6 Best National Parks to Visit in January

Crater Lake surrounded by snow-capped peaks and a blue rectangle with the words "6 best national parks to visit in January"

Looking to ring in the new year with an amazing national park trip? If so, you’re in for a treat, because January is a fantastic time to explore the US national parks

We love how in January, even the most popular national parks typically have next to no crowds. And if you’re searching for some winter sunshine, you’re also in luck, as some of them experience their best weather of the year in the winter

Whether you’re looking to hit famous parks that normally require reservations without the crowds, enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, or swim in the tropics, we’ve got you covered with six of the best national parks to visit in January. 

One quick thing before we get into the parks! Have you seen our huge selection of US National Park Tokens? Pair them with one of our Token Holders to document your national park travels or get creative with how you display them!

Best National Parks to Visit in January

Steam rising from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, one of the best national parks to visit in January

1. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

If you’re looking for an escape from the winter frost at home, what better place to visit than Hawaii? Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is not only an incredible national park, but is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, and home to some of the most spectacular geological features and culturally significant land in the world.

In the depths of the park, you’ll find Kīlauea and Mauna Loa, which are two of the most active volcanoes in the world. If the volcanic activity is just right, you’ll even get to gaze upon a flowing lake of lava from one of these volcanoes.

You can also hike across the solidified Kīlauea Iki lava lake, through the Thurston Lava Tube, and even see petroglyphs etched into lava rock at Pu’uloa. Best of all, the weather is perfectly mild, sunny, and generally dry, making this one of the best national parks to visit in January!

 An overview of the water and structures at Dry Tortugas, one of the best national parks to visit in January

2. Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park is home to sparkling clear waters, coral reefs, and tons of wildlife. 

Highlights of the park include snorkeling the third largest coral barrier reef in the entire world, exploring historic Fort Jefferson, and enjoying the warm, white sand beaches. Some of the animals you might see snorkeling include sea turtles, sharks, sting rays, and reef fish.

It's one of the best national parks to visit in January because it’s one of the few months when Bush Key is open! Hiking around the uninhabited, undeveloped island of Bush Key is truly wonderful.

Delicate Arch in front of snow-capped mountains in Arches National Park

3. Arches National Park

Every year, over 1.5 million visitors flock to the Arches National Park to marvel at hoodoos, arches, and the beautiful red rock landscape. However, if you visit in January, you’ll practically have the park to yourself. 

Almost all of the hiking trails in Arches National Park remain open in January, so you can do popular hikes like the Delicate Arch Trail and Fiery Furnace without any crowds. 

Due to the park’s location in the high desert, it’s common in January for the entire park to receive a light dusting of snow. The powdery white snow against the red rocks is not only an incredibly beautiful sight to behold, but is also perfect for photography (especially during the golden hour of sunrise or sunset!)!

Crater Lake surrounded by snow and mountains in the winter

4. Crater Lake National Park

With an annual average snowfall of over 40 feet per year (FEET!), Crater Lake National Park is one of the snowiest places in the United States! With all of that snow, it’s no surprise that Crater Lake National Park has some of the best cross-country skiing in the country. 

The fun doesn’t stop at cross-country skiing either. Crater Lake National Park is also an excellent destination for tubing and sledding, and park rangers lead fun, free snowshoe tours through the park on winter weekends. 

You definitely don’t want to miss catching a glimpse of Crater Lake itself in the winter. The impossibly blue alpine lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains is even more stunning than the rest of the year.

If you truly love winter, Crater Lake National Park is one of the best national parks to visit in January.

Steam rising from frozen Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone, one of the best national parks to visit in January

5. Yellowstone National Park

For anyone looking to really embrace winter and travel to one of the most rugged and naturally beautiful places in the US, Yellowstone is one of the best national parks to visit in January. 

With most of the entrances and roads in the park closed (except for the North Entrance in Gardiner, Montana, which connects to Cooke City, the Northeast Entrance), Yellowstone has absolutely no traffic. You’ll feel as if you’re on a winter safari while traveling around the park in a unique snowcoach. 

Don’t forget your cameras and binoculars, because winter wildlife viewing is that much easier when you can spot the animals’ tracks in the snow. There’s nothing quite like seeing herds of fluffy bison or typically reclusive wolves with their winter coats all grown in! 

Cacti and mountains on a cloudy day in ARizona's Saguaro National Park

6. Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park is situated in southern Arizona and is home to a gorgeous desert landscape, and the largest cactus in the United States: the Saguaro. 

Temperatures are perfect this time of year for hiking and exploring the park, making Saguaro National Park one of the best national parks to visit in January. That is, if you like perpetual sunshine and temperatures in the 60s or 70s.

This wonderful national park boasts plenty of invigorating hikes like the Loma Verde Trail, which takes you through stunning desert scenery and forests of Saguaro cacti. We also recommend checking out the Signal Hill Petroglyph Site, which is home to over 200 prehistoric petroglyphs created by the Hohokam people over 800 years ago! 

Definitely keep an eye on the ground and look out for wildlife as you hike in Saguaro National Park, as it’s home to horned lizards, roadrunners, rattlesnakes, and even Gila monsters!

Leave a comment