Another side of Utah
Imagine ruggedly beautiful, red desert landscape coated with a layer of snow. Utah’s big three national parks – Zion, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef – are year-round destinations, but for the adventurous traveller the colder months offer the chance to get away from the crowds of the high season. Plus, hotels’ rates during these quiet times are much lower, which means you can explore for longer. Rug up and take a different view of these natural wonders.
Zion National Park
Of Utah’s national parks, Zion has the lowest elevation, and a light dusting of snow on its upper rims is pure eye candy. Plus, trails such as Angels Landing, Observation Point and the Narrows are open all year round and devoid of the crowds that arrive in spring. There’s also the opportunity to try canyoneering, mountain biking, and helicopter and jeep tours. These operate during all seasons, and avoiding peak tourist season means your experience is likely to be more personalised.
The Narrows, especially, is a truly magical experience during winter. If you’re lucky enough to experience it during a snow flurry listen closely – you just might hear the snow fall. Just be sure to rent some gear from any of the outfitters in Springdale to stay warm and dry while you hike its watery paths, where the walls of Zion Canyon come together and soar hundreds of metres into the air above your head.
The town of Springdale is the perfect base for visiting Zion and the surrounding area. This eclectic town is loaded with amazing hotel properties, restaurants, art galleries and shops.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Canyon topped with a fresh blanket of white snow. It’s like some sort of Wild West Christmas card come to life.
During winter, the air is crisp and it seems as though you can see forever. Leave the car behind and elevate your Bryce Canyon experience by trying your hand at cross country skiing or snowshoeing. You can rent equipment for both at places like Ruby’s Inn, where there’s also an ice-skating rink. For a memory that will last forever, take a sleigh ride or go horseback riding in the snow-covered environs. Ruby’s Inn hosts a Winter Festival in mid-February, with tours, ski clinics, the chance to try riding a fat bike over snow, kids’ activities and so much more.
Another highlight of a trip here is traversing one of America’s most scenic routes, National Scenic Byway 12, also known as Utah’s All-American Road. Enjoy incredible views of sandstone rock formations, forests and state parks, and stop at towns like Escalante, the gateway to the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
Capitol Reef National Park
The end point of Highway 12 is Capitol Reef National Park, which is the just the beginning of another incredible Utah adventure. Even during the depths of winter, it’s low elevation desert areas remain almost snow free and the temperatures are mild. All the amazing scenery – Capitol Dome, a white sandstone formation named after the Capitol Building, Chimney Rock, and the natural arch of Hickman Bridge – are accessible during the winter months and you’ll sometimes seemingly have them all to yourself.
If you want to take to the heights of the park, tackle some of the famous hiking trails. At Red Rock Paradise, there are many tracks suitable for daylong adventures and all of them have spectacular views.
There are a number of big towns, like Loa, Torrey and Hanksville, offering lodging and dining, while the latter two centres also have outfitters who can set you up with all the equipment you’ll need to get out and about.
Need more inspiration to discover Utah? Find our suggested itineraries here or check out our USA Tailor-made collection brochure to discover more of this spectacular country. Alternatively, enquire now, call (AU) 1300 295 049 or (NZ) 0800 238 368 or see your travel agent to custom make your own tailor-made itinerary.
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