Visiting Utah National Parks in December

Visiting Utah National Parks in December is a truly unique and magical experience. Winter is the offseason for the five Utah National Parks so you can enjoy your vacation without the crowds you find in the summer.

There is one exception: the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day will be busy, but nothing like the summer crowds. Visiting the National Parks in Utah in December is one of our favorite times to go!

Utah National Parks in December

Use this guide to to plan your December vacation to the Utah National Parks: services available, things to do, what to pack, and where to stay.

We live hours away from all the parks, and have visited them during all four seasons. December is a fun time to visit the Utah National Parks because there are fewer crowds! The tips we share are based on our experiences visiting the parks in December.

Tip number is it be prepared for the weather when you visit. Use our packing list for Utah National Parks to make sure you have the right clothing and gear for visiting in December! Grab your free printable packing checklist by clicking the image below!

Utah National Parks packing lists
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A Photo Tour of Utah National Parks

Take a visual tour through all five Utah National Parks to see the stunning landscapes you’ll see when you visit!

Utah National Parks in December

All of the Utah National Parks are open every single day. We always recommend visiting National Parks in December when it’s the off-season for many destinations.

The Utah National Parks in the winter are amazing if you don’t mind colder temperatures and the possibility of snow. With that being said, not all the visitor centers and amenities are open throughout the whole park during the winter.

Some of the National Parks in Utah require you to be a little more self-reliant. You will want to check each individual park for closures and services before visiting. 

When determining the best time to visit Utah National Parks, weather is a big factor. Be sure you know what to expect for the parks you’ll visit in December:

What to Wear at Utah National Parks in December

The National Parks in Utah are located in the southern part of the state in a high desert climate. It’s important to stay hydrated, eat salty snacks, and use sun protection all year. If you’re not used to a dry environment, you may also need to use lotion and lip balm!

winter hiking gear
Skyline Arch in the winter with snow
Skyline Arch in the snow

Arches in December

Winter is a great time to visit Arches National Park. Temperatures will hover between the 30s and 50s throughout the day, but the lows at night will get quite cold. 

Our favorite thing about Arches National Park in December is that the crowds are pretty much gone. We then get to really enjoy the park at our own pace. 

This especially comes in handy when trying to take pictures of the iconic rock formations within the park. In December you won’t need to wait for people to move when photographing the popular areas like Delicate Arch or the Windows.

Many of the best hikes in Arches National Park remain open throughout December giving you lots of options to see explore the park.

Be sure to stay in the park past sunset at least one night and take advantage of the incredible stargazing as well. If it snows, you’ll be able to capture amazing winter photos!

Arches National Park December Activities

Places to Stay at Arches in December

Canyonlands sign with snow
Canyonlands Island in the Sky in the winter

Canyonlands in December

Visiting Canyonlands National Park in December requires a little more work on your behalf. This is because several of the amenities are closed throughout the park during the week. 

While visiting Canyonlands in December you can expect temperature highs to be around 43 degrees and the lows to be around 18 degrees.

Typically you will not see large snowfalls at Canyonlands, but even small snow flurries can make the hiking trails much more difficult or even closed for a short time. 

In December you can enjoy Canyonlands hikes, off-road trails, and views to photograph at both regions:

Canyonlands National Park in December

Places to Stay Near Canyonlands in December

Snowy landscape at Bryce Canyon
Snowy landscape at Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon in December

It’s important to note that Bryce Canyon in December is the coldest park of all 5 in Utah due to its elevation. You can expect temperatures to range from the highs around 36 degrees Fahrenheit to lows into the teens.

Depending on the year you may see a little bit of snow on the ground or a few feet. Although the weather is much cooler, it is worth it to take in the views in December. 

Bryce Canyon sunrise photography is spectacular! It’s worth getting up early to see the glow on the hoodoos at sunrise. Rechargeable hand warmers and photographer gloves are so nice when it’s COLD outside!

Bryce Canyon is also famous for its stargazing thought the whole year, but especially in December. The skies are normally clear and dark making it perfect stargazing weather. 

Bryce Canyon Activities in December

Places to Stay Near Bryce Canyon in December

Hickman Bridge in the winter

Capital Reef in December

Capital Reef is located a few minutes west of Torrey right in the middle of Southern Utah. Capitol Reef National Park in December will bring temperatures averaging around 39 degrees Fahrenheit and lows around 19 degrees.

Although the temperatures will be cold it is worth visiting this time of year. In December, you will see very little snow and rain while visiting. You can capture some stunning photos of the park without the crowds!

Capitol Reef hikes are a big attraction at this park. Our favorites are Hickman Bridge and Cassidy Arch. In the winter we recommend exploring the Capitol Reef scenic drive as well!

Capitol Reef National Park December Activities

Places to Stay Near Capitol Reef in December

Three Patriarchs reflection in the River at Zion
Zion in the winter

Zion National Park in December

While visiting Zion National Park in December, you can expect highs to be around 48 degrees Fahrenheit and the lows will dip down all the way to 24 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically you will not see a lot snow at Zion in the lower elevations, but be prepared any storms that may roll through. 

All four Zion National Park scenic drives are open to cars during the month of December. The one exception is the week between Christmas and New Year’s, when the Zion National Park shuttle will be running. The Zion Canyon road is a 6.5-mile drive that you can take to see breathtaking views and rock formations at your own pace.

You’ll need an Angel’s Landing permit if you plan to hike past Scouts Lookout through the chains section.

Zion National Park December Activities

Places to Stay Near Zion in December

Utah Travel Guides & Maps

Utah guides and maps

Plan a Utah National Parks Vacation in December

Utah National Parks in December

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    1. Yes, all the Utah National Parks are open during the holidays, but the visitor centers will be closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day. Keep in mind that the shuttle will run at Zion during that busy holiday week. Watch the weather to be prepared for cold/snow. Springdale near Zion may have fireworks for New Year’s Eve – they did one year we went. Enjoy!!

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