Skiing, ice fishing, and stargazing are only a few of the many winter activities in Utah. Get ready to explore the mountains, lakes, and trails from December through February.
Utah is one of the rare places that’s actually as much fun (if not more) in the winter as it is any other time of year.
Sure, we love warm sunrises in the national parks and long days splashing in the turquoise waters of Bear Lake – but the snow-capped mountains, uncrowded trails, and unique wildlife all make winter in Utah truly special.
So, where should you go, what do you need to know, and how can you plan the best winter vacation in the Beehive State? Put on your parka and grab your snow boots; these are the best things to do in Utah in the winter.
Why You Should Visit Utah in the Winter
Utah is a gorgeous place to visit any time of year, but winter offers many of the state’s top outdoor activities.
Snowboarding and skiing are in peak form, with resorts like Snowbird offering its signature fine powder snow. You’ll also find incredible hiking with surprisingly warm, sunny days and far fewer people in Southern Utah’s Zion and Bryce Canyon.
For those looking for food, culture, and entertainment, The Sundance Film Festival in Park City allows you to wine, dine, and watch movies with celebrities and fellow travelers in some of Utah’s best theaters, restaurants, and bars.
Long story short, there’s a ton to experience when you visit Utah in the winter. Let’s look at 12 of our favorite things to do.
Utah in December
Visiting Utah in December is a wonderful time of year. Temperatures are cooling off, there’s a good chance you’ll have fresh snow in the mountains, and the holiday season brings a special cheer to hotels, shopping centers, and ski resorts.
Utah in January
January is typically the coldest month overall in Utah. In Salt Lake City, the average temperature is between 27°F and 40°F, but it can get considerably colder when you’re in the mountains.
It’s still a great time to hit SLC’s best ski resorts, and other areas like Zion National Park can be quite warm, with highs around 50°F.
Utah in February
February is a nice time to visit most areas in Utah. You’ll just want to be ready for road closures and unpredictable weather, especially in higher-elevation areas.
But room rates are still low, temperatures are a bit warmer, and the snow base is at its best at most of the ski resorts.
Top Things to Do in Utah in the Winter
Ski Utah’s Famous Fresh Powder
Few places in the world get the quality of fresh powder snow as Utah, especially at some of our favorite Salt Lake City ski resorts.
If you want to experience the best snow in the state, head to Snowbird, Solitude, and other resorts near SLC for deep powder along the open ski runs and backcountry trails.
Carving down the mountains at these iconic resorts after a fresh snowfall is one of the most enjoyable things to do in Utah in the winter, with as much as 400 inches falling in a single season.
Top Tip: Always check with park rangers and ski resort staff before snowboarding and skiing after a fresh snowfall, as avalanches are a real threat.
Hike Zion National Park
Over the past few years, Zion has quickly turned itself into one of the most popular national parks in the country.
Over 5 million people head to the national park annually to see iconic landmarks like Angel’s Landing and The Narrows. Both of the popular trails are much less crowded from December to February, giving hikers a chance to explore the mountain peaks and canyons with a little more elbow room.
We also love hiking in the desert lowlands, in areas like Chinle Trail, where you’ll discover natural succulent gardens, petrified forests, and volcanic rock in a region that’s nearly impossible to hike during summer’s hottest days.
Top Tip: Wear traction devices on your hiking boots and check for road and trail closures on the NPS website.
Attend Sundance Film Festival
One of the most iconic festivals anywhere in the United States is Utah’s Sundance Film Festival.
Known as a gathering of many of Hollywood’s finest (and upcoming stars), the 11-day event in Park City and Salt Lake takes place in January each year at various theatres around town.
Going to any of the theatres is a great way to see celebrated filmmakers and the next superstars, but Egyptian Theatre is our favorite. Why? The nearly 100-year-old theatre has hosted many iconic movies and movie stars over the years.
Try some of our favorite Park City restaurants, and be sure to get a cocktail at High West Saloon, where you can try an old-fashioned from the celebrated Utah distillery.
Go Bobsledding at Olympic National Park
Ever wonder what it’s like to fly down the steep, narrow chutes on a bobsled with a few of your closest friends? Yeah, us too.
You can make this dream a reality at Olympic National Park, which opens up the bobsledding course 7 days a week from 9 am to 6 pm in the winter.
If you’re over 16 years old, weigh over 100 pounds, and meet some basic health requirements, you can head to the 2002 Olympic Games site and reserve a chance to try the thrilling winter sport.
Top Tip: You’ll reach speeds from 50 to 70 miles per hour on the winding chutes, so if you have any back or neck issues, sit this one out.
Take a Scenic Drive Through Bryce Canyon National Park
Few road trips offer the type of scenery you’ll experience in Bryce Canyon, especially in the winter.
Don’t believe us? Take the 18-mile drive along Highway 63 and stop at as many viewpoints as possible.
On your way up the windy mountain roads, you’ll see hoodoos like the towering Thor’s Hammer and incredible vistas like Rainbow Point.
You climb to 2,773 km (9,100 feet), so road closures happen with heavy snow. Ask the rangers about road conditions or visit the NPS website before driving.
Top Tip: Head all the way up to Rainbow or Yovimpa Point when making the scenic drive. It’s much easier to pull over on your way back down without crossing traffic and is much less dangerous, especially if it snows.
Snowmobiling is a favorite winter pastime in Utah, where locals and visitors head to areas like Uinta-Wasatch-Cache to explore over 200 miles of trails.
