Many American families opt to take an annual vacation during the summer months. In fact, more than 44 percent of Americans are planning to take two or more trips this summer. Hundreds of thousands of people are making plans to book Zion National Park vacation rentals and hotels this summer — but is this really the best time to visit the park?
If you have more flexibility in when you travel or are thinking about planning another trip later this year, you might be wondering when is the best time to visit Zion National Park. Keep reading to find out!
Summer is by far the most popular time of year to visit Zion National Park. June, July, and August see nearly 40 percent of the park’s annual guests, with May and September drawing another 22 percent. As a result of the increase in visitor numbers, you can expect longer operating hours for restaurants, stores, and attractions this time of year. Tour companies may offer more availability as well, which means more options for unique experiences during your trip.
However, there are certainly some drawbacks to visiting this time of year. To start, the high number of guests can lead to crowds on popular trails, as well as lines to ride the Zion Canyon Shuttle. In addition, triple-digit temperatures are the norm for much of the summer, which can make hiking on unshaded trails more challenging, or even dangerous if you aren’t properly prepared and carrying plenty of water.
If you’re locked into traveling during the summer months, it’s still possible to enjoy an incredible visit. Plan to get to the park early in the day to avoid the crowds and the hottest part of the day. Heading to the park through the week rather than on a weekend will also mean fewer crowds.
If your trip includes weekends, consider planning to visit some of Southern Utah’s state parks during those days. These offer some equally stunning landscapes and unique activities, but with fewer crowds. There are several incredible Utah state parks just a short drive from your Zion National Park vacation rental, like Coral Pink Sand Dunes and Sand Hollow State Parks.
If thinking of Zion brings to mind desert landscapes, you’ll want to plan a visit in the fall. First-time visitors may be surprised to learn that Zion National Park experiences changing leaves this time of year. The bright yellows and oranges are even more stunning set against the red rock cliffs of the park. These changing colors start in September at the higher elevations in the park and make it into the lower canyon by the end of October or early November.
Besides the stunning views, there are a few other things that make fall a great time of year to visit. Temperatures are starting to cool, which makes hiking much more enjoyable. The crowds of Summer drop off sharply by mid-August, though the park may still see higher visitor numbers on weekends and around the holidays.
If you’re looking to escape the crowds and the heat, and enjoy the changing leaves, fall is a great time to visit. But it’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t the busy tourist season for the park. This means that shuttle buses, while still in operation, run for fewer hours each day. Restaurants, stores, and other services in Springdale, Hurricane, and other nearby cities may also close earlier than they do during the summer months.
Most of Zion National Park’s more than 5 million annual visitors see the park’s stunning red rock cliffs and brilliant blue skies. Some get a chance to see the vibrant orange and yellow leaves of fall. But only a small percentage of guests get a chance to see the park covered in snow.
An average of nearly 560,000 people visit Zion during the month of July. By contrast, just 91,000 in the month of January, 112,000 in February, and 136,000 in December. The low visitor numbers are likely due to a combination of travelers choosing to visit family or stay home around the holidays, as well as the cooler temperatures. But if you’re willing to bundle up, you’ll be treated to a largely empty park, incredible views, and other unique experiences.
For much of the winter season, the shuttle buses are not in operation. This means that winter is the only time of year that you can drive your own vehicle into the lower canyon. The shuttle buses do run around the holidays, including Christmas, President’s Day Weekend, and New Year’s Day. Some of the park’s facilities, like the Human History Museum, also close this time of year. The roads in Zion are plowed, but trails may not be cleared, making them impossible after heavy snow.
For mild temperatures and fewer crowds, spring is another great time to visit Zion. Spring sees more variance in temperature than other times of the year. Days can be as cool as 30 degrees Fahrenheit, and then swing closer to summer temperatures, especially late in the season. Spring snow storms aren’t that unusual, so you’ll want to make sure to stay flexible during your trip.
The park shuttle system returns in spring, making it easy to get around. The Human History Museum and other facilities also re-open this time of year. If you have your heart set on hiking The Narrows during your trip, spring may not be the best choice for your visit — melting snow often causes the water level in the Virgin River to rise, and the trail may close as a result.
Booking Your Zion National Park Vacation Rental
There is no single answer to what time of year is best for visiting Zion National Park. Instead, which season is best for your visit depends on how you want to experience the park, what you plan to do during your stay, and when you are able to travel.
Before you start planning your adventure, you need to book your Zion National Park vacation rental. Book your stay at Gooseberry Lodges today!