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Brian Knell | 09.07.2017

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.

It’s open year-round for a reason!

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...

1. Hike the Canyon Overlook Trail

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.

Other great hikes for winter views in Zion include:

2. Explore Zion's Emerald Pools

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.

If you're willing to brave the cold waters, these incredible adventures should be on your winter to-do list:

3. Eat Incredible Food in Springdale, UT

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.

A Zion winter isn't really winter at all.

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.

Feature photo by Enlighten Photography.

Comments

This article, at best, is misleading and at worst dangerous to those that might arrive unprepared. And, what makes it worse is it's an advertisement (see * below) thinly disguised as an informative travelogue.

Just because the author was in one part of the park in February and there wasn't any snow does not mean that it is anywhere near the norm for the park.

"I hate to break it to you, but snow hardly ever falls in Southern Utah"—a quick image search of "southern Utah in winter" will instantly dispel this claim. My sister lives in Kanab, Utah, about as Southern Utah as you can get, and they, officially, average half of foot of snow in both January and February.

I have been to Zion many times—in March—where there was plenty of snow in the park. I've had to drive through snow covered roads to enter the east entrance and have hiked on snow covered trails. On the western side, an area the other commenter mentioned, I have had to turn the car around as the snow was so deep on the road that we feared getting stuck—again, in March.

Yes, Zion is still great in the winter but one should not casually visit without being prepared for varying weather.

*When I first read that the "post was written in collaboration with ZionNationalPark.com" I was surprised that the park would spread such inadequately complete information—I then realized that this not the National Park but a chamber of commerce (or the like) site for the nearby cities that want you to spend your money there (and as far as "collaboration" goes, the author is listed as the main contact for this organization). While you should visit these places, eat and sleep in their towns; it is irresponsible for their promotions to be couched in a blatantly misleading editorial.

From consumer.law.com: "Deceptive advertising, also known as false advertising, refers to…confusing, misleading, or blatantly untrue statements when promoting…"
The article sets people up for a false picture of winter adventure in Zion NP. A Zion NP winter can very much be what people think of as winter!

No where in the reading of the article is it mentioned Zion NP's elevation differences play a significant role in what's experienced. Zion absolutely does experience snow and ice that lingers. While the Lodge and lower valley area at around 4k ft and the town of Hurricane in mid 3K ft elev can be beautiful winter hiking weather with no snow or ice as one increases in elevation it can turn into full blown winter weather. Not realizing this is problematic. One examples is the Kolob Terrace area of Zion NP at 8k + ft.

As the NPS rightly states: Be Prepared
Zion is known for a wide range of weather conditions. Temperatures vary with changes in elevation and day/night temperatures may differ by over 30°F.

Suggesting braving frigid hypothermic Virgin River Narrows hikes where one can be swimming, being immersed for long periods, and in remote areas in off season without mentioning the need for a wet/dry suit is also painting an overly rosy unrealistic picture of doing this in winter conditions.

What the author might have - should have - included is this information.
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