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“She Wears A Red Necklace” by Penny Otwell Prints of Penny Otwell’s paintings can be purchased from her website,



6 18 12 21 Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome in summer captured the fancy of painter Penny Otwell.

Winter 2013 Editor

Kurt Repanshek


Welcome To Winter! Whether you prefer cold and snowy, or warm and sandy, there’s a place for you in the national parks.


Painting The Parks Outdoors, in the majesty of the national parks, masterpieces are created.

art director

Courtney Cooper contributors

Patrick Cone Deby Dixon Rebecca Latson Bob Janiskee Jane Schneider


e d i t or’ s

n o te

Essential Park Guides are published by National Park Advocates, LLC, to showcase how best to enjoy and explore the National Park System. National Park Advocates, LLC, P.O. Box 980452, Park City, Utah, 84098. © 2013 Essential Park Guide, Winter 2013. All rights reserved. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher.


Cold-Weather Shutterbugs A dozen winter parkscapes worth capturing with your camera. Rebecca Latson suggests how to frame them. Dazzling In Winter Park landscapes shimmer in winter, whether the sun is reflecting off snow and ice or turquoise waters.


Winter Fun In The Parks Whether you prefer snowshoes, cross-country skies, or even snowmobiles, there’s a wintry destination in the National Park System for you.


winter fun in the (Warm) parks Don’t let the cold scare you from the national parks in winter, for there are some great warm destinations you can enjoy.


winter quiz How much do you know about winter in the National Park System?




Don’t Let Winter Cause You To Abandon The National Parks Until Spring By Kurt Repanshek It was a (hopefully not) once-in-a-lifetime visit to a national park far off the grid, and I was flat on my back. That, however, was not all bad at Virgin Islands National Park on the Caribbean island of St. John, where basking under the sun on the sugar-sand beaches in between snorkeling adventures is de rigueur. Preferably with a cool drink in hand and a rattan mat under your back. Not 20 feet from my mat the placid turquoise waters of Salt Pond Bay on the island’s southern tip teemed with sergeant majors, blue tangs, iridescent green parrotfish, the occasional barracuda, and even sea turtles grazing the seabed’s grasses. Winter, with its heavy snows and sub-freezing temperatures, was a few thousand miles distant. Thankfully. Such is the width, breadth, and even depth of the National Park System, which come winter can offer you warm climes with colorful fish as well as far-below-zero settings that will freeze your flesh if you’re not careful. But as I grabbed my mask, snorkel, and fins, Old Faithful at 20-below in Yellowstone National Park was the last thing on my mind. Not that a winter visit to the geyser’s apron is not also a once-in-alifetime experience, for it truly is. When you start inspecting a map of the National Park System, which extends from the palm-tree-lined beaches of Ofu Island at National Park of American Samoa far off in the Pacific, north to Noatuk National Preserve in Alaska, south to Big Bend National Park in Texas, and even farther south, and east, to Buck Island Reef National Monument just a boat ride from Virgin Islands National Park, well, you’ll need quite a few lifetimes if you start categorizing visits to these far-flung locales as once-in-alifetime journeys. Timing your visits to fall in the months between November and April goes against our traditional vacation cycles. But that’s not to discount this wintry season. Benefits are many, be they enjoying the warm waters of the Caribbean, measuring yourself against the stamina-

testing cold of the Northern Rockies, or watching wildlife in the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States in Everglades National Park. You could find yourself struggling to get distance on your golf shot at Furnace Creek in the middle of Death Valley National Park, where winter is the season to visit if you really don’t want to test yourself in 100+-degree temperatures that rule in summer. Or you might visit Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan to help boil down maple syrup, or explore the Ice Caves at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore one lake over, on the shores of Superior. The reach of the park system can lead you into major cities, such as Boston, which can be nasty in winter with heavy dumps of wet snow, yet also offer warm, and fascinating, retreats into such places as Faneuil Hall where the kernels of American independence were cultivated. And it extends to the mid-winter warmth found across the nation in Joshua Tree National Park in southern California, where the less-than-blazing temperatures this time of year lure climbers to the park’s rock gardens and hikers searching for Mojave Desert solitude. A winter journey into the National Park System doesn’t lack for wonder, or beauty, or insights into the nation’s history or cultures. In the following pages we’ll offer suggestions on where you might want to find yourself. We’ll also explore, through Jane Schneider’s cover story, the world of park artists, those hardy talented souls who often take easel and palette into the park system to capture its beauty. Some of that beauty will also be splayed across pages 12-17 in a collage of photographs capturing the season in some of its moods. The takeaway message, of course, is that there is no down season in the National Park System. Only seasons that might require a change of clothes.

Opposite page: Shimmering waters of Virgin Islands National Park are enticing any time of year, but particularly in winter / Kurt Repanshek Winter storms can blanket Acadia National Park in snow, perfect for skiing, snowshoeing, or simply admiring / NPS


Painting The Parks Driven By Nature’s Beauty By Jane Schneider When Penny Otwell hikes past familiar sights in Yosemite National Park, she usually travels with a sketchbook in hand. She’s worked a variety of jobs at the park over the past half-century, just for the opportunity to dwell in this beloved place. As a selftaught painter, “the park was my art school,” she says. “I drew every weekend when I’d go out hiking. Now, I can go to those sketchbooks [there are 40 in all], pull out a sketch and say, ‘I think I’ll paint that scene today.’” Penny Otwell’s painting of Half Dome in winter, titled “She Wears A Red Necklace,” was a 25” by 32” acrylic work done on paper.


er expressionistic landscapes, done in oils, acrylics, and watercolors, are bursting with vibrant hues that capture the transient light of Ahwahnee Meadow or the dusty greens and blues of a late summer’s afternoon at Sentinel Falls. Otwell’s loose technique also makes her


a popular instructor at the park, where her watercolor classes fill quickly. The painter’s most recent show, held earlier this fall at the Ansel Adams Gallery in the Yosemite Valley, featured her paintings alongside the famous black-and-white landscape photographs taken by Adams. While their


“Inspire” by Penny Otwell

Marsha Karle long worked for the National Park Service in Yellowstone and draws much of her inspiration from the park’s wildlife and landscapes. Her works can be purchased from

“Hot Rock, Cool Forest,” by Penny Otwell

“Green with envy” by Penny Otwell

work is divergent, Otwell’s creativity, like that of Adams, is fed by the transformative vistas she seeks to capture with each outing. At 70, her creativity, she says, is on fire. “I’m looking to express my love for this place,” she explains. “People ask me if I get tired of painting Yosemite, and I tell them, ‘No.’ The light is different at different times of the year, so it’s very inspiring. Yosemite knocks my socks off.” Otwell is just one of millions of artists who have long been inspired by the majestic beauty of the national parks. They follow in the footsteps of early artists and photographers who brought home images of these magical places in the West and revealed their importance to us as a nation. In many parks—Yellowstone, Denali, Yosemite—artists have played a

crucial role in making a case for the preservation of these public lands.

