When Is the Best Time
Zion National Park is a fantastic year-round destination and is open every day. However, depending on what time of year you visit the park, you will be faced with different conditions that you need to prepare for. We are here to help you with tips for every season and month, so you can make the best out of your visit.
Check out our complete season guide further below with detailed monthly tips for spring, summer, fall, and winter to avoid common mistakes.
Tip: Find the best Zion accommodation low-price deals here: Zion Hotel Tips
3 Best Times to Visit Zion National Park
The best time to visit Zion National Park is during spring and fall. In April, the summer crowds have not arrived yet, and the weather is pleasant, with temperatures around 73°F (23°C). Between late September and October, most crowds are gone, and it is still warm with an average of 78°F (26°C).
Alternatively, the second-best time is in the summer. While it gets hot and crowded, you can visit and hike through the Narrows and enjoy almost endless opportunities. However, you should prepare yourself for a busy park. Start your day early in the summertime to avoid the crowds.
The third-best time is from December to January. You experience the least busy time during these winter months and at the same time enjoy the lowest rates for lodging. Accommodation rates are at their lowest. Check our recommended hotel deals below.
Best Time to Visit for Pleasant Weather
The best time to visit Zion for pleasant weather is in spring or fall. With average highs between 70°F and 80°F, it’s not too hot during both periods. Additionally, most of the park’s facilities are open and accessible.
Always keep in mind that the difference between daytime temperatures and during the night can be 30°F (15°C). In summer, it is oven-like and can get well above 100°F (38°C), and on the other side, thunderstorms occur. If you go in the middle of summer, avoid long hikes. In the winter, snow and ice can be an issue. However, it’s not too cold for a visit!
Best Time to Avoid the Crowds
Zion National Park summer crowds
The best time to avoid the crowds in Zion National Park is from late fall until early spring. The quietest time is between December and January, as the park is even less busy during these months.
Official Zion National Park Visitors 2018/2019
Additionally, visitors can avoid any crowds year-round by going early in the morning. When you start your hike or exploration right after sunrise, you’ll have the park almost for yourself. Most visitors don’t start before 10 a.m. There is also a better chance of spotting wildlife and the best light for photos in the morning.
Times to Use the Shuttle
From March to October, you have to take the shuttle bus, as cars are not permitted during that time. Usually, from November to February you can park your car at the available parking lots. The scenic drive in Zion can be closed on weekends in February and shuttle bus transportation has to be taken. Read more details about the shuttle system further below in our shuttle paragraph.
Best Time to Hike the Narrows
The Narrows in June
The best time to hike and visit the Narrows is in the summer months between July and September. While it’s the busiest season, you can enjoy the warm air and pleasant water temperature in the Narrows, as well as low water levels. Since the shuttle operates until 9 PM, a full top-down day hike is possible.
However, except in March and April, when the Narrows are usually closed, you can hike them any time during the year. In the colder months, insulated water gear like canyoneering boots, a wading pole, and dry pants is a must.
Best Time to See Fall Colors
Fall colors in Zion National Park
The best time to see the fall colors in Zion National Park is usually from late September to mid-November. The autumn foliage season can start at higher elevations in mid-September and may last throughout November at lower levels. Especially the Narrows is a great place for fall colors in the first weeks of November.
Best Time for Climbing
Climbers in Zion National Park
The best climbing times in Zion Park are during the spring or fall season. Summer is not a great time for climbs due to extreme temperatures and unexpected thunderstorms.
Regardless of the season, since the rock is sandstone, you need to give at least 2 days after rain because the wet will weaken the rock. On cold days and with wet weather, give it even longer to dry. Check with the park service to check for cliff closures and seasonal climbing bans.
A part of this article was written by our friends from LiveWild Radio.
Best Time for the Scenic Drive
Scenic Drive in the winter
The best time for the Scenic Drive in your own car is in the first half of December and in January and February. During both periods, the Scenic Drive is open and not too busy.
The time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve can get crowded and is not recommended due to parking lot congestions. Remember that the Scenic Drive is only accessible to private vehicles from December to February.
Find more timing tips in our complete monthly guide below, with every season explained in detail. We wrote down what you can expect to encounter every month. The seasons are broken down based on the weather rather than the calendar. Finally, we added tips and information about when The Narrows are open and the Zion Shuttle System’s operating times. Check other current restrictions here: NPS Zion Conditions.
Spring | March – April
Spring is a great time to visit Zion NP as the temperature is not as hot as summer. Spring can be volatile so bring warm layers and rain gear as the weather can change quickly. Mornings tend to be cool but warm up as the sun heats the valley.
