With the temperatures dropping and the snow falling, winter is officially here. And while the cold weather may just make you want to curl up in front of the fire place with hot coco, winter reveals a magical world hidden in your public lands. With feet of snow protecting the low lying plant life, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing open up the possibilities of adventure destinations as well as letting you see your favorite places in a whole new light.For your outdoor adventures this winter, here are 7 hidden places for you to explore in southern Utah.
Located just 40 minutes from Cedar City sits 1,300 acres of winter landscape criss-crossed with 23 miles of groomed cross country and snowshoe trails. This recreation area was brought to life by a collaboration between the Dixie National Forest and the Cedar Mountain Nordic Ski Club. There are 8 loop trails, with a few offering stunning views of Navajo Lake. Skiing trails are marked with blue markers, and snowshoe/multi-use trails are marked with yellow. Good news for all you dog lovers, there are pet-friendly trails as well! With groomed trails ranging from .5 to 4.6 miles, Deer Hollow is perfect for those looking for a short afternoon excursion, or those just getting into winter sports.
Trail Map and more info: http://www.utahnordic.com/skiing/locations/deer-hollow-winter-recreation-area
Contrary to popular thought, this local gem does not close in the winter. Actually, even more of the park is accessible to visitors if they’re willing to work for it. While the main road from Cedar Canyon is closed in the winter, visitors can still take state road 143 past the Brian Head Ski Resort until the road closes just a few miles into the park. On Saturdays, Park Rangers lead guided snowshoe hikes to the winter ranger station, where hot chocolate and cider awaits. Those wishing to participate have to sign up online, but there is no charge and the snowshoes are included! Visitors who find themselves in a more independent spirit can explore this winter wonderland on popular summer trails, such as the alpine pond trail, or adventure out where they please. Just remember to watch your step, as steep sections exist around the rim of the amphitheatre.
Map and Further Info: https://www.nps.gov/cebr/winter-activities.htm
Just north of Cedar Breaks lies the town of Brian Head. While it is famous for its downhill ski and snowboard resort, the town has many opportunities for those seeking a more horizontal experience. Trails wind next to Main Street and even into the surrounding forest. Brian Head is a beautiful mountain town, and gear rentals for snowshoes and cross country skis can be found in multiple shops throughout the area. The ski resort offers multiple restaurants as well as a sledding hill if you want to continue the snow filled day.
Trail Map and Further Info: http://www.visitbrianhead.org/Winter-Activities
Pine Valley is a small mountain town situated at the base of the Pine Valley Mountains, located about an hour and a half south of Cedar City. Known for its towering ponderosa pines, stunning alpine hikes, and beautiful small town feel, Pine Valley is an often overlooked winter recreation area. Winter visitors can use the same summer hiking trails shown on trail maps. While many of the trails leave the recreation area and wind uphill towards the summits, there are a few that make their way through the recreation area and around the beautiful reservoir.
Trail Map and Further Info: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/dixie/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=71836&actid=29
Full of beautiful cabins caked in snow and surrounded by aspens and winding streams, Duck Creek Village is a home away from home for mountain lovers.Located only 40 minutes from Cedar City, it is a short drive to a stunning spot. Strap on your snowshoes or skis to explore the many different reservoirs and trails that surround this little village. Aspen Mirror Lake offers beautiful scenery right out of a painting, and many little areas like it are right off of the state highway 14. Keep your eyes open for wildlife, especially Bald Eagles who are known to make a little pit stop here on their migration path. Accessibility, surreal views, and little splash of the american wild await all who visit.
Further Info: http://www.duckcreekvillage.com/
Bryce Canyon National Park, an hour and a half drive from Cedar City, is arguably one of the most famous of America’s National Parks. While during peak season in the summer, parking is sparse and visitors are plentiful, those who venture out during the winter find a much different scene. While no skiing or snowboarding is allowed below the rim of the amphitheater, there are plenty of loop trails above the rim. Join the rangers on daily 2 hour hikes where snowshoes are provided, explore the park after dark with moonlight snowshoe walks, or take off and explore on your own!
Trail Map and Further Info: https://www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/winter.htm
Ruby’s Inn is located in the town of Bryce Canyon, and is the closest lodging to the National Park. Whether visitors plan on staying the night or not, Ruby’s boasts over 18 miles of nordic ski trails right out of their back door. All the trails are open and free to the public. This landscape offers a bit of a different view, as skiers and snowshoers will wind through towering ponderosa pines, meadows, and vistas. A few of the trails connect with those inside the park as well. Rentals can be purchased at Ruby’s Inn.
Trail Map and Further Info: https://www.rubysinn.com/winter-activities/
A note on winter recreation
Winter recreation is a wonderful opportunity to experience the solitude and beauty of our public lands. With snow protecting the fragile plant life and animal habitats, opportunities to hike in areas where normally humans would damage the environment arise. Explore your national forests, hike your favorite summer trail to see how it changes, and walk through that stunning spot in the woods you’ve been eyeing for awhile. But while you enjoy this winter beauty there are a few things that you should keep in mind.
- Snowshoes can damage nordic ski trails, so when exploring on designated trails in snowshoes, follow the signs. Many winter recreation areas will have designated snowshoe and ski trails.
- Don’t let the cold fool you! Sunburns and dehydration are actually more common during the winter time. Make sure to carry plenty of water and wear sunscreen.
- Often times winter recreation occurs in the mountains. Be mindful of how your body is handling these higher elevations, stop to take breaks and don’t be surprised if certain activities become more strenuous as you go higher in elevation.
- Weather can be unpredictable, so always bring extra clothes. Synthetic fabrics like polyester should be worn closest to the skin, with insulating layers such as wool or fleece following. Make sure to top it off with a waterproof jacket and avoid cotton.
- Make sure to have fun! The point of outdoor recreation is to enjoy yourself and nature. Check the weather before you go, always tell someone where you are going, follow leave no trace principles, and always be respectful of other hikers.