Guide to Zion in Winter

It’s long been a dream of ours to see Zion in the winter. To see the canyons dusted with snow and the white canyon floor contrasted against the warm orange tones of Zion Canyon.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve sat at the junction for Zion along the I-15, either bound for the Colorado Rockies or the Wasatch Range, contemplating whether it was worth the small detour to Zion.

After many skipped trips, we finally decided to turn right and see if the magic of wintertime would live up to our expectations.

It was 100% worth the trip and snow covered Zion went above and beyond my expectations.

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5 Reasons to Visit Zion in the Winter

1 | It’s A Winter Wonderland

Winter is a magical time all over the world, but it’s especially true when snow graces the floor of the stark and jagged Zion Canyon.

Nature no doubt has a powerful energy that invigorates and inspires. Zion is already an exceptionally powerful hub of energy and wintertime only adds to it.

Snow on the ground brings exceptional peace to the canyon, but you do have to time it right after recent snowfall. Without snow, Zion is still pretty and more trails will be available to hike, but it’s definitely not the same magic. Too much snow and roads will be closed.

2 | Crazy Color Contrast

*Photographers squeal from across the globe* 

If you thought Zion’s beautiful red warm tones were beautiful in the summer, then winter will take your breath away.

The contrast of cold snow on the ground against the warm reds, pinks, and oranges of the surrounding canyon walls is unlike anything else in the world.

It feels almost as if two different ecosystems collided into one. The dry dessert and the snowy mountains.

3 | Say Goodbye to Crowds

Ya see, we don’t do crowds. In fact, we do everything in our power to avoid crowded times of year for all of our adventures.

The solitude you’ll experience in Zion in the peaceful winter season is magic in and of itself.

Let’s be honest here, nobody likes to deal with crowds when they’re trying to relax and take in the scenery. In the winter, you will practically have all of Zion to yourself save for a few other adventurers and photographers.

4 | Empty Trails in Zion N.P.

Since winter is the uncrowded season, it should come as no surprise that all the iconic hikes in Zion National Park are perfectly empty.

In case you were wondering, yes, you can hike Angel’s Landing + The Narrows in the wintertime.

Initially you may think that wintertime and exposed ridges are a huge no-no, and they sort of are, but Angel’s Landing is not entirely off limits.  Though it’s famed for being dangerous and scramble-like, the hike is not as bad as media makes it seem and as long as there isn’t recent snowfall, you can dare to take on Angel’s Landing, with caution of course.

Winter is surprisingly one of the best times to hike The Narrows…at least for those who aren’t terribly afraid of the cold.

In the winter, the Narrows must be hiked with full drysuits and booties (available for rent in Springdale) otherwise the water temperature would be intolerable. With the right gear, you’ll get to experience one of the world’s most famous hikes without the crowds. 

5 | Winter and the Open Road

If you visit in true wintertime from December through February, this is the glorious time of year where Zion Canyon Scenic drive has no vehicle restrictions.

During most times of the year, the road from Canyon Junction Bridge to the Temple of Sinawava is only open to the free shuttle bus system.

Winter on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
In Winter, you’ll have full freedom to explore Zion Canyon Scenic Drive in your own vehicle

If you are visiting Zion in the Winter, however, you get full privilege to explore the entire road in your own vehicle.

You can take your time enjoying the drive, stop and take photos, and simply enjoy the incredible scenery that lies right along the road.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Zion National Park

Top Winter Activities in Zion

Besides all the usual highlights of Zion, there are a few hikes that are exceptionally beautiful in the wintertime.

1 | Wake up for Sunrise

Towers of the Virgin, Zion National Park
Sunrise at Towers of the Virgin in Zion National Park

As per usual, sunrise is the best time of day to see the beauty of Zion. Yes, it’s cold. Yes, it’s early. But nothing compares to the beauty of dawn light shining on the valley.

2 | Catch the Watchman at Sunset

Watchman at Zion in Winter
The iconic shot of the Watchman in Zion during the Winter

Not a sunrise person? Or maybe you’ve got a whole day in beautiful Zion National Park. Whatever it is, I highly recommend sticking around Zion long enough to see sunset from Canyon Junction Bridge.

From here, you’ll see the iconic shot of the Watchman. As the sun sets off to the west, the sun’s rays often shine upon the rock making for a fantastic view and a great photo op.

Even if you can’ time it right to see the view at sunset, it’s worth stopping at Canyon Junction Bridge no matter the time of day to see the view.

3 | Hike Hidden Canyon Overlook

If you’re not feeling up for taking on a huge adventure like Angel’s Landing, Observation Point, or The Narrows, the best easy hike in the park, Canyon Overlook Trail, can’t be missed.

This entire hike is especially beautiful in the winter. As you weave your way through the contours of Zion’s upper plateau, you’ll pass snowy fields with snow coated trees and cave-like rocks with icicles hanging off their edges.

The journey is stunning and the end view is even better. The Canyon Overlook gives you a great vantage point to see the snow coated landscape of Zion Canyon below.

Zion Canyon Overlook
A wide angle view of snow dusted Zion Canyon landscape

Tips for Visiting Zion in Winter

  • Layer up + gear up – Zion may seem like the desert but when cold fronts move through, the wintertime high can be as low as 40 degrees F which isn’t terrible, but it’s not warm. In addition, some extra traction on your boots like micro spikes wouldn’t hurt. If you’re doing Angel’s Landing, they are a necessity.
  • Check the weather – Like I mentioned earlier, heavy snow, which is rare, could close off the roads into Zion National Park and more importantly, it could close of a lot of trails. Click here to see a 7 day forecast.
  • Check trail conditions – If you’ve got your eye on hiking, be sure to check the trail conditions ahead of time. Even if it hasn’t snowed recently, winter is a popular time for trail maintenance and they may close off roads. Check trail + road conditions here.
  • Watchman Campground – Of the 3 campgrounds in the National Park, Watchman is the only one that stays open in the winter. From December through the end of February, the campground is first-come first-serve, then starting in March, it’s reservations only.
  • General tips – For more tips and details on visiting Zion not specific to winter (where to stay, where to eat, etc) check out our blog, The Ultimate Guide to Zion National Park

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