Best time to visit Zion National Park

The best time to visit Zion National Park depends on the activities you'd like to do and your tolerance for crowds. Zion is the fourth most visited park in the United States with most visitors coming during summer as this is one of the best seasons for backpacking and hiking famous trails like the Virgin River Narrows and Angels Landing. These paths are often too dangerous in the winter due to freezing temperatures. Plus, in the summer months, all park facilities are open.

The sweet spot is late spring and early autumn. You'll dodge the summer vacationers, the weather is pleasant and most areas of the park are open (depending on snowmelt and rainfall).

It's important to understand the risk of flash flooding before planning a trip to Zion National Park (we'll get to this shortly).

We've put together this guide on what to expect in each season to help you plan your trip.

Weather in Zion National Park

Zion is a large national park with varying elevations, landscapes and weather patterns. Generally, summers are hot with average highs of 36°C to 38°C (though it's common for it to soar higher), while winters are cold with freezing overnight temperatures.

The monsoon from mid-July through September brings intense afternoon thunderstorms and flash flooding near the Virgin River is a very real risk.

Spring weather can be unpredictable; days are typically warm but nights are cold, and trails at higher elevations may still be closed depending on snowmelt.

Autumn is similar, with warm and sunny days and chilly nights.

Seasons in Zion National Park

Spring (March-April)

Best for: smaller crowds, hiking, wildflowers, waterfalls and wildlife

Spring is an awesome time for hiking in Zion Canyon as the temperatures are pleasant and sunshine is plentiful. Wildflowers also bloom from mid-April and trees sprout new leaves, so it's a very pretty time around the park. Nights can be chilly, so bring plenty of layers to rug up after sundown.

Higher elevation areas may still be closed due to snowmelt, and you won't be able to access them unless you have proper snow gear. When snow does start to melt, the Virgin River rises and the Narrows may also close.

However, snowmelt also creates some amazing waterfalls that can only be seen during this period. Excluding the spring break holidays, it's a much quieter time in the park so you'll avoid the crowds.

Summer (May-September)

Best for: hiking, ranger-led activities and accessibility

Summer sees thousands of visitors every day. That being said, all park centres and facilities are open, including the shuttle bus and daily ranger-led activities. The weather is consistently hot during the day and warm at night, which is great for camping and stargazing. There are also extended daylight hours to explore. Aim to set off early to beat the heat and dodge the crowds.

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.

Autumn (October-November)

Best for: hiking, cycling, smaller crowds and autumn colours

The monsoon rains can continue into September, but the skies are usually clear come October. The temperature drops to the low 20s, which is ideal for tackling some of the more strenuous hikes, and the crowds die down, so there are far fewer people to share the trails with.

Some would argue autumn is the prettiest time in Zion, as fall colours turn the park's aspens and cottonwoods brilliant shades of yellow, red and orange. 

Winter (December-February)

Best for: winter sports, wildlife watching and solitude

Zion isn't as cold as some US national parks during winter, but it's still chilly and wet. Daytime highs at lower elevations are a mild 10°C to 15°C, but nighttime temps plummet below freezing. Snow usually arrives in early December and blankets higher-elevation areas, but it's unlikely to stick at lower elevations.

Winter is the quietest season, so if you have the right gear and keep tabs on the weather, it's a beautiful time to explore in solitude. Some trails, like Angel's Landing, may close due to icy conditions, and you may need special winter boots with show spikes to avoid slipping.

Flash flooding

Zion National Park is prone to heavy rain and flash flooding from July through September. Storms can lash several inches of rain down in just a couple of hours and runoff channels spill into slot canyons like the Narrows – sometimes reaching speeds of more than six metres per second. If you find yourself in the path of a flash flood, you should:

  • Exit the canyon as quickly as possible when it begins to rain – you can't outrun a flash flood no matter how quickly you run
  • Get to higher ground by climbing up rocks as quickly as possible 
  • Abandon your hiking gear and possessions if you need to act fast 
  • If you can’t get to higher ground, get behind a large rock that will shelter you from the oncoming water 
  • Climb into a crack or crevice in a rock wall if the above options aren’t available to you 

This all sounds a bit scary – and it is – but with awareness, vigilance and proper planning, you can stay safe and have a great trip. The key is to understand the risks, check the daily weather forecasts and be prepared.

You can also hike the Narrows on one of our trips with an expert who knows and understands how to navigate slot canyons safely.

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