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Author Topic: winter Zion/Bryce/Canyonlands suggestions?  (Read 2821 times)
gtal
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« on: October 27, 2004, 02:27:26 PM »
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Canyonlands is Utah's largest yet least developed national park. It is divided into three districts, split by the Green and the Colorado rivers.

The most accessible is Island In The Sky. The road takes you to the top of a huge mesa with spectacular views of the canyons and rivers below. You can literally walk to the edge and look straight down a 1500ft wall. There's little hiking to be done here - the road takes you to various view points and iconic spots (e.g. Mesa Arch, Grand View Point, Green River Overlook). With a 4wd vehicle you can drive from the top of the mesa down the Shafer trail to the White Rim and a variety of other locations. If the road is wet and muddy or covered in snow, you may not want to try it though.
On your way in/out of Island In The Sky, you may want to make a small detour and svisit Dead Horse Point State Park for some spectacular views.

The Needles district offer a variety of 4wd and hiking trails to some neat places like Angel Arch. Most trails require backpacking for 1-2 nights to really appreciate. Note that in order to drive into some of these location you will need to 4wd your way up the dreaded Elephant Hill. This is one of the hardest and steepest off-road routes and if you're not an experienced off-road driver, you may want to avoid it. Some tour guides in Moab can get you across it.

The Maze is the least accessible and wildest district. If you want to plan a trip there, I would highly recommend a second vehicle.

December can be an excellent time for photography - snow and red rock make for some very photogenic combinations. Be prepared for extreme cold though. Temperatures will drop below freezing at night and in high places (e.g. Island In The Sky), the wind chill can easily push temperatures into the single digits.
I doubt you'll need snowshoes anywhere in Canyonlands though.

Guy
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jeffreybehr
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« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2004, 01:45:29 PM »
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I've been there only once so I don't know much about Canyonlands NP, but I know it's HUGE. You could spent weeks in any one of its 3 parts.

See here for a pic into CL from Utah's Dead Horse Pt. State Park
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Hank
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« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2004, 06:50:02 PM »
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Of the three, Zion certainly has the mellowest weather most of the time- warmer than Bryce and less wind than Canyonlands.  Bryce can be REALLY cold, due to elevation.  Limited restraunts and motels in winter, and if memory serves only one or two are open by late December.  Guy described Canyonlands well.  Shafer Trail will be closed at the top by the NPS if there is snow/ice/mud, but portions of White Rim are accessible by driving in from the bottom via Potash, downriver from Moab.  High clearance mandatory, 4wd a good idea, but not too challenging.

Scenery is great in all locations in December, but it's also my favorite time for wildlife.  Mule deer in all three (probably best in Zion), desert sheep in Canyonlands and nearby Arches.  I saw a young mountain lion in Bryce in December a couple of years ago, but too quick for my reflexes and light too low for my camera.  Smile and enjoy.
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jdlevy
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« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2004, 04:48:03 PM »
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If there is snow, Bryce is really stunning!

But you certainly should expect cold weather there.
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Hank
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« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2004, 04:31:15 PM »
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Sounds great!  It's worth flying along I-70 en route to or from Moab for an aerial view of the San Rafael Swell.  Even in a low-wing, have your husband put it in a tight turn to starboard and drop the wing.  That area is spectacular from the air!
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Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2004, 12:19:59 PM »
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I'm thinking about spending a week in Zion, Bryce and Canyonlands parks in late December.  I've been to the first two at other times of year (a long time ago, though), but never to Canyonlands.  I'm looking for suggestions for good hiking (snowshoeing, when appropriate), good views and good photography, especially considering the time of year.  Any suggestions?  Any winter-related warnings?  (I plan to fly in to Cedar City & Moab by small plane and rent 4WD vehicles for getting around, unless anyone can give me a good reason not to.)

Lisa
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Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2004, 12:55:40 PM »
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Thanks, Guy.  Great suggestions.

Lisa
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howard smith
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« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2004, 02:06:04 PM »
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Try Mesa Arch at sunrise if you can get to it.  easy walk from the parking lot if the snow (?) allows.  The sun should be in a better location in winter.  Also, there may be less haze.  It can be a very high contrast scene.

I was there about 10 years ago in winter and while I have probably been colder, I don't remember when.

Stop in Moab to see Tom Till's studio.  He has some fine photographs.
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Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2004, 10:10:53 AM »
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Thanks, all for your excellent comments; I've printed them out and will take them with me.  I'll be looking for wildlife after your comment, Hank (I guess they come out when the tourists go home  ::  ).  I have all my reservations now.  I've also had Arches park recommended to me, and, since it's near Canyonlands, I intend to take a day to go there too.

Thanks again!
Lisa
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Hank
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« Reply #9 on: October 31, 2004, 10:46:41 AM »
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Hi Lisa,
It's appropriate to add a travel advisory.  If you decide to continue east from Bryce to Escalante via Highway 12, be sure to check road conditions first.  It's a stunnning route, but ascends to a high point near Canean mountain which can be quite snowy.  At times the road can be quite icy even without snow on it.  It looks like a short-cut to Canyonlands via Captiol Reef, but it can turn into quite an adventure in winter if the conditions are wrong.

You should have a great trip, but I would be fairly deliberate in your planning and well-informed about current road conditions, throughout this area in winter.
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Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #10 on: October 31, 2004, 04:11:23 PM »
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Quote
It's appropriate to add a travel advisory.  If you decide to continue east from Bryce to Escalante via Highway 12, be sure to check road conditions first.  It's a stunnning route, but ascends to a high point near Canean mountain which can be quite snowy.  At times the road can be quite icy even without snow on it.  It looks like a short-cut to Canyonlands via Captiol Reef, but it can turn into quite an adventure in winter if the conditions are wrong.

Thanks for the warning, but I don't expect we'll be taking that route.  We plan to do Bryce as a day-trip from Zion, and fly (my spouse is a small plane pilot) between the Zion area and Moab (though unfortunately in a low-wing plane which will make aerial photos difficult  Sad   ).  Of course, if the weather's too bad to fly, we'll drive between them, but by the mostly-freeway route.

We will indeed pack plenty of cold-weather clothes.  We've had significant experience with that sort of thing  (Iceland in late spring, Sierras in winter, etc.) so we can deal with it.  Far better cold than hot, in my opinion.

Thanks for all your suggestions.  It should be a great trip.

Lisa
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dmerger
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« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2004, 10:59:19 AM »
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In my opinion, Bryce is most beautiful in the winter with snow, fresh if possible. Of course, you probably already know that sunrise is the best time for photos at Bryce. Bryce usually has lots of snow in winter. Depending on the amount of recent snow, the roads may be open only a short way or they could all be open. Even after a big snow, however, the parks service is pretty good at getting the roads open fairly quickly. If you're up to it, a hike through the hoodos in the snow is beautiful and peaceful since there are likely to be very few people below the canyon rim. Snow shoes shouldn't be necessay as long as you have some decent boots and gaiters. On the other hand, unless there is fresh snow at Zion, I think that winter is the least beautiful time of the year. Same for Canyonlands and Arches and the other parks and monuments in southern Utah. Those areas don't get much snow. If you are fortunate enough to get snow, however, you can get some unusual and exceptionally beautiful photos. In addition, in my experience in Canyonlands and Arches area especially, sunsets tend to be much more colorful in winter. Accordingly, I recommend that you check the weather forecasts and try to find fresh snow, but realize that the snow usually lasts a very short time in lower Zion, Canyonlands and Arches. You may also want to consider more than just one day at Bryce.
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Dean Erger
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