The Best (and Worst) Times to Visit Zion National Park (2024)

Zion National Park is Utah's oldest national park, encompassing 232 square miles of sandstone canyons, soaring cliffs, and coniferous woodlands. Its stark elevation changes and otherworldly terrain attract outdoors enthusiasts from photographers to hikers and rock climbers.

Of course, visitors should take certain environmental factors like temperature and water levels into consideration when planning a trip. It also helps to understand visitation patterns, as hiking trails and shuttles can become unbearably crowded during the high season. Zion sees about five million visitors a year, making it one of the most-visited national parks in the country.

Here's a breakdown of Zion's tourist seasons:

  • High Season: May through July
  • Shoulder Seasons: March through April and August through October
  • Low Season: November through February

Here are the best and worst times to visit Zion National Park based on cost, crowds, and weather.

Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting Zion National Park

Best Time to Visit Zion National Park for Smaller Crowds

Zion National Park is open year-round, but about 70 percent of visitors come between April and September. If you have the flexibility, making the trip during the park's off-peak months of October through March means less crowded hiking trails and fewer view-blocking selfie sticks.

If you're looking for a really quiet escape, January is the best time to visit. The park, which sees more than 500,000 visitors each month during its May through July peak, gets only around 100,000 during the first month of the year. And while it might be the middle of winter, the daily temperatures remain comfortable compared to those in other parts of the country. Thanks to the average high of about 54 degrees, you can get away with wearing just a light jacket on a winter walk.

Best Times to Visit Zion National Park for Good Weather

Due to its unique climate and elevation changes, Zion National Park experiences a wide range of weather conditions that can affect access to certain trails, sites, and attractions. A good rule of thumb is to check Zion's current conditions, no matter the season.

Summer in Zion is hard to beat. This is when you'll get the most time to explore because of long summer days and extended park hours. July is the hottest time to visit, with daily highs averaging 100 degrees. Thunderstorms are most common in July and August.

Temperatures can fluctuate as the weather shifts in the fall, but the autumnal colors can be stunning. January tends to be the coldest month, and winter gets the most precipitation. The snow can affect trail conditions and lead to closures, so be prepared for limited park access if you choose to visit this time of year.

Best Times to Visit Zion National Park for Lower Prices

No matter when you visit, you'll have to purchase a park pass upon entering Zion. You can opt for a weekly pass ($35 per vehicle) or purchase an annual interagency pass that will get you into federal recreation sites around the U.S. ($80). Seniors and military members get discounts on interagency passes. Anyone 15 and under gets in for free year-round.

Zion National Park allows free entry on special fee-free days such as Veterans Day and National Public Lands Day. As far as saving on accommodations, food, and tours outside the park, you might consider visiting in the quieter months, particularly in January and February.

Best Times to Visit Zion National Park for Hiking The Narrows

The Narrows are a major highlight of the park. This truly narrow section of Zion Canyon has walls that tower more than 1,000 feet high above a coursing river. You can get a sense of the area by walking along the paved and wheelchair-accessible Riverside Walk, but for a true Narrows experience, you'll want to throw on a pair of waterproof shoes (or shoes you don't mind getting wet) and walk up the Virgin River, which takes you further into the canyon.

The Narrows are often closed during the spring, when snowmelt causes the water to rise dramatically. And in late fall and winter, the water can be cold. Because of this, people tend to hike The Narrows in the summer and early fall, when the water is warmer and at its lowest level. However, you should always be mindful of flash flooding regardless of the season.

Best Time to Visit Zion National Park for Canyoneering

Because of its narrow canyons and numerous waterways, Zion National Park has become one of the country's premier canyoneering destinations. Canyoneering is an activity that requires scrambling, climbing, and swimming up, down, and through canyons, often with the aid of ropes. Beginners can book a tour of the lower end of The Narrows, while more experienced visitors could head to the Subway or Orderville Canyon.

You can go canyoneering in Zion year-round, but certain routes are sometimes limited. The most comfortable time for the sport is during the summer, when the water is warm and shallow. Canyoneering permits can be obtained through a lottery system two months in advance, calendar reservations one month in advance, or a last-minute drawing seven to two days in advance.

Best Times to Visit Zion National Park for Camping

There's nothing like waking up in the beauty of Zion National Park, which is why camping is one of the park's most popular activities. That said, you'll want to make reservations early — Zion's three frontcountry campgrounds — South, Watchman, and Lava Point — fill up quickly. Zion Canyon's Watchman Campground is open year-round, while South and the more primitive Lava Point are closed over the winter. The most comfortable time to camp is in the fall, when the heat of summer loosens its grip and the peak-season crowds subside.

If you’re looking for more remote camping options, you can hike to backcountry sites. There are 13 to choose from along the seven-mile La Verkin Creek Trail, popular in spring, summer, and fall. Be mindful that because these are wilderness areas, they are often affected by wildfires, rockfalls, flash floods, and other natural forces, so be sure to check the conditions before heading into the backcountry.

The 10 Best Places for National Park Camping

Best Time to Visit Zion National Park for Hiking Angels Landing

Hiking Angels Landing is a popular once-in-a-lifetime experience for those brave enough to tackle it. Not for novices, the last part of the path is cut into solid rock and leads hikers up the trail's namesake 1,488-foot-tall formation. Visitors must reserve a permit before taking on the challenge. The nearly 5.5-mile round-trip hike can be done year-round, but should only be attempted in fair weather because it is quite dangerous. Most people hike it in the summer months, but you'll want to be mindful of the weather — thunderstorms and extreme heat are common, especially in July and August.

