Best National Parks to Visit in February

While it’s fair to say that February isn’t peak season for America’s national parks, it’s undoubtedly a unique time to visit many of them. Lower visitor numbers, variations in appearance, and favorable conditions for the desert-based parks make it a great time to visit. Some parks can feel like a completely different place during winter, and the experience is very different from a visit during the summer. Throughout this guide, we’ll look at 10 of the best national parks to visit in February across many different states and habitats.

Top 10 Best National Parks to Visit in February

  1. Everglades National Park, Florida
  2. Saguaro National Park, Arizona
  3. Big Bend National Park, Texas
  4. Death Valley National Park, California
  5. Joshua Tree National Park, California
  6. Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii
  7. Arches National Park, Utah
  8. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
  9. Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
  10. Petrified Forest National Park , Arizona

Everglades National Park, Florida

First up is the Everglades National Park in the far south of Florida. This immense park covers 2356 square miles of mangroves, marshes, and flatwoods. The park is home to countless different types of flora and fauna with turtles, manatees, alligators, bull sharks, and panthers among its best-known residents. While it’s possible to see parts of the park on foot such as on the Shark Valley Loop Trail, you need to get on the water to get the full experience. Airboats are the preferred method of transport to protect the underwater vegetation and ecosystem. A tour around the park on one of these crafts will allow you to see the different wildlife and habitats that make this a unique national park.

February falls in the middle of the Florida dry season, making it an excellent time to visit. Days are dry and warm, humidity is lower, and mercifully there are fewer mosquitos around. There’s also an abundance of wildlife around at this time of year, making sightings of animals much more common on airboat tours. 

Airboats along a river in the Everglades
Airboats are the best way to experience and explore the Everglades.

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Saguaro National Park in Arizona is the second national park to visit in February. Home to the largest cacti in the U.S., the park is named after these large and beautiful Saguaro cacti. Living for up to 250 years and the size of a tree, they’re quite a sight. Saguaro is one of the smaller parks on our list at 91,000 acres and incorporates two separate areas to the west and east of Tucson. The park packs in 128 miles of hiking trails despite its small size. These trails are the main attraction as they take you through the spectacular desert landscape. There are plenty of ranger lead tours throughout the year, while the western park also has a through road for less mobile visitors. It’s also a park that allows backcountry camping, which is highly recommended in this location.

Visiting Saguaro National Park in February presents a great climate for hiking during the day. Daily temperatures hit a comfortable 70°F most days, although it’s much cooler at night. Rainfall remains minimal during this time of year, making it a great alternative to the extreme heat of spring and summer. If you plan on camping, you must bring some extra warm clothes as temperatures can fall to 40°F.

Saguaro cacti in the Saguaro National Park at sunset
The Saguaro cacti of Saguaro National Park are the largest cacti in the whole U.S.

Big Bend National Park, Texas

The splendid landscape of Big Bend National Park makes it the third park on our list. Located in west Texas and close to the Mexican border, it’s a park that appeals to those who love solitude. The park is home to mountain, canyon, desert, and river landscapes, with over 150 miles of trails taking in this varying topography. Some of the vistas from these trails are sensational. The Window Trail and Lost Mine Trail are two of the best and most popular. Regular ranger tours are also available and receive positive reviews. Aside from hiking, you’ll find an abundance of birdlife in the park, and there are canoeing and kayaking options along the river. Lastly, driving routes are available, including the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. 

A visit to the park in February ensures you avoid the heat of summer and the spring crowds, which arrive with the start of Spring Break in March. Daily daytime temperatures are typically in the low 60s, which is perfect for hiking. The days are also generally bright and dry. While the temperature drops to the low 40s at night, it’s still possible to camp if you bring weather-appropriate clothes and equipment. 

The Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park
The Chisos Mountains rising above the surrounding desert in Big Bend National Park.

Death Valley National Park, California

Fourth on our list is California’s Death Valley National Park. Located in a depression in the Mojave Desert, the park is below sea level. This makes it the lowest place in the entire U.S. It’s also one of the hottest and driest locations in the U.S., with fewer than 3 days of rainfall per year and summer temperatures exceeding 120°F. The landscape has a lunar feel with some amazing geological formations. Some of the best include the Ubehebe Crater, Titus Canyon, and Zabriskie Point. There are many hiking and walking trails, plus 14 scenic driving trails. While flora and fauna are in short supply, given the extreme climate, the ethereal and desolate landscape is the real attraction here.

A February visit to Death Valley National Park is close to ideal. Days are pleasant, bright, and dry, with temperatures in the low 70s. It’s the ideal conditions for exploring the various geological formations and hiking through the different areas of the park. If you’re planning on backcountry camping, you’ll need to wrap up a little as temperatures fall to the low 40s at night. 

Death Valley National Park
The desert landscape in Death Valley National Park has an otherworldly feeling.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

The fifth national park on our list is another of California’s desert parks, Joshua Tree National Park. Located in southern California, it’s named after the iconic Joshua Trees that can be found throughout the park. It’s a large park covering 1242 square miles across the Mojave and Colorado deserts. It’s another park that is home to plenty of excellent hiking routes. There are around 20 maintained trails, plus plenty of other backroads and wild areas to explore. The Eureka Peak Trail, Willow Hall Trail, and Mastodon Peak Loop Trail are popular hiking routes in February. The park is also a popular destination for biking, climbing, and horse riding, and all of these activities are well suited to the weather in February.

