Winter may not feel like the hiking high season to the casual visitor, but to locals, winter is often our favorite time in the outdoors. In fact, beyond avoiding the crowds and heat, there are many advantages to hiking Moab-area trails November through March.
1. See few or no motorized vehicles.
This is a perfect time to hike on what are primarily jeep trails. Jeepers and other motorheads are typically at home repairing their vehicles’ undercarriages this time of year, so go explore Hell’s Revenge or Fins ‘N Things out in the Sand Flats, or get your legs in shape with a cool scramble up the Moab Rim trail off Kane Creek Drive, where you might get to see, like I did last December, the Colorado River festooned with floating wreaths of ice. The sun is bright, the sky is brilliant, and our winter storms and snow accumulation usually don’t last long.
2. Encounter few or no bikes.
Have you been curious about the new or extended mountain bike trails the Grand County Trail Mix Committee has added in the Moab Brands, Magnificent 7, or Klondike Bluffs systems? Now’s a great time to explore these new or new-to-you trails on foot.
Go out and hike trails that are too hot or crowded in the summer months, or enjoy the elegantly engineered Pipe Dream biking trail (southwest edge of the Moab Valley, below the rim) now that it’s relatively bike-free. Or walk, hike, jog, or run the brand newand shimmering Jasper and Agate Trails (see map).
Agate and Jasper Trails:
Go north from Moab on 191 past the airport to about mile 148 ½ and turn east at the North Klondike Trails sign. Proceed 1.6 miles to the second parking lot on the south side of the road with a post-and-cable barrier and trail signs.
Better yet, join a Trail Mix building or maintaining crew as a volunteer. I’ve seen what’s involved in scouting, planning, and building trail dreams into reality. As I’ve helped the crews craft ramps, do rock lining, cut benches, dig berms, and sculpt banks, camber, and flow out on our county lands, I will never again look at trails in the same way.
3. Have time for a leisurely breakfast out
. Without having to tear out of your house or hotel at 5 AM (or earlier) for a summer exploratory, the winter months allow you time to savor a long, lingering morning meal, actually sitting down at a table, enjoying an entire breakfast bagel, burrito, taco, omelet, or fry-up. You can roll out of your kitchen or restaurant and hit the trail at a leisurely 10 or 11, happily sated from something smothered in Monterey jack cheese, maple syrup, or green chile. Maybe all three.
4. Create new holiday traditions.
A physically active holiday feels great, even if it has been paired with a traditional sit-around-the-house gut-fest in front of TV football. Don’t make Mom or Grandma slave in the kitchen and serve you. Get them out on the trails themselves! And if it snows, our red Mars landscape looks fantastic wrapped in nature’s ermine stole; all a snowy hike may cost you is muddy boots. The mashed potatoes, pumpkin pies, leftover stuffing, marshmallowed yams, and Grandma’s pumpkin chiffon pie can be saved for when you get back. If you don’t trust your brother-in-law to save any, pack some with you. Some visitor centers are closed on the observed winter holidays, but the trails and paths are still open.
Trail Mix is working on even more trails! Your New Year’s resolution could be to hike new trails every winter holiday season. In addition to aerobic treats for the winter hiker, the tourist bikers who fatten up Grand County every spring and fall are in for spectacular new challenges as each of our new trails is approved.
You’ll need to layer for the cold, and apply sunscreen and bring plenty of water, since sunburn and dehydration are still risks, even in the cold. But, whether on a trail intended for mountain bikes, jeeps, or hikers, enjoy your winter hiking holidays!
is a painter, writer, and an avid winter hiker. She can sometimes coax her three grown sons to visit and share Moab trails in the winter. A volunteer trail builder and maintainer with the Trail Mix crews, she also edits the
“Trail Happenings” column.