Zion in Winter: Top 5 Things To Do During the Off-Season

Sep 18, 2017


Zion in Winter: Top 5 Things To Do During the Off-Season

Visiting Zion National Park during the winter months is one of the best-kept secrets in tourism. Travelers who’ve experienced it often describe it as one of their most favorite trips to take and many do it yearly. There are some very convincing reasons why making the journey to Zion outside the peak months is an incredibly wise decision. Last year, over 200,000 people took Zion National Park winter trips in just January and February. I know that may not seem like a lot compared to the 4 million plus total annual visitors. But in our perspective, those 200,000 people are some of the smartest around. They figured out that waiting till summer is over means no stifling heat, no crowded trails, increased hotel vacancy, effortless parking, and many other benefits. Now that your interest is peaked, here are 5 of the best things to do in Zion National Park during the winter months.

Scenic Driving

There are a lot of scenic drives to choose from in and around Zion that are flat-out incredible, but we’ll mention two of our favorites. Our first recommendation, Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, is closed to private vehicles from March to November (unless you’re staying at the Zion Lodge). The shuttle system is the only way to get around. But during Zion National Park winter months, it’s open! This is such a beautiful stretch of land and cruising it with no traffic and pure freedom is a true vacation highlight. Another one to try is the area between Springdale and Kolob Canyon which you can access right outside Springdale on Hwy 9 and then onto Hwy 15. The drive is about 40 min. You’ll experience roads that are easily passable, continuously plowed, and traffic-free in addition to the incredible scenery. But in general, the fact that almost all the roads inside the Park become open to private vehicles as the shuttle system shuts down opens up so many options as a tourist that you just won’t have during the summer.

Hiking

If you’ve been to Zion in the summertime, you know that it gets hot. There are some trails that get so hot they’re crossed off many tourists itineraries, especially the lower canyon ones. Embark on these hikes with no problem at all during the winter months, particularly The Watchman. Almost all of Zion’s attractions are open year-round, but some of them may have some icy patches in areas that don’t see much sun so just be aware. Some popular hikes to expect this are Angels Landing, Riverside Walk, Emerald Pools, and Weeping Rock. You might benefit from a light jacket, sweatshirt, or thermal in the early mornings, but you’ll be probably be ditching them when midday approaches.

Observation Point

December through March can offer a wonderfully rare opportunity between the East Rim Trail and Observation Point. Cross-country skiing or snowshoeing! This trail takes you to a majestic forested plateau courtesy of Zion Ponderosa and is without a doubt one of the most spectacular views in Zion during any time of year. Of course, you can just hike it in the traditional sense, snow or otherwise. Either way, you are going to be richly rewarded. Make sure to check weather conditions before adding this to your itinerary, particularly regarding whether or not there is actually snow in the above-mentioned area.

View the Wildlife

Though the smaller mammals are hibernating, Zion National Park winter visitors often see Golden and Bald Eagles, Bighorn sheep, elk, deer, and wild turkeys in abundance. Get your cameras ready!

Photography

Photography, in general, is one of the prime advantages of viewing Zion during the winter. The misty waterfalls, abundant wildlife, higher water levels, and (at high elevation locations) the possibility of viewing red rock/white snow contrasts makes this entire area a photographers dream.

Note: You know all those beautiful photographs you’ve seen with the cliffs of Zion covered in snow? That hardly ever happens, and when it does, the snow usually doesn’t stick for more than a day or two, if that. The pictures are certainly stunning, but in a very real way, there’s a level of false advertising going on there. Snow in Zion is very rare.

Top 5 Things To Do During the Off-Season

Zion National Park Winter

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