February is one of the coldest months of the year in the United States. But that’s not stopping avid road trippers and national park explorers from being adventurous!
The best national parks to visit in February are mostly the ones located in warmer states like Florida, Arizona, and Hawaii. We’re talking about places like the Everglades, Hawaii Volcanoes, and Saguaro National Park.
There are also a handful of cold-weather parks that can be fun to visit in February, if you don’t mind winter jackets and snow. Yellowstone and Mammoth Cave are two that immediately come to mind.
In general, going to any park during February means smaller crowds than you’ll find during peak season. And usually much lower hotel prices, too!
I’ve personally visited about two-thirds of the 63 U.S. national parks (so far!), and many of these visits have come during February.
Here are the 15 parks I most recommend visiting during the shortest month of the year. Feel free to leave a comment if you have others you’d like to suggest!
Warm Weather National Parks to Visit in February
Dry Tortugas (Florida)
Why visit in February: Beautiful weather, quiet and remote location
Average February weather: High 76 F, low 67 F, clear skies
Where to stay: Fort Jefferson Campground – island camping
Finding hot weather in February is difficult, because even the southern U.S. gets cold at that time of year. But the one national park guaranteed to have sunny and warm weather is Dry Tortugas.
Located way out in the Gulf of Mexico, Dry Tortugas is a series of tiny islands 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. Catch the Yankee Freedom ferry from Key West, and take a day trip or an overnight camping trip to the islands.
The main island, Garden Key, is home to Fort Jefferson, an old Civil War-era fort. Visitors can walk inside, exploring the corridors, the cannon holes, and even the roof.
Dry Tortugas is one of the least-visited national parks in the USA. Garden Key has a small campground with 10 sites. So you’ll be out there camping at Dry Tortugas in relative peace and quiet, surrounded by beautiful waters with outstanding snorkeling.
Joshua Tree (California)
Why visit in February: Mild hiking temperatures, sunlight, desert scenery
Average February weather: High 63 F, low 41 F, mostly dry
Where to stay: High Desert Motel – cheapest & closest hotel to the park
Joshua Tree provides a desert atmosphere, which means comfortable daytime temps, although it can still get quite chilly at night.
From June through September, average high temps in Joshua Tree exceed 90 degrees F. But in February, the typical high is 63. And it only rains three days a month. That’s perfect for outdoor activities!
Because of its mild temperatures, Joshua Tree NP has some of the best hiking in February of all the national parks.
Ryan Mountain is a must-hike. It’s 3 miles each way with 1060 feet of elevation gain, and the peak provides 360-degree views of the entire park.
Walking to Barker Dam and Wonderland Ranch is an easier hike that most anyone can do. The Hall of Horrors is a short but fun slot canyon that gets very narrow in some places, allowing for cool photos.
Keys View, Arch Rock, and Cholla Cactus Garden all provide scenic surroundings, especially at sunrise and sunset. And the Jumbo Rocks area is fun for climbing and bouldering.
Why visit in February: Perfect hiking weather, smaller crowds
Average February weather: High 70 F, low 44 F, mostly dry
Where to stay: Hampton Inn Suites Tech Park – just 15 minutes from the park
The mighty saguaro cactus has its own national park in southern Arizona, and it’s a lot of fun for folks who enjoy the desert environment.
The park is split into two units, with the city of Tucson in between. That makes it easier to visit than many other parks, since it’s not remote at all. You can fly right into Tucson, spend all day hiking, and then get dinner at a nice restaurant in the city.
Among the many highlights in Saguaro National Park are Bajada Loop Drive, the Signal Hill Petroglyphs, the Valley View Overlook Trail, and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
In the less-visited Eastern Unit of the park, I recommend stopping at attractions like Riparian Overlook, Javelina Rocks, the Freeman Homestead Nature Trail, and the Cactus Forest Trail to the lime kilns, century-old stone structures that were used to convert limestone into mortar.
Why visit in February: Tropical weather, great beaches and snorkeling
Average February weather: High 84 F, low 74 F, bright and sunny
Where to stay: Gallows Point Resort – close to beaches, shops, and the park
Who wouldn’t want to get away to the Caribbean in winter? There’s a national park in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and it’s every bit as sunny and warm as you’d imagine.
Expect sunny skies, very little precipitation, and total beach weather at USVI National Park. That’s perfect, because the park has white sand beaches where you can soak in the sun or explore coral reefs.
The hiking trails are good, offering views of the Caribbean Sea from an elevated perspective. And there’s quite a bit of history as well, including old sugar cane plantations and petroglyphs from the island’s indigenous peoples.
