During winter, southern Utah’s famed red rock country becomes a land of contrasts as the vermillion cliffs, hoodoos and colorful monoliths get dusted with stark white snow. In this desert winter wonderland, visitors can enjoy some of the most pristine landscapes in the country without overwhelming crowds that flood the parks the majority of the year. Find solace on the trails, drive roads that are usually closed to private vehicles and take advantage of the off-peak prices. However, exploring in winter comes with its own share of challenges; park services are limited, not all sites are accessible and temperatures can get frigid. Before you set off on your adventure, be mindful of the weather forecast; pack plenty of layers and winter hiking gear, and research road conditions to ensure your trip is fun and safe.
Zion National Park
Bighorn Sheep were reintroduced to Zion in the 1970s and are frequently seen between the Mount Carmel Tunnel and the East Entrance.
Considered one of the most majestic national parks in the nation, Zion’s most prominent feature is Zion Canyon, nearly 15-miles long and up to 2,640-feet deep. One of its less attractive features is the crowds, as it’s the third most visited National Park in the country. To beat the 20,000-per-day summer visitors, head to Zion during the winter, where you’ll find plenty of solitude while out on the trails. The other bonus about visiting between December and February is the fact that you can drive to almost all of the trailheads along Zion Scenic Drive, which is closed to private vehicles and only accessed by shuttle buses the majority of the year.
Though evenings are chilly, daytime temps hover in the 50s, providing comfortable weather for strenuous hikes. Luckily, Zion Canyon’s low elevation means snow rarely makes it to the floor, and if it does, it quickly melts. However, on the peaks and higher elevations, expect snow and ice.
Frankie, our faithful watch goat, stands guard at our trailer parked at Lone Rock Beach on Lake Powell.