A little snow doesn’t mean you have to stay inside and hibernate. In fact, a snowy setting can provide spectacular scenery along your favorite trails (think trees sparkling in the sunshine against bluebird skies), along with some decent traction. (Note: You may need snowshoes or packable crampons for certain trails, since lots of foot traffic can make packed snow pretty slick.)
Here are five destinations worth a winter visit:
BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK, UTAH
The fabled red cliffs, unique rock formations and spectacular hoodoos spring to life when they’re speckled with the white stuff. Bryce is open year-round, though you will likely want to wear either snowshoes or crampons to help with traction. Try the Fairyland Loop Trail: 8.6 miles of varying terrain and stellar views. There is a steep section — so prepare for a workout or simply turn back after you’ve had your fill. For a special treat, sign up for one of the park’s guided full-moon hikes that run throughout the winter.
Extend Your Stay: Bryce Canyon National Park is located just 60 miles from the Brian Head Resort, which receives some of Utah’s biggest snowfalls. Stay an extra day and hit the slopes.
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK, TENNESSEE
Gorgeous year-round, there are several trails in the park worth hiking in winter where you can enjoy views of snow-sprinkled evergreens and frozen waterfalls. The Alum Cave Trail gets a makeover once the mercury dips; its famed bluff view sports long, sparkling icicles. At 4.4 miles round trip with a 511-foot elevation gain, the trail is suitable for a moderate afternoon hike.
Extend Your Stay: Kick your feet up in a nearby cabin or spend three nights and four days on one of REI’s Great Smoky Mountains Winter Hiking Adventures and explore the park with a guide. You’ll learn about southern Appalachian history, hike a featured section of the Appalachian Trail and stay in a quaint mountain lodge.
ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, MAINE
Winter marks your chance to explore one of the country’s most popular parks (think two million visitors annually) when the trails are a little less crowded. You’ll enjoy snow-capped evergreen views along with dramatic icicles. Try the Ship Harbor and Wonderland Trails, each about 1.5 gentle miles round trip, and sightsee the ocean.
Extend Your Stay: Stay overnight in nearby Bar Harbor and score off-season prices at a cozy B&B. Acadia National Park’s famed carriage roads are excellent for cross-country skiing, so rent some gear while you’re in town.
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HOCKING HILLS STATE PARK, OHIO
This picturesque park, situated about an hour’s drive from Columbus, features caves and sandstone rock formations that look even more unique when adorned with snow and massive icicles. The 6-mile Grandma Gatewood Trail — named after Emma Gatewood, who solo-hiked the Appalachian Trail at age 67(!) — allows you to view both Old Man’s Cave and Ash Cave. You can hike on your own or join several thousand other adventurers for the park’s Annual Winter Hike, which happens every January along the same stretch.
Extend Your Stay: There are a handful of nearby inns, including the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls, where you can overnight in a luxurious, insulated and heated yurt. You’ll be able to see the night sky and star gaze right from the comfort of your bed.
BANFF NATIONAL PARK, ALBERTA, CANADA
Head across the border to Banff for some extra adventure: Several new nonstop flights into the Edmonton and Calgary airports make it easy. The park offers multiple trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing and some are also walkable. Check out the Johnson Lake Trail: a short loop that traverses the lake’s shoreline along with stunning views of the Rundle and Cascade mountains.
Extend Your Stay: Spend a night at the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel and take in the landmark’s elaborate decor. The hotel also features a full spa with water features inspired by the area’s hot springs — or venture outside and check out the real treats themselves. For more outdoor adventure, hit the slopes at Lake Louise.