Visiting Arches National Park in December

Is a trip to Arches National Park in December a good time to go? We say yes!

Use this Arches National Park travel guide to plan your December vacation: weather, services available, and what to expect when visiting.

Arches National Park in December

We live close enough to the park to travel there at various times throughout year so we have lots of Arches National Park vacation ideas to share!

This guide will tell you all the things to do, what to wear, and where to stay at Arches in December.

Plus, you may find these Arches National Park itineraries helpful:

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A Photo Tour of Arches National Park

Take a visual tour through Arches National Park to see the stunning landscapes you’ll see when you visit!

Visiting Arches National Park 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!

Is December a Good Time to Visit Arches National Park?

We LOVE visiting Arches National Park in the winter without the crowds! But the weather can be unpredictable with snow and cold temperatures so it’s not for everyone.

Check out our guide for finding the best time to visit Arches National Park. Each season and month of the year will have different activities and services available.

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 cold temperatures and the possibility of snow, then give it a try to visit Arches in December!

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.

You won’t experience large snow storms at Arches in December, but even small amounts of snow or ice can make local trails and roads impassable. You can see current Arches National Park weather conditions on the NPS website.

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. We recommend layers: winter coatfleece jacketwinter hat and gloves. Remember that this area of Utah is a dry environment, don’t forget lip balm and lotion!

Does it Snow in December at Arches National Park?

Usually Arches National Park doesn’t see large amounts of snow in December. 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.

Things to Do at Arches National Park in December

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

Arches Visitor Center in December

When visiting Arches National Park you should make the visitor center your first stop! It is open every day in December except for Christmas Day. Take time to talk to the park ranger and tell him things that are of interest to you and get tips and ideas on other things to do. 

NOTE: There are no ranger-led hikes or campfire talks in the winter at Arches.

Arches National Park scenic drive by Photo Jeepers

Arches Scenic Drive in December

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 Arches map with all the points of interest marked. Keep in mind the pullouts and parking lots could be snowy and icy, especially in shaded areas.

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

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Hiking in December at Arches National Park

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!

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 that may require traction devices and trekking poles. It also gets darker earlier at Arches in December, which may limit the time you spend hiking and sightseeing.

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

Photography in December at Arches National Park

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.

You will definitely want photographer gloves and rechargeable hand warmers for those sunrise and sunset photography outings. Don’t forget a headlamp for navigating the dark before sunrise and after sunset!

→ CHECK OUT Arches & Canyonlands Itinerary and Photography Guide

Arches National Park 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.

Arches Canyonlands guides and maps

BUY AT AMAZON: Arches and Canyonlands Guides and Maps

Planning an Arches National Park Vacation:

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 Near Arches – we really like rentals with a kitchen, washer and dryer and amenities like a swimming pool and hot tub.

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