The Hottest and Coldest National Parks in the United States

The United States is home to fifty-nine national parks. The protected areas cover more than 84 million acres in every state except Delaware, and see nearly 300 million visitors per year. Temperatures in the US vary widely and subsequently temperatures in national parks span the breath from very hot to very cold. Death Valley National Park is not only the hottest national park in the US, but it is also the hottest place in the world while Yellowstone National Park averages the coldest temperatures of any park. 

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley in California boasts being a land of extremes. It is the hottest place on Earth and the driest, lowest place in North America. It received its name from a group of pioneers lost there during the winter of 1849 to 1850. They became known as “The Lost 49ers.” The 140 mile (225 kilometer) long basin is 282 feet (86 meters) below sea level and suffers from regular droughts and incredibly high summer temperatures. The park also features startling contrasts with its looming snow-covered peaks. Oases in the park are home to diverse populations of plant and wildlife.

On July 10, 1913 at Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley the world record highest air temperature ever was recorded. It reached a 134 degrees Fahrenheit (57 degrees Celsius). The highest ground temperature ever reached was also at Furnace Creek Ranch on July 15, 1972 at 201 degrees Fahrenheit (94 degrees Celsius). From May through September the average high temperature is 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius). The heat is caused by the depth and shape of the valley. It is long and narrow, walled by extremely steep mountains. 

Because of the extreme summer heat, Death Valley is considered a winter park, though it is open to visitors all year. By May the basin is too hot for most people. Spring is actually the most popular time to visit due to wildflowers following winter rainfall, but winter provides the most pleasant temperatures.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park in Montana is known mainly for its spectacular collection of geysers, including Old Faithful. It is also the US national park with the lowest average temperatures. It was the first national park ever established and is one of the last remaining intact, natural temperate ecosystems. 

Though Alaska is the home of fifteen national parks, some of which see greater extreme lows, Yellowstone National Park sees colder all around temperatures in winter. In January the average high temperature around Mammoth is 9 degrees Fahrenheit (-13 degrees Celsius). Cold and snow tend to linger in the park until April or May. Springs are typically just an extension of winter with overnight in the park the temperatures dropping to 0 degrees Farhenheit (-17 degrees Celsius). Summers are very short and the fall is very similar to the spring.