Posted on 26 February 2013
Yosemite in winter
Head to the Grand Canyon or Yosemite National Park in summer and “forever wild” might feel more like “forever congested.” Come winter, these same parks are virtually uninhabited, almost returning to their original state. Cold weather can add a sense of wild enchantment—a layer of frost on the Canyon’s North Rim, icicles hang from Yosemite’s granite grandeur, the mixture of fresh snow and the briny Atlantic at Acadia. So grab your hiking boots, snowshoes, or cross-country skies and check out the country’s most scenic spots the way Muir and Abbey did, alone in their own private playground.
First stop, Yosemite National Park
. Yosemite is a winter wonderland where you can play amidst sheer granite cliffs and domes, iced-over waterfalls, and towering trees. To truly savor the feeling of being alone in a national park, make snow angels at the roots of 200-foot sequoia trees in Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove. A 2-mile snowshoe trek in and you’re staring at these titanic trees, their shaggy orange bark a striking contrast to the frigid whiteness that envelops the rest of the forest. Cross-country skiers cherish the ten miles of groomed track that leads to 7,000-foot high Glacier Point. Here, a backcountry hut offers accommodations and a thrilling view of the Yosemite Valley. The sheer walls of the silvery Half Dome plunges some 4,500 feet down to a handful of figures swirling on the luminescent orb otherwise known as the Curry Village ice rink. The park is also home to one of the oldest downhill ski areas in California, Badger Pass, built in the late 20s in a bid to get the 1930 Winter Olympics. The bid failed but the resort, with a vertical drop of only 800 feet, is now one of the best places in the West to learn how to ski. At night, take refuge around the massive fireplace in the Ahwahnee Hotel’s Great Lounge
. This spacious lodge was built of heavy timber and stone in 1927.
As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure
, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel
, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside
, Men’s Journal
, and Sierra
, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors.He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England
and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life
. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World
. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at Active Travels