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Which are the best US national parks to visit in February? The answer to that question depends on whether or not you prefer a warm destination or if you want to explore a winter wonderland. Most of the parks on this list have you escaping the cold, wintry weather, with the exception of one beautiful park.

About this National Park Series

This article is part of a series about the best national parks to visit each month. In this series, every national park is listed at least once and many are listed multiple times. It is a series of 12 articles, one for each month of the year. More popular parks, like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, may show up in as many as four of these articles, but lesser known parks like Gates of the Arctic may only show up once.

These articles take into account weather, crowd levels, the best time to go hiking, special events, road closures, and our personal experiences in the parks. Based on these factors, we picked out what we think are the optimal times to visit each park.

For an overview of the best time to visit each national park, check out our Best National Parks by Season guide. This guide has graphs that list each park and the optimal time to plan your visit. And at the end of this article, we have links to the other articles in our Best National Parks by Month series.

 

Visiting the National Parks in February

In February, much of the United States is cold and blanketed in snow. Like January, park visitation remains relatively low in February, making this a great time to visit most of the parks with low crowds. 

On this list are several great parks to visit if you want to visit the beach or just go someplace warm. But for those who don’t mind cooler conditions, I list a few great parks that are worth braving the cold for a quieter national park experience, and one park that is a winter wonderland in February.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The information we provide for each national park does not include temporary road closures, since these dates are constantly changing. Roads can close in the national parks at any time, so I recommend getting updates on the National Park Service website while planning your trip. 

Best National Parks to Visit in February

1. Virgin Islands National Park

Virgin Islands National Park (the cover photo for this article) is located in the US Virgin Islands. If you want a warm, beach destination, this is our top pick for February. What better way to escape the winter chill than a visit to the Caribbean?

This national park is home to some of the most beautiful beaches we have seen. Spend some time in gorgeous Trunk Bay, sip tropical drinks on Honeymoon Beach, and see if you can spot sea turtles on Maho Beach. For those who want to be more active, there are plenty of hiking trails to choose from and places to go kayaking.

Why Visit the Virgin Islands in February: The weather is perfect and February is a great time for a Caribbean getaway. Just be aware that February is one of the busiest months to visit the park, but the fantastic weather makes up for the higher than normal crowd levels.
 
Weather: The weather is almost identical to January (Virgin Islands National Park also shows up on our Best Parks to Visit in January list). The average high is 84°F (29°C) and the average low is 74°F (23°C). February is one of the driest months of the year.
 
Sunrise & Sunset: Sunrise is at 6:45 am and sunset is at 6:20 pm.

Caneel Bay

Caneel Bay | Best National Parks in February

 Best Hikes Virgin Islands NP

View from Ram Head | Best National Parks in February

 

Hawksnest Beach

Hawksnest Beach | Best National Parks in February

Location: US Virgin Islands

Top Experiences: Visit Trunk Bay and snorkel the underwater trail, visit Maho Beach, walk the Leinster Bay Trail and snorkel in Waterlemon Bay, visit the overlooks on North Shore Road, and visit beaches along the north shore of St. John.

How Much Time Do You Need? Ideally, plan on spending three days in Virgin Islands National Park. This gives you enough time to visit the highlights, spend some time at several different beaches, and hike a trail or two.

2. Petrified Forest National Park

Visiting Petrified Forest National Park is like taking a step back in time. The petrified logs date back hundreds of millions of years, to a time when this land was once lush and fertile. These trees fell and became the mineralized versions of their original forms even before dinosaurs walked the earth.

This national park beat all of my expectations. I imagined a barren desert with a few colorful hills, littered with some ancient, petrified stumps. Instead, we were treated to the colorful, uniquely beautiful hills of the Painted Desert, giant, petrified trees that puzzle the mind, and the chance to walk backcountry trails without another person in sight.

Petrified Forest is a very cool, underrated and easy park to visit.

Why Visit Petrified Forest in February: Even though temperatures are on the chilly side, this is a great time to visit Petrified Forest because crowd levels are low and this makes a great February road trip destination with several other parks in Arizona.
 
