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Zion National Park is a sprawling 229 square mile (146,000 acre) federal park in the southwest corner of Utah. The park also includes a further 124,000 acres of protected lands dedicated as the “Zion Wilderness” to keep modern development from encroaching the natural wonder and beauty of the park. But when is the best time to visit Zion National Park?
Originally protected under the name “Mukuntuweap National Monument” in 1909 and officially established by the National Park Service in 1919, park attendance was 1814 visitors in its inaugural year. The popularity of visiting our national parks has grown significantly and in 2017, over 4.5 million visitors came to see Zion’s magnificence. Zion National Park is listed as the third most visited National Park in the United States, behind only the Grand Canyon in Arizona and the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee.
Most of these 4.5 million visitors come to visit in the peak season. Topping out at over a half million visitors in each of the six months from April through September in 2017, tapering slowly off with slightly fewer visitors into the rest of the calendar. Officially “off-season” is November through March and statically, the lowest attendance is always in the month of January.
So why visit Zion in the off-season? The reason is simple, fewer visitors means you get to experience the park on a much more intimate level. Today’s off-season attendance is akin to the peak numbers of the mid 1950’s. You will move about the park more freely and soak in the wonders without bumping into too many elbows or waiting in traffic at the gates. The autumn and winter months at Zion are every bit as amazing as the rest of the year, explore why you should visit Zion in the off-season.
The logistics of your visit are better during the off season. The weather is pleasant and the traffic is much easier to navigate. Nice weather, shorter lines will start off your visit to Zion National Park on the right foot.
You might imagine the weather in off-season Zion may be prohibitive to exploring the National Park. However, the reality is the weather is quite a nice change from the sweltering summer heat and the cooler temperatures can be a welcomed element to your hiking excursions. With highs typically in the 50’s and 60’s, and nighttime lows generally hovering just about 30, the winter climate of the desert is a prime time to visit without the added exposure to the oppressive summertime desert heat.
The snow will fall through the off-season months and at the higher elevations and peaks, the snow will accumulate and create that beautiful winter landscape we see in pictures and postcards. But down at the lower elevations and among the hiking trails, the snow almost always melts away within an hour or two after falling, leaving a fresh feeling of renewal for you to wander into.
Getting into Zion National Park during the summer months can be a frustrating experience. Extremely long lines at the entrance gates, and limited parking, leading to full parking lots, are enough to start your summertime visit off on a sour note. The available parking is regularly at capacity as early as 8am and can be cause for a delay of your visit as you turn around to the town of Springdale to search out available paid parking there. The National Park Service runs a shuttle system from Springdale into the park, but once the Park’s lots are full, the lines for the shuttles lengthen as well.
During the off season, the lines to gain entry to the park are shorter or even non-existent. The lower attendance numbers means the National Park Service does not run the shuttles and you are free to drive your own vehicle along the scenic routes to the parking lots at the trailheads. While ample parking is never guaranteed, the off-season months are more likely to accommodate all visitors.
During the off-season, smaller crowds will allow you to take in the majesty of Zion National Park with a more relaxed approach. The spirit of the raw and wild park can captivate you on a more personal level.
The slower season makes for a great time to visit Zion. The local town of Springdale is always open for business and ready to facilitate your every need. The summer rush of expensive and overbooked hotels, waiting for hours to be shown to a table in a crowded restaurant gives way to a more leisurely trip, with your pick of hotels and fine dining establishments. Not to mention, during the off-season these accommodations can be less expensive, allowing you the opportunity to spend that extra money on other excursions, or upgrade your stay to a more elevated experience.
This sleepy mountain town of just over 500 people is dedicated to the tourism Zion National Park brings them and retains the heart of a small artistic community. The town is full of small-businesses such as art galleries, restaurants, coffee shops, and even a microbrewery. Equipment rentals and tours are less busy during the winter months, you will be able to experience all Springdale has to offer and maybe even take in a last minute guided tour or rental.
Once in the park, let the beauty of Zion wash over you and take away your daily worries. During the off-season you will have more opportunity to breathe in the natural wonders of the park. You can sense the preservation of nature and the rebounding of the biosphere as the grand park recuperates from the summer’s vast number of visitors. You can be one of the few observers in any given area, seeing the park much like it was originally intended to be, a preserved natural landscape. The overcrowding of our National Parks is an inevitable problem, as they become more and more popular, we all want to go and see them. The off-season months are the best time to visit, as you will have the delightful experience of a “getaway” vacation rather than the summertime visit to a crowded attraction.
Your off-season visit to Zion National Park can be a more productive visit. You can explore more of the park. While the autumn and winter months have plenty of fellow visitors and you won’t exactly have the entire place to yourself, the lower attendance does give you the freedom to take the park in at your own pace. You can aggressively hike up the trails or take a leisurely stroll and not get swept along with the crowds of summer.
The more popular hiking trails are less congested with fewer people moving along them while the longer, more challenging trails are all but abandoned. If you are an experienced hiker, these off-season months find fewer novices venturing out for their first hikes granting you free travel to move through without being forced to slow down. However, if you are a beginning hiker or have a need to take the hike at a slower pace, the off-season is a prime opportunity to start out on the hiking trails as you won’t feel “in the way” or compelled to “keep up” with the busier summer crowds.
Fewer visitors and less crowded trails increase the chances of coming across an animal encounter. The larger fauna are out and about foraging for food while you’re out in the wild and the scarcity of people and less tourist chatter, you may see more of the local inhabitants of Zion National Park. Bighorn sheep, wild deer, elk, large soaring and nesting eagles… the relative quiet of the off-season is a chance to view these animals in their natural habitat without the next hiker coming around the bend scaring them off.
If you have your camera ready, you’ll have plenty of chances to photograph these magnificent animals closer than you think. Getting that one great shot is easier during the off-season at Zion. Not only is there no end to the parade of wild animals, but there is no competition among your fellow visitors to set up and take the picture. Whether it is a grazing sheep, a fabulous waterfall, or a spectacular sun beam shining upon a peak, nothing takes the beauty out of the moment more than holding your camera over a crowd of thirty people all trying to take the same picture. Visiting Zion in the off-season allows you the freedom to set up the composition and get the shot you really wanted, one that will remind you of your fantastic visit to Zion.
