Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Snowshoeing the Abajo Mountains in Southeastern Utah

          Mountain ranges scattered throughout the high desert of southern Utah provide an excellent opportunity for off-the-beaten-path excursions.  Located near the towns of Monticello and Blanding the Abajos make up one of these ranges.  A translation for the Spanish word “Abajo” is to go “up and down” and that’s what you’ll do while traveling the paved road through these highlands, which climbs up to 10,500 feet from Monticello and then down again to 7000 feet at the access road to Canyonlands National Park.  

Small mountain ranges offer relief from the high desert landscapes.
The town of Monticello (our starting point) is to the east of the range.
Map courtesy of "".
          During the winter season though—in years with ample snowfall—the paved road over the summit is closed.  On a January day Tim and I drove into the Abajos until our path was blocked by piles of snow.  We strapped on snowshoes and left our vehicle behind while traipsing through the aspen and pine-covered hills.

The 32 mile drive to Blanding, on a dirt road, is a scenic byway
in this national forest.  It obviously wasn't open to vehicle traffic
on the day we were there.

Aspens frame our off-the-beaten-path adventure.

It's sunny enough for another of our "shadow shots" on
the glittering snow.

          At dusk we traveled toward the tourist mecca of Moab and were treated to a sunset/moonrise while driving north along lonely Highway 191.  The setting sun cast a pink glow over the La Sal Mountains as the full moon radiated yellow/orange off the red rocks.

Sunset highlights the LaSal Mountains on the road
between Monticello and Moab.

A full moon rises over red rock country.

          This jaunt may have lasted only a few hours but it delivered everything a winter’s journey should: blue skies, exercise, marshmallowy snow, and a movie-quality ending.

           If you’re ever in southeastern Utah and you need an escape from the desert, consider a scenic drive through the Abajo mountains.  Find information by visiting this website:


  1. Oh my gosh, did you plan to be there on the evening of a full moon or was it serendipity?

    This sounded like the perfect day and, judging by the sign, I'm astounded at how deep the snow was. I've always wanted to visit Canyonlands, but reading this has given me incentive to book extra time and visit the Abajos too!

    Thanks for sharing such stunning photos (and the cool shadow image, too).

    1. Pure serendipity, Vickie!

      If you're visiting the Needles District of Canyonlands NP, then a scenic drive through the Abajos is a great, and recommended, way to beat the desert heat.

      I always appreciate your thoughtful comments, Vickie. Glad you liked the shadow image!

    2. Thanks for the travel tip (you can clearly tell I'm going to be visiting in warmer weather, LA woman that I am!). ;-)

  2. Hi Rita,

    Indeed your snowshoe adventure had "a movie-quality ending"! Not only did you have a magnificent alpenglow, but you also had the added "bonus feature" of a full moon! What an absolutely striking combination!

    And regarding your adventure overall, I always find it such a treat to do as you and Tim did, i.e. to head off the beaten path onto untrodden snow. But as much as I enjoy doing that, I always feel a bit of remorse for having disturbed the snow that Mother Nature so lovingly laid down. In some ways it sort of feels like walking across a clean carpet with muddy feet! But then again, one could speculate that Nature put it there for us to enjoy. That is the line of reasoning that I ultimately choose to erase any guilt about "messing up" the snow! :-)


    1. Hi John,

      Whenever I start to feel guilty about messing up the pristine snowscape all I have to do is look at the "rearranging of the snow" done by a group of snowmobilers! Makes our snowshoe tracks look like artistry!
      But still, it's nice to know that, come spring, all traces of us trekking into the wilds will be erased by the melting snow.

      Thanks for adding your thoughts to this post, John. Get out there and enjoy the last of winter!