March is the start of spring in Zion National Park which is an unpredictable transition time with warmer days but is also with up to 8 days of rain. The temperatures make for great hiking as it’s not too hot and not too cold. Daylight is getting longer as well which means you will have more time to explore.
Our Zion National Park in March guide provides even more tips and facts about the weather in March, the things to do, and more.
If there is a high amount of snow up on top of the canyons then the many seasonal waterfalls will start to flow. They are usually dried up by summer so it is a treat to see. This meltwater can make the Virgin River a raging torrent so keep away from the banks. The Narrows is closed during spring due to the water levels and current.
In the month of April the wildflowers really start to bloom in Zion National Park. Longer days, less rain and warmer temperatures make this an almost idyllic time to visit. Tip: Our Zion National Park in April Guide provides you with even more in-depth tips for an April visit.
Early April is a great time to go as it’s not too hot, waterfalls are often still flowing and the crowds aren’t excessive. By this point, all of the trails but the Narrows are open. The snow is melted and the rock dry so rock climbing is often perfect during this window as well.
Backpacking Tip: If you want to go backpacking then consider going in on the northwest side at Kolob Canyon or on the east side for the East Rim Trail. There are local shuttle services that will take you from one trailhead to another and you can hike back to your car.
There are also loop routes that will bring you back to where you started. If your route starts or ends in the main canyon make sure you are finished before the shuttles stop running as there is no camping in that part of the park. You will require a backcountry camping permit that is available online or in-person at the Visitor Center.
Flash Flood Danger: Always check with the visitor center for any flash flood warnings and the daily weather forecast. I’ve witnessed the sheer power of nature as we watched from upon a ledge a trickling stream transform into a wall of water in seconds.
With steep terrain when it rains it will all get funneled to the low points which tend to be the canyons so you might not know it’s coming because it rained many miles away. If when hiking in a canyon and you hear a rumble upstream and feel a cool damp breeze, get to high ground as this may signal an imminent flash flood.
While down low is becoming warmer and lush the trails up atop the canyon may still have snow and ice late into March so bring traction devices if you plan to hike at the higher elevations. The trees start to bud and the canyon floor appears to come back to life after a winter slumber.
But winter and the spring melt can take a toll on the trails with flood damage and downed trees, so check at the visitor center or the Zion National Park webpage to find out about current trail conditions.
Spring Weather: Warm days with cool nights and mornings. Wettest time of year with regular rain.
|Days of Rain
Park Services: The shuttle buses start running in March so private vehicles are not allowed on the canyon road. The shuttles are free with park admission. While the visitor center is open year-round, other amenities like the South Campground and Human History Museum open back up for the season in the spring.
Crowds: March sees a huge spike in traffic over February due to the improving weather and spring break but is still only half of the peak traffic in the summer. April ramps up again as it may be one of the best months for hiking, climbing, and general exploring.
During weekends and spring break it’s advised to get to the park early in the morning (before 8 am) to get a parking spot and avoid crowds on the trails, especially Angel’s Landing.
Summer | May – September
Zion in June
With the warm weather comes the crowds. The span from May to September is the busiest time of year with over half a million people visiting the park each month. May marks the beginning of summer in Zion. Daily high temperatures are getting to be over 80°F (27°C). At this point, any damage from spring flooding will usually be repaired so all the hiking trails should be open spreading the crowds out.
From June to Mid August you will find a lot of families with children on summer vacation so the park has several programs for kids and shorter easier hikes. There are ranger-led walks and talks that will give you an understanding of Zion NP while being easy enough for even young kids. There are also nature games, music, and storytelling on the lawn of the Zion Lodge. Check for the schedule each day.
Parking in Summer: During the busy times of June, July, and August you avoid parking issues in the park with one must-know tip: Use the free shuttle service from Springdale to the entrance of Zion NP! It runs roughly every 10 minutes and the pick-up spots are close to the hotels in town. Tip: Read our shuttle section below the season guide.
The Narrows: In May the chances of hiking The Narrows are good. However, the water is freezingly cold (see below). The first time we ever went to Zion was in May 2000. No shuttle, no gear (neoprene) to rent, nothing. We are experienced hikes had to return after a few minutes due to the freezingly cold water.
In June it is getting hotter in Zion National Park, but without the scorching temperatures of July and August. Jund is also a safe bet for the Narrows hike to be open. This hike is in the Virgin River walking either from the canyon upstream or a longer multi-day trek downstream. To hike the whole downstream stretch requires a permit but a day outing upstream as far as Big Spring.
