Visiting US National Parks at Christmas

Are you looking for an extraordinary way to celebrate the holiday season? How about visiting US National Parks at Christmas to enjoy these stunning locations without all the crowds!

Planning a US National Park vacation in the winter is one of our favorite times to visit! Let US national parks be your refuge from all the holiday hustle and bustle.

From the lush vegetation of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to the snow-covered landscape of Yellowstone, there are a variety of options for planning a US National Parks Christmas vacation!

visiting US National Parks at Christmas

There are plenty of activities to do at America’s National Parks at Christmas like hiking, biking, camping, or scenic drives at the warmer winter locations. Or enjoy snow activities like skiing and snowshoeing at National Parks that experience winter snow and cold!

You’ll be sure to find something for everyone to enjoy their Christmas vacation at US National Parks!

Make sure you’re ready for the conditions you’ll experience at Christmas. Use our US National Park Packing List to make sure you have the right clothing and gear for visiting in the winter! Grab your free printable packing checklist by clicking the image below!

National Parks packing list for spring summer fall and winter
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What to Pack for a National Park Christmas Vacation

For many of the US National Parks at Christmas, you’ll need to wear winter clothing so you can brave the cold, snow, ice and wind while enjoying outdoor activities.

winter hiking gear

Visiting US National Parks at Christmas

We love planning winter vacations to US National Parks to avoid the crowds. Yes, there may be unpredictable weather conditions and colder temperatures. But if you have the right clothing and gear to match the weather, then it’s easier to enjoy those outdoor activities!

No matter where you’re traveling, it’s always good to have winter road trip supplies to help with safety, comfort, entertainment and eating while driving to your destination. Check road conditions before driving high elevation roads.

We recommend the Guide Along App to hear fun behind-the scenes stories and local tips that play automatically as you drive around the US National Parks. It’s like having a Ranger in the car with you!

We asked our travel friends to share their tips and experiences for visiting some of the best National Parks at Christmas. Here’s a list of the locations they recommend!

winter clothing
Bundled up at Arches National Park in the winter

Arches and Canyonlands National Parks at Christmas

If you’ve ever been to Arches National Park during the busy season, you know it gets crowded. November through February is the off-season at Arches National Park which makes it the perfect time to plan a trip!

When visiting Canyonlands National Park in December keep in mind that services are reduced so you’ll need to be more self-reliant. You’ll want to check current Canyonlands road conditions before making the long drive only to find out the park is closed.

In the winter, visiting Arches and Canyonlands is a completely different experience. Many times you have the parking lots and trails to yourself! During the week of Christmas, it could be a bit more crowded, but nothing like the busy season!

Enjoy a variety of winter activities at Arches National Park and Canyonlands. The Visitor Centers are open seven days a week, but they will be closed on December 25, Christmas Day.

The hiking trails are open year-round. There could be packed snow and ice on some trails that will require traction devices. Be sure to check with the Rangers on trail conditions for the hikes you want to do.

December weather at Arches and Canyonlands can be unpredictable and cold. The average highs are near 40 degrees with the lows near 20 degrees. Both parks are located above 5600 feet above sea level so it does get cold in the winter, even if the sun is out. If you’re dressed for the elements, you’ll enjoy outdoor activities at Arches and Canyonlands at Christmas! (Recommended by Dave & Jamie, Photo Jeepers)

Arches & Canyonlands Winter Lodging Ideas

Bryce Canyon in the winter with snow
Bryce Canyon in the winter

Bryce Canyon National Park at Christmas

If you’re looking for a place to see amazing landscapes and enjoy winter activities, then a December vacation to Bryce Canyon might be what you’re looking for! The park is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, even on holidays! But the Visitor Center will be closed on December 25, Christmas Day.

Due to the high elevation of Bryce Canyon (near 8,000 feet!), temperatures in December are cold! The average highs around 36 degrees Fahrenheit and the lows around 15 degrees at night.

It will probably snow in December at Bryce Canyon so be prepared with insulated boots and waterproof hiking gear. When a snow storm hits the area, there may be temporary road closures. Road(s) will stay closed until plowing is completed and conditions are safe for visitor traffic.

Bryce Canyon at Christmas is a fun time to enjoy winter activities, capture Bryce Canyon winter photos, and avoid the crowds if you don’t mind cold and snow!

Around Christmastime, you’ll find the programs include the Hoodoo Geology Talk and Snowshoe Hikes. You can get snowshoes at the visitor center if you don’t bring your own.

