Coldest Places in United States

Lowest Temperatures

The lowest temperature ever recorded in the United States was -80 degrees Fahrenheit (-62 degrees Celsius) on January 23, 1971 at Prospect Creek Camp, located near the Arctic Circle along the Alaska pipeline. This is not much warmer than the -81.4 °F record low for North America that Snag in the Yukon dropped to on February 3, 1947. On that extremely cold February day, Tanacross Alaska reached -75 °F.

The lower 48 states of the US hit their official coldest temperature of -70 °F on January 20, 1954 at Rogers Pass, Montana. The pass sits at 5,470 feet (1,667 metres) elevation in the Rocky Mountains, northwest of Helena.

States in America where temperatures have dropped to -50 °F (-45 °C) or lower at least once
Location °F °C Date
Prospect Creek Camp, Alaska -80 -62.2Jan 23, 1971
Rogers Pass, Montana -70 -56.7Jan 20, 1954
Peter's Sink, Utah -69 -56.1 Feb 1, 1985
Riverside RS, Wyoming -66 -54.4 Feb 9, 1933
Maybell, Colorado -61 -51.7 Feb 1, 1985
Island Park Dam, Idaho -60 -51.1 Jan 18, 1943
Tower, Minnesota -60 -51.1 Feb 2, 1996
Parshall, North Dakota -60 -51.1 Feb 15, 1936
McIntosh, South Dakota -58 -50.0 Feb 17, 1936
Tetonia, Idaho -57 -49.4 Feb 9, 1933
Couderay, Wisconsin -55 -48.3 Feb 4, 1996
Seneca, Oregon -54 -47.8 Feb 10, 1933
Old Forge, New York -52 -46.7 Feb 18, 1979
Vanderbilt, Michigan-51 -46.1Feb 9, 1934
Bloomfield, Vermont -50 -45.6 Dec 30, 1933
Big Black River, Maine -50 -45.6 Jan 16, 2009
Gavilan, New Mexico -50 -45.6 Feb 1, 1951
Mount Washington, New Hampshire -50 -45.6Jan 22, 1885
San Jacinto, Nevada -50 -45.6Jan 8, 1937

Coldest Weather All Year

The coldest climate year-round in the United States is on Alaska's north coast, along the Beaufort Sea. This region has annual temperature averages of around 12 °F (-11 °C).

Outside of Alaska, just four places among 7,200 weather stations average a year-round temperature that's below freezing. The peak of Mount Washington in New Hampshire has the coldest climate over the year.

Many of the twenty coldest places are near the Continental Divide in Colorado or in and around Yellowstone National Park. They all have an annual mean temperature of less than 35 °F (1.7 °C).

Of the four towns that make this list, the coldest is Crested Butte in Colorado, a recreation resort located high in the mountains. Leadville and West Yellowstone are other mountain towns that rank among the nation's coldest spots.

In fact all places but one among the coldest 20 are at high elevations. The outlier is Embarrass, Minnesota, a rural center north of Duluth in St Louis County, near Lake Vermilion. At 1,400 feet (427 m), it's the only site here that's below 6,000 feet (1,829 m).

Places in the lower 48 states with the lowest average annual temperature
Location °F °C
Mt Washington, New Hampshire 27.4 -2.6
Climax Mine, Colorado 30.6 -0.8
Darwin Ranch, Wyoming 31.0 -0.6
Bonham-Wells Reservoir, Colorado 31.4 -0.3
Wolf Creek Ski Area, Colorado 33.2 0.7
Mt Evans Field Station, Colorado 33.4 0.8
Yellowstone Lake, Wyoming 33.4 0.8
Crested Butte, Colorado 33.8 1.0
Electric Lake, Utah 33.8 1.0
Daniel Fish Hatchery, Wyoming 34.0 1.1
Burgess Junction, Wyoming 34.1 1.2
Leadville, Colorado 34.2 1.2
Old Faithful, Wyoming 34.2 1.2
Yellowstone Park South Entrance, Wyoming 34.4 1.3
West Yellowstone, Montana 34.4 1.3
Embarrass, Minnesota 34.5 1.4
Taylor Park Reservoir, Colorado 34.6 1.4
Bondurant, Wyoming 34.7 1.5
Blowhard Mountain, Utah 34.8 1.6
Cooke City-Silver Gate, Montana 34.9 1.6

The mean annual temperatures given here are long-term historical averages, based on weather data collected from 1981 to 2010 for the NOAA's National Climatic Data Center.

Places That Most often Have Freezing Temperatures

The place in the United States that most often drops below freezing is not in the far north, as you'd expect. Instead it's in California, a state known more for warmth than incessant cold.

Bodie lies at 8,369 feet (2,551 metres) elevation near the Nevada border, north of Mono Lake. The former mining town even has more days of frost than anywhere in Alaska. Not surprisingly, people gave up on living in Bodie and it's now a ghost town.

Still, not all places that frequently freeze are remote or abandoned. Several currently inhabited towns include Stanley, Fraser, Wisdom, Leadville, Silverton and Dillon.

Places in the USA outside of Alaska with temperatures of 32 °F or less on 270 or more days a year
Location Freezing Days
Bodie, California 308
Darwin Ranch, Wyoming 298
Stanley, Idaho 292
Fraser, Colorado 288
Fremont Forest, near Fort Rock, Oregon 288
Charleston Reservoir, Nevada 281
Yellowstone Park South Entrance, Wyoming 280
Wisdom, Montana 277
Daniel Fish Hatchery, Wyoming 276
Wise River, Montana 275
Warren, Idaho 275
Dixie, Idaho County, Idaho 274
Leadville, Colorado 273
Climax Mine, Colorado 273
Wild Horse Reservoir, Nevada 272
Silverton, Colorado 271
Dillon, Colorado 271
Antero Reservoir, Colorado 270
State Forest State Park, Colorado 270

Most Days with Coldest Temperature

On any single day, the mountain town of Stanley, Idaho is most often the coldest place in the states outside of Alaska. Stanley is nestled in the midst of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area at 6,260 feet (1,908 metres) elevation.

Top ten spots for the most days from 1995 to 2005 with the lowest temperature in the contiguous US
Location Days
Stanley, Idaho 398
West Yellowstone, Montana 337
Gunnison, Colorado 170
Truckee, California 161
Alamosa, Colorado 142
Saranac Lake, New York 128
Jackson, Wyoming 109
Berlin, New Hampshire 92
Fraser, Colorado 91
Wisdom, Montana 91

Guy King. 2007. The Hottest and Coldest Places in the Conterminous United States. Yearbook of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers. 69: 101-114.

NOAA National Climatic Data Center

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