Winter is the best time to visit Utah. Snow on red rocks is amazing and you’re all but guaranteed to have even the most notorious madhouses (Ahem, Arches) to yourself. Last January, I drove through southern Utah on my way to California and it was by far the best Utah road trip experience I’ve had.
Of course, Utah is amazing any time of year. It’s probably my second favorite state that I haven’t lived in yet (so after Colorado and not including PA, OR, MD, VA, WV, NM, MT, MI or ME). I’ve also visited in April and August and managed to find some divine out of the way places to hike (Goosnecks, Dead Horse Point and Fisher Towers), but the big parks were way too busy for my crowds-free trail tastes.
In winter, I hiked to all three bridges in Natural Bridges National Monument, watched the sunrise over Bryce Canyon and scaled the icy traverse up to Angels Landing in Zion without seeing more than a handful of other souls. Utah in winter is heaven on Earth.
Winter road tripping is not for the uninitiated, however. Most of the trip I slept in my car and one night at Bryce it was so cold, it actually snowed inside the car: My breath froze on the ceiling and drifted back down on me all night. By morning I awoke to an inch of ice crystals on my sleeping bag.
Even if you’re not planning on camping on a winter road trip, be sure to carry a warm sleeping bag, extra warm layers, winter hiking gear (including boots) and survival supplies. If your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, you better be prepared to either hike for help or keep yourself warm for a couple of days until help finds you. Snow chains might also be a good idea and always keep an eye on the weather.
Right now, I’m counting down to my upcoming trip to Germany — I leave in a week! — but I’m already scheming a winter road trip to southern New Mexico in January and another to Arizona in February. Maybe I’ll even detour up to Utah at some point. You know what they say, when it’s cold keep moving!