Sedona in December

Sedona is a great place to be year-round, but it can be a truly magical place to explore once December rolls around. If Sedona is a potential destination for you, you’re probably wondering what to expect and how to prepare.

Sedona has short days and colder weather in December, but daytime temperatures get into the 50s and are suitable for hiking. Visitors should come prepared with both layers and sun protection. Tourist attractions, restaurants, and shops are open, but state parks are closed on Christmas Day.

If you’re looking for a detailed, first-hand account, you’ve come to the right place! Here’s everything we learned about the weather, packing, and things to do after our Sedona visits in December.

One Must-Do Tour

Once, we were asked the following: ‘If you only do one thing while in Sedona during December, what would you recommend?’ Our definitive answer: A PINK JEEP TOUR! We loved the morning tours, but if you want a ‘warmer’ ride, we suggest booking an afternoon tour.

These tours are just amazing, and everyone there is hands down the best tour guide we’ve ever had. Vince, Shan, Chris, and Mike are fantastic!

Is December a Good Time To Visit Sedona?

December is an excellent time to visit Sedona because it is the slow season. There are fewer crowds and lower prices, but many options exist to celebrate the holidays. The daytime is usually clear, with hiking opportunities and a potentially beautiful view of the snow-dusted rock formations.

If you’re a fan of relaxing winter getaways with mostly pleasant weather and temps reaching 50-60°F, Sedona in December would be a good choice.

However, don’t expect snow sports or a white Christmas. While it does get colder in December, temperatures don’t drop as low as you might expect.

Weather

Sedona may be a desert, but its high elevation means winters aren’t as hot as one might think. So what should you expect from December in Sedona?

During December, the average low temperature in Sedona is 36°F (2°C), while the average high is 55°F (13°C). December gets approximately 3.5 days of precipitation, including an estimated 1.1 inches (2.79 cm) of snow. Days are mostly sunny but cold in the mornings and evenings.

Sedona average high temps:

  • Early December: 58°F (14°C)
  • Mid-December: 55°F (13°C)
  • Late December: 53°F (12°C)

Sedona average low temps:

  • Early December: 38°F (3°C)
  • Mid-December: 35.5°F (2°C)
  • Late December: 35°F (2°C)

Temperature progression on a typical day in late December:

  • Morning (8:30 AM): 38°F (3°C)
  • Afternoon (3 PM): 53°F (11.67°C)
  • Evening (8 PM): 44°F (6.67°C)

It’s best to hike during daylight hours for visibility and warmer temperatures. In December, the sun rises between 7:17 am and 7:34 am and sets between 5:15 pm and 5:25 pm. Mornings are very cold, and temperatures peak at 3 pm at around 53°F (11.67°C)

When we visited in December, we once experienced all four seasons in one day. It will feel like winter upon waking, spring before noon, summer in the afternoon, and fall in the evening.

We noticed Sedona gets progressively colder and cloudier throughout the month of December. However, the chance of cloud cover is still relatively low, between 33-38%. We could get outdoors throughout the entire month, although the days did get shorter, and we needed an extra layer towards the end of December.

Is It Too Cold in Sedona in December?

December is not too cold in Sedona for any outdoor activity. However, it is the coldest month, with average high temperatures between 53°F-58°F (12°C-14°C). Despite the cooler weather, there is a low chance of snow cover or rainfall.

Snow

In Sedona, December is typically the first month of snowfall, with an average of 1-2 inches of snow. However, with temperatures just above freezing, it is more likely to experience rain or a combination of rain and snow. The chances of a wet day in December are between 12-16%.

Does It Snow in December in Sedona?

While it does snow in Sedona in December, it does not create a significant ground layer but a slightly visible dusting on the top of Sedona’s highest plateaus. In Sedona, snowfall happens an average of 3.5 days and can accumulate up to 2.7 inches (6.86 cm).

The rare snowfalls happen overnight, and any snow on the ground typically melts before lunchtime the next day.

Storms

Since December is the beginning of winter, storms are a possibility. Most years don’t see storms this early, but it is a possibility and will make outdoor activities undesirable if so. While we didn’t experience a storm when we went, we saved our spa day for a rainy day and weren’t disappointed.

What To Wear/Packing List

Even in the shades, you warm up quickly in December and shed layers.

During December in Sedona, visitors should wear long pants, socks, warm shoes, a long-sleeved shirt, and a top layer like a fleece or jacket during the day. In the morning, evening, and night, they may need to wear an extra sweater between their shirt and jacket.

