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Winter Scenery Trip

Winter Scenery Trip

Posted in: Outdoor adventures, Travel on January 17, 2023.

Winter Again

It’s mid-January now. Which means that the national parks of Southern Utah are quiet, mostly un-visited, and often snowy. Not too many people think of visiting the parks in the middle of winter. But we at the Lodge are going to try to change public opinion on the matter. Because to us, there is a special wonder that can only be found when the deserts of Southern Utah are covered in a fresh dusting of snow.

Zion National Park with low clouds obscuring some of the cliffs

Photo by Daniel Olah via unsplash.com

A Different Kind of Winter Wonderland

When was the last time you went on a vacation in the winter to a snowy location? Most people who do are looking for the thrill of winter sports, like skiing or snowmobiling. (Incidentally Southern Utah has both, we’ve written about them here and here. But this post is mostly about enjoying the beauty of a winter landscape.) Not too many people venture out in the winter just for the scenery. And that’s were we think we can help. Here’s our message: winter is a great time to explore Utah’s five national parks.

It’s hard to convey just how magical it is to see heavy clouds floating low across the towering cliffs of Zion Canyon. Or how it makes you feel to witness snow on the red sandstone of Capitol Reef when the sun breaks thorough and illuminates the foreground. These are experiences that spark a kind of reverie in the human heart that makes language fail. But let’s get practical for a moment, what would a Southern-Utah-winter-vacation-that’s-not-about-skiing-or-ice-fishing-or-anything-else-except-sight-seeing look like?

Hikers on a snowy trail in Bryce Canyon

Photo by Hans Isaacson via unsplash.com

A Simple Suggested Itinerary

Ok, lets plan a simple two-park trip to help you think about what you might want to see and do.

Let’s start with the most snowy of the Southern Utah national parks – Bryce Canyon. Bryce Canyon is a great first stop on your trip. Its fantastic hoodoos look amazing when they are contrasted with the white of the snow, adding a layer of dimension that isn’t seen other time of the year. And there are lots of trails open too during the winter, so you can get a proper look around the park. We suggest Navajo Loop, the Queen’s Garden, and Mossy Cave – which isn’t so much mossy this time of year as it is icy. Plus Bryce Canyon has these great full moon hikes, even during the coldest winter nights (as long as it’s not snowing) which you can read about here. They also have a winter guide here for tourists.

Then, if the roads are clear, and the sun is shining (which is does most days in Southern Utah, even if there is snow on the ground) take the back way to Capitol Reef. There are lots of hikes that are great in winter. Check out the Rim Overlook, Cassidy Arch, and the Fremont Gorge Overlook. And hope to see some fresh snow fall on the orchards of Fruita. That is really something special! Then pack up and head home. Budget a couple days in each park, and time for driving, this very simple winter trip will take five days to do. Perfect for stretching your legs during this long post-Christmas slog of winter.

Obviously you can mix and match any and all of the national parks to create a great winter vacation. Zion, Arches, they are all wonderful this time of year.

The red cliffs of Zion dusted with snow

Photo by Donald Giannatti via unsplash.com

Safety First

Last thought. Winter can be both magical and fearsome. Preparation is key to making your winter sojourn to the national parks fun and safe. So here’s a few pointers:

  • Check the weather! If there is a snow storm coming, change your plans. Don’t get caught in a blizzard on the road or on the trail.
  • Have some emergency stuff in the car, just in case. Some blankets, food, water, etc.
  • Tell friends where your going and when. People can check in with you if you are running late, or call for help if you get stranded.
  • Wear proper winter clothes. The sun shines in Southern Utah a lot during winter. But it can still be cold and windy. Make sure you’re warm, especially on the trail. Day

With some basic precautions, you can have a truly unforgettable vacation during winter in one, or several, of the national parks! We promise it’s worth it.

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