Why visit in February: Comfortable temperatures, great scenery
Average February weather: High 71 F, low 52 F
Where to stay: Kilauea House – located right next to the park
Hawaii is another place where freezing Midwesterners love to visit in winter. The state has two national parks among its many highlights.
On the Big Island, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a gem that has volcanoes which are still erupting today. You can drive to a viewpoint at night to see the glow of the lava inside Kilauea Caldera. Or take a helicopter ride over the lava!
Thurston Lava Tube is one of the coolest attractions for tourists. It’s an underground tunnel created long ago by a lava river that is no longer flowing. Taking the 20-30 minutes to walk through is a very unique experience.
You can also see Holei Sea Arch on the ocean, hike to the Pu’u Loa Petroglyph Fields, and visit an old road that is now covered by lava from an eruption 50 years ago.
Why visit in February: It’s Maui… what other reason do you need?
Average February weather: High 61 F, low 43 F
Where to stay: Maui Beach Hotel – great beach views
Haleakala National Park is awesome because you can drive right to the rim of an old volcano crater and hike down inside it. Often, you can even see all the way to other Hawaiian islands!
Because it’s at a higher elevation, temperatures here are colder than the rest of Maui, so be prepared.
Generally, the weather is fine here, but Haleakala still gets occasional storms in winter. I visited in January, and encountered a total white-out at the top, with foggy conditions that prevented me from seeing much inside the crater.
My friend, on the other hand, visited two days after me and had perfectly clear and sunny weather. So you just never know!
If you visit here, you may want to drive the famous Road to Hana, which leads to the less-visited, more tropical southeastern corner of Haleakala NP.
Why visit in February: Nice temperatures, see alligators and manatees
Average February weather: High 78 F, low 58 F, dry season
Where to stay: Travelodge by Wyndham Everglades – affordable and convenient
The Everglades are one of the most unique national parks in America, given their abundance of swamp land and animals (like alligators and manatees) that aren’t found at many other parks.
January is the most crowded month at Everglades NP, but visitation drops a lot during February, so things won’t be quite as busy.
You’ll definitely want to visit Anhinga Trail, because that’s one of the best places to see alligators in the wild. Walk on the boardwalk here, and you’ll likely see several gators in the water or chilling on land.
Just be careful about where you park, because vultures sometimes attack cars here!
Why visit in February: Good weather for water activities
Average February weather: High 77 F, low 62 F
Where to stay: Courtyard by Marriott Miami Homestead – comfortable and near the park
Biscayne National Park often gets overshadowed by the Everglades and even Dry Tortugas. Florida’s third national park is located in the Florida Keys, midway on the drive from Miami to Key West.
The park is mostly water, coral reefs, and a couple islands. This is the place to come for kayaking, paddleboarding, fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
You can drive to the Dante Fascell Visitor Center in Homestead. But to explore most of the park, you’ll have to join a tour with a boat operator.
Tours will allow you to visit the islands, see old lighthouses, and if you’re lucky, you may even see wildlife like turtles, pelicans, manatees, dolphins, sharks, and more. Be sure to bring mosquito repellent!
Death Valley (California)
Why visit in February: Moderate temperatures make visiting more pleasant
Average February weather: High 73 F, low 46 F
Where to stay: Furnace Creek Campground – right inside the park
Death Valley is known as the place with the hottest recorded temperature in history, at 134 F. During summer, temps exceed 100 F routinely. So winter is the perfect time to visit!
Drive Artist’s Palette, an area of the Black Mountains with brightly-colored rock formations. Visit Dante’s View for a bird’s-eye view of the park. And check out the Mesquite Sand Dunes, where Star Wars movies were filmed.
Death Valley has some of the best camping and hiking in February of any national park. I camped at Furnace Creek Campground and loved sleeping under the stars.
Big Bend (Texas)
Why visit in February: Good weather for desert and mountain hikes
Average February weather: High 74 F, low 40 F, warm and dry
Where to stay: Big Bend Resort & Adventures – one of the few hotels near the park
It takes a bit of effort to get to Big Bend National Park, since it’s way down in southern Texas along the Rio Grande. February is a good time to go because you can avoid the summer heat and experience the park’s excellent hiking in comfortable temperatures.
The Emory Peak hike to the park’s highest point at 7825 feet should be on every hiker’s to-do list. The Window Trail and the Lost Mine Trail are good shorter alternatives for those who don’t have time for Emory Peak’s 10-mile roundtrip distance.
