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With Christmas around the corner and holiday travel at its peak, avid winter travelers looking for adventure could find their next winter vacation in a national park. Those in favor of road trips could find themselves fully immersed in nature while embracing the holiday spirit as we have found five national parks that are within driving distance to one of America’s favorite Christmas cities! Not only are these national parks beautiful nature preserves full of adventure and activities, but they also offer cozy cabin stays:

Glacier National Park, Montana –– Whitefish, Montana 

Glacier National Park in Montana is known as the “Crown of the Continent.” It features beautiful alpine meadows, majestic deep forests, waterfalls, 25 glistening glaciers, and 200 sparkling lakes for visitors to choose from. In addition to the grand scenery, this national park also includes 10 hiking trails and is widely known for its “going-to-the-sun” road that crosses through the entire park. Glacier National Park has eight nearby cities, but Whitefish, Montana is a short 30-minute drive and is home to Dancing Spirit Ranch, which was listed on Forbes as one of five best socially distant escapes to visit in January. It’s equipped with mountain lodges, six downhill ski resorts, natural hot springs, and is home to many nature retreats. According to Pioneer Woman, Whitefish, Montana is also full of Christmas cheer with their “Christmas stroll every year that has live music, plus a tree lighting ceremony, chestnut roasting, wagon rides, and fire pits.”

Glacier Bay Lodge Dining Room. Image provided by National Park Service.

Pecos National Historic Park –– Taos, New Mexico

Pecos National Historic Park was the site of historical battles such as the Battle of Glorieta Pass. Travelers can visit Kozlowski’s Stage Stop and Trading post, one of the most famous stops along the Santa Fe Trail. The Pecos River Cabins are five different cabins offering the seclusion of the country, the charm of a traditional New Mexican Village, the adventure of the Pecos Wilderness, and the sophistication and culture of nearby Santa Fe. This park is a 2-hour drive from Taos, New Mexico, a Christmas city that is festive all December long. Taos has town events such as holiday fairs and tree lightings. 

Mission Church Wayside. Image provided by National Park Service.

Ozark National Scenic Riverways –– Branson, Missouri

According to the National Park Service, “Ozark National Scenic Riverways is the first national park area to protect a river system.” The riverways include the Current and Jack Fork rivers, and they are two of the most beautifully preserved rivers, making it the perfect view for a holiday trip on the lake. Current and Jack Fork house various freshwater springs, caves, trails, and historic sites. The Rosecliff Lodge at The Landing is the only establishment in the area to offer riverfront accommodation and it is open all year round with the exception of floating services during the winter. Ozark Scenic Riverways is just under a 3-hour drive to Branson, Missouri. Holiday festivities start in November, and visitors have plenty to choose from such as, “legendary holiday shows, over-the-top Christmas light walks and displays, a Polar Express train ride, and shopping.”

Credit: Alley Mill with Snow and Christmas decorations
Alley Mill at Ozark Scenic Riverways. Image provided by National Park Service.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park –– Pigeon Forge, Tennessee 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of America’s most visited national parks because of its beautiful scenery, Appalachian Mountain culture, and animal life. According to the National Park Service, the only lodging in the National Park is the LeConte Lodge, which closed for the winter on November 24th. However, Dancin’ Bear Ridge is a luxurious secluded log cabin located 25 minutes away in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Pigeon Forge also hosts an annual Winterfest Celebration that uses 5 million lights in addition to being right around the corner from Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas. 

Cataloochee hiking trail. Image provided by National Park Service.

Acadia National Park –– Kennebunkport, Maine 

Acadia National Park has hiking trails that stretch over 120 miles with paths such as the Bar Harbor Shore path that offers beautiful views of the harbor and Porcupine Islands. Acadia is also known for its Carriage roads and their Wildwood Stables, where visitors partake in horse-drawn carriage rides or bring their own horses to ride and rent stalls to house them. Acadia National Park has various lodging options that you can book through them directly. However, their most majestic property is the Hutchins Cottages at Acadia, equipped with seven different cottages and cabins for visitors to choose from. Acadia is just 3 hours and 30 minutes from Kennebunkport, Maine, where travelers can enjoy the annual Christmas Prelude festival that lasts for 11 days and includes various Christmas activities such as cookie crawls and candlelight tours.

Acadia National Park. Image provided by National Park Services.

Regardless of the region you want to visit, national parks are perfect for a winter road trip. They can provide a private snowy getaway or a family vacation full of holiday cheer.

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