Weather: The weather is surprisingly cool in February. The average high is 53°F (11°C) and the average low is 25°F (-4°C). Rainfall is low.
 
Sunrise & Sunset: Sunrise is at 7 am and sunset is at 6 pm.

Petrified Forest

Petrified wood | Best National Parks in February

 

Petrified Forest National Park

Teepees on Petrified Forest Road | Best National Parks in February

 Petrified Forest Hike

View along the Blue Forest Trail | Best National Parks in February

Location: Arizona

Top Experiences: View the Painted Desert from the overlooks, see the petroglyphs at Newspaper Rock, see the Teepees on Petrified Forest Road, walk the Blue Mesa Trail, and see the petrified wood at Crystal Forest and along the Giant Logs Trail.

Ultimate Adventure: The Blue Forest hike is our favorite experience in Petrified Forest National Park. This 3-mile trail takes you through the badlands, one of the most beautiful parts of the park.

How Much Time Do You Need? One day is plenty of time to drive through the park, visit the overlooks, and hike a few short trails.

3. Saguaro National Park

Located in southern Arizona, Saguaro National Park is one of the warmest parks to visit in February. Temperatures in the park soar from late spring through early fall, making the winter months the best time to visit Saguaro.

Saguaro National Park is named for the Saguaro Cactus, which only grows in the Sonoran Desert. Things to do here include hiking the nature trails and driving the scenic drives.

This park is split into two different sections, the Tucson Mountain District and the Rincon Mountain District. You can visit both in one very busy day or spread them out over two separate days.

Why Visit Saguaro National Park in February: For the near perfect weather conditions. With an average high of 70°F and a very low chance of rain, this is a great park to visit in February. These great weather conditions do draw big crowds, so expect busy trails and make your travel arrangements in advance.
 
Weather: The average high is 70°F (21°C) and the average low is 42°F (6°C). Rainfall is very low.
 
Sunrise and Sunset: Sunrise is at 7 am and sunset is at 6:10 pm.

Julie in Saguaro

Valley View Overlook Trail | Best National Parks in February

 

Saguaro NP

Saguaro National Park | Best National Parks in February

Location: Arizona

Top Experiences: Drive Bajada Loop Drive, walk the Valley View Overlook Trail and the Desert Discovery Nature Trail, see the Signal Hill Petroglyphs, and drive the Cactus Forest Drive. Just outside of the park is the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum which is well worth the time.

How Much Time Do You Need? A half to a full day is all you need to see the highlights of Saguaro National Park. With more time, you can go backpacking or hike the longer, more challenging hiking trails.

4. Rocky Mountain National Park

For those who embrace the cold weather and want to explore a winter wonderland, it’s hard to beat Rocky Mountain National Park. Rather than strapping on your hiking shoes, the trails in the park can be explored on cross country skis or snowshoes. If you plan to visit the park with kids, you can go sledding.

If you are new to snowshoeing, you can take a ranger-guided tour.

Why Visit Rocky Mountain in February: February tends to have the lowest visitation rates for the year. So, if you want to visit the park without the crowds, this is the best month to go. Plus, snowshoeing by day and warming up by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate in the evening sounds wonderful.
 
Weather: Rocky Mountain National Park is a winter wonderland in February. The average high is 38°F (3°C) and the average low is 16°F (-9°C). This is one of the biggest months for snowfall.
 
Sunrise & Sunset: Sunrise is at 7:10 am and sunset is at 5:45 pm.

Rocky Mountain in Winter | Best National Parks in February

Dream Lake | photo credit: Jeremy Janus/iStockphoto

Location: Colorado

Top Experiences: In February, go snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and sledding.

How Much Time Do You Need? Plan on spending two or more days in Rocky Mountain National Park, to practice your new skills (for newbie snowshoers or skiers) or to explore a few trails.

5. White Sands National Park

With sand as white as the snow, this might look like a winter wonderland, but in February, this is one of the warmer parks to visit in the United States.