You can also explore Bryce Canyon on your own by snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Equipment can be rented in Bryce City. If you’re looking for a fun place to enjoy a snowy Christmas, check out Bryce Canyon! (Recommended by Dave & Jamie, Photo Jeepers)

Bryce Canyon Winter Lodging Ideas

Death Valley
Death Valley

Death Valley National Park at Christmas

Christmas is one of the best times to visit Death Valley National Park weather-wise. The park enjoys milder temperatures, averaging around 65 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, ideal for sightseeing. Nights can be chilly, though.

The park sees more crowds from Christmas to New Year’s, but it is still less than the peak spring season.

Christmas time presents an opportunity to explore the park’s iconic attractions without the scorching heat that characterizes the summer months.

Among the top things to do in your Death Valley itinerary during this period should include a visit to Badwater Basin, where you can wander across the vast salt flats and stand at the lowest point in North America.

Enjoy sunrise or sunset at Zabriskie Point, and take in panoramic views from Dante’s View. Don’t miss the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes for photography and the vibrant rock formations of Artist’s Palette. (Recommended by Anu, Destination Checkoff)

Death Valley Lodging & Tours

Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park at Christmas

The Everglades National Park is the perfect destination for an unusual Christmas vacation. Located just over an hour from Miami, the Everglades are easy to access and you can come for just a quick weekend trip.

The temperatures during Christmas time are a bit lower and not as hot as they are usually. There is also a cool breeze on some days which makes hiking and exploring the park a lot more comfortable. 

While you won’t get to enjoy snow of course, you’ll still have plenty of things to see and do. Visiting Everglades National Park is all about outdoor activities and many take place on the water.

Many tourists choose to go on an airboat tour which takes groups of tourists into the mangrove forests. However, the boats can be very loud and disruptive to native wild life. In recent times, visitors have started preferring kayak tours which are a lot quieter and allow you to appreciate the beauty of the local nature in peace. You’ll be able to spot alligators, rare birds and lots of interesting plants.

Keep in mind that these Everglades National Park tours only operate with a local guide since the network of mangroves is vast and it can be easy to get lost as a visitor.

You can also try your hand at camping and explore the Everglades National Park on foot. There are shorter hikes like the Bobcat Boardwalk or longer treks available to choose from. Make sure to bring all the necessary equipment for your camping trip and come prepared. (Recommended by Victoria, Guide Your Travel)

Everglades National Park Travel Tips

Hōlei Sea Arch
Hōlei Sea Arch

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at Christmas

While some visit National Parks at Christmas to enjoy their wintery landscapes, others choose warmer destinations for their lack of snow. Located on the Big Island, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park provides a warm escape in December.

At Christmas, you can expect highs of 71 degrees F and lows of 54 degrees F, ideal for enjoying a hike. Within the park, you can see Kilauea, walk through a lava tube, and drive the Chain of Craters Road to see the Hōlei Sea Arch.

Ideally, you’ll want to explore for more than a day. The dry lava fields, old craters, and hiking trails provide an exciting glimpse into the life of a live volcano. Since Kilauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes, you’ll want to check for park closures before visiting. 

Stop at the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center on your way to or from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Here, you can sample the nuts, watch the production line, and see thousands of Macadamia nut trees. The gift packs of nuts make the best Hawaiian gifts for family and friends. (Recommended by Karen. Forever Karen)

Hawaii Big Island Lodging & Tours

Mt. Rainier in the winter
Mt. Rainier in the winter

Mt. Rainier National Park at Christmas

Visiting Mount Rainier National Park in December, especially at Christmas, is a unique and beautiful gift for the holidays. The park has most likely transformed into a winter wonderland, with serene and snowy landscapes in every direction. On clear days, the views of the mountains against the winter white landscape can be simply breathtaking.

If you enjoy snow activities like snowshoeing, skiing, split-boarding or snowboarding, December is a great time to visit. There are many places for snowshoeing throughout the park, as well as cross-country skiing in the lower elevations.

There isn’t a lift or groomed trails for skiing or snowboarding. Instead, you’ll have to hike up and ski or board down at your own risk.

You’ll find many areas for walks and hikes, but you should bring boots with extremely good traction. Traction devices and ice cleats are inexpensive and well-worth the investment.

Keep in mind that some parts of the park might be inaccessible due to heavy snowfall. Road closures and restricted access to certain areas are common during the winter months, so be sure to check the park’s official website for updated information on road conditions and closures. (Recommended by Tammi, Wander Healthy)

Mt. Rainier National Park Lodging & Tours

Olympic National Park in the winter
Olympic National Park in the winter

Olympic National Park at Christmas

Cold and rainy weather may not sound appealing to most for a holiday adventure, but in Washington it’s pure bliss! There are so many things to do in Olympic National Park during winter, and it is a great time to visit for a lot of reasons.

The crowds are small, almost non-existent. Hiking trails are quiet, and the roads are clear of traffic. Hurricane Ridge, a popular summer hiking spot, trades its flowers for cross-country ski tracks!

