Looking for the best national parks to visit in January?
The holidays are over, but your adventures don’t have to end. January is a quieter time to visit many National Parks. Below are some great options if you’re hoping to escape the cold or enjoy some winter activities.
There is also a free day at National Parks during Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in January. This year, it will land on January 16, 2023.
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Last Updated: December 14, 2022
Before we get into it, we want to remind everyone to explore the parks responsibly using the 7 Leave no Trace Principles. Have a plan, stay on established trails, carry out anything you carry in, leave what you find, minimize campfire impact, respect wildlife, and be considerate of others.
To put together this list, we’ve combined our personal experiences and tips we gathered from locals and cross-referenced them with the weather, accessibility, local forums, seasonal attractions like fall foliage or wildflowers, and special events happening in the area. We also considered any unique adventures only offered at certain times of the year to find the most optimal months to visit each National Park. Phew! that was a lot!
It took me a whole week of research, but since I’m a maximizer, it was completely worth having a year-round calendar of adventures (publishing that soon!). Also, check out our complete list of all the national parks and all national park units that include soon-to-be national parks.
We also chose not to include the hardest-to-access national parks in Alaska and U.S. territories in this series.
National Parks By Month – Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec | Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul
Yes! December is a great time to visit certain national parks, especially those that are too hot to visit in the Summer.
Plan on visiting more than two national parks this year? Pick up an America the Beautiful annual pass to save money (entrance fees to each park are, on average, $30-35 per vehicle). Plus, you are helping support the Parks that always need funding.
9700 SW 328th St, Homestead, FL 33033, map
Average Temperatures: 76°F / 55°F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 7:07 AM / 5:51 PM
Why Visit: Winter is the best time to visit Biscayne National Park. Although it’s busier, you’ll be avoiding hurricane season, and there are only a few US national parks in January to soak up the sun. Remember to look out for manatees!
Best For / Top Activities: Swimming, Snorkeling, Fishing, Hiking
Pro Tip: 90% of visitors enter the park via boat, so plan accordingly!
See Related – 7 Remarkable Things to Do in Key West Florida
281 Trumbo Rd, Key West, FL 33040, map
Average Temperatures: 74°F / 65°F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 7:16 AM / 6:04 PM
Why Visit: Warm water and air temperatures make Dry Tortugas a great year-round destination, but one of the best times to visit is in January. The weather is mild, and it is the last month that Bush Key is open.
Best For / Top Activities: Snorkel, Fishing, Boating, Paddle Sports, Diving
Pro Tip: Start planning early. You will need to book a way to get to the park and keep in mind that parts of the park may be closed to protect natural resources.
See Related – 7+ Remarkable Things to Do in Key West Florida
40001 State Hwy 9336, Homestead, FL 33034, map
Average Temperatures: 76°F / 56°F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 7:10 AM / 5:54 PM
Why Visit: January is during the dry season in Everglades National Park. You get cooler temps and fewer mosquitos, and wildlife will be more active and abundant.
Best For / Top Activities: Boating, Camping, Kayaking, Bicycling, Fishing, Hiking, Tours
Pro Tip: Since visiting during the dry season is popular, make advanced reservations for camping, lodging, and tours.
See Related – 7 Fun Things to Do in Sarasota Florida
Average Temperatures: 61°F / 44°F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 7:03 AM / 6:04 PM
Why Visit: January is a great time to explore Haleakala National Park! The weather is still warm but not hot, making it a popular time to visit. If you’re hoping to catch the sunrise in the Summit District, apply for a permit.
Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Backpacking, Camping, Stargazing, Photography
Pro Tip: Weather varies a ton depending on where in the park you’re visiting. On average, the temperature drops 3°F every 1,000 feet you rise in elevation.
See Related – 19 Incredible Road to Hana Stops You Can’t Miss
Average Temperatures: 67°F / 40°F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 7:03 AM / 4:54 PM
Why Visit: Death Valley is basically our backyard, and we only visit in the winter. January has warm temperatures during the day for hikes, but it gets chilly at night. Remember to pack layers in the desert.
Best For / Top Activities: Hikers, Backpackers, Scenic Drive, Photography
Pro Tip: The park is enormous. We were surprised at how long it took to drive from one spot to the next. Give yourself plenty of travel time.
See Related – 15 Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley National Park
6554 Park Blvd, Joshua Tree, CA 92252, map
Average Temperatures: 63°F / 38°F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 6:48 AM / 4:46 PM
Why Visit: We love Joshua Tree in January for the climbing. For those who don’t climb, it’s still a great time to get photos of Joshua trees, rock piles, and epic sunsets. There is less to do in this park if you’re not into climbing, but it’s worth visiting at least once. If you’re lucky, you may also catch the desert with a dusting of snow.
Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Backpacking, Stargazing, Camping, Scenic Drives, Climbing
Pro Tip: The park gets busier during the cooler seasons, so book your site early if you’re hoping to camp.
See Related – 11 Amazing Things to Do in Joshua Tree National Park
2700 N Kinney Rd, Tucson, AZ 85743, map
Average Temperatures: 66°F / 39°F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 7:23 AM / 5:38 PM
Why Visit: Cool days make January one of the best times to explore Saguaro National Park. The park is busiest between Christmas and New Year, so you’ll avoid the holiday crowds too.
Best For / Top Activities: Hiking, Scenic Drive, Photography, Camping, Ranger Programs
Local Tip: The park has an East and West portion separated by the city (roughly 30-45 mins). When you plan your trip, take into account where each trail is.
See Related – 11 Beautiful Things to Do in Saguaro National Park
43.7601214, -110.7644613, map
Average Temperatures: 25°F / 0°F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 7:48 AM / 4:47 PM
Why Visit: We visited Grand Teton at the end of January, and it was so refreshing to see the difference between winter and summer. It was a great time for winter activities and wasn’t crowded like our other visits. Our highlight was photographing the elk and bison covered in snow.
Best For / Top Activities: Snowshoeing, Snowboarding/Skiing, Dogsledding, Wildlife Viewing, Scenic Drives
Local Tip: If you want to explore Bear Lake Road, you must get a permit.
See Related – 11+ Unforgettable Things to Do in Jackson Hole in Winter
1000 US-36, Estes Park, CO 80517, map
Average Temperatures: 27°F / 13°F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 7:21 AM / 5:00 PM
Why Visit: Rocky Mountain National Park is perfect for winter activities. Backcountry skiers will find multiple peaks to explore, and you can also find world-class snowshoeing, sledding, and hiking.
Best For / Top Activities: Backcountry Skiing, Snowshoeing, Sledding, Hiking, Wildlife Viewing, Scenic Drives, Stargazing
Local Tip: If you want to explore Bear Lake Road, you must get a permit.
See Related – The Best National Parks to Explore in the Winter
9035 Village Dr, Yosemite Valley, CA 95389, map
Average Temperatures: 48°F / 28°F
Average Sunrise / Sunset Times: 7:13 AM / 4:50 PM
Why Visit: January is one of the quietest times to visit Yosemite National Park. Portions of the park will be closed, and you’ll need to consider driving in the winter conditions, but if you make it, you’ll find beautiful winter landscapes in solitude.
Best For / Top Activities: Snowshoeing, Cross Country Skiing, Ice Skating, Tours, Photography, Scenic Drives
Pro Tip: Certain roads in the park are closed or require tire chains. Be prepared! Since we’re from the desert, figuring out how to put on tire chains and drive in snowy and icy conditions was nerve-wracking.
See Related – 15 Breathtaking Things to Do in Yosemite National Park
Logan’s Pass Visitor Center, Browning, MT 59417, map
Average Temperatures: 48°F / 28°F
Why Skip It: The roads are closed, and much of the park is inaccessible, not making it worth the visit.
If you’re a national park lover like us and have done many of the above, here are some more ideas for National Parks to visit in January. While January may not be the ideal time of the year to visit these parks, it’s not the worst.
How you will pack depends on which park you visit and the activities you plan, but here is a general guide on items we always try to pack.
Want to know what to pack and wear to the airport? These are our ideal airport outfits and carry-on essentials.
National Parks in Florida and the Southwest are typically going to be warmer.
We just made a list of this! Go check it out here.
Highs of 54 and lows of 30 make it a chilly time to explore. As long as you are wearing the appropriate gear, you can still explore. If you plan on hiking the narrows, you will need a dry suit.
Yellowstone is covered with snow in January, and all roads except the north entrance are closed. To access the park from West Yellowstone or the south entrance, you must go by snow coach tours, snowmobile tours, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing.
The Great Smoky Mountains get 12.1 million visits throughout the year.
The weather is snowy and cold in Yosemite in January. Plus, portions of the park are closed or require snow chains to access.
Yes, although it’s quite cold! The highs are usually around 44 degrees Fahrenheit, and the lows are around 18.
That’s another hard question! We love the southwest landscape so parks like Death Valley and Arches are beautiful. Acadia National Park is also stunning and Yosemite always holds a special place in our hearts.
Here are the 15 least visited National Parks you should explore.
Yes, it is open year-round but in the winter, the visitor center has reduced hours. Just be sure to check current conditions since snow is common in the area.
Can you think of others that belong on this list of best national parks to visit in January? Which ones are we missing?
“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.
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