Visiting Moab in the Winter

Visiting Moab in the winter is our favorite time because it’s the off-season. There are fewer visitors and the rates to stay are lower than any other time of the year.

But it’s important to know the weather, services and activities available to determine the best time to visit Moab for the things you want to do! As long as you’re prepared for the Moab winter weather, you can still enjoy many activities like hiking, biking, photography, and scenic drives!

Moab Utah in the winter

Use this Moab Utah Vacation Guide to plan a trip in the winter: weather, activities, what to pack, where to stay and more! We live only a few hours away from Moab so we’ve had the opportunity to visit many times during all four seasons. 

The tips we share are based on our experiences visiting Moab during the winter months. The most important tip is to have the right clothing and gear for the weather and temperatures for the time you’ll be there. Grab your free Moab, Utah packing list 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!

Moab Weather in the Winter

The Moab weather in the winter is cold and unpredictable if a storm rolls through. 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’ll want to pack layers for the cold temperatures! And any time of year it’s important to stay hydrated and use sun protection.

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 the Winter

Moab is one of the most popular places to visit in Utah to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, canyoneering, rock climbing, offroading, biking, scenic drives, photography, and more!

There are so many exciting Moab adventures and activities, even in the winter months.

Balanced Rock at Arches in the winter

National and State Parks Near Moab in the Winter

The one must-do when you’re in Moab is visiting the National Parks and the Utah State Park by Moab. These guides can help you plan your trip to these parks in the winter! 

Arches National Park in the Winter – 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 the Winter – 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!

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!

moab giants museum
Moab Giants Museum

Moab Dinosaurs and Petroglyphs in the Winter

The Moab Giants Museum is a MUST for anyone who loves dinosaurs! The winter months are 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!

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

Biking in Moab in the Winter

Biking at Moab has become a big thing! Winter is a great time to bike all day and not worry about getting too hot.

If there’s been a rain or snow storm, the trails could be muddy, snowy or icy so check conditions before heading out.

You can also join a Moab bike tour to explore the amazing landscape in the area!

Turret Arch in the winter with snow
Turret Arch in the winter with snow

Moab Hikes in the Winter

The Moab winter hiking trails are out of this world. There is so much landscape to explore right around the city. 

If you are looking for some of the best hiking you definitely want to explore the trails in the National and State Parks near Moab where you will find trails for all hiking levels.

Our favorite day hikes in Moab are:

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

Be prepared for trails to be muddy, snowy or icy if a storm rolls through. You may even need traction devices. We recommend you check in with the Moab BLM office before heading out on any hike to get the latest trail conditions.

Wear the appropriate winter hiking gear for the weather conditions. Your winter hiking day pack needs to include water, sunscreen and chapstick even in the winter!

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

Photographing Moab in the Winter

We love photographing the white snow against the red rock in Moab in the winter. So be sure to pack your camera and download our camera gear checklist so you don’t forget anything.

Plan to take pictures during the sunrise and sunset hours when the sun on the red rocks is vibrant and glowing!

We definitely recommend packing photographer gloves and having rechargeable hand warmers in your coat pockets!

We’ve created an Arches and Canyonlands Photography Guide detailing the best photo spots in these parks and our favorite 3 day itinerary some of our favorite ‘lesser known’ places to take pictures in Moab!

Arches National Park stargazing
Arches National Park stargazing

Moab Area Stargazing in the Winter

You want to reserve at least one night while visiting for stargazing. Leave the city of Moab and just look up and you will find a truly spectacular show in the sky. 

Arches, Canyonlands, and Dead Horse are all International Dark Sky Parks which makes them absolutely perfect for seeing thousands of stars in the sky. In the winter the Milky Way isn’t as visible as it is during the other times of year! 

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

Moab Scenic Drives in the Winter

Winter in Moab offers a breathtaking and unmatched beauty to the scenic drives.

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 the winter 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 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!

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.

Moab Utah La Sal Mountains with snow
Moab Utah La Sal Mountains with snow

Moab Off-roading in the Winter

If you’re up for an adventure, plan to explore the off-road trails in Moab! Local tour companies offer 4×4 rentals for you to tackle the trails on your own. If you’re an inexperienced driver, we recommend you book a tour or have a guide ride along with you to navigate and teach.

We have used and recommend Outlaw Jeep Tours. You can also book a guided 4WD tour in Moab where you sit back and let the driver navigate the trails!

In December some offroad trails can be snow-covered or icy especially in shaded areas. We’ve had to turn around due to unsafe winter road conditions on some offroad trails. We recommend you check with the Moab BLM office for trail conditions before heading out!

Moab Tours in the Winter

Here’s a list of fun Moab tours that are available during the winter months. 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 the winter could be limited when conditions aren’t safe to do the activity due to weather.

Moab Winter Camping and Lodging

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

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!

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

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