Zion National Park is located in the Southwestern United States, near Springdale, Utah. A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile (590 km2) park is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles (24 km) long and up to half a mile (800 m) deep, cut through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River. The lowest elevation is 3,666 ft (1,117 m) at Coalpits Wash and the highest elevation is 8,726 ft (2,660 m) at Horse Ranch Mountain. Located at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert regions, the park’s unique geography and variety of life zones allow for unusual plant and animal diversity. Numerous plant species as well as 289 species of birds, 75 mammals (including 19 species of bat), and 32 reptiles inhabit the park’s four life zones: desert, riparian, woodland, and coniferous forest. This Park includes mountains, canyons, buttes, mesas, monoliths, rivers, slot canyons, and natural arches.
Springdale is in the heart of Zion, and though it may not be the actual “dwelling place of God,” it certainly is a paradise to hikers, bikers, climbers and tourists looking for creature comforts in nature’s most spectacular setting. We invite you to stay with us any season of the year, and experience life in the midst of a world-class wonderland.
Zion Weather, Typical annual conditions, and what to expect on your visit!
Zion is in the heart of Southern Utah, which has some extreme variance in weather depending on the current times of year and weather patterns. Southern Utah sits in higher elevations like Zion Park, and have 4 main seasons summer, fall, winter, and spring! This is defiantly something to keep in mind as you look to prepare your next trip to this Park.
Winter Weather in Zion
Zion during winter (November- February) months the park is slow but it is still open and draws many visitors. The lowest recorded temperature in the park was -20 Degrees F. in 1989. Winter months typically have a much higher average of precipitation and will receive both rain and snow. December is the coldest months of the year in Zion so take that into consideration if you plan to enter the park then. Plan on bringing a big coat or layers with a wind proof jacket during your winter months in Zion.
Winters in Zion are cold and often wet. Temperatures can range from highs of 50-60°F during the day to lows well below freezing at night. Nearly half of the annual precipitation in Zion Canyon falls between the months of December and March. Roads are plowed, but trails may be closed due to snow and ice. After winter storms, snow typically disappears within a matter of hours at lower elevations. At higher elevations, the snow accumulates. As temperatures rise in spring, melting snow causes high water levels in the Virgin River and its tributaries.
Zion Park Summer Weather
In the summer (June- September) months it can be very hot with extremely low humidity making it feel much hotter than you actually think it is. This makes staying hydrated a little harder to do during that time of year, but obviously really important. Zion is higher in elevation and is considered the high mountain dessert, so the UV rays are much more intense. Sunscreen is a great idea for outdoor recreating through your summer months. These are some things to think about when planning your trip to the park. The highest recorded temperature in Zion was 104 degrees F. in 1985. July is always the hottest months of the year in the park but it still cools down in the evening through mid-morning.
In summer, temperatures in this Park often exceed 100°F/38°C. Higher elevations may have temperatures in excess of 90°F/32°C. Zion experiences monsoons from mid-July into September that results in an increased risk of flash floods. Always be aware of the threat of thunderstorms and lightning and be prepared for a wide range of weather conditions. Temperatures in the park can vary dramatically with changes in elevation and the time of day. Day and night temperatures can differ by over 30°F/17°C. Consider dressing in layers to prepare for changes in temperature.
Fall and Spring Weather in Zion is Prime
This Park during the mild fall and spring months of the year, typically have the best temperatures and see no extremes temperatures generally. With the average daytime high temperatures being around 70 degree’s in the mild spring and fall months, it makes for a great choice. Generally Zion Park traffic is not at its peak either with all facilities and businesses being open. Most of these mild months are T-Shirt and shorts weather, but it’s always a good idea to keep a jacket nearby.
In fall, the heat of the summer gives way to cooler temperatures and drier weather, making it an ideal time to visit Zion National Park. Along the Virgin River, cottonwoods turn golden yellow and bigtooth maples add splashes of scarlet to the canyons and trails. Favorable conditions prevail for hiking and canyoneering, but be sure to check the weather forecast, flash flood potential ratings, and the temperature of the river before exploring the park. Day and night temperatures can differ by over 30°F/17°C. Consider dressing in layers to prepare for changes in temperature.
Be prepared for a wide range of weather conditions. In spring, wet weather is not unusual, but warm, sunny weather is typical. Maximum temperatures rarely exceed 90°F/32°C; however, temperatures in the park can vary dramatically with changes in elevation and the time of day. Day and night temperatures can differ by over 30°F/17°C. Mornings and evenings can be cool. Consider dressing in layers to prepare for changes in temperature. Precipitation peaks in March. High water levels due to snowmelt often continue into late May. Abundant wildflowers bloom from April through June and peak in May.