We’ve done the upstream hike (no permit required) in the summer and while it is extremely hot out the water, the river was surprisingly cold. You will want to wear water hiking shoes and use poles as the uneven rocky bottom and the current makes it treacherous in places. To do the downstream hike which is 16 miles you will also need to arrange a shuttle to Chamberlain’s Ranch as it starts outside the park.
If you are interested in this hike always check with the Visitor Center as flash floods happen in the summer due to thunderstorms. You can rent canyoneering boots and neoprene socks if you find the water too cold. If a thunderstorm is forecast the Narrows is closed to avoid dangerous conditions.
Summer Heat: Hiking and other activities in June, July, and August should be started early in the morning or later afternoon due to the heat. Wear a wide-brimmed hat as well as UV protective clothing and sunglasses to protect against the sun. Cover any exposed skin with sunscreen.
The hot dry air will dehydrate you faster than you would expect if you are not used to it. Bring about a quart of water per hour of hiking. Electrolyte drink mix added to your water can help your body retain moisture and replace what you are sweating out. There are places to fill water bottles at the Visitor Center, Grotto, and Zion Lodge.
September is still busy but slightly less than the peak of summer. If you visit in September, go after Labor Day weekend and try to avoid the other weekends as well. That way you’ll avoid most of the crowds Temperatures are slightly cooler making hikes more enjoyable.
Weather: Hot days with warm nights. Relatively dry but frequent thunderstorms which can lead to flash floods.
|Days of Rain
Park Services: Summer is the time where the park is going full speed. Unless otherwise posted all programs are running and all the attractions are open. The shuttle buses will be running roughly every seven minutes so you don’t have to wait long if you missed one. There are shuttles from Springdale to the park and shuttles within the park so you have options on where you park.
Crowds: This is the high traffic time of year with more planning and reservations needed. July is the peak month with over 600,000 people going through the gates. Because this is peak season expect lineups for shuttle buses and parking to be harder to find. If you plan to head to Zion NP during the summer make sure you book accommodation in Springdale or the park campsites months in advance as everything books up quickly.
Fall | October – November
Aside from cool temperatures, October and November bring the fall colors. One of the coolest things you will see is the descent of the color change as it starts at the top of the canyon and works its way to lower elevations with the peak in the valley in late October.
Temps: In fall the temperatures can vary so bring layers for warmth as well as sun protection. The temperature can vary by 30 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. We carry beanie hats, light thermal gloves and some light layers which will let us adjust our comfort level if the temperatures drop or the wind picks up.
Crowds: This is our favorite time to visit as the crowds are decreasing and the weather is more pleasant if you are hiking or climbing. Just make sure you have a headlamp with you as the days are getting shorter and you don’t want to accidentally get stuck out after dark.
The Narrows: In the fall, the Narrows start to get too cold to go bare-legged so insulated water gear is suggested. You can rent canyoneering boots, wading pole, dry pants, waterproof backpack, and neoprene socks from Zion Outfitters in Springdale right by the Visitor Center. You can rent the boots and socks in the warmer weather if you just need better traction as well.
Drive: Fall is the best time to drive the Mt. Carmel Highway and experience the tunnel. The tunnel is about a mile long with hole cut in the rock so you can see out. The switchbacking road has many pull-offs that let you get beautiful views. Just after the tunnel, there is a pull out on the right to park and hike the Canyon Overlook Trail. This will give you a great view of the canyon.
Weather: Moderate daytime temperatures with cool nights and mornings. November can see snow at higher altitudes.
|Days of Rain
Park Services: With decreasing daylight, you will see fewer shuttle buses and shorter hours. However, they still run daily of course. Make sure you are on the last one out or it will be a long walk back to the parking lot. The Human History Museum closes at the end of November. The programs are winding down with the park becoming mostly self-serve by the end of November.
Crowds: The traffic decreases in October and then cuts almost in half in November. With the shorter daylight comes more solitude and if you are in the park during the week you can find some backcountry trails virtually empty.
Winter | December, January, February
Winter in Zion NP is cold and wet compared to the rest of the year but if you are a visitor from the northern states or Canada will still seem pretty mild in the canyon. Snow falls but tends to melt at the lower elevations leaving the terraces and peaks covered in white which can be quite pretty. Tip: Check out our complete Zion National Park in December guide for additional visiting tips (including outfit tips).
Make sure you have the cold-weather gear and traction devices if you are planning on hiking to the higher elevations as ice and snow can build up on the trails. Exposed areas like Angel’s Landing can feel quite cold with nothing to block the wind. Always check the weather as rain and snow can make exposed rock trails treacherous.
The Narrows can still be hiked in winter if the water levels aren’t too high but you will need to rent canyoneering boots and dry waders to handle the cold. A good base layer underneath will really add to the comfort level. You definitely don’t want to slip and fall in this time of year.
