With the start of winter and the snowy season underway, Colorado in December provides a magical backdrop for holiday cheer! Many people come to visit Colorado for Christmas and December is certainly a busier time of year for the Centennial State.
There’s a lot going on in Colorado in December. Having lived here for nearly 15 years, I can say that I’ve enjoyed the end of the year to the max. I’ve done everything from late-night New Year’s parties in Colorado’s top ski towns to relaxing along some of my favorite snowshoe trails.
If you’re looking to explore Colorado like a local, not a tourist, then you’re in the right place.
About this Guide to Colorado in December
Inside this local guide to Colorado in December you’ll find:
- Hot info about the weather in December
- Colorado skiing in December
- Awesome holiday events throughout Colorado
- Great things to do in Colorado in December
- Additional travel resources
Colorado Weather in December
Colorado weather in December is surprisingly a mixed bag. Temperatures will vary throughout the state. Some years we have an exceptionally warm Christmas holiday and other years it’s snow-pacolypse. The best thing you can do is pack for cold conditions and hope for plenty of sunshine!
In general, the temperatures vary in the lower elevations (think Denver and Colorado Springs) from 27 to 65 degrees (with the mid-40s being average). Meanwhile, expect temperatures in the mountains to be in the mid-upper 20s with the lows in the single digits.
Cloud cover is just as common as sunshine.
Does it Snow in Colorado in December?
Yes, absolutely. In fact, the snow is just starting to ramp up across the state. Expect 7 to 11 days of snowy weather, more in the mountains. NWS estimates there is 8 inches of snow on average in December, but if you’re headed to the mountains, expect that number to be much, much higher.
Typical Temps in Denver
Denver averages in the mid-40s (Fahrenheit) during the daytime and in the 20s at night. Typically, cloud cover is around 40%, but it’s common to see the sun nearly every day. Denver gets around 8 inches of snow each December. Snow typically melts off a few days after it falls.
Is Denver Worth Visiting in December?
Eh, frankly, that depends. In all fairness, I’m not a fan of the Mile High City, despite having lived there for many years (we moved up to the mountains). There are a lot of holiday happenings in Denver and plenty of places to cut down a Christmas tree near Denver. But, part of Denver’s vibe is the ability to sit outside, something you can’t really do in December.
If you want to use Denver as a jumping-off point to explore the mountains, then December may be a good time to visit. However, if you’re after a wintery experience, you may want to wait until January or February when lodging prices dip down.
Colorado Springs Weather in December
Colorado Springs in December typically has similar weather to Denver. However, the highs are in the lower to mid-40s and the lows are in the mid-20s, making it slightly colder (due to a slighter higher elevation) than Denver.
Mountain Weather in December
As a broad sweep, you should expect highs in the mid to upper 20s and the lows in the single digits. To put it bluntly, it’s cold in December! Although the winter sun can help keep you toasty!
Is December a Good Time to Visit Colorado?
It depends on what you’re after. If you’re into skiing, I’d say skip Colorado in December. Typically the resorts aren’t fully open, coverage isn’t that great, crowds are huge, and prices are high.
But if you’re looking to visit Colorado in December for reasons other than skiing, it’s not a bad time to visit. Outside of major ski resorts, lodging is cheaper. Most wintery trails don’t have a huge avalanche danger (this highly depends on the season, so always check with the CAIC for up-to-date conditions). So it’s a great time to enjoy some wintery fun.
December Skiing in Colorado
Frankly, the skiing isn’t all that great in Colorado in December. Our snowiest months are February and March, so you may find that ski resorts aren’t fully open. If you’re into expert terrain, this is certainly the case, as many of the tougher runs lack adequate coverage.
It’s also a popular time to ski, so expect huge crowds, long lift lines, and plenty of traffic along the I-70 corridor as Front Range locals head to the hills for their days off.
December Holiday Events in Colorado that You Don’t Want to Miss
Looking to enjoy the holiday vibes? Then check out these awesome events that celebrate the snowy season.
Georgetown Railroad Holiday Train
A popular favorite with families, the Georgetown Railway holiday rides are a must-do. You’ve got several options, a lighted forest ride or a train ride with Santa.
After Christmas, the festivities turn more towards a Victorian flair, making it a great choice for a holiday endeavor until January.
Enjoy the festivities and the stunning mountain scenery.
Local Tip: The lighted forest ride sells out almost immediately for the 5 pm slot on weekends. So be sure to reserve your spot in advance.
Times: Nov 11, through Jan 1.
Another great date night (or a fun-filled evening with the kiddos) the zoo lights are a must-see. Every year the zoo decorates for the holidays with a fantastic lighting display that’s worth the entry price. Come check out the lights and say hello to the animals!
Blossoms of Light in the Denver Botanical Gardens
This unique and fantastic display of lights is a must-see in Denver. The botanical gardens come to life with an interactive lighting and sound display, archways of twinkle, and plenty of cool displays to see. It gets pretty cold, so be sure to bundle up!
Times: 11/17-1/7, closed holidays
Ullr Festival in Breckenridge
2023 marks the 60th anniversary of this Breckenridge classic. Celebrate the Norse god of winter with a parade down Mainstreet and plenty of wintery fun. Pay homage to the ski gods for a great snowy season by participating in the longest shot-ski on record (this year, Breck is trying to take it back from Utah).
