Visiting Utah National Parks in December

Visiting Utah National Parks in December is a truly unique and magical experience. As you add places to visit in Utah 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!

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.

Check out our Utah National Park Road Trip Itinerary to make your travel planning easy!

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National Park Packing List

When you are visiting US National Parks it is important to be prepared. This includes wearing the proper clothes and shoes to be comfortable for the climate and the terrain.

→ CHECK OUT: National park packing lists for spring, summer, fall and winter!

Outdoor Gear we recommend! Travel Gear & Hiking Gear

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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

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.

Here’s what you can expect when you plan a December trip to the five National Parks in Utah.

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. 

take jaw-dropping photos at Utah National Parks

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.

Use our Arches & Canyonlands Itinerary and Photography Guide with tips and best times to take pictures at each point of interest

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 Arches National Park hiking trails 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:

Arches National Park camping can only be done at the one small campground. There are no hotels in Arches so most people stay in the nearby town of 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: Where to Stay Near Arches National Park

  • 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.
  • Rent an RV – have it dropped off at your vacation destination!
Arches National Park photo spots checklist optin

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. 

Mesa Arch at Canyonlands in the winter with snow

There are so many Canyonlands hikes, off-road trails, and views to photograph at both regions: Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky and Needles Canyonlands.

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

There are no lodging facilities in the park, only camping.

  •  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. 
  •  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!
  • Townhomes south of town – we really like the townhomes in Spanish Valley with kitchen, washer and dryer in the unit and a swimming pool/hot tub (just a 5 minute drive south of Moab).

BUY AT AMAZON: Arches and Canyonlands Guides and Maps:

Arches Canyonlands guides and maps

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. 

Some of the Bryce Canyon activities you’ll want to do include the Bryce Canyon hikes (with snowshoes!) and Bryce Canyon scenic drive!

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:

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. 

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!

Places to Stay Near Capitol Reef

SHOP AMAZON: Capitol Reef Travel Guides and Maps:

capitol reef guides and map

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. 

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

All four Zion National Park scenic drives are open to cars during the winter months. The one exception is the week between Christmas and New Year’s, when the shuttles 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.

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

Where to Stay Near Zion National Park

You definitely want to stay in Springdale which borders the entrance 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!
  • Under Canvas Zion – if you want to experience a less crowded part of Zion, this is the place! It’s in the Kolob section of the park.
  • Vacation Rentals in Springdale – you’ll want to stay in Springdale so you’re close to the park entrance and can walk to shopping and restaurants. 

Resources for camping near Zion:

BUY AT AMAZON: Zion National Park Guides and Maps

Zion national park guides and maps

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