A winter scene at South Cumberland State Park’s Foster Falls. (Photo: Bob Butters)

Summer may be the most popular time to head outdoors, but there are significant benefits to hitting the woods in winter.

Whether taking a trip to the beach or spending time in a state park, many of us know that the off-season is the best season. Tennessee State Parks is offering a few reasons why you should visit in the off-season months.

Smaller crowds

Vacation should be a time for relaxing, not waiting in lines and fighting traffic. Winter visitors enjoy fewer people in the campgrounds and better access to overlooks and waterfalls, places that may be overrun in the summertime. Smaller crowds make winter visits ideal for introverts, families with young children and photographers who don’t want people wandering into their shots.

Greater visibility
The lack of foliage on trees and bushes opens up the forest and can make a familiar trail seem new and different. Hikers can see down into valleys while traversing rim trails where the view is normally obscured by vegetation. Birds appear more vibrant, as they’re set against the brown backdrops of timber and fallen leaves. Roaring white waterfalls, set against the gray skies and stone, become the towering focus of photographs. Winter even draws the eyes’ attention to the beauty of evergreens.

Frozen waterfalls
There is perhaps no greater sight to behold than a frozen waterfall. Considering the great force with which some of these falls flow, for them to suddenly stand still is a unique and powerful demonstration. Visitors who make the effort to head outdoors after extended periods of subfreezing temperatures are often rewarded with these majestic sights. Places like Fall Creek Falls State Park, Rock Island State Park, Cumberland Mountain State Park and Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park are great places to stay overnight and see frozen waterfalls in the park and surrounding areas.

Fewer bugs
If you complain about mosquitos and other critters when camping, the off-season is a great time to visit a park. Ditch the bug repellant and enjoy time outdoors without smelling like a citronella candle. Ants and other bugs are also less prone to bother you during the winter months.

Warm fires
Do the taste of hot chocolate, the gooeyness of warm marshmallows, a piping bowl of chili and the smell of burning wood evoke a sense of nostalgia for the winter? Then imagine yourself sitting next to a warm fire pit or nestled beside a cozy cabin fireplace. That is an experience best appreciated on a winter vacation. Grab a good book or your closest friends and find some rest in the crackling of the fire and the flickering flame.

Cheaper rates
We all know you get better rates when you visit the beach during the off-season. The same is true for state parks. Winter discounts on inn rooms and cabin rentals make it the perfect season for vacation hackers and budget-conscious travelers.

Click here for a full list of winter events planned at state parks across Tennessee.