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10 Best National Parks to Visit in February + 1 to Skip

Looking for the best national parks to visit in February?

February is a great time to visit National Parks if you want the parks to yourself. It’s quiet since the holidays are over, but the weather gives you options to escape the cold or embrace a winter wonderland.

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Last Updated: January 10, 2023


Before we get into it, we want to remind everyone to explore the parks responsibly using the 7 Leave no Trace Principles. Have a plan, stay on established trails, carry out anything you carry in, leave what you find, minimize campfire impact, respect wildlife, and be considerate of others.

About the National Park by month Series

To put together this list, we’ve combined our personal experiences and tips we gathered from locals and cross-referenced them with the weather, accessibility, local forums, other blogs, seasonal attractions like fall foliage or wildflowers, and special events happening in the area. We also considered any unique adventures only offered at certain times of the year to find the most optimal months to visit each National Park. Phew! that was a lot!

It took me a whole week of research, but since I’m a maximizer, it was completely worth having a year-round calendar of adventures (publishing that as soon as we finish this series!). Also, check out our complete list of all the national parks and all national park units that include soon-to-be national parks.

We also chose not to include the hardest-to-access national parks in Alaska and U.S. territories in this series.

National Parks By Month – Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec | Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul

Is February a Good Time to Visit National Parks?

Yes! If you’re not trying to visit one specific national park, you can always find one to visit any time of year. February is a great time to visit parks when they are quieter, and we love the parks like Death Valley, which are scorching hot in the summer.


Plan on visiting more than two national parks this year? Pick up an America the Beautiful annual pass to save money (entrance fees to each park are, on average, $30-35 per vehicle). Plus, you are helping support the Parks that always need funding.

10 Best National Parks to Visit in February

1. Yosemite National Park, Californiaㅤ→

9035 Village Dr, Yosemite Valley, CA 95389, map

Average Temperatures: 53°F / 30°F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 6:40 AM / 5:43 PM

Why Visit: We still need to visit Yosemite National Park in February for Firefall, but it always falls around my birthday, and so far, we haven’t made it a birthday trip. Yosemite’s Firefall happens every mid-to-late February, when the sun perfectly aligns with Horsetail Fall, making it look like it is on fire. It happens between 5-15 minutes before sunset.

Best For / Top Activities: Snowshoeing, Cross Country Skiing, Ice Skating, Tours, Photography, Scenic Drives

Don’t Miss:

  • To Do – Taft Point, Glacier Point, Half Dome, Tunnel View
  • Wildlife – Bears, Mule Deer, Big Horn Sheep, Great Gray Owl, Bighorn Sheep, Bobcats, Porcupines, Red Foxes
  • How many days do you need? 2-4

Pro Tip: Expect crazy crowds during this phenomenon. Also, certain roads in the park are closed or require tire chains. Be prepared!

See Related – 15 Breathtaking Things to Do in Yosemite National Park

17 Breathtaking Things to Do in YosemitePin

2. Bryce National Park, Utahㅤ→

UT-63, Bryce Canyon City, UT 84764, map

Average Temperatures: 38°F / 13°F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 7:35 AM / 5:56 PM

Why Visit: Visit Bryce Canyon during February for a winter wonderland and to avoid crowds. You can even rent snowshoes or cross-country skis to explore other parts of the park. There’s also a Winter Festival nearby at Ruby’s Inn from February 18-20, 2023.

Best For / Top Activities: Hiking and Backpacking, Stargazing, Photography, Scenic Drives

Don’t Miss:

  • To Do – Bryce Point, Scenic Drive, Inspiration Point, Navajo Loop Trail
  • Wildlife – Mule Deer, Porcupines, Utah Prairie Dog, Mountain Lions, Bobcats, Coyotes
  • How many days do you need? 1-2

Pro Tip: This is a relatively small park you can see within a day. If it’s crowded, just hit the trails to escape the people who don’t want to explore beyond the parking lot viewpoints.

See Related – 15 Amazing Things to Do in Bryce National Park

Bryce Canyon in November + 15 Best Places to Visit in November in USAPin

3. Death Valley National Park, Californiaㅤ→

36.4799715,-118.1707461, map

Average Temperatures: 74°F / 46°F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 6:36 AM / 5:30 PM

Why Visit: Since Death Valley is basically in our backyard, we only visit in the winter. February has warm temperatures during the day for hikes, but it gets chilly at night. Remember to pack layers in the desert. Also, they have their Dark Sky Festival from February 24-26, 2023.

Best For / Top Activities: Hikers, Backpackers, Scenic Drive, Photography

Don’t Miss:

Pro Tip: The park is enormous. Give yourself plenty of travel time between spots. We were surprised by how long it took.

See Related – 15 Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley National Park

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death ValleyPin

4. Joshua Tree National Park, Californiaㅤ→

6554 Park Blvd, Joshua Tree, CA 92252, map

Average Temperatures: 66°F / 38°F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 6:27 AM / 5:28 PM

Why Visit: We love Joshua Tree in February for the climbing. For those who don’t climb, it’s still a great time to get photos of Joshua trees, rock piles, and epic sunsets. There is less to do in this park if you’re not into climbing, but it’s worth visiting at least once.

Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Backpacking, Stargazing, Camping, Scenic Drives, Climbing

Don’t Miss:

  • To Do – Arch Rock, Cholla Cactus Garden, Halls of Horror, Skull Rock
  • Wildlife – Bobcat, Mountain Lion, Coyote, Gray Fox, Desert Kit Fox, Black Bear, Bighorn Sheep, Desert Cottontail
  • How many days do you need? 1 or 2-3 if you climb

Pro Tip: If you’re lucky, you may also catch the desert with a dusting of snow. Our friends in Socal will drive out as soon as they see the expected snow.

See Related – 11 Amazing Things to Do in Joshua Tree National Park

Belle Campground Joshua Tree + best national parks to visit in januaryPin

5. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

37.1879181,-86.1028107, map

Average Temperatures: 51°F / 29°F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times:
6:34 AM / 5:23 PM

Why Visit: Winter is the low season at Mammoth Cave, making February a great time to avoid crowds. The cave stays the same temperature year-round (54° F or 12 °C). You’ll get to explore the caves in smaller groups. It will be chilly if you plan on exploring any surface trails, so just be sure you have the appropriate gear.

Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Bicycling, Cave Tours, Kayaking

Don’t Miss:

  • To Do – Mammoth Cave, Doyel Valley Overlook, Sunset Point, Green River
  • Wildlife – Bats, White-Tailed Deer, Coyote, Black Bear
  • How many days do you need? 1-3

Local Tip: They offer fewer cave tours during the winter, but they also don’t book up quickly like in the summer.

See Related – Complete National Parks List by State

Pin

6. Saguaro National Park, Arizonaㅤ→

2700 N Kinney Rd, Tucson, AZ 85743, map

Average Temperatures: 69°F / 41°F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 7:35 AM / 5:56 PM

Why Visit: Cool days make February one of the best times to visit Saguaro National Park for hiking the trails and enjoying the scenic drive without the heat.

Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Scenic Drive, Photography, Camping, Ranger Programs

Don’t Miss:

  • To Do – Valley View Overlook Trail, Cactus Forest Drive, Bajada Loop Drive, Signal Hill Trail, Desert Museum
  • Wildlife – Bats, Bobcats, Javelina, Mountain Lions, Gray Fox, Coyotes, Ringtail
  • How many days do you need? 1-3

Local Tip: The park has an East and West portion separated by the city (roughly 30-45 mins).

See Related – 11 Beautiful Things to Do in Saguaro National Park

Saguaro Cactus in Sunset + 11 Beautiful Things to Do in Saguaro National Park ArizonaPin
saguaro cactus national parkPin

7. White Sands National Park, New Mexicoㅤ→

19955 US-70, Alamogordo, NM 88310, map

Average Temperatures: 63°F / 26°F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 7:35 AM / 5:56 PM

Why Visit: February is a great time to visit White Sands National Park. You can explore the dunes without worrying about being too hot during the day. During the night, though, you will want to bundle up.

Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Bicycling, Backcountry Camping, Photography, Stargazing, Sledding

Don’t Miss:

  • To Do – Sledding, Dune Life Nature Trail, Alkali Flat Trail, Playa Trail
  • Wildlife – American Badger, Apache Pocket Mouse, Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Bobcat, Coyote, Kit Fox
  • How many days do you need? 1-2

Local Tip: Keep your eye on trail markers when you’re hiking. It can get disorienting very quickly. It helps if you download an offline version of the map in case you need it to help you get back.

See Related – 5 Incredible Things to Do at White Sands National Park

Popular White Sands in New MexicoPin

8. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

1000 US-36, Estes Park, CO 80517, map

Average Temperatures: 28°F / 13°F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 7:10 AM / 5:23 PM

Why Visit: Rocky Mountain National Park is perfect for winter activities, and February is the best time to ski. In February, you will find multiple peaks via backcountry skiing, and you can also find world-class snowshoeing, sledding, and hiking.

Best For / Top Activities: Backcountry Skiing, Snowshoeing, Sledding, Hiking, Wildlife Viewing, Scenic Drives, Stargazing

Don’t Miss:

  • To Do – Trail Ridge Road, Sprague Lake, Bear Lake Road, Alpine Ridge Trail, Emerald Lakes, Alberta Falls
  • Wildlife – Elk, Moose, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Lions, Deer, Bears, Bobcats
  • How many days do you need? 2-4

Local Tip: If you want to explore Bear Lake Road, you must get a permit.

See Related – The Best National Parks to Explore in the Winter

rocky mountain national park winter + best national parks to visit in januaryPin

9. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizonaㅤ→

36.0591278,-112.1114996, map

Average Temperatures: 65°F / 42°F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 7:35 AM / 5:57 PM

Why Visit: January and February are the quietest months in Grand Canyon, with it being slightly warmer in February than in January. We think it’s great hiking weather if you layer up for early mornings and evenings.

