We don’t know about you, but we’re feeling the winter blues. While the Colorado mountains are beautiful with all the snow, a weekend trip to a warm(er) place was just what we needed to mix things up. Moab is a popular destination for Denverites in the spring and fall months, but why not go a little early and beat the crowds? The red rocks of Moab are even more stunning with a light dusting of snow, and adventuring outside is way more comfortable than it is close to Denver.
Temperatures in March and April typically hover around 55 to 64 degrees, and with the right gear, sleeping outside is completely feasible. This is your ultimate guide to Moab in the winter for those who want to get off the beaten path. Plus, we aren’t requiring that you take any time off work. We’ll list our favorite camp spots—and how to camp in the late winter—as well as lesser-known hiking trails and sights to see. And of course, our favorite grub spots.
How to Get There
Approximate drive time from Denver: 5.5 hours
If you’re leaving after work Friday, make sure you pack everything beforehand so you can be on your way as soon as the clock hits 5. If you’re looking to make a stop for dinner, check out one of our other guides to the area for good food stops along the way. When you get there, stake out your camp spot. Getting in late, you may want to go somewhere easy to get to and then move to a more scenic spot the second night.
Winter Camping Safety (and Comfort)
When you’re camping in the winter, you going to have to take “staying warm” a lot more seriously, as you’re at risk for hypothermia if the temperatures drop low and you aren’t prepared. Check the weather forecast for the weekend, and compare it to the rating on your tent and sleeping bag. Keep in mind that most gear is temperature rated for survival, not comfort. So, if you’re sleeping bag is rated for 20 degrees, that means it will keep you warm enough for survival, but you may not necessarily feel warm.
True winter sleeping bags are temp rated for 15 degrees and lower. This may not be necessary in Moab in the winter depending on the weekend, but trust us, you’d rather err on the side being too warm than not warm enough when it comes to sleeping outside. You will also want to use a sleeping pad to keep yourself off the cold ground.
As for clothing, dress in layers that will both keep you warm and prevent moisture. Start with an under-layer of synthetic long underwear tops and bottoms, then continue with other insulating layers as needed: synthetic top and bottoms, fleece, down jacket, hat, gloves, etc. You will also want to bring microspikes for hiking.
Of course, if the weather takes a turn for the worse and it’s no longer safe to sleep outside, use your best judgment and find a place to stay in Moab — there are plenty.
- Goose Island Campground—$20 per night, BLM site located alongside the Colorado River on Highway 128.
- Grandstaff Campground—$20 per night, BLM site located alongside the Colorado River on Highway 128.
- Lone Mesa Campground—$20 per night, BLM site located in Big Mesa Area.
- Devil’s Garden Campground—$25 per night, located in Arches National Park. Must reserve ahead of time.
- Oohwah Campground—$5 per night, located in the Manti-La Sal National Forest.
- Willow Flat Campground—$17 for tent-only camping. Located in Caribou-Targhee National Forest.
The hiking in Moab is known to be some of the best for its stunning geology, and can easily be enjoyed in the winter. While many paths are melted by March, bring your microspikes just in case of ice. These trails range in difficulty and while some are classic Moab area hikes, others are off the beaten path.
Professor Creek and Mary Jane Canyon Trail
Distance: 7.6 miles
The Lowdown: Our personal favorite, as you won’t see too many others on this jaw-dropping hike. Located at the end of a dirt road on the outskirts of Moab, this trail follows the Professor Creek through open views as well as deep canyons. The turnaround points is at a waterfall, which is in full force in late winter/early spring.
Delicate Arch Trail
Distance: 2.9 miles
The Lowdown: If this is your first time in Moab, or you haven’t gotten around to seeing this particular arch, this is definitely one to check off your list. Located inside Arches National Park, you may recognize if from the Utah license plates, as it’s quite the geological wonder.
Corona and Bowtie Arch Trail
Distance: 2.3 miles
The Lowdown: If you want to see some famous arches, but don’t want to go into one of the parks, Corona and Bowtie Arch sit right outside the park, and are adjacent from each other. Although a quick hike, be prepared for some difficult features—like a steep wooden ladder.
More hikes in the area:
Other Sites to See
Along with the hikes, there are plenty of other great activities to do in Moab depending on your personal interests. Whether you like rock climbing, mountain biking, or even road biking, there’s plenty of fun activities. However, to keep things available to everyone, we’re including some scenic byways and viewpoints that open up the sights to all skill levels—and have access to plenty of these activities nearby.
- Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway, Utah Highway 128 – This byway follows the Colorado River and has stopping points at bubbling springs, towering canyon walls and open valleys. Great for the drive into Moab if you come during the daytime, or you can hit it on your way out.
- Dead Horse Point Scenic Byway Utah Highway 313 – Drive up a canyon and along a plateau on this shorter byway that leads to the famous overlook, Dead Horse Point. This byway is close to Canyonlands, so you can do the drive before or after going into the park. If you really want to be awe-struck, this is a great sunset spot.
- Fiery Furnace Viewpoint – Inside Arches National Park, take a short walk (0.2 miles) to Fiery Furnace Viewpoint. This is a spot where you can see both the “fiery” red rocks of Moab with a snowy La Sal mountain backdrop.
No camping trip would be complete without good food. While we love roasting marshmallows and concocting other creative campfire foods, you can’t beat the convenience of Moab for when you’d rather have a pile of pad thai, like, now. Stop into one of these great local spots for whatever you’re craving after a day of exploring.
Moab Coffee Roasters – Your one-stop pre-exploring shop, Moab Coffee Roasters not only has great, affordable coffee, but a killer breakfast menu. With everyone from waffles to breakfast burritos, this is the perfect place to swing by before you head out for the day.
Milt’s Stop and Eat – A classic burger spot, this place knows what it’s doing—and the locals know it too. Always bustling with people wanting to get their burger and milkshake fix, Milt’s is a must in Moab.
Singha Thai Cuisine – If you’re craving a big bowl of noodles, rice, or curry after a chilly day outside, this is your spot. With big portions of all the Thai classics, you’ll leave full and satisfied.
El Charro Loco – Tacos and outdoor activities just go together, right? Really tacos go with everything, so scoop up all your favorite Tex-Mex staples at this local spot.