Why You Should Visit Arches National Park in December

Is a trip to Arches National Park in December a good time to go? We say yes! Use our tips below and our Arches National Park travel guide to plan your December vacation.

We live close enough to the park to travel to there at various times throughout year so we have lots of Arches National Park vacation ideas to share! Keep reading to find out all the things to do, what to wear and where to stay at Arches in December.

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ARCHES WINTER PACKING LIST

Plan and pack for your day in Arches knowing there are NO SERVICES in the park.

DOWNLOAD our Arches National Park Packing List!

1. WATER: Arches National Park elevation is 5,653 feet. Humidity is lower at higher altitudes. Sweat evaporates quickly and you may not realize how much water you are losing through exertion. The visitor center at the entrance has a bookstore, restrooms and drinking water. Once you’re inside the park, the only other place to get water is Devil’s Garden.  → Get refillable water bottles or a hydration pack!

2. Healthy snacks: Since there are no services in the park, it’s important to pack the food and snacks you’ll need while exploring Arches.  → Here’s a good list of healthy travel snacks!

3. Hiking boots: We are usually fine wearing our Merrell or Oboz hiking shoes or boots at Arches during the winter, but make sure they are waterproof! → Check out Merrell Moab hiking shoes and Oboz waterproof hiking shoes

4. Wool socks: We LOVE Darn Tough socks. They are worth every penny. Your feet will thank you!

5. Wicking and quick-drying base layers: It’s all about the layers when visiting Arches in the winter. Be sure to have the base layer something that wicks away moisture. 

6. Fleece jacket: If you enjoy outdoor adventure, then you know how awesome a good fleece jacket is. Over the years we’ve come to find the best fleece jackets are made by Columbia, North Face and Patagonia. → Columbia fleece | North Face fleece | Patagonia fleece

7. Insulated jacket: Winter temperatures get cold at Arches in the morning and evening. You will want a good insulated jacket! → Columbia insulated jackets are the best!

8. Insulated headwear: Keeping your head warm is so important in the winter.  We have ditched the hats and use fleece Buffs since they can be worn as a hat, headband or neck gaiter.

9. Winter gloves or winter mitts

10. Lotion and lip balm: Utah is DRY! You will want to keep travel sized lotion and a lip balm in your coat pockets.

11. Rechargeable hand warmers: These hand warmers keep your hands toasty, they are our new favorite winter gear find! 

→ CHECK OUT our Winter Clothing Guide for Outdoor Adventure 

Outdoor Gear we recommend! Travel Gear & Hiking Gear

outdoor gear we use

TOP REASON TO VISIT ARCHES IN DECEMBER

Arches is a small Utah National Park that’s busy during the spring, summer and fall!

In December, it’s a completely different experience – EXCEPT for the week between Christmas and New Years. Many times you have the parking lot to yourself!

BIGGEST DRAWBACK

The Arches National Park hiking trails remain open year-round. But… after a snowfall, popular hike like Delicate Arch and Devil’s Garden trail quickly become slippery from packed snow and ice and may require traction devices and trekking poles. Drifting snow can cover trail markers, making even “easy” trails harder to follow.

If you’re ok with col temperatures and the possibility of snow, then give it a try to visit Arches in Decembre!

ARCHES WEATHER IN DECEMBER

The weather at Arches in December can be unpredictable and cold. The average highs are near 40 degrees with the lows near 20 degrees. Arches National Park is located at 5,653 feet above sea level so it does get cold in the winter, even if the sun is out.

Dress in layers when visiting Arches in the winter. Take warm winter clothing and dress in layers so you’ll actually want to get out of the car when you get to the trailhead. Wear waterproof hiking boots so you don’t get soggy feet!

After a snow storm, the park road might be closed for plowing for a few hours. Keep in mind that the roads, parking lots, and pullouts in the park can still be icy, especially in shaded areas.

You can see current weather conditions at Arches on the NPS website and updated photographs of trail conditions at the Arches visitor center. 

Take a look at our guide of the best time to visit Arches National Park to see what’s it like to visit the park at other times of the year!

Things to Do at Arches National Park in December

There are so many things to do at Arches National Park in December like:

Scenic Drive

The Arches National Park scenic drive will be a good activity to do if it’s cold and you want to stay warm. It’s 43 miles including the two spur roads and takes about 2 to 3 hours. If you plan to get out and take photos or hike a trail, then add more time.

