We have a few years long tradition of doing a weekend trip for my husband’s birthday. January is a hard month and having something to look forward to after the holidays has been very good for my mental health. Two years ago I booked a cheap condo at Bear Lake, and it ended up being so cloudy we couldn’t see the turquoise! We also had to cut our trip short due to an incoming snowstorm.
Last year we splurged on a, AirBNB right outside of Zion National Park. The location was ideal, the casita was super cute, and the park was empty. Empty! However, it also snowed and rained the weekend we were there, while the week before had been in the 60s.
This year he requested Arches. We found an AirBNB that was nicer than the pictures indicated, and 15-20 mins from Arches’ visitors center. Moab is pretty empty in January as well and the park was pretty deserted. Part of this is due to the ridiculous government shut down, and part is due to the time of year. We’ve been to Arches a few times, but this was the first winter experience.
We stopped in the visitor’s center first to get some souvenirs, donate money, and chat with a ranger about conditions. My husband was most looking forward to hiking Delicate Arch, but the ranger advised against it due to ice. I have YakTrax but no one else has spikes, and the last little bit of that trail is a bit sketchy. I’m pretty risk averse these days so we chose some flat trails to experience. When our oldest was 18 months we hiked Delicate Arch with some family. I wasn’t into hiking at that point but have very fond memories of this one. My son was really fussy during the hike and so I waved the group on and sat on the side of the trail and nursed him. Then he fell asleep and I hiked with him strapped to my front the rest of the way. I got a lot of high fives and comments by people impressed by me, and I remember feeling proud of myself for figuring out how to make it to the arch with a baby.
After the visitor’s center, we went straight to the Landscape Arch trailhead. This way we got to drive through the entire main road and see quite a bit. We parked at the Devil’s Garden trailhead and got our warm clothes on. It was around 35 degrees and there was snow and ice on the ground. Baselayers, fleece, hats, and gloves helped a lot (check my post if you need help figuring out winter clothing! Adults too.). Two massive ravens were perched on the rooftop bikes next to us, getting ready for a good time.
We hiked this trail three years ago when our kids were 3 and a few months shy of a year. I did put the sis on my back for a bit as the trail was super icy in spots. Because it is mostly flat I wasn’t concerned for our safety, and the kids genuinely enjoyed sliding around. It took us about half an hour to reach the arch, and we enjoyed the sunshine and the views and the red rocks before heading back to the car. This hike is under 2 miles round trip. We called it a day here and picked up pizza on the way to the AirBNB.
The next day we checked the weather and decided to leave that night instead of the following day as we had planned. A big snowstorm was headed through our route home this year again, and while we have snow tires, we didn’t want to be caught in a canyon with high winds and heavy snow. We reevaluated our ideas and decided to hike Park Avenue and then drive to the Delicate Arch viewpoint.
Park Avenue was so perfect for hiking with kids. Besides the descent into the canyon at the first of the trail, it is largely flat. While usually a pretty popular hike, we only saw two other humans. We walked along tall sandstone walls, admiring the way erosion has carved shapes from the canyon’s edges as well as the rock under our feet, and seeing which small sandstone bowls were covered with ice. We had many opportunities to discuss staying on the trail, leaving no trace, and being so careful of the biological soil crusts. This hike is about 2 miles round trip and pretty easy.
Next we drove to the Delicate Arch viewpoints and had lunch in the car. After eating we hiked up to the upper viewpoint for a better look at the arch. We did see several people around the arch but felt confident in our decision to not go without spikes. This hike is short and somewhat steep, but our three year old had no problem. We took some pictures and then headed out of the park.
My favorite NP is Canyonlands, and my husband took us there as a last stop before heading home. Something about the salt edged lower canyons next to the river, the series of cliffs down to the valley floor fascinate me. I love it. We stopped at the Green River overlook for a few minutes and then called it a trip. Hopefully we can head back in less icy months to hike Delicate Arch.