Best National Parks for mountains and snow in April?
February 5, 2012 1:03 PM   Subscribe

Best US/Canadian National Parks in April to see mountains, a bit of spring slush snow, and do a little light hiking/ snowshoeing?

My wife and I have the first two weeks of April off work, and are looking for inspiration about National / State Parks to visit in North America - preferably somewhere with mountains, nice and cold, with a bit of spring slush snow if possible!

Ideally somewhere we can stay within the park boundaries in a cabin or similar - we'll be traveling with someone who can't do sleeping bags on the ground, but anything like the Curry Village cabins at Yosemite or upwards would be perfect. We live in a very flat and warm Caribbean country, so we'd love to do some light mountain hiking / snow shoeing if there is still some snow on the ground.

We'd *really* love to visit Yellowstone, but it seems like the main roads don't open till April 20th (if it's still worth going that would be good to know!). We've done some of the big National Parks in the US already (most of the California parks, Mt Rainier, Grand Canyon, Zion/Bryce Canyon, Great Smokey Mountain, parks in Hawaii and Florida). Other ideas for great early April locales? We've done very little of the Canadian park system, but I guess early April may still see a lot of them still closed.

Given we have two weeks we can probably do two or maybe three different spots and we can get a decent all wheel drive car to get between places (or could fly I guess), but really just want to spend some time in the cold and wilderness.
posted by inflatablekiwi to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Canadian mountain parks are a good bet. The Trans-Canada highway runs right through them, plus the Icefields Parkway, and a number of other highways. Only a few short roads are closed in the winter. Access is easy all year. There will be plenty of snow in the first half of April - few hiking opportunities, but plenty of snowshoeing. It may be warmish during some days, but it will be cold at night and in general.

Hotels and such are easy in the towns inside the parks (Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper) and there are a bunch of cabin-type places throughout the parks (though they many not all be open at that time). There are also lots of options on the edges of the parks.

If you fly into Calgary and rent a car, you can be in the park in about 1.5 hours. Lots of options from there (don't neglect Glacier (not the US one)). Snow tires are a good idea if you can get them, but you don't need AWD - you'll only be driving on well-maintained highways.
posted by ssg at 1:23 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Rocky Mountain National Park will certainly have snow then (the north face peaks had snow on them when I was there last August). The main loop highway that crosses the park will still probably be closed in April at the higher elevations but there will be plenty of wilderness to visit at the lower elevations. And frankly I think the lower elevations are much more interesting since above the tree line the landscape is pretty desolate.
posted by mmascolino at 1:30 PM on February 5, 2012

Best answer: Death Valley. Fantastic.
posted by notsnot at 2:08 PM on February 5, 2012

Best answer: Banff is so beautiful, it hurts to look at it.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:21 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding Banff and Jasper, they should still have snow in April in the high altitudes, and the main roads only close for blizzards. For two weeks do both, with drive between them up the Icefields Parkway, and you can walk on the glaciers!
posted by Erasmouse at 2:39 PM on February 5, 2012

Best answer: Auyuittuq, except you would have to have to stay offsite and a guide is recommended due to the high bear population in the spring. Torngat in Labrador is another option but you may be limited to tents there.
posted by saucysault at 2:49 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am biased because these spots are about an hour down the road, but Banff/Kananaskis/Jasper would be perfect. The only warning would be to pay attention to the avalanche ratings and stick to trails that have low risk and exposure. We get some pretty good heavy wet avalanches in the spring. The visitors centres are excellent with advice, and if you want to do some reading in advance ratings etc are here

Most of the popular snowshoe trails are in low risk areas, and usually get packed down to the point where you don't often need snowshoes, check out Chester lake or Rawson Lake, both just a half hour or so south of the town of Canmore.

The ice-fields parkway (between Banff and Jasper) is absolutely stunning at any time of the year.
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 2:54 PM on February 5, 2012

Best answer: Grand Tetons? Definitely should have snow, and there were a number of amenities ranging from tents on the ground to nearby fancy hotels and ski resorts. The sky at night was breathtaking. Can't say as to the snowshoeing, though.
posted by jetlagaddict at 3:00 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all! Some great suggestions. The wife just jumped all over the idea of the Rockies, so we may have a winner (maybe also with a stop on the way to Jackson Hole / Grand Tetons - those sawtooth mountains look cool).

Saucysalt, wow Auyuittuq looks amazing - a new one for my personal list of places to go. Notsnot - death valley would be fun as well - but I was there for the flash flood of 2005 and painfully remember the wall of mud that came through my hotel rooom. Thinking best not to tempt fate again :-)
posted by inflatablekiwi at 3:35 PM on February 5, 2012

Banff is really amazing, and I too live just down the road.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:01 PM on February 5, 2012

Another vote for Banff, major decision in the move we're making to Calgary in March/April.
posted by arcticseal at 12:15 AM on February 6, 2012

Best answer: I just got back from Yellowstone a couple of weeks ago. Just because the main roads are closed doesn't mean you can't get in!* Snowcoaches go in and out from the west and south entrances. But if all you really want is to enjoy the snow, you can stick with the Grand Tetons directly south of Yellowstone.

* but it might mean you can't get out - I got snowed in, and it took 14 hours to get back to Flagg Ranch.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:06 AM on February 6, 2012

Oh, and both Yellowstone and the Tetons offer all of the transportation-related winter fun activities: snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, downhill skiing (Tetons only).
posted by me & my monkey at 7:08 AM on February 6, 2012

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