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Winter Activities in Moab

Winter in Moab

Introduction

Located within the Manti-La Sal National Forest, the La Sals offer many areas open to cross-country skiing, sledding and a small amount of snowmobiling. Access to most areas is off the Geyser Pass Road which is plowed to a parking lot. For skiers, the LaSals offer both worked trails and backcountry terrain. Some of these same areas are shared by snowmobile users, although some restrictions apply.

Winter backcountry users should call 435-259-SNOW, November through April, for current taped information on mountain weather, road conditions and avalanche potential. The steep La Sal Mountains have a greater potential for avalanche than the mountains of northern Utah, so please use caution and common sense. Guided day and overnight ski tours, and ski rentals are available in Moab.

Ski Trail and Backcountry Access

Access to the mountains is provided by two routes:

La Sal Mountain Loop Road

The La Sal Mountain Loop Road is plowed regularly to the Geyser Pass road turn-off and somewhat less frequently to Castle Valley. The Geyser Pass road is kept open to the restrooms and parking area at 9,600 feet. (Note: Four wheel drive or chains may be required on Geyser Pass Road since the snowplows leave a few inches of snow to protect the road. ) The snowpacked road to the pass and on to Dark Canyon Lake on the other side is a popular area for sledding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. The road also provides access to backcountry skiing and snow-boarding in the Mt. Tomasaki and Gold Basin areas. Snowmobiles are not allowed to leave the road in Gold Basin. Please respect this closure of the most popular skiing area of the La Sals--the rest of the entire range is wide open to you!

Old La Sal

From near Old LaSal at the south end of the range - the road is plowed regularly to the stock pens near Dark Canyon Lake and on up to Geyser Pass fairly frequently.

La Sal Mountain Ski Trails

Cross Country Skiing

The LaSal Mountains offer miles of trails and unlimited backcountry skiing terrain. The groomed trails pass by several meadows, some steep enough for telemarking. They also lead to high terrain where experienced backcountry explorers and mountaineers can find long descents equal to any in Utah!

La Sal Mountain Ski Map
La Sal Mountain Ski Trails

The Trailhead
Open meadows near the trailhead are perfect for practicing. Please stay off the road and avoid sliding onto the road. Sharp curves and snow banks obscure drivers' views of human bodies hurtling downhill toward them.

Beginner's Meadow
This is a great place to practice skiing and enjoy the scenery. It can be found 1/4 mile uphill from the trailhead.

The Junction
This area is located one mile from the trailhead. The right fork, the Gold Basin Trail, extends to the Laurel and Gold Basin areas. The left fork continues for 2.5 miles to Geyser Pass.

Note: The following route descriptions provide only general directions and locations. There are no marked routes off the main trails and many of the areas require route-finding skills. Consult the topographic maps listed in the "Additional Information" section at the bottom of this page to determine specific routes.

The Gold Basin Trail

  • Laurel Meadow - This trail offers telemarking for all levels of ability. To reach it, the Gold Basin trail rises gently for 0.9 mile from the Junction to Laurel Pass. At Laurel Pass turn left heading southeast and meander through a series of meadows to a wide, 15‑25 degree south facing slope, Laurel Meadow. The views of the peaks are spectacular. Regardless of conditions, turning is usually good somewhere nearby. You can return the way you came, or drop down through aspens spaced widely enough for quick turns. At the bottom, turn right for a few hundred yards and rejoin the Gold Basin Trail.
  • Julie's Glade - This is the place for backcountry telemarking. Continue up and across Laurel Meadow. Enter the trees for a short southeast jaunt to the top of Julie's Glade, paradise for the telemarker when conditions are right. Julie's meanders down a delightful 30 degree slope for about half a mile. At the bottom, you can rejoin the Gold Basin Trail and return home or head back to the ridge for another run. Remember, this is high backcountry terrain; beware of potential avalanche hazard.
  • Gold Basin - This area provides backcountry touring and mountaineering. Instead of turning left at Laurel Pass, go down to the right onto Pole Worm Fence Meadow. It is a wonderful place to practice, gaze at Canyon Country and watch the sun set. Look across the Moab Rim at Behind the Rocks and Canyonlands National Park. The Henry Mountains, 96 miles away, seem close enough to touch. Gold Basin is a mile beyond Laurel Pass, just below the end of the road. The trail continues for another mile before steep cirques beckon experienced mountaineers. The tour presents little hazard as long as you stay below timber line and avoid steep slopes.