Historic perspective It was geologist Ferdinand Hayden who, in addition to tapping scientists, botanists, and zoologists, called upon artist Thomas Moran and photographer William Henry Jackson to take part in the 1871 geological survey of the Yellowstone region. The resulting work — Moran’s vibrant paintings and Jackson’s keen photography—provided evidence of this “wonderland” that might be lost if not preserved. Hayden’s lectures, accompanied by Jackson’s slides, spread the word of Yellowstone’s natural and diverse riches. Pay a visit to Mammoth Hot Springs Visitor Center in Yellowstone today, and you can gaze at some of Moran’s original works. Many of those wild places he painted remain un-

changed today—nearly 150 years later. Photography also captured the grandeur of parks, and became a form of commerce for those associated with the parks. Early in Mesa Verde’s history, Richard Wetherill, whose Alamo Ranch bordered the vast cliff dwellings in the late 1800s, went into partnership with a photographer selling pictures of the dwellings for tourists to take home. In Yellowstone, visitors could purchase hand-colored photographs produced by Frank J. Haynes and his son, Jack Ellis Haynes, of Haynes Studios, long-time concessionaires of the park. Those images, now highly collectible, survive as mementos that ensure that the parks’ legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of visitors. For Japanese-born artist Chiura Obata, the natural world of Yosemite


Above: Plein air artists such as Bill Davidson generally work quickly in the field and often later finish their works in the studio. Right: Bill Davidson was honored by Grand Teton National Park officials for his fall landscape of the Tetons. More of his work can be viewed at his website, / Photos courtesy of Bill Davidson

soon found its way into his paintings, and a collection of exquisitely crafted color woodblock prints. In the 1930s and ‘40s, Obata taught outdoor sketching classes to tourists at the park; his work is warmly embraced and collected today. “My paintings, created by the humble brush of a mediocre man, are nothing but expressions of my wholehearted praise and gratitude,” Obata wrote of his inspiration.

Artists in the Parks The National Park Service has long fostered these creative relationships, bringing artists into the parks to share their expertise with visitors, to help students see the world through fresh eyes, and to provide further inspiration for personal creative endeavors. Artistin-residence programs thrive in many locales. The two-week programs give artists a chance to explore a park more intimately and share their insights and techniques with visitors. Today, organizations continue to explore new ways of bringing the arts and parks together. Rims to Ruins, a fine art show, is the culmination of an invitation extended to nationally recognized artists to paint in less-visited


sections of Mesa Verde. The event, sponsored by the Mesa Verde Foundation, brought artists together last May. Now, the show and sale of their work will raise funds to benefit the park. Veryl Goodnight, a sculptor and painter based in Mancos, Colorado, was one of 28 artists who took part. Her paintings, of a powerful black stallion, a raven, and a mountain lion at daybreak, focus on the natural world of Mesa Verde. “The artists were excited for two reasons,” explains Mesa Verde Foundation Executive Director Ben Duke. “They wanted access to the park to paint where they wouldn’t have access and the opportunity to share their vision of the park with the public. They can spread the good word about Mesa Verde.” Artist John Burton of Carmel, California, was so inspired by his first visit to the cliff dwellings that a series of 40 paintings resulted, one of which recently was featured in the magazine Art of the West. Such exhibitions are also a way for the national parks to grow their collections.


In July 2013, plein air oil painter Bill Davidson received the Grand Teton National Park Superintendent’s Award for “Teton Heights” and his painting is now part of the park’s permanent collection. “Plein air is a vehicle, not a destination,” notes Jean Stern, executive director of the Irvine Museum, and co-author of the new book, Art in the National Parks: Historic Connections, Contemporary Interpretations. This large format book exams the relationship between the national parks and working artists and features the artwork of 70 artists and sculptors interpreting eight national parks. “The artist must be outdoors because you want to be in the light and in two hours, the light changes, shadows change,” he says. The approach of using the outdoor sketch is the most important part of plein air work because it helps artists better capture colors under various light. Artists might use a dozen or more sketches for a single work, focusing individual sketches on specific details of the landscape: the hills, mountains, foreground, clouds, and so forth.

“Colorful Kimono, Half Dome,” by Penny Otwell

“These are the shorthand notes used to put together a final work,” says Stern, of a painting that might take much longer to create in studio than it would out in the field. Painter Marsha Karle worked as a National Park Service employee for more than 30 years, starting in 1981 in Denali before eventually completing her career as the chief of public affairs at Yellowstone. Her work, she says, arose out of necessity. “My husband liked to look for grizzly bears and would sit on a hill for hours, looking through his spotting scope. But I’m TypeA, so I started taking notebooks to draw in.” That unvarnished beginning gave rise to a passion Karle continues to explore. In addition to her own paintings, she works alongside her husband, writer Paul Schullery, to produce nature books. “Being an artist helps me see the park more deeply. By trying to interpret it on paper or paint, it makes me feel closer to the natural world,” she says. “When drawing a bison, one of my favorite animals, I learn about the color of their eyes or the shape of their head. I love that detail.” And while all artists want to realize monetary benefit from their work, it’s also about something more transcendent. “I hope people will feel connected to these wonderful places,” notes Karle. Adds Otwell, “It’s not the money, but it’s that someone heard me speaking and got my voice. That’s validating for a 70-yearold woman.” “Yosemite Fall, Spring,” by Penny Otwell


Photography In The National Parks


WINTER By Rebecca Latson

“Winter” is a relative term. For me, the word conjures images of snow and ice along with such adjectives as “crisp” and “stark.” Winter for others, however, can bring to mind sandy beaches and turquoise water or alligators and migrating birds along with adjectives such as “warm,” “hot,” “humid,”even “wet,” depending on one’s location within the National Park System.


isiting typically cold and snowy winter parks means capturing a clean, icy beauty with clarity of resolution in your landscape photography. A trip to warmer national parks such as Biscayne or Death Valley won’t yield any “icy beauty” but there will be a kaleidoscope of color ranging from deeply-saturated green vegetation to sugar-white sand beaches and clear blue saltwater to sinuous light-golden sand dunes towering overhead.

