The red rock playground better known as Moab, UT, is one of those high desert destinations that used to hunker down come late fall and winter. But not anymore. Visitors find themselves in solitude and silence, at the same time enjoying off-season rates in one of the world’s great natural playgrounds. People who want to avoid the bustle of commercial ski resorts seek out this region for such winter pursuits as cross country and telemark skiing and snowshoeing, sledding and snowmobiling on both worked trails and back country terrain in the nearby Manti-La Sal National Forest in the La Sal Mountains rising some 12,000 feet over Moab.
While responding to the laid-back tempo of winter, Moab Adventure Center in the heart of this recreational community remains open with a selection of outdoor gear, clothing, equipment rentals and tips for visitors in its downtown store location. On request the Center also offers a wide range of guided tours, including Hummer safaris, horseback rides, scenic flights, arches tours and do-it-yourself jeep rentals.
Because there’s a lot of energy here, locals arrange events for themselves to enjoy with out-of-town visitors, such as the Moab Red Hot 55k/33k in Feb. Voted Most Beautiful Trail Race In America, visit GrassRootsEvents.net or call 435-260-0886. Another popular Winter fun party is the Trashion Show Feb. 25-6. Design and dress up in your best upcycled outfit for this raging runway and dance party. All proceeds go towards education programs and events helping to create a culture of conscious consumption and wise use of resources in the community. For more info call 435-260-8931.
Unlike more blustery parts of the United States, winter temperatures in the Moab region are moderate, with daytime highs averaging 43°F in January, 52°F in February and 63°F in March. There is little to no precipitation. Scenery changes very little from season to season. Juniper trees stay green year-round. Cottonwood trees grow in the bottom of washes and lose their leaves. The main attractions – the red sandstone formations – take on a richer hue in moist conditions and transform themselves when flocked with snow. Heavy snowfall is uncommon. Snow usually melts quickly in sunny areas but may accumulate in shady spots. Winter hikers need to be prepared to cross snow on some trail sections and to use care on icy trails. Most go through areas where there is plenty of sunshine making it very pleasant to hike during the day. Typically all that’s needed is a jacket. By late February, tiny wild flowers are starting to push through the soil and nighttime temperatures are moderating. February is a great month to visit the national parks.