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Moab: A retreat from early season anticipation

Janice Kurbjun
Summit Daily News
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily/Sorrel River Ranch
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It was flurrying when we left for Utah.

Fingers icy, we changed out the ski rack for the bike rack and loaded up for our weekend away.

It’s that time in the season when we are watching the weather reports and crossing our fingers for the next big storm that will help open terrain at our favorite Summit County ski area.



But to help bide our time until the next big snow day, some girlfriends and I opted to head west, to the red rock and more temperate area of Moab.

Heading into the sunset, we hit the road for about four-and-a-half hours, checking the roof every now and then to make sure the bikes were secure.



We arrived late to the Sorrel River Ranch, planted along the Colorado riverbank about 20 miles outside of Moab. Looking around in the darkness, I could tell it was a magical place that tied place to space.

The room’s wood floors, four-post king bed and decor that hinted at ranch life invited us in, and we enjoyed a cup of tea as we discussed the next day’s adventures.

Buried in a mound of pillows and blankets, my alarm seeped through the cotton and drew me out of bed. Not long after, I found myself stepping onto a wooden porch and taking in a panoramic view of early morning shadows that hit the red rock towering above a sluggish Colorado River.



The mornings are fresh and chilly, but not icy like in the High Country – perfect for a wander along the riverbanks while frost thickens on the eaves of the homes in Summit County.

The Sorrel River Ranch, we found, is best for an all-inclusive type of stay, as it has a restaurant on site, a spa with various packages and horse stables at the ranch. The guest-experience team is poised to arrange other activities such as ATV and mountain bike tours, guided hikes in the national parks, and more.

Rates go down in winter from about $500 to about $350 per night for a river view room.

Moab activities are somewhat limited to hiking and mountain biking – maybe some rock climbing – in late fall and winter. If there’s one thing to bring, it’s a full-suspension mountain bike. But if you’re without, we found the guys at Rim Cyclery were willing to work with us to get us set up for a fair price.

With the sun in the low southern sky, it shone through the wheel spokes and cast deep shadows on the pavement as we traveled north of town to the Bar-M Trail and its offshoots.

Along the way, we noted that Moab has everything under the sun to cycle, from paved recpaths to well-marked beginner singletrack to more expert terrain, including the famed slickrock. A lot of it can be found in “Rider Mel’s Mountain Bike Guide to Moab” or by asking around at local shops like the cyclery.

As for hiking, we poked around and found the Hidden Valley Trail, a perfect trail for just the afternoon, or one that can be extended to last all day if one is so inclined to reach the Colorado River rim and overlook its green water. Other trails abound as well, as we found while we were hiking in light long-sleeved shirts – a freeing experience from being so bundled thousands of feet higher.

Sometimes, the trails require Yaktrax and trekking poles, and sometimes snow drives you back, but overall, it’s quite the experience to be in a place in its off season.

“Hiking in the offseason is like a dream,” Moab Springs Ranch property manager Megan Coleman said. “You have the trail all to yourself.”

For those more on a budget and wanting to be closer to town, the Moab Springs Ranch is an ideal place to stay. It has luxury accommodations with a do-it-yourself feel.

In the winter, many Moab restaurants close down, Coleman said. Which is why it’s nice to have a full kitchen at your disposal – complete with a gas stove to cook up a nice meal, a refrigerator to store the leftovers and some post-adventure beer and even a porch with a grill.

The place has a sense of high-quality home-away-from-home, which is what owner and developer McKay Edwards was going for when he constructed the complex.

One- two- and three-bedroom condos are available for rent at rates that are sometimes half of the peak-season rates. Coleman said three-bedroom condos can sleep up to 10 at a rate of $180 per night. You do the math.

There’s no need to book ahead in winter, Coleman said, though Thanksgiving and President’s Day already have no vacancy.

It, too, has a sense of place tied with space. Tucked among the cottonwoods, it has its own private park that is magical in fall. In early November, the leaves changed to golden yellows, repeating our High Country fall.


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