Snow or No Snow in a National Park As hinted above, while the majority of us may link the winter season to snow, not all national parks are going to sport a blanket of the white fluff. Location, elevation, and atmospheric conditions help determine whether or not snow will accumulate. A few parks may get a minimum of snow and ice but a maximum of wet (think: Hoh Rainforest within Olympic National Park) while some parks (Everglades and Virgin Islands national parks) measure moisture in terms of relative humidity as well as waves slapping the beach. Then, there are those national parks with which we associate red rock, arid landscapes, and practically no rain (except during monsoon season). For such places


as Arches or Canyonlands, a dusting of white creates a totally magical effect.

Capturing Winter in a National Park

The Traveler counts 59 national parks within the United States and its territories; this is not including all of the national seashores, national historical parks, national memorials, national rivers, national lakeshores, national etc., etc. etc. With so many parks and so many different environments, what should one look for when photographing a park during the winter? I absolutely cannot claim to have visited every single park, but I and the Traveler between us can help you out with a very short list of suggestions for selected parks. Acadia National Park: How about photographing a snow-covered carriage road, or maybe the wide-angle winter view from Cadillac Mountain. Hunker down close to the ground to get a stormy, wide-angle, shot of the shallow water landscape at Echo Lake’s shores. Make sure to have your polarizer with you to cut down on glare from the water and atmospheric haze. Yellowstone National Park: Try to get that iconic shot of a bison’s snowencrusted head as it exhales steamy breath into the frosty air. Get out to one of the


hot springs and capture the differences between frozen vs. steam vs. liquid H2O. Make sure you have a fast shutter speed to capture that one frozen moment of exhaled breath or rising steam. While you are out there, focus on the contrast between the snow’s edge and the reds, greens, blues, and oranges of microbial mats rimming a hot spring like Grand Prismatic. Olympic National Park: While this place presents many different environments within its boundaries, pay particular attention to the rainforest areas. With so many hues of green all saturated by the winter rain, try getting some macro shots of the details on leaves, mosses, ferns, and lichens. Get close to a banana slug. Practice your “silky water” skills while photographing the myriad waterfalls (Hoko Falls, Sol Duc Falls, Maple Creek Falls, Willaby Creek Falls, etc). Arches National Park or Canyonlands National Park: If it has snowed, make sure to get that color contrast between red rock and white snow. If there is no snow but it’s very cold, look for small, iced-over potholes and get down low with your tripod for a unique wide-angle composition of the icy potholes and slickrock. If it’s

Mount Rainier / Rebecca Latson

sunny, then get a really wide-angle shot of the landscape (ie., the Green River Overlook in Canyonlands) and make sure your f-stop is set to between 5.6 and 16 to try and achieve a sunstar. Don’t forget your polarizer and graduated ND filters. Great Smoky Mountains National Park: The leafless trees blanketing the rounded mountains of this park make for moody shots that are further enhanced if there has been a dusting of snow. Don’t forget to include the rustic fencing, bridges, and other buildings on the park’s grounds – the dark wood, with or without snow, adds some interesting contrast as well as scale and familiar reference points. Virgin Islands National Park: Capture the saturated turquoise waters against the light sandy beach on a sunny day (great to send to a friend who might be shivering down to their toes on an overcast, dull winter’s day). Go snorkeling (with a waterproof camera or waterproof camera housing) and use a flash to reveal the brilliant colors of the salt-water sea life. Show people that winter can be very colorful indeed. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore: Frame and photograph the geometry created by ice slabs piling up against the shore and each other. Use a tripod and polarizer

or neutral density filter on your lens to slow down the shutter speed and achieve a photo of silky flowing water amongst the sharply still ice slabs. Everglades National Park: Use your polarizer and your graduated ND filter to photograph a dramatic stormy winter sky over the grasslands. Capture images of the birdlife migrating from the chilly north down to the warmer climes of this Florida park. Mount Rainier National Park: If “the Mountain” is out, then snowshoe around for various photographic vantage points. Don’t just concentrate on the “big picture,” though; get those more intimate shots of a cone-laden conifer against the white snowy background or drive to a lower elevation to capture scenes of the quiet forest interior with all of its mosses, lichens, and greenery in an otherwise snow-carpeted land. Glacier National Park: Home of the “snow ghost” – make sure to capture images of these totally snow-covered trees that look like people in funky poses. Also take a trip out to the south end of Lake McDonald to capture a wide-angle shot of the clear pebble-strewn water in the foreground with the starkly beautiful, snowtipped mountains in the background.

Sequoia National Park: Notice (and photograph) the contrast that the tall, straight, reddish trunks of the trees with their green tops make against a snowy background, like soldiers standing at attention. Get some macro shots of tree bark texture that’s color-saturated from any precipitation, be it rain or snow. Grand Canyon National Park: Winter in the park makes not only for extremely dramatic stormy skies, but also saturates the rock strata for deeper, richer colors. Like Arches and Canyonlands, a little bit of snow can really accentuate the geologic color contrast. These are just a few ideas to shift your photographic creativity into gear when visiting the myriad national parks spread all over our vast nation. While these suggestions may appear to relate to a specific park, there’s no reason why you can’t do a little borrowing and apply those ideas to a different national park. Just don’t get in a hurry. Stand still. Look around you. Breathe in that air and figure out what you like best about a scene. Photograph the thing that draws your attention. Get out, enjoy this winter, and photograph the season no matter where you are.


And Its Many Moods In The National Park System Months of winter bestow many moods and attire to the more than 400 units of the National Park System. Parks in the Northern Rockies get buried in feet of snow and cloaked in sub-zero temperatures that combined can create “ghost trees.” But there also are warm Caribbean waters rimmed by palm trees, and parks that fall in between those extremes. Laid out over the following pages are a mix of park settings caught in the moods of winter.... both cold and snowy, warm and sandy, and somewhere in between. They offer a literal snapshot, but not a full album, of the scenes and settings a winter’s visit to the parks can offer.



