Are you thinking of visiting Zion National Park, but your free time falls during the slow season? You may have been looking at hotel prices, but you’re feeling unsure about booking when you realize they’re significantly lower than the average. What is it about the winter season makes Zion so affordable? Why is the town of Springdale expecting so few people?
I sure don’t have an answer. I visited Zion in February, in the heart of winter, and even though my trip was complete with a pretty heavy snowstorm, and I loved it. This is especially surprising, because I HATE winter. Zion was a blessing though.
If you’re still unsure, here are seven reasons to visit Zion National Park in the winter.
Number One: There are no Shuttle Buses
To be absolutely fair, I didn’t really mind the shuttle buses. When I dealt with them, they were timely and mostly empty. But there is definitely something to be said for being able to explore at your own pace, in your own car.
I had breakfast one morning at a pull out deep into the park. When I got disappointed by closed trails, I was able to hop in the car again and continue on. I even explored an area that didn’t have a stop on the shuttle bus route, just because I could.
Independence is something I highly value, and visiting Zion in the winter was definitely a way to embrace my independence.
Number Two: You’ll Have Free Reign of the Park
I know number one sort of mentions this, but having Zion to yourself is more than just being able to drive through it. I’ve heard horror stories of lines of people trekking up angels landing, and two hour wait times for the shuttle buses. I however had mostly independent adventures throughout Zion.
That’s not to say that everything was entirely lonely and quiet, but it was way more tranquil than one would expect of a national parks with more than four million visitors every year.
I often found myself laughing out loud, and one notable time crying, because of the podcast I was listing to on trail, and just when I would think, “huh, I haven’t seen anyone in quite a long time, it’s a relief that they haven’t seen me” I’d run into someone around the next turn. It was honestly quite a perfect amount of human interaction, and escape from such pressures.
Number Three: The Sounds of Falling Ice
I don’t have a whole lot to say about this, but it is super cool to hear the crashing of ice from within the canyon. Do you remember being a kid, and learning what an echo is for the first time? Specifically your first time experiencing it? It was the ABSOLUTE COOLEST. You would yell, and sing, and make every weird noise you could, just to hear it echo.
Hearing the ice crash in Zion is sort of like that. It is tempting to yell and sing and make every weird noise you can, but ya know, you’re a fairly respectable human and know that maybe you shouldn’t be causing a scene. So instead you listen to the ice do it for you.
Number Four: The Windows of Your Car are More Accommodating than the Shuttle
So, again, this one sounds sorta similar to numbers one and two, but really I think it deserves an independent number on a list.
Going through Zion is beautiful, whether it’s a car, in the shuttle, on a bicycle, or on foot. I’d imagine kayak and helicopter would be too. Or camelback or via sled dog. Either way, the point of this is that Zion is gorgeous.
But, unless you want to be hopping around the shuttle, from the left side to the right side every other second, (which I’m pretty sure is against the rules) your own car will be so much more accommodating. Being able to see out both side windows, and the windshield, means that you’ll have the most unobstructed sight of the incredible canyon that you’re driving through.
Number Five: People Kind of Suck Less.
Number Five: People Have an Awesome Creative Outlet
So let’s be honest about something, humans have done some super cool stuff, but most of it has been driven by a terrible need to leave our mark in different places. I’m specifically thinking of the moon here.
When it comes to the moon, and astronauts who have trained their whole lives to do this one thing, I’m okay with them throwing a flag up, and leaving footprints that might not ever go away.
When it comes to our national parks, and you’re the ten millionth person to pass by a rock face, I am decidedly not okay with you carving your name on it.
You’ve done nothing special to deserve permanent recognition, yet you feel the need to leave your mark anyway.
All of this is so frustrating, especially since it devalues the experience of every single person who comes after you. But, enough of my little rant, because here’s the great thing. Visiting Zion in the wintertime means that there will probably be snow. And the people who feel the need to leave their mark, do so in the snow. Either by writing in it, or building adorable snowmen, there were a ton of people who succumbed to their baser instincts and left their mark. Knowing that it will melt away soon enough makes me actually appreciate these humans and their creativity. And that is something that just isn’t possible in the summer.
Number Six: More Wildlife Opportunities
I don’t know if anyone else has ever noticed this, but most wild animals don’t really like humans. And it’s pretty easy for them to stay away from us. We smell foreign and our scent is inescapable, and we’re pretty good at making noise, from talking or stomping our way through the forest.
So naturally, the more people there are, the easier it is for the wildlife to avoid us. When there are only a few of you passing through the park, you’re more likely to run into some wildlife.
Personally, I caught some bighorn sheep, some mule deer, and I followed countless birds through the trails. I truly believe that I was one of the lucky Zion visitors, but part of being lucky is creating better circumstances. And exploring away from the crowd is a great way to make better luck.
Number Seven: Incredible Temperatures, and Stunning Snowfalls
Admittedly during my trip I experienced single digit temperatures, and that was definitely not ideal, but it was also out of the ordinary for Zion. Typically during the winter months the temperatures are pretty mild. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather climb mountains in cool weather than in the 100+ degree weather of Zion’s summers.
On another note, the red rocks of Zion are gorgeous in their own right, but add a layer of snow on them, and the contrast is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, and might be why I consider Zion to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve been.
So fret no more! There are at least seven reasons for you to head to southern Utah in the winter months. Just pack your warm boots, and a pair of gloves, and you’ll have a great time.