most popular parks on the east coast. Maine winters usually bring plenty of cold weather and snow, which provides plenty of opportunities for photographers who are willing to embrace the elements.
The downside to visiting Acadia in the winter is that much of the park is closed. Park Loop Road is the main road within the park, and much of it is closed during the winter. The Ocean Drive section, one of the most scenic parts of Park Loop Road, is open year-round.
Even with the closures, there is still plenty to see and photograph during the winter.
Please see our guide to photographing Acadia National Park for more details.
6. Crater Lake
Located in southern Oregon, Crater Lake National Park receives a significant amount of snow each year. In fact, it is one of the snowiest inhabited places in the U.S. The extreme snowfall means that Rim Drive, which surrounds the lake, is closed for much of the year. It is closed from October or November through May or June. While it is closed to cars, you can use a snowmobile to get around during winter.
Despite Rim Drive being inaccessible to cars in the winter, other parts of the park are accessible year-round. This means that you can certainly visit the park during the winter, you’ll just need to be prepared.
Arches National Park is located in Moab, Utah, about 250 miles northeast of Bryce Canyon. This park is, of course, famous for the natural arches that are found within the park. The arches and rock formations look beautiful at any time of the year, but especially in the winter when snow is involved.
The park is open year-round, and if you visit during the winter you will benefit from smaller crowds. You’ll also avoid the extremely hot temperatures of the summer. There are typically no closures to the park, so access isn’t extremely difficult during the winter.
8. Big Bend
Big Bend National Park doesn’t get as much attention as some other national parks, but that is mostly due to its remote location in western Texas along the Mexican border. Big Bend has plenty to offer, especially for those who love rugged, open spaces.
Visiting Big Bend in the winter allows you to avoid the heat of the summer months. Because the park varies in elevation from about 1,800 feet to 7,000+ feet, the temperatures can also vary significantly. In general, winter months are typically mild but can get colder.
9. Great Smoky Mountains
Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina hosts more visitors each year than any other national park. This park has plenty to offer in any season. During the winter you’ll find beautiful snow-covered mountains and trees that are perfect for photography.
Most of the park and roads will be open year-round, although there may be some temporary closures due to snow and ice. However, Clingmans Dome Road, which provides access to the highest peak in the park, is closed all winter. The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is another popular road that is not accessible during the winter.
For planning, please see our guide to photographing Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Yellowstone is one of the most popular national parks, but if you visit during winter months, you will be able to get a much different experience and get away from the crowds. Getting around Yellowstone in the winter requires a bit more effort, but the results can be worth it.
Most of the roads within the park are closed from November through April or May, but you can still access many points of interest by snowmobile or snowcoach. Guided tours are available and getting around is possible, even if it isn’t always convenient.