Is Utah on your bucket list? How about Utah during winter?
Maybe the combination of Canyons, Salt flats, Red Rocks, and Arches has made this US State ideal for you to visit in summer, but let me tell you, add a layer of snow and a couple of layers of clothes and you’ll be surprised about the magical landscapes you’ll get to witness in this beautiful US Western State.
Here’s a list of 4 quite unique winter destinations in Utah (psst that you probably hadn’t heard of before)
1. Coral Pink Sand Dunes
Just 27 minutes from Kanab and very close to the Arizona border, you’ll find Coral Pink Sand Dunes, one of the 43 Utah State Parks and a true sand dunes paradise. Don’t be fooled by the vibrant “flamingo-colored” sand and the “Moroccan style” sunsets though! Coral Pink Sand Dunes gets very very cold during winter. In fact, we visited it around Christmas time and the temperature was around -1C. Nevertheless, don’t let colder weather and shorter days keep you from enjoying this fun destination, almost all by yourself. Since most people travel to Utah during warmer days, there’s a high chance you’ll find fewer crowds. Winter visits will also allow you to spend more time outdoors (since there’s no shade at all within the park) without overheating 😉
Some useful facts about visiting Coral Pink Sand Dunes as one of your winter destinations in Utah:
- Bring a lot of layers. Although it may not be very cold around midday, as the day progresses it’ll get colder pretty fast.
- There is a $10 entrance fee per vehicle at the time of writing this article.
- You can rent sandboards!! If you’d like to add a level of adventure to your visit, rent a sandboard directly from the visitor center for $25 a day. Kids will love it!
- Parking is very accessible but in order to access the bigger dunes, you’ll need to do some walking.
- Coral Pink Sand Dunes is pretty remote so plan to stay in Kanab or visit the park as part of a multi-stop road trip.
- If possible, stay until sunset so you can witness the pink tones palette that forms in the sand as the sun goes down.
2. Capitol Reef
One of the 5 Utah National Parks but, also one of the least visited year-round, Capitol Reef National Park escalated pretty fast to the top of our favorite US National Parks and I think visiting it during winter had EVERYTHING to do with it. Something quite unique about Capitol Reef is that it’s pretty accessible from the road. This means that without much walking, you’ll be able to witness canyons, cliffs, towers, domes, and arches made of Navajo Sandstone. Nevertheless, doing any of the National Park hikes will let you get up close to these incredible views.
Two of our favorites are Hickman Bridge Trail, a 1.8 mile hike that starts by the river and takes you up to some panoramic vistas, and Grand Wash Trail which I would say is the part that we loved the most! Even though this hike is a little longer (2.25 miles one-way), you’ll want to stop everywhere to absorb your surroundings. This trail is ideal for families because it has no inclination, and also because you can head back at any time. You won’t need to complete the full hike to spot some pretty cool rock formations and canyon walls, or for your kids to play in untouched fluffy snow but, if you decide to hike it all, you’ll get to experience the canyon narrows too.
Some useful facts about visiting this Utah destination during winter:
- Definitely pack snow chains. Since you’ll be driving a lot inside the park, you may find icy roads in some parts.
- Be extra careful when hiking, especially on hikes with inclination. Even if a hike is easy, it could get very slippery.
- There is an 8-mile scenic drive inside the park that you can access if the road is not covered in snow.
- A great place to stay is Capitol Reef Resort. It’s very close to the NP entrance and it has some super fun accommodation options like tipis and wagons (subject to the weather).
3. Bonneville Salt Flats
Did you know that there’s another giant salt flat in America? Yep! Uyuni is very well known as THE Salt Flat to visit but if you don’t want to go all the way to South America (yet), just before getting to the Nevada Border, you’ll find Bonneville Salt Flats, another one of our favorite winter destinations in Utah.
Now, why did we think winter was a great time to go?
Probably the biggest reason was the weather. Since there’s no shade for miles, visiting Bonneville in summer months can be very tough. During our visit we were able to drive over the salt flats and stay outside for hours pretty comfortably. We actually wanted to stay longer than our roadtrip timing allowed.
These are some things to keep in mind for visiting Bonneville Salt Flats:
- There’s no accommodation available, which makes it great for a stop on your way somewhere else. Maybe a quick stop on a road trip that crosses Utah and Nevada.
- Other than admiring the incredible horizon, meditating, taking cool perspective photos and just enjoying the scenery, you won’t be able to do much else while there.
- If you’re planning on staying, say for a whole afternoon, bring snacks and water. You won’t be able to buy any there.
- The entrance is free and you can stay as along as you’d like. We only catched a glimpse of the sunset and it looked magical.
- They’re close to Salt Lake City which opens the option to visit them as a day trip.
4. Canyonlands National Park
“You mean there’s another National Park where I can see massive canyons, that’s not the Grand Canyon?” Yes there is! And you know what? Many people miss it or rather skip it to visit the other “most popular” Utah National Parks. The biggest benefit of choosing to NOT go with the masses is essentially that. In Canyonlands, you’ll find far less crowds, especially during winter!
Something that we feared before visiting Canyonlands was, that since we had seen Grand Canyon already, this park would feel somewhat unimpressive but we were so surprised to find it had very unique scenery. Just like the name states, Canyonlands is the land of canyons, a wide variety of them but also the land of arches. Since it’s quite close to Arches NP, you’ll find a couple spread out there. The most impressive one is Mesa Arch, which you’ll find after a 0.5 mile hike. Through Mesa Arch you’ll have massive panoramic views of the canyons down below.
Canyonlands is a true natural paradise but being able to see in winter added to it’s wonderland beauty. Expect trails covered in snow that seems untouched and horizon views that’ll be hard to forget.
What to keep in mind when visiting Canyonlands in winter?
- Canyonlands is already a less visited park, even more so in winter. When we went at the end of December, the Visitor Center was closed. Make sure you bring everything that you’ll possibly need with you.
- There are some trails that have no railing or fence. Be mindful around these areas, specially if you have little kids.
- Just a friendly reminder to bring snow-appropriate shoes since you’ll find some trails with elevation changes.
- The best place to stay for visiting Canyonlands is Moab. From Moab you’ll also be able to visit Arches NP.
I hope you enjoyed this compilation of winter destinations in Utah. Which if these are you including in your next Utah winter getaway?? I’d love to know!
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