Zion National Park brings millions of visitors each year to enjoy its scenic hikes that weave through the desert environment at the corners of Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. This also makes it one of the most visited national parks in the country and it ranks high on many hiker's, and camper's bucket lists. Over the last few years, the park has only seen more people wanting to explore this remote wilderness and it's easy to see why - its somewhat otherworldly landscapes and breathtaking canyon vistas rival that of any other park (except the Grand Canyon) in the country.
Find the right time to visit a national park such as this, though, can be tricky. Just as one wouldn't visit a high-altitude alpine park in the dead of winter, one wouldn't typically go for a strenuous hike in Zion at the peak of the summer. There is a 'best' time to visit this beautiful park and, while you're there, add these to your itinerary.
Weather In Zion National Park
The biome of Zion National Park is rather unique in the sense that it experiences a wide range of temperatures and weather patterns depending on the time of the year. During the summer and winter months, the region experiences extremes of both seasons - with summers being extraordinarily hot and winters being cold enough to bring snow. The park also has a monsoon season and during the months of January, February, and March, there are typically anywhere from seven to eight days of full precipitation which can cause flash flooding, according to Wildland Trekking. These weather conditions apply to both Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon so it's always better to check the weather report prior to heading out.
With that being said, the real question is this: when is the best time to explore this popular park? Undeniably, it's during the fall season. There are a number of reasons as to why this is the best time to head down to Zion; the first, obviously, is the heat. Arizona summers can be brutal and while temperatures might cool off later in the day at Zion when the sun is overhead, it's going to feel exactly like the desert environment that it is. During the months of September and October, the average precipitation is limited to just four days or so which means for an overwhelming majority of the month, there are plenty of nice, sunny days on which to trek its many hiking trails or stay at its campgrounds.
Those who plan to hike should plan trips around the fall season since more trails are open due to the lack of flood threats. Alternatively, the spring season - between the months of April and May, might see a day or two more of precipitation, but these are the best for backpackers who are looking to spend long durations of time on the park's trails since the park itself sees fewer visitors during this time frame.
What To Do When You Get There
Zion National Park was recently given official Dark Sky Status which means it has now joined the ranks of other dark sky parks around the world. In order to achieve this, a park must be practically devoid of light pollution in order to see astronomical features that aren't usually visible to the human eye without the use of a telescope or binoculars. With the park's new status, visitors will notice an uptick in events that will occur after dark, and these are definitely something to take advantage of.
Of course, hiking is one of the most popular activities at the park. With so many trails, it can be overwhelming trying to decide which one is worth spending an entire day (or several) on, and this is where guided tours can help. Not only will hikers have the chance to learn about the area from an experienced guide but they'll also have the reassurance that comes with a well-versed hiker, familiar with the trails. Some of these guided tours are all-inclusive which means that meals and extras are included, helping to curve the cost and take the stress out of planning a Zion excursion.
For those seeking to explore the park on their own, fear not - other hikers and visitors are almost always around, and trails are well-marked with blazes. Trails vary in difficulty from treks such as Angel's Landing and Observation Point, which both require a degree of tactical hiking (and require that hikers leave their fear of heights at home), as well as trails like Canyon Overlook and Emerald Pools. Both of the latter are easier hikes and the first is family-friendly while also providing spectacular views along the way.