Emily is a freelance travel and outdoor recreation writer from Big Sky, Montana. Her adventurous spirit has led her to the high peaks of the Sierras and the largest wilderness areas in the lower 48. When she’s not writing, Emily can be found backpacking, road tripping to outdoor destinations, climbing, or rowing whitewater.
The Alaska Highway, or Alcan, is often listed as one of the ultimate North American road trip routes. We couldn’t agree more!
With winding mountain roads cutting through the remote reaches of British Columbia and Canada’s wild Yukon, this 1,390-mile scenic highway takes travelers all the way to beautiful Alaska. This road trip is unlike any other you’ve experienced before!
Quick Note: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the border between the U.S. and Canada is currently closed to non-essential travel. While some Americans are permitted to travel on the Alaska Highway, you must have a legal, valid reason to do so. You must also follow all the laws of Canada while you transit through the country. Tourism and sightseeing is not a valid reason for travel, and this post is strictly meant for post-pandemic travel plans.
Originally built during World War II to connect Alaska with the contiguous United States, the Alaska Highway has seen drastic improvements since it’s opening in the 1940s.
No longer a treacherous dirt road, it’s paved and ready for your modern-day road-tripping rig!
This scenic highway begins in the town of Dawson Creek, British Columbia. With a population of about 13,000 people, Dawson Creek will be one of the larger towns on your route.
Load up on groceries and fuel because you’re in it for the long haul!
Road Trip to Alaska: Alcan Highway Itinerary
Stop One: Dawson Creek (Mile 0)
Welcome to Dawson Creek, where your adventure officially begins! Brush up on the famous route’s history at the Alaska Highway House Interpretive Center.
Here, you can watch an educational film about the highway’s construction and explore some of the equipment used in the rigorous building process. This was no small project!
If you’re planning to spend multiple days in Dawson Creek, you’ll have plenty of time to take a trip over to the Kiskatinaw Bridge. Check out this bridge’s quality craftsmanship.
Built during the construction of the Alaska Highway, the Kiskatinaw Bridge was the first curved wooden bridge in Canada and is one of few that remain intact today.
Ready to hit the road? Dawson Creek features a fun sign marking the start of the Alaska Highway. This marker makes a great photo opp to commemorate the beginning of your road trip.
Let the journey begin!
Stop Two: Charlie Lake (Mile 52)
The first scenic stop along the Alaska Highway is Charlie Lake. This magnificent lake sits right next to the road and is a convenient pull off to enjoy the views.
Don’t be shy, go take a closer look! There are two wonderful parks along the lake’s shore, Charlie Lake Provincial Park and Beatton Provincial Park.
Charlie Lake Provincial Park, on the west shore of the lake, offers some short scenic hiking trails, a boat launch, and a campground with full hookups.
Stretch your legs, take some memorable photos, and relax by the water!
Stop Three: Muncho Lake (Mile 462)
This next lake is definitely a sight to see while you road trip to Alaska!
Similar to Charlie Lake, you can’t miss this one because the Alaska Highway runs right along its eastern shore! Muncho Lake is a jaw-dropping jade-color. No filter needed!
With a backdrop of towering mountains and pristine wilderness, you’ll want to stay here for days, which is actually possible if you snag a camp spot.
Strawberry Flats Campground in Muncho Lake Provincial Park is a great place to spend a night or two. Most of the campsites here even offer direct access to the lake for fishing and the ultimate sunset viewpoint. You can’t beat that!
While you’re here, take a hike on one of the area’s awesome trails. The 3-mile Stone’s Sheep Trail offers hikers an epic view of Muncho Lake and the surrounding landscape. Be on the lookout: there’s always a possibility to see stone sheep and caribou!
Stop Four: Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park (Mile 496)
Bathing suit? Check. Towel? Check.
You’re ready to soak and relax at Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park.
As the second largest natural hot springs in Canada, there’s no wonder why this remote paradise is on so many traveler’s bucket lists! It’s a wildly spacious pool for soaking, but it’s also right in the middle of an incredibly beautiful boreal forest.
Make your way from the parking area to the hot springs using the boardwalk trail. You’ll feel like you’ve entered into a fairytale!
The Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park has a campground for those wishing to spend the night. Keep in mind, the sites tend to fill up quickly, so plan to arrive in the morning!
Stop Five: The Sign Post Forest (Mile 635)
Looking for a sign? Well… Here’s over 77,000 of them!
Make a stop to walk through Watson Lake’s most popular attraction: the Sign Post Forest.
It’s encouraged to bring a legally obtained sign representing the town you’re visiting from! Make your mark on the growing forest and add to one of the posts.
This interesting tradition was founded by a soldier who decided to mark the distance to his hometown while working on the construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942. It’s said that he was homesick for his small Illinois town.
Interested in learning more about the history of The Sign Post Forest? The Alaska Highway Interpretive Centre is only a 5-minute walk away!
Stop Six: Whitehorse, Yukon (Mile 872)
Welcome to Whitehorse, the capital of Canada’s Yukon territory!
With a population of around 25,000 people, this is the largest town you’ve seen in a while. Whitehorse maintains a small-town vibe with friendly locals and rich history.
There’s a lot of fun activities to do in Whitehorse, and it’s often recommended that Alaska Highway travelers spend multiple days here.
Witness the Northern Lights
This spectacular light show is most commonly viewed in the wintertime, but it can make appearances during late summer and fall when the days begin to grow shorter.
To see the Northern Lights, you’ll have to take a drive out of town to escape any bit of light pollution. The darker the better! Bring some hot chocolate and camp chairs to enjoy your evening under the stars.
Walk Under the Midnight Sun
For those visiting in midsummer, you may be able to experience the midnight sun.
Long summer days have a whole new meaning when you travel this far north!
Hike in Miles Canyon
Explore along the Yukon River, and wander through the area’s most magnificent natural feature.
Here, you will see how the river’s powerful flows wore through the basaltic lava rock to form Miles Canyon.
Takhini Hot Pools
Another soak? Yes, please!
The beautiful outdoor pool at Takhini Hot Springs is the perfect place to relax for the day.
If you’re searching for a place to stay the night, there’s a nice campground with full hookups and a welcoming hostel right on location.
Explore the Local History
Become immersed in Yukon history at the MacBride Museum’s downtown location. Connect with the groundbreaking events that founded today’s modern Yukon and the people who originally inhabited the rugged landscape.
For some more on the mining history, the MacBride Copperbelt Mining Museum offers a fun and interactive interpretive experience. A great excursion for all ages!
There’s still more to discover! Visit the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site, and check out the fully restored riverboat. Before modern roads, riverboats connected the area to the outside world.
Stop Seven: Kluane National Park and Reserve (Mile 1,016)
After an exciting stay in Whitehorse, it’s back on the road toward Haines Junction.
Calling all mountain lovers! From Haines Junction, outdoor enthusiasts are urged to stop by Kluane National Park and Reserve.
Home to the largest non-polar ice fields in the world as well as Canada’s tallest mountain, Mount Logan, this park is a dream for mountaineers and front country users alike. Just from the road, visitors can view wildlife and the towering peaks of the Icefield Range.
Looking for a short hike to get your steps in? Head out on an easy ½ mile hike along the Soldier’s Summit Trail to witness the site of the Alaska Highway’s official opening.
For those looking to spend the night, the campground at Kathleen Lake offers tremendous views, and it’s a great basecamp for area hiking. Many people choose to spend multiple nights here because of the vast outdoor recreation opportunities!
As you explore Kluane, keep on the lookout for grizzly bears, black bears, Dall sheep, wolves, and mountain goats!
Stop Eight: Destruction Bay (Mile 1,083)
Wondering how this sweet little community along the Alaska Highway earned such an ominous name?
After a severe storm destroyed materials and buildings during the route’s construction, the name Destruction Bay seemed appropriate!
At the northern tip of Kluane Lake, Destruction Bay makes for a great place to pull off the highway and take in the views.
For those who have been fishing along the drive, Kluane Lake is a great place to put that license to use! Cast a line into the icy cold waters for a chance to catch one of the legendary monster trout.
Stop Eight: Delta Junction (Mile 1,390)
It’s the end of the road but the beginning of your next adventure.
From the end of the Alaska Highway in Delta Junction, AK, you now have to decide whether you will head north towards Fairbanks to explore the wild landscape of Denali National Park or make your way towards the coast in Anchorage.
Wherever you end up next, we know that adventure waits for you there!
Pin This Guide to Road Tripping to Alaska Along the Alcan Highway!
If you have always dreamed of gazing into the Grand Canyon, you have probably pictured its 6,000-foot tall cliff walls, glowing red landscape, and unparalleled desert scenery.
Looking down into one of the world’s largest canyons and the many layers of rock revealed by the force of the Colorado River is like looking back in time millions of years.
Although Grand Canyon National Park sees unbearably hot temperatures in the summer, the winter in Grand Canyon is a little more bearable… and sees fewer crowds.
Snow blankets the North Rim, accenting the overhanging red rock, and visitation dips quite a bit compared to the steady traffic of summertime.
Although the shift in seasons may change the scenery, there are still many fun activities to do while bundled up in Grand Canyon National Park in the winter
Grand Canyon Winter Road Closures
North Rim Scenic Drive and All North Rim Roads
If you were hoping to visit the North Rim in Grand Canyon National Park, you will have to wait until springtime.
The North Rim Scenic Drive and all amenities in the North Rim area close down during the winter months.
In fact, this road is only open for a short window of time: between May 15th and October 15th.
This scenic road is a common access for visitors arriving at the park from northern states, but be warned, the South Entrance is over 4 hours driving from the North Entrance if you end up on the wrong side of the canyon.
Desert View Drive (South Rim)
The scenic stretch of road known as the Desert View Drive or East Rim Drive is open year-round to private vehicles.
The drive travels along State Route 64, connecting the South Entrance of Grand Canyon National Park near the town of Tusayan to the East Entrance in the neighboring Navajo Nation.
Although the road is technically open 365 days per year, the park service may elect to close the road due to inclement winter driving conditions.
The weather can change quickly in Grand Canyon National Park in winter, so it is important for visitors to frequently check for weather updates as they prepare to drive to the park.
Hermit Road (South Rim)
During peak visitation, the Hermit Road, which spans from the South Rim area to Hermit Trailhead where the road dead-ends, is closed to private vehicle traffic.
From March through November, the road can only be traveled by biking, walking, or hopping aboard the free Hermit Road (Red Route) Shuttle.
Once the season of high-visitation is over, the road opens up to private vehicle traffic.
For the months of December, January, and February, visitors can drive along the Hermit Road and park in designated parking areas to access hiking trails and viewpoints.
Grand Canyon Winter Hours of Operation and Facilities
Although the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is always open to the public, some of the facilities undergo reduced hours of operation come wintertime.
Remember the North Rim and all facilities are closed between mid-October and mid-May.
If you are visiting Grand Canyon National Park in the winter, you will want to be aware of these changes to facility hours and seasonal closures:
Grand Canyon Village (South Rim) Facility Hours
Grand Canyon Visitor Center: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Grand Canyon Visitor Center Park Store: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
South Rim Backcountry Information Center: 8:00 – noon; then, 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Yavapai Geology Museum: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Verkamp’s Visitor Center: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Desert View (South Rim) Facility Hours
Watchtower Kiva Shop: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Watchtower Stairs: 8:00 am – 5:30 pm, stairs always close 30 minutes before the store
Tusayan Museum: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
All facilities and roads are closed for winter at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, so don’t even factor this into a winter trip.
Visitor Centers in Winter
Visitor centers in Grand Canyon National Park are open in the winter, except select holidays. It is always a good idea to begin a national park trip with a stop at the visitor center.
This is a great way to make sure you have the most up to date information, and it allows you to review your itinerary with professional park staff.
They may even have some insider tips to share with you!
Winter Camping in Grand Canyon National Park
Many who come to Grand Canyon National Park choose to camp during their visits.
During the summer months, there are three different campgrounds to choose from: North Rim Campground, Desert View Campground, and Mather Campground.
However, North Rim and Desert View Campgrounds both close in October.
Mather Campground on the South Rim as the only front country year-round camping option in Grand Canyon National Park.
For those planning to stay at Mather Campground during their winter visit, advanced reservations are highly recommended.
As the only open campground in the park, spaces fill quickly! Reservations can be made online up to 6 months in advance.
With limited daylight, cold nighttime temperatures, and limited sunlight in the deep canyon during the winter, one of the greatest cold season hazard in winter in the Grand Canyon becomes icy trails.
Many of the most popular trails remain open year-round. It’s not uncommon to have clear dry trails. However, ice may be lingering in the shaded areas.
To prevent slipping on icy trails, many hikers choose to carry along Yaktrax or spikes. These handy accessories will help you keep your footing on slick surfaces!
When your body temperature falls to dangerously cool levels, you begin to experience hypothermia. Wet clothes from snow or rain combined with cold winter temperatures can create a high-risk.
