Usually known as the “low season”, the winter in the Southwest offers travellers many advantages. Read on to discover the top 5 reasons for travelling to the Southwestern United States from November-February.
1. Less Crowded
From the moment you enter into the Parks you can see the difference – less cars, less noise, less people! You can drive up to your favorite viewpoints and actually find a parking spot!
The most famous picture spots, the hiking trails – all of these spots are less crowded and visited during the winter time. You may even be able to get into places that in the summer are unheard of getting into last minute. On my last trip to Arches National Park I was able to get a permit for the Fiery Furnace – a highly sought after hiking destination in the park that only 50 people per day are able to explore! In the winter you feel as if you are the only person in the park and the silence of the area is definitely welcomed.
2. Save Money
Since it is considered the “low season”, many hotels and activities drop their prices to entice travelers to come and visit. You can often find hotels for 30-50% less than what you would pay during March-October during the busy season. This means you have more money to spend on extra activities, an additional night or a nice meal. Definitely a win for anyone whatever your budget is!
3. Cooler Temperatures
If you’re anything like me, you will appreciate the cooler temperatures. At different elevations, it can be downright chilly and snowy but as long as you bundle up and dress appropriately, hiking and exploring the Southwest in the winter can be fun and enjoyable. Temperatures range depending on the elevation you are at. For example in Zion National Park, in the heat of the summer, temperatures can range anywhere between 69 and 100 degrees. In the winter at Zion, you are more likely to have temperatures from 35 and 63 degrees. Big difference!
A helpful hint for dressing warmly: wear layers! Three layers, to be exact; your first one should be the interior layer than can wick away any sweat, the second should be a warm layer, like a sweatshirt, and your last exterior layer should be something that will block the wind and water. This will help ensure you stay warm and dry while outside enjoying the spectacular views! I always like to have a warm scarf, hat and gloves/mittens and warm socks with my waterproof hiking boots to make sure I am comfortable on my longer hikes. The scarf will come in handy if it gets windy!
4. You Are Able to Do and See More in Less Time
With fewer crowds, you will be able to get in and out of the usually busier parks and monuments in less time. This means you will be able to see more and make a more efficient use of your time. Where it may have taken you all day to see the top viewpoints and explore the Village at the Grand Canyon in the summer, in the winter it might take you a few hours instead. Of course, you can still take as long as you want to explore certain sights, but if you are on a tight timeline you should be able to pack more visits and locations into your trip. So if you are ambitious with your itinerary planning, travelling in the winter might be a good idea for you.
5. See Things Differently
Perhaps you have seen Bryce Canyon or other areas in the Southwest before in the summertime and think you have seen it all. Think again! Bryce Canyon is absolutely stunning in the snow and the other areas are truly beautiful in the winter as well. These destinations are unique in every way and it is truly special to see them lightly dusted (or covered) with snow and in a completely different light. For photographers you will have a new view and may even get a coveted not-so-common shot!
A couple of things to keep in mind when travelling in the wintertime – some areas of the park shut down for weather-related reasons (i.e. the North Rim of the Grand Canyon) and often times since the Parks are slower in the winter there are less tours offered throughout the day than in the summer (i.e. tours of the Cliff Dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park are limited in the wintertime).
Overall, if you like less crowds, saving time and money and of course seeing the beautiful scenery in a different light, try exploring the elusive and adventurous Southwest between November-February!
Southwest Adventure Tours has plenty of different tours that can highlight the areas in a new light or even take in winter activities like snowmobiling and skiing! We can also assist with itinerary planning and making sure you get the most out of your adventure. Check out www.southwestadventuretours.com for more tour ideas and options.
Have you ever travelled to the Southwest in the winter? What’s your favorite part?