With comfortable temperatures throughout the year, Zion National Park offers plenty of activities in winter, spring, summer, and fall.
While hiking is perhaps the most popular activity in the park regardless of the time of year, other experiences such as canyoneering, biking, and camping also offer excellent ways to experience all that the park has to offer.
Here are the best things to do at Zion National Park.
Things to do in summer
Go for a hike
Hiking is ideal in Zion National Park during the summer. The park features a variety of different hikes for all levels ranging from hard to easy. Trails that head to high altitudes offer incredible scenic overlooks and amazing panoramic views of the park’s terrain.
Head to the valley floor and you can find trails that weave through the park’s many canyons, offering close up views of the stratified orange and cream-colored sandstone that adds so much beauty to this park’s terrain.
And, if you’re not confident in your own abilities to navigate this rugged terrain, there are plenty of outfitters in the area who provide guided hikes for a nominal fee. Just make sure to take along plenty of water, as temperatures can reach over 90 degrees in the summer.
Read More : What Should I Bring for A Day Hike?
Visit Kolob Canyons
Much of Zion Park is crowded during the summer months, forcing you to bump elbows with other visitors as you try to take in the amazing scenery. One area that is not is Kolob Canyons, which is located in the park’s northwest corner out of the way of its main attractions.
Although it may not be as popular as the main part of the park, there are plenty of reasons to make the trek. Kolob Canyons features a scenic landscape that features a narrow box canyon with 2,000 foot high red-orange walls.
You can drive through this canyon or take one of the many hiking trails that weave in and around it. There are even multi-day backpacking options for those hardy outdoor enthusiasts. Temperatures also tend to be cooler in the canyons, with highs peaking in the mid-80s.
Canyoneering is one of the best ways to experience the park’s most prominent natural features: its canyons. Zion has dozens of canyons that can be explored. And, depending on your comfort level, you can go as extreme as you like.
Canyoneering activities range from hiking to repelling down canyon walls to squeezing through narrow passageways that are barely wide enough to fit through. The park offers a wide range of experience for beginners and experts alike.
The best canyoneering locations include The Narrows, which is an excellent way of exploring Zion’s slot canyons. More challenging canyoneering experiences that involve swimming and rappelling include the Subway and Orderville Canyon.
Things to do in fall
There are many cycling options in Zion National park and the cooler temperatures of the fall afford an excellent time for doing that. Biking through Zion allows you to see the high red rock cliffs more intimately than in a car or a crowded shuttle.
There are several popular routes to take by bike, Pa’rus Trail offers a winding 2.5-mile route on a paved trail that allows you to enjoy the sites without competing with road traffic. Zion Canyon Scenic Trail allows you to cycle all the way to the Narrows and back with a steady climb of a few hundred feet. As the 6-mile roadway is closed to all but shuttles, you can enjoy this ride without having to compete with heavy traffic.
While you can’t bike through Mt. Carmel Tunnel, you can bike to it. This is an excellent challenge for serious cyclists as the ride on highway 9 to the tunnel ascends some 900 feet unjust three miles.
Take an autumn hike
While almost anytime is a great time to hike in Zion National Park, autumn is a particularly good time as the crowds have thinned, allowing you to hit some of the more popular trails without having to hunt for parking spaces or rub elbows with other visitors on the trail.
Temperatures are also much cooler in the fall, allowing for more comfortable hikes. And, with lower water levels, it’s easier to take on some of the park’s hikes that incorporate stream crossings and wading.
Popular hikes to visit in the fall include Angel’s Landing and Observation Point, both of which can get quite busy in the summertime.
Zion’s campgrounds are busy in the summertime. And, since there are only three in the entire park, getting a reservation at some of the most popular sites can be impossible if you don’t plan well in advance. The crowds begin to thin out in the fall, allowing you to get into the park’s campgrounds even when making late plans.
The fall temperatures also make camping much more attractive in the fall. Whereas temperatures can routinely reach into the 90s in the summer, autumn sees much more temperature highs in the low 80s.
Read More : What to Pack for A Family Camping Trip?
Things to do in winter
Winter is arguably the best time to view wildlife in the park. This is the time that the park’s larger inhabitants, including deer, elk, and Bighorn sheep are most visible. The park also has a large population of wild turkey. If you look up, you’ll also be treated to bald eagles and golden eagles, which soar over the park in the wintertime.
