If you think it's too late in the year for Moab, think again -- and then start packing

With all eyes on the ski season, heading out for a desert-duster trip to Moab may seem like a pipe dream, something for next year's calendar. But while you might get a little snow in your camp, you can still take advantage of plenty of great cool-weather hiking and biking this time of year.

Better yet: the crowds of springtime and summer are pretty much gone, and you're likely to have the place all to yourself.

Before you even get to Moab, consider taking a side trip to the Fisher Towers. A crumbling cirque of sandstone cliffs with the 900-foot Titan monolith standing high above the rest, the Fisher Towers are by far the most unique geological formation in the area. And while you can get there easily from an access road off Highway 128, it's far more fun -- and more challenging -- to head up through the canyons of nearby Onion Creek, also accessed from a dirt-road just a few miles down 128.

From Onion Creek, there are two options for getting to the Fisher Towers. Both begin from the main road, then head east when the creek veers off into a slot canyon to the left.

Once you're in the slot canyon -- at a fairly obvious split in the canyon about a mile and a half from the road -- you can head to the left for the easiest ascent to the Fisher Towers' base. You'll still need to scramble up some rock falls, but it's easy enough for fit hikers (fair warning: dogs may find it tough).

For a more difficult ascent, head straight at the Y, finally ending up in a slot canyon cul-de-sac. Normally, there's a fixed line here so you can hand-over-hand or prussic your way to the top. Only expert climbers capable of freesoloing 5.7 should head up this route if the rope is not in place. As always, it's advisable to bring a topo and lots of water (about a gallon per person per day in summer, a little less in the cool of fall), some extra food, and, ideally, a friend who knows the route.

If hiking isn't your thing, you can also bike up from the numerous primitive campsites in the canyon, following the dirt road for some 13 miles past an amazing landscape that could illustrate almost any Dr. Seuss book.

From here, all the Moab desert is yours. Just down Highway 128, you have Arches National Park, Slickrock and all the services and amenities you could ever need in the little town of Moab. Beyond that, there's the Colorado River, crack-climbing at Indian Creek, and the amazing hikes of Zion and Bryce.

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