Zion National Park is located in the southwest corner of Utah and is the state’s first national park. Centuries of erosion have carved the Navajo sandstone into Zion Canyon’s signature towering cliffs, drawing the admiration of more than 5 million visitors a year. While people can enjoy the pink and red hues of the canyon walls any time of year, Zion is especially enchanting during the winter.
I’ve visited Zion National Park both in summer and winter many times and I can’t recommend it enough. Winter is my favorite season to visit the park because it’s less crowded, accessible by car, neither uncomfortable hot nor cold, and all trails remain open. And, the white snow that contrasts against the colorful canyon walls is simply spectacular.
- Things to Do in Zion in Winter
- Frequently Asked Questions
Things to Do in Zion in Winter
Drive the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
Winter is the one season where you can self-drive the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, which is otherwise only accessible by shuttle bus. The 54-mile route takes you through the heart of Zion Canyon, with stops at popular trailheads and viewpoints.
Estimated Time: 1.5 hours
Stop by the Temple of Sinawava and Hike the Riverside Walk Trail
Temple of Sinawava is the last stop along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and marks the beginning of the canyon. From the Temple of Sinawava, you can hike the 2-mile (roundtrip) Riverside Walk Trail along the Virgin River which will take you to the start of the Narrows trailhead. If you’re interested in hiking the Narrows in the winter, you’ll need to check conditions day of to make sure that the trail is open and not at risk of flash floods. You’ll also want to have a drysuit ahead of time.
Estimated Time: 1 hour
Visit the Lower & Middle Emerald Pools
The Emerald Pools are picturesque any time of year and winter is no exception. During this time of year, you’ll find the canyon walls covered with snow, from which a small waterfall flows into the lower pool. A little bit further, you’ll find a larger pool with views of the canyon below.
There are multiple trails that will take you to the Lower and Middle Emerald Pools. If you have time to see both, I’d recommend the 2.2 mile roundtrip hike that connects the two pools. You can technically go further and hike to the Upper Emerald Pool but I personally found the it to be the least picturesque of the 3.
Estimated Time: 1.5 hours (if you visit both pools)
Hike the Canyon Overlook Trail
Head back towards the Zion Canyon Visitor Center and make a stop at the Canyon Overlook Trail. This easy, 1-mile roundtrip trail has one of the most spectacular views overlooking the canyon.
Estimated Time: 1 hour
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can you visit Zion National Park in Winter? The short answer is yes! As you can see, there are plenty of advantages as well as things to do during the winter. Just know that trails may close if conditions are too treacherous or slippery.
- How cold does it get in Zion National Park? The temperature in Zion National Park ranges between 30°F (night) and 50°F (day). Winter storms do come through the park, but most of the snow disappears quickly at lower elevation levels. However, roads and trails can close if conditions are icy or otherwise at risk.
- How early can I enter Zion National Park? The park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year but building hours change with the reason. Visit the National Park Service website to get the most updated information about operating hours and seasonal closures.
- Do you have to pay to get into Zion National Park? Yes. If you drive into the park, you’ll need to pay $35 per vehicle. If you walk into the park, the fee is $20 per person. All passes are valid for 7 days.
- Do you need reservations to go to Zion National Park? You don’t need a permit or reservation to visit most areas of the park, including highlights mentioned here.
- Can you hike Angels Landing in December? You can but whether or not you should depends on trail conditions and your comfort level with heights. As somehow who experiences mild vertigo, I’ve never attempted Angels Landing in the winter nor plan to after reading this review.
- Can you hike Narrows in December? Yes, as long as the trail is open and not at risk of flash floods, you can hike the Narrows. You’ll need a dry suit as the waters are extremely cold in the winter. You’ll find the trailhead at the end of the Riverwalk trail.
- Where to stay when visiting Zion National Park? Springdale is the closest city to the park, with a number of options that are within walking distance. My personal favorite is the Best Western Plus Zion Canyon Inn & Suite, which I appreciate for its proximity, affordability, and reliable quality. Otherwise, I prefer to stay in Vegas along the Las Vegas Strip.
- How far is Zion National Park from Las Vegas? It takes about 2-3 hours to drive to Zion from Las Vegas. While there are guided tour options from Vegas, I prefer to self-drive.