Visiting Zion in the off-season allows you to feel a more intimate connection to the park, experience it in your own way and at your own pace. If you are there to participate in winter activities like snowshoeing, cross country skiing, or just a good winter hike, Zion will provide you with all that and more. The lower attendance numbers during the off-season provides this spacious National Park with plenty of open room. More encounters with wildlife and fewer interactions with the natural shortcomings of the busy summer tourist season. Seeing the park as it once was, without the crowds and the noise shows you a window into the past. A photographer’s dream, lonely hiking trails with a picturesque landscape around each and every corner… Come visit Zion National Park during the off-season and you will see for yourself how magical it can be.
It’s no doubt amongst nature lovers that Zion National Park is one of the best outdoor camping, climbing, and hiking destinations in the country. Utah’s oldest national park boasts such popular hiking spots such as Angel’s Landing, The Narrows, and Observation Point, and has developed quite a reputation as a Grade A national park with some tough hikes and spectacular views.
If you’re planning an upcoming hiking trip in Zion National Park, you’ll need to be absolutely sure that you’ve packed all the survival essentials. We’ve compiled a list here of all the essential necessities you’ll need to be ready for anything on your Utah vacation.
- Compass/ Map – Never go hiking without a Compass. Even with all of the wonders of today’s technology, a trusty compass is still the best tool for navigation should you lose your way. Your compass will help a lot more if you accompany it with a map of Zion National Park, available online and on-site. If your phone loses signal or the battery dies, or if you get lost, a compass and a map could lead you to safety.
- A large water container – Water is obviously one of the most important things you can have when hiking, so it makes sense to bring a lot of it. Utah gets extremely hot in the summer, and hydration is important. Heat cramps and heat stroke are serious possibilities that many unprepared hikers in the Zion National Park area have suffered. It always helps to stay hydrated, and to have extra water to spare. A 50-100 container should give you plenty of water to sustain you on those extra-tough climbs. Norther Brothers has a great Hydration Backpack that holds 100 oz of water and has enough pockets to fit more of your things.
- Hiking Shoes – The type of shoe a hiker wears all depends on personal preference. In the past few years, Trail Runners have become a popular hiking shoe for people who are looking for a super lightweight, comfortable option for their feet. For those looking for a tougher shoe with more support and less flexibility, but who don’t want the bulky feel of boots, then Hiking Shoes are the way to go. And, last but certainly not least, there are still hikers who prefer the good old-fashioned durability, toughness, and support of Hiking Boots.
- Clothes for Warm and Cold Temperatures – Choosing the right type of clothing to wear on a hike is absolutely essential. In the desert, temperatures can fluctuate up to 30 degrees in a single day. Wool clothing is always a good choice due to its ability to keep you cool in the heat and warm when your wet or cold. This goes for socks as well. For women, here are some clothing ideas: A T-Shirt for warm weather, a Long Sleeve T-Shirt for cooler temperatures, and Hiking Pants. For men, you’ll need a T-Shirt, a Long Sleeve Shirt, and Hiking Pants.
- First Aid Kit – You should always have at least a Basic First Aid Kit with you when venturing out into the wilderness. Make sure it’s got the essentials like band-aids, gauze pads, alcohol wipes, and antibacterial ointment. It doesn’t have to be big, but having any type of first aid kit will certainly come in handy should an injury occur.
- Flashlights/ Headlamps – If you plan on camping overnight at Zion National Park, or even if you don’t, you should keep a flashlight in your pack. A flashlight is an invaluable tool should you find yourself in a dark area or lost at night. If your worried about scorpions in the Utah desert, packing a blacklight flashlight will help you easily spot them at night, as their bodies will glow under the light. A headlamp is a good, lightweight flashlight option while hiking or climbing for its hands-free qualities. You never know when you might need light on a dark desert night.
- Sun Protection – If you’re unfamiliar with the Utah desert sun, it will only take one excursion to show you that it can be extremely harsh on your skin. Packing a wide-brimmed hat and a lot of sunscreen will ensure that you’ll be safe from the sun’s harmful rays. Don’t forget sunglasses as well to protect your eyes. Polarized lenses are better for viewing the scenic views of Zion National Park.
- Rain Jacket – You may be thinking, “but it’s a desert. Why would I need a rain jacket in the desert?” In that case, you may be surprised to know that the Zion area is prone to sudden bursts of heavy, albeit short-lived, rainfall. Whenever the rain comes, temperatures in the desert can plummet, and if you were to get caught in one of these bursts of rainfall without proper rain gear, you’d surely have a miserable time. Catching pneumonia on your hike away from civilization could turn bad very quickly. Amazon has some quality rain jackets for sale for both men and women.
- Snacks – Of course, we’ve saved the important stuff for last. You’ll never ever want to be stranded hungry on a hike. Even if you don’t plan on being gone long enough to warrant a meal, you never know when an emergency might occur, and your outdoor adventure may go on longer than planned. Your body needs nutrients to keep going, so make sure to pack a few snacks loaded with complex carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and electrolytes. These will ensure that your body has all of the energy you need to keep going even when climbing gets tough.
And there you have it, all of the essentials that you’ll need to avoid disaster and make your outing at Zion National Park a success. After you’ve checked off all of the things on this list, you’ll be prepared and ready to go out on your next Zion hiking, camping, or climbing adventure. There are plenty of areas available for every kind of hiker, from easy to extreme. Get out on the trail and make your experience at Zion National Park unforgettable.
Zion National Park is one of the top outdoor destinations in the country for campers, climbers, hikers, and many other outdoor enthusiasts. Known for its expansive desert views, evergreen trees, and awe-inspiring rock formations, Zion National Park makes for a prime camping spot and offers a variety of campgrounds for any camping style.
What type of camping experience do you prefer? Do you like to venture out into the wilderness alone, with nothing but a simple tent and a backpack of supplies? Do you enjoy camping with a community of other nature-lovers? Or are you the type of camper who prefers a nice RV, with all the modern comforts, in a campground with flushable toilets and electricity?
However you enjoy camping, Zion National Park will have the perfect spot for you. There are three different campgrounds ranging in a variety of ways, with options for standard campers and RV-goers alike. Then there are the backcountry camping areas, where you’ll need a permit to stay overnight. These camping sites are off the beaten path, and offer more isolation, more experiences, and more difficulty.
