Southeastern Utah: Arches and Canyonlands

Southeastern Utah is cut by the mighty Colorado River into a vast landscape of mesas called the Colorado River Plateau. The area is flanked by the snowy La Sal Mountain range and offers a slew of wintertime recreation, such as hiking in state and national parks and on BLM lands, world-renowned mountain biking, four-wheeling and off-road driving on the famed Poison Spider trail to name just a few seasonal highlights in these winter wonderlands. Moab is the center of the action in this part of the state and known for its reputation as a jumping off point for red rock adventure, even during the colder months of winter. The town is within easy striking distance of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks as well as Dead Horse Point State Park and in the center of a vast map of public lands to play in. For a fun cold weather vacation, book your travel to southeastern Utah – home of the best national parks in winter!

Arches National Park

One of Utah's most popular parks lives up to its name, with a vast array of mind-boggling sandstone arches around every corner. Arches National Park is packed in summertime, mainly because of the easy hike to its show pony: Delicate Arch. But like other Utah national parks in winter, it’s blissfully uncrowded come this time of year, so be sure to check it out.

As the National Park Service points out, while most hiking trails are open throughout the year, some care is needed to safely navigate the rocky Arches trails in winter. Popular trails may become icy from packed snow while drifting snow can conceal cairns, which are the small towers of stone that mark trails across the slickrock landscapes.

Devils Garden Campground is open first come, first served in the winter months before returning to a reservation system in March.

Canyonlands National Park

Perhaps one of the park’s system most disjointed areas of wild majesty, Canyonlands National Park is truly a puzzle thanks to the canyon-carving power of the Colorado and Green rivers. Divided by the rugged topography of the landscape into three districts — Needles, Island in the Sky and the honestly named Maze — the park beautifully befuddles. The Islands in the Sky area is the most easily accessible, while Needles and the rugged Maze offer more backcountry experiences.

The park is always open, and the Island in the Sky Visitor Center is your gateway to the most popular section of Canyonlands, which remains open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout the winter, except major holidays. The Needles Visitor Center closes December to mid-February, but well-prepared adventurers with the right gear can still enjoy trips to this tranquil district.

Hikers in coats for chilly weather hiking Dead Horse PointA cool December hike at Dead Horse Point State Park, near Canyonlands National Park

Base camp: Moab

Where to stay: Moab is a year-round destination and most of its lodging options are open all 12 months. Familiar chains like the Fairfield Inn all have outposts in the town and make solid bases for your excursions and the rustic and scenic Red Cliffs Lodge continues to stand atop the TripAdvisor rankings. But do consider staying at least one night in the yurts at Dead Horse Point State Park during your trip. These round Mongolian-style tents sleep a cozy six or a roomy two and come equipped with burly heaters. It’s a bathroom-outside affair but the view of the stars at night are worth the chilly walk to the heated restroom. Reservations available at Dead Horse Point State Park.

Red Cliffs Lodge
Milepost 14, Highway 128
Moab, Utah 84532

Fairfield Inn
1863 N. Highway 191 Moab, (435) ­259-­5350

Explore more Moab accommodations.

Where to eat: The Twisted Sisters Cafe is a friendly spot owned by its namesakes — two smart-aleckey and, well, twisted sisters who you’ll often finding behind the bar serving up delicious margaritas.
11 E. 100 North, Moab
(435) 355-0088

Where to eat: The aptly named Eklecticafé is the best breakfast stop in town and boasts a vegan-friendly menu.
352 N. Main St, Moab
(435) 259-6896

Make a note: the best national parks in winter are in southeastern Utah. Bundle up and plan to visit.

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