I can't help but notice that there is a rumor that’s been going around about Springdale and Zion Canyon that I need to squash immediately. The rumor is simple and tends to go something like this: “Only go to Zion National Park during the spring and summer months, otherwise it’s too cold and you won’t have any fun.” I don’t know how this got started, but apparently a lot of people believe this. I imagine it has something to do with beautiful photographs I’ve seen showing the cliffs of Zion covered in snow. Well, a Zion winter isn't what most people think it is.
I hate to break it to you, but snow hardly ever falls in Southern Utah; and in the very rare instance that it does, it almost never sticks for more than a few hours (if that). The photographers that took said pictures most likely happened to catch these admittedly gorgeous sights in the right moment before it quickly faded away. Regardless, the fact of the matter is that, as I’m writing this, the temperature in the park is over 70 degrees…in February! People, Zion National Park is not a summer-only experience.
Just this past December, the day after Christmas, I went on an ATV adventure tour with a local outfit across the sand dunes in nearby Hurricane, Utah, and had the time of my life. And not only is the weather good, but if you come during the off-season you’ll avoid all the crowds! It is highly unlikely that you will ever experience any wait time at a Springdale restaurant or run into any booked hotels. There are definitely people here that know the secrets of the off-season, but nowhere near the number of people that are here during peak months. So, now that you’re thinking about coming sooner than you originally planned, here are three of our favorite things to do in Springdale and Zion Canyon in the off-season...
This is a fantastic short-and-sweet hike that thrives during a Zion winter, and you don’t have to rely on shuttle services to drop you off. This trail will take about an hour start to finish, and it is not very strenuous. Older kids can come for sure; there are some sections without guard rails that may make the trip a no-go for younger kids. On this trail you’ll see some incredible sights, including a surprisingly cool top-down view of the Route 9 switchbacks as well as the Pine Creek slot canyon, among others. Perfect weather + Canyon Overlook Trail = Winning.
This is one of the most popular hikes in Zion National Park partly because it’s one of the easier ones and it has easy access, but mostly because of how gorgeous it is. Emerald Pools is a year-round treat for Springdale visitors. You can stop at the lower section, continue on to the middle section, and go a bit further to the upper section. All have unique views with lush vegetation and often feature dripping water from overhanging rocks, not to mention the pools themselves, which are so cool. Emerald Pools during a Zion winter is just as beautiful as it is during the other seasons.
One of the vastly unpublicized characteristics of Springdale and Zion Canyon is the cuisine. Some of the restaurant options here are just incredible. From long-time favorites like Oscar’s Café and Bit and Spur Restaurant and Saloon to finer dining establishments like the Spotted Dog Café to up and coming favorites like Zion Canyon Brew Pub and Café Soleil - just to name a few - a number of restaurants serve food as good as anything you’ve ever had, and they are all open year round. Especially all you local Southern Utah people, get yourselves down here for dinner.
Hopefully, now we can all correct friends and strangers when they think they can’t come to Zion in winter. One other very important thing: entrance to Zion National Park is free on President’s Day! Come on down!
This post was written in collaboration with ZionNationalPark.com.