If you haven’t made the trip out to South Dakota yet to see the state’s gorgeous Black Hills, you need to get on that. This out-and-back trail is a 3.3-mile trek, but the trip out is almost entirely uphill, so we recommend bringing some trekking poles along, especially if it’s icy out.
It is important to note that, as of 2017, the trail ends at an observation deck rather than at the peaks due to damage from the 2016 wildfire in Gatlinburg. We recommend stopping in at the Big Cypress Oasis Visitor Center in Ocoee, Florida, grabbing a hiking stick from the rangers there, and heading south on the trail.
Yosemite National Park is another one of those places that gets real busy during the summer months. Yosemite, however, is absolutely gorgeous and well worth the visit, so we recommend hitting this popular trail during the winter months.
The trail climbs for 1,800 feet and presents hikers with a beautiful view of Mount Humphrey, Arizona’s highest peak, at the top. Korean Bishop is the Managing Editor for the Gossamer Gear blog, Light Feet.
She's also the co-founder of Wild Wilderness Women, a freelance writer, Oregon Duck, and group hug enthusiast. She grew up amongst redwoods, has a deep love for Everglades adventures, and was once a Washington, D.C. local before fleeing for more open spaces.
Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure. Strap on a pair of snowshoes and stomp across glittering, snow-covered fields, or avoid the snow entirely and head south, where you’ll find plenty of dry terrain that’s too hot to brave in the summer.
If you need more than stunning vistas to get you hiking in the winter, head to Oregon where you might glimpse a pod of gray whales midway through your day. On the approximately five-mile Cape Falcon Trail, you’ll reach a 100-foot outcropping where you can pull out your binoculars and monitor the winter water for their telltale spray.
Your chances of spotting a whale are best in December and January when they’re migrating from the Bering Sea to Baa, so make sure to pack an extra layer and enough fuel to keep you motivated for the hike back. For this three-and-a-half-mile loop, you’ll need a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis, so you can float on top of the snow as you climb through a spruce forest and over snow-covered granite.
Strap on a pair of snowshoes and conquer the six-mile Mazama Ridge Trail, which offers near-constant views of Mount Rainier and the Tattoos Range. The wonderful thing about living in a country that has everything from mountains to beaches is that a winter hike doesn’t have to feel winter.
From the Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park, hike past cypress trees and limestone bluffs on the nearly eight-mile trip to Bolton Creek River Camp. We recommend starting with the flat, one-mile Roundabout Trail, but if you’re feeling strong, continue on to Duster, which leads to the Rendezvous hut at 9,325 feet.
Try to hike in Yosemite Valley in the summer months, and you’ll be met with hundreds of visitors. Just be sure to check conditions and bring the proper equipment, whether that’s micros pikes for your shoes or anti-freeze water bottles.
The five-mile round-trip Taylor Creek Trail starts in the less-visited Color Canyons section of Zion National Park. “Once you enter the finger of Color Canyon, the towering sandstone walls rise above you as you hike through the lush riparian zone.” Color Canyons is the west end of Zion, accessed via the less-used Exit 40 on Interstate 15, so you’ll see far less traffic than in the main park.
“This is one of my favorite geysers in the park year-round, but a layer of fresh snow makes this hike spectacular,” Singleton says. “Bring a thermos of coffee or hot chocolate in case you have to wait for the geyser to erupt.
It’s about a five-mile round-trip trail to Alum Cave Bluffs, a narrow tunnel under an arch that leads to Peregrine Peak, or ten miles if you continue on to the top of 6,393-foot Mount Lacoste. This is one of the most popular trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which averages 40 degrees in the winter, so don’t expect to be alone.” Since Newfound Gap Road, where the trailhead is located, occasionally closes in snowy weather, Singleton also recommends Mount Hammerer as a good low-elevation alternative.
“Ribbon Falls, a sacred site of the Zuni people, is an incredible green oasis in the sea of red.” The out-and-back Thunder Creek Trail covers 12 miles in total and climbs around 4,900 feet, but you can turn around at any point if you want a shorter journey.
