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Utah’s best winter getaway: a small desert down

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This story is sponsored by Utah.com. Learn more about Utah.com.

Kanab in winter? You bet it kan.

There may be sexier-sounding travel destinations — Istanbul? Cinque Terre? — but few can boast Kanab’s outdoor access and return on investment. (And if you got that red-rock fever, you'll take Zion over the Blue Mosque at any price.)

Sitting on the southern border halfway between St. George and Lake Powell, Kanab is home base to a baker's dozen Utah adventures that are just as good (or better?) in winter with easy access to Bryce Canyon’s evergreens and snowy hoodoos or to Zion's desert washes and bright blue skies.

Whether you're visiting Utah or you've lived here for years and feel guilty about sights unseen, Kanab is the perfect place to set up shop and tick items off your bucket list.

In fact, if you're looking for something different this winter, head on down to the town's annual Balloons & Tunes Roundup (Feb. 15-17), where you can enjoy the colorful hot air balloons among the magically unspoiled red rock Vermillion Cliffs. The festival also boasts a Battle of the Bands (Friday and Saturday), a Street Fair all day Saturday from 11 a.m.–9 p.m., and a Balloon Glow and Wishing Lantern Launch on Saturday evening.

Travel times

Kanab to...

Zion - 0:35

Lake Powell - 1:08

Bryce Canyon - 1:24

Grand Canyon (North Rim) - 1:48

Kodachrome Basin - 1:53

Grand Staircase-Escalante - 2:00

Why it's better in winter

First, the temperature's moderate, it's sunny and there's even an occasional dusting of snow to add contrast to your old favorite views. All perfect for outdoor adventure. February's 50s climb firmly into the 60s in March (balmy for slushy, inverted Northern Utahns); and while the days may be shorter than in July, they are actually more usable in winter since no human should be outdoors down here from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the summer (except high school wrestlers trying to make weight).

And speaking of daylight, winter gives you a different set of photographs than summer. Pros know sunrise and twilight produce the most flattering light and they're elongated by the winter sun's low arc.


Lake Powell, Courtesy of Utah.com

Next, winter means fewer pests: Snakes have hit the hibernaculum, bugs are doing whatever bugs do in winter and other hikers are few and far between. Get the trail to yourself.

Lastly, you can stay cheap in the offseason as hotels drop their rates to lure the fewer, savvier winter travelers. So if you like money, warmth, taking pictures and an absence of adders, Kanab is a win-win-win-win before the vernal equinox.

Bryce Canyon: up the road, up in the air

Or, if you prefer your monoliths at altitude, check into Ruby’s Inn to check out Bryce Canyon. Snow covers the park's hoodoos and trails all winter since they're a mile above sea level. Pack a coat and sunscreen and grab snowshoes or cross-country skis from Ruby's to trek through a snowy desert paradox.


Courtesy of Utah.com

Ruby’s, besides snowshoes and comfy, discounted rooms, also offers horse-drawn sleigh rides and an ice skating rink. They're right outside the entrance to Bryce so you'll be situated to explore either the park (Navajo Loop is a great winter hike) or the groomed trails just outside at Ruby's Nordic Center. If walking's not your thing, bring snowmobiles and dig into miles of national forest.

All in all, if you're just up for a Utahn adventure, explore the state with the help of Utah.com.