There’s something special about Zion National Park in every season, but when winter weather rolls around, it’s a great time to visit Utah’s most popular national park. Winter in Zion National Park is mild, with daytime temperatures averaging about 50 degrees throughout December, January, and February. Night temperatures can drop but having a cozy indoor cabin or vacation home to return to each evening can allow park visitors to really enjoy the beauty and solitude of Zion during the day.
What can you do in Zion in winter?
If you’re looking to escape the winter blues with fresh air, blissful views, and thrilling outdoor adventures, here are five things to do in Zion National Park during the winter months.
1. Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
During the height of tourist season, shuttle buses take visitors into Zion’s main canyon, stopping at main sites and trailheads along the way. December, January, and February, however, fall within the months that shuttles aren’t required to enjoy a scenic drive through Zion Canyon. This means you can take a memorable drive, from the comfort and convenience of your own vehicle. The 6.5-mile scenic drive runs along the Virgin River and features stunning views of the canyon and famous Zion rock formations. Be sure to stop at designated stops along the way to take short hikes and pictures.
2. Winter Hiking in Zion
Winter hikes in Utah are incredible, making it arguably the best time to spend hiking in Zion. You can drive your car right to the trailheads, and on many days you’ll have entire sections of the canyon to yourself.
Most trails in Zion Canyon remain open during winter but some trails, such as Weeping Rock, Emerald Pools, Riverside Walk, and Angels Landing, may have areas that see little sun so be wary of icy patches. You may find snow and ice accumulation on trails as you head out of the canyon, so traction aides are recommended. Can you hike Angels Landing in winter? Yes, depending on weather. Be sure to apply for a seasonal permit on the NPS website or book a guided Angels Landing hike with East Zion Adventures.
You also shouldn’t overlook canyoneering opportunities within Zion. Our guides take clients on these technical hikes through November, and it’s a great time to learn the ropes, so to speak. You’ll get the benefit of a much emptier canyon, a leisurely pace, and more opportunity to ask questions if it’s your first time canyoneering. If you’re a seasoned veteran, it’s still worth a trip through some of the canyons — winter tends to bring out aspects of the landscape that just can’t be captured during any other season.
Lastly, to ensure that you have the best hiking experience possible, make sure you have the right clothing and gear for Zion in the Winter. The weather can be just as unpredictable in December, January, and February, as it is during the summer, so wearing layers and packing extra clothes is always recommended. It wouldn’t hurt to add an overnight survival kit either, just in case.
3. Hike, Cross-country Ski, or Snowshoe to Observation Point
The trail to Observation Point from Zion Canyon is currently closed, but Zion Ponderosa guests are in luck! You can hike to Observation Point right from our property (without the 2,000-foot incline). We recommend cross-country skiing or snowshoeing when Zion Ponderosa’s forested plateau is blanketed in snow. The view is well worth the trek and should definitely be on your list of things to do at Zion in winter.
4. Wildlife Watching in Zion
Winter is a great time of year to catch a glimpse of wild turkeys roaming around Zion National Park, and Bald or Golden eagles soaring overhead. While some of the smaller mammals will be hibernating in this season, you’re likely to still see large animals such as deer, elk, and Bighorn sheep. Those aren’t the only animals that call Zion National Park home either—Zion wildlife includes 8 species of mammals, 291 species of birds, 44 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 8 species of fish.
5. Zion National Park Photography
Photography should definitely be on your list of things to do in Zion National Park. Photographers claim the upper elevations on the east side of Zion are a dreamscape when the red rock is blanketed beneath brilliant white snow. Zion Canyon, on the other hand, experiences milder weather at lower elevations so the winterscape is quite different. But that’s not to say the landscape isn’t magical: water levels in the Virgin River are higher during this time, mist swirls around waterfalls, and snow–capped peaks contrast with Zion’s beautiful red rock. You will definitely want to capture these views and moments from your Zion Naitonal Park visit.
While you’re in the Zion National Park area there are plenty of places to get outside to enjoy some other winter activities.
Zion Ponderosa makes your winter adventure easy
Winter is a wonderland-ful time to visit Zion National Park. The myriad of adventures and great off-season rates make December, January and February the perfect time to enjoy a winter adventure in Zion. Whether you’re a serial adrenaline junkie, or simply want to get outdoors during a less-crowded time of year, a trip to Zion National Park can make that happen. Plus, there’s no better way to end your perfect park day than getting cozy in one of Zion Ponderosa’s beautiful East Zion vacation homes or cabin suites, making it the perfect home base for your winter stay. These lodging options are available all winter long so start planning your Zion National Park trip today!
Updated December 2022
we will be in los angeles dec 23. is possible to hike in zion national park on the 26 dec?
I’m from Florida, so sometimes I can’t imagine 40 degrees compared to 57 degrees.
Question : if you had your dithers which month would be better to hike in Feb or March – ice/snow/sun. I’d like my trails dry or at least not icy or too muddy.
AND is 1st week of June that crowded yet.
Hiking is available inside Zion National Park in December, weather permitting.
March is typically a really nice time of year to hike the Zion trails. Your best bet would be to check the weather forecast prior to coming and to check with park rangers while you’re here about the current condition of the trails you’d like to hike. Crowds start picking up at the end of May due to schools getting out and holiday weekends. Weekdays usually mean less people crowding the park than on weekends.