Visiting US National Parks to visit in December is a fun experience.
If you’re looking for US National Park vacation ideas, during December the crowds are fewer, you can enjoy activities with or without snow, and the scenery is breathtaking.
Keep reading for our list of national parks to visit in December and all the things you can do at those parks.
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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!
Best National Parks in December to Visit
Check out our guide for finding the best National Parks to visit by month.
During each season and month of the year, national parks will have different activities and services available.
Arches National Park in December
Arches National Park in the winter is our favorite time to go, especially in December.
While visiting Arches in December you will practically have the park all to yourself!
Arches National Park photography this time of year is perfect. The colors are vibrant and the light has the most amazing glow on the rock formations. It is a must-see sight that you don’t want to miss.
While visiting in December the summer heat is gone, so you are able to go on many of the Arches National Park hiking trails without worrying about sweating to death or getting heat exhaustion.
Although the sun is out much of the day in December, it will get cooler in some places and you might even encounter ice and snow.
Be sure to take your warm winter clothes and dress in layers to plan accordingly. Whenever traveling to Arches in December it is best to check the weather conditions before arriving.
While visiting Arches National Park in December you want to stay there after it gets dark to enjoy the best stargazing ever! You will see for yourself why Arches’ slogan is “half the park is after dark.”
Where to Stay Near Arches:
READ OUR FULL GUIDE: Places to stay near Arches National Park in Moab
- 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 – we really like rentals with a kitchen, washer and dryer and amenities like a swimming pool and hot tub.
Big Bend National Park
If you are looking to travel to a National Park in December that is a bit warmer, then Big Bend National Park is for you. With over 800,000 acres to explore there is something for everyone to look at and enjoy.
In December you will have mild temperatures in the 70s making it a nice escape from the cold.
While visiting there are hikes to do and hot springs to soak in. You can even cross the border into Mexico on the rowboat ferry.
If you love birds, Big Bend is known as a birder’s paradise. Big bend is the home to over 450 species with 56 species being seen all year long. With multiple habitats, you will see bird hotspots throughout the park making it a birdlover’s dream come true.
Where to Stay Near Big Bend:
- Vacation Rentals in Marathon, TX Near Big Bend
- Hotels in Lajitas, TX Near Big Bend
- Tours Near Big Bend
Canyonlands National Park in December
While visiting Arches, be sure to head to Canyonlands National Park next! Just like Arches, there is hardly anyone visiting in December, making it a great time to really see the park and photograph Canyonlands without waiting hours for the perfect shot.
While visiting Canyonlands National Park in December, you can expect temperatures to be between the high 30s low 50s (Fahrenheit). It is important to bundle up, dress in layers, and bring your winter jacket with you!
If you are lucky enough to be visiting when there’s snow on the ground, you’ll enjoy the most incredible views from the overlooks!
In December there are many things to do at Canyonlands National Park, but you will have to be more self-reliant while visiting because many of the visitor centers are closed or have limited hours.
And don’t forget to stop and visit Dead Horse Point State Park that’s just miles from the entrance to Canyonlands!
Everglades National Park
Another one of the best National Parks in December if you are searching for warmer weather is Everglades National Park.
The Everglades is the third-largest National Park in the continental United States. It is over 2400 square miles! Everglades National Park is located in Florida about an hour outside of Miami.
This park is known for its wetlands filled with all kinds of tropical birds, alligators, and tons of different species of fish.
December is the best time to visit so that you don’t encounter the excessive heat, high humidity, and mosquitoes that you experience throughout the rest of the year.
There is so much to do and see while visiting:
- Bird watching
- Boating, Canoeing, Kayaking
- Ranger-led programs – We highly recommend at every park you visit if they are running while you visit! You learn so much and the kids love doing the activities.
- Slough Sogging – Never heard of this before? It is basically off-trail hiking called slogging. It allows you to get a little closer to some different species at the park.
With so many different activities you are guaranteed that everyone will have a great time exploring the outdoors at Everglades National Park.
Where to Stay Near Everglades NP:
Yellowstone National Park in December
Yellowstone in the winter, especially December, is an unforgettable experience.
Although Yellowstone National Park will be a cold, it’s absolutely magical this time of year.
While visiting Yellowstone in December you can ski, snowshoe, snowmobile or take a snowcoach through the park. All road are closed to personal vehicles except the one going from Gardiner to Cooke City from the North to the Northeast entrance.
You’ll enjoy seeing and taking pictures of the snowy landscape and wildlife like bison, swans and fox roaming about the park.
Don’t forget about the truly amazing night sky filled with stars for stargazing.
Use this Yellowstone planning guide to help plan your winter wonderland getaway.
Places to stay in West Yellowstone that we recommend:
- Holiday Inn, West Yellowstone
- ClubHouse Inn, West Yellowstone
- Kelly Inn, West Yellowstone
- → CHECK OUT more West Yellowstone hotels!
Places to stay in Gardiner that we recommend:
- Yellowstone Gateway Inn, Gardiner – full kitchen and comfy bed, one of our favorite places to stay!
- Park Hotel Yellowstone, Gardiner – charming place to stay and loved by guests!
- Absaroka Lodge, Gardiner – beautiful location with river views!
- → CHECK OUT more Gardiner hotels!
Places to stay in Cooke City or Silver Gate that we recommend:
- Sunny Log Home on the Creek, Silver Gate (VRBO) – the most AMAZING location with an awesome fireplace and comfy bed!
- High Country Motel and Cabins – local owners who love what they do, and make you feel so welcome!
- Rent an RV – have it dropped off at your vacation destination!