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Zion National Park features jaw-dropping geography created by the dramatic Zion Canyon. It is located in Utah, being a 3-hour ride away from Las Vegas. There are many beautiful places in the US, but Zion is a habitat that’s perceived by many as being a magical location. In today’s article, I will talk about the best time to visit Zion National Park, the things you can do there, its characteristics, and many other insights. So, stay tuned!
Why Should You Visit Zion National Park?
You should visit Zion National Park anytime you want between May and November. That’s when free shuttles are organized and the weather is also pleasant. But, I will talk about that later on. First, I would like to list and detail some of the most important reasons to go and see this tourist attraction.
1. Iconic Hiking Trails
If you ask me, one of the greatest ways to discover Zion National Park is by hitting the trails. Just make sure to pack proper footwear like hiking boots, and carry enough water bottles with you. There are numerous options for hiking lovers, from easy all the way to strenuous trails.
Beginners should try the following routes: Weeping Rock, Riverside Walk, and Canyon Overlook. More experienced hikers can opt for the Angel’s Landing Trail which is famous yet a tad dangerous.
Backpackers and those who want to find wildlife or enjoy solitude should follow two trails: the West Rim and the East Rim. Those two choices are full of hidden wonders.
2. Spectacular Landscape and Scenic Driving Adventures
The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive measures 6 miles. It is located in the north part of the park and it is quite spectacular due to the fact that’s surrounded by skyscraping sandstone formations.
There’s also the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway that’s located under the Park’s east entrance. The highway goes through a tunnel that measures 1.1 miles. Both routes have gorgeous landscapes.
3. Desert Waterfalls
These two words put together to sound like a contradiction but they’re possible at Zion National Park. The waterfalls are fed every year by two sources: dousing thunderstorms and winter snowmelt. If you’re visiting the park in the summer, you will find these places refreshing.
Their sound combined with the view of the falling water provides a relaxing way to spend some time in nature. Around the waterfalls, there are numerous plants such as ferns and other flowers. However, if you want to see these beauties, you should organize your trip either in early spring when the snow is melting or in July and August when the monsoon season occurs.
Otherwise, you might miss them, because many of the waterfalls are ephemeral.
4. Climbing the Walls of Zion Canyon
Zion Canyon is very popular among rock climbers. That’s due to its towering sandstone cliffs; not just any walls. These cliffs are actually some of the tallest ones in the world. Most climbers love to try the following popular routes: Angel’s Landing, Red Arch Mountain, Temple of Sinawava, and Touchstone Wall.
Sandstone peak-bagging is another reason why many adventurous people come to Zion National Park. Some of them have experience in these types of activities. But, if you’re a beginner, don’t fret because you can always hire a guide in Springdale.
5. Nature and Wildlife
The park covers an impressive area of 232 square miles. All this land is protected and it features diverse plateaus and canyons with a wide range of plants and animals. Here, you will see lush riversides, barren slick rocks, and pine forests.
In this National Park, you will encounter over 1,000 plant species. All of them have led numerous animals to flourish. If you’re into bird watching, then Zion is your Earthly heaven. It hosts no less than 291 bird species, including endangered California condors and peregrine falcons.
If you want to see many of Zion’s mammal species, you should definitely bring your binoculars to this trip. Desert bighorns can be seen on rocky slopes, whereas grazing mule deer can be spotted in canyon meadows.
The Best Time to Visit Zion National Park
There are several good periods to see Zion National Park and I’ve detailed all of them below.
The Best Periods to Visit the Park
Zion National Park is a popular touristic destination that remains open all year round. Still, based on the season or period in which you decide to visit it, you will face different conditions and you need to be prepared for all of them.
The best time to visit this natural park is during two seasons: spring and fall. In April, the weather is pleasant but the summer crowds won’t be there yet. The temperatures are around 23 degrees Celsius around that time.
From September to the end of October, most tourists are gone but the weather remains pretty warm, with an average temperature of around 26 degrees Celsius.
The Second-Best Period to Visit the Park
Summer is the second-best time to explore this national park. During this period, you can enjoy endless adventures and opportunities, including hiking through the Narrows. On the other hand, this is also the hottest and most crowded period of the year when the place bursts with tourists.
So, to prepare yourself to face a very busy park, you should start the day early. This way, you might avoid the crowds.
The Third-Best Period to Visit the Park
From December to January is the period that’s also good for visiting Zion National Park. It’s the least crowded time of the year. Plus, the accommodation rates are also very low and affordable. So, if you’re not afraid of facing colder weather, you could also explore the park during this time.
Best Times to Visit Zion National Park Based on Specific Objectives
Some people might prefer to visit a destination when the crowds are already gone. Others can ignore busy areas as long as the weather is to their liking. So, here are the best times to visit this national park, based on your preferences and goals.
If you want to go sightseeing, you should visit Zion National Park in either spring or fall. For me, these two seasons are ideal for hiking because the temperatures aren’t as high as in summer and I can enjoy the great outdoors without sweating too much.
I also love these shoulder seasons because they allow me to avoid crowds. I’ve never been a fan of crowded areas. Moreover, both seasons offer amazing views of the changing landscape. During spring, you will see the waterfalls and the lush green sights. During the fall months, you will be mesmerized by the warm autumn colors.
If you love to go camping, you will definitely enjoy waking up and see the beauty of this national park. Actually, camping is this destination’s most popular activity. Make sure to reserve a spot early on because Zion has only three campgrounds and all of them tend to fill up quickly.
These three locations that I am talking about are Watchman, Lava Point, and South campground. Watchman and South are both in the Zion Canyon. They open in March and close in October. The most primitive of all is the Lava Point campground located on the Kolob Terrace Road. This camp opens in May and closes in September.
You must have proper camping gear. If not, you should own an RV or a camper. As long as you have those things, you can go visit the park anytime you want during the aforementioned time periods. If you don’t like heat, you should avoid visiting the place in July.
For Hiking and Backpacking
If your main purpose is to go hiking on Zion’s trails, you should consider fall as your go-to visiting season. Most trails remain open during fall. Some of those trails could be closed during spring, especially if some areas are flooded by the Virgin River.
Another important reason why you should visit the park in the fall is to avoid the crowds. This way, your activities become a lot more enjoyable. For backpacking, you should consider fall, summer, or spring. Many trails are quite long and they are located away from the crowds. So, you don’t have to stress about summer being too busy.
Best Time to Visit Zion National Park – Visiting Details by Month
Let’s discover the pros and cons of each month in regard to visiting Zion National Park.
Visiting in January
Here are the most important benefits of visiting the park in January:
- You will enjoy the park without the crowds that are there during the summer;
- Because it isn’t the peak season, visitors will be able to go sightseeing in a quiet and peaceful environment;
- From November to March, cars are allowed in the park. So, you can drive through Zion Canyon while being in the comfort of your own car. It gives you the freedom to see the things you want when you want it, and at your own pace;
- In January, the landscape is breathtaking because the cliffs and walls are dusted with snow. Many visitors love to capture Zion in the morning, during the winter months.
Visiting in February
The benefits of going to Zion in February are:
- You will breathe a very fresh and crisp mountain air while still seeing the cliffs covered in snow;
- Again, just like in January, there aren’t many visitors in February, so you will explore the area without being bothered by crowds of people;
- The scenery is quite similar to the one featured in the previous month.
Visiting in March
Here are the reasons to visit Zion in March:
- Although this month represents the beginning of a new season and the weather might become more pleasant, there are still not a lot of tourists in the park so you can go sightseeing and enjoy the peacefulness that leads to a deep relaxation;
- In March, the shuttle bus begins to run and takes tourists to the canyon’s popular trailheads. So, if you choose this transportation method, you won’t have to worry about where you should park your car;
- The snow starts to melt but the highest peaks will still be covered in what’s left of the snow.
