January Road Trip: Where to Travel in January & Winter

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The very idea of traveling anywhere in January is fraught with problems.  Will a snowstorm cancel your flight?  Will it be too cold or dreary to enjoy your destination? Should you be burning those vacation days so early in the year?  If you’re willing to set aside those fears and go on an adventure while everyone else is settling into the new year routine, a January road trip is an excellent idea.  Whether you want to experience some snow, or get as far away from it as possible, here are some suggestions.

January Road Trip: Arches & Canyonlands, Utah

If you’re hoping for snow, you’re rolling the dice with a January road trip to Arches National Park.  The area doesn’t receive a lot of snow, but if you’re lucky, your gamble will pay off with an amazing spectacle of white powder on those red rocks.  With any luck, you’ll get to see what I did, in 2018 — just a couple of inches of fresh snow one morning.  It was enough to cover everything, but not enough to make the roads impassable.  By the end of the day, most of this snow had melted, and I was left with a couple more days in Moab to hike in chilly but beautiful weather.  And, since I flew in and out of Denver on this trip, I was able to make a side-trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park before departing, just so I could see a little more snow.

Spend a few days in the Moab area, and you’ll get to see Delicate Arch and Landscape Arch, along with other park favorites.  Then, take a day to drive into nearby Canyonlands National Park and hike Upheaval Dome, or get up early to see a sunrise at legendary Mesa Arch.  Other trails abound outside the parks as well, like Corona Arch.

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Consider flying into Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, or Denver.  Each will require a day of driving, but it’s all beautiful, no matter which direction you’re coming from.  Several big airlines also serve Grand Junction Regional Airport (GJT), though fares might be higher when flying into this smaller city.

Why it’s the best time:

If you want warm weather and no weather hassles, then January definitely isn’t the perfect time to visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.  But, if you actually like the snow, you’ll have the parks almost to yourself, and you’ll save a lot on hotels in expensive Moab.

 

January Road Trip: Zion National Park

Zion is one of America’s most beloved National Parks, and it deserves every bit of that admiration.  But, the love of Zion creates choking crowds during the busiest months.  The solution? Come in January.  It’s the park’s least visited month — and if you avoid the weekends around New Year’s and MLK Day, you’ll find even fewer people.  $300 rooms in Springdale, just outside the park, drop to $75.  And, most of the park’s famous trails are still hikeable, so long as you bring some snow boots.

A January road trip to Zion gives you the chance to walk along the valley floor in the snow, or hike up to Angels Landing for a slip-and-slide adventure.  Depending on the depth of the snow, you might make it all the way up to Observation Point.  And, the less-visited east side of Zion has an even better chance of being snowy.

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Zion National Park is just 2 1/2 hours from Las Vegas, which makes Sin City a perfect launching point for a southern Utah vacation.  Alternatively, you could drive down from Salt Lake City.  It’s about a four hour drive.

Why it’s the best time:

January is your best chance to see some snow in Zion.  The weather gets warmer by February.  In addition, pricey hotels just outside the park are quite cheap this time of year.

 

January Road Trip: The Florida Keys

If you want to be absolutely sure you won’t run into any snow or freezing weather, take a ride down the Overseas Highway to Key West.  Along the way, check out one of my favorite spots, Bahia Honda State Park.  The tropical climate provides warm weather in January, and the green trees and grass will provide a nice break from the “dead” look of everything up north.

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You could fly into Key West directly, but it’s more fun to start in Miami or Fort Lauderdale and drive down US 1, all the way to Mile Zero.  FLL might have cheaper fares than MIA, so check both (and rental car rates, too).

Why it’s the best time:

By visiting in January or February, you’ll avoid the spring break crowds.  However, there will be plenty of snowbirds (part-time Florida residents).  South Florida stays warm throughout most of the winter, although an occasional cold front can bring a line of showers and temperatures in the 60’s.  The warm weather usually rebounds quickly.

 

Start your search for a January getaway right now! Pick a state to begin:

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