A Guide to 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 visiting in the winter.
WHY VISIT ZION NATIONAL PARK IN THE WINTER
Zion National Park in the winter is the least busy time of year to visit. 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.
While it may seem intimidating, especially if you are not a winter person, here’s the good news -- the winter temperatures in Zion/Southern Utah are very mild.
It generally snows 2-3 times a year but, the snow doesn't stick around for long. Often temperatures barely drop below 30 degrees, and when it does, the sun is usually still shining. The graph below with give you an idea of the average temps in Zion in the winter months.
Data from Google
When the sun is shining the weather durning the day is quite comfortable. All you will need is a light jacket to keep warm.
When planning you trip to Zion in the winter keep an eye on the weather a week or so before your trip. Chances are the temps will stay pretty consistent and you will know what to expect. If storms are forecasted leave some room in your plans to pivot to other areas in Southern Utah.
HIRE A PHOTOGRAPHER IN ZION - CLICK TO LEARN MORE
Being that it doesn't snow often in Zion count yourself lucky if you do manage to visit durning a snow storm. Zion is a sight to behold in the snow. The way the sandstone is highlighted by the white snow is so stunning!
Snow Canyon State Park, just outside of St. George is a great place to visit when the storms hit Zion.
***Adventure Photog Arika
CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THIS GREAT WINTER ITINERARY | THREE DAYS IN SOUTHERN UTAH - WINTER RETREAT ITINERARY
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. One of my favorite trails 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.
Getting around Zion In The Winter
A huge bonus of visiting Zion in the winter offseason is you can drive through the park. From March-November access to the Zion Canyon is by shuttle only, which means waiting in lines and only getting into the canyon during the shuttle hours.
By being able to drive, you can hike both at sunrise and sunset, which opens up many possibilities for more adventurous hikes.
Road conditions in Zion are cleared off quickly during storms so no need to worry about icy conditions if you are driving Zion after a storm. If you are driving durning a snow storm be super cautious and go very slow. The roads along the Kolob Canyon section often close durning big storms.
***Adventure Photog Kennedy
What to wear for a winter day in Zion National Park?
In the winter it is always best to pack for the coldest possible weather. Since average winter temps are in the mid 40's it is very important to pack/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 similar to items that I have used and my kiddos have loved. I just purchased these boots from LLbean! I'll come back and let you know how they are after I have worn them for a bit.
Winter Hiking Tips
If you are intimidated by winter hiking don't be. The snow doesn't stick around long in Zion. Other than muddy conditions on some trails, you will find the hiking about the same as the other seasons in Zion, it will just be a little colder, which is great for hiking.....right!?!
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 it gets 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.
***Adventure Photog Matti
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.