The 10 Coldest States in the United States

February 8, 2024

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View of ice and snow in Alaska

The United States is renowned for its diverse landscape and climate: from the tropical heat in Florida to the arctic landscape in Alaska. 

The country’s latitude, range of geographic features, and altitude variation are some of the main reasons for the varied climate. In some areas, these factors create tropical temperatures, while in others, they create a wintry landscape.

In this article, we’ll look at which states have the coldest temperatures in the country. We’ve sourced data from the National Centers for Environmental Information to find the average temperatures from 2023 and the state records. 

Continue reading to find out which ten states are ranked the coldest in the US!

1. Alaska

Auke Lake in Juneau, Alaska. Snow covered mountains rise behind the lake.
Auke Lake, Alaska
Average temperature: 28.8°F (-1.7°C)
Coldest temperature ever recorded: -80°F (-62.2°), 1971, Prospect Creek Camp

Alaska, located in northwest North America, is the coldest state in the US. As a non-contiguous state, Alaska experiences much colder temperatures and weather than most of the US. In 2023, Alaska’s average temperature was a chilly 28.4°F (-2.0°C).

The Last Frontier is where the coldest temperature ever recorded in the US was measured. On 27 June 1915, a recording of -80°F (-62.2°C) was taken at Prospect Creek Camp. The area is currently uninhabited, although a settlement of 27,000 people lived there during the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System in the 1970s. 

In the period 1925 to 2000, the mean temperature was 26°F (-3.3°C), which is 2.4°F warmer than the 2023 average. June, July, and August are the warmest months in the state, although May and September often experience good weather, too. Daytime temperatures during the summer typically range from 55° to 70° F (12.7 to 21.1°C). 

The main reason for Alaska’s bitterly cold weather is its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and its mountain ranges. Southcentral Alaska’s climate can be described as subarctic, which is characterized by short, cool summers. Interior Alaska has more extreme weather and a true subarctic climate. The state’s warmest and coldest temperatures have both been recorded in this region. 

2. North Dakota

Island Park in downtown Fargo, North Dakota, covered in snow after a storm
Island Park in Fargo, North Dakota after a snow storm
Average temperature: 42.1°F (5.6°C)
Coldest temperature ever recorded: -60°F (-51.1°C, 1936, Parshall

The midwestern state of North Dakota is the second-coldest in the country and the coldest in the contiguous US. In 2023, the state had an average temperature of 42.1°F (5.6°C). North Dakota has a continental climate characterized by cold winters and warm (sometimes hot) summers.

North Dakota’s position in central North America contributes to its temperature extremes. Each season experiences different upper air patterns that influence and bring various weather conditions. The state is over 1,000 miles (1,609 km) from a large body of water (bar Lake Superior, the largest lake in the US). This causes temperatures and rainfall to vary widely. 

The coldest temperature ever recorded in North Dakota was -60°F (-51.1°C). The freezing temperature was measured on 15 February 1936 in Parshall. Less than five months later, the state’s highest-ever temperature (121°F, 49.4°C) was recorded just 166 miles away in Steele. 

3. Wyoming

Snow covered trees in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, in winter
Average temperature: 42.2°F (5.7°C)
Coldest temperature ever recorded: -66°F (-54.4°C), 1933, Riverside Ranger Stn. Yellowstone NP

In 2023, Wyoming had an average temperature of 42.2°F (5.7°C). The western state has a continental and semi-arid climate. It has greater temperature extremes than many other states in the country, with much drier and windier weather. 

Much of this is due to Wyoming’s high plains and mountains. The state has a mean elevation of  6,700 feet (2,042 m) above sea level, which creates a relatively cool climate. January is typically the coldest month in the state, with an average temperature of 19.8 to 23.8°F (-6.7 to -4.5°C) in the last five years. 

The coldest temperature ever recorded in Wyoming was -66°F (-54.4°C). The reading was taken on 9 February 1933 at Riverside Ranger Station in Yellowstone National Park. 

=4. Minnesota

Ice on the ground and snow falling at Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota
Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, in Winter
Average temperature: 43.9°F (6.6°C)
Coldest temperature ever recorded: -60°F (51.1°C), 1996, Tower 

With an average temperature of 43.9°F (6.6°C) in 2023, Minnesota is the fourth-coldest state in the US. From 1901 to 2000, the state had a mean temperature of 40.1°F (4.5°C), which is 3.8°F less than the 2023 average. 

On 2 February 1996, Minnesota recorded its lowest-ever temperature of -60°F (51.1°C). The temperature was recorded in Tower, a city in northeastern Minnesota on the southern shore of Lake Vermilion. The warmest temperature ever recorded in the state was a sweltering 115°F (46.1°C) in the city of Beardsley in west Minnesota. 

Lake Superior acts as a heat sink, which means it draws heat in the summer and becomes a heat source in the winter. The region nearest the lake is kept cool in the summer and warm in the winter, with a smaller seasonal variation than the rest of the state. 

Snowstorms often occur during early spring, but temperatures begin to rise later in the season. The state’s southern areas get hot and humid during the summer, while the northern areas are warm and less humid. Temperatures in the southern regions reach highs of mid-80s°F (30°C), while the northern regions reach highs of upper 70s°F (25°C). 