Zion National Park Activities
Guided horseback riding trips, nature walks, and evening programs are available from late March to early November. The Junior Ranger Program for ages 6 to 12 is active from Memorial Day to Labor Day at the Zion Nature Center. Rangers at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center and the smaller Kolob Canyons Visitor Center can help visitors plan their stay. A bookstore attached to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, run by the Zion Natural History Association, offers books, maps, and souvenirs for sale, with proceeds benefiting the park.The Grotto in Zion Canyon, the Visitor Center, and the viewpoint at the end of Kolob Canyons Road have the only designated picnic sites.
Seven trails with round-trip times of half an hour (Weeping Rock) to 4 hours (Angels Landing) are found in Zion Canyon. Two popular trails, Taylor Creek (4 hours round trip) and Kolob Arch (8 hours round trip), are in the Kolob Canyons section of the park, near Cedar City. Hiking up into The Narrows from the Temple of Sinawava is popular in summer. However, hiking beyond Big Springs requires a permit. The entire Narrows from Chamberlain’s Ranch is a 16-mile one way trip that typically takes 12 hours of strenuous hiking.
A shorter alternative is to enter the Narrows via Orderville Canyon. Both Orderville and the full Narrows require a back country permit. Entrance to the Parunuweap Canyon section of the park downstream of Labyrinth Falls is prohibited. Other often-used backcountry trails include the West Rim and LaVerkin Creek. The more primitive sections of Zion include the Kolob Terrace and the Kolob Canyons. Zion is a center for rock climbing, with short walls like Touchstone, Moonlight Buttress, Spaceshot, and Prodigal Son being very popular.
It’s not necessary to venture off the road to experience the wonders of Zion National Park. Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is a 6-mile road that follows the North Fork of the Virgin River upstream from Canyon Junction through some of Zion’s most outstanding scenery. This road is closed to vehicle traffic from April to October, but regularly scheduled shuttle busses provide a great way to relax and enjoy the scenery, or stop to take a hike and then catch a later bus back down the canyon.
The Zion Park Scenic Byway (54 miles one way) follows Highway 9 from its western terminus at exit 16 on I-15 to its eastern junction with US 89 at Mount Carmel Junction. The road east from Zion to Mount Carmel Junction, completed in 1930, was considered one of the great road-building accomplishments in history at the time. As you climb switchbacks from the canyon floor to the two high plateaus to the east, passing through two narrow tunnels blasted through the cliffs, you will understand why it created such a sensation.
The Kolob Fingers Road Scenic Byway (5 miles one way) in the northwestern corner of this park features the same dramatic desert landscape associated with the main section of the park: towering colored cliffs, narrow winding canyons, forested plateaus, and wooded trails along twisting side canyons. What you probably will not find here are the crowds of visitors, so this is a great place to explore if you are seeking solitude.
Birding and Wildlife Watching
With more than 200 species of birds, Zion National Park is a birder’s paradise. The Peregrine falcon, the bald eagle, and the California condor are all found in the 232 square mile sanctuary of Zion, nesting and resting in their native habitat without being disturbed. The threatened Mexican spotted owl also calls Zion home.
Zion National Park is an official global and state IBA (Important Bird Area), and Zion has been an important part of the recovery effort for the majestic Peregrine falcon, a species which was almost lost from the United States in the 1970s due to the use of DDT and other pesticides.
The park bird list is available at the visitor centers. So grab your best pair of binoculars and start looking toward the sky! Who knows what birds you might see and check off your life list. And while searching for birds, make sure you take time to observe other flora and fauna while walking along the trail, including the more than 1,000 plant species found in Zion as well as dozens of species of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians – even fish!
Hotels and lodges are great, but if you really want to immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Zion National Park, then camping is a great way to do it.
Watchman Campground and South Campground are located in Zion Canyon and are quite popular, especially mid-March through November, so either make a reservation (Watchman only) or show up early in the day to get a site.
Watchman Campground, named for The Watchman, a famous rock formation that stretches 6,545 feet into the heavens, is situated on a bench above the North Fork Virgin River. Hackberry, ash, and cottonwood trees serve to shade campers. Watchman is the largest campground in the park with almost 200 sites, including group and walk-in sites.
South Campground is smaller (127 sites, no reservations) and is also located along the river. Campsites are shaded compliments of netleaf hackberries and Fremont cottonwoods.
