It’s no secret how much we love Zion National Park. Dave and I visit as often as we can.
We especially love Zion National Park in the winter.
The crowds are gone and at times we feel like we have the park all to ourselves.
With the cooler temperatures, it makes for the perfect hiking weather to really explore the park.
Use this guide to plan a winter vacation to Zion National Park:
- What to pack for a winter trip to Zion
- Where to stay near Zion
- Winter weather at Zion
- Things to do at Zion in the winter
- Winter hiking at Zion
Extend your trip by visiting other Utah National Parks!
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WHAT TO PACK FOR A NATIONAL PARK TRIP IN THE WINTER
1. US National Parks Pass
2. Hiking Gear
- Waterproof hiking boots or shoes – Merrell Moab are our FAVORITE!
- Insulated boots
- Heavy wool socks – we LOVE Darn Tough Socks!
- Walking stick or trekking poles
3. Clothing – Layers
- Wicking and quick-drying base layers
- Fleece or insulated jacket
- Wool, down or heavy-weight insulated jacket
- Waterproof rain jacket
- Insulating hat
- Insulating winter gloves
- Fleece neck gaiter or buff
- WATER – water bottles or hydration backpack
- FOOD – healthy snacks
- Flashlight or headlamp
- National Park maps
- Lip protection with sunscreen
- Polarized sunglasses
- Hand lotion
- Toilet paper (carry out in a bag – do not bury)
- Hand sanitizer
- First aid kit
- Bags to pack out trash
Where to Stay Near Zion
You definitely want to stay in Springdale which borders the entrance to Zion. Here are a few of our favorite places to stay close to Zion:
- Holiday Inn Express – our favorite place to stay with an outdoor pool and amenities you’d find in a high end hotel
- Zion Lodge – we haven’t had a chance to stay here yet, but you can’t go wrong staying right IN the park!
- Under Canvas Zion – if you want to experience a less crowded part of Zion, this is the place! It’s in the Kolob section of the park.
- VRBO Rentals in Springdale – you’ll want to stay in Springdale so you’re close to the park entrance and can walk to shopping and restaurants.
What You Should Know Before Visiting Zion in the Winter
Does the Shuttle Run in the Winter?
The park shuttle buses don’t run in the winter EXCEPT during the holidays: the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day and on Presidents’ Day weekend.
Visit the Zion NPS website to get information on tickets, that are now required in advance.
Winter Weather at Zion
The days and nights are definitely cooler this time of year at Zion. In the winter you can expect the highs to be in the high 40s low 50s and for the temperatures to drop all the way to the mid 20s. With the right clothing, you will still be able to enjoy yourself even with the cooler weather.
As you visit the park in December you can expect the highs to be around 48 degrees Fahrenheit. The lows will dip all the way to 24 degrees at night.
January highs are usually around 50 degrees and the lows hover around 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
Oftentimes in February, you will find that the temperatures are in the high 40s (around 49 degrees Fahrenheit) and will stay around 25 degrees for the lows.
Does it snow at Zion?
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.
Does Zion National Park Close in the Winter?
Zion National Park is open all year long. It is open every day of the year.
Can you drive through Zion National Park in the winter?
With winter being less crowded one of the benefits is that you can drive your car through Zion Canyon (except for the holidays at Christmas/New Year’s and President’s weekend).
Access to the upper part of the Kolob Terrace Road, including Lava Point, closes in the winter. Access to Kolob Canyons regularly closes in inclement weather. Driving conditions can be very poor during a storm, but roads are usually plowed quickly after.
Things to Do at Zion National Park in the winter
Here’s a list of fun things to do during the winter months when visiting Zion National Park.
Zion National Park Winter Hiking
There are so many great hikes in Zion even during the winter months. With so many great hike options there is a hike for everyone!
When hiking in the winter be sure to dress in layers so you can adapt to the weather changes throughout the hike.
While on your hike you will take in breathtaking views and wildlife. Be sure to check the trail conditions before beginning your hike as some may be closed.
Observation Point Trail
As you hike Observation Point you will get to see the most spectacular views of Zion Canyon. In our opinion, this is a must-see view. In fact, we think it is the best one Zion has to offer in the winter months.
Weeping Rock Trail
Weeping Rock is one of the shortest hikes, but worth doing! This hike is about 500 feet long and will take about 20 minutes. Here you will see dripping water that forms icicles along the walls. An incredible sight to see in the winter.
Weeping Rock is a perfect family-friendly hike even in the winter.
Hidden Canyon Trail
If you hike to Weeping Rock and you want a longer hike, the trailhead to Hidden Canyon is right next to it. This hike takes about 45 minutes to an hour and is about 1 mile long if you turnaround at the viewpoint. As you hike you will see winter views that are breathtaking.
Emerald Pools Trail
Emerald Pools trail is one of the easiest trails located in Zion. It is about 1.2 miles long and takes about an hour to complete. There are two trails: Lower Emerald Pools and Upper Emerald Pools. If you only have time to hike one be sure you go to Upper Emerald Pools in the winter. This trail has remarkable views of the Emerald lake and it is easy enough to do with kids of all ages. Just be sure to keep an eye on them while near the water.
You can easily extend the Lower Emerald Pools hike further by continuing on the trail to the upper portion and then continuing on to a longer more strenuous hike to Kayenta Trail.
Scenic Drives at Zion National Park
While visiting Zion in the winter you are able to drive the various roads in the park. The Zion Canyon road is only open to cars from November to March so you definitely want to take advantage of this opportunity. On the 6.5 mile drive, you will see the most incredible rock formations.
The Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway 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.
We enjoy driving the Kolob Terrace road that’s 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.
View Wildlife in the Winter
Winter is a great time to see wildlife in the park. You might get the opportunity to see turkeys roaming about as well as bald eagles.
You also might see deer, elk, and Bighorn sheep. We’ve always had good success seeing the Bighorn sheep when driving Highway 9, so keep your eyes open during that drive!
Photography in the Winter
It should be no surprise that we recommend taking lots of pictures in Zion in the winter. If you are lucky enough to visit after it snows, the contrast of the white snow on the red rocks is stunning!
Winter Vacation Ideas
- List of Winter Vacation Ideas
- List of US National Parks in the Winter
- Visiting US National Parks in December
- Visiting US National Parks in January
- Visiting US National Parks in February
- National Park Packing Lists for Winter
- Winter Clothing Guide for Outdoor Travel