Jake Cain is an entrepreneur and writer from Cincinnati, Ohio. He spends his free time driving around the country in his late 90’s conversion van, affectionately known as the “Monster Van” with his wife and 3 boys.
As the winter season approaches, many people think that it’s time to pack away their hiking boots and parkas and wait for spring to arrive before they venture outdoors again. Little do they know that some of the best national parks in the United States are at their peak in December.
From snow-capped mountains to pristine deserts, there’s a national park out there for everyone to explore. We’ll take a closer look at some of the best national parks to visit in December, highlighting the unique activities, weather, and experiences that each one has to offer.
Bundle up, grab a cup of cocoa, and let’s discover some of the most beautiful and underrated winter destinations in the country!
Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park is an absolute gem to visit in December for several reasons. The weather is crisp and cool, making it perfect for outdoor activities like hiking and camping. The crowds are also thinner, which means you’ll have more space to explore the park’s stunning vistas and natural wonders.
Additionally, December is a great time to catch the winter sunset at the Grand Canyon, which is a sight to behold.
Another activity you can indulge in is stargazing, as the park is known for its excellent visibility of the night sky. Plus, if you’re lucky, you might even witness a rare snowfall which can make the already spectacular views even more breathtaking.
The park also offers ranger-led programs, which are a great way to learn about the history, geology, and ecology of the park.
Grand Canyon National Park in December offers a unique and memorable experience for visitors, with a range of activities to suit all interests – every nature lover will enjoy a trip to this park!
Zion National Park
If you’re looking for a winter wonderland adventure, Zion National Park should definitely be on your list of must-visit national parks in December. The weather is chilly, but not too cold, making it perfect for hiking and exploring the park’s trails.
In December, Zion National Park offers a variety of activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding. The park’s unique terrain offers an unforgettable backdrop for these winter sports.
The park’s scenic drive, which takes you through the heart of the park, is open year-round, providing visitors with an inspirational view of the park’s landscapes. The park also hosts several winter festivals and events, including the Zion Canyon Music Festival, which features live music performances and festive activities for visitors.
Finally, visiting Zion National Park in December means avoiding the peak season crowds, giving you a chance to enjoy the park’s natural beauty in peace and solitude. So, whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a nature lover, or just looking for a unique winter vacation, Zion National Park in December is definitely worth a visit.
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of a winter vacation, but December is actually an excellent time to visit. The weather is cooler, making it more comfortable to explore the park’s remarkable landscapes.
In fact, December is one of the most comfortable months to visit the park, with average daytime temperatures hovering around the mid-60s°F.
One of the best things about visiting Death Valley National Park in December is that you can witness the rare phenomenon of the “Superbloom.” Every few years, the desert floor bursts into a riot of colorful wildflowers, creating a dazzling natural display.
If you’re looking for some adventure, the park offers a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, backpacking, and stargazing. In December, you can participate in the park’s annual “Night Sky Festival,” where you can learn about astronomy, attend lectures and workshops, and take guided stargazing tours.
Finally, December is a great time to visit Death Valley National Park because the crowds are thinner than in other months. Between the exciting activities, comfortable temperatures, and sparser crowds, there’s every reason to plan a trip to Death Valley National Park this December!
Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park is a hidden treasure in the National Park system, and with mild temperatures and few crowds, December is a perfect time to visit.
One of the main draws of the park is its attractive coral reefs, which are a paradise for snorkelers and scuba divers. December is a great time to explore the reefs as the waters are calm and crystal clear, providing excellent visibility.
Dry Tortugas National Park is also home to the historic Fort Jefferson, a massive brick fortress that was built in the 19th century. You can take a guided tour of the fort, learn about its history, and explore the various rooms and passages.
Visiting Dry Tortugas National Park in December also means you can witness the park’s annual Christmas boat parade, which features brightly decorated boats sailing past the fort against a backdrop of a glorious sunset. It’s a truly unique experience that you won’t want to miss.
Dry Tortugas National Park in December offers a captivating vacation experience, with a range of activities to suit every interest. Whether you’re a water enthusiast, a history buff, or just looking for a secluded getaway, this park will definitely reward your time.
Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park is an essential destination for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts, and December is a great time to experience the park’s distinctive ecosystem. The weather is mild and dry, making it perfect for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and wildlife watching.
