7 Best Adventures On A Utah Winter Road Trip

A lot of people forget about the desert when the winter hits, but those that keep it in mind will be able to have a completely unforgettable Utah winter road trip. Taking a winter road trip is a great way to avoid roads full of other visitors, plus the snow can completely change the landscape that was familiar just a few months earlier.

Utah makes for the perfect winter road trip destination. All you need to do is throw some snow chains in the trunk, be prepared for winter driving conditions, and hit the road. You’ll pass through national parks around every bend. Take your pick of the national park you want to hit first, and simply move on to the next. This trip is full of beautiful landscapes and so much to do.

Utah Winter Road Trip Bucket List

Hitting the Slopes: Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding

A man snowboarding

No winter road trip is complete without a good Utah ski trip. It’s true, after all, that one of the first steps of a good Utah winter road trip is packing ski gear before anything else. There are so many different ski resorts in Utah, home to the greatest snow on Earth. It can, in fact, be more difficult to choose where to ski than to actually learn how to ski!

Park City is home to some of the greatest skiing in the US, as is Salt Lake City. Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley, Woodward, Snowbird, Snow Basin, and so much more are all phenomenal resorts to visit on a winter trip.

If you’re prepped for cold weather with good winter gear, you can have winter road trips that let you get outside and play around in the winter wonderland, rather than needing to cozy up next to a fire inside for months on end.

Go Dog Sledding

People Dog Sledding in snow

Park City has multiple dog sledding companies that take you out for long rides in the snow, where you can take a break from driving and let the dogs do it!

If you get the chance, dog sledding can be a beautiful demonstration of the relationship between humans and animals. These dogs are well-loved and couldn’t be happier to be out there driving in snow. Check out organizations like Luna’s Lobos, All Seasons Adventures, and North Forty Escapes for a ride through the winter weather.

Latest Posts:

Cross Country Skiing

People Cross Country Skiing

Heading to high elevation and finding consistent snow in a state park or resort is a great move if you’re interested in doing some cross country skiing.

Whether you’ve gone cross country skiing before or not, Utah is a good fit for both beginners and experts. There are plenty of guiding companies, like White Pine Touring, that will rent out gear and teach you the basics.

When the 2002 Winter Olympics were held in Utah, Soldier Hollow Nordic Center was created for all of the cross country skiing events. That means that you can find Olympic-level skiing just a short drive outside of Salt Lake City. Even if you want to stay closer to town, resorts like Snow Bird have miles and miles of nordic track.

The Big 5 National Parks of Utah

Some of the most beautiful nature and the most visited national parks call Utah home. Going to Utah in winter is a great time to head to the national parks that are open year round so you can see the famous Big 5 Utah National Parks without all the crowds.

Utah is home to:

  • Bryce Canyon National Park

  • Arches National Park

  • Zion National Park

  • Canyonlands National Park

  • Capitol Reef National Park

Visiting Utah’s National Parks

No road trip, whether in the summer or winter, is complete without visiting every national park that you come across. National parks are a staple of the American road trip, as they are one example of the environmental movement happening back in the late 1800s.

Utah happens to be home to five incredible national parks, third only to California and Alaska. You can build an entire road trip around visiting Utah national parks and doing nothing else. Visiting the parks will take you throughout southern Utah, where all of these parks are located.

In the winter, the national parks can get some snow and it creates a stunning contrast between the red rock of Utah and the brilliant white of the snow. It’s unlike anything you could see in other national parks, which is why Utah is so special. Utah’s Big 5 National Parks are the least crowded in winter, so if you want to escape the crowds, this is the time to go!

This list gives you a good route from north to south, starting in Moab and ending closer to Las Vegas if you want to hit each national park while in the state.

Arches National Park

Arches National Park with some snow

Right inside Moab is Arches National Park. This is one of the most famous national parks in Utah because of its famous arches, especially Delicate Arch (featured on the Utah license plate). Arches National Park is what many people think of when they think of national parks in Utah.

In the winter time, there is actually ample parking available, as opposed to the summer when family road trips are always happening. You can venture out onto the trails and see a huge amount of the park that would normally be hard to see with the huge crowds that are common at Arches National Park.

Canyonlands National Park

canyonlands national park during winter

If you’ve wanted to visit the Grand Canyon, but just haven’t made it yet, go visit Canyonlands National Park. It’s a more intricate system of canyons that are equally vast and astonishing as the big one down south.

Canyonlands is split into three sections around Moab. You can spend weeks visiting each area in the backcountry, or you can get a taste of the park on a road trip. Canyonlands National Park in winter is beautiful and if you’re prepared for weather, you can spend a long time here.

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park on winter

Capitol Reef National Park is probably the least well-known national park in Utah. That doesn’t mean that you should write it off by any means. A lot of people love this park for road trips because you can see most of it from the car.

Capitol Reef exists in order to protect a 100-mile-long ripple in the Earth’s crust. This water fold creates some unique geology that can be seen at all times of the year, but the winter is a great time to visit to escape long lines of traffic.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park during winter

Bryce Canyon National Park is filled to the brim with hoodoos, sandstone pillars, and unique rock formations that make this place feel completely out-of-this-world. Bryce Canyon has a wide array of hiking trails that weave you through the highest concentration of hoodoos in the world.

A road trip that takes you through Bryce Canyon should also take you into Bryce Canyon City. This city, sitting right outside of Bryce Canyon National Park, is a great little town that has plenty of fun winter activities to add to your road trip through southern Utah. You can head into Bryce Canyon City after Capitol Reef and make it a home base for a few days as you explore both Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon.

Bryce Canyon is at a higher elevation than the other National Parks in Utah, so go expecting snow. Cross country skiing in Bryce Canyon is incredibly popular once the snow starts to fall!

Zion National Park

Zion National Park during winter

Zion National Park is another of the most famous national parks in the country. It’s home to some stunning features that you simply don’t find elsewhere. Even places like Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef don’t match up to the grandeur of Zion.

The winter time can make visiting some of the highlights of the park more difficult, but you should still have it on the list. It will likely be the beginning or end of your Utah road trip, just because of how far south and out of the way it is.

Angel’s Landing and the Narrows are the two most popular places in the park, but can be a bit tricky in the winter. The Narrows requires walking through water, which is maybe a bit cold in the winter, and Angel’s Landing requires some precarious trekking, even when dry. Check conditions with a ranger before planning to do these Zion hikes in winter, and consider hiring a professional guide to help you navigate the routes in winter.

What to Pack for a Winter Road Trip

A snow road trip can be a new experience for many, so it’s important to have a thorough list of what to pack in case you hit a blizzard, encounter icy roads, or just want to stay warm and have a good time!

There’s a lot of snow gear to pack, but there’s also a lot of the normal road trip goodies to remember like snacks, drinks, and plenty of entertainment, especially if you have kids!

  • Emergency kit in car

  • Snow chains

  • Snow gear

  • Skis, helmets, boots

  • Insulated thermos

  • Sleds

  • Warm winter boots

  • Winter clothing, and then some more winter clothing

  • National parks pass

  • All of the normal road trip snacks!

6 thoughts on “7 Best Adventures On A Utah Winter Road Trip”

Leave a Comment