At the South Rim’s Grand Canyon Village, head indoors to warm up and check out museum exhibits for free at the historic Kolb Studio or the Yavapai Geology Museum. Have lunch or dinner next to the crackling fireplace in the elegantly rustic El Tovar Dining Room.
If you want to saddle up for the Grand Canyon’s famed mule rides, tours along the canyon rim are offered daily in winter, weather permitting.
Things to Keep in Mind at the Grand Canyon
Thanks to its high elevation in northern Arizona, the Grand Canyon can see more than 200 inches of snow during winter. The canyon’s North Rim facilities, including the access road, close from November to mid-May, which means off-peak travel is limited to the South Rim, open year-round and host to the majority of the park’s activities and lodgings.
Though crowds are thin, it’s still wise to reserve a room at least a month in advance if you want to stay inside the park at one of the Grand Canyon Village hotels.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Best Off-Peak Time to Visit: December to February
Firmly No. 1 on the list of America’s most-visited national parks, Great Smoky Mountains draws more than 11 million visitors annually. And you’ll find the heaviest traffic on park roads and hiking trails when most people visit the park from early spring to late fall.
In winter, the foliage bordering rivers and waterfalls may not be as lush, but mountain views are still incredible, and the weather isn’t bone-chilling; average highs are in the 50s and sometimes climb into the 60s. At the lower elevations, heavy snowfall is rare and major roads are usually open.