What to Expect at Capitol Reef National Park in December

If you’re thinking about a trip to Capitol Reef National Park in December, there are some things you need to know.

Use this Capitol Reef National Park guide to plan a December trip: what to pack, where to stay, things to do, and more!

tips for visiting capitol reef in december

Capitol Reef an amazing place to explore and photograph the colorful cliffs, canyons, domes and bridges you’ll see here.

But it’s important to know the services available, weather, and road conditions to expect when visiting in December.

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A Photo Tour of Capitol Reef National Park

Take a visual tour through Capitol Reef National Park to see the stunning landscape and wildlife you’ll find in the park!

Visiting Capitol Reef in December

There are fun outdoor adventures and things to do in Capitol Reef National Park any time of year, but December is one of our favorite times to visit.

Yes, December is cold, so if you’re wondering what it’s like to visit at other times of the year, check out this resource of the best time to visit Capitol Reef National Park!

Here’s what you can expect when you take a trip in December:

December Weather at Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef National Park weather in December can be unpredictable with rain or snow. Temperatures in December: highs 40 / lows 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

During the winter it is especially important to dress in layers. We recommend an insulated jacketfleece jacketwarm hat and gloves. Here’s the full list of the outdoor winter clothing we use!

You’ll want to stay informed on the specific weather conditions and forecasts on the NPS website for the areas of the park you will visit.

Services in December at Capitol Reef

The park and Capitol Reef campgrounds are open in December. The visitor center is open daily, except for Christmas Day. Hours is the winter are usually 9am to 4pm.

The Gifford House Store and Museum is closed in the winter.

Ranger-led programs are a great way to learn about Capitol Reef. The programs available in the winter are geology talks and the Junior Ranger Program for kids!

Things to Do at Capitol Reef National Park in December

Check out all the fun things to do in Capitol Reef National Park in December. Here are some tips to keep in mind when visiting in December:

  • Check road and weather conditions so you’re prepared to enjoy the outdoors.
  • Be flexible with your schedule, especially in the winter as conditions may close parts of the park.

Capitol Reef National Park sign with snow

Capitol Reef Visitor Center in December

Capitol Reef is open all day, every day. The visitor center is open daily, but will be closed in December on Christmas Day. Hours in the winter vary so call 435-425-3791 and follow the prompts for current visitor center information.

Stop by the visitor center for current information about road conditions. camping, ranger-led programs and to pick up a copy of the Capitol Reef Park Map.

Capitol Reef Fruita Area in December

The Fruita area includes the Gifford Homestead, blacksmith shop, barn and orchards.

The one drawback about visiting Capitol Reef in December is that the Gifford house is closed! At other times of the year you’ll find unique handmade items and locally baked fruit pies and homemade ice cream!

One of the favorite activities at Capitol Reef is picking fruit from the orchard. This activity isn’t available in December either. Here’s a Capitol Reef harvesting schedule if you want to arrange your vacation around those dates.

Cathedral Valley in the snow

Scenic Drives at Capitol Reef in December

In December the Capitol Reef scenic drive is a must-do activity to see and photograph the cliffs, canyons, domes and bridges!

If you’re up for adventure, drive the Cathedral Valley District of Capitol Reef. It’s a remote, rugged region that requires vehicles with high ground clearance. In December you may need four-wheel drive depending on road and weather conditions.

If it rains or snows, the roads can be muddy, washed out, and impassable to the best high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicle, so check at the visitor center before heading out!!

The Waterpocket District in the southern section of Capitol Reef is fairly remote and rugged, but oh so beautiful! Most passenger cars, pickups, and vans can usually negotiate the roads without difficulty.

BUT again any rain or snow can leave roads slick, muddy, washed out, and impassable to the best high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicle, so check at the visitor center before taking the drive.

Eph Hanks tower at sunset at Capitol Reef

Photography in December at Capitol Reef

Photographing the amazing landscape at Capitol Reef is one of our favorite things to do. In December, we recommend these places for amazing Capitol Reef National Park photography:

  • Sunrise photography: we’ve had good success at Panorama Point and Sunset Point.
  • Sunset photography: we like are Panorama Point, Sunset Point and along the scenic drive to capture the reflected light on the canyon walls.

Grab our Capitol Reef Photography Guide that will tell you when and where to get the best sunrise, morning, sunset and nighttime pictures at the park!

Be sure you have winter photography gear that can handle the cold and wet weather. And YOU as the photographer need to be dressed in winter clothing so you’ll want to get outside to take pictures. We love photographer gloves and rechargeable hand warmers!

Take jaw-dropping photos at Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef Stargazing in December

There is a reason why Capitol Reef is internationally recognized as one of the best places to stargaze. The skies are clear and with the park in a remote location it allows you to get some of the most incredible views of the night sky that you will ever see. 

In December you won’t be able to photograph the milky way, but you can capture amazing starry skies or star trails!

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Hiking at Capitol Reef in December

There are so many fun Capitol Reef hikes to choose from! There are trails for all levels of hiker.

Some of our favorite hiking trails are: Hickman Bridge, Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge Wash.

Remember the park’s elevation is 5500 feet. If you’re coming from a lower elevation, or from sea level, trails that are considered “easy” might be more difficult for you.

When hiking at Capitol Reef in December it is especially important that you take the proper gear, plenty of water and protein snacks.

During the winter you may need hiking traction devices for icy trails. Check with the visitor center for trail conditions before you head out!

Camping in December at Capitol Reef

There are quite a few places to stay near Capitol Reef. The large developed campground in the Fruita area is closed during the winter.

You’ll also find Capitol Reef primitive campgrounds in the remote parts of the park in Cathedral Valley and along the Notom-Bullfrog Road.

SHOP AMAZON: Capitol Reef Travel Guides and Maps:

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Places to Stay Near Capitol Reef

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