Lava Point Campground is smaller (6 sites, no reservations and no water) and more primitive, ideally suited to tent campers, vans, and truck campers. The campground is located in north-central Zion and sits at 7,900 feet of elevation. For a magnificent view of the park and beyond, you can walk to the Lava Point Fire Lookout a few hundred yards to the east. From the lookout you can see the Pink Cliffs, The Narrows, and features such as The Sentinel in Zion Canyon. Don’t forget to bring your camera because this is one view you will want to bring home from vacation!
Canyoneering and Rock Climbing
Canyoneering is also one of the more popular things to do in Zion. However, it is a serious endeavor that often involves rappelling, swimming, and other skills. Those interested in canyoneering should contact one of the guide services that teach courses and lead trips into the park.
Anybody who has ever stood beneath a sheer rock wall in Zion National Park and gazed up at a climber scaling the heights like a lizard has felt the tug of curiosity: What would it be like to do that? Could I do that? The answer is yes.
Make no mistake, Zion National Park is a true adventure climbing arena. The big walls are serious endeavors, and the bushwhacking approaches through inhospitable terrain are legendary.
Zion Helicopter Tours
Zion Helicopters scenic tours offer breathtaking views of Zion National Park, Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, and many other beautiful parks and attractions that Southern Utah has to offer. We have 3 amazing tours to and around Zion National Park and the beautiful surrounding areas.
-Our 45 Mile Zion Tour our takes you Eastbound over the Virgin River and above Springdale into the gateway area of Zion Canyon to capture stunning world famous views of Zion National Park.
-Our 70 Mile Zion Tour takes flight over Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, and also takes in beautiful Kolob Canyon views from Smith Mesa heading to the infamous Zion National Park entrance and Canaan Mountain Wilderness Area. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for Desert Bighorn Sheep on this popular tour.
-Our 90 Mile Zion Tour is a once in a lifetime flight with aerial views of Kolob Canyon, Smith Mesa and the equally stunning surrounding areas on your way to see amazing views of Zion National Park. This tour also includes an amazing adventure over the Canaan Mountain Wilderness area.
-Our 100 Mile Ultimate Tour combines our very popular 45mile St. George Snow Canyon Tour with our 45mile Zion Tour and also includes an extended loop through the rarely seen Canaan Mountain Wilderness Area with some of the most beautiful canyon areas you will ever see.
You will be mesmerized by unbelievable sights while flying over dramatic and colorful cliffs, and right through unbelievably beautiful canyons. Our friendly staff is ready to make sure you have the most amazing scenic helicopter experience of a lifetime.
Zion Travel Tips
Tips for Hiking in Arid Lands
Hiking in Zion National Park and surrounding areas poses challenges that are encountered nowhere else. Much of southwestern Utah’s public land is free of conventional trails, and hikers may have to rely on their map and compass skills to find their way. The defining feature of the region is “slickrock,” in which vast expanses of sculpted sandstone have been scoured bare by wind and water.
As its name suggests, slickrock can be very slippery when it gets wet. Trails and routes that cross slickrock will be marked only with cairns, if they are marked at all.
Hikers who travel through canyons should remain constantly aware that it is much easier to climb up a slickrock face than it is to descend one. Local Search and Rescue teams are routinely called to rescue hikers who ventured up onto ledges from which it was impossible to descend.
Be Aware of the Weather
Perhaps the most obvious challenge in desert hiking is the extreme weather. During the hottest parts of the day, the temperature can reach 120°F several feet above the floor of the low desert. Summer hikers should wear broad-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, and baggy pants to protect themselves from the intensity of the desert sun. Cover exposed skin with sunscreen lotion. Take a lesson from the local wildlife and hike in the cool of the mornings and evenings, and rest in the shade during the heat of the day.
Learn How to Follow a Faint Path
Many of the most popular treks in this corner of Utah exist only as primitive routes that may not be marked at all. Visitors to backcountry areas should have a few elementary trail-finding skills in their bag of tricks, in case a trail peters out or a snowfall covers the path. A topographic map and compass, and the ability to use them, are essential insurance against disaster when a trail takes a wrong turn or disappears completely. (A GPS unit can also be a big help, but always carry a compass and paper map as a back up!)
Drink Plenty of Water
Perhaps one of the most important Zion National Park tips is to drink lots of water. The desert air wicks moisture away from the body at an amazing rate, and active hikers should plan to drink about a gallon of water per day during their trip. Desert water sources may run dry for part of the year and often contain exotic microbes that can cause intestinal disorders. Always carry enough water to meet your daily needs, and filter all surface water to remove the harmful microbes.