1: Arches National Park isn’t always snow-covered in winter, but the nearby La Sal Mountains are and lend wonderful contrast to the redrock landscape / Rebecca Latson






2: Alley Mill, Ozark National Scenic Riverways, on a rare snowy Christmas / NPS 3: Park Avenue in Arches National Park / Rebecca Latson 4. Moon over the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park / Patrick Cone



5: Winter, with its cooler temperatures, is a perfect time to visit the historic Quitobaquito area of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument / Patrick Cone 6: Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park is a popular starting point for snowshoe treks / Deby Dixon 7: Yellowstone’s bison are well built to endure the park’s cold, snowy winters / Deby Dixon





8 8: Winter can be a great time to spot wildlife at Everglades National Park, where alligators, crocodiles, and birds cluster around waterholes / Patrick Cone 9: Snow doesn’t fall at Furnace Creek in Death Valley National Park, but they still spruce up for the holidays / Kurt Repanshek 10: Trumpeter swans call Yellowstone home year-round / Kurt Repanshek


10 16





11: Wyoming’s Tetons hold snow throughout the year, but they wear it best in winter at Grand Teton National Park / Deby Dixon 12: Safe harbor, Virgin Islands National Park / Kurt Repanshek 13: North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park / Patrick Cone


Exchange Leafy Summer Trails For Snowy Forests Winter in the National Park System often brings to mind frosty snowscapes, places where you can skim on skinny skis, or clomp along in snowshoes that, though a bit cumbersome, help you go places you might not venture without them. There are numerous places to ski or snowshoe in the park system, too many to list here. But here’s a cross-section of locations across the United States, places where you can get out into the landscape for wonder, photography, or simple fun. Many of these locations have regular ranger-led snowshoe tours once the winter sets in in earnest, so check with your favorite park before heading out. Just remember to go prepared, though. Snacks, water, sunscreen, sunglasses, layers of clothing you can add or subtract depending on how hard you’re working, all help you enjoy your outing. And if you’re really going on an adventure, maps, fire-starters, and leaving word with someone all are essential. Don’t become the focus of a search-and-rescue mission. Finally, some trail etiquette: snowshoers should stay out of cross-country ski tracks and uphill traffic has the right-of-way over downhill traffic.

Eastern United States Acadia National Park For snow conditions: (207) 288-3338 Acadia might be best known for summertime lobster bakes and exploring tidal pools for colorful marine life, but on those wonderful occasions when a winter storm blankets Mount Desert Island with snow the park’s 45 miles of Carriage Roads turn into playgrounds for crosscountry skiers and snowshoers. Cross-country tracks sometimes are set by volunteers. You can check the park’s website for current trail conditions, while the Carriage Road User’s Map can help you find your way on the carriage roads. You may also cross-country ski on unplowed park roads. Just be careful, as snowmobiles are permitted to use most of these unplowed park roads.

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Site For snow conditions: (802) 457-3368 This oft-overlooked unit of the National Park System near Woodstock, Vermont, has 20 miles of trails and carriage roads that, come winter and snowfall, are used only for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The carriage roads date to the late 1800s when Frederick Billings oversaw their construction through the pastures and woodlots on the property. Those woodlots, by the way, now host some 400-year-old hemlocks. The average winter snow fall here is 80 inches, and the trails are usually in good condition for skiing between January and March, according to park officials. You can check on current conditions by calling park headquarters at 802-457-3368.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park For snow conditions: (865) 436-1200

On clear days, cross-country skiers at Acadia have views of both mountains and sea / NPS



Great Smoky can offer some great, and challenging, snowshoeing. You just need to time your trek with the storms. When it snows in the Smokies the road to Clingmans Dome is closed to vehicles but available for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. There’s even a volunteer Nordic Ski Patrol that serves as a contact point for visitors using Clingmans Dome Road during winter. Among their many responsibilities are reporting weather conditions, providing cold weather emergency medical services, and assisting with search and rescue. Of course, there are plenty of other trails you can venture down when the snow piles up. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail can be accessed from Newfound Gap, and you can head north or south if there’s enough snow cover.

Mid-America Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore This lakeside park offers snowshoers 45 miles of trails perfect for exploring winter. Crosscountry skiers also are welcome, and most repeaters head to the Ly-co-ki-we and Inland Marsh trails for skinny skiing. Lakeshore officials say the best option for cross-country skiing is the Glenwood Dunes Trail. The 6.4-mile trail is a series of interconnecting loops through gently rolling wooded dunes. This trail can be accessed from either the Calumet Dunes Trail parking lot or the nearby Glenwood Dunes Trailhead parking lot. The 3-mile Tolleston Dunes Trail is a good choice for advanced skiers. There are some difficult hills that can be tricky to navigate. If the snow cover isn’t deep enough for skiing or snowshoeing, you can walk the Lake Michigan beaches and admire the shelf ice that piles up here. But park officials warn you that despite its appearance, the shelf ice is not solid. “In fact, due to the way it is formed, the shelf ice has numerous air pockets. It can be difficult to tell where the ice ends and the beach begins,” they say. “Don’t walk on the shelf ice! A person applying even a small amount of weight on the ice can easily fall through and into frigid water that can quickly kill.”

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore For snow conditions: (906) 387-2607 Pictured Rocks might sit on Lake Superior, but it offers 20 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails in the rimming forests. The Sand Point Snowshoe Trail is a 1.5 mile-long-loop trail beginning on Sand Point Road at the Sand Point Marsh Trailhead just a quarter-mile south of the park’s headquarters. Other snowshoe treks at Pictured Rocks include the 5.6-mile round trip into Miners Falls from the “end of plowing” on the Miners Castle Road, the 6.5-mile round trip to Miners Castle from the “end of plowing” on the Miners Castle Road, the 6-mile round trip into Beaver Lake from H-58 via the summer access road, and the 10-mile trip to Chapel Falls from H-58 via the summer access road.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore For snow conditions: (231) 326-5134 Sleeping Bear Dunes offers outstanding cross country skiing and snowshoeing on a variety of trails and terrain. The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is groomed for both classic track and skate skiing. Other ski trails are not groomed but are usually well-tracked by previous skiers. Ranger-led snowshoe tours are offered every Saturday during winter beginning the first weekend of January. All hikes will begin at the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center on Highway M-72 at the edge of the village of Empire at 1 p.m. Call the

Visitor Center at 231-326-5134, ext. 328 to make a reservation.