One of the park’s main draws is its diverse wildlife, including alligators, crocodiles, manatees, and a variety of bird species. December is an excellent time to see many of these animals as they are more active and visible during the cooler months.
The park also offers a range of water-based activities, such as kayaking and canoeing. The cool and dry December weather makes it an excellent time to paddle through the park’s winding waterways and see the flora and fauna up close.
Another reason to visit Everglades National Park in December is to witness the annual arrival of migratory birds. December is peak bird-watching season in the park, with over 350 bird species passing through the area.
If you’re a wildlife enthusiast or a nature lover of any kind, you’re sure to enjoy a trip to Everglades National Park in December.
White Sands National Park
White Sands National Park is a wonderful destination with rolling sand dunes that seem to stretch on forever, and December is a great time to visit because the weather is cool and comfortable.
The park’s hiking trails, which wind through the dunes and offer spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, are one of its main attractions. You can take guided hikes or explore the trails on your own, stopping to admire the park’s distinctive flora and fauna along the way.
Another reason to visit White Sands National Park in December is to witness the park’s beautiful light shows. The park offers a variety of night-time events, including moonlit hikes and full moon tours, where you can experience the magic of the dunes in a whole new way.
The park also offers a range of recreational activities, such as sandboarding and sledding down the dunes. You can rent sand sleds from the park’s visitor center and experience the thrill of surfing down the soft white sand.
Whether you’re a hiking enthusiast, a nature lover, or just looking for a magical winter escape, this park is well worth a trip.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is an incredible winter wonderland in December, with dazzling snowscapes, frozen waterfalls, and geothermal features that are even more impressive in the cold weather. The park is open year-round, and December is an ideal time to visit because it’s less crowded, with smaller crowds and fewer visitors compared to the summer months.
One of the main draws of the park in winter is its world-renowned wildlife. December is an excellent time to spot bison, elk, and wolves in their natural habitats, and you can take guided tours or explore the park on your own to see these amazing creatures up close.
Another reason to visit Yellowstone National Park in December is to experience its one-of-a-kind geothermal features. The park has a range of geysers, hot springs, and mud pots that are even more impressive when they’re surrounded by snow and ice.
You can also participate in a variety of winter sports activities in Yellowstone National Park, including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. The park has miles of groomed trails, and you can rent equipment and take lessons from the park’s staff.
Yellowstone is an iconic National Park, and there’s no wrong time to visit! However, taking a trip in December offers extraordinary experiences that you won’t want to miss.
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is a fantastic destination to explore in December, with pleasant temperatures and a range of activities to suit every interest. December is an excellent time to visit the park because the weather is mild, with temperatures ranging from the low 50s°F to the high 60s°F during the day, making it ideal for hiking, rock climbing, and other outdoor activities.
One of the main draws of the park is its extensive network of hiking trails, which offer awesome views of the park’s eye-catching scenery. You can take guided hikes or explore the trails on your own, stopping to admire the park’s fascinating flora and fauna along the way.
Another reason to visit Joshua Tree National Park in December is to experience its dark skies. The park is a designated International Dark Sky Park, which means it has exceptionally dark skies that are ideal for stargazing. You can take a guided night sky tour or simply set up a telescope or binoculars and observe the stars on your own.
The park also offers a range of recreational activities, such as rock climbing, mountain biking, and horseback riding. You can rent equipment and take lessons from the park’s staff or bring your own gear and explore the park at your leisure.
With activities and attractions to pique the interest of every nature enthusiast, Joshua Tree National Park is a truly essential destination.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is a great destination to visit in December for those who love winter activities and splendid snowy landscapes. With a variety of recreational activities available, it’s a perfect spot for winter adventure seekers.
The park’s dramatically snowy mountains, frozen lakes, and snow-covered forests offer a scenic winter wonderland to explore. In December, visitors can enjoy activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, and ice fishing.
The park also has many miles of hiking trails, which are transformed into peaceful winter landscapes, providing a soothing and peaceful experience. Wildlife enthusiasts can also spot elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and other animals that are easier to spot in the winter.
With temperatures ranging from 0°F to 30°F, visitors should dress in layers to stay warm and comfortable. It is important to note that some areas of the park may be closed during the winter due to snow and ice, so it’s always best to check the park’s website for up-to-date information.