While hiking during the day, wearing layers that you can shed as you warm up is best. Expect to warm up due to the movement, direct sunlight, and increased afternoon temperatures. You may prefer a short-sleeved shirt, breathable pants or shorts, socks, and hiking boots during the day.

💡 If you plan to stay outdoors during the early morning or evening hours, you may want to bring gloves, a scarf, and a wool hat. Most indoor accommodations have sufficient heating, so you do not need to worry about being cold while sleeping.

Do you need a thick winter jacket? If you plan to go to Sedona in early December, you should not need a winter coat. However, a few warm sweaters and a warmer top layer, such as a fall jacket, are necessary. If you plan to stay until late December or into January, we suggest bringing a winter coat to be safe.

Opinions from a local and an experienced winter visitor regarding a coat for December:

  • Local: ‘In December, it could be 30°F with snow or sunny in the 70s here. These two extremes could be a day apart. Your best bet, check the weather forecast the week before and pack a winter coat (or not), depending on the upcoming temps.’
  • Visitor: ‘During December in Sedona, I find a light, packable puffer jacket works well with layers. I didn’t need a winter coat so far.’

To give you a comprehensive idea of what to bring, we’ve created a packing list based on our experience in Sedona.

December clothing list for one week in Sedona:

  • 2 short-sleeved shirts
  • 5 long-sleeved shirts
  • 2 sweaters
  • 1 sweatshirt
  • 1 warm fall jacket/fleece
  • 3 pairs of pants
  • 1 pair of hiking shorts/pants
  • 7 pairs of socks
  • Walking/casual shoes
  • Hiking boots
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • 1 dressier outfit if planning on visiting fine-dining establishments
  • Winter coat, wool hat, gloves/mittens, and scarf (if coming in the second half of December and expecting to spend time outdoors in the early mornings/evenings)

How Busy/Crowds/Rates

Sedona is not busy during December compared to spring and fall. The week leading up to and following Christmas is the busiest portion of the month. Regardless, there are fewer crowds, and hotel rates are noticeably cheaper.

Sedona is a town with about 10,000 residents. However, their biggest industry is tourism. While Sedona used to get roughly 3 million visitors annually, that number rose to 4.5 million in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The busiest tourist seasons are in spring and fall when the weather is mild, and the slowest seasons are summer and winter.

December is the beginning of the slow season in Sedona and is not considered busy compared to the spring and fall months. However, tourism picks up slightly in the last two weeks of December due to Christmas and New Year. The peak of tourism in December happens between December 18-31st and continues a couple of days past New Year.

If you know, you’ll visit for the holidays, book your hotel early. During these weeks, restaurants start to get busy from 6 pm. You may need to wait if you don’t make a reservation ahead of time.

💡 Hotel Tips via booking.com: We recommend sorting the deals by ‘top picks’.  Check all deals here: Sedona Hotel Selection (via booking.com)  Bookmark the link and check rates regularly if you found one! We stayed at the Wilde Resort & Spa, and it was absolutely gorgeous!

However, one plus to going in December is that hiking trails are not busy. While most travelers are enjoying the holiday festivities in town, outdoor recreation is less crowded.

You should be able to find parking at all the trailheads and attractions and enjoy a quieter hike without as many people on the trails. This somewhat quieter time lasts until late February in Sedona.

Hiking | Trail Conditions

Sedona’s hiking trails are beautiful during December. Most days are sunny and in the 50s, creating ideal conditions for hiking. However, if it has rained recently, you may experience some muddy trails.

Although snowfall is very low, you may have some snow dusting the trails in the early morning, but it generally melts before noon. You should be fine in hiking boots and might even enjoy the serene white coat.

Facilities/Closures

Sedona caters to tourists, and most tourist attractions, restaurants, and stores will be open throughout December and around Christmas. While Red Rock State Park is closed on Christmas Day, all the surrounding trailheads will be accessible for hiking.

What Is There To Do at Christmas?

You will see some beautiful Christmas decorations during December in Sedona.

Sedona is an excellent place to spend Christmas because of its seasonal attractions and activities. Take advantage of the extensive gift shopping, Christmas light displays, restaurants, and spas. Tourist attractions such as hiking, ATVs, and Jeep tours are also available during the month.

Regular year-round tourist attractions are also open and available during the Christmas season. However, the state park is closed on Christmas Day.

While some restaurants and shops may be closed, expect to find a nice selection of establishments catering to tourists on Christmas Day. Many will offer special Christmas dinners and entertainment to celebrate. Book a table two weeks ahead of time, as Christmas Day can be a busy one.

