Visiting Moab in January

Are you wondering what it’s like to visit Moab in January? Winter is one of our favorite times to enjoy Moab adventures! We enjoy our trips to Moab in the winter when there are fewer visitors and lodging rates are lower.

Moab, Utah is known for its iconic red rock landscapes and stunning national parks. There are plenty of things to do in Moab in January if you enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, biking, photography, and more!

Moab, Utah in January

Use this Moab Utah Vacation Guide to plan a trip in January: weather, activities, what to pack, where to stay and more!

We live close enough to Moab that we can visit at various times throughout year so we have lots of ideas and tips to share for visiting in the winter. The tips we share are based on our experiences visiting the area throughout the years, and specifically for the month of January.

Our number one tip is to dress for the weather! Use our Moab, Utah packing list to make sure you have the right clothing and gear for your January vacation! Grab your free printable packing checklist by clicking the image below!

Moab packing lists for spring summer fall and winter
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A Photo Tour of Moab, Utah

Take a visual tour through the Moab, Utah area to see the stunning landscapes you’ll see when you visit!

Visiting Moab in January

One of the best places to visit in Utah in the winter is Moab. The off season rates make it much more affordable than the other times of year when visiting Moab.

It does get busy around New Years and over the MLK holiday weekend, but it’s nothing like the peak travel seasons!

During Moab in the winter the town slows down a bit. The stores and eateries are still open, but you can let yourself enjoy the town without worrying about the crowds!

There are a few negatives for going to Moab in January. The hiking trails at Arches, Canyonlands and around the Moab area remain open year-round. But… many of the trails can be slippery from packed snow and ice and may require traction devices and trekking poles. 

And for anyone who wants to do off-roading in their Jeep or ATV, some roads may be impassible due to weather and road conditions.

What is the Best Time of Year to Go to Moab?

Winter may NOT be the best time to visit Moab for YOU. It’s important to know what to expect when visiting Moab in January.

Spring and fall are great times to visit Moab when the temperatures are perfect for long days of hiking, mountain biking and most outdoor activities.

But the winter will offer fewer crowds if you can be flexible if a winter storm rolls through.

Wear warm winter clothing in Moab in January

Moab Weather in January

The Moab weather in January is cold and can be unpredictable if a storm rolls through. The average highs are near 40 degrees with the lows near 20 degrees. Remember that Moab is about 4,000 feet above sea level so it does get cold in the winter, even if the sun is out.

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

You can see current weather conditions at Arches on the NPS website and updated photographs of trail conditions at the Arches visitor center. 

Dress in layers when visiting Moab in January. Take warm winter clothing so you’ll actually want to get out of the car and enjoy the outdoor activities! Your hiking boots should be warm and waterproof. No one wants soggy feet!

LAYERS: We recommend at the minimum a fleece jacketgloves, and winter hat for the cold mornings and evenings. Waterproof hiking shoes are good too!

WATER: Moab is a high desert area so you should drink at least one gallon of water per day, and always carry water with you – hydration packs or carry refillable bottles in your backpack.

FOOD: Pack and eat healthy snacks because there may be NO services on the trails or scenic drives. 

SUN PROTECTION: Wear a sunhat and use sunscreen . Carry lip balm with sunscreen and hydrating lotion to apply as needed.

winter hiking gear

Things To Do in Moab in January

In January you can enjoy a variety of Moab winter activities like hiking, canyoneering, rock climbing, offroading, biking, scenic drives, photography, and more!

Mesa Arch at Canyonlands with snow
Mesa Arch at Canyonlands with snow

National and State Parks Near Moab in January

Explore the two National Parks and one State Park in the Moab area. In January you can enjoy scenic drives or hiking trails at any time of day! Be prepared with winter clothing so you stay warm while exploring the parks in the winter.

After a snow storm, paved roads may close temporarily so crews can plow. Unpaved backcountry roads may be impassible for longer periods of time so check road conditions before you head out!

Here are some tips to help you plan your visit to these destinations in January:

Arches National Park in January – The Arches National Park scenic drive is a must-do activity. It includes two spur roads and takes about 2 to 3 hours to complete. You’ll add more time if you plan to stop and take photos or hike any of the trails along the route.

Canyonlands National Park in January – Services are limited or closed at Island in the Sky or Needles. Remember that both areas of the park are remote locations so always be prepared with water, food and proper clothing so you can be self-reliant. Island in the Sky has amazing sunrise photo spots like Mesa Arch and Grand View Point!

Dead Horse Point State Park – This location is known for its stunning views of the Colorado River, dramatic vertical cliffs, canyons, and vista views. We highly recommend this location at sunset!

