Staggering red rock cliffs rise dramatically above the Virgin River in Zion National Park, creating an awe-inspiring vista at every turn. The canyon’s natural beauty often leaves visitors breathless and scrambling for their cameras. Whether you prefer to enjoy the scenery from the Floor of the Valley Road or the peak of Angels Landing, Zion National Park offers something extraordinary for everyone. Book a stay at one of many vacation rentals near Zion National Park. The park is spectacular year-round, but each season brings a special twist that enhances your trip. Take a look at the area’s seasonal highlights.

forest park trees
Source: Flickr/U.S. Department of the Interior

Visiting Zion National Park in the Summer

Zion National Park bursts with energy during the summer, the park’s busiest season. Days are hot and dry, with temperatures that frequently reach 100 degrees. As you decide what to pack, be sure to include sunscreen and lightweight clothing; if you plan to hike, it’s essential to bring water bottles or a hydration pack. During the monsoon season, which lasts from the middle of July through September, expect short afternoon thunderstorms. After the rain, keep an eye on the canyon walls for the waterfalls that appear out of nowhere.

All of Zion’s activities and facilities are open during the summer. After a hike, grab an ice cream cone from the Castle Dome Cafe, and enjoy it on the shaded lawn of the Zion Lodge. The upper section of the main park road is closed to cars during the summer, but the free park shuttle makes stops at every viewpoint and trailhead. If you want to explore at your own pace, the road is open to bikes, and the shuttle has bike racks for easy return transportation. Canyon Trail Rides offers horseback trips, and park rangers lead daily walks, talks, and evening programs.

Visiting Zion National Park in the Fall

Fall is spectacular in Zion National Park. The trees along the Virgin River turn to bright yellow and crimson, adding an extra splash of brilliance to the already colorful canyon. The monsoon season is over by late September, and daytime temperatures drop to comfortable 70s and 80s. The mild weather and low precipitation levels make fall the ideal time to hike the park’s trail system and the Narrows. Bring light layers and a lightweight rain shell to account for cooler evenings and unexpected thunderstorms.

Visitor levels in the park die down on weekdays after September, creating a peaceful atmosphere. All of the local tour companies are operating, including Zion Outback Safaris, and the low crowd levels mean you can often find same-day availability. Ranger-led programs continue into mid-October. The park shuttle operates full-time through October; after that, expect seasonal availability on select November weekends.

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Visiting Zion National Park in the Winter

If you’re hoping to have Angels Landing or Observation Point to yourself, winter is the perfect season. Crowd levels drop off dramatically in December and January, allowing lucky visitors to soak in the views in silence. Temperatures often stay in the 50s and 60s during the day, but the occasional cold snap brings snow and ice to the higher regions of the park. Keep in mind that trails in the upper reaches of the canyon may be dangerous on these days; to hike safely, check with a park ranger at the Visitor Center for current conditions. A waterproof, mid-weight jacket is usually enough to keep you warm and dry in the occasional cold wind or rainstorm, though you may find yourself stashing it in your day pack on a hike.

The Zion National Park Shuttle does not operate in the winter, so you can drive the full length of the canyon. If you’re planning to visit the upper Kolob Canyon section of the park, which sits at a higher altitude, be prepared for snowstorms and temporary road closures for plowing. The Castle Dome Cafe at Zion Lodge closes during the winter, but the Red Rock Grill stays open for limited hours. In nearby Springdale, most restaurants stay open year-round, and low visitor levels mean you can get a table at the popular Oscar’s Cafe without a wait.

Visiting Zion National Park in the Spring

Spring is beautiful and unpredictable in Zion. Temperatures can vary drastically depending on the day and where you are in the park; some days reach as high as 90 degrees. Higher elevations, in particular, tend to experience quickly shifting weather. Most days are sunny and clear, but it’s important to be prepared for unexpected snow or rain with water-resistant hiking boots, light layers, and a waterproof outer shell.

The trees in the bottom of the canyon begin to sprout leaves in late March, and from late April through May, wildflowers turn the canyon floor into a riot of fresh color. Keep in mind that the spring runoff at higher altitudes can cause flash floods in the Virgin River. If you want to hike the Narrows, it’s a good idea to book a guided hike with companies such as Zion Adventure Company. An experienced guide can help ensure your safety, and the early season means greater tour availability. Regular shuttle service and ranger-led programs resume in April.

When is the Best Time to Visit Zion National Park?

The best time to visit Zion is fall. The dry weather, comfortable temperatures, and lower visitor levels make this the perfect time to hike popular routes such as Angels Landing, and the vibrant fall colors make for excellent photo opportunities. Early October, in particular, is a great time to enjoy ranger-led activities and local tours without the crowds. Vacation rentals in the area are easier to come by than in the busy summer season, so you can find a cabin with a spectacular view of the canyon.

 
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