We love a good winter wonderland just as much as a sunny getaway from all of the snow. Good news is, the diverse landscapes around the U.S. offer plenty of opportunities for both. Whether you’re feeling forest-shrouded hot springs or an arid desert trek, our nation’s national parks have you covered — and we’ve got you on transportation.
Arm yourself with our tips for winter campervan travel and get to planning; 4 these places will have you posed with one foot out the door:
Why spend winter above ground when you could spend it underground? At Carlsbad Caverns National Park, there are over 100 grandiose caves to explore, featuring massive underground chambers with tons of puzzling rock formations strewn about. It’s not only underground, either. Walnut Canyon Desert Loop offers stunning views of New Mexico’s pristine desertscape, and you can scope out the wildlife at nearby Rattlesnake Springs.
Distance from Phoenix: 8.5 hours
Distance from Austin: 7.5 hours
Ornately carved limestone canyons and a surprisingly diverse bird population are two of many reasons to head to Big Bend National Park — a Texan favorite with very agreeable winter weather. With five awe-inspiring river canyons, there are tons of vantage points where you can enjoy a picnic or rest during a hike. Over 450 different species of birds occupy the park (which is pretty intense) so if you’re into birding, you’ll never be bored. If you’re not into birding… now’s the time to start. Even though temperatures can be warm during the day, they’ll drop at night during the winter — so wear layers!
Distance from Austin: 8 hours
You’ll likely confuse the 275 square miles of gypsum sand for snow at White Sands National Park — AKA the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. It’s a stunning sight year-round and feels a bit whimsical to visit in winter, when snow blankets so many other parts of the country. The chilly months are relatively mild here during the day, so you’ll get many of the same perks of summer with much less traffic. Here, you can still go sledding; it’ll be on sand instead of snow though. And don’t forget the sunscreen — even in the winter, you’ll be under sunny skies.
Distance from Phoenix: 6.5 hours
Distance from Austin: 10 hours
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Deep in the wilderness of Arkansas lies Hot Springs National Park, a place where ancient thermal springs and small town charm collide. This park has been nicknamed “The American Spa”, and the 47 natural hot springs certainly help it live up to that namesake. While the park is open year-round, fewer people visit during the winter months, making it even more of a unique experience. Cozy up in the warm waters, take a drive, camp out in Gulpha Gorge — there’s much more than the springs themselves. And lastly, be sure to check out Bathhouse Row when you’re in town; it’s a designated National Historic Landmark District!
Distance from Nashville: 6 hours
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