Embrace the beauty and peace of winter and take an incredible journey to some of the most scenic places in the US! Plan the ultimate January or February getaway to one of the 5 best national parks to visit in the winter.
I have been to 57 of the 63 National Parks in the US and this is my definitive list of the best parks to explore in winter.
I chose these parks because there are still plenty of things to do in the winter and they all have few crows as well. Each of these parks is a testament to the awe-inspiring natural wonders that are at their most enchanting during the winter months.
In this post, you’ll find 5 National Parks that I think are great winter destinations ☃️. It also includes great things to do in each park and important information to know before you go!
You Might Also Like These Posts:
- Visiting Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Park in Winter
- 5 National Parks to Visit This Fall!
- 5 National Parks to Visit in Spring!
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Table of Contents
5 Best National Parks to Visit in January & February
Sequoia National Park is a winter wonderland ❄️ in January and February. This park is home to the largest tree in the entire world! Travel to this peaceful park to wander through the tall Sequoia trees and play in the snow.
This park is just a couple hour’s drive 🚙 from San Francisco and it is a great weekend getaway! You can walk among the forest, go sledding on the hills, and enjoy the stunning mountain views throughout the park! It’s one of the most incredible parks int the country.
Weather in Winter: Lows in 20s & Highs in 30s
Why Sequoia is One of the Best National Parks to Visit in Winter:
If you want to experience winter magic ✨, then there is no better place to do that then in Sequoia National Park. The forest floor is covered with snow in the winter months with tall sequoias sprouting up above the snowy ground.
The park encourages visitors to really get out in nature and play in the snow! First, they have a dedicated Snow Play area where kids and adults can sled 🛷 or have a snowball fight! You’ll get to feel like a kid again as you enjoy the area.
Then, spend time on the trails, which incredibly peaceful and serene in the winter time with less people crowding them. As long as you pack some microspikes and layers, you’ll be ready to explore these fantastic trails!
What to Do in Sequoia:
- Play in the Wolverton Snow Play Area
- Take a winter hike on the Congress Trail
- See the largest tree in the world- General Sherman
- Walk under the Tunnel Log
- Watch the sunset over the mountains
Important Things to Know:
💵 The entrance fee is $20 for a private vehicle which covers 7 days. You can also get an America the Beautiful pass.
⛺️There are 2 campgrounds that are open during the winter in Sequoia. You can make reservations in advance on recreation.gov.
🦮 Pets are not allowed on the trails in Sequoia National Park.
⚠️ Roads may get closed due to weather so check updates on the NPS website and General Sherman is usually only open for viewing on weekends.
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One of my favorite trips that I’ve ever taken in the winter is to Big Bend National Park! Drive through this large desert area as mountains rise up around you. The magnitude of this grand landscape will blow you away 🤯.
Feel like you’ve been transported back in time as you roam the land that dinosaurs used to thrive. Enjoy the warm winter sun ☀️ as you make your way through vast canyons while the Rio Grande river snakes its way through. You’ll surely love this majestic park!
Weather in Winter: Lows in 40s & Highs in the low 60s
Why Big Bend is One of the Best National Parks to Visit in Winter:
There’s no better place to be in the winter then the Southwest. Big Bend is on the border of Mexico and Texas, which means it’s almost as far South as you can go in the US, which means plenty of warmth!
Go hiking for miles in perfect temperatures that hover in the high 50s and 60s. On a cooler morning or day, you can enjoy the heat of Boquillas hot springs ♨️. There’s so much to do in the park in the winter, that you’ll feel as if you can’t possibly do it all!
Sunsets and sunrises 🌅 are more vibrant in the winter and there may be no better place to watch the skies change than in Big Bend. The colors transform the sky and wash over the rocks making them glow. It’s stunning.
What to Do in Big Bend:
- Explore the Chisos Mountain Area
- Watch the sunrise in Santa Elena Canyon
- Take a hike up the Lost Mine Trail
- Soak in Boquillas Hot Springs
Important Things to Know:
💵 Big Bend’s entrance fee is $30 for a private vehicle. You can also get an America the Beautiful pass which covers your entrance to National Parks for a year!
⛺️You can stay in 3 campgrounds in Big Bend all year round. Advanced reservations are required, which you can make here.
🦮 Pets are only allowed in spaces that cars can go. So, you can have them on paved roads and the parking lots. They are now allowed on trails.
⚠️ Most areas of Big Bend are open year round, but like all parks trails and roads are subject to closure. Make sure to stay updated on the NPS website.
Explore one of the dreamiest parks in the country: White Sands National Park in New Mexico. Walk along the soft white gypsum sand dunes as the sky shines a brilliant blue above 💙. It’s one of the most unique landscapes you’ll ever see with bright white sands creating incredible formations for miles.
Although this park is small compared to many of the others, it packs an incredible punch. I still think about my time spent in White Sands and I would love to go back and re-visit every year if I could! You’ll fall in love with this wild area.
Weather in Winter: Lows in 20s & Highs in the low 60s
Why White Sands is One of the Best National Parks to Visit in Winter:
Similar to many of the other desert locations, White Sands cools significantly in the wintertime and crowds dwindle. Making it the perfect time to get out there and explore. Grab your camera and your water bottle and get out there!