To avoid hypothermia, the park service recommends wearing non-cotton clothing, eating high-energy foods before chill takes effect, and staying dry. Hypothermia is five times more likely to occur in wet conditions!
Rockfall is a year-round hazard in Grand Canyon National Park. When recreating within the steep canyon, be aware and alert.
If a rockfall occurs, the park service advises visitors to safely move out of the way. If it is not possible to move out of the way of falling rock, seek shelter behind a large and stable rock feature and place your backpack over your head.
Although rockfall can occur at any time, the risk can become increased due to water freezing behind the cliff walls.
When the water freezes, it can cause the cracks behind rocks to expand occasionally lodging the rocks out of place.
Winter Driving Conditions
The elevation on the South Rim is 7,000 feet, and winter weather conditions are not uncommon!
Throughout the winter months, visitors driving the park roads should use caution and slow down. Snow and ice may be lingering on the roads.
Things to Do in the Grand Canyon in Winter
Backpack into the Grand Canyon
Backcountry permits are hard to come by during the busy season. Once the winter months come around, a permit to camp in the backcountry is a little easier to come by.
Backpacking is one of the best ways to experience the vastness of the Grand Canyon while exploring more remote terrain.
One of the most recommended overnight backpacking trips in the Grand Canyon is to Bright Angel Campground.
This trail has a lot of sun exposure making it difficult to do in the heat of summer, but comfortable during the wintertime!
This backcountry camp offers potable water and toilets year-round, and it is at the very bottom of the canyon about 1/2 mile from the Colorado River.
Bright Angel Campground is about 10 hiking miles from the South Rim.
Keep in mind the first day would be primarily hiking down into the canyon, while your second day would be mostly uphill! The trail’s high sun exposure keeps it free of snow and ice most of the time.
There are mule trips offered year-round on Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim.
Going on one of these excursions in the wintertime offers a welcome relief from the hot summer sun!
Winter mule trips vary in length and type of terrain. If you are short on time and not a fan of traveling steep terrain on a mule, you may enjoy the Canyon Vistas Ride. This excursion is a short 3-hour scenic trip along the canyon rim.
Visitors with more time to spare can choose to book a multi-day trip that includes an overnight stay at the Phantom Ranch.
The historic and well-known ranch sits at the bottom of the Grand Canyon on the east side of Bright Angel Creek.
A mule trip to Bright Angel Creek is a great alternative to backpacking!
Winter Landscape Photography
Grand Canyon National Park’s breathtaking landscape becomes something even more picturesque once the snow begins to fall. The tall canyon walls become dusted with snow and the cliff’s red colors pop.
Visitors hoping to capture Grand Canyon’s winter landscape can travel the Desert View Drive along State Route 64 while using the marked turnouts and designated parking areas to find the perfect angles.
Since many of the trails stay open year-round, photographers can also hike to scenic vistas, such as Grandview Point and Mather Point.
With over 734 miles of scenic hiking trails, Glacier National Park has a wealth of hiking to explore.
There’s a trail for every experience level and age group from a family-friendly boardwalk hike around the massive old-growth cedars near Lake McDonald to challenging mountain passes that offer rewarding views of the pristine landscape below.
Pack your backpack, grab your camera, and don’t forget the bear spray. These are the best day hikes in Glacier National Park you won’t want to miss!
Best Hikes in Glacier National Park
Mileage: 10 miles or 7 miles using the boat shuttle
Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet
The Many Glacier Valley in Glacier National Park is a true hiking paradise. One of the most commonly suggested hikes in this area is to see Grinnell Glacier. There are at least 35 named glaciers in the park, and Grinnell is one of the most accessible.
Now, let’s talk about how to get there…
From the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead, hike along the north shores of Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. The mountain views from this section of the trail are beautiful!
The trail doesn’t begin to gain much elevation until you have passed the lakes. The last 3 miles are fairly steep, but at least there are plenty of wildflowers to occupy your attention as you climb. Seeing a glacier up close is worth the effort!
If you’re short on time or can’t manage a 10-mile hike, you can shave off 3 miles from the trek by using the park shuttle boats. Taking the shuttle boats costs a small fee and may require advanced registration. The boats can be used to shuttle across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine.
Grinnell Glacier Alternative: Grinnell Lake Trail
Mileage: 7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet
The trail to Grinnell Glacier can hold snow for much longer than the lake trail below.
If hiking through snowfields on a steep trail sounds uncomfortable, you can still enjoy a nice view of Grinnell Glacier from a lower elevation at Grinnell Lake.
Hikers can also use the boat shuttle to eliminate a few hiking miles.
St. Mary and Virginia Falls
Mileage: 3 miles
Elevation Gain: 450 feet
Hiking in Glacier National Park isn’t complete without a trip to St. Mary and Virginia Falls!
At the western end of St. Mary Lake, there is trailhead parking for the falls. You can also use the shuttle bus to get to this scenic waterfall trail.
Once you’re at the trailhead, hike downhill toward the St. Mary River. You will mostly be hiking through a historic burn area, which has beautiful wildflowers every spring.
Soon after you reach the river, you will come across St. Mary Falls. Take the bridge across St. Mary River to continue on your way toward Virginia Falls.
You can continue hiking on what is now the Continental Divide Trail for as long as you’d like, or flip around and head back to the trailhead.
Mileage: 4.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 750 feet
Early in the springtime, many of the park roads are still closed for snow removal. Avalanche Lake is one of the first alpine lake trails to become accessible as the roads reopen!
From the Trail of Cedars Trailhead, follow signs to the Avalanche Lake Trail. The trail climbs steadily uphill while paralleling the icy blue waters of Avalanche Creek.
For a more secluded experience, continue 0.7 miles to the other end of the lake. It’s arguably a better view than the main beach!
Trail of Cedars
Mileage: 1 mile
Elevation Gain: 50 feet
The Trail of Cedars can be wandered before or after visiting Avalanche Lake.
The area includes boardwalks that weave through the impressive cedar trees.
There are plenty of interesting interpretive displays to read through and if you look carefully you may be able to spot the resident deer roaming around. This is a great place to wander with young or new hikers!
Mileage: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 285 feet
Head to the end of the road in the Many Glacier Valley to access this scenic waterfall. Park at the Swiftcurrent Trailhead and follow the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail.
You will come to the cascading waterfall after about 2 miles of hiking. Many small side trails wander around the falls offering different viewpoints.
If you were hoping to spot a moose during your trip to Glacier National Park, this is your best bet! Moose frequent the wetland area about 1.5 miles into the trail.
No luck? Take the short detour to Fishercap Lake and scan the shoreline. The best times to spot moose are in the mornings and evenings.
The first best part of this hike is the waterfall, but the second-best is that it ends close to the general store, which sells huckleberry ice cream!
Mileage: 14 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,766 feet
Often considered the most challenging day hike in Glacier National Park, the trail to Swiftcurrent Pass is full of outstanding views, alpine meadows, emerald lakes, and wildlife. If you are rugged enough to take on this trail, you won’t be disappointed by the beauty it holds!
As you would if you were hiking to Redrock Falls, park at the Swiftcurrent Trailhead and follow the appropriately named trail. You will get to see Redrock Falls, Redrock Lake, and Bullhead Lake along the way. Both lakes offer great views and provide excellent habitat for moose!
Soon after Bullhead Lake, you will begin your ascent up toward the pass. Make your climb up the many switchbacks for an excellent view of the valley below. The trail is pretty narrow and steep in some spots, which doesn’t pair particularly well with a fear of heights.
Mileage: 9.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,450 feet
Begin your trek to Iceberg Lake from the Iceberg Ptarmigan Trailhead, which is nearby the trailhead used to access Redrock Falls and Swiftcurrent Pass.
From the trailhead, follow signs to stay on the Iceberg Ptarmigan Trail. Soon after you reach Ptarmigan Fall, you will arrive at a junction. Here, you will veer left and follow the Iceberg Trail.
Your efforts will be rewarded with an epic view of the emerald blue lake and floating ice chunks. The lake is surrounded by 2,000’ tall cliffs that are frequented by mountain goats.
In addition to the goats and bighorn sheep you will probably see, keep an eye out for moose, bear, and deer. This trail is a wildlife photographer’s dream!
Mileage: 15 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,578 feet
Due to the long mileage and difficulty of this scenic hiking trail, it is often done as an overnight backpacking trip. Although challenging, seasoned hikers could make this particular trek in a single day.
For those wishing to embark on a multi-day adventure, the Highline Trailhead is the starting point for endless miles of exploring, including a popular route that traverses most of the park.
Park at the Logan Pass Parking Area or take the shuttle bus to access the trailhead. You’ll want to get on the trail early! Follow signs to Highline Trail and begin your steady climb up. This scenic trail will bring you along the garden wall followed by an opportunity to detour to the Grinnell Glacier Overlook. Adding the detour to Grinnell Glacier makes the total distance closer to 17 miles.
Continuing on, you will eventually reach the Granite Park Chalet, which historically provided accommodations for visitors to Glacier National Park. Now, it is a National Historic Landmark and a comfortable backcountry camp for backpackers.
After taking in the view at the chalet, head back the way you came toward Logan Pass. Keep an eye out for wildlife, there are many reports of hikers encountering grizzly bear and mountain goats!
This trail is very exposed, and anyone with a sensitivity to heights is encouraged to seek other options.
Upper McDonald Creek Trail
Mileage: 5 miles
Elevation Gain: 278 feet
Hikers of all levels will love this scenic creek-side trail. Beginning from the Upper McDonald Creek Trailhead, which is only a short drive past Lake McDonald.
The trail starts by wandering through an old-growth forest. This section of trail is a common place to spot grazing mule deer. As you continue, you will encounter the glacial-blue Upper McDonald Creek.
This is an out and back trail, so continue as far as you feel comfortable before turning around and heading back toward the trailhead.
Florence Falls Trail
Mileage: 9 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,174 feet
This is just one of the many spectacular waterfalls in Glacier National Park. Begin this out and back hike at the Jackson Glacier Overlook, where there is a good amount of parking available.
Along the way, you’ll pass Deadwood Falls. This 10’ falls may be stout, but it’s quite loud as it spills into Reynolds Creek. The main event is further down the trail.
Florence Falls is a tower of cascading falls. Each cascade ranged in height from 30 to 50 feet! Bear frequent this trail in the springtime because of the abundance of cow parsnip that grows in the area.
Be bear-aware anytime you are hiking in Glacier National Park!
Many people travel to Grand Teton National Park to get a glimpse of the iconic Teton Range, scout out some of the area’s diverse wildlife, and go on a scenic hike in the Tetons.
With over 200 miles of beautiful hiking trails in Grand Teton National Park, there’s no shortage of choices.
Every experience level and age group can find a trail they will enjoy from a family-friendly nature walk in Colter Bay to challenging mountain passes that offer rewarding views of the pristine landscape below.
Load up your backpack, grab your camera, and don’t forget to pack the bear spray. These are the best day hikes that Grand Teton National Park has to offer!
Best Day Hikes in Grand Teton National Park
Taggart and Brady Lakes
Distance: 6 miles
Elevation Gain: 585 feet
A trip to Grand Teton National Park is not complete without a hike to Taggart and Brady Lakes. These lakes are nearby each other and are both worth visiting.
Being such a scenic hike, this is a well-well-trafficked trail. With that said, there is limited parking at the Taggert Lake Trailhead, and arriving early is highly recommended so you can find a parking spot easily.
Take in the stunning views of Grand Teton, the tallest mountain in the Teton Range, from the parking area. When you are ready to get your blood flowing, depart from the trailhead and hit the trail. When you come to the first trail junction, veer right and follow the sign toward Taggart Lake Trail.
A little farther down the trail, you will come to yet another junction. The trail is very well marked. Just remember you are following the signs to Taggart and Brady Lakes! A map helps too!
Next, cross the sturdy footbridge over Taggart Creek. Look upstream to get a glimpse of the cascading waterfall. The trail begins to climb a bit starting here. Make your way through the forest of lodgepole pines and thick aspen groves.
After you’ve hiked about 1 mile, you will come to another trail junction. Heading left will take you to Taggart Lake. However, if you wish to visit both of the lakes keep right and check out Brady Lake first. Just a little way farther, and you will be rewarded with multiple scenic overlooks of Taggert Lake!
Once you come to the Valley Trail Junction, keep right and you will shortly arrive at the shores of Bradly Lake. When you are finished soaking up the Teton views, head back to the Valley Trail Junction and take the Valley Trail this time to get a closer look at Taggart Lake and complete the loop back to the trailhead.
String and Leigh Lake
Distance: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 50 feet
Begin your hike at the String Lake Picnic Area. At the trailhead, you will find stunning mountain views from the sandy beach at String Lake. This is a great spot to refuel with some lunch or cool off with a dip in the chilly lake.
