Moab, Utah’s Winter Secret

A Great Place for Snow Country Playtime

Saturday, September 27 2008 18:15 Tina L. Snyder   Trails
Maybe you know Moab, Utah for its beautiful scenery, proximity to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and outdoor recreational opportunities. Moab has been the destination of choice for spring, summer and fall adventure.

Few fans of the West, however, have experienced Moab's beauty as a scenic winter wonderland and playland for winter sports enthusiasts. It's Moab's special secret for snow country travelers.
Located within the Manti La Sal National Forest, 24 miles from Moab, the La Sal Mountains offer miles of trails and virtually unlimited backcountry skiing terrain, as well as sledding, snowshoe and snowmobiling.

The groomed trails pass by several meadows, some steep enough for telemarking (a type of free-heel skiing), and they lead to high terrain where experienced backcountry explorers and mountaineers can find long descents-equal to any in Utah.

The La Sal Mountain Loop Road is plowed regularly to the Geyser Pass road turnoff and less frequently to Castle Valley. Geyser Pass road is kept open to the parking area (offering visitors much-welcomed restrooms) at 9,600 ft. and provides access to backcountry skiing and snow-boarding in the Mt. Tomasaki and Gold Basin areas.

Laurel Meadow provides telemarking for all levels of ability, and offers spectacular views of the peaks. The main Gold Basin Trail provides backcountry touring and mountaineering.

It is a wonderful place to practice, gaze at Canyon Country and watch the sunset. You can look across to the Moab Rim at Behind the Rocks, Canyonlands National Park, and the Henry Mountains, 96 miles away, which to some seem close enough to touch.

Touring and Viewing Opportunities

The Geyser Pass Trail is 1,000 feet higher and offers terrific touring and viewing opportunities along the way. The left-hand trail skirts around the Northern group of peaks onto Taylor flat for many miles of open touring and snowmobiling.

The Chair 11 trail gives you a look at mountaineering. Venturing up to the highest side of Chair 11 you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of Horse Canyon, Gold Basin, Mount Tukuhnikivatz, Mount Peale, and a hundred miles of Canyon Country.

Moonlight Meadow is the place to watch the scenery change as the sun goes down. The view of Canyon Country is spectacularly framed between Haystack Peak and Brumley Ridge. Brew some tea, stay for the sunset and ski in the moonlight!

The Dark Canyon trail, which skirts east from Geyser Pass around Mount Mellenthin offers isolated back country and mountaineering in a place of sheer cliffs. The terrain is remarkably similar to the High Uintas until you look at the red canyons, Paradox Basin and the San Juan Mountains to the south and east.

Guided day and overnight ski tours, and ski rentals are available in Moab, as is the La Sal Mountain Hut System for those who desire a more adventurous experience.

Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

For those who prefer a little warmer atmosphere, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks are open year-round, with the Visitor Centers closed only on Christmas Day. With the crowds of the main season gone, the serenity of the parks unfold as you explore nature and take in the sparkling beauty. Generally mild winters lend to sunny winter-warm days that make hiking especially pleasurable.

Under a blanket of white or even a skiff of snow the views in the parks are magnificent, with the glistening white snow creating a stark contrast against the red rock. Rock formations that go unnoticed during the other seasons, suddenly come to life in the winter snow. Photograph opportunities are spectacular due to the added dimensions brought out by the white of winter, where even a clump of sage brush is transformed into a picture of beauty.

Moonlight hikes in Arches National Park are spectacular in the winter, as the earlier sunsets make even long trails, an early-out, early-in adventure. A moonlit hike to Delicate Arch after a light snow is especially unique, with moonshine glistening on a blanket of white. Winter hikes require extra caution, as an occasional icy patch can be found on the trails.

Occasionally, inversions in the valley convert the vistas from the Island in the Sky District of Canyonands into images of floating water lapping against the red rock buttes. With views of nearly 100 miles in any given direction, the deep sculptured canyons 1,500 feet below are transformed into a vast ocean.

Winter is a wonderful adventure in Moab, from the outdoor winter recreation to the spectacular beauty of Mother Nature's wonders.

For more information on discovering this secret side of Moab, contact the Moab Area Travel Council at (800) 635-6622 or visit their website at and click on "winter" under the "what to do" heading.


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