A Red Rock New Years Eve

Posted On
Dec 12, 2019
Southern Utah
State Parks
Family Friendly

A Red Rock New Year’s Eve Celebration


Moab in the winter is nothing short of spectacular. The blanket of white snow covering the red rock landscapes is an epic sight that every Utahan needs to witness at least a few times. The weather in red rock country this time of year can be temperamental, like your two-year-old, so be sure to pack your sense of adventure along with a few extra layers of clothing for the family. Depending on the year, the winter temps in Moab can range from below zero at night to the 40-50s during the day and can change at the drop of a hat, so be sure to plan and pack accordingly.


Now that we have addressed the one thing (wink, wink) that could make or break your red rock winter family vacy, let’s shift gears to the many, many benefits of Moabing in the off-season. Topping the list is the cost. Hotels this time of year are very affordable. Coming in at a close second is the solitude you will find on the trails, especially in Arches National Parks.


My plan was to ring in the new year in this red rock wonderland. Winter camping has been on my list and as a way of easing into camping in the colder months, and a yurt seemed like a step in the right direction. Dead Horse Point State Park, located 30 miles west of Moab, has nine yurts that are open year-round, and each one sleeps six (full-size bunk beds plus a futon). So with our destination set, we decided to enlist another mother/daughter duo, Jamie and Olive, to join us for our New Year’s celebration.

We arrived at the yurt after dark. I was thankful we had a couple of headlamps to find our way into the yurt so we could flip on the interior lights. The cool winter night sky was epic and filled with sparkles in every direction. Dead Horse Point is an official International Dark Sky Park and is one of the best areas to stargaze in the Moab area. The combination of the high plateau, mountains in the distance, and city lights out of sight make this destination perfect for a nearly-full view of the celestial sphere. The park offers many night sky ranger-led programs throughout the year for those wanting to learn more.


We quickly hauled our bags into the yurt and the girls were excited to see the bunk bed. As it came into view, they both quickly called “top bunk” as they both tossed their sleeping bags onto the top bunk. We spent the remaining hours before bedtime playing a few different card games while sipping on wine and hot cocoa.


The next morning was pretty chilly out so we had a lazy morning in the yurt and then headed into Moab for a late breakfast. Not all the restaurants and shops are open in the winter, but many are, and we had plenty to choose from. Once fully fueled, we headed out to the Potash Road (HWY 279) where there are a couple of great arch hikes – Corona Arch and Longbow Arch. We decided on the Longbow hike which starts from the Dinosaur Tracks parking lot.


It was sunny and the temperature was around 25 degrees so we started the hike in full winter attire. Once we started hiking the girls ditched their gloves and hats, along with the whininess, and we all enjoyed our beautiful surroundings and the warm sunshine.


After the hike, we headed back to our yurt for more board games. Hoping we could all make it to midnight (as the clock approached 11 pm) we all gave up on trying to stay awake for the final hour. So we gave a Happy New Year shout out and cheers because it was the New Year somewhere. We were all super exhausted and in full rem sleep by the time our clock officially hit the New Year.


I had prepared to make a special New Year’s morning breakfast which entailed using my camp stove on the front porch of the yurt…. burr….as there is a “no cooking” allowed in the yurt rule.  There is electricity, so prior to this morning’s meal, we had just relied on the electric tea kettle for hot water.  Again, the morning was cold, even colder than the previous morning, single-digit cold…double burr.


On the menu was eggs, bacon, and pancake; the pancakes I premade and just needed to heat up. The last time I had used this stove, the right burner didn’t stay lit, and I didn’t really think much of it. Just used the left one…no big deal. Now, I planned/needed to use both burners and the right one, once again, would not stay lit. Then suddenly, without warning, flames started shooting out from the temperature dial. I looked at Jamie, who was as surprised as I was. I quickly turned the dial to off and the flames continued. The only thing I could think to do in that moment was to remove the fuel tank: no fuel = no flames.  I quickly tried to unscrew the small propane tank from the stove. Not the best choice. More flames burst out until the propane was fully detached. At this point, in a panic, I quickly tossed the stove into the snowbank.  


WOW…we both just stood there in shock for a minute. And then the adrenaline from the incident was momentarily replaced with a feeling of gratitude, knowing that this situation could have been far far worse.  


At this point, the girls had heard the screams and were peering through the door, wide-eyed and unsure of what they had just witnessed. I said don’t worry we can still make breakfast...which was not at all what they were worried about. As I walked into the yurt, Kya gave me a hug and asked if I was alright. I kissed the top of her head and was overwhelmed with emotion. What a way to start off the New Year.


For the rest of the morning, there was a sense of gratitude and love that filled the yurt. The outcome could have been worse, resulting in someone, most likely me, really being injured. More than just a bit of singed hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes could have been damaged.


Life throws many lessons in our path and reflecting back on this experience months later, I’m not 100 percent sure what this experience on New Year’s Day was teaching me. One thought is that maybe if things are not working properly you should fix them. Which, if I’m being honest, is a tiny theme in some areas of my life. But I feel the bigger message here is to be grateful for the people in your life and the experiences you get to share together.





Here are a few DO IT LIKE A LOCAL cold weather tips for Moabing in the winter.


Stay off muddy trails – If the mud is sticking to your shoes and leaving divots in the trail it’s best to turn around and find another trail to explore – think slickrock and sand, not mud. If you are not sure what locations are best for the current conditions, make a stop at the Moab Information Center (25 E. Center Street).


Hiking boots – Good, insulated, waterproof boots will ensure happy and dry feet on the trails. Microspikes or Yaktrax are also great options for icy trail conditions.


Dress in layers – Layering is one of the best ways to stay warm and comfortable, and also allows for flexibility as the temps change throughout a hike. Have a synthetic base layer, an insulating layer, and a shell.


Forgot something? – Moab Gear Traders and Gearheads are both local gear shops that have a full range of outdoor gear for both kids and adults.


For more tipsDoItLikeAMoabLocal.com/winter-hiking-tips