Remember that the campsites in this part of the park are in the desert. This means that properly preparing for high temperatures is important. Some of the campsites have a few trees that allow them some relief from the heat during certain parts of the day, but many of them have no shade at all. Summer daytime temperatures exceed 95 degrees, so staying cool can be challenging. Please take extra precautions against the heat when planning your Zion trip.
The Watchman Campground is great for campers who enjoy having the conveniences of some modern technology with their camping experience. Located only a quarter-mile away from the park’s South Entrance, Watchman Campground is open year-round for both tents and electric RV campsites. Group campsites are available for reservation from March through October.
In total, the Watchman Campground has 176 regular sites, two wheelchair accessible sites, and six group sites. There are six easily-accessible restrooms available as well as access to clean drinking water. There are six loops in the campsite to choose from depending on your camping style. Watchman Campground, like the other campgrounds, allows a maximum of two vehicles per campsite and only one RV or trailer. Each campsite allows a maximum of six campers and three tents, so plan your sleeping arrangements accordingly.
Loops A and B are the electric campsites. Loop B is strictly for RV use. These campsites cost $30 per night. Loops C, D, and F are for tent campers. Camping here will cost you only $20 per night. Loop E is reserved for the six group campsites. These are limited to one campsite per group, with a seven-day limit stay time. Group sites are also tent-only. RVs, campers, and camping trailers aren’t allowed. The group sites can accommodate anywhere from 7 to 40 campers.
Reservations are strongly suggested at Watchman Campground. It’s best to make your reservations at least six months ahead of when you plan to take your camping trip, as reservations for this popular campground are booked full most of the season.
A little further past the Watchman Campground, about half a mile away from the park’s south entrance, the South Campground offers 117 campsites. Once a first-come, first-served campground, the South Campground has recently begun requiring reservations.
The South Campground is open from February to November. Campsites cost $20 per night for up to six people. Group sites cost $50 per night. Each site comes with access to drinking water and a picnic table. There are two restrooms available on site. There are no RV hookups in this campsite, but they do allow generators from 8am to 10am and again from 6pm to 8pm.
The scenic Pa’rus Trail runs through the campsite. It follows the Virgin river through to Canyon Junction. This easy trail is paved, making it perfect for wheelchairs, strollers, and bikes. It’s also dog-friendly. It’s the only trail in the park that allows leashed pets. They’ve recently installed several pet waste stations to assist in keeping the trail clean.
You can even bring your hammock to the campground. Hammocks are allowed as long as they’re in your campsite. The trees must be at least 10 inches in diameter and you can only suspend at most two hammocks on the same tree.
Lava Point Campground
Lava Point Campground is a first-come, first-served campground located about a mile and a half away from Zion National Park’s South Entrance. Lava Point is the perfect campground for those looking for an escape from the crowd and view the lesser-explored part of the park. Solitude is a big part of the Lava Point camping experience.
The campground is typically open from May through September, weather permitting. There are six primitive campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis, so get there as early as possible to secure your spot. Lava Point is located 7890 feet above sea level, and is off the Kolob Terrace Road, 25 miles north of the town of Virgin. It takes about an hour and 20 minutes to drive to the campground from the South Entrance of Zion Canyon.
Camping at Lava Point is free of charge, so you can feel good about not having to pay anything. The downside is that there’s no access to water available at the campsites, so you’ll have to bring enough of your own water to drink and use. The sites do offer pit toilets and trash cans.
Enjoy experiencing the quieter side of Zion National Park with the Lava Point Campground’s scenic valley views. Just make sure your vehicle isn’t longer than 19 feet, as vehicles longer than this aren’t allowed on the road to the campsite.
East Rim Trail to Weeping Rock
The East Rim trail is a popular hiking spot for visitors to Zion National Park. Hikers who take on the East Rim trail usually hike the three-mile path to Hidden Canyon or the seven-mile path to Observation Point. Only a select few outdoor enthusiasts take on the 11-mile path in its entirety, through the hidden canyon, and all the way to Weeping Rock. This trail can be completed in a day or two, and if you’re planning to camp out here,
While there are no established campsites on the trail, there are a couple of spots that are great for camping. You’ll just need a backcountry permit to stay overnight. You must set up your camp well out of site of the trail, away from any springs or other sources of water, and away from the rim. A popular area for camping is the large grove of ponderosa pines near Stave Springs, where you’ll have access to clean drinking water near the Deertrap Mountain and Cable Mountain trail junction.
The East Rim trail begins from the East Entrance, passes through Echo Canyon, and descends down to Weeping Rock. About five miles in on the path is where you’ll run into Stave Springs. This is the only water available on the path. It has usually been known to go dry by early summer, so it’s best to check with park rangers beforehand to see if it’s running, as it’s not necessarily a reliable source for water.
The Narrows is on of the top destinations for campers, hikers, and nature lovers in Zion National Park. As the name implies, it’s the narrowest section of Zion Canyon. A hike through the narrows requires walking directly through the Virgin River, so be prepared to get wet.
Most people choose to begin their hike from the Temple of Sinawava via the Riverside Walk and then walk upstream before turning around and heading back the way of the Temple. Camping out in the Narrows, however, requires you to take the sixteen-mile path from Chamberlain’s Ranch down to the Temple of Sinawava. You’ll need a backcountry permit for the overnight stay, and you’ll need to arrange for transportation to take you to the starting point.
The Narrows is popular during the late spring and summer, when the water is at its warmest and the Virgin River’s water level has dropped. The warmer months, however, are also when storms can cause dangerous flash floods. The surrounding area is comprised of a lot of bare rock, which doesn’t absorb water. During a storm, runoff quickly runs into the narrows. The area can fill up within seconds, leaving you in an extremely dangerous situation. Always check the weather forecast and flash flood potential before choosing to go on this hike.
On the trail, you’ll find twelve backcountry camping sites available along the way. These are the only areas allowed for camping, and only a one-night stay is permitted at each site. Some of these are available for walk-up only, while a few you’ll have to reserve in advance. The sites range in size and can accommodate groups from two to twelve people. Happy camping!
Zion National Park is known for its intense climbs and breathtaking views. Visitors are drawn in to be immersed in the beautiful and vast landscape. Activities at Zion are plentiful and vary from family-friendly adventures to more extreme climbs for the experienced thrill seekers. Rock climbing in Zion National Park is a favored activity for all skill levels and luckily Zion has plenty of options for all types.