Most areas of the park remain open year-round, but ranger-led programs and most facilities shut down in the colder months. If you’re lucky, you’ll get rare snow in the rainforest!

Expect the weather conditions to be wet and rainy. Pack a good pair of waterproof boots, a raincoat, and lots of layers! Don’t forget your camera gear, because December is the beginning of whale watching season. You may be able to spot some offshore from Rialto or Ruby Beach! (Recommended by Emily, TheMandagies)

Olympic National Park Lodging

Redwoods National Park
Redwoods National Park

Redwoods National Park at Christmas

If you’re looking for someplace magical to explore during Christmas, consider a stay in Northern California’s Redwoods National and State Park, where you can walk amongst the tallest living organisms on the planet. 

Winter is a lovely time to visit the system’s four parks, Redwoods National Park and Prairie Creek Redwoods, Jedediah Smith Redwoods, and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Parks.

Because of their location along the coast, this one of the best California National Parks to visit in the winter! The temperature is moderate year round, but the lush landscape looks even more mystical, come winter, thanks to its low-hanging fog and light rays. Plus, you’ll likely get the parks almost totally to yourself over the holidays. 

The best way to explore the parks is on foot—so you can crane your head upwards and gaze at the trees towering over 300 feet overhead! For example, head to the Fern Canyon Trail, which, true to its name, features a luscious canyon that’s dripping with primeval ferns.

The trail looks so prehistoric that it’s actually been used as a filming location for quite a few movies, including The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Keep a lookout—this area is also great for spotting elk. Most of the parks are free, but there is a fee to access Fern Canyon or use the America the Beautiful pass. (Recommended by Jessica, Uprooted Traveler)

Redwood National Park Lodging

Yellowstone snowmobile tour in the winter
Yellowstone snowmobile tour in the winter

Yellowstone National Park at Christmas

Our Christmas at Yellowstone National Park also took in the delights of Wyoming and Salt Lake City. Yellowstone in the winter was truly spectacular! One of the best reasons to visit Yellowstone at Christmas is that there’s a complete lack of crowds. Honestly. 

Mammoth Hot Springs to the Northeast Entrance is the only part of the park open to personal wheeled vehicles in the winter. You can access the park from West Yellowstone and the south entrance near Grand Teton by snow coach tours, snowshoeing, cross country skiing or snowmobile tours.

There are frozen waterfalls, steamy geysers, and superb snowy landscapes to see in the winter. Definitely book a Yellowstone National Park winter tour. The snowmobiling tour will take you into the park and cross the Continental Divide!

The visitor centers are open all through the holidays, and there’s a winter-specific series of ranger-led tours and talks (and charges apply depending on what you do). 

There’s a special holiday dinner in the Old Faithful Snow Lodge on December 25th and church services in the Mammoth Chapel. (Recommended by Sarah, A Social Nomad)

Where to Stay Near Yellowstone

Zion in the winter
Zion in the winter

Zion National Park at Christmas

As Utah’s most visited National Park, Zion is busy all year long. But when winter hits the rocky terrain of Zion, the snowy landscape and cold temperatures create a beautiful winter wonderland that makes for the perfect Christmas vacation. 

The Zion National Park shuttle runs from March through November, weekends in February and March, and the last week in December from Christmas through New Years. 

When visiting Zion during the winter, except for the dates listed above, you can drive your own vehicle into Zion Canyon. As long as road conditions allow, you’re able to access all four Zion scenic drives in the winter. 

Most Zion hiking trails are open in winter but will depend on the daily snowfall and trail conditions. Angel’s Landing, one of the country’s best hikes, can still be accessed, with restrictions, and can give spectacular views to witness the juxtaposition between red rock formations and pristine white snow.

You will need an Angel’s Landing Permit to hike this trail any time of year. We recommend you talk to the Rangers before heading out so you know the trail conditions and if you’ll need traction devices.

For those who enjoy camping, experiencing a night under starry skies in Zion can be an incredible experience during Christmastime. Set up camp amidst serene surroundings and embrace the tranquility of your surroundings as you cozy up around a crackling fire with loved ones. The cabins and Zion Lodge are a great alternative for those who don’t enjoy winter camping. (Recommended by Mackenzie, A Wandering Scribbler)

Zion National Park Winter Lodging


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Plan a US National Park Vacation

National Park Planner

Check out the National Park Planner that includes blank packing list, daily itinerary, expense log, and photo spots pages to help you organize your vacation! Simply click on the image below to grab your free copy!

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One Comment

  1. Absolutely love this, been to Yellowstone and its been a highlight for us many many years ago.
    Thank you for visiting and sharing your links with us at SSPS #291. See you again on Monday, January 8th, 2024.

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