Connecting Cohan Canyon and Cassidy Arch with the Frying Pan Trail in the Fruit, Utah, region of Capitol Reef is a point-to-point route, so you may want two cars or make it into a round-trip that covers about ten miles. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands.
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The iconic American road trip is generally a summer affair, thanks in part, to rock n’ roll, convertibles, and school vacations. Winter road trips generally involve a lot less traffic, fewer crowds, and probably an extra bag full of warm coats in the trunk.
These are the best winter road trips in the USA, perfect for a long weekend getaway or a midweek escape. Spend a couple of days eating, sightseeing, and exploring a city that’s unlike any other in the U.S. It’ll be hard to leave New Orleans, but there’s still a whole state waiting, so head south toward the bayou, an area of Louisiana that’s truly unique.
Basing yourself in Houma or Thibaut will give you some insight into everyday life in small-town Louisiana, and it’ll be easy to make the drive down to Concourse, a tiny town where most of the houses are built on stilts. Exploring the bayou in Louisiana on a winter road trips a couple of hours away, Lafayette is the heart of Cajun and Creole country, and you’ll be able to learn all about the area’s history at multiple museums and cultural centers.
If you have time, you can also take a day trip to St. Martinsville, Henderson, Earth, or one of several other nearby towns. Where to Stay on Your Louisiana Road Trip: We recommend basing yourself in Houma because there are so many affordable hotels to choose from.
Photo credit: Margie The South is a great place to take a winter road trip. Visitors will enjoy the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium, Centennial Park, touring CNN Studios, and visiting the College Football Hall of Fame.
Not only will visitors enjoy walking the charming downtown area, but there are a number of scenic waterfall hikes less than 5 minutes away. The Swamp Rabbit Trail is a 20 mile paved biking and walking lane connecting Greenville and two smaller towns.
Things to do here include walking the waterfront Battery to see Fort Sumter, visiting the Charleston Public Market and touring a World War II aircraft and submarine in nearby Patriots’ Point. Charleston has long been known as a foodie city and has numerous famous southern restaurants like Husk and Hominy Grill.
Visitors can ride a paddle boat on the river, explore the many public squares and fountains, and tour famous houses from the colonial period. Photo credit: HalefFlorida has long been a winter destination for many Americans escaping the cold of the north.
One of the best winter road trips in the State is the Florida Key stretch, starting in Homestead, south of Miami. The ocean highway scenic journey to Key West takes about three hours from mainland Florida.
Here, you can find some of the best scuba diving destinations in the USA, as well as several great restaurants and pubs to get you in the island mood. A great day excursion and a hidden gem in Florida is Dry Tortugas National Park.
There is so much to do and to see here, starting from a guided tour of historic Fort Jefferson to kayaking or snorkeling in the turquoise waters around the islands. There are some amazing and quite luxurious lodging choices in Key West, but a good mid-range hotel is the Best Western Hibiscus, which is just one block away from the famous Duval Street.
Photo credit: DharaCalifornia’s desert national and state parks make for a wonderful winter road trip. With pleasant daytime temperatures, you can get out of the car and explore the desert, whether it is through hiking a canyon or walking on sand dunes.
Start this road trip in Las Vegas, Nevada, a popular landing spot for both US and international travelers because of its proximity to many natural wonders. You can loop back to Vegas after you tour the parks, or end your trip in Los Angeles.
From Las Vegas, head first to Death Valley National Park in southern California. Known for having recorded the hottest temperature ever on earth, Death Valley is very pleasant during the daytime in winter although it gets chilly at night.
At Death Valley National Park, you can walk on vast salt flats, photograph picture-perfect gold sand dunes, see the sunrise at the spectacular Brickie Point, and hike colorful canyons. In the afternoon, explore the city of Palm Springs, famous for mid-century modern architecture and palm-lined main shopping street.
On day three, explore Anna Borneo State Park, about 90 minutes from Palm Springs. At the end of the day, drive to Los Angeles, a little over 2 hours away, or back to Las Vegas.
Now I’m not saying that the picturesque beaches are not something to ogle at, but there are so many other hidden gems just waiting to be discovered, and you may have to venture off the beaten path to get there. One such gem is the lava fields of La Peruse Bay which, of course, requires a scenic road trip.