The Rockies

St. Croix National Scenic Riverway

Bryce Canyon National Park For snow conditions: (435) 834-5322

A visit to the national scenic riverway that is bordered on the east by Wisconsin and the west by Minnesota is a great excuse to dig out those snowshoes or cross-country skis and put them to work. During the winter months park staff regularly groom the Trego Lake Ski Trail, which offers 3.6 miles of beginning to intermediate skiing in three loops. Along the way you’ll have a number of scenic overlooks to pause for a rest and to view the river and see if any wildlife is out and about. Snowshoers have their pick from the riverway’s many hiking trails once they get buried in fluff. The Sandrock Cliff Trail provides a 5-mileloop of beginning to intermediate skiing. One side of the loop follows the river while the other side is more interior, providing a wide variety of terrain and scenery.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park For snow conditions: (701) 623-4730 Sure, it gets cold and snowy in North Dakota. That’s why you have to keep moving when you’re outdoors. At Theodore Roosevelt National Park, they’ll help you stay warm by leading snowshoe and cross-country ski treks across the park’s North Unit. Rangers lead 90-minute jaunts that “focus on the winter landscape and the ways that wildlife has adapted to winter in the badlands.” These outings typically fall in February, but check the park’s website for the most up-to-date information. Otherwise, cross-country skiers can blaze their own trails through the snow. The best places to ski are on the frozen Little Missouri River and on closed park roads.

Voyageurs National Park For snow conditions: (218) 286-5258 When the snow piles up and the moon is full rangers often lead moonlight snowshoe hikes at Voyageurs in addition to their weekly daylight tours. Snowmobilers (who have more than 110 miles of trail to ride), skiers, and snowshoers alike benefit from warming huts made possible by Polaris Industries Inc. and Voyageurs National Park Association. Voyageurs National Park, the International Falls Community Education Department and the Friends of Voyageurs National Park have partnered to offer cross-country ski rentals at the Rainy Lake Visitor Center. There are a large number of adult-sized skis, poles, and boots available during regular visitor center hours for $5.00 a day. Children’s skis, boots and poles are available free-of-charge during regular visitor center hours. Call the Rainy Lake Visitor Center at 218-2865258 for availability.

The combination of white snow atop redrock formations make Bryce Canyon an appealing winter destination for cross-country skiers and snowshoers. The Navajo Loop Trail is a “must do” experience, one preferably traversed early in the morning before anyone else has had the chance to put footprints on virgin snow. Trails dropping below the rim are open to snowshoeing and hiking, but hikers are encouraged to check with the Visitor Center for weather updates. Cross-country skiing is permitted on top of the plateau (above the rim), but no skiing, snowboarding or other sliding is allowed below the rim. You might schedule your trip to coincide with the full moon, and then join a ranger for a night-time snowshoe hike. These events are free and open to 60 visitors, but you have to get a ticket at the Visitor Center to join the hike. Check with the park’s website for dates of this winter’s snowshoe hikes. There are more than 50 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails -- most surrounding the park on adjoining national forest lands.

Cedar Breaks National Monument For snow conditions: (435) 586-9451 While winter snows close the road into the park, Cedar Breaks remains open for hardy skiers or snowshoers. A yurt located in the northern part of Cedar Breaks serves as a visitor center of sorts. It is staffed on weekends by volunteers between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., conditions allowing. When there’s enough snow, trails for crossingcountry skiers and snowshoers will be marked from the north park boundary along the north rim of the breaks, and along the Alpine Pond Trail. Guided snowshoe walks typically are offered every Saturday in January and February. Once the winter season sets in in earnest you can get information by calling the park at 435586-9451.

Glacier National Park For snow conditions: (406) 888-7800 Though accessibility is limited in winter, Glacier nevertheless offers some wonderful crosscountry skiing and snowshoeing opportunities. You can find ski trails at Apgar, Lake McDonald, North Fork, St. Mary, Two Medicine, and Marias Pass. Most, however, are unmarked. Snowshoeing, of course, can be done wherever you find enough snow, whether that’s along the shores of Lake McDonald or heading up the Going-to-the-Sun Road. For organized outings, check with the Glacier National Park Conservany ( / 406-892-3250), the Glacier Institute


( / 406-755-1211), or the park staff 406-888-7800. Possibilities range from ranger-led snowshoe jaunts to more in-depth snow courses offered by the Institute. The Conservancy, meanwhile, offers both snowshoe and cross-country skiing outings.

Grand Teton National Park For snow conditions: (307) 739-3399 Winter is snowy, and can be extremely cold, at Grand Teton, but the opportunities for exploring the park’s landscape are many. You can head down the Teton Park Road, which is open only to snowshoers and cross-country skiers from the Taggart Lake Trailhead parking area to Signal Mountain Lodge-a distance of 15 miles- or explore trails along the Moose-Wilson Road, the Colter Bay area, or farther north near Flagg Ranch. Some areas are closed in winter to lessen the impact on wildlife, so be sure to check at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center for that information. Also, in the past the park has offered daily, two-hour snowshoe excursions from the visitor center. Call the center at 307739-3399 to check on this winter’s schedule and to make reservations. Also, barring budget cuts, full-moon snowshoe tours are offered once a month.

Mesa Verde National Park For trail conditions: (970) 529-4622 or (970) 529-4631 Those folks who consider a winter visit to Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado can combine snowshoeing or crosscountry skiing with exploring some of the cliff dwellings. When there’s enough snow, the park grooms several trails for snowshoeing and skiing, while parts of the Wetherill Road are available for ungroomed skiing. Winter trails can be found on the Cliff Palace Loop, Wetherill Road Trail, Prater Canyon and Morefield Campground trails. The total distance covered by these trails is about 28 miles, and 20.4 of those miles aren’t groomed. The ungroomed skiing is located on Wetherill Road, which is closed to vehicular traffic. To find out if winter trails are open, call the Chief Ranger’s Office (Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) at 970-529-4622, or the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum (7 days a week, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) at 970-529-4631

Rocky Mountain National Park For snow conditions: (970) 586-1206 Exploring Rocky Mountain National Park by snowshoe is a wondrous experience, and park rangers are ready to lead you into this park. Not only will you enjoy the solitude that winter brings to Rocky, but also gain opportunities to spy wildlife that are designed to tolerate the cold and snow. Park rangers lead snowshoe ecology walks for beginner-level snowshoers on the east side,


and for beginner and intermediate-level snowshoers and cross-country skiers on the west side of the park. Reservations are required, but there is no additional fee beyond the regular park entrance fee. Check with the park staff at 970586-1206 for scheduling information. Tubing is another fun winter activity at Rocky Mountain, with families heading to Bear Lake to slide down the mountainsides and out onto the ice-covered lake. A good cross-country option is Trail Ridge Road. Since the road is closed to traffic in the winter, it provides a nice wide path without any obstacles. Of course, you’ll have to break your own trail.