White Sands National Park is home to the largest gypsum dunefield in the world. These pure white dunes create a fun place to explore, for both kids and adults. Hike out into the dunes, learn about the wildlife that calls this park home, and go sledding on sand as white as the snow.

Why Visit White Sands in February: February is one of the quietest months to visit this park in terms of crowd levels. Although the days start off cold, the temperature warms up very nicely during the day, making this one of the warmer parks to visit in February.
 
Weather: In February, the average high is 63°F (17°C) and the average low is 28°F (-3°C). This is one of the driest months to visit the park, although rainfall is low all year.
 
Sunrise & Sunset: Sunrise is at 6:45 am and sunset is at 5:50 pm.

White Sands National Park

White Sands National Park | Best National Parks in February

 White Sand Dunes | Best National Parks in February

Gypsum dunes | Best National Parks in February

Location: New Mexico

Top Experiences: Drive Dunes Drive, go sledding in the gypsum dunes, walk the Dune Life Nature Trail, take a ranger-guided hike, and go backcountry camping. 

Ultimate Adventure: Hike the Alkali Flat Trail. This trail makes a 4.5-mile loop through the gypsum dunefield. It’s the longest, toughest hike in the park but your treat is stunning views of untouched dunes.

How Much Time Do You Need? For the best experience, plan on spending one full day in White Sands National Park. Hike the Alkali Flat Trail first thing in the morning, before the crowds arrive and the temperatures climb. Midday, go sledding on the dunes and have a picnic lunch. You can also do one of the shorter hiking trails. At the end of the day, take the ranger-guided Sunset Stroll.

6. Everglades National Park

When you think of the Everglades, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Mosquitos, alligators, and hot, humid weather? In February, scratch mosquitos and hot weather off of the list. But you can still see those alligators.

February is one of the coolest months of the year to visit the Everglades and mosquitoes tend to be at their lowest. We visited the Everglades in February and didn’t see any mosquitoes, but we did see manatees, alligators, and crocodiles.

Why Visit the Everglades in February: February is the best month to visit the Everglades mosquito-free. The weather is also just about perfect this time of year. However, crowds are higher, so that is one disadvantage.
 
Weather: The average high is 81°F (27°C) and the average low is 57°F (14°C). February is one of the driest months to visit the Everglades.
 
Sunrise & Sunset: Sunrise is at 7 am and sunset is at 6:15 pm.

One Day in Everglades | Best National Parks in February

Anhinga Trail | Best National Parks in February

 Crocodile in Everglades

Crocodile | Best National Parks in February

Location: Florida

Top Experiences: Walk the Anhinga Trail, visit the Flamingo Visitor Center and see if you can spot crocodiles or manatees, walk the boardwalk trail at Mahogany Hammock, take a kayaking tour, and bike through Shark Valley.

How Much Time Do You Need? One day is all you need to visit the highlights of Everglades National Park.

7. Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is an underground fantasy land of limestone chambers, stalactites and stalagmites, and long, twisting tunnels.

I’m not a big fan of caves and caverns but I found this place to be unexpectedly amazing. If you want to see stalactites, stalagmites, ribbon-like curtains, totem poles, and unique formations called soda straws, Carlsbad Caverns is the best cave system in the US to put on your list.

Why Visit Carlsbad Caverns in February: In terms of park visitation, February is one of the quietest months to visit Carlsbad Caverns (park visitation spikes in March with Spring Break). The caverns remain a consistent 56°F all year. With good weather and low crowds, February is one of the best months to visit Carlsbad Caverns and it can be combined on a road trip with White Sands National Park (mentioned earlier).
 
Weather:In February, the average high is 61°F (16°C) and the average low is 37°F (3°C). Rainfall is very low.
 
Sunrise & Sunset: Sunrise is at 6:40 am and sunset is at 5:44 pm.

Carlsbad Caverns Travel Guide | Best National Parks in February

Carlsbad Caverns | Best National Parks in February

 

Carlsbad Stalactites

Location: New Mexico

Top Experiences: Tour the caverns on your own or on a ranger-guided tour. You can also go star gazing, hike a surface trail, or go on a scenic drive. 

