Moab’s busy season is fall, when visitors from all over the world flood its canyons, parks, and campsites. But come winter, Moab returns to its natural state: a desolate and otherworldly wilderness ripe for exploration.
Winter is also when the locals come out to play, since some of Moab’s adventures would leave you sweltering in the sun during any other time of year. Winter in Moab means you can easily sport a T-shirt and shorts, as long as the sun is shining (cloudy days will require a few more layers). Camping is idyllic, too, although you may find the off-season pricing ($30-$50 per night, anyone?) and hot tubs of Moab’s lodging options enticing as well.
Here, we take a look at 7 adventurous ways to enjoy winter in Moab.
1. Snowtography in Arches National Park
Arches National Park is breathtaking any time of year, but when the low winter sun illuminates the snowy white icing atop Moab’s velvety red rocks, you get a scenery that is unlike anything else on this planet. It's a photographer's dream, whether you're a pro or just adding some brag-worthy shots to your Instagram feed. And because it’s winter, you can expect to share the entire park with only a handful of people, rather than the endless parade of visitors that Arches sees during summer and fall.
2. Bouldering at Big Bend
Ask any of the professional climbers who live in Moab year-round where and when to boulder, and they’ll point you to Big Bend in the winter. The cooler weather makes the rubber on your climbing shoes extra grippy, and your hands won't have to be as reliant on chalk to stay dry. Some climbs, like Silly Wabbit (V3+), are so sun-baked in the summer that you can really only spend time on them come winter. While there are many options for climbing on rocks in Moab, Big Bend bouldering is best, given the day-long exposure it receives from the winter sun.
3. Climbing at Wall Street and Kane Creek
Wall Street (Potash Road) shares Big Bend’s sun exposure, but offers epic sport and trad climbing instead of bouldering. Tastes Like Chicken (5.7) is a great climb to warm up on. Wall street is sun-bathed from early morning until mid-day. After that, move just across the river to Ice Cream Parlor (Kane Creek Road), which benefits from the afternoon sun.
4. Backcountry Skiing in the La Sal Mountains
The La Sal Mountains provide a beautiful backdrop to Moab’s red towers and cliffs. And in the winter, they come alive as a destination in themselves, offering scenic backcountry skiing that can accommodate every skill level. A good place to start is Corkscrew Glades on Tuk No Mountain. As you climb up through aspen forests, be sure to look back occasionally to take in spectacular views of the red desert dropping away behind you.
5. Disc Golf at Base Camp
Also along Kane Creek road is the Base Camp disc golf course, known as one of the three most extreme disc golf courses in the world. The general advice for this course is: “Don't go left on 1 or right on 5 unless you can swim. Don't go right on 14 unless you can fly!” Base Camp is open all winter long, and usually stays pretty dry: Any snowfall melts within the first hours of daylight. It is a private course, with an entry fee of $5, plus another $5 if you want to camp there—an ideal way to make a weekend getaway out of it.
6. Snow Biking Porcupine Rim
Porcupine Rim is the classic mountain bike ride in Moab, combining Moab’s best canyon overlooks with technical riding atop slick rock. This ride is done by locals year round. If you’re lucky enough to have snow on the ground, make the most of it and rent a fat bike for the journey from Poison Spider bike shop in town. Most riders shuttle Porcupine Rim, driving one car up top and leaving one car in town. Depending on where you start, Porcupine Rim can offer 9 to 16 miles of glorious descent. If you’re truly hardcore, you’ll leave the car behind and ride the rim as a loop or an out and back.
7. Snowshoeing at Bryce Canyon
Hoodoos, those cool-looking formations that are left behind when wind, frost, and running water create gaps within small cracks and slits of large plateaus, are commonplace in Moab. In fact, Bryce Canyon has more hoodoos then anywhere else in the world, making for an epic snowshoeing playground. Unlike Moab, the snow in Bryce Canyon tends to stick around, so snowshoeing is a cool way to experience the area. Be prepared to bundle up for this place, as sunlight can be sparse, and the brisk wind whistles through the hoodoos—which only adds to the winter-y feel of this uniquely Moab adventure.