Rocky Mountain National Park in December is an excellent destination for anyone who loves outdoor winter activities, scenic landscapes, and wildlife watching. With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder that it is considered one of the best national parks to visit in December.
Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is an excellent destination to visit in December, with mild weather, clear skies, and a variety of activities to enjoy.
The park is known for its towering saguaro cacti, which can reach up to 50 feet tall and offer a beautiful desert landscape. Visitors can take a leisurely drive, go on a hike, or participate in a ranger-led program to learn more about the park’s fascinating ecosystem.
December is also a great time to spot wildlife, such as coyotes, bobcats, and desert bighorn sheep. With fewer crowds than in the summer months, visitors can enjoy the park’s peaceful atmosphere and avoid the intense heat of the summer.
The park also has many picnic areas, so visitors can enjoy a pleasant lunch in the beautiful desert scenery.
Overall, Saguaro National Park is a must-see destination for anyone interested in the astonishing beauty of the desert landscape and the amazing ecosystem it supports. With its mild weather and variety of activities, it’s a great addition to our list of best national parks to visit in December.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is a winter wonderland in December, offering visitors a distinctive and calming experience. With fewer crowds and snow blanketing the landscape, the park takes on a serene and magical quality.
December is a great time to go skiing or snowshoeing in the park, with many trails available for winter activities. Visitors can also take a guided tour of the park, learning about the history and natural beauty of Yosemite.
One of the park’s most iconic sights, Yosemite Valley, takes on a different character in the winter months, with incredible views of snow-capped mountains and frozen waterfalls. The park’s many lodges and cabins also offer a cozy and comfortable retreat after a day of exploring.
While the weather can be chilly, with temperatures ranging from the low 20s to the mid-40s, visitors can dress in layers and enjoy the beauty of the winter landscape. With the park’s many amenities and activities, Yosemite is a top contender when it comes to the best parks to visit in December.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is a fantastic destination to visit in December, with its crisp winter air, restful solitude, and awe-inspiring scenery. The park is home to some of the most breathtaking geological formations in the world, such as hoodoos and natural bridges, which are even more impressive when covered in snow.
Visitors can enjoy hiking and snowshoeing on the park’s many trails, including the popular Rim Trail and Fairyland Loop. The park also offers guided snowshoe hikes and winter astronomy programs, giving visitors a chance to experience the park in a whole new way.
While the weather can be cold, with temperatures ranging from the teens to the 40s, the snow-covered landscape is a sight to behold. The park’s many lodges and cabins offer a cozy and comfortable place to stay, with the added bonus of being able to stargaze in the clear winter skies.
Overall, we think it’s worth putting on a few extra layers to explore Bryce Canyon National Park in December!
Biscayne National Park
Biscayne National Park is a hidden gem in the state of Florida, and visiting in December is a great way to avoid the crowds and enjoy the park’s sweeping coastline and aquatic ecosystem. With temperatures ranging from the 60s to the 70s, the weather in December is perfect for outdoor activities like snorkeling, kayaking, and paddleboarding.
The park is home to vibrant coral reefs, mangrove forests, and seagrass beds, which offer an intriguing opportunity to explore the underwater world and observe marine life such as colorful fish, sea turtles, and even manatees. Visitors can also take a boat tour to explore the park’s islands and historic lighthouse.
Biscayne National Park also offers ranger-led programs and educational activities for visitors of all ages, making it a great destination for families and nature enthusiasts.
Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, explore the ocean, or learn about the park’s rich history and cultural heritage, Biscayne National Park is definitely worth a visit in December.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park is a rewarding destination to explore during December. While the weather can be chilly, the dramatic red rock formations and natural arches are no less impressive in the winter months, and the park is much less crowded.
Arches National Park is also known for its unique geology, with over 2,000 natural arches and other formations like balanced rocks and sandstone fins.
The winter season provides a different perspective on the landscape, as the snow highlights the textures and shapes of the rock formations. It’s a great opportunity to experience the park in a tranquil atmosphere, away from the hustle and bustle of peak tourist season.
The snow-dusted scenery creates a magnificent backdrop for hiking and photography, with trails like the Delicate Arch Trail offering stunning views. Additionally, the park offers ranger-led snowshoe hikes, stargazing tours, and even a winter solstice event.
Make sure to pack warm layers and sturdy footwear for a memorable winter adventure at Arches National Park.
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