Visiting Zion National Park in January

Are you wondering what it’s like to visit Zion National Park in January? There are some things you need to know for a trip to Zion in the winter: what to pack, things to do, and where to stay.

January is a great time to visit because you can drive your car through Zion Canyon EXCEPT for New Year’s Day and the MLK holiday weekend.

visiting Zion National Park in January

We are lucky to only live a few hours away from Zion National Park. We’ve had the opportunity to visit Zion many times during all seasons! The tips we share for planning a January vacation to Zion are based on our experiences visiting the area throughout the years!

Zion National Park is an amazing place to explore and photograph the colorful cliffs and canyons you’ll see here. But it’s important to know the services available, weather, and road conditions to expect when visiting in January.

This Zion National Park travel guide includes everything you need to know to plan your January vacation! Our biggest tip is to be prepared for the weather so you’re able to enjoy the outdoor activities you want to do!

Use our Zion National Park Packing List to make sure you have the right clothing and gear for visiting in January! Grab your free printable packing checklist by clicking the image below!

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A Photo Tour of Zion National Park

Take a visual tour through Zion National Park to see the stunning landscapes you’ll see when you visit!

Visiting Zion National Park in January

Zion is the most-visited Utah National Park and it gets crowded during the peak seasons of spring, summer and fall.

In January you can drive your car through Zion Canyon and not worry about riding the shuttle, except around New Years and during the Martin Luther King holiday weekend!

In the winter you often have the parking lots and trails to yourself! It’s heaven!

All of the Zion National Park hikes remain open year-round. But… there are some trails that can be slippery from packed snow and ice and may require traction devices and trekking poles. 

And some trails may close due to bad weather and conditions like the popular Angel’s Landing. If you want to hike The Narrows, the water will be COLD and you’ll need full-body drysuits that you can rent from local outfitters.

If you’re ok with the possibility of missing out on these two famous hikes, then you should definitely visit Zion in January!

Checkerboard Mesa with snow
Checkerboard Mesa with snow

Does the Shuttle Run in January?

The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is closed to private vehicles during the shuttle season. Typically, the Zion National Park shuttle are running March through November, weekends in February, and the week between major holidays in December. Visit the Zion NPS website to get information on tickets.

Weather at Zion in January

Zion National Park weather can be unpredictable so be prepared for sunny, rainy, snowy days in January. The days and nights are definitely cooler this time of year at Zion. In January the highs are usually around 54 degrees and the lows hover around 30 degrees Fahrenheit. 

With the right winter clothing, you will still be able to enjoy yourself even with the cold weather:

It’s important to stay hydrated and if you’re not used to a dry environment you’ll find in Utah, keep lip balm and lotion with you!!

winter hiking gear

Does it Snow at Zion in January?

Yes and No! Zion is located in Southern Utah. Normally they do not see a lot of snow. They may see up to 5 inches a year in the park. 

But when it does snow at Zion, it’s such a treat to see! The contrast of the colorful rocks with the white snow is just beautiful.

The roads, parking lots and trails could be wet, snowy, or icy after a snow storm so be prepared with the right clothing and shoes!

Can you drive through Zion National Park in January?

January is one of the least crowded months to visit Zion. One of the benefits is that you can drive your car through Zion Canyon. All four Zion National Park scenic drives are open in the winter, but when a storm rolls through, they may close if conditions are bad so always check the park service website for updated road conditions.

The upper part of the Kolob Terrace Road, including Lava Point, closes in the winter. Kolob Canyons regularly closes during inclement weather. Driving conditions can be very poor during a storm, but roads are usually plowed quickly after.

What Services Are Available in January?

Zion National Park is open all year long and it’s open every day of the year. The Zion National Park Shuttle only runs during the last week of December through the first part of January.

Check the website for the most current hours of operation and facilities hours at Zion:

  • Zion Canyon Visitor Center
  • Park Store
  • Zion Canyon Wilderness Desk
  • Zion Human History Museum
  • Zion Nature Center
  • Kolob Canyons Visitor Center

Watchman Campground is the only one open at Zion during the winter.

Is January a Good Time to Visit Zion?

A January trip to Zion is awesome if you want to avoid the crowds – it’s one of our favorite times to go! But the weather will be cold and it may snow which could limit some of the outdoor activities.

Check out our guide for finding the best time to visit Zion National Park. Each season and month of the year will have different activities and services available.

Things to Do at Zion National Park in January

Here’s a list of fun Zion National Park winter activities you can do in in January.

Even if you have visited Zion National park in the fall or summer, a trip in the winter is a completely different experience that you will never forget.

Zion Highway 9 in the winter

Scenic Drives in January at Zion

While visiting Zion in January you are able to drive the four Zion National Park Scenic Drives.

Zion Canyon: This road is only open to cars from November to mid-March, except for holidays, so you definitely want to take advantage of this opportunity. On the 6.5 mile drive, you will see the most incredible rock formations.

Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway: Highway 9 and Tunnel is a must-drive! The tunnel is 1.1 miles long and the elevation gain is 800 feet. If you’re driving an RV or oversized vehicle, be sure to check size limits and fees first. Driving along Highway 9 from Zion Canyon to the east entrance is breathtaking! Take advantage of the pullouts to stop and take photos, or even take a hike.

