Cold and flu season? Sure that’s a very real concern, but beware, folks! Cabin fever is the affliction I worry about most at this time of year. There is, however, one very simple remedy: Get Out Of Your Cabin! If you venture out into canyon country during the winter months, then prepare yourself. You’re on the verge of discovering hidden treasure.
While Moab is best known as a world-class destination for warm-weather activities, keep in mind that all the things you know and love—the awe-inspiring views, the otherworldly landscape, and the meticulously crafted trails—are all still here in the winter waiting for you to explore them in a whole new way. Bikes, jeeps, and rafts give way to skis, snowshoes, or sleds, and, with a little bit of information (provided by me) and an adventurous attitude (provided by you), you can beat cabin fever and experience canyon country like you never have before.
A bit confused about what adventures are available once the snow hits the slickrock? Simply head to the same spot you go to when the weather’s nice. Most of my favorite warm-weather destinations are also on the top of my list of winter-play areas.
The La Sal Mountains offer a remote and rugged feel even in the best of weather, and layers of snow only add to that feeling. Geyser Pass Road is plowed to a parking area at 9600 feet, so it’s pretty easy to access the adventures they offer. Once at the winter trailhead, you have numerous options. Interested in backcountry skiing? You can either follow an established ski track to downhill runs such as Laurel Meadow, Julie’s Glade, and Gold’s Basin, or choose your own adventure. There’s a variety of terrain for all skiing abilities, but keep in mind that good avalanche and backcountry travel skills are needed.
If you’re looking for more of a cardio-style workout, the Lower Utah Nordic Alliance (LUNA) grooms over 12 km of Nordic trails up Geyser Pass Road and into Gold’s Basin. Or maybe you just wanna go out and play in the snow. You’re in luck! The hill below the parking area is a great place to take the family sledding. Pack a lunch, bring some blankets, and spend the entire day playing in some of the lightest Utah powder around.
A little closer to Moab, but no less adventurous feeling, is my personal favorite: UPS/LPS, the Upper and Lower Porcupine singletrack trails. These trails are perfect for snowshoeing or hiking, depending on the depth of the snow. You’ll need boots, and snowshoes can be rented from Gearheads in Moab. The trail twists and turns through a snow-covered juniper forest and emerges at the cliffs of Porcupine Rim. You’ve seen it from your bike, but imagine the view of Castleton Tower and its surrounding mesas through the filtered light of winter. The contrast of the beauty and harshness of this environment is evident everywhere you look. Think Norman Rockwell meets Ed Abbey: the warm comfort of nostalgia crossed with the fiery rebellion of western independence. “You can have my thermos of hot cocoa and my cozy down jacket when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.” Which reminds me, add a thermos of your favorite hot beverage to enjoy while eating your trail lunch, and you add a very welcome morale boost to any of the activities I’ve described.
Of course, you can always stay even closer to Moab and still enjoy winter adventures in the National Parks. Arches and Canyonlands are open year round. Trust me, you won’t regret a hike to see Delicate Arch wrapped in a wintery white coat. And right at the entrance to Arches are the sand dunes that double as an awesome sledding hill when the conditions are right!
When you’re done adventuring, you can treat yourself to a hotel room at a discounted winter rate and head out to eat without having to wait in line. That’s the true hidden treasure of winter in Moab. The traffic to town may slow down, but the action doesn’t have to. Just grab your warmest gear and get out of your cabin! Remember, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!”
Rodney Kopish is a recent transplant from Salt Lake City and spends his free time on a mountain bike or skis. He’s involved with Trail Mix through his wife, Laurel Hunter, who is an active member of the Trail Mix Committee.