How Much Time Do You Need?A half to a full day is all you need to explore the caverns on your own and/or take a ranger-guided tour.

US National Parks Guide

8. Mammoth Cave National Park

With over 400 miles of explored caves and passageways, Mammoth Cave is the world’s longest cave system. On a visit to Mammoth Cave, explore this subterranean world of immense rooms, long canyons, and tight passageways.

In order to explore Mammoth Cave, you will have to join a ranger-guided tour, of which there are many. Your options range from 2 to 3-hour, large group tours to small group tours where you can explore the caves with a hand-held lantern.

Why Visit Mammoth Cave in February: Mammoth Cave is 54°F all year. Even though cold weather and a chance of snow are a very real possibility in February, the cave stays a constant temperature, so the time of year matters very little for cave tours, at least in terms of temperature. Park visitation is low at Mammoth Cave for February, so there is a good chance that the ranger-guided tours won’t be at their full capacity, making them a much better experience.
 
Weather: The average high is 53°F (12°C) and the average low is 32°F (0°C). There is a small chance of snow in February.
 
Sunrise & Sunset: Sunrise is at 6:33 am and sunset is at 5:25 pm.

Mammoth Cave | Best National Parks in February

Mammoth Cave | Best National Parks in February

 Historic Entrance | Best National Parks in February

Historic Entrance into Mammoth Cave | Best National Parks in February

Location: Kentucky

Top Experiences: Take a ranger guided tour of the cave. Tours range from 30 minutes to 6 hours, depending on the tour and how much of the cave you want to explore.

Ultimate Adventure: Take the Wild Cave Tour. On this small group, 6-hour tour, you get to learn what it is like to be cave explorer. While wearing kneepads, a miner’s headlamp, and a hard hat, you will belly crawl through tight spaces less than one foot high, scramble over rocks and climb up cave walls, and squeeze yourself through narrow spaces.

How Much Time Do You Need? A half day to a full day is all you need to visit Mammoth Cave National Park. We visited this park on a Tennessee – Kentucky road trip, traveling next to Nashville.

9. Joshua Tree National Park

Located in southern California, Joshua Tree makes a great winter destination, especially for those who like hiking and rock climbing. Joshua Tree is a top rock climbing destination in February, since temperatures are relatively mild.

Joshua Tree has several different sections to it and each of them look slightly different. Most visitors spend their time along Park Boulevard, where the Joshua Trees and enormous piles of boulders form the iconic landscapes that many people imagine when they think of Joshua Tree National Park.

You can also combine a visit to Joshua Tree with Palm Desert, San Diego, or Las Vegas, which are more great spots to visit in the winter.

Why Visit Joshua Tree in February: With its mild weather, this is one of the best hiking and rock climbing destinations in the US in February. However, it is also one of the busiest months to visit Joshua Tree (but March tends to be the most crowded time to go). We visited Joshua Tree in February, and even though crowds were on the higher side, if you get an early start, you can hike a trail or two crowd-free before people start rolling into the park.
 
Weather: In February, the average high is 61°F (16°C) and the average low is 37°F (3°C). Rainfall chances are low.
 
Sunrise & Sunset: Sunrise is at 6:30 am and sunset is at 5:30 pm.

Skull Rock Trail Photo | Best National Parks in February

Skull Rock Trail | Best National Parks in February

 Cap Rock Nature Trail | Best National Parks in February

Joshua Trees along the Cap Rock Nature Trail | Best National Parks in February

 

Joshua Tree National Park

Arch Rock Trail | Best National Parks in February

Location: California

Top Experiences: Hike the Hall of Horrors, see Skull Rock, explore Hidden Valley, hike to an oasis, hike to Arch Rock and Heart Rock, drive Geology Tour Road, visit the Cholla Cactus Garden, and go stargazing.

How Much Time Do You Need? Plan on spending two or more days in Joshua Tree National Park. This gives you enough time to visit the highlights, go rock climbing or take a lesson, hike a few trails, and go on the scenic drives.

