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. From November to March visitors here 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.
To speed things up so people can slow themselves down, the region now has scheduled daily air service from Denver, CO, and Salt Lake City, UT. Because there’s a lot of energy here, locals arrange events for themselves to enjoy with out-of-town visitors. A few upcoming fall and winter highlights include:
Nov. 4-6: Moab Celtic Festival "Scots on the Rocks" - The Moab Celtic Festival brings to life the rich heritage and colorful history of Scottish and Celtic cultures through education, crafts, music, highland dance/competition and athletic competition. Patrons can listen to the crowds cheering for the athletes competing, while watching the swirling skirts and dancing feet of the highland dancers.
Nov. 11-13: Moab Salsa Bachata Festival - Bailando With A View - 3 days/3 nights, three rooms of dancing at the Moab Valley Inn over Veterans Day Weekend. Over 40 hours of workshops in salsa, bachata, kizomba, and zouk for all levels. Three nights of performances from world recognized dancers. Dancing each night until 3am. Veterans are free!
Nov. 24-27: Moab International Film Festival - Showcasing films which inspire change for the better in our world.
Dec. 2-3: Winter Sun 10K - A fast course, great raffle prizes and delicious finish food make the 34rd annual Winter Sun 10K a good reason to visit Moab when the air is crisp and the skies are blue and sunny.
Feb. 18: Moab Red Hot 55k/33k - The Moab Red Hot was voted Most Beautiful Trail Race In America by Running Times Magazine.
Feb. 25-26: The Trashion Show - 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.
Mar. 25: Behind the Rocks Ultra - This run was created to highlight Moab's last hidden gem, the Behind the Rocks Wilderness Area. The course was designed to highlight the technical slickrock trails of Moab, the views of the Behind the Rocks Wilderness area, and the snow-capped La Sal Mountains.
Mar. 25-27: Moab Rocks Mountain Bike Stage Race - Enjoy some of the region’s best classic and new routes including Klondike, Porcupine Rim and Mag 7. Combined, they are a 3-day masterpiece of XC and timed descents in a fully supported format. All this wrapped up in a fun and friendly atmosphere combining camaraderie and competition.
Unlike more blustery parts of the United States, winter temperatures in the Moab region are moderate, with daytime highs averaging 44°F in December, 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. Spring comes early in the Arches area. 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.