=4. Montana

View across a lake in winter at Glacier National Park, Montana
Winter arrives at Glacier National Park, Montana
Average temperature: 43.9°F (6.6°C)
Coldest temperature ever recorded: -70°F (-56.6°C), 1953, Rogers Pass

In 2023, the average temperature in Montana was 43.9°F (6.6°C).

Montana has a varied climate due to the state’s geographic and altitude range. Central and eastern regions of Montana are part of the Northern Great Plains, which have cold winters and warm summers. However, the state’s western region is mountainous, where the summers are cool, and the winters often experience snowfall. Elevations across Montana range from 1,800 to 12,800 feet (549 to 3,901 m), influencing the state’s temperature variation. 

The coldest temperature ever recorded in Montana was -70°F (-56.6°C). The reading was taken on 20 January 1954 in Rogers Pass. The mountain pass is 5,610 feet (1,710 m) above sea level and is found on the Continental Divide. 

6. Idaho

A snow covered peak in the Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho
Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho
Average temperature: 44.0°F (6.7°C)
Coldest temperature ever recorded: -60°F (51.1°C), 1943, Island Park Dam

The sixth-coldest state in the US is Idaho, which had an average temperature of 44.0°F (6.7°C).

Idaho’s coldest temperature ever recorded was -60°F (51.1°C), which was taken on 18 January 1943 at Island Park Dam in the Targhee National Forest. The forest covers 4,688 sq mi (12,140 sq km) in southeastern Idaho, from the Montana, Utah, and Wyoming borders.

The climate in Idaho has seasonal variation, with cold winters and warm summers. Idaho has wide ranges of elevation, which also affects the rainfall in different areas. Lower elevations in southern regions are shielded by the surrounding mountains in the east and west, reducing the rainfall and moisture levels. 

7. Maine

Portland Head Lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, during winter.
Portland Head Lighthouse, Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Average temperature: 44.4°F (6.9°C)
Coldest temperature ever recorded: -50°F (-45.5°C), 2009, Big Black River, nr. Saint Pamphile

The seventh-coldest state in the country is Maine, with an average temperature of 44.4°F (6.9°C). From 1901 to 2000, the state’s mean temperature was 40.1°F (4.5°C), which shows a dramatic increase of 4.3°F compared to the average in 2023. 

Maine’s coldest recorded temperature ever was -50°F (-45.5°C). It occurred on 16 January 2009 at a weather station on the banks of the Big Black River near Saint Pamphile. The river, a tributary of the Saint John River, flows along the Canadian border in western Maine. 

Maine has three climatological divisions. The Coastal Division (the area extending 20 miles/1.6 km has low summer and higher winter temperatures due to its proximity to the ocean. The Southern Interior Division has very warm temperatures during the summer and regular snowfall in the winter. The Northern Interior Division, which has a continental climate, covers approximately 60% of the state. 

8. Vermont

Skiers and snowboarders enjoying the Killington ski resort in Vermont
Killington ski resort, Vermont
Average temperature: 45.8°F (7.7°C)
Coldest temperature ever recorded: -50°F (45.5°C), 1933, Bloomfield

Vermont’s average temperature in 2023 was 45.8°F (7.7°C), which makes it the eight-coldest state in the US. The state has experienced varying temperatures over the past century. Since the beginning of the 20th century, temperatures in Vermont have risen by 3°F. The warmest year on record was 2012, with an average temperature of 45.9°F (7.7°C). However, just two years later, the average temperature was 42°F (5.5°C) and 41.9°F (5.5°C) in 2019. 

The coldest temperature ever recorded in Vermont was -50°F (45.5°C). The reading was taken in Bloomfield, Essex County, on 30 December 1933. After Maine’s -50°F (-45.5°C) in 2009, this is the lowest temperature ever recorded in New England. Just over 20 years before, the state’s warmest temperature ever was recorded in Vernon on July 7, 1912. 

Vermont has a humid continental climate. Rural areas in the north are typically colder on average than southern areas during the winter. The state often experiences harsh winters, with some areas reaching around eight feet (2.4 m) of snow over the season. 

9. Colorado

View from Loveland Pass, Colorado
Loveland Pass, Colorado
Average temperature: 45.9°F (7.7°C)
Coldest temperature ever recorded: -61.0°F (-51.7°C), 1985, Maybell

The average temperature of Colorado in 2023 was 45.9°F (7.7°C).

Colorado’s climate is characterized by its remarkable diversity due to its varying elevations and geographic features. As a landlocked state in the western United States, Colorado experiences a range of climate types, including alpine, semi-arid, and even desert conditions.

Rapid weather changes are common, with sudden temperature swings, thunderstorms, and even blizzards occurring throughout the year.

10. Wisconsin

Cabin covered in snow in Wisconsin during winter.
Snow covered cabin in Wisconsin
Average temperature: 46.3°F (7.9°C)
Coldest temperature ever recorded: -55°F (-48.3), 1996, Couderay

Wisconsin had an average temperature of 46.3°F (7.9°C) in 2023. The state has a continental climate with weather and temperatures varying in each season. Wisconsin’s coldest month is typically January, while the warmest is usually July. 

The coldest temperature ever recorded in Wisconsin was -55°F (-48.3). The temperature was recorded twice; the first recording was taken on 2 February 1996, and the second was taken on 4 February. Both recordings were taken in Couderay, a village on the Couderay River. 

Wisconsin’s mean temperature from 1901 to 2000 was 41.1°F (5°C), which shows an increase of 5.2°F compared to 2023.

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