Yellowstone National Park For snow conditions: (307) 344-7381 Yellowstone has miles of trails for the adventurous skier and snowshoer. Whether you are skiing a groomed trail in a developed area or venturing into the backcountry, remember that you are traveling in wilderness with all its potential dangers: unpredictable wildlife, changing weather conditions, hydrothermal areas, deep snow, open streams, and avalanches. Approximately 35 miles of trails are groomed for cross-country skiers, some on the Grand Loop Road, some on trails that parallel the road, and some that head out from roads across the landscape. Maps and trail brochures are available for trails in the Mammoth, Tower, Northeast, and West Yellowstone/Gallatin areas. These trails range from easy to difficult, so be sure to gauge your experience honestly and take a map.

West Coast Crater Lake National Park For snow conditions: (541) 594-3100 With snow already piling up deep at Crater Lake National Park, park rangers are ready to lead you on snowshoe hikes into the landscape. In past years weekly snowshoe treks have been held every Saturday and Sunday through the end of April. Crater Lake is one of the snowiest inhabited places in America, receiving an average of 44 feet of snow per year. The ranger-led snowshoe walks are a fun way to explore this winter wonderland while learning how plants, animals, and people survive in the deep snow. The walks last 2 hours and cover approximately 1 mile of moderately strenuous terrain. They wind through forests and meadows along the rim of Crater Lake. Participants should be at least 8 years old, be in reasonably good physical condition, and come prepared with warm clothing and water-resistant footwear.


Lassen Volcanic National Park For snow conditions: (530) 595-4480 Although the park highway usually closes by mid-November, you can access the park yearround. Throughout the winter the park highway is plowed to the southwest parking area on the south side of the park and to the Loomis Museum on the north side of the park. Ranger-led snowshoe hikes head out from the Loomis Ranger Station near Manzanita Lake at 1 p.m. on weekends from January 11 through March 23. During these hikes rangers discuss the basics of snowshoeing, winter survival, and winter ecology. The vast majority of Lassen Volcanic’s backcountry provides unparalleled opportunities for challenging and relaxed skiing. The Loomis Museum and the Southwest Parking Area are popular starting spots to ski the 29 mile snow-covered Main Park Road. There are very few marked backcountry/wilderness winter skiing trails.

Mount Rainier National Park For snow conditions: (360) 569-6575 Mount Rainier offers endless terrain for snowshoers, and rangers typically offer weekly walks at Paradise. Snow conditions permitting, the walks are generally offered on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, and daily during winter break (December 21 - January 1). After early January, walks are only offered on Saturdays and Sundays, and holidays. Walks start at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m and meet inside the Jackson Visitor Center. Sign up at the information desk beginning one hour before the start time.These hikes generally cover 1.5 miles over two hours. Organized groups of 13-25 people may reserve a snowshoe walk in advance. Paradise also is a recreational hub for sledding and tubing on the flanks of the mountain. Skiers can take to unplowed roads, some marked trails, and, for the experienced, unmarked routes. A map of trails in the Paradise area can be found on the park’s website.

Sequoia National Park For snow conditions: (559) 565-3341 Imagine snowshoeing or cross-country skiing below some of the world’s tallest trees. That’s what awaits those who visit Sequoia during the winter months. Before, or after, you hit the trails, stop by the Giant Forest Museum to learn more about the giant trees and this part of the High Sierra and to pick up ski maps and books. Two miles north of the museum is the General Sherman Tree. When snow closes the upper Sherman Tree parking lot, you can usually find parking in the lower lot located by the Generals Highway. If there is enough snow on the ground, the Wolverton area is open for snowplay. Find your way to Kings Canyon National Park and at Grant Grove you can attend the annual Nation’s Christmas Tree Ceremony, which is held on the second Sunday each December.

Alaska Kenai Fjords National Park For snow conditions: (907) 422-0500 Visiting Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park during the winter is getting a little bit easier now that the National Park Service has authorized snowcoach travel to the popular destination. With the advent of operations in the park, Adventure Sixty North, a commercial snowcoach operation, became the first such activity authorized in a unit of the National Park System in Alaska. The company provides scenic tours and guided snowshoe walks, and passengers can be dropped off to enjoy winter activities on their own. The park has authorized four round-trips per day and no commercial services Tuesday through Thursday after 1 p.m. Rates range from $20 per person for a one-way ride, up to $60 per person for drop off and later pick up. Additional information can be found at the company’s website.

Rocky Mountain National Park draws fewer crowds in winter, which means more solitude on your snowshoe wanderings / NPS, John Marino

Winter Doesn’t Have To Mean Cold, Snow And Ice During Your Park Adventure Cold, snow, and ice aren’t the only backdrops to a winter’s visit to the National Park System. There’s a flip side to the Glaciers, Yellowstones, and Mount Rainiers of winter park vacations. They’re found in the Caribbean, south Florida, and even Nevada and Arizona. Here’s a glance at some of the warmer parks to enjoy between December and April:

Kayaking can be done year-round at Everglades National Park, but you’ll encounter somewhat fewer bugs in winter / NPS photo

Big Bend National Park

Death Valley National Park Camping reservations: or (877) 444-6777 Camping reservations: or (877) 444-6777

Located in far south Texas along the border with Mexico, Big Bend has multiple personalities that can surface during the winter months. You might encounter perfect hiking and backpacking weather...or a snowstorm. In general, though, high temperatures December through February average in the 60s before climbing into the midto-upper 70s in March. Overnight lows during this period are in the mid-30s to mid-40s. A great escape for backpackers would be the backcountry of the Chisos Mountains. Just looking to sit back and relax? Take a soak in the Hot Spring, the remains of an historic bathhouse on banks of the Rio Grande River. Birders who migrate to the park in winter are rewarded by the many northern bird species that winter here. Campers have three base camps to choose from: Chisos Basin, Cottonwood, and Rio Grande Village ($14 per night). Some sites in Rio Grande Village and Chisos Basin can be reserved for stays between mid-November and mid-April. Star-gazers, meanwhile, find the park’s winter skies offer some spectacularly clear vistas.