The trail wraps around the shore of String Lake until you come to a junction that will lead toward Leigh Lake. Unlike String Lake, accessing the shore of Leigh lake can be a little trickier. Keep an eye out for a well-used trail down to the lakeshore.
From Leigh Lake, continue back the way you came and complete the loop around String Lake. For a much longer hike, you can choose to hike to Bear Lake from Leigh Lake. This would add an additional 4 miles to the hike.
Jenny Lake: Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls
Distance: 2.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 330 feet
If you make a visit to hike in Grand Teton National Park, definitely plan for a stop at Jenny Lake! There is so much to do at Jenny Lake, it is well worth dedicating a half-day to.
Who doesn’t love a waterfall hike? The hike to Hidden Falls is one of the most beautiful in the park. This trail is short enough that it is considered a novice and great for families. Hop on the boat shuttle at the docking area. This will cut off about 5 miles from the hike and offer beautiful mountain views as you cross the lake. There is a small fee for taking the boat shuttle.
Once on the other side of the lake, begin your hike on the Cascade Canyon Trail. The trail climbs quite a bit before reaching Hidden Falls and the viewing area. Hidden Falls is a towering 100’ and is often regarded as the most scenic waterfall in Grand Teton National Park!
Continue on your way up to Inspiration Point. Since it is less than a half-mile from Hidden Falls, it’s worth the climb, but if your legs are exhausted, you can always choose to turn back to the boat dock. Inspiration Point offers a great view of Jenny Lake and the distant mountains.
Jenny Lake Loop
Distance: 7.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 275 feet
This scenic loop around Jenny Lake offers countless photo opportunities and chances to gaze up at the stunning peaks known as the Cathedral Group in the Teton Range!
The loop begins at the Jenny Lake Trailhead and stays fairly close to the lake throughout the entire hike. This is a great long hike for those hoping to avoid super strenuous hills or elevation gain.
Along the way, you can choose to veer off to visit Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point, which are mentioned previously.
If you were hoping to experience solitude while hiking in Grand Teton National Park, this may not be the ideal trail for you. Although scenic and rewarding, this is a very popular trail. The road is nearby part of the trail too, and it can interrupt the quiet of nature at times.
Phelps Lake Overlook
Distance: 2 miles
Elevation Gain: 400 feet
The Phelps Lake overlook is a fairly easy hike that wanders through a pine forest and aspen groves before opening up to a scenic viewpoint. This hike begins at the Death Canyon Trailhead, which is located at the end of a rutted dirt road.
From the trailhead, you will enter the forest and follow the well-maintained trail for 1 mile. Phelps Lake sits at over 7,000’ in elevation and is a common place to spot moose and waterfowl.
Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes Trail
Distance: 10.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,900 feet
This hike is perfect for anyone looking for a low-mileage overnight backpacking trip or a challenging day hike! At just over 10 miles round trip, you can expect the first half of the trail to be an uphill slog. However, the dessert of this rugged incline is two pristine alpine lakes surrounded by beautiful rocky cliffs.
Begin the trek at the Lupine Meadow Trailhead and head toward Glacier Gulch. After many switchbacks, you will first reach Surprise Lake. A little farther down the trail awaits Amphitheater Lake.
Distance: 7.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,350 feet
Another hike that begins at Jenny Lake is the beautiful hike to Lake Solitude. Surrounded by mighty peaks, Lake Solitude is a great challenge for anyone looking to experience an alpine lake, possible wildlife sightings, and seasonal wildflowers.
The hike to Lake Solitude begins just like the hike to Inspiration Point, with a boat ride across Jenny Lake. This time, when you make it up to Inspiration Point, you will continue climbing on the trail instead of turning around.
The trail will level out a bit after Inspiration Point as you enter into Cascade Canyon. In the early summer, you will see a variety of colorful wildflowers. As you always should while hiking in Grand Teton National Park, be bear aware as you make your way deeper into the canyon.
The trail passes by a series of ponds before the scenery transformed into a pine forest. Keep trekking along until you finally arrive at the lake!
Lake Solitude sits just above 9,000’ in elevation and should only be tackled by experienced hikers that are prepared for a challenge.
Christian Pond Loop
Distance: 3.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 250 feet
This easy loop is well-known for wildlife and wildflowers!
Begin your hike to Christian Pond from the trailhead parking next to the horse corrals at the Jackson Lake Lodge. As you approach the pond, be on the lookout for moose and elk grazing as well as trumpeter swans gliding through the shallow water.
The trail leads to the shores of Emma Matilda Lake before looping back toward the trailhead. Take a little detour and hike along the lake’s edge. Another great spot for wildlife viewing! When you’ve taken in all in head back to the Christian Pond Loop and back to the trailhead.
Colter Bay Lakeshore Trail
Distance: 2 miles
Elevation Gain: 150’
The Lakeshore Trail in Colter Bay is a perfect walk for families or anyone new to hiking in a national park! The trail is made up of two scenic loops and can be shortened as necessary to meet your experience and comfort level.
From the Colter Bay Visitor Center, walk toward the marina and find the trailhead for the Lakeshore Trail. From the trail, hikers can easily access the rocky shore of Jackson Lake to take photos or scout for wildlife.
Many outdoor enthusiasts argue that winter in Zion is the best time to visit this beloved national park in southwest Utah!
Home to Angels Landing and the famous Emerald Pools, Zion National Park is often ranked as one of the most visited national parks in the United States.
However, in the winter, Zion’s tall canyon walls become accented in powdery white snow, and the crowds of summer become a distant memory.
Although the shift in seasons may change the scenery, there are still many fun activities in Zion National Park in the winter! However, there are a few things you should know about visiting Zion in winter, first.
Zion Winter Road Closures
Zion Scenic Drive
During peak visitation in the summertime and between December 24th – January 2nd, the Zion Scenic Drive can not be accessed by personal vehicle.
All visitors wishing to explore the Zion Scenic Drive by vehicle must use the park’s shuttle bus system.
The wintertime buses generally run between 8 am and 5 pm and can be used to access trailheads for hikes like Emerald Pools and the West Rim.
When the shuttle bus is not operating in Zion National Park, visitors can use their personal vehicles to access the trailheads and attractions along the Zion Scenic Drive.
The park service recommends arriving at trailheads early in the day because trailheads do fill up. Once a trailhead is full, there will be no more parking allowed, so it is a good idea to have a secondary plan in place.
Zion Mount-Carmel Highway
For visitors traveling from Springdale, UT to the eastern side of the park near Mt Carmel Junction, the Zion Mount-Carmel Highway is the shortest route. This drive does pass under the famous Zion Mount-Carmel Tunnel, which is just over 1 mile long!
Passenger vehicles can pass through the tunnel at any time, but oversized vehicles do have a few prerequisites and restrictions.
All vehicles 11’4” tall or taller or 7’10” wide or wider, including attachments and accessories, will require a tunnel permit. Tunnel permits can be obtained at the entrance stations and cost $15 in addition to park entrance fees.
The final obligation of oversized vehicles using the tunnel is that the vehicles must use the tunnel during operating hours, which are between 8:00 am and 4:30 pm in the winter.
Semi-trucks, vehicles over 13’1”, and single vehicles over 40’ long are prohibited. For more information on prohibited tunnel vehicles or using the tunnel, contact Zion National Park at (435) 772-3256.
Kolob Canyons Road
Wintertime conditions such as impassable snow and icy roads can cause frequent temporary closures on Kolob Canyons Road. The road is maintained throughout the wintertime and is open to private vehicles year-round.
Kolob Terrace Road and Lava Point Road
The Kolob Terrace Road is open year-round. However, 4-wheel drive and tire chains may be required to pass safely through the winter driving conditions.
West Rim Road
The West Rim Road closes during the winter season.
Zion Winter Hours of Operation and Facilities
Although Zion National Park is always open to the public, some of the facilities do undergo reduced hours of operation come wintertime.
If you are visiting Zion National Park in the winter, you will want to be aware of these facility hours and seasonal closures:
Zion Canyon Visitor Center: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Zion Canyon Wilderness Desk: 8:00 am – 10:00 am and 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm
Park Store: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Kolob Canyons Visitor Center: 8:00 am – 4:30 pm
Zion Human History Museum: closed
Zion Nature Center: closed
It is always a good idea to begin a national park trip with a stop at the visitor center. This is a great way to make sure you have the most up to date information, and it allows you to review your itinerary with professional park staff. They may even have some insider tips to share with you!
Winter Camping in Zion National Park
Many who come to Zion National Park choose to camp during their visits. During the summer months, there are three different campgrounds: Watchman Campground, South Campground, and Lava Point Campground.
However, Lava Point and South close in the fall leaving Watchman Campground as the only front country year-round camping option in Zion National Park in winter.
Although there are many other lodging accommodations and campgrounds in the town of Springdale, UT, winter visitors with their hearts set on camping at Watchman Campground should plan to arrive early for first come, first serve camping beginning in December.
The campground capacity does reduce for the winter season in Zion!
Winter Safety in Zion National Park
With limited daylight and cold nighttime temperatures in the wintertime, one of the greatest cold season hazard in Zion Canyon becomes icy trails and icy chains.
Many of the most popular trails, including Angels Landing, remain open year-round. It’s not uncommon to have clear dry trails.
However, ice may be lingering in the shady sections of high elevation trails, which can be especially dangerous on trails like Angels Landing which have sheer-face drops and require the use of chains for leverage!
To combat icy trails, many hikers choose to carry along Yaktrax or spikes. These handy accessories will help you keep your footing on slick surfaces.
When your body temperature falls to dangerously cool levels, you begin to experience hypothermia.
Although Zion National Park is well-known for its mild wintertime temperatures, wet clothes combined with lower temps found in the narrow canyons can create a high-risk.
To avoid hypothermia, the park service recommends wearing non-cotton clothing and eating high-energy foods before chill takes effect.
Thermal layers and leggings will keep you a lot warmer than cotton, and be sure to also bring a waterproof jacket in case of rain, sleet, or snow.
Rockfall is a year-round hazard in Zion National Park. When recreating within the steep canyon, be aware and alert.
If a rockfall occurs, the park service advises visitors to safely move out of the way. If it is not possible to move out of the way of falling rock, seek shelter behind a large and stable rock feature and place your backpack over your head.
Although rockfall can occur at any time, the risk can become increased due to water freezing behind the cliff walls. When the water freezes, it can cause the cracks behind rocks to expand occasionally lodging the rocks out of place.
Rain is also a big risk for causing rockslides, so even if it’s not freezing or snowing, you do have to be aware when visiting Zion in the winter!
Things to Do in Zion in Winter
Snowshoe to Observation Point
If you are fortunate enough to visit Zion National Park after a fresh snowfall, you may be able to cross country ski or snowshoe on some of the park trails! The higher elevation areas in Zion can hold snow from late October until March.
Kolob Canyons’ high elevation makes it a great place to have fun in the snow all winter long. However, if you are looking for a snowshoe adventure in the main part of Zion National Park, you must check out the trail to Observation Point!
Beginning from the Weeping Rock Trail, hike up the switchbacks and out of the deep canyon. You may not need snowshoes at the beginning part of the hike, but the East Rim is known for holding deep snow. Check current conditions with a ranger before departing!
The trail to Observation Point is much wider than the trail to Angels Landing, but it has quite a bit more elevation gain. From Observation Point, you will be 700 feet higher than the summit at Angels Landing! This 8-mile round trip hike includes a look at Echo Canyon as well as one of the most iconic views in all of Zion National Park.
Take a Scenic Drive Through Zion Canyon
Parts of the Zion Scenic Drive are closed to private vehicles during the summer season. Once the crowds disperse, the shuttle bus shuts down, and visitors are allowed to travel through this section of Zion National Park in their own vehicles.
Traveling this scenic route in your personal vehicle allows for the opportunity to stop as needed and take in the gorgeous canyon views. This 57-mile scenic drive is well worth the trip with chances to see wildlife and the ability to stop frequently for photographs. The drive takes about 1.5 hours depended on the number of detours you choose to explore!
Most travelers begin the drive near St. George, UT, and continue through Zion National Park toward Mt Carmel Junction.
Try for Wildlife Viewing
There is no better season than winter to spot some of Zion National Park’s wild turkeys roaming the canyon.
Although some of the park wildlife hibernates during the wintertime, it is still possible to spot mule deer, bighorn sheep, and even eagle along the Virgin River!
Binoculars and a keen eye may be necessary to spot some of these well-camouflaged residents. Roaming the park after a fresh snowfall may make it easier to spot deer and bighorn sheep.
Practice Your Wintertime Photography
Zion National Park’s beautiful landscape becomes something even more picturesque once the snow begins to fall. The tall cliffs become dusted with powdery white snow and the wall’s red colors begin to pop.
Visitors hoping to capture Zion’s winter landscape can travel the Zion Scenic Drive while using turnouts and designated parking areas to find the perfect angle. Since many of the trails stay open year-round, photographers can also hike to scenic vistas like Angels Landing and Observation Point.