Each mountain peak is packed with several climbs that have been previously rated by professional climbers. Rock climbing at Zion is on many peoples bucket lists and rightfully so because while they can be challenging, they also prove to be worth the work. Rock climbing is a great bonding experience for groups and the perfect getaway for the adventurer who wants to be one with nature.
The 2,000-foot sandstone cliffs of Zion National Park offer world renowned climbs that people from all over the world dare to explore. Conditions are the best from March through May, and September through early November for climbing. With the sandstone you have to be careful because it becomes very weak when it gets wet. That means you should avoid climbing before or after a rain event.
Whenever the sandstone gets wet it becomes more solid feeling than its normal dusty composition and becomes more susceptible to erosion. When climbers ignore this warning they put the quality of the sandstone and their own lives at risk. Thunderstorms are most common during those summer months so it is not recommended to climb during that time.
Before you get out there on the rocks, there are a few things you should be aware of. You will be happy to know that a permit is not required for any of your day climbs. However, if you plan on doing an overnight climb you will be required to get a permit.
It is best to get your permit in advance but there are other options if you do not. Starting in early March all climbing routes on the cliffs that are used by Peregrine Falcons for nesting a closed off to the public so make sure you pay attention to reports put out by the park wildlife biologists. They will monitor the Peregrine Falcon activity and determine which routes will be closed. All routes not used for nesting will remain open for public use.
There are several climbing adventure guides that will take you on expeditions and walk you through your climbs. You can also take advantage of some of the climbing courses they have to offer if you are interested in learning how to climb. Zion has half day and full day climbs which you can choose based off your skill level. Climbs can range from 40 to 500-feet in length vary in difficulty levels.
For a full day of climbing you can expect to be out there for 7 to 9 hours. If you do elect to utilize a guide service your group will be completely private and catered to your group’s abilities. The guides are a great option for those wanting to expand their knowledge on not only climbing but also the park itself.
What gear is required to climb?
You can bring your own certified equipment or elect to rent equipment from an adventure guide company or the park. If you don’t have your own equipment and don’t want to purchase any then renting is a great option. During your climbs it is important that you dress appropriately for the season because Zion can be quite cold for a lot of the year. Below is a list of gear you will need for your climb.
- Climbing shoes
- Locking Carabiner
- Belay/Rappel Device
- Dynamic Climbing Rope
Popular Climbing Routes for Rock Climbing in Zion
This formation is on the west side of the canyon. It is surrounded by a horseshoe bend in the Virgin River. Wall routes here include the Prodigal Sun, Ball and Chain, and the Northeast Buttress.
The Great White Throne
Just south of Angels landing stands the 2300 foot formation of The Great White Throne. It is unmistakable due to its white sandstone cap and is often known as the symbol for the entire park. The most popular and highest rated climbing route in this area is South Face Diagonal. Other routes include One for the Road, Grasshopper, Illusion, Twin Crack, and Crack of REM.
Located in the middle formation of the Court of the Patriachs is Mount Issac. To the left is Abraham and to the right is Jacob. The climbing route on Mount Issac is Tricks of the Trade and takes about an hour to complete.
One of the most popular and sought-after climbs of The Sentinel is located on the west face and is called “Illusion Dweller.” It is a hand crack that has a 10b rating. Other climbs include Ball Bearing, Some Like it Hot, The Scorpion, and The Chameleon.
Mountain of the Sun
Overlooking some of the most beautiful scenery in Zion is the Mountain of the Sun. It is a relatively remote peak located on the east of Zion, next door to the Brothers. It is a great peak to start early because it is one of the first to catch morning light.
Near Mount Carmel Tunnel resides the Twin Brothers rocks where a system of thin cracks provide unforgettable climbs. The Twin Brother climbs are West Face and Ancient Gallery, 800 and 1600 feet respectively.
The Tunnel Wall is located at the western end of Mount Carmel Tunnel on Route 9. Here you will find the famous climb – The Headache. It is a 3-pitch, 5.10 crack climb that has peak sunlight in the afternoon. You will need two 60 meter ropes for this climb. There are plenty of climbs here at the Tunnel Wall available for your exploration. Other climbs include Ashtar Command, Shuriken, Hong Kong Phooey, Japanimation, The Gypsy’s Cursge, and Big Trounble in Little China.
Compared to the West Temple, the East Temple is the less popular counterpart. The East Temple is much more difficult to get to so it has had less ascents. There are shorter routes located on the lower southern flank, across from Tunnel Wall. The most popular summit route is the Mountaineers Route. Other climbs include West Ridge, Lovelace, The Fang Spire, Wisdom Tooth, Snaggletooth, and Cowboy Bob Goes to Zion.
Though it is one of the smaller rock formations of Zion, Mount Spry is one of the most aesthetic in the park. Located just right of the Right Twin Brother, Mount Spry offers a few great climbs. It is home to the 5.11b rated Holy Roller, the 5.10 Sharks Tooth, and the 5.12a rated Swamp Donkey. The cracks here are much more narrow and sparse compared to the huge continuous cracks found deeper in the canyon.
The Streaked Wall
Arguably the most amazing formation in Zion is The Streaked Wall. One look at the wall and you will understand where it got its name – there are streaks of multicolored sandstone stretching across the formation. The overhanging eastern face is nearly 2000 feet in length. The two best routes of The Streaked Wall are the Tale of the Scorpion and the Rodeo Queen.
South of West Temple is the large mountain Mount Kinesava. It forms the western skyline of Springdale and the Cowboy Ridge of Rockville. It is packed with challenging climbs so don’t expect many neighbors when you make your ascent. The views from the mountain are jaw dropping and unforgettable. The most popular and highest rated climbing routes of Mount Kinesava are the 5.7 rated Cowboy Ridge and the 5.11a rated Tatooine.
Free climbs and aided climbs are available for exploration at Zion National Park. There are areas where the cracks are deep and easily accessible, as well as some areas where the cracks are more narrow and difficult to utilize. It is important to due lengthy research of each climb you anticipate to go on.
