Are you looking for the best time to visit Zion National Park?
You've come to the right place. We have all the information you need for a successful trip. Zion National Park is the type of locale that most avid travelers and photographers have on their bucket list. Established in 1919, this spectacular attraction has been well preserved for millions of people to enjoy over the years. In fact, in 2017, Zion saw more than 4.5 million visitors, a 5 percent increase from the previous year. Since all these other travelers have been, you might be wondering when is the best time to visit Zion National Park. Hang tight and we will fill you in.
A Little Bit of Information on Zion National Park
Within the NPS borders, you will find stunning rivers, canyons, waterfalls, and steep red cliffs. A southwest Utah nature preserve, Zion is most famous for its dramatic landscapes and deep red hues pervading throughout the stone. In the main section, you will find Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, leading you to forest trails along the Virgin River. This river flows into the Emerald Pools, each with a waterfall and hanging garden. Also along the river, you’ll find The Narrows, a wading hike with deep chasms.
Can You Drive Through Zion National Park?
Here is the thing that a lot of visitors do not consider when calculating the best time to visit Zion National Park. From March through November, access to the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is offered only by a free park shuttle bus. Private vehicles are not allowed to drive the route when the shuttle bus is in operation. Bicycles are not allowed on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive either.
Here Are Some Things to Consider as You Plan Out the Best Time to Visit Zion National Park in Utah
Zion National Park’s Weather Conditions
Let’s be honest. When you are visiting a national park, you want to spend as much time in the great outdoors as possible. And if you’re anything like us, you would much rather pitch a tent at night and camp out than book a ritzy hotel stay. After all, what’s better than watching the sky flooded with stars from the warmth of your tent?
You have your portable Mr. Heater, a heap of blankets, and your best friend to share it with. It doesn’t get any better than this. Even in the winter, camping out remains one of our favorite travel activities. Don’t let a little cold weather stop you from enjoying your trip. You just have to be smart about planning it out. So what should you do?
Look ahead on a weather app and check out what to expect in advance of your stay. As a general rule of thumb, you should always bring a raincoat, waterproof shoes, a tarp for your tent (for the ground), a rain fly for the tent, and some waterproofing spray for your tent and accessories. Even if the weather predicts sunshine, this is smart to have on hand. The climate conditions affect the best time to visit Zion National Park.
The temperatures here fluctuate greatly throughout the year. To sum it up in a word, it’s diverse. Zion certainly has its fair share of the seasons. During the summer, heat waves of over 100 degrees are in the norm. Bring plenty of sunscreen, bug spray, tick repellent, cool cotton clothes, water, some sunglasses, and a hat to shade your face from the heat. It is also worth investing in a good pair of hiking sandals for your trip. If you’re venturing out for a hike, stick to the early morning and late evening to explore (just bring a flashlight).
Spring and fall offer much more moderate weather. It’s easy to see why many people say that these seasons offer the best time to visit Zion National Park. April through May and September through October offer warm and sunny days with temperatures ranging between 60 to 90 degrees. We told you the weather here is diverse. Again, look ahead on weather sites and apps before your trip. This way, you will have some sense of what to pack for and anticipate.
Like we said, expect cool and even rainy spells at any time during your visit. Pack a windbreaker and rain jacket along with your other gear. Waterproof hiking shoes are important to have too. During the springtime, water levels are naturally higher, so trails often get flooded out and marked off limits. Make sure you check in on which trails are accessible before your visit by calling the parks office.
Perhaps the best time to visit Zion National Park is in autumn. The weather is pleasant, offering clear days, mild nights, and low enough water levels to do the hikes you want to. Not to mention the fall colors will be absolutely spectacular during your visit. Many photographers wait to plan their visit for this very reason. You will see some beautiful scenery, so make sure to pack a good travel camera with you. It is fun to have a tripod on hand too.
When to Visit Zion National Park
Luckily for travelers, Zion National Park is open 24/7, every day of the year. The most popular months to visit is from April through October. This is when the shuttle buses are running through the Canyon. November through March permits primary traffic. Obviously, spring, summer, and fall will be more crowded than winter.
