When to capture a little piece of heaven in Utah's Zion National Park
Home to wild rivers, twisting slot canyons and towering pink sandstone cliffs, Utah's Zion National Park offers one of America's most mesmerizing landscapes. There simply isn't a time of year when Zion is anything short of stunning, but timing is still important. The weather can change in an instant, and Zion National Park's location less than three hours from Las Vegas makes it a very popular place at certain times. Time your visit carefully to get the most out of the trip.
Pick your season
Overall, spring and fall offer the best options for visiting Zion National Park, with comfortable temperatures in the 70s and 80s, occasionally creeping up over 90 at the lower elevations. Summers can get very hot, with 100-degree days fairly common. Winters are often surprisingly cold, with daytime highs in the 50s, and nighttime lows frequently dip below freezing. Most park facilities operate year-round,however, making winter a good time to visit if you don't mind the cold.
Catch the best weather
Climate varies not only by season, but also by location, as Zion's diverse landscape creates dramatic changes in weather. Generally, March is the rainiest month, but there is also a monsoon season that occurs between July and September that can pose a flash-flooding risk in some areas. Snow is common starting in December, especially in the upper elevations. At Zion Canyon, for example, half of the annual precipitation falls between December and March. Spring snow-melt can also cause the water level in creeks and rivers to fluctuate rapidly. Fall is the most reliably dry season, making it a good option if you don't want to roll the dice on the weather.
Avoid the crowds
Summer is by far the busiest season at Zion National Park, with the number of monthly visitors peaking at more than 600,000 in July. The earlier or later in the year you visit, the smaller the crowds, but it's fair to expect to see a lot of people from April right through October. Winter is considerably less busy, with January the least-crowded month. Visiting during the off-season between November and March also makes it easier to secure a spot in one of Zion's campgrounds, which often fill up quickly in summer.
Hike the Narrows
If you're planning to hike through the Narrows, the narrowest part of Zion Canyon and one of the park's most iconic locations, be sure to pay extra attention to the calendar and the weather forecast. Late spring and early summer are the most popular times to hike the Narrows because the hike requires you to get your feet wet, and the water is warmest during this period. But spring and summer storms can cause sudden and potentially deadly flash floods, and it's easy to become stranded by the water, or worse. The water might be a little chillier in fall, but it's a far safer season to explore the Narrows.