Visiting Zion National Park in December

Zion National Park in December is a fun time to visit if you’re ok with colder temperatures and possible snow.

Use our Zion National Park travel guide and the tips below plan your December vacation.

This guide will tell you the services available, what to pack, where to stay, and things to do at Zion in December.

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WHAT TO PACK FOR A NATIONAL PARK TRIP IN THE WINTER

Outdoor Gear we recommend! Travel Gear & Hiking Gear

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TOP REASON TO VISIT ZION NATIONAL PARK IN DECEMBER

Did you know that Zion is the most-visited national park in Utah and it gets crowded during the peak seasons of spring, summer and fall?

In the first part of December, you can drive your car through Zion Canyon and not worry about riding the shuttle, except during the holiday week between Christmas and New Years.

Being able to access Zion Canyon without the shuttle is a BIG DEAL!

BIGGEST DRAWBACK

All of the Zion National Park hikes remain open year-round. But… there are some trails that can be slippery from packed snow and ice and may require traction devices and trekking poles. 

During the offseason, the popular trails like Angel’s Landing may close due to bad weather and dangerous trail conditions. Also, if you want to hike The Narrows, the water will be COLD and you’ll need full-body drysuits that you can rent from local outfitters.

If you’re ok with the possibility of missing out on these two famous hikes due to bad weather or trail conditions, then consider visiting in December

VISITING ZION NATIONAL PARK IN DECEMBER

Does the Shuttle Run in December?

The first few weeks of December, there is no park shuttle bus so you can drive your car in Zion Canyon! During the last week of December, the shuttle will be running due to the crowds during the holiday. Check the NPS website for the most current shuttle dates and information during that time.

Weather at Zion in December

December is the coldest time of year at Zion with highs around 54 degrees and lows around 30 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll want an insulted jacket, fleece jacket, warm hat and gloves so you can enjoy the outdoor activities at the park. With the right winter clothing, you will still be able to enjoy yourself even with the cold weather. 

Does it Snow at Zion?

Yes! Zion is located in Southern Utah. Normally they do not see a lot of snow. They may see up to 5 inches a year in the park. But when it does snow at Zion, it’s such a treat to see! The contrast of the colorful rocks with the white snow is just beautiful.

What Services Are Available in December?

Zion National Park is open all year long. It is open every day of the year. The shuttle system only runs during the last week of December, check the website for the hours of operation.

Check the website for the most current facilities hours:

  • Zion Canyon Visitor Center
  • Park Store
  • Zion Canyon Wilderness Desk
  • Zion Human History Museum
  • Zion Nature Center
  • Kolob Canyons Visitor Center

South Campground is closed in the winter, but Watchman Campground is open.

Can you drive through Zion National Park in December?

Yes! Vehicles are allowed in Zion Canyon the first few weeks of December. The holiday week between Christmas and New Year’s you’ll need to use the shuttle system. There are three other Zion National Park scenic drives in the park: Mt. Carmel Scenic Byway, Kolob Terrace and Kolob Canyons.

When a storm rolls through, these roads may close if conditions are bad so always check the park service website for updated road conditions. The upper part of the Kolob Terrace Road, including Lava Point, closes in the winter. And Kolob Canyons regularly closes during inclement weather.

Driving conditions can be very poor during a storm, but roads are usually plowed quickly after.

THINGS TO DO AT ZION NATIONAL PARK IN DECEMBER

Scenic Drives

The first part of December you can access all four Zion National Park Scenic Drives. Zion Canyon will require shuttle access from Christmas through New Years.

The Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and Tunnel take you from Zion Canyon to the east entrance. The tunnel is 1.1 miles long and the elevation gain is 800 feet. The landscape is breathtaking so stop at the pullouts to enjoy the view!

Another fun drive is along the Kolob Terrace road that’s accessed west of Springdale in the town of Virgin. It’s a great way to get away from the crowds. The road near the end may be closed due to snow in the upper elevation.

And about 40 miles north of Zion Canyon, you can visit the Kolob Canyons section of the park and see a different side of Zion here.

Hiking

Zion National Park hikes in December are quite different from summer when you’re sweating and worrying about heat exhaustion. Remember it’s still important to stay hydrated and wear sunscreen in the winter!

Keep in mind you may encounter ice, snow and mud in shady areas of the trails because December is a cold month of the year at the park and the wet areas don’t always dry out. You may need traction devices on some trails. And some trails may close due to bad conditions. Check with the visitor’s center for the most current trail conditions.

Also, It gets darker earlier at Zion in December, which may limit the time you spend hiking. Be sure to check whether permits are required for any of the hiking trails you want to explore.

Angels Landing Permit Information

Angels Landing pilot program begins April 1, 2022.

On and after April 1, 2022, hikers going to Angels Landing will need a permit. The National Park Service (NPS) will issue permits using online lotteries at Recreation.gov.

Visitors can get a permit by entering seasonal lotteries or a different lottery the day before their planned hikes. It will cost $6 to enter any of the lotteries and successful permit holders will pay a $3 per person fee. These funds will cover costs to manage the lotteries and for additional NPS rangers who will assist visitors and check permits on the trail. Learn when and how to enter the lotteries at go.nps.gov/AngelsLanding.

Photography

It’s always a good rule of thumb to take photos at sunrise and sunset when the light isn’t as bright as midday.

In December you may get lucky to see snow and photograph the contrast of the white against the colorful rocks!

Our favorite photography spots at Zion are:

  • History Museum back patio: sunrise
  • Canyon Overlook: sunrise
  • Three Patriarchs (shuttle stop): early morning
  • Riverside Walk (shuttle stop): early morning
  • Highway 9 landscape and bighorn sheep: early morning and evening
  • Checkerboard Mesa: early morning and evening
  • Pa’rus Trail: sunset
  • Kolob Terrace: sunset

If you’re looking for a list of good photo spots and tips, check out our Zion National Park Photography Guide!

take jaw-dropping photos at Zion National Park

Wildlife

There are deer, elk, and bighorn sheep that can be found in Zion. Deer can be found along the Pa’rus trail and in Zion Canyon in the morning and evening.

The bighorn sheep can usually be found when driving Highway 9, so keep your eyes open as you take that scenic drive!

What is the Best Time to Visit Zion?

If you’re like us and you want to avoid the crowds at national parks, go in the winter. We share our best time to visit Zion National Park to help you decide which time of year or month works best for you!

In the winter, always remember to check the forecast and road conditions because things change from day to day. From our experience, Zion in December is amazing BUT avoid the holiday week at the end of the month!

BUY AT AMAZON: Zion National Park Guides and Maps

Zion national park guides and maps

Plan Your Vacation To Zion National Park

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:

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