Park Services: In winter, the shuttle only runs from December 22-31. When the shuttle isn’t running, you can drive private vehicles into the park. The Visitor Center remains open daily all winter long. The two campgrounds are closed for the winter, but backcountry camping is open if you want to enjoy the winter conditions. The Human History Museum remains closed until March. Depending on the amount of snow, some roads close and access to Kolob Canyon may be closed.
Crowds: Winter has the lowest level of visitors with the three months equaling the total of April. The low traffic means you will find offseason pricing for accommodations in Springdale for any that stay open over the winter.
Zion Seasons and Months | Summary
Zion National Park is great to visit year-round but each season and month has its attractions and challenges. We like the fall as the cooler temperatures make long hikes with more climbing less of a risk of overheating plus the changing colors are beautiful. Regardless of which season you plan to go don’t forget that it is a wild place and treat it with respect.
When Is The Narrows Open / Closed
The Narrows in Zion NP! One of the most iconic hikes in the United States. Especially the ‘bottom up’ hike is suitable for almost everybody. No permit is required for this one. You just start at the Temple of Sinawava (last stop with the Zion Canyon Shuttle). Then you hike up the river as far as you like and return at any point.
Important to know: When is The Narrows closed and when is it open? Due to the high water levels from snowmelt, it’s usually closed in the spring months. There can be closures during other seasons and months as well. Everything else you should know: The Narrows in Zion NP – Official NPS Page. Check our table below as a useful overview (swipe to the left and right on mobile devices):
|Open most of the time. Very cold water in May
|Open, but closures are possible due to flash floods
|Usually open. The most stable for open Narrows
|Open but higher water levels and freezingly cold water
|Usually closed due to snowmelt water levels
Zion Shuttle | Operating Times – Seasons/Months
There are two types of shuttles, and both are free.
- The Springdale Shuttle takes you from Springdale (where you should stay!) to the Zion NP entrance / Visitor Center. It picks you up almost everywhere in Springdale (several stops) and then takes you to Zion NP. From there, you can take:
- The Zion Canyon Shuttle. The Canyon Shuttle takes you from the Visitor Center all the way up Zion’s canyon with several stops, the last one being the Temple of Sinawava (from where you can hike/walk The Narrows). It’s a gorgeous scenic ride and absolutely worth it!
When do both shuttle types operate? Usually daily (every 7-10 minutes!) from the last Monday in February (President’s Day) until November. Besides this time period, December is the only other month when the shuttles run. Always check the official NPS page (link above below the shuttle photo). They post the upcoming schedules as soon as they are available.
Important to know: When the shuttles are running, private vehicles are not allowed on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
If you are coming to Zion NP to rock climb the fall tends to be perfect conditions. Cool and dry weather will see popular routes busy. While there are some single pitch routes, the park is best known for multi-pitch routes of up to 2000 feet.
There are hundreds of them so develop a plan with a few routes if your first choice has a lineup. You don’t need a permit to climb in Zion but if you are doing a route that will take more than a day you will need a bivouac permit if you will be spending the night on the wall.
Hotels at Zion | Where You Should Stay
The very best and most comfortable place to spend the night is in Springdale: It’s very close to Zion N.P. and has many restaurants. It gets better: The free shuttle picks you up from several stops in Springdale and takes you to Zion N.P. entrance. Hassle-free and very comfortable. Check the hotel deals via booking.com: Hotels in Springdale – Zion National Park (with low-price guarantee > save the link!) or view the latest deals below (including deals in Springdale, and other nearby towns like Kanab, St. George, etc. Tip: Click ‘see all deals and bookmark the results page) :
Tours We Highly Recommend
Like the paradise it was named after, Zion National Park is the kind of place that you won’t believe exists even when you see it yourself. It is not often such places are easily accessible but with the road that runs into the canyon, you can experience the beauty of the park without an arduous trek. But if you are willing to put in some miles the views open to you almost defy description.
Zion offers a unique view of the natural world as it encompasses four different ecosystems, desert, coniferous forest, woodlands and riparian (riverside). With this, you can hike through all of them in a day seeing the transitions from one to the next. The stark contrast of the lush canyon floor combined with the towering cliffs topped with the desert plateau is a unique sight both for its vividness and scale.
Along with Yosemite to the west, Zion is the type of park that brings together all types of travelers. Whether you are a family on a vacation road trip or serious outdoor adventurer wanting to do a multi-day hike into the back-country, Zion is equally home to both. Combine with this the world-class big wall rock climbing and it is little wonder that it is one of the busiest parks in the United States.