New Year in Moab, Utah

Old Oct 17th, 2001, 07:19 AM
Dr. Bitterpants
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New Year in Moab, Utah

Greetings! Wife and I (in our mid-thirties) are just plain wacko on national parks. Last New Year, we went to Zion Canyon and spent a week hiking in moderate-to-cold temperatures there and in Bryce Canyon. It was the most relaxing time staying at the moderately-priced Zion Lodge (moderate AFTER New Years, mind you), hiking, photography, etc. Absolutely in love with SW Utah now.

This year, we plan to see the SE side of Utah by making the town of Moab our "base camp" and hitting the national parks of Arches and Canyonlands. Plan to fly from midwest to either Grand Junction, CO (2 hour drive) or Salt Lake City (4 hour drive).

Questions I'm asking my astute Fodor collegues: Any "parties" in Moab on New Year's Eve that you know? Favorite restaurants and/or lodging? Are we nuts to hike and/or 4W-drive the parks during this time? Temperature colder than Zion / Bryce at that time? Favorite day hikes? Any rafting at that time of year? Can I ask any more annoying questions?

Any suggestions appreciatied -- Thanks in advance for your help!
Old Oct 17th, 2001, 08:39 AM
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Hey Dr. Bitterpants:
Go to
They may have some answers for you.
Old Oct 18th, 2001, 08:52 AM
Dr. Bitterpants
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Trisha, thanks for the website. I'm doing the internet homework from that and another site. Just wondering if anyone has first-hand experience.
Old Oct 18th, 2001, 10:08 AM
J T Kirk
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I can't answer any of your specific questions (aren't you glad I responded?).
I've been there in May and September, but chances are good it'll be as cold or colder (I'd think) than was Zion. Though I liked Zion and Bryce, I was absolutely blown away by Arches, Canyonlands and Monument Valley. Moab's a good base UNLESS you want to spend some time in Monument Valley (it'd be too far of a drive to do in a day). Downside to Monument Valley is that you can't do anything on your own in the Valley. You need an Indian guide with you to hike or horseback ride, and there is NO offroading allowed on your own. Speaking of off-roading, the last I heard they were thinking of not allowing it anymore in Arches, but I'm not sure. Arches is a great place, many wonderful hiking trails. Canyonlands is immense. When it snows or rains in Canyonlands the rangers get real particular about whom they let 4WD in the park. They've gotten real tired of having to rescue people (which happens with startling regularity). Some of the 4WD drives there are tough!! If you do decide to head down to Monument Valley, check out Valley of the Gods on the way. Very, very awesome.
Old Oct 22nd, 2001, 01:48 PM
Dr. Bitterpants
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Thanks, good Captain. I've seen the photos/video of 4-wheel driving in Canyonlands... and I admit I'm pretty much a novice at that!
Old Oct 22nd, 2001, 04:07 PM
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I don't think you're nuts. As 40ish Durangoan going to Canyonlands this weekend, I think Moab would be a great place for New Year's. Just make sure you get a motel with a hot tub. I can't remember any motel names.

We have liked the Fiery Furnace ranger hike in Arches. There is a state park near Moab called Dead Horse Point, which is nice to visit.

I would plan for some pretty cold nights (between 0 and freezing) and maybe some snow.

Renting mountain bikes for the week would probably be a lot of fun.
Old Oct 23rd, 2001, 04:42 AM
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Have visited Moab in Sept. 2000 and May 2001. Don't know about New Years' events, but we have enjoyed quaffing a homebrew or two at Eddie McStiff's Restaurant and Microbrewery. Not a fancy place, but the beer is good. Perhaps they could provide info: 435-259-BEER. The Best Western Canyonlands Inn (435-259-2300) has nice accommodations and a good continental breakfast bar; we did not care for the BW Greenwell Lodge, which is down the street. Hiking at Arches is great- plan to do the entire Devils Garden trail- 7.0 mile loop. As for adventure driving, definitely plan to do the La Sal Mountain Scenic Backway (if weather permits). Leave Moab on US 191 North, turn right on US 128, go about 15 miles until you see turn for Castle Valley/La Sal Mountain Scenic Backway. Follow this 60-mile desert/alpine loop (which is mostly paved) until it comes out on US 191 six miles south of Moab. This is a good afternoon excursion- be sure to get back before the sun goes down. It takes 2-4 hours in a passenger car; road is too narrow for larger RVs and trailers- impassable for all vehicles when snow-covered. Great views! As for Canyonlands, it is immense, as Cap'n Kirk indicates. Highly recommend Scenic Driving Utah by Joe Bensen for his hints about driving around this area. As for hiking, search the site for hiking tips, especially in the Canyonlands. We have flown in/out of SLC both visits, picked up a 4WD at the airport, and found it a great way to get around. Enjoy your trip.
Old Oct 23rd, 2001, 06:53 AM
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to the top