10. Gateway Arch National Park

Gateway Arch, located in St. Louis, Missouri, is a famous American icon. Since its completion in the 1960’s, the Arch has been attracting thousands of visitors every year.

One of the best things to do at Gateway Arch is to ride the tram to the top of the arch for views out over St. Louis. During your visit to Gateway Arch, you have the option to visit the museum to learn more about westward expansion of the United States. You can also visit the Old Courthouse, the site of the Dred Scott case in the 1840’s and 1850’s.

Why Visit Gateway Arch in February: Even though February is a cold month to visit Gateway Arch, almost the entire visit is indoors. Plus, February is the least visited month of the year, so by visiting in February, you get to take advantage of the lower crowds.
 
Weather: In February, the average high is 46°F (8°C) and the average low is 28°F (-2°C). There is a small chance of snow.
 
Sunrise & Sunset: Sunrise is at 6:50 am and sunset is at 5:40 pm.

Gateway Arch | Best National Parks in February

Gateway Arch | Best National Parks in February

Location: Missouri

Top Experiences: Ride the tram to the top of Gateway Arch, watch the Monument to the Dream Documentary, visit the museum exhibits, visit the Old Courthouse, and see the Old Cathedral.

How Much Time Do You Need? A half day is all you need to visit Gateway Arch National Park.

Bonus! 5 More Great Parks to Visit in February

Here are 5 more great national parks to visit in February.

Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park, which is located in Florida, is 95% water. To explore this park, you are going to need a boat.

In February, the high temperature is about 76°F. That’s relatively warm, but the water temperature is the lowest of the year (it’s about 72°F). For some people, that’s a bit chilly to go snorkeling or swimming.

However, if you have plans to visit the Florida Keys or the Everglades, it is worth adding on Biscayne if you have another day in your schedule.

Dry Tortugas National Park

If you have plans to visit the Florida Keys or Key West, consider adding on Dry Tortugas National Park. The weather is warm and sunny, just be aware of brief periods of high winds that can cancel ferries and make snorkeling and kayaking difficult.

Grand Canyon National Park

February is one of the least crowded months to visit Grand Canyon National Park. If you don’t mind cold temperatures and the chance of snow, this is a great time to visit the Grand Canyon if you prefer low crowds.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park is a chilly place to visit in February, but if you want to visit the park with low crowds, this is a good month to go. February is the second least-visited month to go to Zion, with January being the quietest month of the year.

Arches National Park

Like Zion, temperatures are low, but so are the crowds. In February, you can visit Arches National Park relatively crowd free.

February Road Trip Idea: Arizona Road Trip

Arizona makes a great February road trip destination.

On this 10 day Arizona road trip, you can visit three national parks (Petrified Forest, the Grand Canyon, and Saguaro) plus visit Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, and Sedona. February is a great month for this road trip, before temperatures heat up and people start hitting the road for their spring break trips.

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon. This is not a national park but it is included on our Arizona road trip itinerary.


If you have any questions about the best national parks to visit in February, or if you want to share your favorite national parks to visit this month, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information about the National Parks:

NATIONAL PARKS: In our Guide to the US National Parks, get the full list of national parks with important travel planning information, such as things to do in the parks and sample itineraries.

BEST US NATIONAL PARKS: Looking for your next big adventure? Read our post Best National Parks in the USA, where we narrow down the long list into 15 must-see parks.

NATIONAL PARK ITINERARIES: For ideas on how to plan a national parks road trip, visit our National Parks Itinerary page. This has lots of road trip ideas and sample itineraries for many of the US national parks.

Best National Parks to Visit by Month:

JANUARY: Best National Parks to Visit in January
MARCH: Best National Parks to Visit in March
APRIL: Best National Parks to Visit in April
MAY: Best National Parks to Visit in May
JUNE: Best National Parks to Visit in June
JULY:  Best National Parks to Visit in July
AUGUST: Best National Parks to Visit in August
SEPTEMBER: Best National Parks to Visit in September
OCTOBER: Best National Parks to Visit in October
NOVEMBER: Best National Parks to Visit in November
DECEMBER: Best National Parks to Visit in December

Best US National Parks in February

 

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