Each end of the park has a scenic overlook reachable by car. Santa Elena Canyon in the west and Boquillas Canyon Overlook in the east both offer views into the river canyon, with the Mexican border just on the other side of the river!
Cold Weather Parks Worth Visiting in the Winter
If you aren’t afraid of the cold, these are some of the best national parks in winter for unique and memorable experiences. Be sure to check the forecast in advance to avoid any unexpected snowstorms!
Yellowstone (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho)
Why visit in February: See wildlife in a winter wonderland!
Average February weather: High 28 F, low 1 F, heavy precipitation
Where to stay: Old Faithful Snow Lodge – official national park hotel
The secret is out. Everyone now knows that Yellowstone is a winter paradise. Even covered in snow, the iconic park’s trails, valleys, and peaks are fun to explore in February.
Yes, it’s freezing this time of year. Temps usually don’t get above 30 F, and they often drop below zero at night. It rains or snows at Yellowstone half of all days in February, so be ready to tackle the elements.
But if you can handle all of that, be ready for some incredibly beautiful views in a park that will be far less crowded than it is during summer.
The roads are mostly closed in February, which means that visitors must travel by snowmobile, snowcoach, or skis. Your best bet may be to join a tour and let your guides handle the transportation and logistics. Here’s a cool winter Yellowstone tour that hits several park highlights.
Petrified Forest (Arizona)
Why visit in February: See ancient logs without crowds
Average February weather: High 55 F, low 28 F, virtually no rain
Where to stay: Brad’s Desert Inn – locally-owned hotel close to the park & Route 66
Though it’s located in Arizona, Petrified Forest National Park gets a little chilly in the winter. February temperatures usually reach the mid 50s during the day, but can get below freezing at night.
That’s still plenty comfortable for driving around the park. You can reach most of Petrified Forest’s attractions by car, or on foot via a short walk from a parking lot.
The Painted Desert, Blue Mesa, and Crystal Forest Trail all have otherworldly scenery and petrified logs that are millions of years old.
Part of historic Route 66 even goes through the park! There’s an old, half-buried Studebaker that marks the spot where the famous road trip highway meets the park.
Gateway Arch (Missouri)
Why visit in February: Avoid the crowds at an iconic attraction
Average February weather: High 46 F, low 29 F
Where to stay: Drury Plaza at the Arch – reasonably priced and only a block from the Arch
The Gateway Arch is now an official national park. That makes it one of the easiest parks to visit, since it only requires a flight to St. Louis and a train ride from the airport into downtown.
Stop in to visit the Museum at the Gateway Arch, which has exhibits documenting the westward expansion that made St. Louis the Gateway to the West.
Then ride all the way to the top of the Arch on the unique tram tucked inside the arms of the Arch. You’ll get a nice view of the city from up there.
The nice thing about the Arch is that because of its urban location, you can make your visit, then head back to warm up in your cozy hotel room. Or visit other attractions, like the Budweiser Brewery Tour or the famous City Museum!
Mammoth Cave (Kentucky)
Why visit in February: Cave tours are offered year-round
Average February weather: High 46 F, low 25 F
Where to stay: Grand Victorian Inn – Upscale, old-fashioned inn
Many people don’t realize that Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system in the world, with more than 400 miles of tunnels in its full cave system.
The park offers several different tours that take guests underground to experience the cave system for themselves. Walking down into the earth through the caves is one of the coolest experiences available at any national park.
The cave temperatures are essentially the same whether you go underground in the summer or the winter. So don’t let the cold Kentucky weather scare you away from visiting in February.
When planning, be aware that you’ll gain an hour if you’re arriving from the east. Mammoth Cave is just barely in the Central time zone, while Louisville and the rest of eastern Kentucky are in the Eastern time zone. The time will change just as you’re approaching the park.
Why visit in February: See snow on Zion’s famous peaks
Average February weather: High 58 F, low 33 F, somewhat rainy
Where to stay: Montclair Inn & Suites – great location & amenities
Zion National Park is an incredibly scenic area, no matter what time of year you visit. You can often see snow on mountaintops during February. Visit the park early in the day to get pictures before the snow melts.
Many of Zion’s hiking and walking trails remain accessible year-round, as long as there hasn’t been a recent storm.
For most of the year, due to overcrowding, visitors are required to take a shuttle to access most of Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
Shuttles still operate in February on weekends, but on weekdays, there are no shuttles, so you can drive through the entire park. Having driving freedom in Zion is rare and awesome!
Keep an eye out for deer, bighorn sheep, turkeys, and more. And Zion is one of the few places where you can see elusive California condors in the wild.
Do you have any other suggestions for good national parks to visit in February or the winter months?