Winter Recreation in Zion National Park

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Winter snow dusting the Court of the Patriarchs along the Virgin River in Zion National Park

Snow dusting the Court of the Patriarchs

Zion's snowcapped mountains are particularly spectacular in the winter. The canyon is not normally subject to heavy snow, so hiking, biking and canyoneering are still popular, although dry or wetsuits are recommended in the Narrows and other waters as the water is c-o-l-d! The trails may also be very slippery and impassable without ice traction devices on your boots. But roads are usually clear, visitation is down and animals are more visible if they aren't hibernating. The rangers know which trails are icy, so always check pass conditions with them before heading out.

While Zion is photogenic in all seasons, it is breathtaking in winter when the white snow is juxtaposed against a startlingly blue sky, the deep red cliffs and the smoky green plant life. Dramatic storms; crystal clear light; beefed up streams; waterfalls and pools; animal tracks and sometimes the animals themselves create splendid photographic opportunities.

View of the Watchman with snow from the bridge over the Virgin River in Zion National Park

View of a snowy Watchman from the bridge over the Virgin River

Which Trail Should I Hike in Winter?

Many of the trails are closed during winter, due to ice, but those with ice traction devices on their boots may be willing to take the leap on sunny trails. (Here is a good selection of traction devices available at www.rei.com.) Weeping Rock, Emerald Pools, Riverside Walk and Observation Point may become too icy to traverse in winter.

Low desert trails like Chinle Trail take you through pinion and juniper terrain and Coalpits Wash that is often unpleasantly hot during the summer, but comfortably warm in winter. The hike has views of The West Temple and Mt. Kinasava. Hike a few miles out and back, or have a car waiting at the end of the full 11.7 mile trek. The trailhead is located in the town of Springdale on Anasazi Way.

Chinle Trail in Zion National Park

Chinle Trail in the southwest desert area of Zion National Park

Winter backpacking permits for overnight in The Narrows are not issued, but short day hikes dressed in wet or dry suits may be fun. Check with rangers for water conditions to ensure that unexpected high waters are not probable. Then connect with an outfitter store in Springdale to rent full dry gear including footwear.

Most people recommend avoiding slot canyon hiking in winter and early spring. Spry and Behunin Canyons are available for canyoneers who know what they are doing.

Winter Roads in Zion National Park

Kolob Canyons and other high country can also be treacherous in the winter with deep snow storm and the possibility of avalanches. Lava Point and Wild Cat Canyon trails are open to experienced cross country skiers and showshoers if the roads are passable. Kolob Terrace Road is closed during the winter.

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Need a map? Download an official Zion National Park map for basic road and attraction locations. Want a detailed topographical map of trails in the park? Buy the NatGeo Trails Illustrated Map for Zion National Park at REI.com. The map includes trails, trailheads, points of interest, campgrounds, lakes and much more. Or get the complete Utah National Parks Map Pack with five topographic maps. All of the NatGeo maps are printed on waterproof, tear-resistant material.

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