Angels Landing provides the best opportunity to see eagles and peregrine falcons as well as the park’s population of mule deer. Other excellent trails for viewing wildlife include the Narrows Riverside Walk and the Watchman trail.
Enjoy the winter scenery
Zion National Park doesn’t see much snowfall each year. In fact, annual precipitation is pretty scant throughout the entire park. However, some of the higher elevations do see snow cover.
This is an excellent time to hike to some of the park’s higher elevations to see its beautiful orange and red rock bedecked in a layer of white. Lower elevations offer unique experiences during the winter as well, as melting snow leads to higher water levels in the Virgin River, resulting in more spectacular waterfalls.
Just be sure to pack accordingly as winter temperatures can fall below freezing in the park.
Not to sound like a broken record, but hiking is a year-round activity in Zion National Park. And, since it’s the number one thing to do in the park, it makes sense to include it in each season. Winter is arguably the best time to go hiking in the park.
Even in wintertime, daytime temperatures are comfortable, reaching or eclipsing 50 degrees on average throughout the season. And, since winter is the park’s low season, you can enjoy solitude on many popular hikes that are swarming with visitors in the warmer months.
Most of the park’s trails are open in the winter with the best options being Weeping Rock, Angels landing, Riverside Walk and Emerald Pools.
Things to do in spring
Hunt for waterfalls
Zion National Park sees the bulk of its annual precipitation in the spring. That coupled with the melting snows, makes this the best time to view the park’s amazing waterfalls.
Zion’s waterfalls run through small channels at the top of the canyons before exploding over canyon walls and tumbling down into the Virgin River below, rushing through the Narrows.
While this is an excellent time to enjoy these seasonal waterfalls, this isn’t a good time to enter the park’s slot canyons, which can on occasion experience dangerous flash flooding, so plan accordingly.
View the wildflowers
The rain and snow melt of March brings wildflowers in the late spring, making this an excellent time to go hiking. Check out the park’s lower elevation hikes and scenic overlooks to see its collection of desert marigolds, and western Columbine, Slickrock Paintbrush among a whole host of other varieties.
These colorful flowers create a burst of color against the red rocks of the park’s canyons and peaks. Some of the best trails for wildflower viewing include the Weeping Rock and Emerald Pools trails.
Observe the baby animals
Flowers aren’t the only new arrivals to the park in spring. The warmer temperatures also see the birth of many different species of wildlife ranging from mammals to bird to reptiles. Be on the lookout for baby Bighorn sheep, wild turkeys, mule deer among others.
Angels Landing Trail offers the best opportunity to see the park’s new editions. As you hike, be aware of some of the park’s more dangerous animals, which also emerge with the warmer temperatures, including rattlesnakes.
Things to do with kids
Take a scenic drive
Sometimes hiking isn’t doable for kids, especially if you have small children. That doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the beautiful scenery the park has to offer. Take a scenic drive with the family.
Your best option is the 12-mile Mt. Carmel Highway, which offers a variety of pull-offs including Checkerboard Mesa and Canyon Overlook Trail. The road connects the South and east entrances of the park and traverses a long winding road of switchbacks. It also goes through a 1-mile long historic tunnel.
Explore the river
The Virgin River rambles through Zion National Park with numerous low water points that are perfect for playing in the river. This allows the kids to cool off during the hot summer months while also experiencing the tremendous beauty of the park.
They can even spend time trying to catch frogs and other inhabitants of the river. Access points can be found on the Pa’rus and Riverside Trails.
Bike the Pa’rus Trail
It’s hard to imagine a better biking experience with kids than what the Pa’rus Trail has to offer. At just 1.75 miles, this paved bike path is the perfect length for younger kids and there’s no traffic to worry about.
And, you’d be hard-pressed to find better views on any bike path in the country. This trail skirts the Virgin River as it winds through the Zion Canyon. It’s a wonderful way to view one of the park’s best features with the kids. Just make sure to bring plenty of water, as this trail can get very hot in the summertime.
Amanda Williams is a writer, plant-nerd, and outdoor enthusiast. She has traveled extensively, around the U.S., throughout Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Everywhere she treks, she takes time to enjoy the outdoors. John Muir is her hero. She aspires to inspire people to live better as he did.