Canyonlands National Park in December is a fun time to visit, even if there’s snow!
Use these tips and our Canyonlands National Park guide to help you plan a December vacation.
We enjoy the winter months because it’s nice to explore the park without the daytime heat you find in the summer.
Keep reading so you know what to expect at Canyonlands in December and how to prepare for your trip.
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WHAT TO PACK FOR A NATIONAL PARK TRIP IN THE WINTER
- US National Parks Pass – You can order passes online or get them at any of these Federal Recreation Areas. BUY THE PASS AT REI and they will donate 10% of sales to the National Park Foundation.
- Waterproof hiking boots or shoes
- Insulated boots
- Heavy wool socks – we LOVE Darn Tough Socks!
- Walking stick or trekking poles
- Wicking and quick-drying base layers
- Fleece jacket
- Wool, down or heavy-weight insulated jacket
- Waterproof rain jacket
- Insulating hat
- Insulating winter gloves
- Fleece neck gaiter or buff
- WATER – water bottles or hydration backpack
- FOOD – healthy snacks
- Flashlight or headlamp
- National Park maps
- Lip protection with sunscreen
- Polarized sunglasses
- Hand lotion
- Toilet paper (carry out in a bag – do not bury)
- Hand sanitizer
- First aid kit
- Bags to pack out trash
- Cell phone
- Portable charger
- Guide books
- Camera Gear Checklist – FREE DOWNLOAD!
CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK IN DECEMBER
Visiting Utah National Parks in the winter is quite different from the summer months, especially at Canyonlands.
There are many things to do at Canyonlands National Park.
Here’s what you can expect at Canyonlands in December and how to prepare for the trip.
The weather at Canyonlands National Park in December is cold with highs around 45 and lows around 23 degrees Farenheit.
Keep in mind the weather can be unpredictable if a storm rolls through with rain or snow.
Check the NPS website for current weather.
HIKING IN DECEMBER
Canyonlands hikes are nice in December when the sun is out because it’s not too hot.
Remember that even though the temperatures are cold, it’s still important to carry water and stay hydrated.
When the trails become icy, you may need hiking traction devices for your shoes.
PHOTOGRAPHY IN DECEMBER
Winter photography is amazing when visiting Canyonlands National Park.
CHECK OUT our Arches and Canyonlands photography guide to capitalize on all the best places and times to take pictures in the park!
Mesa Arch at sunrise is the most popular photo spot in Canyonlands. Even in December, you may not have this location to yourself so be patient.
PHOTO TIP: The glow on the bottom side of Mesa Arch lasts a long time. We like to wait for all the sunrise photographers to get their shots and leave, then we usually have the place to ourselves!
The views along the Island in the Sky scenic drive are good photo spots of the carved canyons below.
STARGAZING IN DECEMBER
You’ve never seen a starry sky like the one you’ll experience at Canyonlands!
The park slogan “Half the Park is After Dark” says it all.
Canyonlands National Park is internationally recognized as one of the best places for stargazing because of its remote location, accessibility, altitude and clear skies.
FAQ’S FOR VISITING IN DECEMBER
Is Canyonlands National Park Open in December?
Canyonlands National Park is open 24/7. Visit the NPS site to get the updated operating hours.
The Island in the Sky Visitor Center closes two days of the week during the winter. Water is only available at the Visitor Center. Toilets can be found here and at various overlooks.
During the winter, the Needles Visitor Center is closed, but there is a pay phone and there are rangers on duty. Water is only available at the Visitor Center. There are toilets here, at the campground and the Elephant Hill trailhead.
Is December a Good Time to Visit Canyonlands National Park?
If you’re looking for the best time to visit Canyonlands National Park, consider December because you’ll avoid the crowds and heat of summer.
Due to the remote location of Canyonlands, always be prepared with water, food and proper clothing so you can be self-reliant.
In December after a snow storm, paved roads may close temporarily so crews can plow. Unpaved backcountry roads may be impassible for longer periods of time so check road conditions before you head out!
What Park Activities Can You Do December?
A good way to get to know more about Canyonlands is to participate in ranger-led programs.
You can watch the park orientation film at the Island in the Sky Visitor Center – check the website for operating hours.
Kids can earn a Junior Ranger badge (Junior Ranger booklet). Get more details at the visitor center.
WHERE TO STAY NEAR CANYONLANDS
There are no lodging facilities in the park, but there are campgrounds.
Here are 4 places we recommend:
- Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Moab – we enjoyed our stay and highly recommend this hotel due to its location close to Canyonlands.
- 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!
- Townhomes south of town – we really like the townhomes in Spanish Valley with kitchen, washer and dryer in the unit and a swimming pool/hot tub (just a 5 minute drive south of Moab).
- Rent an RV – have it dropped off at your vacation destination!
Where to Stay Near Canyonlands Needles
There are no lodging facilities in the park, but there is one campground.
You can visit Needles and stay in Moab, and most people do that.
The town of Monticello is a bit closer to Needles, but the lodging, food and shopping options aren’t as good. It’s a much smaller town than Moab.