February Road Trip: Where to Travel in February and Winter


February might seem like the worst time of the year to take a road trip.  Winter weather can make things complicated, very quickly.  But, if you’re already getting stir-crazy in your house, and you can’t tolerate the thought of waiting a few more months to hit the road, there are some very good options for a February road trip — including some big benefits for rolling the dice on the weather.

February Road Trip: Yosemite National Park

There’s nothing quite so remarkable as a walk along the valley floor in Yosemite National Park, except for on thing — taking that walk in winter.  A visit to Yosemite National Park in February is a most remarkable thing.  The choking crowds that can make a summertime visit miserable are missing, replaced with the silence of snow. Unless it’s just been hit by a major storm, you can access the valley floor year-round.  Try to stay for at least a couple of days and hope for some fresh snow — then get out and wander around.  The Yosemite Valley chapel looks like a scene from a snow globe.  And those cliffs that surround you might not be visible at all, until you wait a while, until the swirling clouds finally reveal El Capitan and Half Dome.

Start here:

It’s easy to get to Yosemite National Park from the San Francisco area.  Fly into San Francisco, Oakland, or San Jose, then drive over via I-5 and California 120.  On into the park, you may need to use Route 120 or 140, depending on which one is open.

Sacramento or Los Angeles could also provide a good starting point, although your drive will be longer.  If you’re thinking of starting in Reno, keep in mind, you’ll need to cross the Sierra Nevada mountains, which can be very difficult in winter.

Why it’s the best time:

Snowy landscapes and reduced crowds make this a great time to visit.  In-park lodging will be cheaper, as well.  They often offer third-night-free deals, as well as free skiing at Badger Pass (yes, you can ski in Yosemite!)

There’s one more excellent reason to visit Yosemite in February, especially during the last two weeks of the month.  At sunset, you can witness the “firefall” at Horsetail Falls.  It’s the only time of year that the sun hits the waterfall at just the right angle to make it appear as if glowing lava is pouring over the cliff.  Expect a crowd of photographers.

February Road Trip: Joshua Tree & Anzo-Borrego Parks

If you’d prefer some warmer temperatures, there are some great opportunities for hiking in February in the southern California desert.  Joshua Tree National Park offers more than just its namesake trees — the park has a beautiful, rocky landscape that’s fun to hike.  Not far away, you’ll find Anzo-Borrego State Park, a desert playground near San Diego.  Both places get oppressively hot in the summer, which makes February a great time of year to visit.  You’ll also beat the spring break crowds that arrive in March.

Start here:

Los Angeles and San Diego provide great starting points.  For a slightly longer drive, you could start in Las Vegas or Phoenix — check to see if airfare and rental car rates offset the extra gas you may need to buy.

Why it’s the best time:

You can avoid big crowds and high temperatures by visiting in February.  While you could have some cold nights and early mornings, it still beats 100-degree temperatures.

February Road Trip: Wildflowers in Death Valley

Everyone knows that a visit to Death Valley in the summer will be brutally hot.  Winter is, obviously, the best time to visit.  But, few realize that the desert is a great place to see wildflowers bloom, starting in February.  There are some wildflowers every year, but you should check to see if this year is a superbloom year.  If it is, don’t miss it.

A superbloom only occurs about once every 10 years or so.  Heavy rainfall during the previous summer and fall causes seeds to spring to life, covering parts of the valley floor in a carpet of yellow.  February is usually the best month to see a superbloom at lower elevations, then the bloom moves to higher elevations of the park in March and April.

Start here:

Las Vegas is just 150 miles from Death Valley, making it the best starting point for a February road trip.  Airfare and rental cars are usually pretty cheap in Las Vegas, unless there’s a big event in town.  As an alternative, you could drive up from Los Angeles or Phoenix.

Why it’s the best time:

Cooler temperatures make Death Valley very pleasant in February, but by March or April it will start getting much hotter.  And if it happens to be a superbloom year, you’ll need to visit in February or early March to see the best of the blooms.

February Road Trip: Sedona

Just up the road from Phoenix, you’ll find endless hiking and outdoor recreation opportunities in Sedona.  In February, you’ll have to deal with some colder weather and occasional snow, but conditions will be much better than in Flagstaff, just up the road (and 2,500 feet higher in elevation).  You can spend days here, selecting one trail after another, and hiking them at your leisure, then return to town for a place to stay and a good meal.  It’s also a great place to tap into the healing powers of the earth’s vortexes, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Start here:

Phoenix is the obvious starting point for a trip to Sedona.  The town is just 120 miles from PHX.  However, rental cars in Phoenix can be pricey at times.  It may also pay to check the flights and cars in Tucson, Las Vegas, and Albuquerque, and add a road trip onto your adventure.

Why it’s the best time:

Crowds should be moderate this time of year.  If you happen to catch a snowfall, you’ll be treated to a spectacular coating of white on the red rocks.

Start your search for a February getaway right now! Pick a state to begin:

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