Camping in winter can be as varied as the weather. If it's mild conditions you seek, head for southern Utah's Dixie or red rock country. If you are a hardy hedonist, a snow cave beats a tent. Just remember winter's special risks - be prepared, check weather reports, and pay attention to avalanche warnings. Below, some top choices for the snow-bound.
Take the thousands of miles of Utah trails maintained for off-road vehicles and cover them with snow. Add a snow machine or cross-country skis and now you can enjoy those same areas with a different perspective in winter. Rapidly, Utah is becoming a magnet for snowmobilers wanting a worldclass winter camping experience.
The Monte Cristo Mountains are accessed by Hwy. 101 up Blacksmith Fork Canyon or from Hwy. 39 east of Huntsville. Consider mile after mile of groomed trails to Franklin Basin; open play areas on U.S. Forest Service, state and private land; the famous Sinks area; or the Hardware Ranch Groomed Trail - a 63-mile loop groomed by Utah State Parks and Recreation from Hardware Ranch to Ant Flat, Monte Cristo, and Curtis Creek.
Daniels Summit, located above Heber, provides access to 200 miles of groomed trails and acres of open play areas. Nearby lodges feature deluxe accommodations if your idea of roughing it includes a Jacuzzi. Rentals are available that include helmets and all the gear you'll need for a safe, fun winter camping experience near Strawberry Reservoir that could include some ice fishing on one of the state's best fishing waters.
If, however, solitude and quiet are on your winter camping agenda, then strap on your skinny skis or your snowshoes and head for the miles of trails - groomed and ungroomed - that can be accessed from every metropolitan area in the state. Or, load up your snow cave gear and head into the wilderness. One of the most critical aspects of backcountry winter travel is avalanche danger. Do not attempt to challenge the backcountry without a basic understanding of snow conditions and avalanche safety.
An unusual opportunity for winter campers that is gaining popularity is yurt camping. Utah offers everything from luxury accommodations with gourmet meals to ski-in and do-it-yourself. Originating in Mongolia centuries ago, yurts are large, framed, circular tents traditionally made of heavy felt. Several organizations operate yurts year-round in the Uinta, Wasatch, and Tushar Mountains and provide environmentally sound shelters without the difficulties of carrying heavy gear.
Be sure to check weather and avalanche conditions before heading beginning a winter trek.
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