The Teton Range stands tall over Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
Their recognizable formation is alluring to mountaineers, photographers, hikers, and road trippers alike.
We will be traveling across the park from south to north with stops at all of the best attractions! Grab your camera, binoculars, and hiking gear, and get ready for an adventure you’ll never forget – a memorable Grand Teton National Park road trip.
How This Grand Teton Itinerary Works
This is a self-guided itinerary that assumes you’ll have access to your own car throughout the duration of your time in Grand Teton. Road tripping Grand Teton is definitely the best way to experience the park at your own pace and maximize your time.
There is a free shuttle that connects Jackson, the Jackson Lake Lodge, Colter Bay Village, and the South Jenny Lake Visitor Center. However, besides these stops, there is no shuttle service within the park, so it’d be pretty hard to follow this itinerary, which is designed for a Grand Teton road trip.
This itinerary is suited for people who want to see the best of Grand Teton National Park’s main highlights while also having time to hike and experience the beautiful wilderness of the region. It affords opportunities for appreciating the area’s wildlife while also seeing the natural wonders and highlights of the park.
However, since this itinerary just allows for 2 days in Grand Teton National Park, it’s not going to be possible to see everything, so we’ve had to make a few omissions in order to have an itinerary that is reasonable, not stressful!
This Grand Teton itinerary will work best if you are staying in the park itself or in the nearby town of Jackson, WY or Teton Village, WY. These destinations together (along with Hoback, Kelly, Moose, Moran Junction, and Wilson) make up the region of Jackson Hole, but Jackson and Teton Village have the most accommodation options.
Renting a Car for Grand Teton
If you are driving to Wyoming in your own personal vehicle, you can disregard this section!
If you are flying into Grand Teton, you’ll want to pick the Jackson Hole Airport (JAC). This offers the easiest access to the park by a long shot. If you are also visiting Yellowstone first, you may want to look into flying into West Yellowstone or Bozeman-Yellowstone Airport.
In the peak season (summer), there are 15 destinations that service Jackson Hole directly, including but not limited to Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City, Dallas-Fort Worth, and more. American, Delta, United, Alaska, and Frontier all service the airport, though Alaska and Frontier are only seasonal.
Therefore, I suggest renting a car from the Jackson Hole Airport. But which company to rent with?
I’ve rented cars dozens of times through various search engines and have settled on Discover Cars as the best car rental search engine – it searches over 500 trusted rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare prices for car rental from Jackson, WY here.
How to Do 2 Days in Grand Teton Without a Car
Honestly — it would be very tough! While there is a shuttle between Jackson and 3 key park stops, it’s not nearly enough to be able to handle this Grand Teton itinerary.
If you were to try to tackle this without a car, you’d end up fairly limited. You could spend one day at Jenny Lake and hiking to Inspiration Point and the next day visiting Colter Bay Village and the area around Jackson Lake, including Christian Pond Loop, but you’d miss all the wonderful scenic overlooks in between, as well as the National Elk Refuge which is a true highlight of the park (well, technically just outside the park).
If you can’t drive but you want to maximize what you can see inside Grand Teton in 2 days, the best option would be to go with a guided tour. I’d recommend this full-day tour which includes stops at Antelope Flats, Mormon Row, Oxbow Bend, Pacific Creek, Jackson Lake, Signal Lake, and Jenny Lake, as well as a light breakfast and hearty picnic lunch.
Best Time of Year to Visit Grand Teton National Park
The peak hiking season in Grand Teton is quite short, mostly consisting of late spring, summer, and early fall. If you are going to Grand Teton and hoping to hike without significant snow on the ground, you’re best waiting until at least late June, and better yet going in July or August. However, note that crowds at that time will be at their peak.
September is a delightful month to visit Grand Teton National Park: the crowds are far fewer, due to school resuming and families disappearing from the park, and the temperatures are still warm in the day but there’s little risk of snow disrupting your plans.
The fall foliage is brilliant in September, generally from the middle of the month towards the end, and October usually has beautiful leaves as well, though the weather becomes colder and more unpredictable towards the end of the. month. However, the fall foliage season does shift year to year, so this is not a guarantee, but end of September / beginning of October is generally the “safest” window for beautiful fall foliage.
However, winter in Grand Teton is not a no-go! The park is absolutely beautiful in the wintertime, with lots of great winter activities and landscapes to enjoy. You simply have to be prepared and know what to expect in terms of closures and access. I have a guide to 30 things to know about visiting Grand Teton in winter that will help you plan a trip in the winter season.
Plus, unlike Yellowstone in winter which almost entirely shuts down to passenger vehicles and requiring the pricy booking of snowcoaches and snowmobiles, much of Grand Teton National Park is still able to be visited in the winter independently, making it a great choice for the winter season.
Spring in Grand Teton is beautiful, with alpine wildflowers replacing the snow as its melts, but you can expect snow on the trails until the end of May, making hiking more treacherous unless you are experienced and equipped for in hiking in the snow.
Your Grand Teton Itinerary
Day 1 of Your Grand Teton Road Trip
This Grand Teton National Park road trip departs from Jackson, Wyoming.
A popular ski town in the winter, Jackson becomes the ultimate gateway town to the Tetons for summer road trips and recreation.
As you make your way north toward the Moose Entrance, the National Elk Refuge hugs the road to the right.
This area is home to one of the largest elk herds ever recorded! There is no fee to enter the refuge if you’re interested in getting a closer look.
Welcome to the park! When you arrive at the Moose Junction, clearly marked, turn left onto Teton Park Road.
Soon after turning, you’ll cross over the Snake River, the largest tributary to the Colombia River. The Moose Visitor Center is located down a road on the left and is a great place to ask questions about the park.
Windy Point Turnout
As you’ve probably noticed, there are no bad views in Grand Teton National Park!
If you’re eager to get some early morning photos of the mountains, use the Windy Point Turnout soon after the Moose Entrance Station.
From here, you’ll be able to see Grand Teton, Mount Owen, Middle Teton, and Teewinot Mountain in the distance.
Time to get the blood flowing with a 3-mile hike to Taggart Lake. Fair warning, the Taggart Lake Trailhead parking area fills up early in the day. Arriving in the morning will be worth it!
From the Taggart Lake Trailhead, head down the trail until you come to the loop junction. Take a right at the junction to stay on the Taggart Lake Trail. A little farther down the trail, you’ll cross a bridge over Taggart Creek. Check out that waterfall!
Not much farther now, Taggart Lake sits at the base of the Teton Range with the mighty peaks standing proudly in the background.
After completing your photo op and taking in some mountain air, continue back the way you came… or add an extra mile to your round-trip by taking Beaver Creek Trail back to the Taggart Creek Trailhead. Both paths lead back to your vehicle and onto the next adventure!
There is so much to do at Jenny Lake! If the views weren’t enough for you, there’s also a visitor center, boat shuttles, camping, concessions, and amazing trail access.
All aboard! Park near the Jenny Lake Visitor Center and take the short trail towards the docks to catch the boat. The boat shuttle runs every 15 minutes and there is a small fee for riding. Worth every penny! Enjoy the ride until you hop off the boat on the west side of the lake at the base of the magnificent peaks.
The fun is just getting started. Any waterfall lovers here? From the dock, Hidden Falls is only a 2-mile round trip hike. This easy to access falls drops 100 ft!
If you’re looking to add in some more hiking miles and really want to earn that ice cream waiting for you at the Jenny Lake Store. Forgo the return boat shuttle and take the loop trail 4 miles along the southern half of the lake for prime wildlife and mountain viewing opportunities!
Back at the parking area, it’s time to refuel and relax by the rocky shore before hitting the road!
Take the One Way South scenic road and don’t forget to stop at the Cathedral Group Turnout for more breathtaking mountain views. Not much farther down the road, you’ll want to make a right to head to the String Lake Picnic Area.
Hot summer days and String Lake were meant for each other! The picnic area at the crystal clear lake has an inviting sandy beach with plenty of room to set out chairs and towels for an afternoon swim.
If your legs aren’t cooked from the day’s hikes, there is an easy 4-mile loop trail that rounds the lake and offers additional views of the neighboring Leigh Lake. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife as you make your way around the loop.
Day one ends back at the beaches of String Lake. For an easy start tomorrow, consider spending the night at one of the conveniently located campgrounds or lodges within Grand Teton National Park.
Insider Tip: Watch the sunset over the Teton Range from the Jenny Lake Overlook off of the One Way South scenic road, take a peek at the uninterrupted starry night sky and rest up for another exciting day.
Day 2 of Your Grand Teton Road Trip
Good morning road trippers! Ready to start this adventure-filled day?
The northern half of Grand Teton National Park awaits! Make your coffee to go because this mountain sunrise is going to be epic.
Mountain View Turnout
Just past the turn to head toward Sting Lake on the Teton Park Road, you’ll find the Mountain View Turnout on the left.
Appropriately named, this viewpoint is a great spot to set up a tripod. Bring some camp chairs, blankets, and that hot coffee we talked about to watch the sunrise over the Teton Range.
Signal Mountain Road
Soon after leaving the Mountain View Turnout, Jackson Lake begins to come into sight.
Sitting at 6,772ft above sea level, this massive lake has a surface area of 4,750 acres! Take the scenic drive up Signal Mountain Road to get a look at the lake from above via the Jackson Point Overlook. Take this road slowly. There’s no rush. The switchbacks become very tight at the top and require conservative speeds to travel safely.
Up for a longer hike? You can get to the Jackson Point Overlook on Signal Mountain on foot. The moderate 7-mile round trip hike is well worth the early morning incline. For the sake of time, it may be worthwhile to opt for the scenic drive up to the viewpoint today.
Jackson Lake Dam
Just after passing over the Jackson Lake Dam, there is a road on the right leading down to a parking area next to the river.
Walk up the steps toward the sidewalk and make your way across the dam for awesome views of the Tetons over Jackson Lake. Across the road, there are some paved interpretive trails along the lake that are fun and easy to explore.
The parking area next to the Snake River at the dam’s outflow is a popular spot to stop and cast a fly!
Christian Pond Loop
Wildflowers and wildlife wait for you along the Christian Pond Loop Trail! This easy 3.5-mile hike departs from the trailhead parking next to the horse corrals at the Jackson Lake Lodge. As you approach the pond, be on the lookout for moose and elk grazing as well as trumpeter swans gliding through the shallow water.
The trail leads to the shores of Emma Matilda Lake before looping back toward the trailhead. Take a little detour and hike along the lake’s edge. Another great spot for wildlife viewing! When you’ve taken it in all in, head back to the Christian Pond Loop and back to the parking area.
Colter Bay Village
It’s easy to spend a full day in the Colter Bay Village area, so we have narrowed it down to the best activities!
From the Colter Bay Visitor Center, take a leisurely hike along the Lakeshore Trail. This 2-mile nature trail offers amazing views of Mount Moran behind Jackson Lake. The trail will bring you along the lake’s astonishing shore. Don’t forget the camera!
After your hike, make your way over to the nearby Colter Bay Marina just in time for the Jackson Lake Scenic Lunch Cruise! The boat will take you to the shore of Elk Island in the middle of the lake, where you can explore and enjoy a picnic-style lunch. There’s nothing like the panoramic views from this scenic cruise.
Want to guide your own watercraft around the lake? You can also rent canoes and kayaks at the marina and explore the lake shores on your own time! Paddling away from the high-use areas around Colter Bay provides great opportunities to catch a glimpse of wildlife along the water.
Lakeview Picnic Area
Take in one last good view of Jackson Lake at the Lakeview Picnic area on the northern part of the lake. From the picnic area, there is easy access to the lake’s shore for photos.
Those who are feeling extra brave can jump in for an icy swim!
Your exciting two-day Grand Teton itinerary ends on the shore of Jackson Lake.
Layered Clothing: Even if you are visiting Grand Teton in the summer, due to the high elevation, it can get chilly at night so plan accordingly!
For summer or early fall, you’ll want at least 2 shirts (synthetic or wool, long and/or short sleeve depending on the season), 2 pairs of leggings or pants, 2 pairs of shorts, 1 fleece outer layer, a waterproof jacket, a beanie, gloves, and 3 pairs of socks.
For winter, you’ll skip the short sleeves and shorts and add in thermal layers, a parka, a scarf, waterproof pants, waterproof gloves, and snow boots.
Comfortable Footwear: Visiting the Grand Tetons is all about hiking! A sturdy pair of hiking boots with strong ankle support is really worth the investment. I love my Ahnu Sugarpine boots for women, and for men, I suggest the KEEN Durand boot.)
However, if you pick sneakers, make sure they have good traction and are comfortable enough for several 2-4 mile hikes over the course of this Grand Teton itinerary. Be sure your choice of footwear is waterproof if visiting any time there might be snow on the ground.
