Visiting Capitol Reef National Park in December

If you’re thinking about a trip to Capitol Reef National Park in December, you’ll find fun things to see, do, and photograph. Located in the heart of Utah’s red rock country, Capitol Reef is a hidden treasure filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and natural bridges.

Use this Capitol Reef National Park guide to plan a December trip: what to pack, where to stay, things to do, and more! Whether you’re a fan of hiking, camping or just some good old scenic driving, Capitol Reef in the winter has it all!

tips for visiting capitol reef in december

Capitol Reef is an amazing place to explore and photograph the colorful landscape you’ll see here. It also has a rich cultural history and unique geology that appeals to nature lovers, history buffs, and adventure enthusiasts!

Living only a few hours away, we’ve had the opportunity to visit Capitol Reef National Park many times. The tips we share are based on our experiences visiting the area throughout the years, and specifically for a trip in December!

Our number one tip is to make sure you have the right clothing and gear for visiting in December. Grab your free printable Capitol Reef National Park packing list by clicking the image below!

get the free capitol reef national park packing lists
This site contains affiliate links which means WE may receive commissions for purchases made through these links. We only provide links to products we actually use and/or wholeheartedly recommend! As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Read the full Disclosure Policy.

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 plan to visit Capitol Reef National Park in the Winter, specifically 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. When visiting in December we recommend you pack and wear:

You’ll experience a dry desert environment o be sure to also pack and use lip balm and lotion as well!

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 Fees

There are a variety of passes available to visit Capitol Reef. Check the website for the most current fee prices and information.

You won’t need a US National Park pass to drive along Highway 24 or through the Fruita area, but you will need one to access the Scenic Drive just past the Fruita Campground.

Things to Do at Capitol Reef National Park in December

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

Check out all the fun Capitol Reef National Park winter activities you can do in December!

Capitol Reef National Park sign with snow
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.

If you’re visiting Capitol Reef National Park with kids, we recommend your first stop be the Visitor Center! Tell the on-duty ranger what activities you are interested in doing at the park. The rangers can give you tips for the best things to do with kids.

Capitol Reef Ranger-led Programs are a great way to learn about the park. The year-round programs available are Geology talks and the Junior Ranger Program for kids.

Kids, and adults, 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!

Capitol Reef Fruita Area
Capitol Reef Fruita Area in the winter

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
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 Capitol Reef Cathedral Valley loop. 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!!

Book a Cathedral Valley 4×4 tour if you want to see this part of Capitol Reef, but you don’t have the right vehicle.

The Capitol Reef Burr Trail Loop is a fun way to explore the Waterpocket District in the southern section of the park. It’s 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
Eph Hanks tower

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:

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!

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!

hiking Grand Wash at Capitol Reef
Grand Wash Trail at Capitol Reef

Hiking at Capitol Reef in December

There are so many fun Capitol Reef National Park winter 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!

Capitol Reef Tours in December

One fun way to experience the park is booking one of the many Capitol Reef National Park tours like guided hikes, llama and horse rides, photography, and Jeeping!

December is the offseason so tour options could be limited. Be sure to check ahead to find out what tours are available for the dates you’ll be visiting the park.

Camping in December at Capitol Reef

If you’re interested in Capitol Reef National Park winter camping, the Fruita Campground is adjacent to the Fremont River and surrounded by historic structures and orchards. It’s open year-round, and is the only developed campground in the park.

During the winter from November 1 – February 28, all campsites are first come, first served. It has 71 sites, and each site has a picnic table and firepit and/or above ground grill, but no individual water, sewage, or electrical hookups.

There is an RV dump and potable water fill station. Restrooms have running water and flush toilets, but no showers. Accessible sites are located next to the restrooms. You can also check out the RV Parks near Capitol Reef National Park.

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

capitol reef guides and map

Capitol Reef National Park Itineraries

Grab our travel bundle with printable 1, 2 and 3-day itineraries to easily plan your vacation! Simply click the graphic below to get the free itinerary pack! Click on the links below to see detailed itineraries based on the time you have to spend at the park.

Get the Capitol Reef Travel Bundle

Things to Do Near Capitol Reef

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *