A Winter Trip Through the Heart of Utah’s Desert
Experience a world unlike anything you’ve ever imagined in the high desert mountains and plummeting canyons of south-central Utah. You’ll step into two national parks, three state parks, and all the scenic winding roads your heart could desire.
When you journey to south-central Utah and wander grand mesas, twisting slot canyons, and oversized red rock "goblins," your first thought will probably be, "How does this even exist?" Short answer: geology, of course. But the long asnswer? Well, you'll just have to get to know the area up close to begin to grasp it.
This swath of high desert is awash in history, from its original Native American inhabitants to nineteenth-century settlers and cowboys... and now, you, stepping foot into the wide open. This five-day itinerary takes you into slot canyons just as wide as your shoulders, toadstool-shaped rock gardens, soaring sandstone arches, and a hiking trail worthy of the name "Fairyland."
While these lands are remote, their fame draws many visitors during the warmer months. Which is why the wisest travelers wait till winter sets in. The desert falls quiet. Just you, your breath, the crunch of snow and a near-mystical landscape.
This is, of course, a desert, but keep in mind that it's high elevation, and certainly not warm in the winter. Temperatures can dip into the 30s, 20s, or lower, and roads can get icy. So bundle for cool-weather hiking, and keep in mind that a hotel or Airbnb will probably be much preferable to camping.
Start: Green River or Salt Lake City
Finish: Bryce Canyon National Park
Hours of drive time: 10
A Grand Tour of the San Rafael Swell
This grand tour goes into the heart of Utah's Swell from north to south, connecting the uplift’s spectacular views with playful slot-canyon hikes, bike excursions, rock art, dinosaur bones, and soft-serve cones in town.
Bryce Canyon Hikes
Hiking through Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the best ways to see the park’s famous hoodoos, spires and sandstone fins.
Bryce Canyon Travel Tips
What’s the best time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park? What should I bring? Can I camp? Read our Bryce Canyon travel tips to find out.
Goblin Valley State Park
Goblin Valley State Park could almost be mistaken for a martian landscape with intricate and bizarre geologic formations. Bring the family and experience this amazing place by hiking, camping, mountain biking and exploring the surrounding canyons.
The city of Green River was once a stomping ground for Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch, and is a haven for river runners who raft places such as Desolation and Gray Canyons. The climate makes for perfect melon growing.
The Underrated Trails Within the San Rafael Swell
Utah's San Rafael Swell features a vast landscape of winding gorges carved deep by rivers, and you'll find multi-colored sandstone mountains and mysterious slot canyons. Here's a quick guide to some of the best trails to explore the region.
The Undiscovered San Rafael Swell
Circle back to the San Rafael Swell, a gem of public lands in Central Utah you may have missed on your last visit through some of Southern Utah's Mighty 5® national parks. The Little Grand Canyon of the San Rafael Swell is a stunning panorama from above, and an incredible adventure within.
Things To Do in Bryce Canyon National Park
Whether it’s a long backpacking expedition or cross-country skiing in the winter, a new adventure is waiting for you in Bryce Canyon.
Winter in Bryce Canyon National Park
See red rock hoodoos coated with a dusting of snow against a stunning scenic backdrop on an unforgettable winter visit to Bryce Canyon National Park. With elevations of up to 9,100 feet and an average winter snowfall of nearly 100 inches, there is plenty of winter to be found at this high-elevation scenic wonder.