Sunscreen: At 6,500+ feet elevation for much of the park (such as Jenny Lake, Taggart Lake, etc. — you’ll go higher on any mountain hikes!), it’s easy to get sunburned, even if the weather seems cloudy. Trust me — I’ve learned this the hard way. Wear sunscreen every day, and ensure that you reapply it every few hours. I suggest this chemical-free organic sunscreen –especially if you plan on swimming, you don’t want to be polluting the pristine lakes with chemical-filled sunscreen!
Sunhat: I recommend a lightweight but packable hat that has a strap, so that you can ensure it won’t get blown off, never to be seen again, by a gust of wind. It’s also handy because you can just wear it on your back when you don’t feel like having it on your head (or for Instagram pics — no judgment).
Day pack: A lovely lightweight day pack is essential to have when in Grand Teton so you can easily put everything you need for a day out hiking in a place that is both easily accessible yet unobtrusive for active days out. I like this inexpensive and lightweight Osprey day pack, which has mesh panels on the back to allow for airflow (goodbye, sweaty backs!).
Snacks: None of these Grand Teton hikes are that strenuous, but I strongly recommend you always have some snacks on you when you hike, just in case you get hungry. You also may not want to waste time on your Grand Teton itinerary waiting for a sit-down lunch or heading to Moose or Jackson for a meal.
I suggest you make or pick up a picnic lunch on your way into the park, or have plenty of snacks for the day. I suggest things like protein bars (I love CLIF bars), nuts, or other high-density snacks that give you a lot of caloric energy for their weight!
Camera: I absolutely love my Sony A6000! It’s a mirrorless camera, not a D-SLR, so it’s lightweight and perfect for a high-quality camera that won’t weigh your daypack down like a larger camera will. That’s just the body: I also suggest bringing a zoom lens for wildlife and a wide-angle lens for landscapes, as the kit lens is OK, but nothing to write home about.
First aid kit: Don’t let a little thing like blisters ruin your Grand Teton trip! I recommend always keeping a first aid kit like this HART Weekend First Aid kit in your daypack. It’s lightweight and unobtrusive, but if you ever need it, you’ll be glad to have it.
Headlamp (and extra batteries): If you want to do any sunrise or sunset hiking, I recommend bringing a headlamp like this Petzl headlamp.
Water filter bottle: While there are water fountains around Grand Teton, I still suggest having a water bottle with a filter so you can fill up anywhere there’s a water source — like all the beautiful alpine lakes around you!
There are a wide variety of water filtration systems, but I personally have and love the GRAYL Geopress, which allows you to filter water from any source. It’s perfect for filling up on a hike if you see water anywhere on the trail. It’s compact and easy to use and filters out 99.99% of microplastics, viruses, bacteria, and other nasty particles, making water instantly safe to drink without plastic waste.
Where to Stay in Grand Teton
There are lots of options for where to stay when visiting Grand Teton on a road trip! If you’re visiting in the summer, you can stay in the park… but you’ll need to book way in advance!
For where to stay in the park itself, I recommend Jenny Lake Lodge. It has a beautiful location and they have cute rustic cottages, each with their own entrance, as well as an on-site bar and restaurant serving delicious meals, including a 5-course dinner every night. >> Book your stay at Jenny Lake Lodge here.
However, for most people, unless you plan extremely far ahead in advance, lodging within the park isn’t that feasible. If you find yourself booked out of park lodging, I suggest staying in Jackson, WY or Teton Village, WY.
It’s just a short drive and there’s so much to do in Jackson any time of year (especially in winter!) that it’s worth the extra drive time… especially since the road between Jackson and the Moose entrance of the park is one of the prettiest in the United States!
Jackson Hole Accommodations
BOUTIQUE | If you love a hotel with design that’s packed with a punch of personality, I’d stay at the Wyoming Inn. This charming hotel is super cozy and rustic, with Western-inspired decoration on the interior: we’re taking roaring fireplaces, woodsy colors with lots of natural light, rustic touches and design elements, and large, renovated rooms. >> Check photos and reviews here.
BUDGET | While Jackson isn’t the biggest budget destination, if you’re trying to save a few bucks on accommodations without sacrificing comfort, I’d suggest The Elk Country Inn. It’s very highly reviewed and offers modern, clean rooms with plenty of space, just 4 blocks from the Town Square in Jackson. >> Check photos and reviews here.
LUXURY | While not technically in Jackson but rather in Teton Village, the beautiful Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa is an absolute stunner. The rooms each have their own fireplace, kitchen, and seating area, and the property has both indoor and outdoor heated pools and hot tubs, as well as a world-class massage and spa center perfect for some well-deserved R&R. >> Check photos and reviews.
Seemingly endless opportunities for adventure wait for you on this Yellowstone National Park itinerary.
With 3,500 sq. miles of wilderness terrain, over 10,000 hydrothermal features, more than 500 active geysers, and approximately 1,000 miles of exciting hiking trails, it’s hard to know where to start in this giant outdoor playground.
Where do I go first? What attractions do I absolutely need to see?
There’s no need to feel overwhelmed by the massive selection of recreation and site seeing options in America’s first national park because we have put together the ultimate 2 days in Yellowstone road trip itinerary.
You’ll get to make the most of your visit with famous attractions, insider tips, hidden gems, and a thoughtfully designed driving route!
Have your camera, binoculars, and park map handy while tackling this Yellowstone itinerary! We have a lot of exploring to do.
How This 2 Day Yellowstone Itinerary Works
Yellowstone is one of the largest national parks in America, so of course, there is simply no way you can see all of Yellowstone National Park in 2 days.
Since time is limited, we’ve picked the most essential sights in Yellowstone. I mean, you can’t visit Yellowstone and NOT go to the Grand Prismatic Spring or Old Faithful, right?
But as magical as those spots can be, they can also be rather crowded. With 4 million annual visitors, most of those in the summer months, you’re definitely not alone!
So we’ve also filled in the gaps between those busy-but-beautiful spots with some (relatively) off the beaten path suggestions. These will allow you a chance to break away from the crowds a bit and experience the beauty of Yellowstone for yourself, away from masses of selfie sticks!
Of course, “off the beaten path” is relative for a place as well known as Yellowstone National Park. But Yellowstone is a park where most people simply drive between overlooks and drive-in spots, so allocating time for some of these short Yellowstone hikes that I’ve outlined is the best way to get away from the crowds and experience the beauty of the park as it was intended to be experienced, before a time of mass tourism.
This 2 day Yellowstone itinerary is intended to be done by self-drivers, those with their own car or a rental car.
You don’t need any sort of 4×4 or special bells and whistles on your car, though if you are visiting in the early spring or fall, you may need tire chains depending on road conditions (check with the Yellowstone website for up-to-date information).
Be aware that Yellowstone is almost entirely closed to vehicle traffic in winter — more on this below.
Visiting Yellowstone in 2 days actually divides quite neatly due to the structure of the park’s main roads, which form a figure 8. On the first day, we’ll tackle the lower loop, and on the second day, we’ll tackle the upper loop. This way, you’ll see the main park highlights and some lesser-known spots without backtracking excessively and wasting precious time of your two days in Yellowstone!
Renting a Car for Yellowstone
If you’re road tripping to Yellowstone from your home state, disregard this section.
If you need to fly in to get to Yellowstone, I suggest flying to Jackson Hole Airport (JAC). In peak summer season, 15 destinations fly directly to Jackson Hole, including NYC, Chicago, LA, Denver, Salt Lake City, Dallas, and others. American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines fly to Jackson Hole year-round, and seasonally, Alaska and Frontier also service the airport.
At Jackson Hole Airport there are plenty of car rentals available. I’ve rented cars dozens of times through various search engines and have settled on Discover Cars as the best car rental search engine – it searches over 500 trusted rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare prices for car rental from Jackson, WY here.
There is also the West Yellowstone Airport, but flying here is usually more expensive and car rentals are often pricier here. I don’t recommend this one if you are on a budget.
Another option is the Bozeman-Yellowstone airport in Montana, though this requires a 1.5-hour drive to the park. That said, you may be able to find cheaper car rentals via Bozeman.
How to Do 2 Days in Yellowstone Without a Car
If you don’t have a car, you may be wondering how to tackle this 2 day Yellowstone itinerary. Honestly: it’d be basically impossible to do it without either A) your own car or B) a guided tour.
Unlike other national parks, Yellowstone does not have its own shuttle service, and there are no local buses that serve Yellowstone (just the area around Jackson Hole).
So, if you don’t have a car or don’t want to drive, you’ll definitely need to take a guided tour. I recommend staying in Jackson or West Yellowstone where most tours depart.
From Jackson: I recommend this two-day Yellowstone tour which covers both the Upper and Lower loops. It’s a bit pricy but you will see all the best things to see in the park without missing out. Alternately, you could do this Lower Loop tour for Day 1, which pretty closely tracks this itinerary, and on Day 2, you could explore the lovely Jackson Hole area which has plenty to see!
Another option if you’re staying in Jackson is doubling up on National Parks and visiting two-in-one with this 2-day Grand Teton and Yellowstone tour. The parks are surprisingly close together and it’s quite easy to combine the two into a tour that’s been organized for this purpose. This tour is wildlife-focused so it’s perfect for people who are more interested in wildlife over landscapes.
From West Yellowstone: This full-day Yellowstone tour will cover most of the best things to see in the park in just one day, including most of the Lower Loop such as Old Faithful, Fountain Paint Pots, and Grand Prismatic Spring. For your second day, you can go on a zipline adventure or rafting trip departing from West Yellowstone.
Best Time of Year to Visit Yellowstone
This itinerary is really only suitable for late spring, summer, and early fall, when you are able to drive yourself into the park and self-guide. This is because once there is significant snowfall, the main roads in Yellowstone all close to passenger vehicles, and the only way to access the park becomes by snowcoach tour (which can get pricy!) or by snowmobile (even pricier, unless you happen to already own your own!).
While Yellowstone in winter is an absolutely incredible experience, and one that I have no qualms recommending, this itinerary simply will not work in winter because you won’t be able to access the roads needed in order to see the sights in the order suggested. If you’re planning a winter Yellowstone trip, I suggest you read this post on 30 things to know before visiting Yellowstone in winter, written by a Big Sky local.
I would suggest that the best time to visit the park would be in the shoulder season just before or just after summer. May and September are brilliant months to visit Yellowstone, especially if you don’t have kids (or if you’re homeschooling), since the park definitely fills up with families during the summer vacation months. You’ll find better prices on accommodations as well outside of the peak season.
A nice thing to know about visiting Yellowstone in the summer is that temperatures are never that hot! Even in July, the hottest month in the park, the average high temperature is 72 degrees F. It can get quite cold in the evening due to the high elevation (8,000 feet!) though, so you’ll want to come prepared with layers for the evening chill!
Your Perfect 2 Day Yellowstone National Park Itinerary
Day 1 of Your Yellowstone Road Trip
Rise and shine! After spending a restful night in the gateway town of West Yellowstone, you’re conveniently located right near Yellowstone National Park’s West Entrance.
There’s no time to waste because your first day is going to take you on an exciting tour of the Yellowstone Lower Loop.
What’s the Lower Loop? Take a quick look at your map. Notice how Yellowstone National Park’s road system is shaped like a figure 8, which is broken into three loops, as follows:
Upper Loop: the northern circle of the figure 8 Lower Loop: the southern circle of the figure 8 Grand Loop: the outside perimeter of the figure 8
Now that you have a better idea of where Day 1 is taking you, we’re ready to get into the fun stuff — the heart of this Yellowstone itinerary!
Start at the West Entrance
Welcome to Yellowstone! Excited?
This first section from the West Entrance to the Madison Junction is famous for phenomenal fly fishing.
The Madison River hugs the road providing the perfect view to spot anglers and the occasional moose wading the waters.
As you approach the Madison Junction, look to your right for a view of National Park Mountain standing 7,500 feet tall with the junction of the Firehole River and Gibbon River in the foreground.
We’re headed south at the junction to work the Lower Loop counterclockwise.
Firehole Canyon Drive
Trust us… You do not want to miss the scenic Firehole Canyon Drive. The turn comes up pretty fast on the right, so be ready!
On this 2-mile detour, you’ll get an up-close look at the 40 ft tall Firehole Falls. We have a little bit more driving to do before the first hike of this Yellowstone road trip, but it’s coming!
For now, take a pullout and scope the hillsides with your binoculars. You’re bound to spot some wildlife in the Firehole River Valley.
Fountain Paint Pots
Yellowstone National Park is famous for its colorful hydrothermal pools and you’re going to witness them first hand.
The 0.6-mile loop at the Fountain Paint Pots will bring you past a variety of colorful pools. Don’t forget your camera!
The next hot spring is surely one you have seen before in photographs, but there’s nothing quite like standing in front of the real thing with its beautiful rainbow of colors.
There’s no way you can skip putting this on your Yellowstone National Park itinerary — it’s probably why you came in the first place!
Most visitors stay on the lower boardwalk loop to see Grand Prismatic, but if you’re looking for the best view available on foot, we know exactly where to go.
Note: Always stay on the boardwalk or designated hiking trail – it’s illegal and extremely dangerous to walk off the path here!
This excursion can take 1 – 2 hours and is 1.2 mile out and back hike beginning and ending at the Fairy Falls Trailhead.
From the trailhead, you’ll gain about 105 ft of elevation before ending up at the scenic overlook.
Remember: Anytime you’re hiking in bear country, carry bear spray and understand how to use it.
Just outside the Old Faithful Visitor Center, there are rows of benches set in front of the geyser for a stadium-style viewing.
But… That’s not actually the best place to view the eruption of Old Faithful!
Insider tip: After checking the next eruption time in the visitor center, take the Observation Point – Geyser Hill Trail for a birds-eye view of Old Faithful!
This 2.3-mile loop is well worth the hike and will bring you past some less-trafficked thermal features like Doublet Pool and Giantess Geyser!
West Thumb Geyser Basin
Take the boardwalk along Yellowstone Lake and check out the geysers that hug its banks.
This is also a perfect spot for a picnic lunch if you didn’t already stop for a bite at Old Faithful!
Hayden Valley wolves and grizzly bears on your must-see Yellowstone wildlife list? This is one of the best places to spot bears, wolves, and many other YNP residents roaming the valley.
Be patient, scan the landscape with your binoculars, and use the pullouts off the main road for thorough searches.
Grand Canyon of The Yellowstone
As you approach the Canyon Village area, turn right onto South Rim Drive towards Artist Point.
This is one of the most iconic viewpoints of the 308 ft tall Lower Falls. You definitely don’t want to miss the view on this short 0.1-mile paved walk!
The 84 ft Gibbon Falls is another must-see waterfall. With its convenient location right off the road, there’s no reason not to stop and take a look!
There’s also an easy 0.5-mile roundtrip walk down to the falls if you’d like to get closer.
For a convenient starting point on your second day, we recommend camping at Madison Campground or Norris Campground.
If camping isn’t in the books for this Yellowstone road trip, there are cabins and hotel accommodations in the Canyon Village area near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Get a good sleep to tackle the next day of this Yellowstone itinerary!
Day 2 of Your Yellowstone Road Trip
There’s still so much to see, and an early start gives you a better chance for some exciting wildlife sightings!
Today, we are going to visit the best of the Upper Loop.
We’ll start at the Norris Geyser Basin Area and head North towards Mammoth Hot Springs to take the loop clockwise.
This National Historic Landmark is a neat way to start the day!
The obsidian from these cliffs was first collected by hunters and gatherers over 11,000 years ago and has been traced across the country along historic trade routes. Obsidian was once used to make arrow and spear heads!
Here’s another interesting geological site that’s worth the stop.
If you’re ready to give your legs a morning stretch, take the fishing trail out of the picnic area. Follow the trail about for about 0.5 miles to get awesome views of the Gardner River and a small falls.
How’s that for a morning stretch?
Mammoth Hot Springs
Park in the Lower Terrace Parking Area and hop onto the intricate boardwalk paths that weave around the many hot springs. It’s easy to spend over an hour exploring these intriguing thermal features.
This is a popular area to spot elk. Look in the grass below the terraces and around the cone-shaped Liberty Cap, which one of the area’s most prominent feature standing at 37 ft tall.
Blacktail Plateau Drive
After you’ve taken a thorough tour of the Mammoth Hot Springs, head west to continue on the Upper Loop.
This section is famous for wildlife viewings, so keep your eyes peeled. It’s never a bad idea to take the scenic route! Right? Turn onto the Blacktail Plateau Drive and get off the main road for 6 miles.
Almost immediately after rejoining the main road, the turnoff for the Petrified Tree will be on the right.
Is it a tree or a rock? Worth the very short walk up the trail to get a closer look!
Tower Falls Optional Detour
If you’re interested in checking out the 132-foot drop of Tower Falls, it’s only a short detour south at Tower Junction. The rock pinnacles framing the massive falls truly make it a sight to see. The trail to the viewpoint is less than one mile round-trip.
After the falls you will head back to the intersection and turn towards Lamar Valley… Have your binoculars in hand!
Insider tip: The Yellowstone River Picnic Area in the Lamar Valley is a great spot to stop for lunch. It even comes equipped with a quiet scenic trail down to the Yellowstone River.
Lamar Valley is a wildlife lover’s dream. Take your time driving through this section and use pullouts frequently to scan the hillsides with your binoculars or scope.
Bison and antelope sightings are almost a guarantee, but you’ll have to be very observant to spot the resident bear and wolf packs.
For a short hike following your wildlife safari, check out Trout Lake. The trailhead is a small signed pullout on the main road. This lollipop loop trail is only 0.6 miles, and offers beautiful mountain views!
As you approach Cooke City after your hike, prepare to say goodbye to Yellowstone National Park as you exit via the scenic Beartooth Highway to head towards the fun mountain town of Red Lodge!
This is where we leave you to discover your next adventure — hopefully you enjoyed this Yellowstone itinerary!
What to Pack for 2 Days in Yellowstone
Layered Clothing: Even if you are visiting Yellowstone in summer, due to the high elevation, it can get chilly at night so plan accordingly!
You’ll want at least 2 shirts (synthetic or wool, long and/or short sleeve depending on the season), 2 pairs of leggings or pants, 2 pairs shorts, 1 fleece outer layer, a waterproof jacket, beanie, gloves, and 3 pairs of socks.
Comfortable Footwear: You can go with sneakers or hiking boots (I love my Ahnu Sugarpine boots for women, and for men, I suggest theKEEN Durand boot.) However, if you pick sneakers, make sure they have good traction and are comfortable enough for 2-3 mile hikes.
Sunscreen: At 8,000 feet elevation, it’s so much easier to get sunburned even on a cloudy day (I learned this the hard way in Quito, Ecuador!). Bring and wear sunscreen every day of your trip, and be sure to reapply it every couple of hours. I like this chemical-free organic sunscreen.
Sunhat: I recommend a packable hat like this one which has a strap. It won’t blow off in gusts of wind (Yellowstone can get windy — it’s that high elevation!) and you can easily wear it on your back when you don’t feel like wearing it on your head.
Day pack: A compact day pack is helpful to have when in Yellowstone so you can easily put everything you need accessible and handy. I like this inexpensive and lightweight Osprey day pack.
Snacks: None of these Yellowstone hikes are particularly intense, but you should have some snacks just in case you get hungry and don’t want to waste time on your Yellowstone itinerary sitting down for a long lunch. Pack or pick up a picnic lunch or have plenty of snacks for the day. I recommend protein bars (I love CLIF bars), nuts, or other high-density snacks that give you a lot of energy for their weight.
Camera: I use and love my Sony A6000! It’s mirrorless, so it’s lightweight and perfect for a high-quality camera that won’t weigh your pack down. I suggest bringing a zoom lens for wildlife and a wide-angle lens for landscapes.
First aid kit: Don’t let things like blisters or scrapes ruin your Yellowstone trip! I recommend tossing a first aid kit like this HART Weekend First Aid kit in your day bag. It’s lightweight, but if you ever need it, you’ll be so glad to have it.
Headlamp (and extra batteries): If you want to do any sunrise or sunset hiking, I recommend bringing a headlamp like this Petzl headlamp.
Water filter bottle: While there are water fountains around Yellowstone, I still suggest having a water bottle with a filter so you can fill up anywhere there’s a water source! There are a wide variety of water filtration systems and treatments, but I love the GRAYL Geopress, which allows you to filter water from any source — perfect for filling up on a hike if you see water. It’s compact and easy to use and filters out 99.99% of microplastics, viruses, bacteria, and particles.
Don’t forget travel insurance!
Travel insurance is essential, especially if you’re traveling from out of state. Coverage helps you recoup your losses in case of emergency, accident, illness, or theft. I’ve relied on World Nomads for my travel insurance coverage for four years with no complaints, and I’m a happy paying customer. I recommend them highly to fellow travelers!
There are so many options for where to stay in Yellowstone! I’ll make a few suggestions both inside and outside of the park.
Between May and October, some lodges are open in Yellowstone. You can find the full list here, which is also where you can book the accommodations. You cannot book these accommodations on other booking portals, only directly. You must book several months in advance… like, we’re talking 6+ months!
If you didn’t book your lodge inside Yellowstone on time, or if you’d prefer to stay outside the park, I’d suggest either West Yellowstone or Jackson as your base.
West Yellowstone is closer to the park entrance and is better for following this itinerary. It’s where I strongly recommend you stay!
However, Jackson is doable if you are also planning to visit Grand Teton during your stay, and it can be done as long as you get an early start each day of this itinerary.
West Yellowstone Accommodations
CABINS | If you want to stay in a self-contained cabin (great for social distance!), Explorer Cabins at Yellowstone is ideal. The grounds are made up of 50 cabins which have plenty of space between them, and each unit is self-contained so there are no communal areas except for the fire pit (where you can toast your welcome s’mores!). Plus, they’re dog-friendly, and just a few minutes from the West entrance to the park! >> Check photos and reviews here.
BOUTIQUE | For design lovers who want a hint of luxury, I suggest the hip The Adventure Inn. This stylish spot has a minimalist style, with a Scandinavian sensibility mashed up against a woodsy edge. It’s like a Brooklyn loft and a mountain cabin had a baby: it’s beautiful. >> Check photos and reviews here.
BUDGET | If money is a concern but you want a place that’s comfortable, clean, and convenient, it doesn’t get much better than Kelly Inn. This cozy, rustic hotel has perks like an indoor pool, sauna, and hot tub while not breaking the bank. However, the rooms are a little dated, but for the price, it’s perfect. >> Check photos and reviews here.
BOUTIQUE | If the design and the personality of a hotel is important to you, I suggest Wyoming Inn. This cozy inn features Western-style decor complete with a roaring fireplace, warm woodsy colors, rustic design touches, and large, modern rooms. >> Check photos and reviews here.
BUDGET | If you’re traveling Yellowstone on a budget and want to stay in Jackson, I’d pick The Elk Country Inn. It’s highly rated by fellow travelers and affordable (well, by Jackson standards). It’s located just 4 blocks from Town Square in central Jackson, and the rooms are modern, spacious, and clean. >> Check photos and reviews here.
LUXURY | If cost is not a factor, the stunning Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa (a Noble House Resort) is a no-brainer. Located in Teton Village, the rooms all have their own fireplace and cooking area, and there are rooms from everything to queen studios to two-level, two-bedroom suites. There are indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs (all heated year-round) and a massage and spa center for those who want a little luxury on their Yellowstone trip. >> Check photos and reviews.
Pin This Yellowstone Road Trip Itinerary for Later!
Towering peaks, lush meadows, alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife sightings await visitors in Glacier National Park no matter the time of year.
A well-known piece of the Crown of the Continent, Glacier National Park is home to over 700 miles of hiking trails, making it a paradise for outdoor adventures!
In the summertime, grizzly bear can be spotted grazing in the meadows and the tall peaks of the Northern Rocky Mountains reflect in the icy blue waters of Lake McDonald. The highest peaks in Glacier can hold deep snow all summer long depending on the year, but many of the hiking trails are accessible without snowpack between June and September.
Glacier National Park quickly begins to transform into a winter wonderland come late fall. Although the backcountry in Glacier National Park is more accessible during the warm season, there is still much to explore and see once the snow begins to fall.
However, a winter vacation to Glacier National Park still requires some forethought and planning due to challenges that snow and closures present. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Glacier National Park in winter!
Glacier National Park Winter Road Conditions
The stretch of road between the Lake McDonald Lodge and St. Mary Entrance is closed throughout the wintertime. When the road closes is entirely dependent on weather and road conditions.
The Going-to-the-Sun road reopens again once the national park operators can plow the alpine section of road clear of snow and it is deemed safe for private vehicle traffic. Due to the somewhat unpredictable mountain weather, there are no set opening or closing dates.
This road is considered one of the best scenic drives in the USA, but in the wintertime, it is socked in under many feet of snow with even deeper snowdrifts!
Once spring approaches, the road sees various stages of reopening. Be sure to call ahead for an accurate and updated road conditions report.
West Entrance to Lake McDonald Lodge
This is the only section of road that stays open year-round, weather permitting. This ten-mile stretch of road from the West Entrance to the Lake McDonald Lodge is plowed throughout the winter to allow for private vehicle traffic.
Just beyond the Lake McDonald Lodge, the road is gated to prevent further travel.
Many Glacier Road
The road to the Many Glacier Hotel is closed between November and April due to impassable winter road conditions. Folks who wish to explore this section of the park in the snow must either snowshoe or ski down the road.
Two Medicine Road
This road also goes unplowed during the wintertime and is considered closed once the snow is impassable. Call to talk to a ranger at Glacier National Park for current road conditions.