Spring runoff can (and often does) wash out trails completely. And summer temperatures can make hiking during the day extremely uncomfortable if not dangerous. Heat stroke is a serious condition. If you are a serious hiker, fall is the best time to visit Zion National Park. All in all though, if you plan ahead and are smart about your travels, there is no bad time to visit Zion. Finding the best time to visit Zion National Park all depends on your personal preferences as a traveler.
While you will get better weather conditions during peak season, it also means there are a lot more tourists hitting the trail at the same time as you. You really have to pick and choose which one you want more in this case. Is it more important to have better weather or a little more solitude?
Camping spots can fill up fast during peak season so make sure you book your reservations for your tent or RV spot far in advance of your planned visit. This will make life a lot easier for you when you arrive. All you have to do is focus on hiking and having a good time.
It’s important to get a good idea of how much your trip will cost you. The park fees should be included in your budget. While penciling out costs isn’t the most fun thing, it’s a smart way to make sure you don’t accidentally spend too much money during your trip. This happens way more easily than you think that it would. With this said, we are happy to say that the fees for admission to Zion National Park are very affordable. Seven-day entrance passes to the park cost only $25 for vehicles and $12 a person for motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. The shuttle buses are completely free.
Here Are A Few Expert Tips: The Best Time to Visit Zion National Park
With such a diverse climate and vast landscape, hiking in Zion presents unique challenges you won’t find just about anywhere else. Much of Utah’s southwestern public land does not offer conventional marked trails. This means that hikers will more often than not have to rely on their maps and compasses for navigation. The region’s defining feature is ‘slickrock,’ vast expanses of sandstone warped and shaped by wind and water.
As the name implies, this terrain can be very slippery and hazardous to walk on. Make sure that the hiking shoes you bring are well broken in and have good treads. You don’t want to slip and fall. The trails and routes out in the southwestern public land are only marked with cairns if at all.
Make sure you inform friends, family, and park rangers where you are going beforehand and the estimated time you will be back by. This is for safety reasons. Bring a marked out map of your route, don’t differ from it, and make sure to know how to use a compass beforehand. For longer hikes, make sure you have all of the gear you need (including food and water) before you depart on your journey.
Make Sure You Are Aware of the Weather Conditions
One of the most obvious (yet overlooked) challenges of hiking in Zion National Park is the desert weather. During the hottest parts of the day, temperatures often soar all the way up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit above the floor of the low desert. Summer hikers should wear wide-brimmed hats, plenty of sunscreen and bug spray, sunglasses, cool cotton clothing (that is very breathable) and baggy styles to protect you from the sun. If they happen to offer UPF protection, that is even better. Cover all exposed skin with a high SPF sunscreen and hike in the early mornings and late evenings.
Make Sure to Stay Hydrated
Drink plenty of water, friends. During the heat, your body’s sweat will cause you to lose so much water. It is important to remember to stay hydrated during your travels. Since desert air wicks your body’s moisture away quickly, it is important to drink a lot of water. Active hikers should drink about a gallon of water per day during their trip. Always make sure you have enough water on hand to meet your daily needs and filter all surface water to protect yourself from harmful microbes. Carrying a hydration pack and portable water filter is a smart move. We highly recommend it.
Prevent Stings and Bites
While we all seem to think it is rare to encounter wildlife, it happens more often than you might think. Plan ahead and get bug repellent. Most desert-dwelling animals have poisons, which they transfer to the victim when they sting or bite. Avoid snakebites by always watching where you put your hands and feet. Avoid reaching into dark crevices and overturning rocks.
This practice will also help you to avoid encountering scorpions, which have painful stings. Since scorpions like to hide in moist, dark places, keep your hiking shoes inside your tent to avoid a painful surprise in the morning. Even so, shake out your sock and shoes outside of your tent before you put them on.
Choose the Best Time to Visit Zion National Park for You
Now that you know about the best time to visit Zion National Park, it is time to plan your trip. Ultimately, when you visit is up to you and your preferences. Would you rather go during peak season and enjoy the nice weather? Or would you rather travel to Zion during the winter, brave the cold, and have much more space to yourself? The choices are entirely yours. Either way, make sure you are prepared, pack the right gear, food, water, and stay hydrated. You will fall in love with the stunning natural beauty of this Utah locale. Let us know where you want to visit in the park. Happy travels!
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