Background Forest fire risk predictions are based on the most conservation daily predictions, and the lowest litter moisture content of each day is often used to predict the day's fire risk. Yunnan Province is the area with the most frequent and serious forest fires in China, but there is almost no research on the dynamic changes and model predictions of the litter moisture content in this area. Therefore, to reduce the occurrence of forest fires and improve the accuracy of forest fire risk predictions, it is necessary to understand these dynamic changes and establish an appropriate prediction model for the typical litter moisture content in Yunnan Province. Method During the fire prevention period, daily dynamic changes in the litter moisture content are obtained by monitoring the daily step size, and the relationships between the litter moisture content and meteorological elements are analyzed. In this study, the meteorological element regression method, moisture code method and direction estimation method are selected to establish litter moisture content prediction models, and the applicability of each model is analyzed. Results We found that dynamic changes in the litter moisture content have obvious lags compared with meteorological elements, and the litter moisture content is mainly related to the air temperature, relative humidity and wind speed. With an increase in the sampling interval of meteorological elements, the significances of these correlations first increase and then decrease. The moisture content value obtained by directly using the moisture code method in the Fire Weather Index (FWI) significantly different from the measured value, so this method is not applicable. The mean absolute error (MAE) and mean relative error (MRE) values obtained with the meteorological element regression method are 2.97% and 14.06%, those from the moisture code method are 3.27% and 14.07%, and those from the direct estimation method are 2.82% and 12.76%, respectively. Conclusions The direct estimation method has the lowest error and the strongest extrapolation ability; this method can meet the needs of daily fire forecasting. Therefore, it is feasible to use the direct estimation method to predict litter moisture contents in Yunnan Province.