The Christmas lights are put away. The smell of pies, turkey, and cranberry sauce are now only memories. The echoes from New Year’s Eve have faded. The evidence is all around us. The holidays have passed, winter has set in.
But don’t surrender to shorter days, colder temperatures, and cabin fever. The best medicine against winter blues is to get outdoors and experience nature.
And there is no better way to experience the great outdoors than to visit our National Parks.
During the winter, you’ll beat the crowds and have a much more personal encounter with nature. And the quiet beauty of winter will leave you speechless.
While all U.S. parks offer incredible experiences, here are my three favorites:
Riding the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls: After visiting Niagara Falls you’ll have a new appreciation for nature’s raw power. The sight of a river cascading over a cliff and crashing into a pool below is hard to describe. It’s as if Mother Nature is saying, don’t mess with me.
During the winter, water crystallizes on the sides of the falls, creating a masterpiece of twisted icicles.
The best way to experience the falls is to buy a ticket on the Maid of the Mist. The boat takes you to the middle of the pool where the three falls that make up Niagara converge: Horseshoe Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls and the American Falls.
The experience is breathtaking, exciting—and wet. Dress warm and make use of the raincoat you’re provided when you board. Then, sit back and soak it all in.
Visiting Old Faithful in Yellowstone: This famous geyser is in the middle of Yellowstone National Park. True to its name, it faithfully erupts every 44 to 125 minutes, shooting water more than a hundred feet into the air. From a distance, it looks like a giant whale shooting water from its blowhole.
Visitors as far back as the Native Americans have sat and watched in awe at this incredible phenomena of nature.
To get there, you can fly into Jackson, Wyoming, where you can enjoy also the great skiing at Jackson Hole. Yellowstone is then a short drive away. Once there you can sign up for a guided snowmobile trip through the park. The experience is exhilarating, and wildlife is everywhere.
Coyote, buffalo, moose, you’ve never experienced nature this up close and personal.
Renting a Cabin at the Grand Canyon: You’ve seen countless postcards of this famous gorge but until you’ve seen it in person you can’t appreciate its grandness. Few places on Earth allow you to witness such expansive panoramas. Like looking up into a starry sky, the longer you stare into the canyon the more details, colors, and shadows emerge. The experience is difficult to put into words but impossible to forget.
Don’t be surprised if you spot a bighorn ram grazing alongside the canyon. The wildlife move slowly and carefully during the winter, trying to preserve their energy. You almost feel like you could walk up and pet one. But don’t even think about it. They call them rams for a reason.
A great way to experience the canyon is to rent a room at one of the many lodges in the park. Sitting along the canyon’s edge, these lodges give you the opportunity to take in the sweeping views at all times of the day.
I’ll always remember staying at the lodge and waking up just before dawn to see the canyon. With a coffee in my hand, I strolled over to the edge of the canyon, the ground still moist with dew, and looked out over the expanse. What a feeling!
Reservations should be made well in advance. Visit the National Park Service website for more information.
So make the most of 2017 and experience the great outdoors. Let your stress melt away as you take in America’s greatest national treasures, our National Parks.
Written by Matthew Allabastro