Colorado River in Moab in the Winter
Colorado River in Moab in the Winter

Moab Scenic Drives in January

Potash-Lower Colorado River Scenic Byway – the 34-mile round-trip drive is a terrific half-day excursion from the Moab area to see great views of the Colorado River, ancient rock art, and dinosaur tracks. Potash Road or the Lower Colorado Scenic Byway runs along the Colorado River and ends at the border of Canyonlands National Park. We recommend this drive in the late afternoon when the red rocks glow and reflect in the river! It’s a bonus when you get to also photograph the reflection of white snow, red rocks, and blue water!

Arches National Park Scenic Drive – the full 43-mile scenic drive, including the spur roads, takes 2 to 3 hours. Add more time if you plan to walk around and take photos or do any hiking at any of the stops. In January 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.

Canyonlands Island in the Sky Scenic Drive – you’ll definitely want to have your camera ready to capture the beauty you’ll see at all 10 overlooks along this drive! In January after a snow storm, paved roads may close temporarily so crews can plow. Unpaved backcountry roads may be impassible for longer periods of time so check road conditions before you head out!

Located near Needles Canyonlands you’ll find two stunning places to see views of Needles, Island in the Sky, Dead Horse Point, and the Moab area!

We recommend the Arches & Canyonlands GuideAlong App to hear fun behind-the-scenes stories and local tips that play automatically as you drive, based on your GPS location.

dinosaurs at Moab Giants
Dinosaurs at Moab Giants

Moab Dinosaurs and Petroglyphs in January

The Moab Giants Museum is a MUST for anyone who loves dinosaurs! January is a great time to be outside walking along a trail of life-sized dinosaurs! There are also lots of places to see dinosaur tracks and petroglyphs in Moab too!

Winter hiking at Canyonlands

Moab Hiking Trails in January

The Moab winter hikes – along with the hikes at Arches, Canyonlands Island in the Sky and Dead Horse Point – are some of the best you’ll find anywhere in the US!

January is a terrific time to 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 in Moab 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 and the wet areas don’t dry.

You may need traction devices on some trails. Check with the Moab Information Center or the park visitor’s centers for the most current trail conditions.

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

Our favorite day hikes in Moab are:

And of course you can’t beat the winter hikes in the National and State Parks:

biking trail along the Colorado River in Moab Utah
Moab biking trail

Moab Biking Trails in January

Even after a snowfall, there are Moab mountain bike trails you can ride. The Moab landscape is filled with “petrified” sand dunes and slick rock that have become famous for bike rides.

During the summer the parking lots are full and the trails are lined with riders. In January? You could have the lot and trail to yourself, or there may be a handful of other bikers!

Multiple bike shops stay open in the winter to rent gear, tune a bike, or recommend a trail. Or join a Moab bike tour to explore the amazing landscape in Moab!

Winter photography in Moab

Photography Around Moab in January

Snow may not be the best for hiking or jeeping, but it makes for amazing photos! The landscape of red rocks with white snow creates an amazing contrast in the landscape.

Be prepared for all types of winter photography at Arches, Canyonlands or Dead Horse Point due to weather. You can still capture amazing photos with rain, snow and fog.

The best times to photograph the areas around Moab 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 Arches and Canyonlands 3 day itinerary and photography guide that lists all the best places and times to take pictures, as well as some of our favorite ‘lesser known’ places around Moab!

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

Stargazing at Arches National Park

Stargazing Around Moab in January

Definitely take one evening to get away from the Moab city lights, go outside and LOOK UP!

Arches, Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point are internationally recognized as one of the best places for stargazing because of the remote location, accessibility, altitude and clear skies.

The Milky Way will not be visible in Moab in January. It’s best viewed from March to October.

jeep driving a trail across slickrock in moab utah
Offroading in Moab

Off-Roading Around Moab in January

Off-roading is one of the best Moab adventures! In the winter you should wear warm clothing and waterproof boots.

If you opt to do a guided tour, the jeeps are heated, but you will want to be bundled up so you can get out and explore the scenic stops along the way.

Local tour companies offer 4×4 rentals, but for inexperienced drivers, it’s best to join a tour or have a guide ride along with you to navigate and teach. We have used and recommend Outlaw Jeep Tours.

Moab Tours in January

Here’s a list of fun Moab tours that are available in January. Booking a tour helps you explore all the amazing sights the area has to offer to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Moab tours in January could be limited when conditions aren’t safe to do the activity due to weather.

Moab Camping in January

There are a variety of ways to enjoy Moab winter camping in January: RV Parks and Campgrounds, National Park Campgrounds, State Park Campgrounds, and BLM camping.

Moab Lodging

If camping is not your thing, here are many types of accommodations to choose from in Moab: budget-friendly hotels to higher-priced resorts.

Moab maps and travel guides

moab maps guides

Utah Bucket List

Check out our Utah Bucket List that includes ideas for things to see, do and taste all around the state! Grab the free download by clicking the graphic below! You’ll find fun things to do to add to your Moab vacation itinerary!

utah bucket list - grab the free packet
moab utah in January

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