The majority of these climbs have been carved out naturally due from other climbers and the natural formation in the rock. Parallel cracks in the sandstone generally accept cams but often reject nuts and hexes. Be sure to back up every anchor, even the bolted anchors. Zion has some permanent bolts but the sandstone can weaken after frequent use.
Many of the mountain peaks have several routes to choose from but it is not encouraged to make your own. The routes that are clearly established should be followed so as not to expand our footprint on the canyon. When you are on your climb, it is important to prevent your ropes from carving grooves in the rock.
Avoid the use of pitons because they destroy sandstone. When preparing for your trip, make sure you have your proper gear and only do climbs you are skillfully qualified for. Finally, keep an eye out for the weather so that you aren’t climbing when the sandstone is wet and never climb when rain is expected.
As the snow melts away from Zion, Spring has finally arrived! The breathtaking winter scenes fade into luscious green pastures, with glimpses of new arrivals around the park. Flowers take bloom, while the cascading water sounds become the soundtrack to the canyon life. The earthy fragrance lifts your senses, along with the intoxicating smells of the nature around you. These are all cues to dust off your hiking boots and see for yourself why April in Zion is amazing.
Biking and Hiking in Zion in April
Whether you are an adrenaline junkie, or just looking to cruise with ease; biking and hiking throughout Zion exceeds your expectations. Biking through trails like the Virgin River Rim Trail and the Hurricane Rim Loop offers the most amount of ground coverage. For an easier ride, stay on either the Goosebump Loop or the Anasazi Trail. The Gooseberry Mesa Trail provides a challenge to the seasoned mountain biker. Bike rentals are available in multiple locations. Some offer both half and full-day rentals.
If strolling through the park on foot is more to your preference, the hiking trails in Zion offers the right amount for everyone. Weeping Rock offers a quick sneak peak, as it is a shortened trail. This means that it tends to be more populated and blocks some great viewpoints. For a more energy-consuming challenge, try Angels Landing. It offers a chain-link to assist you up the sorted rocky sections. One trail that is closed during the month of April is The Narrows. Due to the snow and ice melting, it can have an overflow of water that leads to flooding.
During your journey, you are bound to see at least one waterfall. Emerald Pools contains a lower, middle, and upper section. The lower section is the safest, and the easiest way to catch a glimpse. For additional scenery, combined with a stellar waterfall view, the Lower Pine Creek is the one to see. Though the falls may be smaller in size, the greenery surround the area offers amazing views to capture on camera.
Everything is in Bloom and New
The leaves have changed and are emerging in bright, vivid, colors. Encompassing the vegetation are the multiple blossoms that are now in full bloom. Peaking out from the natural beauty are the newborn wildlife of the roughly sixty plus animal species that call Zion their home. Maintain a safe distance from any animals that you may cross paths with.
Layer up, as April brings to start the day with a bit of a chill. Midday through you can shed the layers and stroll around Zion in comfort. Towards the evening, the cool nights will greet you as you get ready for a relaxing night indoors.
April in Zion has everything for everyone of all ages. Whether it be that you are looking for a challenging hike or bike ride, capturing scenic views, or strolling around with your family. Zion in April is a great way to kick-start the warmer months to come.
Upon entering the majestic Zion National Park, greeting you are the more than 1,000 variety of floral vegetation. Within the 229-square-mile radios, a display of exquisite colors catches your eye. From the varying elevations, to the changing temperatures, and the fluctuating amount of rain and sunlight. These all factor into the breathtaking views that the park has to offer, and the wonderful plants in Zion National Park.
Aquatic and Riparian
Infamous for its beautiful gardens that appear to be suspended in time, as it is filled strategically with ferns, moss, and wildflowers. Bask in the history of the Navajo Sandstone with its aquatic plants, cattails, rushes, and willows that reside upon the sodden wetlands. Situated on the bank of the Virgin River, the wide range of plants and grasses seem to dance upon the skirts of the vast cottonwood trees.
Arid Grasslands and Desert Shrubs
The desert shrubs abundantly grow amongst the hot temperatures. These plants, such as the family cactaceae, are strong enough to withstand the driest area located in the lower elevated portions of the park. Between the wide range of the environment changes amongst the park, the grasslands and the shrubbery have grown accustomed to the multiple ways in which they can thrive.
They take refuge in the shade, while gathering nutrients and water from the soil. Once the greenery has fully blossomed, they begin resending down to seeds that eventually dry up in the hot sun. Upon the months of June, July, and August, the seeds will again peak to their fullest, then recycling through.
Aspen Forest and Mixed Conifer
Along the eastern side of the national park, small amounts of vegetation attempt to grow within the cracks of rocks and surrounding land. Trekking further towards the Kolob Terrace, you may find more growth due to the soil around the area. Between the Kolob Terrace and the Pine Valley Mountains lays the Colorado Plateau with its wide range of trees. Abundantly produced amongst the mixed conifer are the aspen, Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, and the white fir trees.
Smoothing out the different climates and atmospheres are the juniper trees. They are tough to withstand any droughts, and transition nicely as the common ground in the lowlands. Slow to grow, as they can also hold up against the colder temperatures. These pinyon-juniper evergreens create a cozy habitat for the wildlife. Creating a spectacular line of color with its ever-growing forests, as the trees creep their way up towards higher elevation.
Unyielding to mother nature, and scattered amongst the sandstone cliffs, are the ponderosa pines. The trees adhere to the rigid formations of the Navajo Sandstone. They do this by digging their roots in and allowing for erosion to help them take shape. Due to their slow growth, they gradually change the look of Zion with time.
Wrapping Up: Plants in Zion National Park
Zion National Park makes dreams come into reality. Whether you are able to capture its beauty from the lens of a camera, or through your own eyes. Either way, these images will stay with you for a lifetime. Enjoy the plants in Zion National Park, and check out our guide to some of the native animals in Zion for more!
On the outskirts of the sensational Zion National Park, are four other awe-inspiring national parks. They include Arches, Bryce Canon, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef national parks. By visiting one, or all four, of the following national parks; you can say that you have captured all of Utah’s natural landscape.
Finding National Parks Near Zion
Each of the national parks contain their own perks, secrets and appeal that lure in tourists of all walks of life. Whether you are looking for a prelude, before entering Zion National Park, or looking for an encore; the following national parks are sure to maintain a lifetime of memories.
