Although the shortest month of the year, February makes its presence known with cold temperatures, often dumping snow across extensive sections of the country. As your thoughts turn to spring, we say happy birthday to six national parks in February. Three parks have surpassed the century mark, and another is getting close.
Let’s honor our national parks with February birthdays, starting with the youngest. You may find your spring break destination in the process.
Indiana Dunes National Park
Established February 15, 2019
One of America’s newest national parks, Indiana Dunes National Park, turns five this month. The park, located in northwestern Indiana along the shores of Lake Michigan, features rolling dunes, tranquil forests, boggy wetlands, and sprawling prairies.
Although only 15,000 acres, Indiana Dunes National Park is one of America’s most biologically diverse habitats. Guests can admire over 1,000 vascular native plants, including Pitcher’s thistle, a threatened species. Rangers have identified over 350 species of birds and the endangered Karner blue butterfly.
Visitors can enjoy over 50 miles of trails along the beautiful scenery within various ecosystems. Despite being near urban areas, the park yields spectacular stargazing in the vast dark skies over Lake Michigan. Many guests enjoy fishing, boating, and paddling. Popular winter activities include sledding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and birding.
Gateway Arch National Park
Established February 22, 2018
Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis turns six this year. Unlike many national parks, Gateway Arch focuses more on pivotal people and events in our history rather than on natural beauty.
Guests can admire the 630-foot-tall arch, our nation’s tallest monument. It honors Thomas Jefferson’s vision and the city’s role in America’s westward expansion in the 19th century. Visitors can explore the museum underneath the National Historic Landmark and ride a tram to the top for a spectacular panoramic view.
The park is home to the Old Courthouse, the site of essential trials, where Dred and Harriet Scott filed for their freedom from enslavement, and Virginia Minor fought for women’s voting rights. Guests can cruise on the Mississippi River in a 19th-century replica steamboat for something more adventurous.
Grand Teton National Park
Established February 26, 1929
Located in northwestern Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park turns 95 this February. The park is renowned for its namesake mountains, one of the youngest ranges in the Rockies, and diverse wildlife. Guests can savor mountain views and look for wildlife through rewarding hikes, bicycle rides, and scenic drives.
Park wildlife includes elk, moose, black bears, grizzly bears, mule deer, bison, wolves, and mountain lions. Grand Teton abounds with plants, including ferns, mosses, lichens, and trees. Wildflowers carpet the grounds below the towering peaks from May through September, a breathtaking display.
Acadia National Park
Established: February 26, 1919
Widely considered the crown jewel of America’s east coast parks, Acadia National Park turns 105 this year. Located along the rugged coasts of Maine, fragrant pine forests give way to jagged red rocks standing firm against crashing waves. Guests can savor stunning coastal views with rewarding hikes or by stopping at the overlooks on the park’s scenic driving loop.
The park offers visitors a chance each morning to be the first to witness sunrise in the United States. While watching the waves at high tide is a highlight for many guests, low tide yields tide pooling opportunities. Bar Harbor, a charming town and the park’s gateway, has unique shops and eateries bursting with Maine flavor.
Grand Canyon National Park
Established February 26, 1919
One of America’s most iconic destinations and a natural wonder, Grand Canyon National Park turns 105 this month. The Colorado River has carved a massive canyon nearly beyond comprehension. It spans 277 miles, with its deepest point over 1 mile and its widest section more than 18 miles.
Guests typically explore the park by hiking or scenic driving. Those who want a unique experience can raft the Colorado River or take a mule ride into the canyon. The park harbors exotic wildlife like elk and bighorn sheep for animal lovers.
Denali National Park and Preserve
Established February 26, 1917
Nestled between Anchorage and Fairbanks in south-central Alaska, Denali National Park & Preserve turns 107 this year. The park’s primary attraction is its namesake mountain, North America’s tallest peak. Only 30% of park visitors glimpse Denali as clouds regularly cover the breathtaking mountain.
Many visitors go to Denali National Park and Preserve hoping to see “the big five.” Spotting moose, wolves, grizzly bears, caribou, and Dall sheep in the wild is a thrill, Alaska’s version of a safari. After savoring views of untamed wilderness and exotic wildlife, stop by the dog kennels to meet the park’s working sled dogs.
Celebrate Our National Parks in February
While we are in the midst of winter, celebrate our national parks with February birthdays and plan your next adventure. Each park offers unique experiences, natural beauty, and history, welcoming you with a warm embrace.
Featured image credit: twildlife via Deposit Photos
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