High Desert During No-Snow November

Sergei Poljak | ClimbingClimbing
Great Views in Canyonlands NP
Great Views in Canyonlands NP. Photo: Sergei Poljak

Is the lack of snow really getting you down? OK, we’ll just pretend it’s the lack of snow. And the unseasonably warm temperatures. There’s only one cure for that in November, a generally bleh month in North America: Moab and the surrounding area.

Moab is great, but it’s usually really crowded – like, Beijing crowded. They can expect 100,000 people on a big festival weekend in the spring and fall. It’s still awesome but this definitely detracts from the experience a little bit. The place is filled with 4x4s, dust, and Arches looks like Los Angeles during rush hour. Or so they tell me, I don’t mess around with stuff like that.

Getting into Arches during high season. Photo: SLC Tribune
Getting into Arches during high season. Photo: SLC Tribune

The best time to come to Moab is in November, even more so when it is unusually dry and warm. Haven’t really seen much in the way of clouds or people these last few weeks.  

There’s plenty to do in Moab if you like the mountain biking, climbing, hiking, swimming, trail running, rafting, jeeping, razor-ing, dirtbiking, road biking, sightseeing, eating, drinking (even in Utah), sleeping in a van anywhere without being hassled, backcountry skiing in the La Sal mountains, basejumping, slacklining, and highlining. Now that I’ve mentioned all of the ways possible to pass time ever…

The climbing in Moab is, well, the best in the world. That is to say, Indian Creek is the best place to climb cracks, a specific type of climbing for those who like to suffer. In a good way though.

Supercrack of the Desert 5.10, Indian Creek. Photo: Teri Savelli
Supercrack of the Desert 5.10, Indian Creek. Photo: Teri Savelli

You’re on Snowbrains so you probably like skiing, but you should get into climbing. Any real mountain person is a great climber as well as skier. It is an incontrovertible fact that if you can climb and use a rope generally, you can ski more rad stuff than otherwise. Also, when as Earth starts turning into Venus, you’ll be able to keep climbing and being in the mountains that way.

Perhaps most importantly, older folks, ~65-70 years, can still climb at a very high level. In skiing, it would be like seeing seniors dropping cliffs, mashing steep couloirs, smearing moguls and straight lining the piste back to the lift. But in skiing, that stuff is really for younger folks, whereas in climbing the rough technical equivalent is much easier on the body.

Ice Cream Parlor sport climbing crag, Moab. Photo: Sergei Poljak


Did I mention that everything is empty? I did, but I’ll say it again. Including the great Island in the Sky at Canyonlands National Park. I cruised in at 4 o’clock p.m. and grabbed one of 11 campsites in the whole park (first come, first serve). 30 miles of really sweet adventure trail running later, I’d seen maybe a total of 20 people on the trail.

  • Lathrop Trail – 14 miles round trip, hands down best trail in the park.
  • Syncline loop trail – 8.3 mile loop with some very basic route finding, although they will tell you its a primitive trail. Good views, some scrambling, plenty of good running. Also, Upheavel Dome is sweet.
  • Neck Spring Trail – nice 6 miler for a warm up.
Lathrop Trail single track. Photo: Sergei Poljak
Lathrop Trail single track before dropping off the “Island in the Sky”. Photo: Sergei Poljak

There you have it, November in Moab is pretty sweet. I don’t even have a mountain bike or jeep or parachute, but I’m still having a hell of a time.

Other miscellaneous photos:

Crack climbing will warp your hands. Tape recommended.



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