Best Time to Visit Zion National Park for Driving the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive

The renowned Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is packed with hiking trails, picnic spots, and stunning views that require minimal physical effort. You can stop and stretch your legs to get a good view of the Court of the Patriarchs or take in a sunset at Canyon Junction Bridge. The caveat is that the route is open to private cars during a small window when the park shuttles are not in operation, typically January to mid-February. When the shuttles are running, you can only see the sights along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive by riding one.

More iconic national park drives

The Worst Times to Visit Zion National Park

If you want to avoid big crowds and debilitating midday heat, skip a trip to Zion National Park in June or July. At the height of the tourist season, campgrounds are full, trails are packed, shuttles are crammed, and parking is difficult.

Winter, however, provides a much different experience. Some might like the solitude and isolated feel of the park during the quietest months, but traveling to Zion in the winter can be a challenge. Think temperatures below freezing at night, roads occasionally covered in snow, and limited park access. The worst time to visit depends on the person. Which combination do you dislike more: heat and crowds or cold and isolation?

The Best (and Worst) Times to Visit Zion National Park (2024)


What are the best times to visit Zion National Park? ›

Visiting Zion in Spring/Fall (Oct-Nov & March-April)

Fall colors in Zion are absolutely gorgeous against the soaring sandstone cliffs, and if you catch the changing leaves at their peak, fall can seriously be the best time to visit Zion National Park.

What is the biggest threat to Zion National Park? ›

The park enjoys relatively good air quality, but it is upwind of urban and industrial sources of air pollution. Air pollutants blown into the park can harm natural and scenic resources such as soils, surface waters, plants, wildlife, and visibility.

How many days in Zion is enough? ›

This stunning park stretches across more than 140,000 acres; there's so much to explore! To get the full experience, we recommend spending at least two days exploring Zion. This includes taking hikes on some of their most popular trails like Angels Landing and The Narrows.

What is the busiest day of the week at Zion National Park? ›

Go Mid-week to Avoid Crowds in Zion National Park

It's only logical that that Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday will be busier than other days. Especially during peak travel seasons of spring and summer. To avoid crowds in Zion National Park, visit mid-week.

What is the least crowded month in Zion? ›

If you're looking for a really quiet escape, January is the best time to visit. The park, which sees more than 500,000 visitors each month during its May through July peak, gets only around 100,000 during the first month of the year.

What is the hottest month in Zion? ›

July is always the hottest months of the year in the park but it still cools down in the evening through mid-morning.

How long is the drive through Zion National Park? ›

This scenic byway runs for 54 miles. Travel time is about 1.5 hours. From the west, you get on the byway at the intersection of Hwy 9 and Interstate 15, about 9 miles east of St.

Should I spend more time in Zion or Bryce? ›

You'll get to experience plenty of different things in Zion National Park. We wouldn't really recommend spending more than two days in Bryce Canyon, but you could easily be in Zion for a week. Zion is also more developed than any of the other parks in Utah.

Is it better to stay in Zion or outside? ›

Because Zion is a relatively small national park, it's easy to stay close to the park without actually being in the park. I recommend staying outside of Zion if you want nicer amenities, more variety in pricing, or more dining and activity options.

How to avoid crowds in Zion? ›

5 Tips to Avoid the Crowds in Zion National Park – Best Time to...
  1. Hike as early as possible. Our guides have a saying–”an hour earlier, a mile farther”. ...
  2. Head to Kolob Canyons. ...
  3. Hike Observation Point. ...
  4. Go In Winter. ...
  5. Last: Embrace the humanity.

What time does the Zion parking lot fill up? ›

Getting to the Park

More precisely, there are two shuttle systems in operation — one to get visitors to the park and a second to move people around the park. Parking is available in the park, but it's limited and lots usually fill up by between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. After that, cars are prohibited.

How early should I arrive at Zion? ›

All parking lots in Zion Canyon are usually full by 9:00AM. Get an early start or plan on parking in the Town of Springdale and using the town shuttle to reach the park. If parking is full, do not wait for spots to open; park in Springdale and use the town shuttle to reach the Zion Canyon Visitor Center.

How do you avoid crowds at Zion? ›

5 Tips to Avoid the Crowds in Zion National Park – Best Time to...
  1. Hike as early as possible. Our guides have a saying–”an hour earlier, a mile farther”. ...
  2. Head to Kolob Canyons. ...
  3. Hike Observation Point. ...
  4. Go In Winter. ...
  5. Last: Embrace the humanity.

What is the rainy season in Zion? ›

The monsoon rains arrive in mid-July through September, so be prepared for intense, albeit brief, afternoon thunderstorms and potentially flash floods near the Virgin River. It's important to check weather forecasts and park updates — especially if you're hiking slot canyons like the Narrows.

Is Zion better in spring or fall? ›

Autumn is our favorite time of year to visit Zion. Crowds tend to die down after fall break and the weather remains mostly mild throughout the fall with average highs in the 60s and 70s. November especially, is a great time to escape the crowds and beat the snow, although early storms can occur.

What months can you drive through Zion National Park? ›

Zion National Park is open all year.

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