Inside North Fork Road
The Inside North Fork Road travels the western boundary of Glacier National Park leading travelers towards the Canadian Border. During the summer, the road is bumpy and is best taken at a leisurely pace. Once the snow begins to pile up, the road closes to private vehicle traffic.
The Camas Road, which connects West Glacier to Polebridge closes due to impassable snow conditions. However, it does transition into a fun scenic snowshoe trail once the snow is deep enough.
Winter Weather in Glacier National Park
Winter in Glacier National Park can be summed up in a word: cold. I mean, the word ‘glacier’ in the name should be a hint!
Here is the average temperatures for winter months in Glacier National Park (which I’ll call November through March)
November: Average highs of 33° F and average lows of 21° F, with approximately 19 days of rain or snow.
December: Average highs of 27° F and average lows of 14° F, with approximately 19 days of rain or snow.
January: Average highs of 30° F and average lows of 17° F, with approximately 19 days of rain or snow.
February: Average highs of 32° F and average lows of 14° F, with approximately 16 days of rain or snow.
March: Average highs of 39° F and average lows of 20° F, with approximately 18 days of rain or snow.
Winter Hours of Operation and Facilities in Glacier NP
Although recreation in Glacier National Park is technically open year-round, some of the facilities undergo reduced hours of operation or close completely come wintertime.
However, note that restrooms and potable water are available at the Apgar Visitor Center year-round.
If you are planning to visit Glacier National Park during the off-season, which is between late September and early May, you will want to be aware of these changes to facility operations:
Apgar Visitor Center: Closed during the winter. Outdoor informational exhibits are open year-round.
Logan Pass Visitor Center: Closed during the winter.
St. Mary Visitor Center: Closed during the winter.
Apgar Village Camp Store: Open intermittently throughout winter.
Backcountry Permit Offices: Call to assure staffing.
Note: All in-park lodging is closed during the wintertime, so you will want to stay in a nearby town, like West Glacier, Hungry Horse, or Whitefish.
Since Glacier National Park is home to such a rugged winter environment, it is a good idea to begin your trip by calling ahead to talk with a park ranger.
Where to Stay near Glacier National Park in Winter
Since you can’t actually stay in the park in the winter, you’ll have to stay nearby. Luckily, there are plenty of great options: these ones are all in Whitefish, which has the most options in terms of accommodations, but you can also look at West Glacier, Hungry Horse, or Kalispell.
Lodge at Whitefish Lake: This cozy 4-star lodge boasts a beautiful location, an on-site spa, cozy rooms, and an award-winning restaurant — what else could you want when visiting Glacier in winter? The Spa is a great place to relax after a day recreating in Glacier National Park, with massages, facials, treatments, a steam room, a hot tub, a relaxation room, and more in their wellness center! >> Book your stay the Lodge at Whitefish Lake here
The Firebrand: This chic boutique hotel is one of Whitefish’s newest offerings, and it’s a great place with tons of personality. Amenities include a fitness center, ski storage and ski pass sales, and on-site restaurants and bars. Cozy robes and luxe en-suite bathrooms make each room feel spa-perfect. >> Book a stay at the Firebrand here
Grouse Mountain Lodge: This cozy lodge is no-frills, but it’s a lovely place to stay in the winter when all you want is a roaring fireplace, lovely log cabin vibes, and snow-covered scenery! It has some great amenities including an outdoor firepit and hot tub as well as an indoor pool and a Finnish-style dry sauna.
Winter Camping in Glacier National Park
Many national park travelers like to camp during their outdoor adventures. Glacier National Park is home to thirteen front-country campgrounds, which are spread throughout the one million acre park!
During the busy season between May and most of September, many of the popular campgrounds are on an online reservation system and are full each night.
Out of the thirteen front-country campgrounds, Apgar Campground on Lake McDonald is the only one that stays open year-round.
The campground sees reduced site availability and primitive camping only during the cold season. Primitive camping in Glacier National Park means there are vault toilets open, but no potable water available.
Luckily, if you are unable to snag a site inside the park, there are plenty of camping opportunities and lodging accommodations ranging in levels of luxury nearby in West Glacier and Hungry Horse.
Winter Safety in Glacier National Park
When your body temperature falls to dangerously cool levels, you begin to experience hypothermia. Wet clothes combined with freezing outside temperatures can create a high-risk environment.
To avoid hypothermia, the park service recommends wearing non-cotton clothing and doing everything possible to avoid submerging yourself in water.
According to the National Park Service, water is the number one cause of fatality in Glacier. If you are recreating near water, avoid walking on slippery rocks and crossing over moving water on thin snowbridges.
Trails covered in a fresh layer of snow can become difficult to follow. As you snowshoe, ski, or hike along, pay close attention to trail markers and junctions signs. Cell phone coverage is spotty to nonexistent in most areas of Glacier National Park. If you do become lost, stay where you are, and wait for rescue.
Always pack a map with navigation tools, and remember to tell someone where you are going before departing for the trail. If you are unsure of your abilities, always go with companions.
The deep powdery snow combined with the steep mountain terrain in Glacier National Park is the perfect formula for avalanches.
If you plan to recreate in the backcountry during the winter season, you should be professionally trained in avalanche safety and know how to use the appropriate safety gear.
The thin layers of snow and ice covering water, crevasses, or massive snow caves can be difficult to detect. The fragile ice can give way to your body weight and leave you victim to the hazards below.
Before recreating on glaciers, in snowfields, or near bodies of water in the winter, be sure to talk to a park ranger about snowbridge safety.
Glacier National Park is home to diverse and magnificent wildlife. Although there will be many great opportunities to view wildlife, always make sure you are doing so safely. If it is a hoofed animal, such as moose, elk, sheep, and goats, keep back 75 feet. For grizzly and black bears, always try to maintain a distance of at least 300 feet.
Although bear hibernate in the wintertime, Glacier National Park is still grizzly country. Carry bear spray and follow appropriate bear aware protocol while recreating.
Things to Do in Glacier National Park in Winter
Go for a Scenic Drive
As you have learned, many of the roads in Glacier National Park shut down due to impassable snow in the wintertime. However, there is still enough roadway open to private vehicle traffic for a fun drive through the snowy mountains!
The section of road between the West Entrance and the Lake McDonald Lodge remains open year-round due to the exceptional plow operators. The 10-mile stretch of road winds along the scenic and picturesque shore of Lake McDonald.
Although you may not get to see the lake’s colorful rock shores in the wintertime, you can still appreciate the towering peaks, such as Stanton Mountain, McPartland Mountain, and Heavens Peak, in the background.
This drive is perfect for photographers hoping to capture the beauty of Glacier National Park’s front country. As you drive along, use the frequent turnouts to access the lake’s shore and capture every accessible angle.
It is common to spot whitetail deer roaming along the roadway, but keep an eye out for other wildlife like moose, elk, fox, and coyote.
The bear may be fast asleep during your visit, but if you’re coming during the late fall or early spring, it is possible to spot bear grazing along the shore.
Go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing
Winter is the dominant season in Glacier National Park and all of northern Montana, since all the other seasons are so short-lived!
To make the best of the snowy months and continue exploring, strap on a pair of snowshoes or cross country skis.
The Apgar Village has a variety of ski and snowshoe trails for everyone to enjoy. For a short 3-mile outing, consider exploring the Lower McDonald Creek Trail.
Those who are looking for something a little longer in the Apgar Village area might like the 6-mile round trip trail to Rocky Point, which offers multiple viewpoints featuring Lake McDonald and surrounding peaks!
Take a scenic snowmobile ride
For those looking for a little high-octane adventure, rent a snowmobile and explore the backcountry areas around Glacier National Park for yourself.
While snowmobiling is not permitted within the park itself, you can snowmobile just outside of the park’s limits. Snowmobiling is one of the most popular winter activities for visitors to Northern Montana, with snowmobile tours departing from common bases like Whitefish and West Glacier.
I recommend traveling with Action Rentals, who offer independent and guided snowmobile rentals departing from Whitefish, MT.
Waterproof Parka: In the snow of Glacier in winter, you’ll want a really warm winter jacket, like this ultra-insulated North Face parka. I admit it’s a bit pricy, but it comes with a guarantee that it’ll last a lifetime.. and I tested this guarantee by sending in a zipper to be fixed which got damaged after 4 years of abuse wearing it every winter day to cycle 15 miles — my jacket came back like new and better than ever.
I’ve had my North Face parka for literally 10 years, and it’s held up from winters biking through New York City to multiple trips north of the Arctic Circle in places like Tromso and Abisko. It’ll serve you well in Glacier in winter!
Waterproof Pants: If you’re cross-country skiing or snowboarding or doing some winter hiking, you’ll absolutely want waterproof pants. Jeans put you at risk of hypothermia if you get wet, so avoid at all costs.
Snow Boots: Since you’ll likely be trudging through quite deep snow both in Glacier National Park and wherever you set up your base, you’ll absolutely need proper snow boots for a trip to Glacier in winter. I love these stylish and warm Sorel boots for women, which are waterproof and warm but also have plenty of traction. For added steadiness on your feet, throw on some Yaktrax to the bottom for grip on icy surfaces and pathways. These are a godsend (they saved me from eating it many times when I was in Tromso!)
Warm Leggings: There are two choices when it comes to a cozy base layer for your bottom half: fleece-lined for people with sensitive skin like me, and merino wool for people who don’t find wool itchy like I do. I own several pairs of these fleece-lined leggings in a variety of colors (I have black, gray, and maroon). Be sure to wear waterproof layers over this if you’ll be out in the snow, though! For people who like wool, merino wool leggings are the way to go – the absolute warmest you can get. However, it’s too much wool for me to handle, but I have particularly sensitive skin.
Fleece-Lined Knit Hat: If you enjoy fashion, winter can be a bit of a drag because you basically commit to one jacket (typically in a neutral color) for an entire season. I absolutely live for livening up my look with tons of different colors of knit hats. I have one in virtually every color, but I love red and yellow best for the best ‘pop’ of color against the snow. Since I have so many hats, I don’t really have anything special: just a snug knit hat lined in fleece and with a pompom that does absolutely nothing to add warmth but I love them anyway.
Thermal Top Layer: Again, what kind of thermal you go for will definitely depend on whether or not you have any skin sensitivities and if you can handle wool. I hate wool on anything but socks, so instead, I go for thin performance thermals like this Heat Plus layer from 32 Degrees. However, if you’re a fan of wool, a merino wool base layer will keep you insanely warm. Better yet, wool doesn’t trap odors the same way other materials do, meaning you can re-wear it several times before your under-layers will need to be washed — great for people who pack light!
An Enormous Scarf: I go for big, warm, and infinite-style scarfs. I tend to opt for bright, bold colors to liven up my look. I love these ones — they’re cheap and feel cashmere-soft, but they aren’t pricy like it.
Touchscreen Friendly Gloves: You’ll likely want to have your hands out of your pockets at times when you’re navigating on Google Maps, looking up something you’ve bookmarked (maybe this blog?), etc.! Most gloves these days tend to be touchscreen-friendly, but check before you buy. These gloves are cute, smartphone-compatible, and inexpensive.
Waterproof Gloves: You’ll also want to layer waterproof gloves over your touchscreen gloves if you’re snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, or anything where you are out and about in the snow and need your hands out for balance or gripping poles, etc.
Headlamp (and Extra Batteries): Glacier National Park in winter can get dark early — and quickly! — due to the early sunset time that naturally occurs in winter… plus the mountains making it get dark long before that! Bring a headlamp in case any outdoor excursions take longer than expected. You don’t want to get lost after dark in the snow. This Petzl headlamp is highly-rated and affordable.
Waterproof Backpack: You’ll want to keep your belongings dry, especially if you’re doing long treks on cross-country skis or snowshoes in the snow or freezing rain. Bring a waterproof backpack — you won’t regret it, especially if you’re carrying pricy camera equipment.
Snowshoes (optional): Many trails in Glacier National Park in winter will require proper snowshoes (different than snow boots — these allow you to ‘float’ on top of snow instead of sinking through it!) as well as trekking poles if you want to do some winter exploring. You can also rent them, but they’re pretty cheap to buy and will last you for future winter trips, so I recommend investing in them if you are a fan of snow travel.
Camera: You’ll want a camera to capture all that Glacier National Park winter beauty. I use and love my Sony A6000! It’s mirrorless, so it’s lightweight and perfect for a high-quality camera that won’t weigh you down. Be sure to bring a handful of extra batteries! Trust me, I’ve learned from many an experience in the cold photographing the Northern Lights that batteries burn out sooo much faster in the cold.
Battery Pack: Going off of what I said above, extend that to your phone as well! Cold weather depletes cell phone batteries extra quickly, so if you’re using your cell phone as your primary camera and navigation device (and who doesn’t these days?) you’ll absolutely want the ability to power up without a wall outlet while you’re out enjoying nature. I rely on an Anker battery pack to keep all my devices charged in the cold — and as a blogger who takes frequent winter trips to the Arctic and beyond with way more gear than a normal person needs, it’s served me very well!
