Winter camping in Canyonlands

One of the pleasures of living in Moab is the ability to be in some of the premier public lands in the US.  And among these public lands are the two national parks we are blessed to have in our backyard.

Arches National Park is the more family and day-hike friendly of the two national parks. If a person has a day or two to see public lands in the Moab area, they will be going there and taking a drive, going to Balanced Rock and seeing Delicate Arch.

But, at least in my opinion, it is Canyonlands National Park that holds the most allure for the backcountry traveler.  Comprised of three distinct districts, Canyonlands is the park that I tend to enjoy overall.  The Maze still seems remote and a bit off the beaten path.  And the Needles District seems perfect for backpacking excursions while still using a passenger vehicle.  But even the Island in the Sky district contains hikes enthralling to the person seeking a little more wildness than neighboring Arches National Park.

Of course, these national parks are a bit harder to access due to recent events in the news. Something directly impacting the Moab economy. And access to our public lands.

However, a boon happened. Thanks to the generosity of the Canyonlands National History Assoc, both Canyonlands National Park (Island in the Sky specifically) and the Arches visitor centers are open. And the roads are plowed, too.  Which is fortuitous as our original plan to visit an obscure area seemed a bit too ambitious with the rutted and snowy road and a stock 4WD vehicle.

Plan B ended up being an overnight camping trip to the “Island in the Sky” district of Canyonlands. Only thirty miles outside of Moab, this area is not visited too often by Joan and me since it is a typically busy area.

But every time we visit, we are reminded of how stunning the area is in which we live.

We camped overnight and had the campground almost to ourselves. With the snow over the canyons and only a few amount of people, we had more of a wildness experience.

Quiet hiking in a stunning area. Red rocks, white snow, and sunset with alpenglow on the nearby La Sal mountains forming a backdrop.

What a place.


And winter is perhaps one of the best times to enjoy it.

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5 years ago

Beautiful. With all that snow, water might not be an issue… Self supported hike of the White Rim?