You can see many of the landmarks from the pullouts and parking lot along the scenic drive. Download the map with all the points of interest marked.

You’ll enjoy Arches National Park photography along the scenic drive!

Hiking

Hiking is a popular activity at Arches. December is a terrific time of year to enjoy a full day in the park without sweating and worrying about heat exhaustion! Remember it’s still important to stay hydrated so carry refillable water bottles or a hydration pack!

hiking-arches-national-park-in-the-snow-960x576 (1)

During the winter you enjoy the points of interest and hiking trails that have full sun, like the popular Devil’s Garden Trail.

Arches National Park hiking trails in the winter are refreshing since most of the trails are fully exposed to the sun.

On the flip side, you may encounter ice, snow and mud in shady areas of the park. It gets darker earlier at Arches in December, which may limit the time you spend hiking and sightseeing

Photography

Snow does fall at Arches in the winter, but usually it happens more toward the end of December. If it does snow it usually only stays on the ground for 2 or 3 days.

Arches National Park photography after it snows is the best! We love the contrast of white snow against the red rocks is beautiful.

But be prepared for rain, fog, and clouds which will add unique elements to the landscape.

The best times to photograph the park are sunrise and sunset. The colors are vibrant and the light creates a spectacular glow on the red rocks that cannot be missed. Check out our list of the best Arches National Park photo spots and times of day for each location.

The Arches National Park website has a table with features listed indicating whether morning or late afternoon provides the best light for photography.

Remember that Delicate Arch is a popular place to photograph sunset at Arches National Park. It won’t be as crowded in December as it is during the busy season, but the numbers are drastically reduced so you can actually enjoy your time there.

→ CHECK OUT Arches & Canyonlands Itinerary and Photography Guide

take jaw-dropping photos at Arches & Canyonlands

Stargazing

Arches National Park is internationally recognized as one of the best places for stargazing because of its remote location, accessibility, altitude and clear skies.

The slogan “Half the Park is After Dark” encourages visiting at night to simply Look up!

On a clear night, the sky is literally filled with stars. Areas off the main park road with few obstructions of the sky are best. The farther north you drive, away from the lights of Moab, the darker the sky will be.

Try stargazing at these areas:

  • Balanced Rock Picnic Area
  • The Windows
  • Garden of Eden Viewpoint
  • Panorama Point

The one downfall to visiting Arches in December is the Milky Way will not be visible. It’s best viewed from March to October.

FAQ’S FOR VISITING ACHES IN DECEMBER

Is Arches National Park Open in December?

You bet! The park is open 24/7. Visit the NPS site to get the updated winter hours. The Visitor’s Center is closed December 25.

Does it Snow at Arches in December?

Usually Arches National Park doesn’t see large amounts of snow. But it’s common to get a dusting of snow, or even a few inches of snow, when storms roll through the area.

The snow is a terrific contrast with the red rocks to create wonderful scenes to photograph!

Do the Roads Close at Arches in December?

The park road might be closed after a snowfall for several hours for plowing. For road conditions getting to Arches, check the Utah Road Weather Forecast or call 1-866-511-UTAH (8824).

Park roads, parking lots, and pullouts can still be icy, especially in shaded areas. Check at the visitor center for the latest information on road conditions.

What Winter Activities Can Yo Do at Arches?

BUY AT AMAZON: Arches and Canyonlands Guides and Maps:

Arches Canyonlands guides and maps

Visiting Arches National Park:

Where to Stay Near Arches National Park:

There are no hotels in Arches so most people stay in the nearby town of Moab. There are all types of lodging in and near Moab from budget-friendly hotels to higher-prices resorts. You’ll also find vacation rentals, a hostel, campgrounds and RV parks.

Here are a few of our favorite places to stay near Arches:

  • Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Moab – we enjoyed our stay and highly recommend this hotel due to its location close to Arches.
  • Purple Sage – our all-time favorite place to stay in Moab – walking distance to shopping, full kitchen, and only 8 units so you don’t feel lost in a large hotel. 
  • Red Cliffs Lodge – rooms up to 6 people – located 17 miles from Moab, this lodge is known for its beautiful location, winery and activities like horseback riding, fishing and more!
  • Vacation Rentals – we really like rentals with a kitchen, washer and dryer and amenities like a swimming pool and hot tub.

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