Visiting Zion National Park in the Winter

A trip to Zion National Park in the winter is the best because the crowds are gone. At times we feel like we have the park all to ourselves! 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.

The winter months of December, January, and February are a great time to visit because you can drive your car through Zion Canyon except between Christmas and New Year’s and the MLK holiday weekend.

Zion National Park winter vacation

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 winter 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 the winter.

This Zion National Park travel guide includes everything you need to know to plan your winter 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 the winter! Grab your free printable packing checklist by clicking the image below!

get the free Zion National Park packing lists
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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 the Winter

You’ll LOVE visiting Zion National Park in the winter when it’s the off-season. Zion is the most-visited Utah National Park and it gets crowded during the peak seasons of spring, summer and fall.

Does the Zion Shuttle Run in the Winter?

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

Visit the Zion NPS website to get the most updated shuttle information for the time you’ll be visiting.

Winter Weather at Zion

Zion National Park weather in the winter means cooler days and cold nights.

With the right winter clothing, you will still be able to enjoy yourself even with the cooler 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?

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.

Does Zion National Park Close in the Winter?

Zion National Park and the Visitor Center are open all year long, every day of the year. Check the website for the most current Zion facilities hours.

In the winter, camping in Zion National Park is limited. South Campground and part of Watchman Campground close this time of 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 in February).

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.

Is Winter a Good Time to Visit Zion?

A winter trip to Zion is awesome if you want to avoid the crowds! 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 the Winter

Here’s a list of fun Zion National Park winter activities you can do during the winter months.

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.

Pa'rus Trail at sunset at zion national park
Pa’rus Trail at sunset

Zion National Park Winter Hiking

Exploring the Zion National Park winter hikes is one of the best ways to experience this stunning park. From scenic overlooks to challenging climbs, Zion National Park has something for everyone during the winter months.

You’ll want winter hiking gear and winter clothing layers so you can adapt to the weather changes throughout the hike. 

Be sure to check the trail conditions before beginning your hike as some may be closed. Some trails may have snow or ice and you may need traction devices.

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 hiking trail
Zion Narrows

Canyoneering in the Winter 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 the winter so you’ll need special water suits and boots that can be rented 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!

Zion National Park in the winter along Highway 9

Scenic Drives at Zion National Park

In the winter you are able to drive the four Zion National Park scenic drives!

Zion Canyon: This road is only open to cars from November to 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 and Tunnel: This road 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!

photographing the Virgin River and the Watchman at Zion in the winter
Virgin River and the Watchman at Zion in the winter

Photography at Zion 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  to capture Zion National Park winter photos

Keep in mind that sunrise and sunset at Zion you’re looking for the reflected light on the rock structures, and not the sun rising or setting. 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!

We like to use photographer gloves and keep rechargeable hand warmers in our 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 the Winter at Zion

Did you know you can access Zion Canyon by bike? Bicycling at Zion is a fun way to get around the park. 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.

There are bike racks located at major shuttle stops and trailheads. You may also take your bicycle on the shuttle bus as long as you can get the bikes on and off the front racks by yourself.

Zion Tours in the Winter

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

Zion Winter Camping

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 the Winter

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

Zion National Park in the Winter

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