Kolob Terrace: This road is accessed west of Springdale in the town of Virgin. You’ll see a different side of Zion National Park. Check road conditions during the winter because the road does access higher elevations.

Kolob Canyons: If you don’t mind driving 40 miles north of Zion Canyon, you can drive the Kolob Canyons section of the park. Again, check road conditions because this road closes frequently in the winter.

We REALLY like the Zion GuideAlong App to hear fun behind-the scenes stories and local tips that play automatically as you drive, based on your GPS location. It’s like having a park ranger in the car with you!

Hiking in Zion in the winter
Hiking in Zion in the winter

Hiking in January at Zion

Winter hiking in Zion National Park in January are nice when the sun is out. It’s quite different from summer when you’re sweating and worrying about heat exhaustion. Remember it’s still important to stay hydrated and wear sunscreen in the winter!

Keep in mind you may encounter ice, snow and mud in shady areas of the trails because January is the coldest month of the year at the park and the wet areas don’t always dry out. You may need traction devices on some trails. And some trails may close due to bad conditions. Check with the visitor’s center for the most current trail conditions.

Remember there are Zion hikes without the shuttle if you don’t want to battle the crowds! We like exploring the “slot canyon” type hikes found along Highway 9. We find a pullout to park, then head down to the riverbed and start walking!

We recommend you check with the Visitor Center for updated trail conditions before setting out on any hike because the Zion landscape is always changing which means trails may close due to falling rocks, rockslides and other unsafe conditions.

Be sure to check whether Zion hiking permits are required for any of the trails you want to explore. Angels Landing permits are required year-round to hike the chains section. You can hike to Scouts Landing and back without a permit.

Zion Narrows

Canyoneering in January at Zion

The Subway and The Narrows are two famous trails for canyoneering at Zion. These trails involves route finding, rappelling, hiking, and swimming! The water will be COLD in January so you’ll need to rent special water suits and boots in Springdale.

Some of these technical hikes require a permit, and all overnight trips in these areas also require a permit. If you want to give it a try, check out these Zion canyoneering tours!

Virgin River and the Watchman at Zion in the winter

Zion Photography in January

We often wish for snow when we take our January trip to Zion. The landscape of colorful rocks with white snow is so pretty to capture Zion National Park winter photos

The best times for Zion National Park photography are sunrise and sunset. The colors are vibrant and the light creates a spectacular glow on the red rocks that cannot be missed.

Our favorite Zion National Park photo spots for sunrise and sunset:

  • History Museum back patio: sunrise
  • Canyon Overlook: sunrise
  • Three Patriarchs (shuttle stop): early morning
  • Riverside Walk (shuttle stop): early morning
  • Highway 9 landscape and bighorn sheep: early morning and evening
  • Checkerboard Mesa: early morning and evening
  • Pa’rus Trail: sunset
  • Kolob Terrace: sunset

Highway 9 has many places to photograph the Zion landscape. Stop at pullouts as you drive along. The views along the Kolob Terrace Road are also amazing, especially at sunset!

In January you’ll want to use photographer gloves and keep rechargeable hand warmers in your coat pockets!

Get our Zion National Park Photography Guide that lists all the best photo spots for sunrise and sunset.. . and tips for taking pictures of this amazing park!

Bicycling in January at Zion

Bicycling at Zion is a fun way to get around the park in January if there’s no snow or ice on the roads. You can rent bicycles in Springdale. Be aware of the rules for riding your bike at Zion:

  • Bicycling is permitted on the park roadways and the Pa’rus Trail. The areas closed to bikes: all other park trails, off-trail routes, and the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. 
  • Bikes must be ridden single file on the right side of the park roads and Pa’rus Trail. Due to the narrow park roads, there is a limit of 6 bicycles or less for every cycling group.
  • Wear your helmet.

Zion Tours in January

Whether you’re looking for a half-day or full-day excursion, there are plenty of Zion National Park tours available to fit your needs: guided hikes, canyoneering, photography, and off-road experiences!

Since it’s the off-season, be sure to check what tours are available for the time you’ll be visiting Zion:

Zion Winter Camping in January

There are three campgrounds, but only is open for winter camping in Zion National Park: Watchman Campground.

Any time of year, camping at Zion is only permitted in the campground designated campsites. You cannot camp in pullouts or parking lots.

One good thing about winter camping at Zion is the less-restrictive time requirement. From March through mid-November, the park-wide camping limit is 14 nights. An additional 30 nights is permitted the rest of the year.

You can also do winter camping at some of the RV parks near Zion National Park.


Zion national park guides and maps

Things To Do Near Zion in January

You’ll find a ton of other places to visit in Utah that are near Zion National Park to add to your January vacation:

Zion National Park Itinerary

Click the graphic below to get your FREE Travel Bundle that includes 3-day printable itineraries. The links below provide detailed information for visiting Zion depending on the amount of time you have to spend at the park!

Zion Travel Bundle optin

things to do at Zion National Park in January

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