Ever dreamed of driving through a traffic-free Yosemite National Park? It’s possible when you step outside the typical summer season. In fact, winter’s embrace means a slackened tourist pace in many popular warm-weather destinations, so this is an ideal time to explore America’s open roads.
Witness Yellowstone Falls grow an icy exoskeleton as the river persists out of sight. In Utah’s Arches National Park, the low winter sun creates optimum conditions for photographing the mighty sandstone sculptures, even prettier with a dusting of snow. Out east, the Great Smoky and Shenandoah National Parks compensate for southerly latitude with frosty altitude and leafless, ice-glistened forests.
Just remember, winter driving brings its own set of cautions: the more majestic the conditions, often the more dangerous the road, especially when tooling along unfamiliar routes. The Department of Transportation recommends stocking a basic winter survival kit (flashlight, batteries, blanket, snacks, water, gloves, boots, and a first-aid kit); tire chains, an ice scraper, jumper cables, and road flares couldn’t hurt either. And always confirm your vehicle’s maintenance is current before a winter trip.
From Alaskan fjords to New Mexico’s high desert pueblos and covered-bridge country in Indiana, here are America’s top winter drives you’ll want to experience before spring.