10 Best National Parks to Visit in January + 1 to Skip » Local Adventurer

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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.

About the National Park by month Series

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

Is January a Good Time to Visit National Parks?

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.

9 Best National Parks to Visit in January

To Escape the Cold

1. Biscayne National Park, Florida

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

Don’t Miss:

  • To Do – Boca Chita Key, Fowey Rocks Lighthouse, Snorkeling, Jones Lagoon
  • Wildlife – Sea Turtles, Manatees, Spiny Lobster, Snapper, Grouper
  • How many days do you need? 2-3

Pro Tip: 90% of visitors enter the park via boat, so plan accordingly!

See Related – 7 Remarkable Things to Do in Key West Florida

Biscayne National Parks in FloridaPin

2. Dry Tortugas National Park, 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

Don’t Miss:

  • To Do – Bush Key, Fort Jefferson, Snorkel, Garden Key, Kayak Tour
  • Wildlife – Nurse Sharks, Reef Fish, Sea Turtles, ~300 Species of Birds
  • How many days do you need? 1-3

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

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3. Everglades National Park, 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

Don’t Miss:

  • To Do – Shark Valley, Anhinga Trail, Eco Pond, Snake Bight, Nine Mile Pond
  • Wildlife – Alligators, Raccoons, Opossums, Bobcats, Gray Fox, Leopard Frogs, Roseate Spoonbill, Manatee
  • How many days do you need? 2-3

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

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4. Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii

20.7150988,-156.2519841, map

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

Don’t Miss:

  • To Do – Haleakala Crater, Sliding Sands Trail, Waimoku Falls, Summit District, Kipakulu District
  • Wildlife – Hawaiian Goose, Hawaiian Petrel, I’iwi, Amakihi
  • How many days do you need? 1-3

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

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For the Cooler Temps

5. Death Valley National Park, California

36.4799715,-118.1707461, map

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

Don’t Miss:

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

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death ValleyPin

6. Joshua Tree National Park, California

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

Don’t Miss:

  • To Do – Arch Rock, Cholla Cactus Garden, Halls of Horror, Skull Rock
  • Wildlife – Bobcat, Mountain Lion, Coyote, Gray Fox, Desert Kit Fox, Black Bear, Bighorn Sheep, Desert Cottontail
  • How many days do you need? 1 or 2-3 if you climb

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

Belle Campground Joshua Tree + best national parks to visit in januaryPin

7. Saguaro National Park, Arizona

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

Don’t Miss:

  • To Do – Valley View Overlook Trail, Cactus Forest Drive, Bajada Loop Drive, Signal Hill Trail, Desert Museum
  • Wildlife – Bats, Bobcats, Javelina, Mountain Lions, Gray Fox, Coyotes, Ringtail
  • How many days do you need? 1-3

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

Saguaro Cactus in Sunset + 11 Beautiful Things to Do in Saguaro National Park ArizonaPin
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For Winter Activities

8. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

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

Don’t Miss:

  • To Do – Mormon Row, Wildlife Tour, National Elk Refuge Sleigh Rides
  • Wildlife – Bison, Pronghorn, Elk, Moose, Grizzly Bears, Black Bears
  • How many days do you need? 1-3

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

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9. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

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

Don’t Miss:

  • To Do – Trail Ridge Road, Sprague Lake, Bear Lake Road, Alpine Ridge Trail, Emerald Lakes, Alberta Falls
  • Wildlife – Elk, Moose, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Lions, Deer, Bears, Bobcats
  • How many days do you need? 2-4

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

rocky mountain national park winter + best national parks to visit in januaryPin

10. Yosemite National Park, California

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

Don’t Miss:

  • To Do – Taft Point, Glacier Point, Half Dome, Tunnel View
  • Wildlife – Bears, Mule Deer, Big Horn Sheep, Great Gray Owl, Bighorn Sheep, Bobcats, Porcupines, Red Foxes
  • How many days do you need? 2-4

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

17 Breathtaking Things to Do in YosemitePin

Plus One National Park in January to Skip

11. Glacier National Park, Montana

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.

Map of the Best National Parks to Visit in January

Want to See More NATIONAL Parks to Visit in January?

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.

  • Acadia National Park, Maine – winter hiking, snowshoeing
  • Arches National Park, Utah
  • Big Bend National Park, Texas
  • Canyonlands National Park, Utah (post coming soon!)
  • Capitol Reef National Park, Utah (post coming soon!)
  • Channel Islands National Park, California
  • Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
  • Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
  • Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
  • Great Basin National Park, Nevada
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado – heavier and longer-lasting snow
  • Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
  • Pinnacles National Park, California
  • Redwood National Park, California
  • Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, California
  • Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
  • White Sands National Park, New Mexico
  • Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin Islands
  • Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
  • Zion National Park, Utah

Tips for Visiting the Best National Parks in January

  • Explore the parks responsibly using Leave no Trace principles. Stay on established trails, carry out anything you carry in, etc.
  • Pick up the National Park Annual Pass if you plan on visiting multiple parks within the year. It saves you a lot of money.
  • Want to see snow conditions? Climate change and droughts will make timing more unpredictable. We typically go onto the geotag on Instagram or Tiktok and scroll through all the recent posts to see current conditions. Keep in mind that people post older content, so I like to look at the grid or ones that non-influencers are posting. You can also leave a comment and ask when they went.
  • It’s always a good idea to pack layers wherever you go. Some parks are warm during the day and cool at night. Pay attention to the elevation change too! Some parks will be warm on the valley floor and cold at higher elevations.
  • You may need a reservation. See national parks that now require reservations here.
  • Always check the park’s site and Visitors Center for the most up-to-date information on closures.
  • Remember that wildlife is wild. Be familiar with how to interact with animals and how much space you should have between you and them.
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What to Pack

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.

FAQs

What national park is warm in the winter?

National Parks in Florida and the Southwest are typically going to be warmer.

What national park is best to visit in January?

We just made a list of this! Go check it out here.

Is January a good time to visit zion national park? Is it too cold to go to zion in January?

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.

Is Yellowstone open in January?

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.

What is the number 1 visited national park?

The Great Smoky Mountains get 12.1 million visits throughout the year.

What is Yosemite like in January?

The weather is snowy and cold in Yosemite in January. Plus, portions of the park are closed or require snow chains to access.

Can you visit Grand Canyon in January?

Yes, although it’s quite cold! The highs are usually around 44 degrees Fahrenheit, and the lows are around 18.

What is considered the most beautiful national park?

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.

What is the most unpopular national park?

Here are the 15 least visited National Parks you should explore.

Can you visit bryce canyon in January?

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?

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“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust

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Esther + Jacob

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.

Follow along on Instagram (E + J), YouTube, TikTok, and Pinterest.

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