Looking for things to do in Zion National Park this winter? Zion National Park is a paradise for those who love to get outside, even in the winter! Utah’s beloved national park is a known destination in the summer months, but the splendid weather year-round makes it a worthy winter destination. Everyone from seasoned adventurers to those new to the outdoors can find something to enjoy in a Zion National Park winter. So, what are the options? From winter-only scenic drives to hiking to camping, there are endless ways to take advantage of the offseason in Zion. We’ve put together a list of some of our favourite things to do when winter comes in Zion, and we hope you get out and enjoy them all!
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Best Outdoor Winter Activities in and around Zion National Park
Winter in Zion National Park probably won’t look the way you expect winter to. Because of its location in sunny Southern Utah, Zion experiences mild winters with little to no snow. Hello, extended hiking season!
Winter Hiking in Zion
When does your hiking season normally end? October or November? In Zion, you’re treated to year-round hiking conditions. The average daily temperature hovers above freezing even in January, meaning you’re able to take advantage of the world-class trails any time of the year. Zion is a must-visit for any hiker, with several world-famous treks to unforgettable locations. Because the high season for hiking falls outside of winter, an offseason trip could give you unmatched freedom and privacy on the trails. Angel’s Landing without the crowds? Yes please! Our absolute favourite hikes in Zion National Park include Observation Point, Angel’s Landing, and the Narrows (dry suit recommended in the winter). If you’re looking for all your information in one place, check out our guide to the best hikes in Zion National Park. Because conditions can sometimes be slick in the winter months, check in with park authorities and be prepared to try the hike another day if it seems too icy.
Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
If you’d prefer to enjoy Zion from the comfort of your vehicle, winter has a special treat in store for you. Zion Canyon is a highlight of the entire park, and it’s clear why once you lay eyes on it. That’s the problem: you usually can’t lay eyes on it, at least on a self-driving tour. In the summer, private cars are not permitted on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, leaving it clear for shuttles. In the winter, you’re more than welcome to cruise this unbelievably scenic drive. From 2,600-foot red sandstone cliffs to the flowing Virgin River, this is a drive you won’t soon forget. If you’re lucky enough to come on a day when there’s a dusting of snow clinging to the red sandstone, you’ll be treated to an even more exclusive view. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep and other local wildlife while you cruise!
See the garden of icicles on Riverside Trail
Zion’s stark, cactus-filled landscape is a result of the sweltering heat of the summer. What the usual landscape belies is the special effect that colder weather can have on what you see. Where cactus and ferns normally cling, icicles can hang. We love strolling along the easy, flat Riverside Trail in the winter. There are several spots where you’ll walk underneath massive sections of overhanging rock, and when the weather is cool, these can feature stunning icicles. It’s a special sight! Obviously, be very cautious when crossing under icicles, especially in warming weather.
Drive the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway Tunnel
Ever driven right through a mountain? The Zion-Carmel Highway Tunnel cuts 1.8km directly through a sandstone mountain. While the tunnel itself isn’t what we would consider scenic, the novelty of driving directly through is worth the trip. We recommend enjoying some of the viewpoints on the switchbacking road that approaches the tunnel- you’ll be able to catch glimpses of the Great Arch of Zion. Note that bigger vehicles (think RVs) might have to pay for traffic control through the tunnel, so we recommend taking a smaller ride.
Camping around Zion National Park is still a great activity when winter rolls around. If you have an RV or similar, you’ll have the most enjoyable (read: warm) experience. There are three campgrounds in the park, Watchman, Lava Point, and South. Watchman remains open into late November, but true winter adventurers will want to take advantage of the free camping near the park that stays accessible any time of year, provided you’re alright with sacrificing services. Make sure to plan ahead and double-check that you’re camping in designated areas- the National Park Service offers information on the sites within the park. We do recommend renting a camper, as temperatures can dip below freezing in the middle of the night.
As long as you avoid potentially icy higher-elevation trails, you can have an excellent time mountain biking in Zion National Park through the winter. The cooler daytime highs make biking much less strenuous than in the summer- just pack some warm gloves and you’re off to the races! The Pa’rus Trail is the only official trail in the park for mountain biking, but you can enjoy most roads where cars travel provided you obey traffic laws. Do note that some of the best mountain biking in the area is just outside the bounds of the park. Gooseberry Mesa is one of our favourites, just 11.3km south of Rockville.
Best Winter Deals in and around Zion National Park
Planning a winter trip to Zion National Park? It’s always worth trying to save a few bucks. Whether you’re coming from further away or a local looking to make the most of your backyard, there are always deals to be found! Please note that deals are subject to change without notice.
Best Accommodation Deals in Zion National Park
The Zion Lodge offers “Winter Magic in Zion” rates, which include an overnight stay and breakfast for two starting at $99.
Zion Lodge also offers a New Year’s Eve Celebration package features a deluxe dinner in the Red Rock Grill, a midnight reception, and a new year’s toast. The deal starts at $214.
The President’s Weekend Package offers two nights at Zion Lodge between February 15 and 17, a gift shop coupon, a dinner for two, and a breakfast buffet beginning at $268.
Receive half-price lodging at Historic Pioneer Lodge in Springdale.
Winter Weather in Zion National Park
Winter in Zion National Park might seem barely like winter at all depending on where you’re from! Because of the high desert climate, average daytime temperatures in winter tend to stay comfortably between 50°F and 60°F, making hiking year-round a breeze. Nighttime temperatures can dip below freezing and ice can occur, especially at higher elevations. Snow is relatively rare in the park.
What to Wear During Winter in Zion National Park
While the winter weather isn’t much to be concerned about, you’ll still want to dress smart. We recommend layering up to stay warm in the cool mornings and stay comfortable in hotter afternoons. Having a light jacket on hand is useful for shady trail sections or higher elevations. The higher you go, the more you’ll want to wear- consider a warm hat and some gloves if you’re increasing elevation.
Fun Facts about Zion National Park Winter
- Between May and August, Zion sees half a million visitors per month. By January, it sees a small fraction of that.
- The snowiest month in Zion is December, seeing a mere 1 inch of the white stuff.
- On average, there are only 2.5 snowfall days per year in Zion National Park.