Visiting in April
April is a good month to visit Zion National Park due to the following reasons:
- Zion Canyon will be full of green flora and the Virgin river will rush quickly with pure and clean waters;
- Wildlife starts to frolic in the sun and the entire scenery becomes breathtaking;
- Despite the fact that more and more visitors start to arrive during this period, you will be amazed by the contrast created between the red and cream hues of the cliffs and the green grass and cottonwoods;
- It is a time of idyllic sunsets and sunrises.
Visiting in May
Visiting the park in May will bring the following advantages:
- By now, the snow should be melted completely and leave the peaks basking under the sunlight;
- The landscape and scenery are pretty much the same as the ones described in March;
- Another contrast is created by the river’s aqua blue water which makes the area great for professional photographers.
Visiting in June
You should visit Zion National Park in June because:
- During summer, the park provides a wide range of possible activities and opportunities. You will definitely not get bored if you go there in June;
- You can go hiking or backpacking, you can bike your way around the habitat, you can go rock climbing if you’re courageous enough, or even try canyoneering;
- The weather in June is great, characterized by blue skies and amazing sunsets. Still, expect lots of visitors.
Visiting in July
The benefits of exploring the park in July are the ones enumerated above for June. Still, July is a very hot month and the park is full of tourists. Therefore, if I were you, I would normally avoid going there in July. If you still want to go there during this period, you should arrive at the park early to get a good parking spot and avoid waiting in line a lot at the entrances of the trails.
Visiting in August
In August, the park simply booms with life. The desert area gets very hot but the riverside transforms into an oasis. Some might like it this hot, but I normally avoid staying too much in direct sunlight. So, for your safety, you should pack accordingly. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, a summer hat, and plenty of water.
Visiting in September
Unfortunately, September is still a crowded month because the weather continues to be great for hiking, climbing, and sightseeing. This month is also warm enough for you to enjoy your visit and try all the activities you’re interested in.
By the end of the month, the weather starts to change and becomes a little bit colder but the skies continue to be blue and the sunsets are still to die for.
Visiting in October
Autumn colors are the best in October. The park offers visitors a sight that amazes them. The woods will have a dazzling yellow shade and maples turn red. Summer crowds start to fade away so the park will be more quiet and peaceful. During the day, the weather remains pretty warm but the evenings get chilly.
The only downside is the fact that the days become shorter so you will have to plan your activities well and make the most of daylight.
Visiting in November
November is also an incredible month for visitors because the crowds are all gone by now and the landscape is enchanting. Your photos will be full of amazing colors such as orange, red, and yellow. The contrast between the forest leaves and the white sandstone cliffs is also brilliant.
Visiting in December
December is a great month to visit Zion National Park for those who don’t mind the cold weather and who love to see fresh snow covering the cliffs. The park is very peaceful during this period and you can use your own vehicle to drive through the area. However, some roads might be closed if there’s heavy snowfall.
Answer: To visit the entire habitat and do the activities you enjoy most, you need at least a couple of days. Ideally, you should plan a one-week vacation here. In only 2-3 days, you will be able to see just the most popular trails but you won’t have time to explore the entire area.
Answer: Most visitors love to drive on the park’s highway and roads but tourists can drive through the park in their own cars when it isn’t peak season: from November until March. The only road available to tourists’ vehicles between March and November is the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway.
Answer: If you come in your own car, you will have to pay a 7-day entrance pass of $25. Pedestrians and those who come by bike or motorbike will have to pay a fee of $12 per person. Shuttle busses run between April and October and they are free.
Zion Natural Park is a great destination that’s worth a visit. It offers unique views of the natural landscape that Earth was blessed with. It has four different ecosystems, including deserts, riverside, woodlands, and coniferous forests. Feel free to see and hike through all of these areas and be amazed as you transition from one ecosystem to the next.
Zion is home to numerous types of tourists such as serious and experienced climbers, outdoor explorers, families that are on a road trip, etc. No wonder the park is one of the busiest destinations in the US.