Among the five iconic national parks in Utah, often referred to as the “Mighty Five” or “Big Five”, Arches National Park may be the most recognizable.
From Delicate Arch’s feature on the Utah state license plate to influential photos of natural arches from the park across social media, Arches National Park is widely advertised.
In the summertime, the park is bustling with visitors in hot weather attire eager to see all the top attractions in the park. During the warm season, the trails are active in the morning and quiet down by high-sun in the afternoon.
Winter presents a much different version of Arches National Park. In the winter, fresh snowfall accents the red canyon walls and natural arches. Although visitation tends to drop with the daily average temperature, there is still much to see and explore in Arches National Park in the wintertime.
Winter Weather in Arches National Park
Arches National Park in winter is generally pleasant and not too cold, with periodic (though not guaranteed!) snow.
While Arches isn’t extremely cold in the winter, it is at a relatively high elevation. The lowest elevation part of the park is 4,085 feet at the Visitor Center; the highest elevation is at 5,653 feet. Therefore, Arches experiences more snowfall than lower-elevation parks at a similar latitude.
The table below shows average temperatures in Arches National Park during the winter:
In addition, it rains or snows approximately twice a month, so while it is certainly possible for there to be snowfall in Arches National Park in the winter time, it’s by no means guaranteed, and warm daytime temperatures means there is a chance it will melt quickly!
Arches Entry Price in Winter
The price to enter Arches National Park in the winter is the same as the rest of the year, $30 per vehicle for a 7-day pass (see more info on the NPS website).
However, most people combine a trip to Arches and Canyonlands National Park at the very least, and often, they’ll also add on other Utah National Parks to their trip.
If you plan to see more than two national parks in a year, then I highly recommend investing in an America the Beautiful pass! It gives you one year of free entry to all National Parks and other federally-administered protected areas (National Forests, National Seashores, etc. — over 2,000 sites!) for the low price of $79.99.
Plus, 10% of that goes back into the National Park Foundation to keep the land pure, beautiful, and accessible for all.
The Arches Scenic Road is the main paved road through the park. From this main road, visitors can access the most popular attractions in the park, such as Balanced Rock, Devils Garden, Double Arch, and more! As the main access route in the park, the Arches Scenic Road remains open year-round.
Closures can occur on the Arches Scenic Road for snow removal operations. Call or visit the Arches Visitor Center for a current road conditions report. Be sure your vehicle is suited to travel the potentially icy roads following winter weather.
Salt Valley Road
In warm season’s dry conditions, the Salt Valley Road, which connects Arches National Park’s main paved road to the Klondike Bluffs and Tower Arch Trailhead, is a two-wheel-drive road fit for most vehicles. Although come wet or snowy conditions often seen in the off-season, the road can become impassable even with four-wheel-drive capabilities.
This road is not well-marked and is entirely unpaved. The 10-mile stretch connecting the Devils Garden area of Arches National Park to Highway 191 outside of the park makes a great alternative entrance or scenic detour during promising weather. The road also offers a faster and more direct exit from the park toward the amenities of town.
Arches Winter Hours of Operation and Facilities
Although Arches National Park is normally open year-round, some of the facilities do undergo reduced hours of operation come wintertime. Drinking water and restrooms are available to the public 24 hours per day regardless of the season. If you are planning to visit Arches National Park during the off-season, which is between the end of November and mid-March, you will want to be aware of these changes to facility hours:
Arches Visitor Center: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Park Store at Arches Visitor Center: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
* The Park Store and Arches Visitor Center are both closed on December 25th
Since Arches National Park is such a fragile environment, it is a good idea to begin your trip with a stop at the visitor center.
At the Arches Visitor Center, you can learn all about the importance of black soil in the area and why you must stay on maintained trails at all times.
The rangers at the visitor center can also provide updated park information and a complete review of your travel itinerary. They may even have some insider tips to share, such as where to spot winter wildlife or the best places to watch the sunset!
Winter Camping in Arches National Park
Many national park travelers like to camp during their outdoor adventures. Arches National Park is home to only one front-country campground, the Devils Garden Campground.
During the busy season between March and most of November, the campground is on an online reservation system and is full every night. However, outside of that timeframe, the Devils Garden Campground transitions to a first-come, first-served system.
There are 25 campsites available during the winter season, which is reduced from the usual 51 sites. It is wise to arrive early to claim a spot! Of course, you’ll need to come equipped with plenty of winter camping gear — it gets below freezing at night!
With limited daylight hours and colder temperatures in the wintertime, one of the greatest hazards in Arches National Park in winter is icy trails. Many of the most popular trails, including Devils Garden, remain open year-round. It is not uncommon to have clear dry trails a few days after a snowfall. However, ice may be lingering in the shady sections of shady trails like the Delicate Arch Trail.
Yak-tracks or spikes are a good idea for keeping traction on slick trails. Always wear shoes with good traction and use extra caution along steep sections of trail where there is a fall risk.
Although there is a decreased risk of heatstroke in the wintertime, the cool weather can be deceiving. Dehydration is a risk during all seasons! When recreating in Arches National Park during the winter months, make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day. Water is available year-round outside of the Arches Visitor Center and the Devils Garden Campground and Trailhead.
Trails covered in a fresh layer of snow can become difficult to follow. As you hike along, pay close attention to cairns and junctions signs. Cell phone coverage is spotty to nonexistent in most areas of Arches National Park. If you do become lost, stay where you are and wait for rescue.
Always pack a map with navigation tools, and remember to tell someone where you are going before departing for the trail. If you are unsure of your hiking abilities, go with companions.
Rockfall is a year-round hazard in Arches National Park. When hiking along the steep trails and cliff walls, always stay aware and alert. If a rockfall occurs, the park service advises visitors to safely move out of the way. If it is not possible to move out of the way of falling rock, seek shelter behind a large and stable rock feature and place your backpack over your head.
Although rockfall can occur at any time, the risk can become increased due to water freezing in cracks in the sandstone. When the water freezes, it can cause the cracks behind rocks to expand, occasionally lodging the rocks out of place.
Things to Do in Arches National Park in Winter
Take a Scenic Drive
Tour Arches National Park with a scenic drive through the remarkable red rock landscape. It is possible to see some of the well-known attractions in the park right through your car window. Taking a scenic drive is a great option for chillier winter days, so you can turn up the heat and sip on hot chocolate!
From the Arches National Park main entrance, drive up in elevation on the main scenic road after a quick stop at the Arches Visitor Center. If you have around 4.5 hours to spare, then you have plenty of time to explore all the paved roads in the park with a generous 10 minute stop at each viewpoint!
On your scenic driving tour of Arches National Park, be sure to detour toward The Windows Section, Wolfe Ranch, and Delicate Arch Viewpoint. These are, without a doubt, some of the best attractions to drive to in the park!
If you would like to pair a hike with your scenic drive of Arches National Park, plan to arrive at the trailhead parking early in the day. Trailhead parking for Delicate Arch and Devils Garden can fill early in the day on weekends and holidays.
Tackle Some Arches Winter Hikes
Throughout the winter season, hiking trails in Arches National Park remain open to visitors.
Here are our three favorites!
If you only have time for one wintery hike while visiting Arches National Park, make sure you explore the trail to Delicate Arch!
The 3-mile roundtrip hike to see Delicate Arch up close and personal can take about 2-3 hours depending on conditions. This trail has many shaded sections with steep drops and can become icy. You may want to carry yak-tracks along to use across icy sections, but avoid using them on bare sandstone.
Why is this the best winter hike in Arches National Park? Delicate Arch, with the snow-covered La Sal Mountains lining the background, offers amazing scenery! This arch is arguably one of the most recognizable in the national park.
Devil’s Garden is one of the best hiking areas in Arches National Park in the winter due to its easy terrain and see one of several gorgeous arches all along one easy trail.
There are two main hikes here: one to Landscape Arch, one to Double O Arch (more on that below)
One of the coolest arches you’ll find in the Devils Garden area is Landscape Arch, the longest arch in North America — with a massive opening of 306 feet in between its two sides!
This arch won’t be around forever (in fact, much of the arch already collapsed in the 1990s, but it still remains intact, despite being just 6 feet wide at its narrowest points)
It’s a 2-mile roundtrip hike to Landscape Arch, which is a great turnaround point if you don’t want a challenging Arches winter hike.
Double O Arch
if you want to make it a bit harder for yourself, continue on to the Double O Arch — cautiously, especailly if there is snow. The footing is rocky and at times there are narrow sections with steep drop-offs on either side.
Only attempt this hike in the snow if you are a confident and experienced winter hiker! If there isn’t snow, you should still exercise caution, but it will be less challenging as the tricky footing will be easier to spot.
The hike to Double O Arch is 4.1 miles roundtrip, and while it’s a doozy of a hike, it is well-worth it even if it presents some extra challenges in winter.
Indulge in Some Wintry Landscape Photography
If you are lucky enough to visit Arches National Park soon after a fresh snowfall, you simply must explore the park with a camera in hand! The fresh powdery snow lining the red rock features and magnificent natural arches is something that very few people are lucky enough to see in person.
Although Arches National Park does typically receive a half-foot of snow each year, it melts quickly once met by sunshine.
Some of the best places to explore for winter landscape photography are The Windows Section and Devils Garden. Both of these areas offer maintained hiking trails and opportunities to photograph snowy arches.
Take a 4×4 Tour of Arches (and Maybe Canyonlands!)
If you’d like to take a break from winter hiking in Arches National Park, another great way to see the epic Utah winter landscape is by 4×4 tour!
You can take a half-day 4×4 tour leaving from Moab, which will tour Arches off-road and you’ll get to see several spots that car-trippers will never get to see, including Tower Arch, Eye of the Whale Arch, the Marching Men, and more.
Alternately, you can opt for a full-day 4×4 tour that encompasses both Arches and Canyonlands, ticking two Utah National Parks off your bucket list with one off-roading adventure.
In addition to seeing Arches, you’ll also get to explore the massive Canyonlands park. This tour covers the Island in the Sky part of the park, one of the more accessible parts of the park, and includes driving along Shafer Trail, seeing Tower Arch, and getting to check out ancient fossilized dinosaur tracks!
While this guide covers traveling to Arches National Park in winter, one of the best things about Moab is just how close it is to several incredible national parks and state parks.
Head outside the park for a half-day trip to Dead Horse Point State Park, which is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Utah — and it’s even more spectacular in the winter if you’ve been lucky enough to get a bit of snow!
What to Pack for Winter in Arches National Park
Warm Jacket: In the cold weather of Utah in winter, you’ll want a high-quality jacket with down like a North Face parka. It’s pricy to be sure, but it comes with a lifetime guarantee. It may be a little warm for day use or use when hiking, so a fleece layer underneath is a great choice so you can mix and match to keep yourself comfortable.
Snow Boots: I suggest these cute and cozy Sorel boots for women, which are waterproof and warm but also have plenty of traction, and they work just as well for regular hiking. Add some Yaktrax to the bottom for grip on icy surfaces if you’re doing any tougher hikes.
Warm Leggings: I own several pairs of these fleece-lined leggings in a variety of colors (I have black, gray, and maroon) – I love them under jeans for winter hiking. For people who like wool, merino wool leggings are the way to go – the absolute warmest you can get!
Fleece-Lined Knit Hat: I like a snug knit hat lined in fleece and with a pom pom that does absolutely nothing to add warmth but tons to add cuteness!
Touchscreen Friendly Gloves: Taking off your gloves to use your phone when navigating on GPS, looking up something you’ve bookmarked, etc. is so annoying. Most gloves these days tend to be touchscreen friendly, but check before you buy. These gloves are adorable, touchscreen-compatible, and affordable.
Headlamp (and Extra Batteries): Arches National Park in winter can get dark early — and quickly — due to the early sunset time. Bring a headlamp in case any hikes take longer than expected! This Petzl headlamp is highly-rated and affordable.
Waterproof Backpack: You’ll want to keep your belongings dry, especially if you’re doing long hikes and it starts to rain or snow. Bring a waterproof backpack — you won’t regret it, especially if you’re carrying pricy camera equipment.
Camera: You’ll want a camera to capture all that Arches winter beauty. I use and love my Sony A6000! It’s mirrorless, so it’s lightweight and perfect for a high-quality camera that won’t weigh your pack down. Bring extra batteries as they burn out faster in the cold.
Battery Pack: Cold weather depletes cell phone batteries insanely quickly, so if you’re using your cell phone as your primary camera and navigation device (and who doesn’t these days?) you’ll absolutely want the ability to power up without a wall outlet while you’re out enjoying nature.
I rely on an Anker battery pack to keep all my devices charged in the cold — and as a blogger who takes frequent winter trips to the Arctic and beyond with way more gear than a normal person needs, it’s served me very well!