Utah in Winter

Baby Aspen, Bryce Canyon

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.

Kachina Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument

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.

Zion Valley from Angels Landing

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.

Rangeland cattle are likely to be the only ones out there with you in winter and they're no help at all.

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!

Thor's Hammer, Bryce Canyon

Winter is a great time to visit National Parks. Click for winter photos of Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier and stay tuned for Grand Canyon photos after my big birthday backpacking trip in February!

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
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8 Responses to Utah in Winter

  1. Absolutely fell in love with Utah! Especially Moab. September 2010 I did a 10 day road trip mostly in Utah and it just captured my heart. It was also my first trip with my (then new) digital SLR and I thoroughly broke it in on that trip 🙂 If I ever get married (again – the first time was Big Sur) I think it would have to be in Utah, the scenery is breathtaking, I can’t imagine many better backdrops or a better cathedral than the natural ones carved out of red sandstone by time. I like Utah for many of the reason I like New Mexico. Awesome hiking, open space, endless options right outside your door. I’m lucky enough to have a friend who lives in SLC and Moab is almost halfway for us both. Bryce I adored and Zion is still on my to-do list. Really enjoyed the photos!!!

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