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Our Favorite Southwest National Parks to Visit in the Winter

Winter can be a magical time at our country’s national parks as typically crowded trails become peaceful pathways. Some parks are closed while others require snow gear and extra preparation. While we love to play in the snow, and don’t mind the extra time it takes to make that happen, as Southern California natives, it’s also nice to have a little less to pack and consider when planning a winter road trip. This list highlights low preparation locations for a guaranteed tranquil trip.

Death Valley National Park

With summer temperatures well exceeding over the 100s F, planning a trip to Death Valley in the winter is more than ideal. Death Valley is known for its unique views, so why not enjoy them when you don’t have to worry about the heat? Some of the more popular viewpoints are Artist’s Palette, Dante’s View, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Zabriskie Point but did you know that you can visit the infamous Tatooine? The Star Wars movie series filmed scenes in the park for Episode IV - A New Hope and Episode VI - Return of the Jedi. So if you’re a hiking enthusiast and a Star Wars fan, this is a must-visit!

Joshua Tree National Park

Honestly, we love visiting Joshuas Tree at all times of the year. But there is something about the vibes it brings in the winter that just make it even more magical than usual. We visited once when snow was on the ground and I’ll never forget the way it glistened in the moonlight. It’s also lovely being able to hike without the worry of heat and crowds. Our whole family has much more enthusiasm to explore all day and taken the truly breathtaking views. 

Saguaro National Park

As another national park known to bring the heat, visiting here in the winter is a refreshing change. The giant saguaro is an iconic symbol of the southwest, and truly is a must-see. As a relatively small national park, you could easily conquer it in one day, but we recommend staying for longer to really take in the desert vibes. We have seen some of the most beautiful desert sunsets here that our family still swoons over. 

Each of these parks are known to get dangerously hot in the summer, and are often crowded in the surrounding seasons. The silence and beauty of these parks in the winter are truly an unforgettable experience. Although you can certainly enjoy an enchanting winter wonderland at some of the more popular national parks, like Zion & Yosemite, we hope you appreciate the warmth of this list.


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