Who doesn’t love a winter wonderland? Mugs of hot cocoa, skiing through fresh powder, the perfect snowman… Okay, we admit, sometimes it’s nice to shed your puffy jacket and step into the sun! Your federal lands have a little something for everybody this winter, including these six warm-weather destinations where you can warm up and recharge after a long hibernation.
Head south for winter at these wonderfully warm destinations
Sonoran Desert National Monument (Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management)
Just south of Phoenix, Sonoran Desert National Monument is a prime winter escape where you’ll feel worlds away from snowplows and dreary winter skies. Three distinct mountain ranges, three wilderness areas, and forests of saguaro cactus characterize this unique landscape. Hiking, backcountry camping, and mountain biking are favorite activities in the Monument. History lovers will also enjoy several archaeological and historic sites, including remnants of several historic trails, like the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail.
Planning ahead is paramount when visiting this destination – it is remote, undeveloped, and desert temperatures can vary dramatically. Be safe out there and enjoy your public lands!
Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area (Bureau of Land Management)
Standing tall on the bustling, urban Treasure Coast of Florida, the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse is one of the only eastern sites managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Designated an Outstanding Natural Area (ONA) in 2008, Jupiter Inlet is known for its remarkable historical, cultural, and natural resources, including 26 special status species, and an archaeological record providing evidence of human occupation dating back over 5,000 years.
Come for the lighthouse and stay for the views along trails though native and restored Florida coastal habitats, or participate in exciting interpretive programs recounting the site’s unique military history and its important role in World War II. Winter is an ideal time to visit South Florida, with temperatures averaging between 60-80°F (15-26°C), so check out local programs and events that get you outside and on the water during your visit!
El Yunque National Forest (Preston Keres, US Forest Service)
Just a 2.5-hour flight south of Jupiter Inlet, the vibrant, resilient El Yunque National Forest awaits you with open arms, friendly faces, and amazing destinations, culture, and traditions to explore. This 29,000-acre (11,736 ha) tropical rainforest is packed with breathtaking scenery, clear mountain rivers, biological diversity, and unmatched outdoor recreation opportunities.
Begin your journey at the newly reopened and redesigned El Portal Visitor Center. There are so many unique activities and experiences for you to enjoy before you even hit the trail, including interactive Ranger and Junior Ranger programs, art installations, a bilingual film, and dining opportunities. Swimming is allowed at several places throughout the forest, including Puente Roto Recreation Area along the Rio Mameyes Wild and Scenic River.
Extra planning may be required when visiting such a unique location, so be sure to read the El Yunque’s activities and experiences pages on Recreation.gov for more information about reservations and weather conditions that may impact your visit.
Haleakalā National Park (Kristin Evans, Share the Experience)
Do you have Hawaii on your mind? Hawaii is home to amazing Federal lands and waters, from national wildlife refuges and parks to national marine monuments and sanctuaries. On the island of Maui, Haleakalā National Park is an idyllic destination all year long.
For a truly tropical getaway, stick to the Kīpahulu District of the park, where daytime temperatures average 70-80°F (21-27°C) year round. Kīpahulu Campground is a popular spot in the park, offering scenic views over the ocean and access to the Coastline Trail. Pīpīwai Trail is a 4-mile (6.4 km), moderately strenuous, but rewarding hike through diverse forests with waterfall views.
Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge (US Fish and Wildlife Service)
Headed to New Orleans for Mardi Gras or to soak up the sights and sounds of New Orleans jazz? Spend some of your time exploring Louisiana’s wild side at Bayou Sauvage Urban National Wildlife Refuge, just a 30-minute drive northeast of the city.
This urban refuge is one of the last remaining marsh areas adjacent to Lakes Pontchartrain and Borgne and contains a variety of habitats, including bottomland hardwood forest, freshwater, brackish and estuarine tidal marshes, lagoons, canals, and natural bayous. Keep your eyes peeled for migratory waterfowl, wading birds, crabs, crawfish, and of course, American alligators.
Whitney Lake (Recreation.gov)
Located in the Prairies and Lakes region of Central Texas, Whitney Lake boasts seven campgrounds and day-use areas for camping, boating, fishing, picnicking, swimming, hiking, and more. Most sites are open year-round. Winter on the lake can still be a little chilly, but if you decide to brave the water, make sure to wear a life jacket!
Even equestrians can enjoy this location – the McCown Valley Equestrian Area offers access to a 12.5-mile (20.1 km) multi-use trail through the forests along the lake. You can even stay overnight with your horse at Plowman Creek Campground.