Denver Christkindl Market
Shop local with the Denver Christkindl Market. Local vendors display their wares and crafts for your enjoyment. Food and beverages are also served (mulled wine anyone?) while you shop. This is a long-standing Denver tradition and a must-do if you’re spending the winter in the Mile High City.
Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade at Telluride
Celebrate the season in Telluride this year. The Telluride Ski and Snowboard School instructors raise their torches and make their way down the mountain in this annual celebration of lights. Stick around afterward for an awesome fireworks display that makes a Christmas Eve to remember.
Times: 12/24 at 6:30 pm in the Mountain Village
Festival of Lights in Colorado Springs
Similar to Denver’s annual Parade of Lights, Colorado Springs hosts its own parade to celebrate winter. This year’s theme is the Sounds of the Season, so come celebrate, sing, and dance to your favorite holiday tunes.
The parade runs down Tejon in Downtown, starting at St Vrain Street and then south to Vermijo Street.
Times: 12/9 5:50 PM downtown on Tejon
Check Out the Holiday Display at the Broadmoor
The Broadmoor Hotel and Resort near Colorado Springs puts on a fantastic holiday decoration display. Come in the evening to see the lights and enjoy s’mores and hot cocoa by one of the many outdoor fire rings. But the best part is seeing the gingerbread display in the main hotel area!
Local Tip: You do have to pay a pretty penny to park on the grounds.
Times: Thanksgiving Holiday through the first of the year
Parade of Lights in Denver
This spectacular holiday display travels down a 2-mile route throughout the city. It’s a free event (with the option to purchase Grandstand Seats) filled with music, lights, and more! The family-friendly atmosphere really rings in the holiday cheer and excitement.
Times: 12/2 6 PM.
Things to Do in Colorado in December
There are tons of things to do in Colorado besides ski. Of course, winter is just starting to bud in December, so a few activities may or may not be open – unpredictable weather depending. There are a few awesome activities that you’ll want to check out.
Go Ice Skating
Ice skating in Colorado is a long-honored pastime, and there are plenty of rad places to do it. Some of the more popular locations, such as Evergreen Lake, may not be fully frozen over yet, but artificial rinks are in full swing.
Enjoy Winter Hiking and Snowshoeing
Most of the trails have plenty of snow by mid to late December. Snowshoeing in Colorado is an excellent way to enjoy the wintery scenes. However, it is extremely dangerous due to avalanche concerns, so only certain Colorado winter hikes offer minimal risk.
Local Tip: Consider attending a free avalanche awareness clinic. These classes are offered for free at gear stores throughout Colorado.
Soak in a Hot Spring
It’s been a long year, and you deserve a treat! Why not go for a relaxing soak in one of the many amazing Colorado hot springs? There are 93 known thermal areas in the state – so that’s a lot to soak in (pun intended). A few of my favorites include:
- Orvis Hot Springs in Ridgeway
- Iron Mountain Hot Springs in Glenwood Springs
- Cottonwood Hot Springs near Buena Vista
Local Tip: The very famous Princeton Hot Springs is a total rip off IMO. I recently went there and was terribly disappointed at how far that place has fallen downhill in the past several years.
Dog Sled Rides
Learn how to drive a sled and interact with incredible teams of dogs. This is actually quite a fun day out and a totally unique thing to do in Colorado. There are several places that offer dog seld rides, a few of my favorites are:
- Mountain Mushers
- San Juan Sled Dogs
- Monarch Dog Sled Rides
Try Ice Climbing
Ice climbing in Colorado has somewhat of a cult following. A lot of climbers hit the ice in the winter months (in fact, many of the national athletes train right outside of Vail). But if you’ve never tried the sport, it’s certainly a worthwhile adventure.
Hire a guide (I personally love to go out with Mia from the Colorado Mountain School) or take a course at the Ouray Ice Park.
Local Tip: Ice is usually just coming in towards the end of December. The Ouray Ice Park farms ice and opens a bit earlier, weather-dependent.
Enjoy a Horse Drawn Sleigh Ride
What’s more quintessential to the holidays than a classic sleigh ride? Many of the top mountain towns in Colorado offer really cool sleigh rides during the snowy months. You can enjoy excursions from a couple of hours, to a full-on dinner and ride. Breckenridge is my personal favorite place to enjoy this activity, but you can find a horse-drawn sleigh in many areas – including major ski resorts in Colorado.
Cut Your Own Christmas Tree
If you’re living in Colorado, then there’s no better pastime than cutting your own Christmas tree. There are several spots throughout the state where you can help with forest management while also snagging a reasonably priced Christmas tree.
Local Tip: You’ll need a permit to cut and you can only cut in designated areas.
Visit the Colorado National Monument
Wanna get away from wintery scenes? Then consider heading to the Colorado National Monument. December is the perfect time to visit this slice of desert scenery. Offering some of the best scenic drives in Colorado (that are still open), ample hiking, and stunning views, this is a must-see Colorado destination.
Go on a Snowmobile Tour
Learn the art of the brapping with a snowmobile tour in the Rockies. Again, drier years might not have the coverage for this activity, but late December should have a few trails and routes open. Snowmobiling in Colorado can be extremely dangerous with avalanche concerns, so if you’re not familiar with how to navigate and spot avalanche hazards, consider going with a tour.
Famous places to snowmobile include:
- The San Juan Mountains
- Steamboat Springs
Additional Local Colorado Travel Resources
Looking to enjoy the best of Colorado like a local, not a tourist? Then check out these resources: