Are you thinking of packing your bags for an adventure in Moab in December? Despite the nippy weather, there’s a treasure trove of things to do in Moab in December!
Moab, Utah is located in Southeastern Utah close to Arches, Canyonlands, and Dead Horse Point State Park. These parks are known for their iconic red rock landscapes! There are plenty of fun-filled activities in Moab, Utah in the winter like hiking, biking, photography, and more!
Use this Moab Utah Vacation Guide to plan your December vacation: weather, activities, what to pack, where to stay and more!
With fewer tourists around, you’ll get to enjoy the stunning beauty of Moab in quiet serenity. The town also lights up in the holiday spirit, adding a touch of festive charm to your adventure.
We live only a few hours away from Moab so we’ve had the opportunity to visit many times during all four seasons. The tips we share are based on our experiences visiting the area throughout the years, and specifically during the month of December.
Use our Moab, Utah packing list to make sure you have the right clothing and gear for hiking in the winter! Grab your free printable packing checklist by clicking the image below!
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A Photo Tour of Moab, Utah
Take a visual tour through the Moab, Utah area to see the stunning landscapes you’ll see when you visit!
Moab Weather in December
The Moab winter weather in December means temperatures with highs 45 and lows 22 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you don’t mind colder weather, and a chance of snow, December is a wonderful time to enjoy Moab adventures like hiking, biking and photography. With proper preparation and gear, you can still enjoy Moab winter activities without the crowds during the other seasons, or the heat of summer!
Moab is about 4,000 feet above sea level so it does get cold in the winter, even if the sun is out. Snow is a rare occurrence in Moab, so most of the time you won’t have to worry about trudging through heavy snow or dealing with icy roads.
When it does snow, the roads in Arches National Park and Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point might be closed for plowing for a few hours. Keep in mind that the roads, parking lots, and pullouts in the parks can still be icy, especially in shaded areas.
What to Pack for Moab in December
Dress in layers and pack warm winter clothing so you’ll actually want to get out of the car and enjoy the outdoor winter activities in Moab! Your hiking boots should be warm and waterproof. No one wants soggy feet!
- Base Layers: Wicking base layers will give you the warmth you need to fight off the cold winter weather in Moab. Plus, you can take them off easily whenever you no longer need them.
- Fleece jackets: Fleece jackets serve as a light layer on warmer days in the park but can also add warmth to your layering.
- Insulated Jackets: Insulated jackets provide the perfect warmth whether you are going for a light hike or a more extended excursion.
- Wool socks: Do not wear cotton socks. It is best to wear wool socks for winter. Bring a spare just in case anything unexpected happens.
- Insulated hats: An insulated hat will protect you from losing too much of your body temperature through your head.
- Winter gloves: If it’s extremely cold, use an insulating glove inside a waterproof shell mitt to provide dexterity and warmth.
- Waterproof hiking boots: Hiking boots need to be waterproof. You may also need traction devices for some trails.
It’s important to be prepared with winter hiking gear if you plan to hike trails during the winter season.
Things To Do in Moab in December
There are many Moab winter activities to enjoy during the off-season. Winter is one of our favorite times to visit because there are fewer visitors and the rates to stay are lower than any other time of the year.
Moab National and State Parks in December
The two National Parks and one State Park near Moab are must-see places to visit in Utah! You’ll find fun things to see, do, and photograph at these parks in December.
The parks are open 24/7 all year long, but the Visitor Centers will be closed on Christmas Day. After a snow storm, the park roads might be closed for several hours for plowing.
The scenic drive roads, parking lots, pullouts, and hiking trails can be snow-covered or icy, especially in shaded areas. Check in at the Visitor Centers for the latest information on road and trail conditions.
Arches National Park in December – The hiking trails remain open year-round. But… after a snowfall, popular hikes 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.
Canyonlands National Park in December – Visitor services are reduced in the winter. There is no gas, food, or lodging at Canyonlands Island in the Sky or Needles Canyonlands. Remember that both areas of the park are remote locations so always be prepared with water, food and proper clothing so you can be self-reliant.
Dead Horse Point State Park – Hiking, mountain biking, and landscape photography are amazing things to do in December without the crowds! The views from Dead Horse Point Overlook are unforgettable, especially when the sun sets and lights up the landscape. It’s one of the best sunset spots in Moab!
Check out the Arches & Canyonlands GuideAlong App to hear fun behind-the scenes stories and local tips that play automatically as you drive, based on your GPS location as you drive through each park!
Arches & Canyonlands AUDIO TOUR
“Download the app to your phone – no cell or wifi service needed. Based on your GPS location, the app takes you on a guided tour of the park and points out all the interesting features and stops. It’s like having a park ranger in the car with you.”
Moab Dinosaurs and Petroglyphs in December
The Moab Giants Museum is a MUST for anyone who loves dinosaurs! December is a great time to be outside walking along a trail of life-sized dinosaurs! If you’re visiting Moab with kids, put this activity on your list!!
There are also lots of Dinosaur sites near Moab to see dinosaur tracks. We like Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite. The place is full of real dinosaur footprints–it’s like a walk back in time. Just remember to look, not touch! We’ve got to keep those dinosaur tracks around for future explorers.
You’ll also find a few places to see petroglyphs in Moab. Some are located on a scenic drive just steps from your car while others will require a bit of hiking to see.
Moab Hikes in December
There are amazing Moab winter hikes to explore during the offseason. The Moab area includes hiking trails in two National Parks, one State Park, and on BLM land.
Before heading out for any winter hiking, we recommend you check current trail conditions with the Visitor Center at the National or State Parks, or the Moab BLM office.
Be prepared for trails to be muddy, snowy or icy if a storm rolls through. You may even need traction devices. Your hiking day pack needs to include water, sunscreen and lip balm, even in the winter!
Our favorite winter day hikes in Moab are:
And of course you can’t beat the winter hiking trails in the National and State Parks:
- Arches National Park Winter Hikes
- Canyonlands Needles Hikes
- Dead Horse Point State Park Hiking Trails
Moab Biking in December
Moab in December is like a hidden gem for biking enthusiasts. It’s chilly out there, sure, but that also means fewer crowds and more trails to yourself.
In December you may be the only one out riding the Moab biking trails which is so nice! Just remember, daylight hours are shorter, so plan your rides accordingly.
You can rent bikes in town and even join a Moab bike tour if you aren’t sure what trails to tackle!
Moab Landscape Photography in December
Moab is also a bucket list destination for photographers. Sunrise and sunset are the best times for Moab photography because the light at this time creates a spectacular glow on the red rocks that’s so beautiful!
Be sure you have your winter photography gear and clothing so the cold mornings and evenings are bearable! We definitely recommend packing photographer gloves and having rechargeable hand warmers in your coat pockets!
We’ve created an Arches and Canyonlands Photography Guide detailing the best photo spots in these parks and our favorite 3 day itinerary some of our favorite ‘lesser known’ places to take pictures in Moab!
Moab Stargazing in December
When visiting Moab, you must take one evening to go outside and LOOK UP! In December the Milky Way is no longer visible in the northern hemisphere, but the endless sky of stars is jaw-dropping!
Yes, it will be cold at night, but you really should take a night for stargazing. Leave the city of Moab and just look up to see a sky full of stars!
Arches, Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point are internationally recognized as one of the best places for stargazing because of the remote location, accessibility, altitude and clear skies.
Moab Scenic Drive in December
If you’re looking for beautiful views of the Colorado River, ancient rock petroglyphs, and dinosaur tracks, then drive the Potash-Lower Colorado River Scenic Byway! It’s stunning in the winter with the contrast of white snow against the red rocks!
It’s a 34 mile roundtrip drive along the Colorado River. Plan about 2 hours for the drive and stops to take pictures. We like going in the late afternoon so the canyon walls will glow with that deep orange color and reflect into the Colorado River.
Moab Off-roading in December
If you’re up for an adventure, plan to explore the off-road trails in Moab! Local tour companies offer 4×4 rentals for you to tackle the trails on your own.
If you’re an inexperienced driver, we recommend you book a tour or have a guide ride along with you to navigate and teach. We have used and recommend Outlaw Jeep Tours.
You can also book a guided 4WD tour in Moab where you sit back and let the driver navigate the trails!
Moab Winter Camping
There are a variety of ways to enjoy Moab winter camping: RV Parks and Campgrounds, National Park Campgrounds, State Park Campgrounds, and BLM camping.
Braving the cold to experience the beauty of Moab in a different season can be an incredibly rewarding experience. One of the biggest benefits of winter camping in Moab is the lack of crowds.
During peak season, this small town is bustling with tourists and outdoor enthusiasts, but come wintertime, it’s a completely different story. You’ll have the campsites and trails practically to yourself, allowing for a more intimate and peaceful experience with nature.