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 has over 2,000 natural stone arches and numerous trails to explore. And the best part? That crisp winter air and the quiet atmosphere truly make it feel like you’ve got the whole place to yourself.

Arches National Park in December

We live only a few hours away from Arches so we’ve had the opportunity to visit many times. The tips we share are based on our experiences visiting the area throughout the years, and specifically for the month of December.

The biggest tip we can give for visiting Arches in December is to plan for the cold temperatures and unpredictable weather that could include snow! Use our Arches National Park Packing List to make sure you have the right clothing and gear for visiting in the winter. Grab your free printable packing checklist by clicking the image below!

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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!

empty parking lot at Arches in December
Empty parking lot at Arches in December

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.

Arches National Park is open 24/7. You don’t need a Timed Entry Ticket for Arches in December.

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!

Winter clothing at Arches in December
Winter clothing at Arches in December

Arches Weather in December

The Arches National Park weather 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 park weather conditions on the NPS website.

Dress in layers and pack winter clothing when visiting Arches in the winter:

winter hiking gear

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

Here’s a list of Arches National Park winter activities to explore this stunning park in December!

There are fun way to get the family excited before, during and after the trip with National Park activities:

All ages will enjoy collecting stamps in their National Park Passport book! Passport booklets and stamp sets are “usually” available at the park visitor centers, but we recommend you get the passport book before the trip, just in case!! We’ve seen sad kiddos when a visitor center is out of passport books. Rangers can stamp a piece of paper, but it’s not just the same experience!

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. 

There are no Arches Ranger-led hikes or campfire talks in the winter at Arches.

If you’re visiting Arches National Park with kids, be sure to grab the Junior Ranger booklet so they can earn their Junior Ranger Badge!

Arches National Park scenic drive by Photo Jeepers
Arches National Park scenic drive

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. In December the pullouts and parking lots could be snowy and icy, especially in shaded areas.

We recommend the Arches GuideAlong App to hear fun behind-the scenes stories and local tips that play automatically as you drive, based on your GPS location.

hiking-arches-national-park-in-the-snow-960x576 (1)
Hiking at Arches in December

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!

Arches National Park winter hikes 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.

Turret Arch with snow
Turret Arch with snow

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 also 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.

  • Sunrise at Arches National Park: We enjoy taking sunrise photos at La Sal Overlook, Courthouse Towers, and the Windows area. If you don’t want your photos to have people climbing on the rocks, you’ll also want to photograph Balanced Rock, Turret Arch or the Windows in the morning.
  • Sunset at Arches National Park is awesome. You’ll find many locations it will be hard to get photos without people! This is especially true at Delicate Arch, Balanced Rock and The Windows. Delicate Arch will be crowded so pack your patience. And don’t forget a headlamp for the hike back to your car!

You will definitely want a fleece jacket, 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 our 3 day Arches and Canyonlands itinerary and photography guide to capitalize on all the best places and times to take pictures in the park!

Stargazing at Arches National Park
Stargazing at Arches National Park

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 National Park Tours in December

In December you can enjoy a few Arches National Park tours to learn more about the area and its history. Guided tours include hiking, scenic drive, rock climbing, off road driving, and photography to name a few.

RV camping at Arches National Park
RV at Arches National Park

Arches Camping in December

In December you won’t need a reservation for Arches National Park camping at Devil’s Garden Campground. Between November 1 and February 28, all camping sites at Arches are first-come, first served.

The one campground at Arches National Park with 51 total camp sites, each one accommodating ten people. Facilities include: drinking water, picnic tables, grills and both pit-style and flush toilets.

You’ll also find RV Parks near Arches National Park for camping in case you can’t get a spot in the park.

Arches Canyonlands guides and maps

BUY AT AMAZON: Arches and Canyonlands Guides and Maps

Things To Do Near Arches National Park in December

You’ll find a ton of other places to visit in Utah that are near Arches National Park to add to your itinerary:

Lodging Near Arches National Park in December

There are no lodges inside Arches National Park so most people stay in the nearby town of Moab. There are all types of lodging options in and near Moab from budget-friendly hotels to higher-prices resorts.

Arches National Park Itinerary

We’ve created some done-for-you itineraries for visiting Arches depending on the time you have to spend at the park:

Arches National Park Travel Bundle

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