Tlaquepaque Festival of Lights

Walk through this area to enjoy the festive decor and lights. 6,000 luminarias light up the shopping village and are a beautiful site to see in the evening.

The Best Activities / Things To Do

We did all three tours (see above) and loved all of them. However, the Nightime UFO & Stargazing Tour was really special! Bring warm clothes (see our ‘What to Wear’ section above).

There are many activities to participate in while visiting Sedona in December. Some attractions are inside, but the majority of things to do can be found outside, as there are many beautiful natural sites to visit. Especially places like the Chapel of the Holy Cross, the Sedona Heritage Museum, or hitting the easy hiking trails.

Red Rock Scenic Byway

The Red Rock Scenic Byway is a 7.5-mile (12.07 km) stretch of road with beautiful sites and stops. It is accessible during December, but be careful of icy roads in the morning and after a recent snowfall.

The Red Rock Ranger District Visitor Center is open year-round from 9 am- 4:30 pm. Here, you can find maps and information on activities in the area.

Sedona Jeep Tour

A Sedona Jeep tour is a great way to start off your trip. It’ll give you an overview of all the big sites in the area and where things are located.

Bring an extra jacket or a blanket if it’s cold out. If you have back or joint problems, you may want to skip this, as the Jeep can be a bit bumpy.

Golfing

Golfing is available year-round in Sedona at several golfing resorts. Most days in December are dry and sunny with ideal temperatures. However, keep in mind the days are shorter, so you may want to start earlier than usual.

Chapel of the Holy Cross / Cathedral Rock

  • When: Open year-round (except Christmas, Thanksgiving, Good Friday, and Easter)
  • Where: 780 Chapel Rd., Sedona, AZ 86336
  • Price: Free

The Chape of the Holy Cross is a must-see in Sedona. This unique chapel sits atop cathedral rock, one of the red rock formations in the area.

It is open every day from 9 am-5 pm in December but is closed on Christmas Day.

Keep in mind food, drinks, and pets are not allowed inside. Head here in the morning to avoid the crowds present in the afternoon. After a tour, the gift shop on the lower level is worth visiting to find local artisan-made items.

Bell Rock

Bell Rock is a butte that sits at 4,919 feet (1,499 m) high and has stunning panoramic views of the region. It is a .8-mile (1.29 km) hike there and back and is open year-round.

Slide Rock State Park

Slide Rock State Park is a beautiful state park with many hiking trails and some swimming areas. While it is too cold to swim in December, the hiking trails are ideal during the daytime.

Slide Rock is open from 9 am to 5 pm in December. However, Christmas Eve has limited hours from 9 am to 2 pm, and the park is closed on Christmas Day.

The last entry is one hour before the park closes. Parking lots are not crowded during December, which is good since you must enter with a vehicle.

Visit the Arizona State Park website for special seasonal events posted regularly.

Red Rock State Park

The Red Rock State Park is a 286-acre ( nature reserve with trails, canyons, and amazing Sedona views.

It is open every day from 8 am to 5 pm. The last entry is at 4:30 pm. The Visitor Center is open from 9 am to 4:30 pm.

Christmas Eve has limited hours from 8 am to 2 pm, and the park is closed on Christmas Day.

Hiking

The Turkey Creek Trail is beautiful. It is also one of the lesser-known ones. Thus, it’s less busy at the trailhead (Google Maps Location). Read more here (trail description) 

Many people head to Sedona to explore the vast hiking options. Below are some of the top hiking locations (apart from the Grand Canyon).

Fay Canyon
  • When: Open year-round
  • Where: Boynton Pass Rd Sedona, AZ 86336
  • Price: Free parking available

This trail is at a low elevation, making it a perfect trek for people of all skill levels. The Fat Canyon trail features wildlife, local flora and fauna, and impressive canyon walls. This trail is situated in the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness area and offers the option of longer trails along with free parking.

Templeton Trail
  • When: Open year-round
  • Where: Back O’ Beyond Rd Sedona, AZ 86336
  • Price: Free parking available

Sedona is known for its vortexes, which provide positive energy to people who walk or drive through them. The Templeton Trail provides sights of the famous Cathedral Rock, one of Sedona’s vortex areas.

Boynton Canyon
  • When: Open year-round
  • Where: Dry Creek Rd Sedona, AZ 86340
  • Price: Free parking available

This trek features a vortex and views of Red Rock country and a forest.

This is another excellent trail that is not often crowded. Plus, it features a wide array of terrain. The Boynton Canyon trail is slightly longer than the two previous trails, at three miles roundtrip. However, it should only take an hour for most to cover the trail leaving plenty of time for other activities.