“Is Zion open year-round? You mean people come here in the winter?”
Yes! While the vast majority of Zion’s 2.8 million annual visitors come between March and October, the Park is open year-round, with many of the same, and some novel, outdoor activities to pursue. Here are a few “local secrets” for visiting in the “off season”…
Take in the solitude.Want to hike the Emerald Pools trail alone? Or have the summit of Angels Landing all to yourself? Try these hikes in the winter, and you can probably have your wish! On any summer day, these trails are packed with visitors, but in the winter, they provide a serene and wild experience for brave hikers. And even if you have enjoyed these trail before in warmer conditions, the low light and snow accents of winter create some wonderfully different and really beautiful perspectives on the “old classics”. Plus, you won’t catch yourself avoiding the sun, like July hikers do, but rather enjoying it immensely.
Be flexible: Mother nature is in charge in the Winter. As our past week’s wet weather attests, winter weather in Zion is a bit unpredictable and can be fierce. Winter days can be 60 degrees and sunny or 20 degrees with rain and snow flying around the canyon. Appreciate the power and rawness of the canyon in any condition. Yes, wet or cold weather may make a hike in the Narrows or backcountry adventure unavailable while you’re here, but don’t worry, you can always return to do more in the Park. Take each day as it goes, enjoying what the Park and nature have to offer. Having a number of options each day always helps things go well.
If it’s raining in Springdale, it’s snowing on the Kolob Terrace. This is a great secret I’d like to share: we have fun snowshoeing and cross country skiing in the winter! One of my favorite places to do both is of the Kolob Terrace Road, located in Virgin, just a 20 minute drive from Springdale. Once the road flattens onto Cave Valley, or higher in Hop Valley, the open snow beckons winter adventurers to explore. You can also Park at the bottom of the big switchback below the Wildcat Trailhead and hike up to do the Northgate Peaks trail, which ends up being a nice full-day snowshoe or ski. The trail is not marked so it helps to go with someone who’s done the trail or have GPS coordinates (and a GPS device of some king) along with you. And if you think about it, as long as its not snowing while you’re hiking, you should be able to follow your tracks back to your car! Here are some great pictures of our hike we did in February, 2010.
We have some great ski resorts in Southern Utah. Yes, we get the “Greatest Snow on Earth” in Southern Utah, just like our northern neighbors. Two ski resorts cater to families, beginners, and skiers or snowboarders looking to spend some time on the slopes. In between seeing Zion and Bryce, think of checking out a day of skiing at either Brian Head Resort, about 2 hours north of Springdale, or the new Eagle Point Resort outside Beaver, Utah, about 3 hours north. Both are great, and incredibly friendly (and also not very crowded!).
I hope everyone enjoys some winter fun, and if winter is just not your season, remember: Winter is only 3 months long here in Zion!