santa fe or moab for new year?
Old Oct 23rd, 2001, 02:56 PM
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Are there any good hiking and photography areas around Santa Fe? I want to visit for the galleries and what scenics I've seen in photos, but Arches around Moab looks just way too cool!
Old Oct 24th, 2001, 04:58 PM
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I spent the week of Christmas (and my birthday) in Moab with my boyfriend two years ago. We rented a condo and had the entire condo complex to ourselves. The town was pretty much dead that time of year and restaurants close unbelievably early, so we had romantic dinners at the condo.

We live in Colorado so we drove and brought our mountain bikes. There was some snow and the weather was cold at night (sub freezing) but during the day it was in the 40's and 50's and sunny which is quite ridable if you have the right gear.

We felt like we had the entire place to ourselves. My boyfriend rode from our condo up into Arches National Park and I drove and picked him up. I didn't see another car (or cyclist) the entire time.

Take along a copy of Desert Solitare by Edward Abbey, and have a wonderful, quiet time. If you're looking for night life, parties, and friendly locals, Moab is not the place to go at that time of year.
Old Oct 25th, 2001, 12:40 PM
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Hey Dr. B:

We live in Denver and just returned from another fabulous trip to Moab last weekend. October is really the perfect month to be there. We DID stay in Moab on New Year's Eve, 1997, so I can give you some first hand winter experiences.

Weather was great, cold but bright and sunny, with gorgeous blue skies. Snow melts quickly at the lower elevations. We dressed in layers with a fleece as an outer layer and felt fine. No rafting available in the fall or winter, much too cold.

Moab is practically deserted in the winter, and many businesses are closed. It's definitely a seasonal place. We spent a very quiet New Year's in our hotel room, but we rarely go out on New Year's Eve any way. We nicknamed our hotel "The Overlook" because it felt exactly like the hotel in the "The Shining".....long corridors and not another human being in sight! We noticed last weekend that several new hotels had been built in Moab, mainly lower end chains like the Sleep Inn. This is a good thing though, because many of the motels there are old and kinda run down.

You CAN hike Arches and Canyonlands in the winter, but many of the more difficult trails in Arches may be closed. Slickrock hiking can be very dangerous in wet and snowy weather. Delicate Arch, however, was one difficult trail which remained open, and it is worth visiting without all the crowds. There were probably 30 to 40 people at the arch last weekend, but when we hiked it in January, there were only about five others on the trail.

The ranger-led Fiery Furnace hike in Arches is so popular that the Park Service is presently conducting an experiment and extending it through the month of October (it normally ceases in September). Judging from the number in our group (25 people, the maximum allowed) it looks like it may continue through October from now on. It costs $6 per person and is a good source of revenue for the park. However, it won't be available to you in January, unless you are an experienced back country hiker and obtain a permit at the visitor center. (Also, our ranger happened to mention that she is furloughed during the months of November, December and January, due to the decreased access and visitation during the winter months.)

We had Canyonlands to ourselves in the winter, not another person in sight on the trails, which were simply gorgeous. Excellent time to visit.

We did drive a couple of 4WD trails within Arches in January as well, no problems there. But we own a Jeep and are experienced drivers, so if you're a novice, stick to the easy trails. Even the moderate trails in Utah are pretty hairy!

Two books that we always carry to Moab with us: "Utah's National Parks" by Ron Adkison (excellent hiking trail descriptions) and "Guide to Moab, UT Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails" by Charles A. Wells.

