Utah

The reward is pure solitude as you gaze out of some of the most stunning vistas in the world. Skip the beach trip and explore Southern Utah like you’ve never seen it before. Here are your guides to going south this winter.

Travelers from around the world flock to Utah’s five national parks to witness the postcard scenery in person under the steady summer sun. On the flip side, this same veritable movie set of scenic landmarks is less traveled during the winter months. The five national parks and their surrounding country are full of solitude and with an adventurous spirit to shrug off mild doses of moody weather you can count on having it all to yourself. While winter weather in Southern Utah can be mild you’ll still need to deal with cooler and widely fluctuating temperatures as well as intermittent rain and snow. Throughout the season, nights and shaded areas are quite chilly, while exploring in the sunshine can be delightful. But with some advanced planning and a good set of layers, these small impediments are easily handled.

Utah tends to be a little cooler during the winter months than southwestern Utah (which shares some climate patterns with the warmer Mojave Desert) but both areas require some attention to staying warm and dry. Keep this list in mind as you set off for your Southern Utah winter ramble.

Clothing

• Base layers
Wicking fabrics, generally a polyester blend of some sort, are a required. They’ll keep the moisture away from your skin as you sweat on a strenuous hike and after upon cooling down.
• Outer shell
A breathable, waterproof or highly water-resistant jacket is  a must. Think lighter here — something you can stuff into your day pack. Your perfect jacket should have venting zippers in the armpits to open when you heat up.
• Rain pants
Pack a thin breathable layer you can pull on and off if you’re caught on the trail in snowy or rainy weather.
• Hats and gloves
A nice pair of running gloves will do the trick for your hands and a fleece beanie that can easily be stashed in an outside pocket as well as a rain hat will keep you toasty.
• Hiking boots
This is one area not to skimp. You’ll need a good boot, ideally breathable and waterproof with a grippy sole. Slickrock, turns out, is actually slick when it gets wet.

Gear

• Day pack
This needs to be a large enough pack that you can stash those warmer layers you put on before you warmed up.
• Yaktrax
These are basically “chains” for your boots that will help you on snowy trails and dangle nicely from your day pack if conditions are mellow.

• Trekking Poles
Clawing your way up snowy and, at times, icy trails and across wet slick rock can be tricky. Some nice sturdy, collapsible poles with a rubber tip will give you an extra place to put weight down while on slippery descents.
• Emergency Kit (Driving)
Pack extra layers, blankets, emergency food supplies, water, jumper cables and a first aid kit. The roads are generally clear but on remote highways you may be out there before the plows are and you may also well be out of cell phone range. It’s best to be prepared.

Camping in Winter Wilderness

Eric Porter and Kurt Gensheimer hanging around outside their tent with their mountain bikes leaning up against the trees while they eat breakfast at a campsite near Red Canyon in Southern Utah

Although a warm room at the end of day traipsing around the wintery red rock desert is a thing of beauty, it is entirely possible to camp your way across the land. Campsites on public lands and within the national parks are easily found during the winter season. You’ll need: a good all-season tent, a low-temperature sleeping bag and plenty of materials to make a roaring fire.