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7 Coldest States in the U.S.
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January 4, 2020
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Travel Trivia Editorial
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The United States is so large that average temperatures can vary quite a bit as you move around. If you've ever traveled north in the winter, you know that it can become almost unbearably cold during the winter in certain states. Bundle up: here are the seven coldest states in the U.S. based on average temperatures all year long.

Vermont

Stowe, Vermont in winter with homes and mountains
Credit: capecodphoto/ iStock

The seventh coldest state is known as an idyllic getaway for Northeasterners looking to escape the sweltering summer in the city. Vermont is also quickly becoming a popular place to relocate. In fact, it was the number one state for people to move to in 2018, according to a study from United Van Lines.

The two main reasons people moved to Vermont were for a job opportunity and to retire. Another reason to move to Vermont, if you like the cold, is that it's the seventh coldest state in the country year-round. In January, which is the coldest month, you can expect temperatures to hover around 10 degrees. The average snowfall is 86 inches, which is far higher than the country's average of 28 inches, according to Weather Atlas. That makes Vermont an ideal place to live if you love snow and snow-based activities like sledding, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing, all in a postcard-like setting.

Montana

Montana barn and mountains in winter
Credit: MH Anderson Photography/ Shutterstock

Montana is known for having bitterly cold winters, including one of the coldest winters on record in 2019, yet it's only the sixth coldest state in the country. During February and March of 2019, Montanans endured temperatures that were almost 30 degrees below normal and had a stretch of 11 days and 24 nights when the temperature never climbed above zero, according to The Washington Post.

So, why isn't Montana higher up on the list of coldest states? Even though the winters are bitterly cold, it can get quite warm during the summer months, reaching temperatures as hot as 88 degrees in the summer, according to Weather Atlas. In exchange for those weather extremes, Montanans enjoy wide open spaces, beautiful landscapes, and national parks.

Wyoming

Aerial view of Wyoming covered in snow
Credit: Chase Dekker/ Shutterstock

Wyoming is the fifth coldest state thanks in part to its interesting landscape. It's a landlocked state that's covered largely by the Rocky Mountains. The mountain range takes up about two-thirds of the state. The remaining one-third of the state is the Prairie Highlands, which is essentially plains at an elevated level.

The unique terrain of Wyoming gives it an unusual climate that varies throughout the state, depending on the terrain. In general, the winters throughout Wyoming are cold and snowy, with lows falling well below zero degrees. In the summer, though, you can experience some heat and see temperatures as high as 95 degrees in the lowlands, according to Weather Atlas.

Minnesota

Horseshoe bay island in snow
Credit: Jordan Schopper/ iStock

The fourth coldest state is the northern state of Minnesota. Most of Minnesota is prone to cold and icy winters, thanks, in part, to the state's proximity to the freezing waters of Lake Superior. During the winter months, lows in the northern parts of Minnesota can get down to bone-chilling temperatures, as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit. During the summer, highs can get up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. These extremes keep Minnesota sitting solidly as the fourth coldest state rather than the first or second on the list.

According to World Atlas, the lowest temperature ever recorded in Minnesota was -60 degrees Fahrenheit, back in 1996. Along with sub-zero temperatures, Minnesota winters are windy, snowy, and dark.

Maine

Portland Maine lighthouse in winter
Credit: JKom/ Shutterstock

While Maine enjoys comfortable summers, with temperatures hovering around the 70-degree mark during the day, the winters are downright brutal, which makes Maine the third coldest state overall. Temperatures are usually somewhere between 0 and 32 degrees, and the sun can disappear for days at a time, according to World Atlas. In January, the sun only appears for 15 days out of the month. Depending on where you are in the state, you could get up to 75 inches of snow during the winter. A strong storm could dump as much as 10 inches in just one day.

The summer months are popular for tourists, especially because the climate is relatively temperate. Highs rarely get above the 80-degree mark and the coastline is breathtaking, making Maine a great vacation spot in June, July, and August.

North Dakota

North Dakota badlands in winter
Credit: Christopher Cagney/ iStock

The second coldest state, North Dakota, is 1,000 miles away from the nearest large body of water. This, combined with the geographic complexity of the state, makes North Dakota a place of extreme temperatures. In the winter, you can experience lows as cold as -4 degrees Fahrenheit. These low temperatures are frequently accompanied by blizzards and whiteout conditions, making winters in North Dakota dangerous and dark.

In the summer, North Dakota can get hot. Average highs can get up to the 80s and you might even get a day or two at or above 100 degrees, according to World Atlas. If you want to visit North Dakota when it's pleasant outside, make sure to go during the summer. By October, the temperatures will already be falling towards freezing.

Alaska

Alaska river and mountains in winter
Credit: Troutnut/ iStock

While other states have unbearably cold winters, Alaska is still the coldest state in the country. As the largest state, Alaska has a range of climates. Unsurprisingly, the extreme northern parts of the state are the coldest, as this is the tundra region of Alaska. This part of the state doesn't have a huge population, which is good, considering temperatures in January tend to range from -30 degrees Fahrenheit to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. The bright side, though, is that the extreme dark (this region only gets about only three hours of sunlight in January) and cold temperatures make conditions just right for viewing the northern lights.

If you want to take a trip to Alaska, plan to go during the summer months, when temperatures are a lot more bearable. In July, you can expect temperatures as high as 90 degrees in the interior parts of the state. Head to the coast for more moderate temperatures.