The Moab Brewery was open during January, good brews and so-so food. We had the place to ourselves in January but it was completely full by 7:00 pm every night last week! Very popular place. La Hacienda serves excellent Mexican food, but I'm not sure if it's open during the winter months. Moab Diner is a great 50's style place with very inexpensive prices and a breakfast menu that is available any time -- it was constantly packed with people last weekend as well. Most restaurants in Moab have very limited hours, even during the peak months, so be aware. There are a few upscale eateries (Center Cafe, Sunset Grill, Ranch House) but most establishments are very casual and fairly inexpensive, catering to the campers, hikers and mountain bikers who frequent Moab. Don't dress up, everyone else will be wearing their outdoor gear.

Feel free to e-mail me if you'd like any additional information, I'd be happy to try and help as much as I can. Hope you have a great trip!

Old Oct 25th, 2001, 03:54 PM
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moab is a nice little town, laid back. just got back from there and so. utah. if you drive from grand junction, be sure you take the turn-off at cisco on 128. you follow the colorado river to moab. WONDERFUL scenery, huge red cliffs. many movies shot along the river, john wayne, geronimo, city slickers I and II. also loved the paved road to the needles, u-211, south of moab. needles are so-so, but, as it should be in life, the road to get there is beautiful.
i would recommend reading the bensen and abbey books, also "the rough guide, southwest usa" by greg ward.

i took a jeep tour from tag-a-long. don't know if they operate in winter, but there might be others. went on the terrific shafer trail, a near-death experience. more grown-up than arches.

you will love canyonlands.
Old Oct 26th, 2001, 08:43 AM
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Dear Dr.

Moab should be plenty of fun for New Years, it is quite slow that time of year with many of the shops etc closed but that is not why you go to Moab anyway. Moab is lower in elevation than both Bryce or Zion and will probably be warmer but you will have to take what you get. It can be sunny and in the 70's in January, I've road Slickrock on my bike in a t-shirt and shorts on New Years Day,or as someone else pointed out, close to 0 F. We live in Palisade,CO which is just east of Grand Junction, our weather is very similar to Moabs and we do spend time that way in the winter. On flying in...flying to GJ can be a lot more expensive to fly to than SLC and for that reason probably not worth the extra $ not even if you stop and see Colorado National Monument. If you do fly to GJ and drive to Moab, or even if you drive from SLC take a extra half hour and see the Sego Canyon Petroglyphs just a few miles north of Thompson, Utah. (Thompson, UT is just 2 miles east of the Crescent Junction turnoff on I-70 which you will use to go to Moab regardless of whether you are coming to Moab from GJ or
SLC) The Sego Canyon Petroglyphs are among the best you can drive to anywhere and include art from 4 periods including Anasazi, Fremont, Ute. The road is all weather to the panels, you'll be able to drive there in all but the worst weather and you'll be ready to stretch your legs anyway. Worth it. 4 wheeling? depends totally on the weather, same goes for Mtn biking. Your motto should be, Be Flexible, and bring clothes for all conditions. It should be beautiful regardless. We live close so if you have questions or just want a weather report from somewhere local e-mail us.


Fred Judson
Old Oct 30th, 2001, 10:19 AM
Dr. Bitterpants ([email protected]
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Thank you ALL for your wonderful advice! Flights are looking less expensive flying into SLC, so may go that route. (Wonder how security will be there, while they prep for Olympics?)

Best regards to all!
Old Oct 30th, 2001, 11:43 AM
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Hi again Dr. B:

Forgot to mention that if you are into photography, I think you will really enjoy Dead Horse Point State Park. It's a short drive from Moab and spectacularly scenic, with rivers converging around multi-colored mesas.

Another fun little jaunt is Scenic Byway 279. Watch for the signs along the road and you can stop and view Indian petroglyphs, a stone slab with dinosaur footprints, beautiful arches and a scenic drive along the river. This area is very popular for impromptu camping and sandstone rock climbing as well, and you'll see why. Takes about an hour round trip, turn around at the potash mine.

Two other areas we keep planning to explore but just haven't yet: 1) Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail, which supposedly contains fossils and petrified wood left in place on BLM lands -- trailhead is on a dirt road west off US 191, 13 miles from Moab. 2) Sauropod Dinosaur Track Site, the first five-toed dinosaur tracks found in Utah. Site is 23 miles north of Moab on a dirt road branching east from US 191.

Maybe these dirt roads can offer you a novice "off road" experience. I would check with the rental place to be sure, and have a topograhical map too.

There is SO much to see and do in and around Moab, you just have to pick a few things and tell yourself that you WILL be back!

Have a great time.

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