Arches National Park
Enjoy your time by driving the eighteen-mile trek in the comfort of your own vehicle, of the Arches National Park. Positioned just over 300 miles northeast of Zion National Park and next to the Colorado River. This park is open year-round and is the busiest through early spring or late summer. Whether you are driving, riding your motorcycle, biking, or hiking; a pass purchase is required. The good part is that the basic pass is valid for seven days. This allows you plenty of time to embrace the archway into the heart of Utah.
If you plan on backpacking or hiking, there are certain locations that are off limits. Be sure to pay attention, and respect the boundaries, for your safety. Peddling through the Arches means that you must adhere to traffic safety laws, and bike only on the road. Mountain biking is allowed around the perimeter of the arches. Photography and stargazing are allowed and encouraged through the tour groups.
If you intend to stay the night, there is the Devils Garden Campground that has fifty-one sites available to accommodate any weary travelers. This campground is stationed eighteen miles outside of the Arches National Park. By staying nearby, you have a prime opportunity to catch sunrises / sunsets at the Elephant Butte. This is the highest point of the park, while lowest point is at the visitor center.
Bryce Canyon National Park
If natural colossal amphitheaters peak your interest, then Bryce Canyon National Park is one for you to visit. Even though its name suggests a canyon-like atmosphere; it is known more for the huge, slender, rock formations that occurred with time and weathering. The amazing earth tones that reflect off the sediments lure the visitors in.
Bryce Canyon National Park is located about seventy-five miles northeast of the Zion National Park. Due to its isolated location, it receives far less tourists than Zion. This can play more into your benefit, as you can appreciate the scenery without the crowds.
The hot-spots of Bryce include Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point. All are just a few miles between one another. The eighteen miles of Bryce covers from the park’s only northern entrance, to the highest elevated point along the southern region.
Upon entering, explore the region on foot or on horseback. Ranger programs are available to partake in. Shuttle services are offered only from April through October. There are two campground sites, the Bryce Canyon Lodge for the summer months, and the Sunset Hotel welcome guests during the winter months.
Canyonlands National Park
Only a marathon length away from the Arches is the Canyonlands National Park. Separated into distinct geographical areas which are the Island in the Sky, the Maze, the Needles and rivers that are linked together are the Green and the Colorado. The two rivers chiseled huge canyons in the Colorado Plateau. Together, they form the four districts of the Canyonlands.
Plan on touring one portion in a day, as attempting to appreciate each individually within a day is impossible. There are no roads that directly connect each district to the other. Driving between the two take approximately two to six hours.
You may hike or four-wheel your way around the beautiful scenery of the Canyonlands. If taking a boat is more of your style, then cruising through the Green and Colorado Rivers can satisfy your desires for such. There is a Horseshoe Canyon Unit, positioned just north of the Maze, that contains remarkable panels designed by the Native Americans that once resided in the area.
However, there are no dining services, or lodging, available within the park itself. There are some options outside of the Maze, the Needles, and the Island in the Sky. All of which meet accommodations for anyone seeking rest after taking in a full day of beauty.
Capitol Reef National Park
Between Bryce National Park and Canyonlands National Park, is the stellar Capitol Reef National Park. Open year round, this park was originally established to conserve the over 241,000 acres of desert area. This south-central destination contains the Waterpocket Fold, which is a must-see Utah gem.
This is a very family-friendly park, as it has a Junior Ranger Program that kids can participate in. Fruita, which has a museum of how the early settlers lived off the land. The museum includes a one-room school house, blacksmith shop, orchards, and areas to have a picnic. With shorter trails, and a nature center, there is plenty to spark the interests in children of all ages.
The best way to take in Capitol Reef is on foot. Tours are available for hiking, horseback riding, driving, and biking through the landscape. Rock climbing is allowed, preferably those with previous experience.
Rest and relax at Fruita Campground, between February through October. In this desert getaway, you are placed in the center of it all. Surrounding you are the historic orchards and the Fremont River. The Fruita Campground can house RV and tents, along with walk-in tent sites. There are the Cathedral Valley Campground and the Cedar Mesa Campground. Both are more undeveloped than the Fruita Campground.
Wrapping Things Up
Whether you are looking for a little R and R or wanting to be a bit more adventurous; any of the four national parks near Zion can delight your sense of wonder. Bask in the history of their natural beauties. Unwind with a vacation that leaves you feeling enlivened.
Here’s to hoping that the cold never bothered you anyway, as one of the best times to visit the popular Zion National Park is during the chillier months. There are plenty of things to see and do, when visiting during the wintertime. Be sure to bring your sense of adventure, as many enjoyable moments await you. Here is a comprehensive guide to Zion National Park in the winter!
Zion Climate in the Winter
Located at the Southwestern part of Utah; Zion National Park tends to fluctuate in daily temperatures ranging up to as much of a 30-degree difference. Having a desert climate means that, typically, it will be warmer during the daytime and chillier for the evening hours. Sporadic bouts of snowfall may accumulate the further north that you travel. Meanwhile, snow rarely sticks on to the inward base of the canyon itself.
During the wintertime, which tends to be the slowest time at the park, guests tend to make their plans closer to when the weather warms up. Yet, by having mild winters, the season brings a change in scenery and allows for those passing through to enjoy the uncongested area more for themselves. Bringing a sense of peace and tranquility, while enjoying the many opportunities that you may enjoy on a solo trip or while with friends and family.
Things to Do in Zion National Park in the Winter
Surrounded by a vast amount of beauty; the Zion National Park will offer up a picturesque vacation from the norm. Detailed below are just a few ideas of the fun that you can have, especially with the crowds away.
Hiking / Backpacking
Strolling through the park, during the wintertime, will give you a complete sense of serenity. Besides the wildlife that you may see, as you hike along the trails, you may be the only one out there to enjoy the sights and silence.
Smaller animals will be hibernating during the season, but larger animals will likely graze around for food. Signs of other people being nearby may be prominent with random snowmen, or a lost article of clothing that may have fallen during the warmer part of the days.
There is plenty to take in, while away in the tranquil landscape of Zion. If you visit Observation Point, which is located within the East Rim Trail of the Zion National Park, be cautious of icy and slippery conditions. Hiking, skiing, or even snowshoes will be the best way to trek across the Zion Ponderosa to reach the plateau dubbed as one of the best parts to visit by numerous tourists.
