Seasons in Zion National Park
Having visited Zion in three seasons now, I can attest that there is something worth seeing in the park at almost any time of year:
Winters are cold and marked with significant reductions in trail access due to snow and ice, but provide a chance to see the great canyon walls without the hum of shuttle buses and fellow travelers. Be prepared for limited services in the nearby town of Springdale and within the park itself. Spring is characterized by variable, though generally pleasant weather. Though I have not been in summer, I know this is considered the busy season and temperatures can also get quite hot outside the shadows of the canyons. On the plus side, warmer weather makes hiking along and into the slot canyon at the far end of the park more manageable and the locals are on top of their service game for the influx of tourists. During the fall season, some of the parks trees shed their leaves, resulting in some interesting colors and then a sort of stark but pleasant gray and white appearance against the red background of the canyons.
Here is an annual average temperature chart:
So When do I Go?
Since Zion can be visited most any time of year, when to go comes down more to what you are hoping to do while in the park, the length of your stay, and vacation schedule flexibility. If a short pass-through visit is all you desire, the time of year doesn’t matter much at all, so go when available. If significant hiking is a priority, spring and fall are probably the best times (for great bargains on lightly used bikes and outdoor apparel & equipment, visit around Thanksgiving to take advantage of seasonal sales at the Zion Outdoor and Zion Cycles). The trails can be closed because of snow and ice, so a good rule of thumb is probably no later than Thanksgiving weekend in the fall and for spring, try to wait until the average nightly temperature stays above freezing (April). You can also reference this Zion visitation statistics chart for a sense of when others visit (either so you can avoid them, or join them during the good times).
Getting to Zion National Park
Zion is located in southern Utah, with Bryce Canyon and a host of other state and national parks to the north, Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam to the east, and the north rim of the Grand Canyon to the south. As such, Zion is often one stop on a larger trip of the southwestern United States. In combining some or all of these elements, expect lots of desert driving with the potential for windy conditions between points of interest.
If Zion National Park is the main attraction, most visitors will find it easiest to fly into McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, where cheap overnight accommodations are easy to come by and every rental car company on earth competes for your business in the new rental car center. The rental center is a short, free shuttle ride from arrivals, but travelers should factor in the ride to and from when considering arrival and departure times. Flying into McCarran also affords Zion visitors the opportunity to find true polarity between the city sights and lights of Vegas and the wilds of southern Utah. From McCarran’s rental car center, it takes about 2.5-3 hours to reach Zion. Along the way, opportunities to stop for food and gas are sparse, but the town of Mesquite (1:15 into the drive) and then the larger city of St. George (1:45 into the drive) both make a good break in the otherwise lonesome drive along I-15.
Other posts on Zion National Park: