Visiting Canyonlands National Park in January


Have you ever considered planning a trip to Canyonlands National Park in January?

We really enjoy visiting Canyonlands and Arches in the winter.

We live close enough to these parks near Moab, Utah that we can visit at various times throughout year.

Use this guide to help you decide if a January vacation to Canyonlands is the right time for you to enjoy outdoor winter adventures at this park.

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What to Pack for a Winter Vacation

1.  Hiking Gear

2. Clothing – Layers

3. Daypack

4. Other

Where to Stay Near Canyonlands Island in the Sky

There are no lodging facilities in the park, only camping.

Island in the Sky Campgrounds

Places to stay near Canyonlands National Park in Moab

  •  Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Moab – we enjoyed our stay and highly recommend this hotel due to its location close to Canyonlands.
  •  Purple Sage – our all-time favorite place to stay in Moab – walking distance to shopping, full kitchen, and only 8 units so you don’t feel lost in a large hotel. 
  •  Red Cliffs Lodge – rooms up to 6 people – located 17 miles from Moab, this lodge is known for its beautiful location, winery and activities like horseback riding, fishing and more!
  • Townhomes south of town – we really like the townhomes in Spanish Valley with kitchen, washer and dryer in the unit and a swimming pool/hot tub (just a 5 minute drive south of Moab).

Camping in Canyonlands in the Winter

There are 12 sites at Willow Flat Campground at Island in the Sky. They are first-come, first-served. This campground is open year-round.

There are 26 sites at The Needles Campground. During the winter these sites are all first-come, first-served.

Visit the NPS website for more information on camping at Canyonlands in the winter.


Winter is a quiet time at this national park in Utah. You’ll enjoy the park with fewer people and avoid the heat of summer.

In January you won’t wait in line to enter the park and you often have the parking lots and trails to yourself!

Green River Overlook at Canyonlands with snow


Visitor services are reduced at Canyonlands in January. You’ll need to be more self-reliant when visiting either Island in the Sky or Needles in the winter.  

The hiking trails remain open year-round, but you may encounter snow and ice which may require traction devices and trekking poles. 

If you’re ok with those two things, then you should definitely visit Canyonlands in January!


The weather at Canyonlands in January is cold. And if a snow storm rolls through, local trails and roads may become impassable.

The average highs are near 40 degrees with the lows near 20 degrees. Remember that Island in the Sky is located at 6,100 feet above sea level, and Canyonlands Needles is 5,920 so it does get cold in the winter, even if the sun is out.

Dress in layers when visiting Canyonlands in January. Take warm winter clothing and dress in layers so you’ll actually want to get out of the car when you get to the trailhead. Hiking boots should be warm and waterproof. No one wants soggy feet!

After a snow storm, the park road might be closed for plowing for a few hours. Keep in mind that the roads, parking lots, and pullouts in the park can still be icy, especially in shaded areas.

You can see current weather conditions on the NPS website.

Canyonlands in the winter with snow


Hiking at Canyonlands in January is very enjoyable when the sun is out. It’s quite different from summer when you’re sweating and worrying about heat exhaustion.

Remember it’s still important to stay hydrated and wear sunscreen in the winter!

Most of the trails at Canyonlands are fully exposed to the sun, which is perfect for your visit in January.

Keep in mind you may encounter ice, snow and mud in shady areas of the trails because January is the coldest month of the year at the park and the wet areas don’t dry out.

You may need traction devices on some trails. Check with the visitor’s center for the most current trail conditions.

Permits are required for backcountry hiking. Services to get those permits are limited in January so plan ahead!

Also, It gets darker earlier at Canyonlands in January, which may limit the time you spend hiking.


We often wish for snow when we take our January trip to Canyonlands. The landscape of red rocks with white snow is so pretty!

Be prepared for all types of winter photography due to weather. You can still capture amazing photos with rain, snow and fog.

The best times to photograph the park are sunrise and sunset. The colors are vibrant and the light creates a spectacular glow on the red rocks that cannot be missed.

CHECK OUT our 3 day photography guide for Arches & Canyonlands National Parks to capitalize on all the best places and times to take pictures in the park!

Mesa Arch at sunrise might be the most famous image to photograph in the park. It won’t be as crowded in January, and you may get lucky on a week day to have the area to yourself!

And since January will be cold, we like to use photographer gloves and keep rechargeable hand warmers in our coat pockets!

Mesa Arch at sunrise with snow


Is Canyonlands National Park Open in January?

You bet! The park is open 24/7, but check the NPS site to get the updated winter hours.

Does it Snow at Canyonlands in January?

January is the second-snowiest month at Canyonlands National Park. When it does snow, it’s not usually large amounts. When a storm rolls through, the park can get a dusting of snow, or even a few inches.

Do the Roads Close at Canyonlands in January?

The park road might be closed after a snowfall for several hours for plowing. For road conditions getting to Canyonlands, check the Utah Road Weather Forecast or call 1-866-511-UTAH (8824).

Park roads, parking lots, and pullouts can still be icy, especially in shaded areas. Check at the visitor center for the latest information on road conditions.

What Park Services are Available in January?

  • There is no gas, food or lodging at Canyonlands. There are toilets at the visitor center and various overlooks.
  • Water is available at the Sky Visitor Center only from 9 am to 4 pm. You can only get water at the Needles Visitor Center. It’s recommended you pack ALL the water you’ll need for your visit just in case these facilities are closed.

What is the Best Time to Visit Canyonlands National Park?

ALWAYS remember to check the forecast and road conditions because conditions change from day to day, and don’t follow a set pattern.

From our experience, this is what you can expect when visiting in January:

Canyonlands in January – Plan for cold since January is usually the coldest month of the year. Those cold temperatures mean anything wet stays wet or becomes icy, which aren’t ideal for hiking. You may need traction devices along some trails when hiking at Canyonlands in the winter, and especially in January.


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