The mountains, rivers, and lakes less than an hour from Salt Lake City make it a perfect place for the thrill-seeking crowd to enjoy the winter weather.
You can ride through 6 different Ranger Districts, each with multiple trails to enjoy. Rent a sled at a nearby resort, or take a guided tour to explore some of Utah’s most scenic backcountry.
Top Tip: Never go off trail on a snowmobile, especially in higher elevations, and always check with rangers about avalanche predictions before hitting the trails.
Cross-country skiing is a fantastic way to see more of the pristine Utah wilderness in the wintertime.
Get out and explore trails in the state and national parks, and you’ll have great chances to see wildlife like birds, elk, and foxes.
Bryce Canyon, Bear Lake, and Big Cottonwood Canyon are a few of the most popular areas to cross-country ski. You can usually rent gear close to the hiking trails at each location.
Top Tip: Skiing can be one of the only ways to access hard-to-reach areas in the winter when they’re closed to cars. One of our favorites? The Rim Trail at Bryce from Sunrise Point to Bryce Point offers excellent views of the hoodoos and canyons in the park.
Try Ice Fishing
Looking for a unique winter activity? Try your luck at ice fishing.
If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a lot like it sounds. Anglers set up shop in the middle of a frozen lake, where they drill a hole to try catching whatever lies beneath the icy surface. It’s actually a lot of fun.
Top Tip: If you’re not the competitive type, you can go on your own at Bear Lake or Fish Lake during the winter when the ice is thick enough.
Camping in the National Parks
This one might only be for the more adventurous travelers. Still, winter camping in Utah is an excellent way to experience everything the national parks have to offer.
Not only are areas like Bryce and Zion less crowded, but you can even drive into areas of the parks with your gear that are often only open to shuttles during the summer.
Where are our favorite sites? Check out the snow-capped hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, the natural bridges at Arches National Park, and the geological anomalies at Capitol Reef when you camp from December to January.
It’s one of the best ways to experience stargazing, sunsets, and sunrises in Utah’s Mighty Five.
Top Tip: Many national parks close certain roads and campgrounds during the winter, so always check with the NPS beforehand.
Photograph in Arches National Park
Arches National Park is home to over 2,000 famed red rock arches near Moab, Utah.
It’s a stunning park and easily one of our favorite areas to explore, but you won’t want to hit the trails without your camera.
2 of the best winter hikes in Utah are at this park. You can choose for an easy 1.2-mile loop along the Windows Loop and Turret Arch if you want to capture one of the most famous sites in the park or venture off to see the largest natural bridge in Arches on a 3-mile trek to Delicate Arch.
Top Tip: Arches is one of the best areas to photograph after snowfall, so check the weather or try your luck at seeing the red rock arches with a light layer of snow.
Swim and Snorkel in a Thermal Spring
Homestead Crater is a nice place to warm up between adventures on the ski slopes and national parks in Utah.
The underground swimming hole isn’t just a great place to soak and let the natural mineral springs heal your body, it’s also great for swimming and snorkeling.
95°F water is a wonderful water temperature when it’s much colder outside, and you can rent gear to see the cool geological and artificial structures underneath the cavernous waters.
Utah has many different International Dark Sky Parks, making it a perfect place to try your luck at seeing distant galaxies and cosmos, even in the winter.
In fact, as long as you go around a new moon, you’ll have an excellent chance of seeing stars at any of Utah’s Mighty Five, Goblin Valley State Park, or Dinosaur National Monument.
Top Tip: Check the forecast for rain or snow and try to go around the new moon for the best visibility.
If you’re not quite ready to take to the slopes on skis or a snowboard, don’t fret. There are lots of places you can try sledding and snow tubing around Utah in the winter.
One of our favorite ideas for things to do with your family and friends is to head to Wasatch Parc Snow Tubing for an afternoon of fun.
You can purchase a single-ride ticket for $12 or purchase a 2-hour or 4-hour package. We think the 2-hour rate is the best overall value, where you’ll have plenty of time to cruise down near Eden, Utah, for a $30 per person fee.
Practical Tips For Planning Your Trip
Where to Stay
Grand America Hotel (Luxury)
This is without a doubt, one of the best hotels in Salt Lake City. An indoor pool, 24-hour room service, and elegant accommodations with marble bathrooms make this the perfect hotel to rest and relax between outdoor adventures.
Staybridge Suites (Mid Range)
Staybridge Suites offers affordable rooms near the heart of St. George. The property features a fitness center, 24-hour front desk, and free on-site parking.
Check for Road and Trail Closures
When exploring any of Utah’s Mighty Five, be sure to go on the National Park website before your visit. They frequently update the platform to include road closures and important news about trail conditions and weather.
Bring Your Winter Clothing
It might go without saying, but Utah winters can get quite chilly, especially in the mountains near the best ski resorts. Pack your gloves, winter hats, and water-resistant pants and jackets when you hit the slopes.
Pack Essential Gear
In addition to your warmest clothes; there are some other must-haves when you take to the trails at Zion or other national and state parks in Utah.
Traction devices on your shoes (and chains on 2-wheel drive cars) are essential in certain areas where you see ice and snow. And if you’re hiking in water, like at The Narrows, you’ll want a dry suit to stay safe in the wintry waters.
Winter in Utah: Map
Need More Inspiration for Your Utah Winter?
- Arches National Park in Winter Travel Guide: 10 Unmissable Things to Do
- Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park in Winter: 15 Brilliant Things to Do
- 9 Spectacular Ski Resorts Around Salt Lake City
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