Every US National Park is ideal for family vacations all year-round. But some are even better in winter, with fewer crowds, quieter trails and amazing snow-covered views. Most parks are open and also following COVID-19 US government guidelines, so don't forget to check for latest updates before planning any travel. That said, here are the best National Parks to visit in February 2021.
Yosemite National Park is home to giant sequoias, breathtaking rock formations, sheer cliffs and El Capitan—the immense wall of silver-gray granite looming like a skyscraper into the dazzling-blue sky, said to be the largest single block of exposed granite in the world. It's an unforgettable sight glistening in the winter sun surrounded by snow-capped peaks and dusted trees. Winter is also the best time to visit Yosemite and beat the crowds. The number of visitors drops dramatically and the average daytime temperatures are in the low 50s with sunny skies that are perfect for hiking and other winter activities. As one of America’s favorite ski areas with stunning viewpoints across 747,956 acres of natural beauty, there is cross-country skiing and snowshoeing to Glacier Point, plus ice skating at Curry Village and snow tubing and skiing at Badger Pass Ski Area—the oldest ski area in California.
Where to stay: The Ahwahnee
Find out more about Yosemite National Park in California
For one of the most peaceful and tranquil winter retreats, the Olympic Peninsula, the most Northwestern Point in the contiguous US, offers a quiet getaway nestled among 500-year old fir and hemlock trees and quietly beautiful scenery. Diversity is the name of the game here, even in the winter. The park features several distinct ecosystems ranging from glaciers and mountains to forests. Hurricane Ridge is a must-visit for snow lovers. Not only is the average snowfall more than 400 inches here, but you can also find winter activities like cross-country and downhill skiing and tubing. Park rangers even lead families on guided snowshoe walks.
Where to stay: Lake Quinault Lodge
Find out more about Olympic National Park in Washington
Located just outside of Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park is one of the best National Parks to visit in the winter. The cars and the tourists empty out and a blissful solemnity takes over. Head out on a sunrise nature safari with a guide, who will help you spot moose and bald eagles, elk and bison. Or learn about winter ecology on a snowshoeing expedition led by a park ranger; two-hour tours are offered on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from late December through mid-March. After you've had your fill of nature, you can head to nearby Jackson Hole for some of the finest downhill skiing in the nation.
Where to stay: Four Seasons Jackson Hole
Find out more about Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming
You've probably seen picturesque photos of visitors paddle boarding over the blue waters of Lake Tahoe that are so clear it practically looks like they're floating. But this destination is just as idyllic in the winter too. Not only is some of the best skiing in the country right nearby, but adventurous activities from ice skating to snowmobiling and UTV tours abound.
Where to stay: Zephyr Cove Resort & Marina
Find out more about Lake Tahoe National Forest in Nevada
The iconic red rock arch formations look even more dramatic in the winter when the mesas are blanketed in snow. Most of the hiking trails, which range from easy strolls to harder treks, remain open all year and are much less crowded in the winter, though precautions like trekking poles are recommended after snowfalls in case of slippery conditions.
Where to stay: Sorrel River Ranch
Find out more about Arches National Park in Utah
Everyone thinks about Yellowstone as a summer vacation spot. But here's the thing: Winter is the best-kept secret in Yellowstone. First of all, you practically have the place to yourself. You can go skiing and snowshoeing through geyser basins and mountain meadows. Adventurers will also love exploring by snowcoach on groomed snowbound roads. There's spectacular wildlife watching, and wolves are easier to spot in the winter. Plus, you'll see elk, bison, deer, eagles, coyotes, and more. From the wildlife to the scenery, this is heaven for photographers. The play of fire and ice — with geysers and hot springs, set against a snowy backdrop — makes the geyser basins magical.
Where to stay: Old Faithful Snow Lodge
Find out more about Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming
Here's another secret, but equally amazing spot: Badlands National Park in South Dakota. In summer, tourists flock to the Badlands, but when the crowds leave it becomes a winter adventure wonderland. For one thing, it's more affordable than high-profile winter destinations like Aspen. It's easy to rent equipment from local outfitters, including snowmobiles for riding across 350 miles of marked trails, snowshoes and fat bikes, which are a great way to explore trails. Also check out the nearby Mount Rushmore (dramatic when it's covered in snow) and Custer State Park, where you can take free guided snowshoeing tours with a ranger.
Where to stay: Hotel Alex Johnson
Find out more about Badlands National Park in South Dakota
Prefer a winter sun vacation with kids right now? Take a look at Florida National Parks open for family fun in February. And don't forget to follow Family Traveller on Instagram and Facebook and share your travel plans - or just say 'hi'.