Unlike most units of the park system, winter is the high season in Death Valley. That’s because the weather is so much more tolerable than during June, July, and August, when temperatures routinely rise above 100 degrees. Winter high temperatures are more moderate, ranging in the mid-60s in December and January before slowly climbing toward highs in the 90s in April. Overnight lows are in the 40s and 50s, which make the hot-spring-heated swimming pool at the Furnace Creek Inn so enjoyable. Those cooler winter temperatures also make it much safer for you to take long walks in the park’s dune systems or down to the salt flats at Badwater. Winter also brings snow to the park’s ceiling, which can make for gorgeous vistas perfect for photographs. While the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are the least-crowded time of year, according to park officials, peak season kicks in with Christmas and continues through President’s Weekend in February. Campers (fees range from free to $18 per night) have plenty of campgrounds to choose from: the Furnace Creek, Sunset, Texas Spring,


Stovepipe Wells, Mesquite Spring, Emigrant, and Wildrose campgrounds are open through the winter. The first five listed campgrounds all have dump stations.

Everglades National Park Camping reservations: or (877) 444-6777 Everglades National Park is a great winter destination. From December through April the park enjoys relatively low humidity and clear weather. Daily high temperatures rise into the high 70s and low 80s, while overnight lows dip a bit into the low 50s. That certainly beats the summertime highs in the 90s and humidity levels over 90 percent; combined they produce a heat index of more than 100 degrees. And the bugs can be ravenous. Fortunately, the drier winter conditions mean fewer bugs to bite you, and the lack of moisture from rainstorms dries out the park’s landscape, leaving water holes dotting the park that draw wildlife. As a result, these months are the optimum time for birding and even spotting alligators and crocodiles. A downside to this weather, though, is the number of human visitors goes up. Those planning a visit during the dry season are encouraged to make reservations in advance for camping, lodging, and tours. There are two campgrounds — Long Pine Key and Flamingo — available for front-country campers ($30 per night for electrical hookups, $16 for tents). Both can handle RVs as well as tents. While Long Pine Key sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, those at Flamingo can be reserved, and park officials recommend reservations.

Joshua Tree National Park Camping reservations: or (877) 444-6777 The geologic outcrops found in Joshua Tree make the park a prime destination for climbers who enjoy the mild winter temperatures for working on their bouldering and longer climbs in the park. Though Joshua Tree takes its name from the highly distinctive stands of Joshua trees with their contorted limbs capped by green spikes, the national park’s name no doubt could have been just as closely associated with its boulder fields. Winter temperatures typically reach the 60-degree mark during the daylight hours, and drop to near freezing at night. Snow at times can be found at the park’s higher elevations. Hikers find themselves walking past the oddly shaped Joshua trees, alongside clusters of cacti, and through mazes of rock gardens. As a result, you’re rewarded with wonders right in front of


Winter is a great time to explore the Cholla Cactus Garden at Joshua Tree National Park / Kurt Repanshek

your eyes as well as gorgeous far-off vistas. Campers can choose from the Black Rock, Indian Cove, Cottonwood, Belle, Hidden Valley, Jumbo Rocks, Ryan and White Tank campgrounds. Black Rock and Indian Cove sites can be reserved for winter visits. There are no RV hookups at any of the campgrounds. Rates range from $10-$15 per night.

Saguaro National Park If you hate hot weather for backpacking and hiking, winter’s the perfect time to head to Saguaro National Park in far south Arizona. Daytime high temperatures at Manning Camp, built in 1905 by one of Tucson’s early mayors at an elevation of 8,000 feet in today’s Saguaro Wilderness in the park’s Rincon District, average about 48 degrees. Night-time lows, meanwhile, dip into the high 20s. The park’s lower elevations enjoy daytime highs in the mid-60s and overnight lows just about 20 degrees cooler. The Saguaro Wilderness Area can be a great place to explore on an extended trip. Covering nearly 60,000 acres, in the park’s Rincon Mountain District, you can leave the saguaro stands behind as you climb up in elevation and through pine-oak woodlands and into mixed conifer forests. A wonderful, and educational, time can be had at the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum just south of the park’s Tucson Mountain Desert. A few hours spent there will teach you about the vegetation found in the park and elsewhere in the Sonoran Desert, as well as the wildlife found there. You’ll find exhibits on fish, reptiles, mammals, and the different ecosystems found here. Birders will enjoy the hummingbird exhibit! There are no front-country campgrounds in the park.


Virgin Islands National Park Camping: Reservations: (340) 776-6330, (340) 693-5654 or via email at It takes a great effort for most of us to reach this Caribbean jewel, so go in the winter when you’ll really appreciate the warm weather and turquoise waters. With a wealth of beaches – Trunk Bay, Cinnamon Bay, Coral Bay, Leinster Bay and more – you can find your own patch of sugar-sand to relax on between snorkeling adventures. Explore this island park and you’ll find a rich, and at times dark, history. You’ll find chapters that delve into slavery and pirating, a history whose stories reside in the ruins of sugarcane plantations that once covered the island of St. John and in bays and coves that were visited by pirates. And the history extends further back in time, as evidenced by rock faces into which petroglyphs were hammered by ancient cultures. Cinnamon Bay offers a water-side campground, with sites available on a first-come, first-served basis. Rates range from $37-$93 per night for the first person, depending on whether you choose a bare site, or one with a platform that comes with its own tent, cots, mosquito netting, picnic table, propane gas stove and gas lantern, and more. Each additional person costs $10 or $20.

