Best Parks to Celebrate New Year's Eve

A view of the sun rise at Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

Photo by Katkami / Getty Images


Ringing in the New Year in the middle of nature’s vast beauty is a unique and relaxing experience. If you want to avoid crowded bars, loud parties, and waking up the next morning with a headache, consider these parks for an unforgettable New ​Year. Whether you want to ring in the year with friends, with a loved one, or in solitude, there’s a park for everyone!

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For a Romantic Night

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Zion National Park

Zion is a place of unmatched beauty and tranquility. Luckily, you don’t need to wait until spring to enjoy all that it has to offer. In fact, visiting in the winter offers peace and quiet as many tourists wait to visit until warmer summer weather approaches. Spend the day or weekend exploring the canyon and its many landscapes, then head inside for a special night. Zion National Park Lodge offers specials to ring in the New Year, perfect for couples looking to get away. Enjoy an overnight stay, a deluxe dinner for two, and a breakfast buffet the next morning. The New Year's Eve social begins at 10 p.m. which includes a complimentary party favor with a midnight toast of champagne or sparkling cider.

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend is known for its complex rock formations, formed when two seas flowed into the area millions of years ago, leaving thick deposits of limestone and shale. Around 75 million years ago, the mountains lifted while a 40-mile wide trough sank along fault lines creating cliffs above the desert floor. As if that weren’t enough, volcanic activity helped create the land, especially the Chisos Mountains. It is as unbelievable to see as it sounds.

The park offers a truly unique getaway for couples looking for a little adventure. Whether you want to sneak off into the backcountry for a weekend of backpacking and solitude or get your feet wet in the canyons of the Rio Grande, this park is for you. Check out the New Year’s River Trip -- a two day, one-night celebration with live music, fun loving people, and a spectacular venue. Bring your sleeping bag and personal gear and you will be provided with guides, river equipment, all meals, champagne, party favors, waterproof bags, tents, park use fees and shuttle service to and from the river. Who says romance can’t be fun?

Rocky Mountain National Park

It may be one of the most spectacular parks in the United States. Rocky Mountain National Park is conveniently located near Denver and is full of things to do and beautiful things to see. With massive mountains as a backdrop and tundras of rolling wildflowers and Alpine lakes, this park is truly stunning. It is an ideal destination for a couple seeking a romantic New Year’s Eve. Couples can head outdoors for a beautiful hike in the snow or check out nearby outfitters that offer sleigh rides to the public - hot chocolate provided! Check out Mountain Shadows Resort located in Estes Park which offers luxury couples cabins for a romantic and cozy retreat. You can relax in your very own in-room hot tub and enjoy dinner for two in a number of fantastic restaurants. Check the resort website for more information, especially about the romance package, as well as the winter special.

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For Tranquil Solitude

Mount McKinley, Denali National Park, Alaska

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Shenandoah National Park

While portions of Skyline Drive and other park services like lodging and food services are closed during winter months, the backcountry remains open for a peaceful getaway. Those looking for a quiet retreat should consider Shenandoah National Park as it is less traveled in the month of December. The park has 196,000 acres of backcountry and wilderness and over 500 miles of trails to explore. Carry everything you need to survive on your back, hike up over rocky peaks and down lush stream hollows, and you will find yourself immersed in the wilderness of Shenandoah. Remember, you will need a backcountry permit to camp in the wilderness which can only be obtained in the Visitor Center. If the center will be closed upon your arrival, you may obtain one via mail. Download the permit application and send it to Shenandoah National Park, Backcountry Camping Permit, 3655 U.S. Highway 211, East Luray, VA 22835.

Capitol Reef National Park

This red rock paradise is even more stunning covered in sparkling white snow. Winter is cold but it’s brief so don’t expect massive snow storms. In fact, snowfall is typically light. The park offers excellent opportunities to hike for hours in solitude. For easy hikes or if the ground is too wet or slippery, walk the Grand Wash Trail, Capitol Gorge to the Pioneer Register and the Tanks, or along the Fremont River Trail. If you’re looking for stunning views, don’t miss Cassidy Arch Trail or Rim Overlook. If you don’t want to stay in a nearby hotel, hike into the backcountry for a comfortable night alone in the wilderness. Remember, a backcountry permit is required for so visit the Visitor Center during normal business hours to obtain one. For a fantastic New Year’s Eve of solitude in the backcountry, plan your night in Lower Muley Twist Canyon. If you are looking for an open campground, one of the Fruita campground loops is open during winter.

Denali National Park

An evening alone in perhaps the most beautiful national park in the park service system is reason enough to consider this destination for New Year’s Eve. But the aurora borealis is an even better reason. During winter, the aurora borealis lights up the winter night sky over Mt. McKinley -- the highest mountain in North America. This is a moving and powerful event to witness, something that will stay with you for a lifetime. Consider a night in the backcountry for a night of silence, solitude, and nature’s most powerful show of lights. Permits are required for overnight trips in Denali National Park and available at the Backcountry Information Center located at the Riley Creek Entrance Area. 

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For the Whole Family

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Yosemite National Park

Located in California, Yosemite has become famous for its opportunities for rock climbing, wildflowers, pristine lakes, and vast wilderness. It is one of the best spots for a vacation and has activities for visitors of all ages. The park also offers special New Year’s packages which include two or three nights' lodging at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, dinner for two in the Mountain Room Restaurant followed by a live band, and dancing in the Mountain Room Lounge.

Kids can enjoy a special family celebration on New Years' Eve in the Cliff Room at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls. Fun games, raffle prizes, a live DJ, and snacks are all part of the celebration. There will even be a balloon drop at 9 p.m. Kids must be accompanied by an adult, making this a fun-filled family event.

Acadia National Park

Acadia is well-known for being a popular park for kids so it should come as no surprise that it offers family fun for New Year’s Eve. Spend a day in the park, then head into town for the night. New Year’s Eve in Bar Harbor offers a night of fun and excitement for the entire family. There are plenty of food and activities for all ages, including fine dining and live entertainment. In the town center, a huge bonfire runs from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Everyone, including kids, can enjoy games, hot chocolate, special exhibitions, Christmas crafts sales, and more.

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park

Why celebrate in one park, when you can celebrate in two? Since Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park are managed as one unit, visitors get to take in giant trees and giant canyons all at the same time. It’s a great vacation spot for families and kids will love learning about the history of the giant sequoias. There are also many lodges within the park, many of which offer specials during this time of year. Check out the Holiday Escape package at the Wuksachi Lodge which includes a commemorative Sequoia cone ornament, cookies, and hot cocoa, and breakfasts each morning for everyone in the room. Be sure to head to the Wuksachi Dining Room for some great New Year's specials. After dinner, the dining room becomes a dance floor! This is an all-ages event so families with children are more than welcome to attend.

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