Sharing is caring!

Visiting Utah National Parks in December is a truly unique and magical experience.

As you add Utah vacation ideas to your bucket list, visiting the national parks is a must!

At many US National Parks in the winter, it’s the off season so you can enjoy your vacation without the crowds you find in the summer.

Except for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, visiting the National Parks in Utah in December is one of our favorite times to go!

Some of the links on this site are affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, we may earn a small commission – at no extra cost to you! Read the full Disclosure Policy.

 

What to Pack for a Trip to Utah National Parks in December

While visiting the Utah National Parks in December you will have much cooler temperatures than you are used to if you have visited in the summer months.

Some of the parks will get much cooler than others.

You want to make sure to be prepared with your winter gear.

Some things you don’t want to forget are:

1. 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.

2.  Hiking Gear

3. Clothing – Layers

4. Daypack

5. Other

Plan Your December Vacation to Visit Utah National Parks

Are Utah National Parks open year-round?

All of the Utah National Parks are open every single day.

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. 

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. 

Balanced Rock at Arches National Park

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.

You don’t want to miss these awesome photography spots at Arches

If you bring kids with you on your trip, they will have the opportunity to earn a Junior Ranger Badge as you visit the various points of interest at Arches National Park. 

Many of the hiking trails at Arches 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. 

Where to Stay Near Arches in December:

There are no hotels in Arches so most people stay in the nearby town of Moab. You’ll find restaurants and places to shop which adds to the appeal to find accommodations in Moab.

There are all types of lodging in and near Moab from budget-friendly hotels to higher-prices resorts. You’ll also find vacation rentals, a hostel, campgrounds and RV parks

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.  → Book the Purple Sage via Airbnb
  • 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!
  • Condos south of town – we really like the King size bed in the master, washer and dryer in the unit and a swimming pool/hot tub (just a 5 minute drive south of Moab).

Bryce Canyon in December

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. 

Some things you will want to do while visiting include photographing Bryce Canyon, going on the ranger-led snowshoeing trip, and hiking the many trails Bryce Canyon has to offer. Our favorite is the Navajo Queen’s Garden Loop.

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. 

Where to Stay Near Bryce Canyon in December:

Canyonlands in December

Visiting Canyonlands 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. 

Mesa Arch at Canyonlands in the winter with snow

With that being said, there are so many things to do like hike, explore the off-road trails, and photograph the incredible scenery that Canyonlands has to offer. 

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. 

Where to Stay Near Canyonlands Island in the Sky in December:

There are no lodging facilities in the park (only camping).

We visit Canyonlands many times during the year, and stay in Moab. Use our guide of the best places to stay in Moab based on your accommodation criteria.

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 Canyonlands.
  • 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.  → Book the Purple Sage via Airbnb
  • 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!
  • Condos south of town – we really like the King size bed in the master, washer and dryer in the unit and a swimming pool/hot tub (just a 5 minute drive south of Moab).

Capital Reef National Park in December

Capital Reef is located a few minutes west of Torrey right in the middle of Southern Utah.  

Capital 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. 

Hiking is one of the main attractions of Capital Reef. Some favorites are Hickman Bridge and Cassidy Arch. 

With so many other activities to do while visiting Capital Reef like backpacking, fishing, horseback riding, taking epic pictures, and mountain biking it is one of the most family-friendly National Parks to visit. 

Places to Stay Near Capitol Reef in December:

  • Capitol Reef Resort – this is where we stay! Make it a unique experience and stay in a teepee or covered wagon!
  • Austin’s Chuckwagon Motel – basic rooms and cabins with a deli and store right on the property which is so convenient!
  • Airbnb Rentals – we like finding a place with a kitchen so we can prepare our own food.

Zion National Park in December

Zion National Park in winter is epic, especially in December. It really is a must-see park this time of year.

While visiting, 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 snow at Zion. 

visiting-zion-national-park-utah-photo-jeepers

While visiting Zion National Park in December you need to enjoy the scenic drive. This is only open to cars during the winter months. The one exception is the week between Christmas and New Year’s. The road will close once the canyon is full, then you’ll be required to use the shuttle.

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.

While visiting in December you will want to choose a few hikes in Zion to go on. With so many options you will be sure to find a hike that fits your ability and your mood. 

And don’t forget to drive along Highway 9 to drive through the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel, hike through the rock formations in the area, and look for big horned sheep!

The Kolob Terrace Road just outside the park takes you to more scenic views and hiking trails.

Where to Stay Near Zion in December:

You definitely want to stay in Springdale which borders the entrance to Zion. Here are a few of our favorite places to stay close to Zion:

  • Holiday Inn Express – our favorite place to stay with an outdoor pool and amenities you’d find in a high end hotel
  • Zion Lodge – we haven’t had a chance to stay here yet, but you can’t go wrong staying right IN the park!

Winter Vacation Ideas

Arches and Canyonlands 3 Day Itinerary
shares