4 National Parks To Visit this Winter

There are 4 National Parks you will want to visit in the USA this winter season. Often overlooked, Death Valley Park in California / Nevada is in my Top 10 list. Death Valley in winter is most pleasant, though crowded with baby-boom retirees. The vistas are unimaginable. Whether you lodge or camp, your heart and your senses will be rewarded if you circuit the park day or night.

Dante’s View in morning gives you a panoramic idea of how the pioneers of ’49 came to believe they would never escape the valley floor. In the heat of day go swimming (and, if camping, take a shower) at Furnace Creek or Stovepipe Wells…for $3 per day. Hike Golden Canyon at sunset to discover what real gold looks like. After sunset, drive down to Badwater Basin to listen for the quiet of a national park going to sleep…from the lowest point of the North American continent.

Joshua Tree National Park is fast becoming one of our most popular national parks, though it is not on the scale of Yosemite or of the Grand Canyon yet. Its hiking and climbing opportunities are part of an illustrious portfolio. Camping is ample in the park, but if you require a room, many moderate ones may be reserved in either Yucca Valley or Twentynine Palms. Another option would be to stay in Palm Springs which is less than a one hour drive away.

Two deserts merge here…the high Mohave and the lower Colorado Desert. Flora and fauna are more diverse because of the contrasting climates. The tree itself was named after the biblical successor to Moses. When Mormon pilgrims journeyed through this area, they visualized the outstretched arms of the tree to be Joshua praying to his God in Heaven. Besides the world class climbing and bouldering and the myriad hiking trails, vistas abound. There is a momentous view of Mount San Jacinto walling in Palm Springs far below. 

Channel Islands National Park is a string of gems in the Santa Barbara Channel of Southern California. Fees vary depending on age and the length of your trip.  Most travelers lodge on the mainland and day trip to the isle of their choice.  Indigenous fauna, such as the Island Scrub Jay and Channel Island Fox, live quietly in the hills above the various shores. There is a conservation reserve, so not all of the parkland is accessible.

Santa Cruz is the largest of these islands and is set as an emerald on an azure terraring of sea. She boasts a number of trails, form beginner to moderate. I chose the Smuggler’s Cove trail which is an out and back hike approximately 7.8 miles in distance. The trail falls into the cove where there are usually other hikers on the beach.

Pinnacles National Park is north of San Lucas, California which is on US highway 101. If you don’t plan on camping at Pinnacles campground, which does have several adequate sites among many, King City has a few motels at reasonable rates. There is a turnoff at San Lucas, for California 98 which spurts into the eastern green mountains and then wanders down to Highway 25. Going north on 25 is a treat unto itself as you meander through rich pastures. The road has periodic sentries of oak beckoning with their shady branches.

Pinnacles is one of our new additions to the National Park menu of delights. The heat can be nearly as oppressive as Death Valley during summer, so it is wise to include this wonderful place on your winter itinerary.

There are wild turkey roaming the meadows in this park. And the California Condor have made a small comeback from near extinction. They nest in the high places…so one must be a hardy hiker to reach the places where they soar. There are indeed easy to moderate hikes in Pinnacles. But the greater rewards will take some climbing. Many of the moderate to difficult hikes have metal poles to assist the intrepid trekkers, but you may find yourself scrambling up some rock faces as well.

I took The High Peaks Trail, a moderate to strenuous path. The views kept getting better the further the trail led. And I spotted several condor flying nearby upon my pauses for water or a breather. I burned plenty of calories and came back to camp with that feeling of accomplishment you get from going somewhere not many souls dare to venture.

Yet, for my readers, this is a place calling you this winter…the winter of your intrepid adventure.

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