WINTER QUIZ by Bob Janiskee

How much do you know about the National Park System? During the winter months, which of the following parks routinely offers the best conditions for stargazing? A. Biscayne National Park B. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore C. Glacier Bay National Park D. Natural Bridges National Monument

Which of the following national parks has the greatest annual snowfall? A. Crater Lake National Park B. Wrangell St. Elias National Park & Preserve C. Mt. Rainier National Park D. Glacier National Park

Which of the following national parks is closed to visitors (no recreational activities permitted) for the entire winter season? A. North Cascades National Park B. Crater Lake National Park C. Isle Royale National Park D. Denali National Park & Preserve

All of the following national parks have lift-serviced snow skiing areas within their borders EXCEPT: A. Rocky Mountain National Park B. Olympic National Park C. Yosemite National Park D. Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Over the years, hundreds of people have paid big bucks to spend Christmas Eve at the Bracebridge Dinner in A. Grand Canyon’s El Tovar Hotel B. Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn C. Death Valley’s Furnace Creek Inn Ranch & Resort D. Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel

Many people observe birds in national parks to get information for the National Audubon’s Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count, the world’s largest bird survey. Which park’s Christmas Bird Count provides information about the winter bird populations of the San Luis Valley? A. Petrified Forest National Park B. Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve C. Scotts Bluff National Monument D. Lake Meredith National Recreation Area

Which individual would be most likely to suffer from hypothermia after lengthy exposure to cold while visiting a national park? A. B. C. D.

an average-sized teenage boy an average-sized teenage girl an overweight 40-something woman a slender 76-year old man

Which of the following park roads is kept open to traffic most winter days instead of being closed by snow and ice for months on end?

A. Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park B. Rim Drive in Crater Lake National Park C. Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park D. Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park

Ice climbers love to climb frozen waterfalls, seeps, and giant icicles. Which of the following national parks in the 48-state U.S. is considered to offer the best ice climbing opportunities on a year-in-year-out basis? A. Yosemite National Park B. Glacier National Park C. Voyageurs National Park D. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

According to official weather records, December and January afternoon temperatures are typically less than 70 °F in A. Dry Tortugas National Park B. Virgin Islands National Park C. Everglades National Park D. Saguaro National Park

True or False ? Snow may fall at any time of the year in portions of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. True or False ? Bears in Great Smoky Mountains National Park remain active throughout the winter. True or False ? By mid-winter, most of the islands in Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands National Lakeshore are linked to the mainland by ice roads.

True or False ? Winter visitors at California’s Point Reyes National Seashore can view female gray whales accompanied by calves. True or False ? Cross country skiing is permitted on the carriage roads in Maine’s Acadia National Park. True or False ? Snowmobiling is permitted on the Grand Loop road system in Yellowstone National Park. True or False ? Some swans remain in Yellowstone National Park throughout the winter. True or False ? It is illegal to install ice fishing shanties for seasonal use in a national park. True or False ? At Grand Canyon National Park, mule trips into the canyon are suspended during the winter. True or False ? The highest average monthly wind speeds at North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras National Seashore are recorded during the winter.

Extra Credit Acadia National Park and Yellowstone National Park are both situated at or close to the 45th parallel, which is halfway between the equator and the North Pole. State two important reasons why Yellowstone’s winters are a lot colder than Acadia’s.

Answers on next page


Winter QUIZ answers D. Utah’s Natural Bridges National Monument has been certified as an International Dark Sky Park. On some moonless nights in the park, it’s possible for a stargazer to see his shadow from the glow of Venus, Jupiter, or even the Milky Way. C. The Paradise area of Mt. Rainier National Park is the snowiest place in America, averaging 680 inches a year. Paradise may be the snowiest place on earth where snowfall is regularly measured. C. Transportation difficulties, harsh winter weather, and wildlife protection needs make it necessary to close Isle Royale National Park from November to April and temporarily relocate the park headquarters to Houghton in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A. Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado has no lift-serviced ski area, but skiers can use lift-serviced ski areas in Washington’s Olympic National Park (Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area), California’s Yosemite National Park (Badger Pass Ski Area) and Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Boston Mills/Brandywine Ski Resort, a dualresort complex with partner ski resorts situated a few miles apart). D. The Bracebridge Dinner at Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel is a Christmas holiday tradition dating to 1927. Staged multiple times during the Christmas holiday season, including Christmas Eve, the Bracebridge Dinner offers an elegant Christmas dinner and an elaborate pageant featuring dozens of singers and other performers in Renaissance era attire. B. Grand Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is located in south-central Colorado within the 8,000 square-mile San Luis Valley, which sits at an average elevation of more than 7,500 feet above sea level.


D. The elderly are most susceptible to hypothermia because they are more likely to have some combination of decreased heat production, increased heat loss, vasodilation, or drug-induced impairment. Thin people and small children are also at greater risk because they have a large skin area relative to their mass. A. Shenandoah’s Skyline Drive is kept open during the winter, except for short periods after snow storms or when icing makes driving hazardous. B. Glacier National Park is one of the very best places for ice climbing, since it abounds in frozen waterfalls, curtains, seeps, and pillars. D. Arizona’s Saguaro National Park has an average daily maximum temperature of about 66 °F during the months of December and January. True. Snow can occur in any month in the upper elevations of 13,679-foot Mauna Loa in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. False. Although bears in Great Smoky Mountains National Park don’t hibernate in the strict meaning of the term, they do hole up in dens, usually by midDecember, and fall into a deep sleep until March or early April. False. Maintaining a system of ice roads at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore would be impractical and risky. Ice conditions in this part of Lake Superior vary greatly and can change quickly. False. The gray whales that visitors see at Point Reyes during the winter months have fed in the rich waters of the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean during the summer and are headed south to spend the winter and bear their young in the shallow lagoons of Mexico’s Baja California. It is during the reverse migration in the spring that visitors can see females escorting calves.


True. Acadia National Park has about 45 miles of carriage roads that are open for cross-country skiing when there is adequate snow. Volunteers sometimes lay down ski tracks on sections of the carriage roads. True. Yellowstone’s groomed snowmobile trails are on the park roads. Off-road snowmobiling is prohibited in the park. True. Although some of Yellowstone’s trumpeter swans migrate seasonally, a small resident population remains in the park year round. False. Fishermen may use ice fishing shanties (“icehouses”) in some national parks. For example, shanties may be installed on lakes in Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park provided they are situated far enough away from snowmobile trails and the Rainy Lake ice road. False. At Grand Canyon National Park, mule trips from the South Rim are offered on a year-round basis. True. Although you might reasonably think that the windiest months in this notoriously windy place occur during the June-November hurricane season, January, February, and March have the highest average wind speeds (about 12 miles per hour at Hatteras Island).

Extra Credit At any given latitude, colder winters generally occur in places that are further from the oceans and higher in elevation. Yellowstone is situated deep in the continental interior and high in the central Rocky Mountains, whereas Acadia is situated on the Atlantic Coast at elevations much closer to sea level.

Parting Shot

Green River Overlook in Canyonlands National Park Photo by Rebecca Latson


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National Parks Traveler Essential Park Guide, Winter 2013