For most of the year, crowds in the Utah National Parks make them fairly intolerable, especially with so many other great areas nearby. In winter, though, it's a different story.
We decided to head over to the Needles on Saturday morning for a quick overnighter. We saw one vehicle in the park and we were the only ones so far in the month to register for a backcountry permit. We were quite surprised to find about 6" of snow from a storm the previous week that had left us dry only a couple hours away at home. There were a few footprints for the first mile or so, and after that we had first tracks the rest of the trip until getting back close to the trailhead. Shoulda brought the Rocky socks.
South facing and open areas were melted, filling potholes.
The snow made an otherwise very easy trail almost impassable in a few spots of steep snow-covered slickrock. There was more than one time that took some serious detour searching.
signs of struggle:
ice in Elephant Canyon
February light in Chesler Park
After a mostly clear night, it was snowing when we woke up. We were a little worried that it might further complicate traction in the few dry areas, but it had stopped by the time we were on the trail. Strange knowing we were the first hikers in days in probably the most popular part of the park.
After an enjoyable morning hiking out we headed to Moab for some more coffee and onward home, feeling quite refreshed for the week.