Is a trip to Arches National Park in December a good time to go? We say yes!
One of our favorite vacations is going to Arches in the winter.
We visit Arches National Park near Moab, Utah at various times throughout year so we have lots of Arches National Park vacation ideas to share!
Use this guide to help you plan a December vacation to Arches that’s full of outdoor winter adventures.
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WHAT TO PACK FOR A TRIP TO ARCHES IN THE WINTER
Plan and pack for your day in Arches knowing there are NO SERVICES in the park.
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 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 | → Check out Oboz waterproof hiking shoes
4. Wool socks: We LOVE Darn Tough socks. They are worth every penny. Your feet will thank you! → Check out the socks we love!
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. → Check out base layer options
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! → Check out the jackets we wear!
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. → Check out the fleece Buffs we use!
11. Rechargeable hand warmers: These hand warmers keep your hands toasty, they are our new favorite winter gear find! → Rechargeable hand warmers
→ CHECK OUT Winter Clothing Guide for Outdoor Adventure
→ CHECK OUT Winter Packing List for Arches National Park
Where to Stay Near Arches:
There are no hotels in Arches so most people stay in the nearby town of Moab. You’ll find restaurants and places to shop which adds to the appeal to find accommodations in 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
READ OUR FULL GUIDE: Places to stay near Arches National Park in Moab
• Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Moab – we enjoyed our stay and highly recommend this hotel due to its location close to Arches.
• 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!
• Condos south of town – we really like the King size bed in the master, washer and dryer in the unit and a swimming pool/hot tub (just a 5 minute drive south of Moab).
Camping in Arches in the Winter
Between November and February, there are 25 sites at Devils Garden Campground, first-come, first-served. There are restrooms and drinking water at the campground.
TOP REASON TO VISIT ARCHES IN DECEMBER
Arches is a small park and it gets crowded during the peak seasons of spring and fall.
- You wait in line to enter the park, or the park may even close when it’s full.
- The parking lots at the various points of interest are full and you must drive around and around until a space opens up.
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!
NOTE: There are no ranger-led hikes or campfire talks in the winter at Arches.
Most hiking trails at Arches National Park remain open year-round.
Drifting snow can cover trail markers, making even “easy” trails harder to follow.
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.
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.
HIKING IN DECEMBER
Hiking at Arches in December means you can enjoy a full day in the park without sweating and worrying about heat exhaustion.
Remember it’s still important to stay hydrated and wear sunscreen.
During the winter you enjoy the points of interest and hiking trails that have full sun, like the popular Devil’s Garden Trail.
Hiking the many trails at Arches in December is so refreshing. And since most of the trails are fully exposed to the sun, the hiking weather is pleasant.
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.
→ CHECK OUT Devil’s Garden Trail Guide
→ CHECK OUT 10 Amazing Hiking Trails in Arches
PHOTOGRAPHY IN DECEMBER
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.
Winter photography at Arches can vary due to conditions. The contrast of white snow against the red rocks is beautiful. Be prepared for anything!
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.
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 at sunset might be the most famous image to photograph in the 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 National Park Photography Tips
STARGAZING IN DECEMBER
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 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.
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?
- There are no ranger-led hikes or campfire talks in winter.
- You can watch the park orientation film at Arches Visitor Center, which is open seven days a week (closed December 25). Check the website for operating hours.
- Kids can earn a Junior Ranger badge (Junior Ranger booklet). Get more details at the visitor center.
What is the Best Time to Visit Arches National Park?
ALWAYS remember to check the forecast and road conditions because conditions change from day to day, and don’t follow a set pattern.
From our experience, this is what you can expect when visiting in December:
Arches in December – The Visitor’s Center is closed December 25, but the park is open 24/7. The weather and temperatures in December are more moderate than the other winter months. Yes, December is the snowiest month at Arches, but it’s not as cold as January, so even if it snows, you don’t usually get that bitter cold along with it. December has become our favorite month to visit Arches.
RESOURCES TO PLAN A TRIP TO ARCHES
- Arches National Park Travel Guide
- Arches in the Spring
- Arches in the Summer
- Arches in the Fall
- Arches in the Winter
- Arches National Park Hiking Trails
- Arches Packing List
- Where to Stay in Moab Near Arches
More Places to Visit Near Arches
- Canyonlands Island in the Sky
- Canyonlands Needles
- Dead Horse Point State Park
- Moab Adventures: Cool Things to Do