Nestled in the red sandy desert of Utah, you might expect Zion National Park to be hot and dry all year round. However, the weather changes quite drastically throughout the year and throughout the day – temperatures can vary by 30°F or more between day and night, and at higher elevations. 

Although the park is open all year, certain trails like the Narrows and Angel’s Landing are closed during the winter months as the weather conditions make it too dangerous to do safely. It's also really important to understand the risk of rain and flash flooding if you plan on hiking the slot canyons. To help you decide when to visit Zion National Park and prepare for your trip, we've put together this guide on what to expect in each season.

Zion National Park climate & weather 

The majority of Zion has a semi-desert climate. This means summers are hot summers with average highs lingering in the mid to late 80s and winters are cool. However, summer highs often soar over 100°F (38°C) at higher elevations and the monsoon season (mid-July through September) often brings intense thunderstorms and flash flooding. Spring is typically warm and sunny, but the weather can be unpredictable with high rainfall and water levels due to snowmelt. Fall is usually sunny, dry and warm with cooler nights, making the conditions more comfortable for hiking. Winter days are mild with daytime highs lingering around 50°F (10°C) around the valley area, but the nights are cold and below-freezing temperatures are common. However, Zion winters are relatively mild compared to other US national parks like Yellowstone.

MONTH

AVERAGE HIGH (°F)  

AVERAGE LOW (°F)  

January 

50

24.8

February

48.2

24.8

March

55.4

33.8

April

59

35.6

May 69.8 42.8
June  82.4 50
July 87.8 57.2
August  84.2 55.4
September 77 48.2
October  66.2 39.2
November  55.4 30.2
December  48.2 23

When is the best time to go to Zion National Park?

Zion is open all year round, but the best time to plan your trip depends on the activities you'd like to do, how much you like hot weather and whether you want to avoid peak season. Summer is the best time to go if you want reliably warm weather and you'd like access to all of Zion's trails, including the awesome Narrows. However, it's also very hot and busy (it's the 4th most visited park in the United States), which isn't ideal if you don't cope well in the heat or you don't want to share the trails and viewpoints with big crowds. The sweet spot is late spring and early autumn as you'll beat the huge influx of tourists that flock to Zion for holiday weekends and summer vacation, the weather is pleasant and comfortable, and most of the park should be open (depending on snowmelt and rainfall). 

Visiting Zion in Spring

Pros: avoiding huge crowds, hiking, seeing wildflowers, waterfalls, wildlife watching 

Spring is generally an awesome time for cycling and hiking in Zion Canyon as the temperatures are pleasant and sunshine is plentiful. However, the nights can be chilly, so bring plenty of warm layers to rug up in the evening. Certain sections of the park, particularly those at higher elevations, are closed until the snow starts to melt so you won't be able to access them unless you have proper snow gear. The Virgin River starts to rise when the snow melts which creates some amazing waterfalls that can only be seen in spring, and wildflowers start to bloom from mid-April. Bigger crowds begin to arrive from late April, but it’s still much quieter than the summer. 

Visiting Zion in summer

Pros: hiking, ranger-led activities, park facilities and accessibility

May through September is the peak season with up to half a million visitors every month. However, you can take advantage of all facilities being open (including the Zion Canyon Shuttle), daily ranger-led activities and plenty of daylight to explore. The monsoon season starts in mid-July through September, so be prepared for intense rain, thunder, lightning and flash floods (more on that very shortly). It's important to check weather forecasts and park updates, and make sure you bring enough water and pack adequate sun protective gear. The summer heat can be intense in Zion, so if you go hiking aim to set off as early as possible to dodge the peak heat and avoid running the risk of sunburn and heatstroke.

Visiting Zion in autumn 

Pros: hiking, cycling, mountain biking, avoiding big crowds, seeing fall colours 

Autumn is quieter and calmer after the throngs of summer tourists have gone home. The scorching summer heat also cools down, making it prime time for hiking. The drop in temperature takes the edge off and makes it easier to do some of the more strenuous trails. Autumn also brings gorgeous colours to Zion as the leaves on aspens and cottonwoods turn yellow, red and burnt orange. 

Visiting Zion in winter

Pros: winter sports, wildlife watching, peace and quiet 

Winter is the quietest season. Some hiking trails are closed due to snowfall, but there’s still loads to do. Snow usually arrives in late November/early December and blankets parts of the canyon at higher elevations. If snow falls at lower elevations, it usually melts in just a few hours – just keep an eye out for ice on the hiking trails and ensure you have decent grip on your boots. If you’re hiking the Narrows you’ll definitely need a dry suit to hike safely as the water is very cold. Zion isn’t as cold as other US national parks during winter and with a good winter coat and plenty of warm layers, it’s a beautiful time to explore the park in solitude.

Is Zion at risk of 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 the slot canyons like the Narrows – sometimes reaching speeds of more than 20 feet 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 quick you can 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 an awesome trip. The key is to understand the risks, check the daily weather forecasts and be prepared. You can also hike the Narrows as part of a guided tour with an expert who knows and understands how to navigate slot canyons in all conditions. 

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