If you’re like us, you’re always hankering for a road trip regardless of the forecast highs. While the iconic American road trip is generally regarded as a summer affair, winter can provide an entirely different—and sometimes more enjoyable—experience. From lighter traffic to unique scenery, a winter road trip means seeing the sights in a whole new light. So, bundle up and join us as we travel from coast to coast to scope out our favorite winter-weather destinations.
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA
If you haven’t warmed up to the idea of a winter road trip yet, Joshua Tree National Park should do the trick. California’s desert national and state parks offer pleasant daytime temperatures that are perfect for hiking through the area’s famous canyons and sand dunes. There’s no short of spectacular landscapes and spellbinding night skies, and Joshua Tree is a picture-perfect place for outdoorsy travelers to get away from winter’s worst.
LAKE TAHOE, CALIFORNIA
Lake Tahoe is one of the deepest lakes in the country, offering travelers a horizon full of stunning snow-capped mountains, crystal clear waters and the mesmerizing reflections created between the two. What this 27-mile long drive lacks in length, it makes up for in scenery. Along the way, you can enjoy a range of winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding, or head out on the hiking trails at Sand Harbor. If you’re looking for a cure for winter wanderlust, look no further. Lake Tahoe has something for everyone, made better only with a cup of hot cocoa in hand.
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, WYOMING
How do you make one of the world’s most famous parks better? Just add snow. Winter at Yellowstone means fewer crowds, frigid temperatures and even more spectacular hydrothermal basins. The 2.2-million-acre park exudes a mythical beauty during the colder months, transporting park goers to another world blanketed by pristine snow and periodically interrupted by Old Faithful’s billowing eruptions. The snowy backdrop also makes wildlife easier to spot, and observing the wildlife endure the elements—namely witnessing a bison’s winter coat in person—is something not to be missed.
Denver, the Gateway to the Rocky Mountains, sits at the peak of most travelers’ lists for an avalanche of reasons. The city combines a booming restaurant scene, ample outdoor opportunities and iconic ski resorts to create a modern winter wonderland for everyone. The only downside? The towering altitude. Be sure to drink plenty of water during your stay, and don’t underestimate the lower concentration of oxygen in the air when you’re getting some hang time on the slopes.
ICE CAVES, MINNESOTA & WISCONSIN
A winter-exclusive destination, the Apostle Islands mainland sea caves are only accessible when the frigid conditions are just right. Dazzling ice formations adorn red sandstone cliffs, including frozen waterfalls, ice-clad cliff faces and a light show of epic proportions as the sun moves across the sky. Ancient glaciers carved these cliffs overlooking Lake Superior, and are a dazzling display of natural beauty that would make anyone say “Cool!”
We hope our road trip recommendations have thawed any doubt you have about winter traveling, and if you’re planning a little further out, we’ve got your warmer trips covered.
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