The Geyser Pass Trail

Geyser Pass is 2.5 miles from the Junction, 3.5 miles from the trailhead and 1000 feet higher. There are terrific touring and viewing opportunities along the way. The trail splits at the pass. A Forest Service sign directs you to turn right for Dark Canyon. The left hand trail skirts around the Northern group of peaks onto Taylor Flat for many miles of open touring and snowmobiling.

  • Chair 11 - This area gives you a look at mountaineering. To access, head south at Geyser Pass, and climb to timberline below Mount Mellenthin. You will find a series of moraines standing away from the peak and its avalanche chutes Play on the moraines, or circle counter clockwise around to the northwest side of the peak to Chair 11, a large talus slope with a 25 degree angle. The Peak looms steeply above. Beware of avalanche chutes. Venture up to the highest side of Chair 11 for breathtaking views of Horse Canyon, Gold Basin, Mount Tukuhnikivatz, Mount Peale, and a hundred miles of Canyon Country. Retrace your route back to Geyser Pass. Do not try to find a short cut back to the junction. The forest is thick, deep, dark and littered with deadfall.
  • Moonlight Meadow - This is the place to watch the scenery change as the sun goes down. Take the left trail at the Geyser Pass sign. In 100 yards, turn left again (north) and travel a half mile to a medium angle meadow facing the setting sun. The meadow is good for easy turns if the snow is right. The view of Canyon Country is spectacularly framed between Haystack Peak and Brumley Ridge. Take extra clothes and a light stove. Brew some tea, stay for the sunset and ski in the moonlight.
  • Dark Canyon - Offers isolated backcountry and mountaineering. The Dark Canyon trail skirts to the right (east) from Geyser Pass around Mount Mellenthin and into Dark Canyon, a place of sheer cliffs. The terrain is remarkably similar to the High Uintas until you look at the red canyons, Paradox Basin and the San Juan Mountains to the south and east. Be wary of potential avalanche hazard. See Map.

Mountain Huts

If you would like to spend a couple of days up in the mountains, the La Sal Mountain Hut System is the perfect solution. These 3 rustic cabins (with cooking and dining facilities) allow you to spend more time skiing in the mountains, rather than driving back and forth from town. The hut operators can even snowcat your supplies and camping gear up to the huts so you can spend more of your day enjoying the outdoors! The hut operators can reached at (800) 453-3292 or (435) 259-8946.

Sledding

Sledding enthusiasts will find many areas suitable for sledding. Heading up to the Geyser Pass parking area is a good bet for finding some enjoyable sledding areas.

Snowmobiles

Snowmobiles are allowed on many of the same trails used by skiers. The maps on this page show only a fraction of the many roads providing long tours for snowmobiles on the east side of the mountains. Explore to find the ones you like best, but when snow is scarce make sure you stay on good snow-cover to avoid vegetation damage. Note that the area bounded by the Gold Basin Trail, Mt. Tukuhnikivatz, Mt. Mellenthin, Geyser Pass and Geyser Pass Trail is closed to snowmobiles.

Detailed Maps

Moab Information Center

Once you arrive in Moab, detailed trail maps and guides are available for sale at the Moab Information Center (MIC). Located in the center of Moab, on Main & Center Street, the MIC staff is always happy to assist you.

GPSGPS - Moab Info Ctr
Lat/Long (WGS84)

38° 34' 22.4" N
109° 33' 0.1" W

Mail Order

Detailed trail maps and guides may also be purchased online from the Canyonlands Natural History Association, the company that stocks the information center. They can be reached on the internet at cnha.org or at 800-840-8978.

Suggested Maps

The following topographic maps can be useful for venturing into the backcountry:

15" Series 1:62,500 Scale - La Sal Junction, Castle Valley, La Sal, Polar Mesa

7.5' Series 1:24,000 Scale - Warner Lake, Mt. Peale, La Sal East, Mt. Waas, Mt. Tukuhnikivatz, La Sal West

Metric Series 1:100,000 Scale - La Sal

Forest Service Contact info

Manti-La Sal National Forest
Moab Ranger District
435-259-7155

Avalanches

The steep La Sal Mountains have a greater potential for avalanche than the mountains of northern Utah, so please use caution and common sense. Winter backcountry users should call 435-259-SNOW, November through April, for current taped information on mountain weather, road conditions and avalanche potential.

Avalanche Website

 

 

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