The skies put on a show during the winter with bright blue skies during the day, vibrant colors at dusk, and stars overhead during the nighttime. Although you can’t stay in the park for the night, you can spend time enjoying these other times of day and photographing 📸 the magic.
Trade in your winter sleds for your sand sleds as you visit this park in the winter! You can rent sleds at the visitor center and then head off to ride down whatever dunes you choose. It’s one of the most fun activities to try 🤗!
What to Do in White Sands:
- Watch the sunset over the Dunes
- Hike the Alkali Flat Trail
- Go on a scenic drive through the park
- Practice your photography in the dunes
- Rent a sled and go sand sledding
Important Things to Know:
💵 White Sands charges an entrance fee is $25 for a private vehicle. You can also get an America the Beautiful
⛺️ Unfortunately, the campgrounds in White Sands have been closed since COVID. Hopefully, they will reopen again sometime soon.
🦮 Pets are allowed in White Sands, which makes it one of the few family friendly national parks. Explore the dunes with your furry best friend in tow.
⚠️ The park is only open at certain times and it closes the gates when it’s closed. The gate opens at 7 am year round and it usually closes at 7 pm in the winter.
Tall sawgrass, buggy marshes, and incredible animals 🦆 abound in the expansive Everglades. Everglades National Park covers more than 1.5 million acres on the very Southern tip of Florida.
It’s no wonder that people come from all over to experience the unique landscapes in the Everglades. You’ll come across a plethora of habitats as you make your way through the park. Try your luck at spotting an endangered saddleback turtle, an elusive panther, or a massive crocodile!
Weather in Winter: Lows in 60s & Highs in the high 70s
Why Everglades is One of the Best National Parks to Visit in Winter:
If you know anything about Florida, then you know that the Everglades can be HOT 🥵! But, the winter is the absolute best time to visit this subtropical paradise with temperatures staying in the 70s, dry skies, and few bugs around!
There are various ecosystems to explore in this park including flooded grasslands, marshy swamps, and the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico. Go on long, warm drives through the park, hop on an airboat, or go for a lovely bike ride 🚴♀️!
It’s the perfect place to escape the cold winter, enjoy the hot Florida sun, and see various wildlife like crocodiles or alligators 🐊. It was such a great place to visit, that I may have to go back this winter!
What to Do in the Everglades:
- Go on an Airboat tour
- Walk along the Mahogany Hammock Trail
- Go on a bike ride around the Flamingo Area
- Stroll on the Anhinga Trail
Important Things to Know:
💵 Everglades has a $30 entrance fee for a private vehicle. You can also use an America the Beautiful pass if you have one
⛺️ There is one campground that you can stay at during the winter in the Everglades. You can make a reservation on their website
🦮 Like most parts, pets are only allowed on paved areas. That means they are allowed in the car, in the parking lot, and on the road.
⚠️ Everglades is a very large park that is subject to road closures. So, just stay updated on the current openings before you go.
Death Valley is the largest national park in the continental US, which means there are hundreds of miles to explore. There’s no way to see it all in one trip, but you can try! With high sand dunes, low salt flats, and rock formations throughout it almost feels like you’re on a different planet 🪐!
Visit this remarkable park to see the dramatic landscapes varying from badlands in Zabriskie Point to the tall peaks of the Panamint Ridge. There’s a variety of activities to enjoy including hiking, driving, and photographing these natural wonders.
Weather in Winter: Lows in 40s & Highs in the low 70s
Why Death Valley is One of the Best National Parks to Visit in Winter:
Death Valley is known as being the hottest place on earth 🌡. Which means that it may be the best national park to visit in the winter. It’s the perfect time to visit this incredible park with warmer temperatures and fewer crowds. Plus, it’s one of my favorite parks of all time!
Also, Death Valley’s wildlife become incredibly active in the winter. As a respite from the oppressive heat of summer, they get out to explore their natural habitats. Get your chance at spotting some of the elusive wildlife there.
Plus, Death Valley is one of the best places to see the night’s sky as a Dark Sky community 💫. The winter skies are long and dark, so you’ll have ample opportunity to take stargaze or indulge in astrophotography to capture the Milky Way!
What to Do in Death Valley:
- Visit the lowest point in North America at Badwater Basin
- Watch the sunrise at Zabriskie Point
- Hike the Golden Canyon Trail
- Take a scenic drive through Artists Drive
- Explore the Mesquite Sand Dunes
Important Things to Know:
💵 Death Valley has a $30 entrance fee for a private vehicle. You can also use an America the Beautiful pass if you have one
⛺️ There are a few campgrounds that you can stay at during the winter as well as a couple of lodges to stay in Death Valley. Also, one thing we loved about Death Valley is there is plenty of free dispersed camping as well.
🦮 Like most parts, pets are only allowed in developed areas. That means they are allowed in the car, in the parking lot, and on the road. So, you cannot take them on any trails.
⚠️ Roads in Death Valley were recently damaged due to flooding. So many roads remain closed. Stay updated on all closures and openings on the NPS website.
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