Winter in U.S. National Parks means majestic landscapes with snow-capped mountains, forests, and lakes. But you don't need to wait until Valentine's Day to indulge in a romantic getaway to a rustic country lodge, luxurious mountain retreat, or historic in-park hotel. Fill your days with outdoor activities and your nights curled up with a hot chocolate by an open fireplace built just for two. Or bring the whole family on a winter sports and recreation adventure and teach the kids to ice-skate on a frozen lake and roast s'mores before bedtime. Here are a few wintertime suggestions.
Head way out west to the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park (www.nps.gov/olym) to discover Washington State's most beautiful winter backdrop. Lake Quinault Lodge and Kalaloch Lodge's (tel. 866/297-7367; www.visitlakequinault.com) "Trees to Seas" package includes two nights' lodging (one at Lake Quinault and one at Kalaloch), and breakfast and dinner for two at each location. Rates start from $449 for two people and the package is available now through March 28, 2009, with blackout dates between December 19, 2008 and January 2, 2009. Kalaloch Lodge's (www.visitkalaloch.com) Twilight movie package features two nights' accommodations, dinner for two with a special "Twilight" dessert and extra "Twilight" amenities. Indulge from $349 for two people, now through April 30, 2009 with December 19, 2008 to January 2, 2009 and April 10 to 13, 2009 blackout dates. Kalaloch Lodge's Bed and Breakfast package starts from $129 per night until February 26, 2009 (except between December 19, 2008 and January 2, 2009) and their Ocean Romance Package offers one night's lodging in a log cabin and a romance basket in room from $179 per couple through April 30, 2009 with the same blackout dates.
The Sierra Mountains and Yosemite National Park (www.nps.gov/yose) are just two reasons to stay at Tenaya Lodge (tel. 866-252-3729; www.tenayalodge.com) this season. Enjoy outdoor activities like snowshoeing, ice skating, skiing, and snowboarding set among breathtaking mountain scenery. Tenaya's "Skate the Sierras Package" is priced from $149 per night and includes nightly accommodations, skating session with rentals for two, and a s'mores kit for roasting over the outdoor fire.
Their Badger Pass Learn to Ski package starts from $207 per night and combines a stay at Tenaya with a day at the Badger Pass Ski Area, California's oldest ski resort and the only place in the state to ski in a National Park. and one of the best places to learn to ski. This package includes nightly accommodations Sunday through Thursday, two beginners-only lift tickets, two all-day ski equipment rentals and two group lessons. The Snowboard version of this package is $20 more for two people.
Spend your days hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in stunning Sequoia National Park (www.nps.gov/seki) and then come in from the cold for a stay at the Wuksachi Lodge (tel. 866/449-4902; www.visitsequoia.com). Their Family Fun package is priced from $135 for a family of four. Enjoy one night's accommodations, snowshoe rentals for each person (for two adults and two children) and a sled the kids can keep. The Snow Show package is priced from $115 per couple and includes one night's accommodations and snowshoe rentals for two. Their Winter Romance deal, starting from $152, features overnight accommodations, snowshoe rental for two, a bottle of sparkling wine, and locally made chocolate truffles.
Yellowstone National Park's (www.nps.gov/yell) winter season officially starts this week with the opening of the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel (tel. 866/439-7375; www.travelyellowstone.com), the only wintertime accommodations located within the park. Both properties will remain open until March, 2009 (March 8 for the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and a week later for Old Faithful Snow Lodge) and offer a variety of winter packages. Except for a couple of roads, transportation within the park is limited to snowmobiles and heated snow coaches during the winter with snow coach transportation available daily to a variety of park locations.
Frosty Fun at Mammoth includes two nights at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, breakfast per person daily, a welcome gift, a one-hour hot tub soak, unlimited ice skating and skates, meals, and equipment rental. Rates start at $125 per person, plus tax, based on double occupancy and $209 for single occupancy. Nordic Heaven at Mammoth includes two nights of lodging at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, two breakfasts per person, welcome gift, full-day ski rental and one ski drop per person, a one-hour hot tub rental, unlimited ice skating, and skates and a Snow Card. Rates start at $175 per person per night, plus tax, based on double occupancy and $259 for single occupancy.
Similar packages are also available at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge at slightly higher prices. Winter rates for single or double occupancy, plus tax, for individual room nights at Mammoth Hotel start at $85 for a room without a private bathroom or $115 for a room with a bathroom. Rates at the Snow Lodge are $191 for a lodge room, $140 for a Western Cabin or $94 for a Frontier Cabin, all with private bathrooms. Their Family Winter Holiday deal is available on December 26, 2008 and again on January 16 and February 13, 2009. Geared for families with children aged eight to twelve years old, the package includes tracking animals, watching wildlife, taking photographs, skiing and snowshoeing as well as a special snow coach trip to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The group size is limited to 14 and includes expert instruction by a Yellowstone Institute naturalist/guide, four nights of lodging with private bath at Mammoth, breakfast and box lunches daily, in-park transportation, snowshoe rentals, welcome gift, hot tub rental and skating at Mammoth. Rates for adults start at $699 per person based on double adult occupancy (or $867 per person for single adult occupancy) plus $481 per child plus tax.
Northeast Arizona isn't that cold in the winter, with only a slight chance of snow, but the winter room rates at Thunderbird Lodge (tel. 800/679-2473; www.tbirdlodge.com), the only lodging facility located within the Canyon de Chelly National Monument, plummet lower than the temperatures. The 74-room lodge drops its winter-season rates by up to 43% compared with summer rates and the prices remain low until March 1, 2009. In addition to reduced rates, guests who stay Saturday, Sunday, or Monday nights receive a complimentary continental breakfast, 10% off canyon tours and 10% discount at the gift shop. Rates per night are $63 for a single room, $69 for a double, $75 for a triple and $81 for a quad. Suites are also available starting at $94.50 for two people. (Taxes are additional.) The lodge sits on the site of a trading post built in 1896, and its restaurant is located in the trading post's original building.
Thunderbird Lodge also offers authorized group tours into Canyon de Chelly in six-wheel drive touring vehicles operated by experienced and knowledgeable Navajo guides who provide detailed information about this sacred and culturally significant Navajo site with its Anasazi ruins, pictographs and petroglyphs. During the winter, half-day tours leave from Thunderbird Lodge at 9am and 1pm daily and take visitors into the lower halves of both Canyon de Chelly and Canyon del Muerto,. Tour rates are $40.95 for adults and $31.50 for children 12 and under.
Zion National Park's Zion Lodge (tel. 888/297-2757; www.zionlodge.com) the only in-park lodging option offers Zion in Winter rates from December, 2008 through March 15, 2009. The nightly rate for a Sunday-through-Thursday stay is $80 for a standard room, $90 for a western cabin and $110 for a suite. On Fridays and Saturdays, the rate is $95 for a standard room, $105 for a western cabin and $125 for a suite. The rates are $10 higher than weekend rates during the holiday periods of December 23 to 30, 2008 and February 13 to 15, 2009. Each additional person in the room is $10 and this offer is not available on New Year's Eve. Guests should mention the promotion code "WNTR" when making reservations.