Avoid Stings and Bites
Many desert-dwelling animals have evolved poisons, and they may bite or sting when provoked. The rattlesnake is the most notorious of these, although its reputation for aggressiveness is undeserved. This nocturnal predator will flee when given a chance, and it rarely bites unless it is surprised or cornered. To avoid snakebites always watch where you put your hands and feet and avoid reaching into dark places or overturning boulders. This practice will also help you avoid scorpions, most of which have painful stings. Scorpions like to hide in dark, moist places; hikers who leave their boots outside overnight may be in for a nasty surprise in the morning.
A few additional Zion National Park tips and tricks, noted below, may aid a traveler in such a time of need.
- Maintained trails in southwestern Utah are typically marked in a variety of ways. Signs bearing the name and/or number of the trail are present at some trail junctions, although weathering and inconsiderate visitors sometimes remove these plaques. Do not rely on these signs to contain mileage information.
- Along the trail several kinds of markers indicate the location of maintained trails. In forested areas, cuts in the bark of living tree—known as blazes—are made immediately beside the path. In spots where a trail crosses a gravel streambed or bare slickrock, piles of rocks called cairns mark the route. These cairns are typically constructed of three or more stones piled atop one another, a formation that almost never occurs naturally.
- In the case of an extremely overgrown trail, markings of any kind may be impossible to find. On such a trail the techniques used to build the trail serve as clues to its location. Well-constructed trails have rather wide, flat beds. Let your feet seek the flat spots when traveling through tall brush, and you will almost always find yourself on the trail. Look for “check dams” and other rock-work on the trail that may have been put in place to prevent erosion. Old sawed logs from previous trail maintenance can be used to navigate in spots where the trailbed is obscured; if you find a sawed log, then you must be on a trail that was maintained at some point in time. Switchbacks are also a sure sign of an official trail; wild game travels in straight lines, and horsemen traveling off-trail seldom bother to zigzag across hillsides. Previous travelers can also leave clues to the location of old trails; watch for footprints or hoof marks as you travel.
- When attempting to find a trail that has disappeared, ask yourself where the most logical place would be to build a trail given its source and destination. Trail builders tend to seek level ground where it is available, and they often follow the natural contours of streamcourses and ridgelines. Bear in mind that most trails avoid up-and-down motion in favor of long, sustained grades culminating in major passes or hilltops. Old trailbeds can sometimes be spotted from a distance as they cut across hillsides at a constant angle.
Plan Your Trip
With daily national and international flight services into Salt Lake City International Airport, getting to Utah has never been easier. A flight into Salt Lake City puts you less than an hour from from the Greatest Snow on Earth® at eleven of our world class ski resorts.
Within three-and-a-half to four hours after arriving at Salt Lake City International Airport, you could be on a hike to the iconic Delicate Arch at Arches National Park, basking in the sunset atop the dramatic cliffs of Dead Horse Point State Park, or hiking between a forest of hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park.
Zion National Park, Utah’s first and most visited national park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Brian Head Ski Resort, and Bryce Canyon National Park are easily accessed by a flight into the new St. George Airport, which can have you in Zion National Park in 40 minutes after touchdown.
Positioned conveniently at key points throughout the state of Utah are Welcome Centers, Convention and Visitor Bureaus, and Traveler’s Information Centers. Tourism is important to Utah’s economy and Utah, as a state and as a people, like to show hospitality to visitors by ensuring that travel information, maps, and information specialists are easily available.
You’ve got your sights set on Utah for your next adventure? You’re looking at the nation’s 13th-largest state by area, home to endless outdoor recreation, stunning red rock landscapes, vast forests on high mountain ranges, and exciting cities.
Where do you begin? Getting here is the easy part. Even traveling around Utah is easy thanks to excellent highway infrastructure and other transportation options at the crossroads of the American West.
Here are several itineraries to help you plan your Utah vacation, whether you’re looking for a road trip with adventure stops, a deep dive in Utah’s Mighty 5 national parks or one of several other ways of experiencing Utah’s unique blend of wide-open spaces, deep powder and sophisticated culture.
Anglers Delight is a 5-day journey to one of the most diverse and prolific fisheries in the West: Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area and Green River. This is Blue-Ribbon, trophy-trout fishing at its finest. Dino Trekker is a a full immersion, 7-day trip through the incredible dinosaur fossil record of Utah’s own Jurassic World and incredible national parks. Our Must-Do Road Trip Itineraries include seven (and counting) scenic and adventurous road trips that encounter a range of top Utah destinations and lesser-known attractions while The Mighty 5 covers our popular 3, 5, 7 and 10-day itineraries exploring some — or all — of Utah’s five spectacular national parks.