There’s little to no rainfall in February in Joshua Tree National Park. The days are bright and fresh, with temperatures in the low 60’s. It’s ideal for many activities, although camping can be a touch on the chilly side as temperatures fall below 40°F at night. 

Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is named after the bristly trees that inhabit the park.

Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

For our sixth national park to visit in February, we head 2000 miles west to the island of Maui in Hawaii. This volcanic national park is home to the now dormant Haleakalā Volcano. It features several distinct districts, with the summit district easily the most spectacular. Featuring 30 miles of trails, you can experience various volcanic geological features. These range from the volcano crater and summit to a volcanic pit and cinder cones. Be aware that the summit district is at altitude, which can cause dizziness, fatigue, and sickness. Below this district, you’ll find many other distinct areas, such as the Subalpine Shrubland, home to the endangered Hawaiian goose. At lower altitudes, the Coastal District and the Kīpahulu District are popular hiking destinations with spectacular waterfalls and dramatic scenery. 

February is an excellent time to visit Haleakala National Park. The weather is typically in the 70’s or slightly cooler at altitude. Days are generally dry and bright, which makes for perfect hiking conditions.

Summit at Haleakala National Park
The spectacular landscape of Haleakala National Park on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

Arches National Park, Utah

The exceptional Arches National Park in Utah is our seventh park to visit in February. The park is home to over 2,000 natural arches, the highest density of arches anywhere in the world. Such a spectacular landscape hasn’t gone unnoticed, and the park attracts over 200,000 visitors each month during the spring, summer, and autumn. The park only covers 76,000 acres or 120 square miles, so it can sometimes feel overcrowded during these peak months. The beauty of a visit in February is that visitor numbers are just a fifth of what they are during the peak season. There’s also a good chance you’ll see the park with a dusting of snow, which is an amazing sight. Aside from admiring the amazing geology in the area, hiking is the other popular activity. While there’s undoubtedly a chill in the air during February, it’s perfectly possible to hike through the area with the right clothes and equipment.

Sitting over 5,500 feet above sea level, the park is exposed more than most to the elements. Temperatures in February range from the high 40s to the low 20s, so you must be prepared if you choose to visit. However, if you do come during February, you’ll be rewarded with some incredible scenery and landscapes and a huge dollop of solitude you won’t find during the rest of the year.

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park in Utah
The exquisite Delicate Arch is just one of 2000 different arches in the park.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

The eighth park on our list is Carlsbad Caverns National Park in southern New Mexico. While it is the smallest park on our list at just under 47,000 acres, it’s no less spectacular than any other. Uniquely, the park covers a significant area above ground and over 100 subterranean caves. It’s these areas below ground that are the real attraction. Two underground trails are absolute must-sees, with both measuring 1.25 miles in length. The first is the Big Room Trail, which takes in the Big Room, North America’s largest cave chamber with its vast array of stalactites. The second trail, known as the Natural Entrance Trail, takes in the cave network’s original entrance. Above ground, there’s a visitor center and several different hiking routes. 

Given the major attractions at Carlsbad Caverns National Park are located underground, the weather has less of a bearing on when to visit. That being said, the temperature does vary dramatically between winter and summer. Temperatures during February can be around a relatively chilly 40°F. However, the benefit of visiting at this time is significantly fewer visitors. Given the relatively short trails, the reduction in crowds greatly impacts your experience and enjoyment of the park. We think this is a trade-off more than worth the additional layers you’ll need to keep warm.

The Big Room in Carlsbad Caverns
The enormous Big Room is the largest cave chamber in North America.

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Ninth on our list of national parks to visit in February is the balmy Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida. Located 70 miles west of Key West, the park covers 7 islands and the surrounding reefs and ocean. It’s another smaller park with a unique characteristic, which is the fact it’s both a marine and historic park. There are plenty of reasons to visit, but the impressive Fort Jefferson dates back to 1847 and is one of the best. Diving and snorkeling in the area are also exceptional, with many turtles, plus the remains of the 19th-century ship, the Windjammer. This is one spectacular wreck dive site you really should see. There are also some exceptional beaches in the park, particularly on Garden Key, where Fort Jefferson is located.

A visit to the Dry Tortugas National Park in February is ideal. The weather is comfortable in the 70’s, making it warm enough to swim but without being overbearing. The days are generally bright and clear, with rainfall the lowest you’ll see in Florida all year. 

Aerial view of Garden Key and Fort Jefferson
Garden Key is the sensational location of Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas'.

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona 

The tenth and final park we feature is the Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona. Located across a semi-desert steppe and the Painted Desert, the park has some spectacular sights. The first of these is the significant amount of petrified wood from which the park takes its name. There are countless fossils across the park, some of which date back 225 million years to the late Triassic period. The other exceptional sight in the park is the beautiful striated badlands of the Painted Desert. These eroded and colorful rock formations are exceptionally photogenic. There are plenty of hiking, cycling, and horse riding routes to explore within the park. It’s also possible to see much of the park by road, with over 28 miles of paved tracks through the park.

A visit to the Petrified Forest National Park in February lets you make the most of the crisp, clear days. Trails are generally quiet, and days are bright and clear, making it ideal for photography and enjoying the amazing scenery. While temperatures generally hover around a cool 55°F, it can often be warmer. 

The beautiful striated badlands of the Painted Desert
The beautiful striated badlands of the Painted Desert in Petrified Forest National Park.

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