Winter backpacking on The Colorado Plateau

As much as we enjoy winter camping, there is something intrinsically satisfying about backpacking during the winter months.  The quiet, the beauty of the red rocks covered with ice and snow, and seeing an area bathed in that welcoming winter light.

Joan and I decided to backpack within a canyon that sees ATV traffic typically. But in the winter, we had the canyon to ourselves.

We pushed up a canyon along Comb Ridge. Ancestral Pueblo dwellings existed within the canyon. Sometimes accessible; often out of reach on a high cliff. We could see bison pictographs indicating the range of this most iconic of American animals. Red cliffs reached above. And ice and snow covered the canyon, and we splashed through many cold stream crossings.

The further we went along the canyon, the sheerer the walls became.


And the creek flow became strong and broader, too.

We gratefully found a flat patch of bare ground large enough for our shelter.

Above the creek and with a commanding view of the winter sunset.

Some warm and dry socks, dinner, and a hot drink provided some creature comforts for the winter evening.

The following day we left most of our gear behind and walked into the USFS boundary. The ATV track gave way to single track. No other footprints spotted. Only animals tracks used the corridor this far into the canyon.

We turned around, re-packed the remainder of our gear and started to head down the canyon.

Towards the end of the trip, we spotted a large outcropping. The outcropping gave a panoramic view of the nearby Comb Ridge and contained may pictographs — an important area for the Pueblo people.

We arrived back at our car and headed back to Moab.

Another winter weekend on The Colorado Plateau.  And one of more to come.

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Miranda Wells
Miranda Wells
5 years ago

Oh I hope to experience these breath taking views you have here. It’s just like yesterday that I’ve trekked Annapurna circuit. Not only we discovered the mountains, but we also experienced the way of living of its wonderful people. By visiting families, villages and charming sites we could feel ourselves immersing in the Nepali culture. I’d love to come back to discover more of this amazing country and its humble people.

Peter Necarsulmer
Peter Necarsulmer
5 years ago

Delightful in every way. Thank you for sgaring!

Harvey Halpern
5 years ago

Nice photos of a lovely area- guessing Arch Canyon. In any case it’s too bad that where you hiked is no longer protected in Bears Ears National Monument. Hopefully SUWA, Patagonia and the Native American Tribal Coalition will prevail in court!

P.S. those look like petroglyphs not pictograhs

Harvey HAlpern
5 years ago

yeah I was commenting on the last one. Feel free to contact me directly if you’re ever looking for information on deep backcountry in southern Utah.

Midwest Mike
Midwest Mike
5 years ago

Thanks so much for those pix. Such a nice trip.