Best For / Top Activities: Backcountry Skiing, Snowshoeing, Sledding, Hiking, Wildlife Viewing, Scenic Drives, Stargazing

Don’t Miss:

  • To Do – Trail Ridge Road, Sprague Lake, Bear Lake Road, Alpine Ridge Trail, Emerald Lakes, Alberta Falls
  • Wildlife – Desert Bighorn Sheep, Mule Deer, Mountain Lions, Coyotes, Gray Fox
  • How many days do you need? 1-3

Local Tip: Grand Canyon West is not part of Grand Canyon National Park but on Hualapai Tribal land.

See Related – 17 Breathtaking Things to Do at the Grand Canyon National Park

moran point grand canyonPin

10. Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

629 Central Ave, Hot Springs National Park, AR 71901, map

Average Temperatures: 55°F / 32°F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: AM / PM

Why Visit: Winter is the best time to visit Hot Springs National Park to take advantage of the cool weather while taking a dip in the warm pools.

Best For / Top Activities: Soaking in Springs, Hiking, Birdwatching, Scenic Drives

Don’t Miss:

  • To Do – Buckstaff Bathhouse, Quapaw Bathhouse, The Display Spring, Hot Water Cascade
  • Wildlife – White-Tailed Deer, Groundhog, Black Bear, Bats, Song Birds
  • How many days do you need? 1-3

Pro Tip: You can only soak in the two bathhouses, not the outdoor thermal springs.

Hot Springs National Park Arkansas + 25 Best Hot Springs in the US to Soak InPin

ONE TO SKIP: Glacier National Park Montanaㅤ→

Logan’s Pass Visitor Center, Browning, MT 59417, map

Why Skip It: The roads are closed, and much of the park is inaccessible, not making it worth the visit unless you’re into cross-country skiing. Wait for warmer weather so you can see lakes like the one below.

Top Glacier National Park Hikes + 9 Incredible Things to do in Glacier National ParkPin

Map of the Best National Parks to Visit in September

Want to See More NATIONAL Parks to Visit in February?

If you’re a national park lover like us and have done many of the above, here are some more ideas for National Parks to visit in February. While February may not be the top two months of the year to visit these parks, it’s still a decent time.

FAQs

What is the best national park to visit in winter?

We just made a whole list. Check it out here.

Where is the best place to hike in February?

Many Southwest parks are great for hiking in February because the weather is still warm enough during the day.

What is the prettiest National Park in the US?

It depends on what you like seeing! Despite the crowds, Yosemite always holds a special place in our hearts for its grandness and scenery. You can find a quieter corner of this massive park if you go beyond the valley.

What is the number 1 visited national park?

Great Smoky Mountains National Park gets 12.1 million visitors annually, making it the most visited park.

Can you visit Utah National Parks in February?

Yes! There are great parks to explore when the weather is cooler, but some may be in the snow.

What is Zion national park like in February?

Winters in Zion are cold and oftentimes wet, but if you can get over that, you can avoid crowds.

Is February a good time to visit Big Bend National Park?

You can visit Big Bend in February, although October-November and March-April are better.

Can you visit Yosemite in February?

Yes! Although portions of the park will be closed, some roads are accessible but may require snow chains.

Can you visit Grand Canyon in February?

The South Rim is open year-round, and roads are drivable except during inclement weather.

How do people dress for Grand Canyon in February?

Layers so that you can adjust to the changing temperatures. Good hiking shoes.

Tips for Visiting the Best National Parks in February

  • Explore the parks responsibly using Leave no Trace principles. Stay on established trails, carry out anything you carry in, etc.
  • Pick up the National Park Annual Pass if you plan on visiting multiple parks within the year. It saves you a lot of money.
  • Check current road and park conditions. It’s always smart to visit the National Park’s site and Visitor Center when you arrive to understand what the current park conditions are.
  • It’s always a good idea to pack layers wherever you go. Some parks are warm during the day and cool at night. Pay attention to the elevation change too! Some parks will be warm on the valley floor and cold at higher elevations.
  • You may need a reservation. See national parks that now require reservations here.
  • Always check the park’s site and Visitors Center for the most up-to-date information on closures.
  • Remember that wildlife is wild. Be familiar with how to interact with animals and how much space you should have between you and them.
Balcony House Tour, Mesa Verde National Park COPin

What to Pack

How you will pack depends on which park you visit and the activities you plan, but here is a general guide on items we always try to pack.

Planning Checklist

Recap of the 17 Best National Parks to Visit in February

September is a wonderful time to explore the National Parks. You get to take advantage of good weather, and most schools have started back up, so it will be a bit less crowded than in the height of summer. Here is the list of parks we recommend visiting.

  1. Yosemite National Park
  2. Bryce Canyon National Park
  3. Death Valley National Park
  4. Joshua Tree National Park
  5. Mammoth Cave National Park
  6. Saguaro National Park
  7. White Sands National Park
  8. Rocky Mountain National Park
  9. Grand Canyon National Park
  10. Hot Springs National Park

Can you think of others that belong on this list of best National Parks to visit in February? Which ones are we missing?

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Esther and JacobPin

Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.

Follow along on Instagram (E + J), YouTube, TikTok, and Pinterest.

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