Paris Las Vegas is quite posh for the price, with great dining options, fabulous views, and a massive pool. Photo credit: John Goer end via UnsplashWhile some folks hope to escape the cold on their winter travels, others want to embrace it.
The following destinations make the best winter road trips for folks who don’t mind snow or freezing temperatures. Photo credit: Tara Schatz Vermont’s longest state highway runs 216 miles from north to south, through the rugged Green Mountains.
Route 100 is incredibly scenic and well-loved, meandering through small New England villages, the Green Mountain National Forest, and alongside a number of ski resorts and beautiful state parks. Along the way, you’ll find a wealth of recreation opportunities, not to mention fabulous shopping, dining, and lodging.
It’s no wonder Yankee Magazine named Vermont’s route 100 one of the best summer road trips in New England. If you fancy a local microbrew with your view, check out Long Trail Brewing Company in Bridgewater Corners.
It’s the off-season so there are no crowds and the temperature is nice for hiking the trails compared to the scorching heat during the summer. Drive about 25 miles to visit Canyon lands Island in the Sky and Dead Horse Point State Park.
You can photograph the stunning views or explore the trails on foot or bike, again without the crowds or heat. Winter temperatures in the area are pretty moderate with the high being 40-50 degrees and lows in the 20-degree range.
Spend the day hiking to Rainbow Falls or exploring the shops and restaurants downtown. Stay at Hilton’s Double tree Park Vista Inn for the best views of the mountains and downtown Gatlinburg.
Make a brief stop at Sugar lands Visitor Center, then continue south on Highway 441 to the 5,048-foot Newfound Gap where Tennessee meets North Carolina. After taking in the view of this “lowland” area, drive 15 minutes to the Cling man’s Dome parking area, grab your lunch and backpack, and take the steep but not too technical hike to Cling man’s Dome, the highest point in Tennessee at 6,643 feet.
We recommend driving on into Asheville, NC to spend the night unless you stay at Hurrah’s as the hotel choices are fairly limited in this area. You can also enter the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville to enjoy even more breathtaking mountain scenery.
As a starting point, Chicago has a multitude of things to do, but for some unique winter choices, try sledding beneath Soldier Field, or ice skating in front of the Jelly Bean at Millennium Park, or at the Sky Rink at Peninsula Chicago. Tour the Old Courthouse, let children participate in the Junior Ranger program, and take that heart-racing trip to the top of the Arch.
Wrap up in Memphis, where the essentials are the Mud Island River Park and Museum, with its outdoor scale model of the Mississippi River, and the National Civil Rights Museum, which shares the story of Dr. Martin Luther King and the ongoing fight for equality. Music lovers may want to go a different route, with a visit to Graceland, the Star Museum of American Soul, Gibson Guitar Factory, and Sun Records.
Photo credit: Tonya Preterit doesn’t matter what time of year you visit Hocking Hills, you’ll find it to be one of the most scenic destinations in Ohio. While the main draw to the area is the hiking trails located in the nearby state parks (there are five of them), you’ll also find the small towns throughout the region are worth a visit too.
To reach Hocking Hills, travelers in Central Ohio can take State Route 33 E south out of Columbus. Grab a bite to eat at The Well or JB’s Downtown Grill, shop for locally handcrafted goods at Miss Molly’s Mercantile, or explore the displays in the Ohio Glass Museum.
If you turn towards Walmart, you’ll head into Logan to find the Hocking Hills Winery, Old Dutch Restaurant for Amish-style buffet dining, or Pearl’s Diner for down-home-cooking. Turning right on 664 leads you to Old Man’s Cave State Park, one of the most photographed trails in the area.
Cockle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve, Ash Cave and Cedar Falls are all a short distance away. You’ll find unique architecture, an opera house with regular events and The Emporium, an artsy gallery full of items from local artists.
Grab a cup of coffee at Full Brooks Café and a bit to eat at The Boot Grill in the Rocky Outdoor Gear Outlet. Zion National Park (enter from the east via Hwy 9): Check-in at the ranger station for ranger-led hikes or consider the Canyon Overlook Trail for views.