There are bountiful amounts of wildlife, along with vegetation, that will be ready for their close-ups to highlight the allure that Zion has on anyone who comes to visit. Depending on how cold it is, you may have water exuding from crevices creating beautiful ice décor that glistens in the sun. Sunrises and sunsets are just the added frosting to fulfill your album full of amazing memories.
If hiking or backpacking is not your cup of tea, enjoy sipping on a warm cup of coffee as you drive around and through the Zion canyon. You will still have a great chance of seeing deer, elf, or the bighorn sheep that call the park “home”.
Highway 9 is the most common roadway to utilize, when sightseeing by vehicle. During the winter, you may drive your own personal vehicle through the Zion territory versus having to take the shuttle bus in and around. Just another perk for visiting during the colder, and less busy, time of the year.
The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is about three hours from Las Vegas and is neighbored to the Grand Canyon and the Bryce Canyon. Park Passes are available for purchase at the Ranger station.
If driving in from the eastern side, or coming in from Mt. Carmel Junction, will provide chances to travel through tunnels and switchback or two for additional scenery.
Barely a mile away is the city of Springdale, in which you may rest and relax after a beautiful day within nature.
What is Open / Closed in the Wintertime
Some attractions and sightseeing areas may be closed during the wintertime. Or, they will have limited hours due to the unpopular visitor season. Here are some of the primary areas of interest, and their operating days and or times.
Places to Stay
- Lava Point Campground is closed during the winter season. The campground is available from June through October and offers both tent and RV sites. There are guided tours available, along with accessibility for ATVs, bicycles, hiking, and horseback riding.
- South Campground is open around the first week in March and closes just after Thanksgiving. Reservations can be made up to 14 days in advance. Group sites are available, along with accommodations for both RVs and tents.
- Watchman Campground is located near the south side entrance to Zion National Park. Open year round, but only accepting reservations from March through the Thanksgiving weekend in November. The site then becomes a first-come, first served, during their off season. Group sites are closed during the wintertime, and you will need to pay an additional $35 per vehicle for the entrance fee. South Campground and Lava Point Campgrounds are completely closed during the off season.
- Zion National Park Lodge is the only in-park resort. For the off season, they may offer discounted rates along with holiday packages. They do offer reservations up to thirteen months in advance, so make sure to plan accordingly. As for a flight in, the closest airport is the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, NV.
- Highway 9 is mainly plowed, and is easy to access, due to the snow barely accumulating. This route gives way to the main entrance of the Zion National Park and is a part of the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Open year round, Hwy 9 provides a natural guided tour that you can enjoy in the comfort of your own vehicle.
- Interstate 15 provides additional scenery, as it is the byway that runs alongside the Virgin River. Joining in with Hwy 9 will provide you an estimated time of 40 minutes to enjoy a glimpse of what Zion has to offer.
- Kolob Canyons Road is open during the winter, weather permitting. Due to its elevation, it does have a greater chance of closing due to poor road condition. If you do have the opportunity to drive along, the route will highlight beautiful scenery at different outlook locations.
- Zion Canyon Scenic Drive runs 54 miles and is open to the public during the slow season. Only during March through November is it accessible by the Zion Shuttle Bus, or by private vehicles if you are staying at the Zion Lodge. This specific route will take you along winding roads, and through tunnels.
- Zion Shuttle System is closed during the wintertime.
- Backcountry Desk at Kolob Canyon Visitor Center is open daily, with the exception of December 25th. Their winter hours are from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
- Backcountry Desk at Zion Canyon Visitor Center is open, during winter, between 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
- Kolob Canyon Visitor Center is open daily, except for December 25th. During the wintertime, it is accessible during the hours of 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
- Zion Canyon Visitor Center is open during the winter, from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. It is closed on December 25th.
- Zion Human History Center is closed during the months of November through March.
Best Gear for Zion National Park in the Winter
With a fluctuation in temperatures, from daytime to nighttime, along with the changes in elevation; layering is the key factor to consider when packing. Keep in mind that you want to stay warm, comfortable, dry, and hydrated during your visit. Weather conditions vary, and you must be prepared. This will allow you to enjoy the scenic views and the calm essence of Zion.
Men’s Gear for Zion National Park in the Winter
Start with a base layer, to keep you warm and dry. Try a fleece-lined thermal top and bottom, that retains the heat. You want to wear something that will allow you to breathe, and the flexibility to move.
Next, be sure to pack a long sleeve shirt. Preferably something that is lightweight and offers UV protection. Bright, and / or reflective, colors will make you more visible to any other visitors that may be out on the trails.
When shopping around for the best pants, look for ones that will be weather-resistant and have zippered pockets for keys and your phone. The bottom of the pants should be comfortable to wear, either tucked inside of your boots or on the outside of your hiking shoes. For an extra layer of protection against the elements, wind pants will keep you both dry and warm.
To complete your layers, top it off with a water-resistant jacket. Preferably one that is lighter in weight, to make it easy for packing, and with a hood. This will provide the ultimate coverage against anything that the Zion winter season may have in store.
Your feet need to be taken care of, as well, since you will presumably on them for most of the day. Go with something that is made specific for the wintertime in Zion. A durable boot, specifically made to hike through any weather condition, will be ideal.
Women’s Gear for Zion National Park in the Winter
A cozy base layer will be the best starter, as you begin to layer up for the day. You will want to wear something that will keep the warmth in, without feeling bulky. Most styles are form fitting, which prevent you from looking bulky with the rest of your gear on.
Long sleeve shirts will add on to the base layer. Try one that is aimed more for athletic wear, so that it is a bit more breathable. One that has thumbholes, with a zipper closer that covers the neck will provide more versatility.
Be sure to cover up your legs with pants that are water-resistant. Idealistically, ones that have deep zippered pockets will better protect phones and items that are normally kept on hand. Insulated pants are another option; offering an extra layer of warmth and protection.
An interchangeable jacket will allow versatility for the changes in the weather. Since this is the top layer, you may prefer something lightweight, but strong enough to handle the elements. Make sure that it is weather-proof, has a hood, and deep pockets.
Protect your feet with a durable boot that will keep your feet warm with its insulation. Having flexibility, and breathability, while withstanding whatever that Zion may bring. Memory foam inside will provide extra cushion during those beautiful hikes amongst the scenery.
