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Travel the Grand Circle in December

Worcester...
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Travel the Grand Circle in December

We were considering doing a trip to see the Utah National Parks in December 2013. We are think school break which is just before Christmas through just after New Years. What would the area be like this time of year in regards to weather, crowds, availability of places to stay, etc. Are the National Parks generally closed Christmas, New Years and dates around than.

Moab, Utah
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1. Re: Travel the Grand Circle in December

Entirely possible and we've done this several times. But be aware that weather can hamper your plans and you'll need to be flexible to wait it out or re-route. The national parks themselves don't close but the visitors centers will be closed on Christmas Day, other than that I think they're open every day as well. It won't be crowded certainly not in comparison to Spring or Fall. Places like Torrey do close up a lot but there will always be somewhere to stay, somewhere to eat, somewhere to shop. Choices will just be limited.

Last Christmas was cold, Main Street Moab on Christmas Eve; flickr.com/photos/…

Park City, Utah
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for Utah, Winter Sports
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2. Re: Travel the Grand Circle in December

As Noel noted, parks don't close. Nice time to visit if you're prepared for weather (snow). No crowds at all. Places like Moab are better as there's enough infrastructure but when you get remote like Torrey it's a bit sparse. But if that's when you have the time, do it. We do go down somewhere in southern Utah every holiday and always have a good time.

Have fun.

Sedona, AZ
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for Sedona, Arizona, Monument Valley
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3. Re: Travel the Grand Circle in December

Confirming. The parks are all open. However, the season gets slow as the weather gets worse, to the point that some of the lodging options close up and take their own winter vacations. The Lodge in Bryce Canyon NP closes at the end of October, although Rubys Inn remains open. As noted, weather can cause delays so you need to have some flexibility built into your plan.

Tell us a little more about which parks you intend to visit and the route you have in mind.

Worcester...
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4. Re: Travel the Grand Circle in December

We are from Massachusetts, so use to cold weather. What is the typical/average weather that time of year. We have two kids age 8 and 10. We love hiking and exploring out in nature. We are pretty low key. We usually like to rent a condo or apartment type vacation rental. Would love to hear suggestions about outdoorsy or adventure type things in the area. We are trying to figure if we should try to hit a lot of the National Parks or focus on one or two. Any tips or ideas would be great. We are trying to decide between December and summer. What are peoples thoughts

Encinitas...
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for Zion National Park, Joshua Tree National Park
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5. Re: Travel the Grand Circle in December

Typical weather can vary widely. I've spent several New Years in Zion, and had sunny, cool weather each time. Noel has some pictures of Zion from around Christmas a few years ago where there is a bunch of snow and blizzard conditions.

Bryce sits at 8-9000 feet , so it can definitely get cold there, and snow is always possible.

The best thing about off season, is that there are very few people in the parks. Almost like having your own park. You may see people on the trails, you may not. Hotel rates are a fraction of what they are at other times of year. In fact, you may be the only guests in your entire hotel complex.

Worcester...
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6. Re: Travel the Grand Circle in December

Thanks for the good information. What does everyone see as the biggest pros and cons of going during December? This information will help us make an informed decision as to whether we want to come in December or the summer.

Moab, Utah
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7. Re: Travel the Grand Circle in December

WINTER PROS

No people.

If you get snow it adds a dramatic element to the landscape.

If you're into photography, sunrise is at a reasonable hour and sunset is before you get hungry.

There's hardly anyone around.

Accommodation is cheap.

Weather events can create wonderful unexpected adventures that you did not plan for.

You may not see anyone for hours at a time.

WINTER CONS

Sometimes you can't feel your fingers.

A lack of wildlife.

Kipling. SK
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for Zion National Park
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8. Re: Travel the Grand Circle in December

In December, the weather can force you to delay your trip as you wait out a snow event. Bad thing about that is that it ruins your schedule. The good thing(maybe) about that is you do not need to scramble to find accommodations that otherwise would be booked solid in the Summer.

As said, the rates will be reduced, and at some places the rates will indeed be a fraction as dez stated. One place in particular i found a double queen for $45/night in Feb. Out of curiosity I was looking at rates for June at the same place, and that room was $195/night.

Certain restaurants and hotels will be shut down for the season in Dec. Torrey in particular becomes real quiet. TA favorites in Torrey like Austins Chuckwagon(lodging) and Cafe Diablo(restaurant) will be closed. The lodge in Bryce is closed as another example. In general, the majority of restaurants and accommodations are still open. Restaurants however will not be offering any reduced prices!

In the parks, most of the features will be accessible. If it happens to snow, then it could take a while to have the routes plowed, which again can ruin your schedule. That being said, if you do travel in Dec, plan some wiggle room in your plans to account for this possibility. You will want to add a day or two to your route anyways to account for the shortness in days. Back to the parks, some of the trails can get pretty slippery due to ice. The occasional trail can be closed ( Bryce in particular). For winter trail conditions, acquiring traction devices(for hiking) might be a good idea if you are into longer hikes. Another good aspect of winter is that you do not need to carry so much water, and you won't be looking for shade, just shelter from the possible windchill.

Encinitas...
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for Zion National Park, Joshua Tree National Park
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9. Re: Travel the Grand Circle in December

Sometimes you can't feel your fingers....LOL

Pro- Very few people.

Pro- You may get lucky and see frozen waterfalls at Zion. I was fortunate to see a large frozen waterfall crack and cascade to the bottom of the canyon with a huge crash. Nobody there but me to witness it. Same thing when a large chunk of the canyon wall cracked and fell to earth. I was shouting "Look at that" and nobody else was around!

Cons- It may be too cold for camera batteries,so no pics of the waterfall,chunk of earth, or Walters Wiggles as a zig-zagging sheet of ice.

Worcester...
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10. Re: Travel the Grand Circle in December

To cold for camera batteries? How cold is it usually in December. Being from Massachusetts we are use to cold, but have never had batteries actually get to cold to work.