Zion National Park Is Pure Magic.
There’s a reason why Zion ranks number 4 among the most visited National Parks in The US. It’s impossible to drive among the towering red rock cliffs dotted with evergreens and see the light sparkle against the waters of the Virgin River and not be awed.
In many ways wandering through Zion National Park is the exact opposite of visiting the Grand Canyon, instead of walking around the rim of the canyon, exploring Zion means walking along the floor of it. It’s an especially cool experience if you have the chance to visit both of these parks back to back to really have the comparison.
Pssst…If you’re planning a trip to the Grand Canyon you might find these posts helpful:
- The Grand Canyon: The Best Hikes On The South Rim
- Grand Canyon National Park: Tips For Visiting The South Rim
The unique topography of Zion creates a show-stopping experience even whether that isn’t ideal. You really have to see it for yourself to believe it, check it out:
Zion National Park is one of those parks that is or at least should be on everyone’s, “National Park Bucket List”. It’s incredible. Unfortunately, as the trend goes the prettier the park the bigger the crowds, and Zion is definitely no stranger to crowds.
The good news is, there’s an incredibly simple way to avoid the crowds that swarm the park from April to October. A visit to Zion National Park in the offseason is the perfect recipe for fewer crowds and more waterfalls- what’s not to love about that!
If you’re thinking an off-season visit to Zion might be in your future plans, here’s some things you need to know…
Planning a visit anywhere during the off-season always comes with the chance of “risky” weather. It’s true. But it also gives you the opportunity to experience a place in a whole other way than the picture-perfect postcard version.
The good news when it comes to Zion National Park is that “bad weather” is rarely an issue even in the off-season. Because of the relatively low elevation of the park, snow never accumulates in mass numbers and generally speaking the temps stay perfectly tolerable only dipping into the low 30’s on the coldest of nights. Considering the base of the canyon can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the midst of the park’s peak season, 30-degree nights sound like a pretty good deal!
Traveler’s Tip: Most of the trails deep within the canyon stay clear of ice and snow year round with the exception of the shadier spaces. Trails with slighter higher elevations, will, in the colder months cover with snow and a fair bit of ice, a great pair of traction devices for your shoes will help you get access to anywhere you want to go. We use Kahtoola microspikes and they’ve never let us down!
- Link to our favorite traction devices: http://bit.ly/2IDNS5y
Over 4 million people visited Zion National Park last year… 4 MILLION! The majority of those visitors made their visit to the park during the summer months. That’s a lot of people visiting in a very short period of time. Considering that the majority of Zion’s established trail system can only be accessed by riding the park shuttle bus system, and that summer temperatures can sit just at the edge of hellfire hot I don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound like a super fun time to visit.
For most National Park visitors the idea of stepping into a park means quiet moments with nature where we can reconnect with the ones we love, and re-center our souls and that can be awfully hard to do while crammed into a bus with hundreds of sweaty visitors and screaming kids.
Our early March visit to Zion meant nearly empty shuttle buses and equally empty trails. The only time we encountered any major crowds in the park was during our hike up to the infamous Angel’s Landing. Details on that experience and video are coming your way next week!
RV Park and hotel rates in neighboring Springdale, Utah can skyrocket during the summer months. Without reservations made months in advance the likelihood of getting a campsite within the park or booking a room at the Zion Lodge within the heart of the canyon is near to impossible. However, during the park’s off and shoulder seasons accommodations are both affordable and plentiful! Meaning your pick of premium sites if you’re traveling in an RV and the best view in the house if you’re booking a room in one of the local hotels.
During our stay, we parked it at the Zion Canyon Campground, and we loved it!
Spring Means Waterfalls
This is without a doubt the very best reason we can give you for planning an off-season visit to Zion National Park- specifically in the Springtime! Remember that snow and ice at higher elevations we chatted about earlier? With arrival the of Spring and warmer weather, the snowpack that accumulates at the top of the canyon walls begins to melt, creating massive and insanely impressive waterfalls, that can only be viewed during this time of year.
During our early March visit to Zion National Park the landscape changed daily, new waterfalls were constantly popping up while others were slowly dwindling. We never knew where to look, because it was all, so downright beautiful.
Quick Facts About Zion National Park
Established: November 19, 1919
Total Acreage: 147,551
Total Number Of Trails: 35+
Closest City: Springdale, Utah
Getting Here: Located off of Utah’s Route 9, Zion National Park has 2 entrances, Southern and Eastern. Google Maps works great in this area. The Zion Canyon Visitors Center (Southern entrance to the park) is located at 1101 Zion – Mount Carmel Hwy, Hurricane, UT 84737
Getting Around The Park: Zion is a very popular park, with very limited parking. To help manage the chaos the park utilizes a shuttle bus system to transport visitors throughout the canyon. Riding the shuttle is free, and all busses are wheelchair accessible. Shuttle schedules change seasonally, the National Park Service posts the up to date shuttle schedule and details here.
If you want to take a drive through Zion, the best and only way to do it in your own vehicle is along the 12 mile Mount Carmel Highway that connects the South and East entrances of the park. In our opinion, this might just be the best-kept secret of the park. The Mount Carmel tunnel can accommodate RV’s but if you’re planning on taking a rig through this road, call ahead to the visitor’s center, as special accommodations are required.