Accessories and other gear
To enjoy the breathtaking views, be sure to pack accordingly and utilize a daypack backpack to store all of your essentials. If you plan on hiking through the Zion National Park for more than just one day, you will need a high-performance backpack that will withstand the surrounding environment.
When it comes to capturing those breathtaking moments, you want to be sure that your camera is capable of meeting and exceeding your expectations. As an amateur photographer; you may prefer a mirrorless camera, with a base model to produce higher quality pictures versus taking them with your smartphone. Whereas, if you are an avid photographer, and want your photos to be of a professional quality, then you will need a high-performance camera. Be sure that your camera is lightweight, easily accessible, and weather sealed.
Frequently Asked Questions about Zion National Park in the Winter
Be prepared for an experience of a lifetime, by studying up and packing accordingly. Here are some common questions and answers about Zion in the wintertime.
What will the weather be like?
Typically, winters in Zion are damp and cold, and the weather can fluctuate between daytime to nighttime. Snow is always a possibility. Common sense is key; if it gets to be to bad, make sure that you turn back around.
Are there any restaurants?
Yes, the Zion Lodges has a restaurant that operates the entire year.
Is it possible for rockfalls?
Yes, rockfalls can occur at any time.
There are plenty of gorgeous spots to visit in Zion National Park. And while many people camp out for a week or so, not everyone has the time. If you’re looking to spend a day exploring the canyons and trails of Zion, we’ve got you covered. Escape the bustling city life and enjoy a day in this iconic national park!
River Rock Roasting Co.
River Rock Roasting Co. is a pet friendly café that offers artisan roasted coffee, baked goods, and sandwiches. This cute café is worth the visit- Just kick back with coffee and enjoy the gorgeous canyon views to kick off your day.
River Rock Roasting Co. is between St. George and Zion, so you can easily visit if you are coming from Las Vegas. Feel free to pick up some coffee and breakfast at the River Rock Roasting Co. before heading to Zion.
Many people will stop and park their cars at the Zion Visitor Center right by the Springdale entrance. But if you prefer scenic crowds and avoiding the crowds, go ahead and park at Canyon Junction, which is the split of Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and Scenic Highway 9, you can take a shuttle up to the canyon. Just keep in mind that this route is permitted for shuttles, buses, and lodge guests during the summer.
Weeping Rock and Observation Point
This is a relatively strenuous hike that takes roughly 4 to 6 hours, but the views are worth it. You start at the Weeping Rock Trailhead, the 7th stop on the Zion Canyon Shuttle, and make your way through the Observation Point Trail. This roughly 8-mile hike is a tough battle, but it features breathtaking views of sights like Weeping Rock, Angels Landing, and even the Echo Canyon (which is cooler in temperature, giving you a look at the dark areas of it). If the hike to Observation Point becomes too difficult, you can easily turn around after getting a glimpse of the Echo Canyon.
The Zion Lodge is a great place for people to relax, especially after a long hike. Simply take a shuttle up to the lodge and take a rest on the verdant lawn. The Zion Lodge sells food, drinks, and alcoholic beverages, serving as the perfect break spot after your long day.
Mt. Carmel Highway
For a top-notch scenic drive, you can make your way up to Highway 9 on the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway. Drive through the canyon tunnel, which was built in 1929, and surround yourself with scarlet and sepia mountains. Forget everything when you immerse yourself in the twists and turns through Navajo sandstone. If you a lucky, you may even get a glimpse of desert bighorn stepping down the road. This is a gorgeous drive that’s definitely worth the time.
Springdale, Utah offers a great variety of food and shopping. From Mexican and Southwestern grub at Whiptail Grill to upscale dishes at the Spotted Dog Cafe, there is something for everyone in Springdale. It’s conveniently close to Zion and a fun way to wrap up your long but wonderful day at the park.
If hiking isn’t up your alley, birdwatching, horseback riding, and biking are also great ways to enjoy the scenery of Zion. Watch the American Dippers peck around the Virgin River or the Mexican Spotted Owls flying around the tall canyons. If birdwatching isn’t on your list of activities, you can view the gorgeous redstone on horseback with Canyon Trail Rides or Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort. But if you you want to quickly reach the phenomenal sights of Zion, you can bike trails like the Mt. Carmel Tunnel Climb or the Pa’rus Trail.
Regardless of what you have planned for your day in Zion National Park, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. It is a gorgeous park known for its classic hikes, stunning wildlife, and breathtaking sights. Whether you’re visiting with family or a veteran hiker, a day in Zion will undoubtedly be an unforgettable experience.
Tips for your Zion Day
- Driving and parking in Zion can be difficult without lots of planning. You can easily stay in a hotel, bed-and-breakfast, or inn in Springdale just minutes away from Zion. Many hotels have free shuttle stops that take you directly to the park.
- The busiest days at Zion are Memorial Day, Easter week, Labor Day, and Utah Education Association break (4 days in October, see www.myuea.org for details)
- You can enhance your experience at Zion with ranger-led activities from mid-April to mid-October.
- The National Park Service has extensive directions to the park, as well as park closure alerts on the National Park Service website.
- Zion is particularly crowded during the summer months. To avoid visiting when the park is busy, it is best to visit between the months of May and November. (If you are able to visit in October, you can relish in the breathtaking fall colors!)
- If you are going to be on your feet all day, be sure to pack the essentials. These include a refillable water bottle, snacks, good hiking shoes, a light-weight backpack, rain ponchos, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a first aid kit.
- Many park visitors recommend picking up a map at a visitor’s center before starting your day at the park- you will be using it all day!
- The Narrows, also known as the riverside walk, is an awesome trail for families. If you pursue this hike, be sure to wear close-toed shoes. They will help support your balance while you walk through water and across rocks.
Address: Zion National Park | 1 Zion Park Blvd. | State Route 9 | Springdale, UT 84767
Zion Canyon Visitor Center
Located by the South Entrance of Zion. It can be accessible by the (free) Springdale City Shuttle.
Human History Museum
The Human History Museum is one half mile north of the South Entrance on the main park road. I tis also 11 miles west of the east entrance.
Kolob Canyons Visitor Center
Located off Interstate 15. It is 20 miles south of Cedar City, Utah.