While some prefer to escape to the sunshine during winter, many are braving the colder temperatures and hitting the roads to explore America’s most beautiful national parks. RVshare, an RV rental site, conducted a travel trend report and found that 53% of respondents are looking to visit state and national parks this year, which is even higher than people looking to visit beaches and coastal areas (50%).
Although national parks may not come to mind for winter travel, there is one national park that is standing out for road trippers this winter. According to RVshare, this national park has been the most popular winter destination based on its booking data. With milder temperatures ranging between 37 and 67 Fahrenheit, there are plenty of activities to enjoy without the cold getting in your way.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
With more than 800,000 acres of vast landscape to explore, this national park sits at the U.S. and Mexican border and offers various terrain that shifts the more you explore. It was voted in the top 25 best of the world destinations by National Geographic this year, so this lesser-known national park will soon gain further momentum. It’s also home to one of the most scenic drives in Texas – El Camino Del Rio (The River Road).
From sand dune deserts, captivating mountains, deep canyons, and thermal hot springs; this varied terrain offers plenty of different hikes to suit all different levels and is a fantastic destination for kayakers, rafters, and mountain bikers. It sells visitors the idea of being truly off-the-grid since it’s one of the most remote national parks in the country, with only a few small towns nearby.
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Big Bend National Park is home to the darkest skies in the state and even received a gold tier from the Dark Sky Association for its exceptional darkness – making this location ideal for stargazing. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, the best spots for star gazing are at the West Contrabando Trailhead along the infamous River Road, as well as Big Hill and the Hoodoos.
Keep your eyes out for The Milky Way, which you’ll likely spot better when there’s a clear sky and no moon. It’s considered one of the most magical sights that you’ll see at the park.
With over 150 miles of trails, you can take your pick between day hikes or overnight ones that range from casual strolls or tough elevations above 7,000 feet. Since the park is so diverse in its landscape, you’ll come across a variety of animals, plants, and different views.
It’s a choose-your-own-adventure with hikes in the desert, mountains, or along the river. One of the most famous hikes is the Santa Elena Canyon trail, which is a short 1.7-mile hike in and out and takes you through a spectacular canyon. All Trails lists Lost Mine Trail as the most popular, which has over 4 miles and offers stunning views as you climb the Chisos Mountains.
If two wheels are more your style, there are plenty of paved roads and backcountry dirt roads that suit all different levels. Biking offers breathtaking panoramic views and allows you to cover a lot of ground and experience more of the contrasting landscapes.
The Fresno-Sauceda Loop is famous for its singletrack for its creek crossings and decent rocky climbs and descents. This 57-mile epic loop is typically broken up over two days unless you’re quite ambitious. You’ll be taken on a journey through abandoned homesteads, old wagon roads, and Native American archaeological sites.
Big Bend National Park is home to some of the most dramatic canyons, where the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic river span over 68 miles. You can enjoy the fast rapids and glassy waters by raft or kayak, but you’ll want to check the river levels ahead of time. Some of the canyons can be as deep as 1,500 feet, where sunlight is hard to come by during winter.
It’s a great opportunity to catch some of the local wildlife that is venturing to the river for hydration, and bird watchers will enjoy the sights of great blue herons and green fishers that are flying nearby. Since the river is so expansive, you’ll likely have the river to yourself for large stretches of time.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com