A GUIDE FOR VISITING ZION IN THE WINTER
If you love National Parks like I do, I’m sure you have heard about the crazy increase in traffic in many of the parks around the country. One of the fastest growing parks is Zion National Park, which comes with pluses and minuses. The upside is there are all kinds of great restaurants and new hotels popping up around the park. The downside is definitely the crowds!
Having grown up in Southern Utah and seeing all of this change, I’ve started recommending that people interested in taking in this beautiful park without all the crowds consider coming here in the winter.
Yes, you heard me right, WINTER. While it may seem intimidating, especially if you are not a winter person, here’s the good news -- it’s very mild in Southern Utah.
Take this winter as an example. Temperatures have hardly dropped below 30 degrees, and when they have, the sun is still shining. The historical average temperature of Zion in February is 47 degrees, although this winter the temperatures seem to be running about 10 degrees warmer.
I suggest watching the weather in the area if you are planning a winter trip and chances are it will stay pretty consistent.
Tips For Planning A Zion Winter Adventure
Don’t even think about visiting during holidays if you are looking for fewer crowds. The ever-growing popularity of Zion means that people are visiting in masses during the longer holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas (especially if the weather is nice). If you visiting during the holidays because of extra vacation time, try to book an extra day on the tail end so you can see the park clear out and have some solitude.
If you do end up visiting during a busy holiday weekend look for off the beaten path trails. My favorite trail to get away from the crowds is Sand Bench LooP.
If you see a cold snap coming in, this is a good time to venture to Zion because the cold will keep people away. Even with snow, there are trails that can be hiked in Zion. Just bring extra layers and bundle your little ones up! Rain isn’t that common in the desert so even if some comes in, it will usually pass within a day or two.
If there is more snow than you expected in Zion look for trails with very little elevation gain. Two great trails no matter what is happening weatherwise are the Pa’rus trail and Riverside Walk. Both will give stunning views, but won’t feel intimidating.
Definitely, avoid trails with water features during icy times. Emerald Pools, Weeping Rock, and other trails with steeper inclines should be avoided unless you are coming with traction like Yaktrax for your shoes. The water turned to ice on concrete can create an almost ice skating rink on the trail and isn’t worth the risk.
Be aware that many of the shops and restaurants in Springdale, the town closest to Zion National Park, close down in the winter due to fewer people. There are still plenty of restaurants and shops that stay open but don’t expect a busy, bustling tourist town.
Visiting in January and February are going to be your bet bet for beating the crowds.
Zion is a magical park year round, and in the winter you’ll have an opportunity to experience the beauty with more calm and quiet. Another bonus of coming in this offseason is you can drive through the park.
From March-November you have to take the shuttle to get into the main canyon, which means waiting in lines and only visiting during the hours the bus runs. By being able to drive, you can hike both at sunrise and sunset, which opens up many possibilities for more adventurous hikes.
What to wear for a winter day in Zion National Park?
Average winter temps are in the mid 40's so it is very important to dress warmly. You will need beanies, gloves, winter boots, and warm coats. Here is some link to some of my favorite winter gear.
These are all items that I have used and my kiddos have used and we love them. The snow sneakers from LLbean are seriously my favorite purchase this winter!
Winter Hiking Tips
Before your trip purchase a pair of Yaktrax for everyone in the family and take them with you in your backpack as you hike, just in case you to come across slippery trails.
Keep an insulated thermos of hot water in your car and hot chocolate or tea for post-hike warm up.
Bring extra warm clothes in case things get wet and you want to do multiple hikes.
As we get closer to spring, there’s a lot of water and red mud on the trail that kids love to play in. Bring a towel for clean up before getting back in the car.
Make sure to add an extra plastic bag in the back of the car for muddy boots.
Bring a bigger backpack than you normally would so that you can pack extra warm weather gear in case it is colder than you were expecting. If you have a kiddo who won’t wear a hat, make sure you have a jacket or sweatshirt with a hood for when the wind whips up, and they admit they are cold.
Stay hydrated. It is easy to forget to drink water when you are cold so make it a priority to stop often and drink.
Pay attention to the weather forecast so that you will know the kind of conditions you will be hiking in, and you can plan accordingly.
Have you visited Zion National Park in the winter? What are some of your tips for hiking and seeing Zion in the cold? We would love to hear from you in the comment section below.