The national parks are a treasure—beautiful, wild, and full of wonders to see. But there’s more to experience than taking in gorgeous scenery from your vehicle or at lookout points. National parks are natural playgrounds, full of possible adventures.
The most famous offerings of the National Park Service (NPS) are the 63 national parks including Arches, Great Smoky Mountains, and Grand Canyon. But there are 424 NPS units across the country that also includes national monuments, national seashores, national recreation areas, national battlefields, and national memorials. These sites are outside the main focus of this guide.
Planning a trip to the US national parks in February but don’t know which ones to visit? In February, much of the country is cold and covered in snow but there are plenty of parks you can visit to escape the wintry conditions. In this article, I cover the best national parks to visit in February plus several bonus parks and a road trip idea.
About this National Park series
This guide 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.
These articles take into account weather, crowd levels, the best time to go hiking, special events, road closures, and my personal experiences in the parks. Based on these factors, I picked out what I think are the optimal times to visit each park. Since I haven’t been to all of the national parks I include only the parks we have visited on at lease one occasion.
For an overview of the best time to visit each national park, check out my Best National Parks by Season guide. This guide will cover the best time to visit each national park based on these factors. First are the links to my posts about the best parks to visit, month-by-month. This is followed by a list that illustrates the best time to visit each national park based on weather and crowd levels. Please note this overview will be posted following the completion of this 12 month guide in February 2024.
And at the end of this article, I have links to the other guides in my Best National Parks by Month series.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The information I 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 NPS website while planning your trip.
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.
Best National Parks to visit in February
1. 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 and the average low is 25°F. Rainfall is low.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 7 am and sunset is at 6 pm.
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 a 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 but I recommend a second day to explore hikes you missed on the first day.
Plan your visit
- The Ultimate Guide to Petrified Forest National Park
- Kaleidoscope Colors and Serene Landscape Shine in Petrified Forest
- Triassic World: Petrified Forest National Park
2. 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.
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 but you’re best to 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 and the average low is 42°F. Rainfall is very low.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 7 am and sunset is at 6:10 pm.
Top experiences: Drive Bajada Loop Drive and hike 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? You will need two days to see the highlights of Saguaro National Park; one for each unit. With more time, you can go backpacking or hike the longer, more challenging hiking trails and visit the above mentioned Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum.
Plan your visit
- The Ultimate Guide to Saguaro National Park
- Inside the Cartoonish and Majestic Land of Saguaro
- Saguaro National Park: Two Parks in One
- Saguaro National Park: 11 Planning Tips
- Reach for the Sky: Saguaro National Park
3. White Sands National Park
Location: New Mexico
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 and the average low is 28°F. 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.
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 tent camping.
Ultimate adventure: Hike the Alkali Flat Trail. This trail makes a 4.5-mile loop through the gypsum dune field. 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.
Plan your visit
- The Ultimate Guide to White Sands National Park
- A White Oasis: White Sands National Park
- New Mexico’s White Sands Is Officially a National Park
4. Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Location: New Mexico
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 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 above).
Weather: In February, the average high is 61°F and the average low is 37°F. Rainfall is very low.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 6:40 am and sunset is at 5:44 pm.
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.
Plan Your Visit
- The Ultimate Guide to Carlsbad Caverns National Park
- Get Immersed in Caves: Carlsbad Caverns National Park
5. Joshua Tree National Park
Located in southern California, Joshua Tree National Park 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.
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 Springs, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Julian, and/or San Diego (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).
Weather: In February, the average high is 61°F and the average low is 37°F. Rainfall chances are low.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 6:30 am and sunset is at 5:30 pm.
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? Ideally, you need at least two full 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.
Plan your visit
- The Ultimate Guide to Joshua Tree National Park
- Beautifully Bizarre Joshua Tree Has Springtime Written All Over it
- Joshua Tree National Park: An Iconic Landscape That Rocks
- Joshua Tree National Park Turns 25. But what is a Joshua tree?
- Joshua Tree: Admire Two Deserts At Once
3 more national parks to visit in February
Here are 3 more great national parks to visit in February.
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.
Bonus! 3 NPS sites to visit in January
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
The remote Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a gem tucked away in southern Arizona’s vast Sonoran Desert. Thanks to its unique crossroads locale, the monument is home to a wide range of specialized plants and animals, including its namesake.
Chiricahua National Monument
The most noticeable natural features in the park are the rhyolite rock pinnacles for which the monument was created to protect. Rising sometimes hundreds of feet into the air, many of these pinnacles are balancing on a small base, seemingly ready to topple over at any time.
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
The Hohokam people built these structures when they were near the height of their power some 700 years ago. They created villages that extended from the site of modern-day Phoenix to southern Arizona.
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) and three NPS sites (Organ Pipe, Chiricahua, and Casa Grande Ruins) 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.
More Information about the National Parks
- From Arches to Zion: The Essential Guide to America’s National Parks
- America the Beautiful: The National Parks
- Learn How America’s National Parks Got Their Names
- 10 of the Best Scenic Drives in National Parks
- 9 of Best National Parks for RV Campers
- Guide to Adventure Activities in National Parks
- National Parks Inspire Love of Nature
- 12 Dog Friendly National Parks
- Winter Can Be a Great Season to Explore National Parks
Best National Parks to visit by month:
- January: Best National Parks to Visit in January
- February: Best National Parks to Visit in February
- March: Best National Parks to Visit in March (to be posted mid-February)
- 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
Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.