Just because winter is on its way and the weather is turning gray and colder doesn't mean there aren't great places to enjoy in the National Park System in the coming months. Here are some random suggestions.
* Go underground at Mammoth Cave National Park. The temperature isn't going to change, and falling rain or snow won't land on your head and shoulders.
* Explore the dune fields at Death Valley National Park during the winter, when much cooler temperatures make it safer for you to take long walks in the sand than during the summer months, when temperatures creep up to, and over, 110 degrees Fahrenheit. It's also a great time to tour Scotty's Castle.
* Keep an eye on the weather, and when a N'oreaster dumps snow on Acadia National Park off the coast of Maine grab your skinny skis and snowshoes and take to the Carriage Paths.
* Winter's the season to visit Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park in Florida. The dry season has arrived, bugs are less pesky, and birds are nesting. Don't forget your camera and sunblock.
* Head to Valley Forge National Historical Park, preferrably during a snowstorm, to look at the cabins and try to imagine what it was like for Gen. George Washington and the Colonials during their winter encampment of 1777-78.
* Schedule a trip to Point Reyes National Seashore to see how the elephant seals are doing.
* Head for Paradise at Mount Rainier National Park with your skis, snowshoes, or tube for snowplay.
* Stop by the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park on a Wednesday or Saturday and enjoy some live music.
* Visit Thomas Edison National Historical Park in New Jersey and see how the inventor and his wife would decorate their home, Glenmont, for the year-end holidays with greenery and poinsettias.
* Trek to Fort Clatsop in Lewis and Clark National Historical Park at Astoria, Oregon, and see who's dressed out in buckskins and listen to how Lewis and Clark wintered over in the fort.
* Watch the weather forecast and when a Pacific storm is brewing, head to Kalaloch Lodge at Olympic National Park to storm watch.
* If you hate hot weather, winter's the perfect time to go backpacking in Saguaro National Park. Daytime high temperatures at Manning Camp, which is set at 8,000 feet in the Saguaro Wilderness, average about 48 degrees, while night-time lows dip to the high 20s.
* Like Glacier National Park? There's some great snowshoeing and skinny skiing there in the winter months.
* At Voyageurs National Park, they pass the winter months snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing.