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Zion National Park in the Winter

Our last little adventure before settling into Portland was visiting Zion National Park in the winter for two weeks. I feel so blessed to have been able to spend a significant amount of time in so many National Parks this year, and Zion was no different. Mr. Misadventures and I had visited Zion during our Southwest roadtrip in 2012, but it was only for about 36 hours, which wasn't nearly enough time to explore the park.

Visiting Zion National Park in the winter is a whole other ball game. On the upside, there is hardly anyone there! We were there for two weeks, including a holiday weekend and the crowds (if you want to call them that) were manageable. In the off-season you are able to drive your car anywhere in the park, you are the master of your own destiny. During the regular season, unless you are taking the Mt. Carmel Road/Tunnel, you are forced to use the park's shuttle system.

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The downside is that you have to deal with unpredictable weather. It was fine (sort of) for us as we had time to spare, but if you are only going for two or three days you may be bummed out if you can't access some of the roads due to ice and snow. A lot of the hiking trails were impossible to manage and there was even a giant rockslide that cut off Zion Canyon Road for several days!

We were particularly bummed out with how often the Kolob Canyon road was closed. It is higher in elevation, but it seemed to be no more difficult to clear than the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel Road, yet it was closed more times than it was open. We were lucky to get in there three times over the two weeks we were there, we would have liked to have gone more, the views are stunning.

zion national park kolob canyon
Sandstone cliffs at sunset from Kolob Canyon Road. Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

We settled on a few sunrises and sunsets in the main part of Zion National Park along with day trips to Kanab, Page, and Snow Canyon State Park.

I love the temples and thrones area behind the museum (P.S. great bathrooms in that building!). The view is just breathtaking. Standing out in the field, you definitely feel small. We visited one evening just before sunset, following a few mule deer into the pasture.

Zion National Park Temples and Thrones
Temples and thrones behind the museum at Zion National Park.

Two days later after a storm came through, the tops of the cliffs looked like this:

Zion National Park
Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

I was entranced by the color of the Virgin River. When it was storming it was a terrible shade of milk chocolate brown.

Zion National Park
Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

But when the weather cleared I fell in love with the turquoise-green shade that ran under the Virgin River Bridge.

zion national park virgin river at sunrise
Virgin River Bridge in Zion National Park. Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

On one of the clear days, we hiked the Canyon Overlook Trail. It was a much different experience than the last time we hiked it. I definitely prefer the cooler weather, but I'll pass on some of the narrow wet/icy spots! The view is certainly worth it when you get to the end, and this time we were treated to a small group of desert bighorn sheep who sat on a shelf above the trail watching the hikers go by.

zion national park desert big horn sheep
Desert bighorn sheep. Photo credit: Sel & Poivre Photography

We had some snowy trips on the Zion-Mt. Carmel Road. We passed through two times on our way back from Kanab and Page. We also went through another day to try to see the bison ranch that is right outside the park entrance, but the icy roads were just too bad.

zion national park checkboard mesa in the snow
Checkboard Mesa in the snow on Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel Road.

You definitely need a 4×4 to drive around in the snow. One day was so icy that we turned back at the Checkerboard Mesa. The snow covered the mesa so nothing to see!

All in all, I have to say Zion National Park is incredibly beautiful. Winter conditions add a crispness to the air and when the sun is out, wow!

All of the national parks in Utah are stunning in the winter! We visited Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef as well. Canyonlands and Arches are perfect winter vacation spots too. You cannot go wrong in Utah!

How about you? Have you been to Zion National Park in the winter? What time did you go? What was your favorite part? If you haven't been, is it on your list? Do tell!

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Zion National Park in the WinterZion National Park in the Winter

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  1. Wow! This place is so amazing, more like the pictures from my screen on the computer. How cold is it there? A milk chocolate brown river looks so different. I didn’t know that can exist.

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Roch, it was pretty cold. IN the higher elevation it was in the twenties. Lower elevations during the day around 40. What was fascinating about that river was how the colors changes day to day!

  2. Gorgeous photos with a lot of contrasting colors! I haven’t been to Zion before, but I’ve been to Yellowstone and the colors were amazing there too. I’ve been in the winter and the summer. While winter trips are exciting and serene, I always find summer trips more open to discovering the wildlife and listening to the streaming water.

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Katie, Yellowstone rocks doesn’t it?!! I was so lucky to spend 5 weeks there in 2016 – 2 in early May and 3 in end of Sept/Oct.

  3. These photos are breath taking!!! I have never heard of Zion park but it is now on my must see list. I love the mountains, they are so beautiful.

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Cacinda, it is quite beautiful, in southern Utah, if you love the mountains, this is for you!

  4. Wow. It is so startlingly beautiful! I would love to take the family there. Nature is gorgeous in spring, who knew it could be so beautiful in winter, too? I want to go there asap.

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Jocelyn, I was surprised by both the desert (in New Mexico) and the national parks in the winter – so beautiful!

  5. This is breathtaking!! We are hoping to plan an RV trip and this is exactly why. I want to explore and discover all the beauties of our country especially the National Parks…thanks so much for sharing with us!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Tiffany, we’ve been having a blast in the RV and got to 21 spots in the national park system!

  6. This is like my dream type of vacation! I’m not much of a beach girl but I do love the mountains and snow! It sounds heavenly to be able to pack a suitcase full of sweaters and cozy accessories for a vacation at an location like this! πŸ™‚

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Jasmine, my kind of fun as well!

  7. Oh wow. This looks amazing and it’s definitely a destination that I’d love to visit! Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ll be putting it on my ‘to visit’ list πŸ˜€

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Aileen, it’s a pretty incredible place and I hope you can get there one day!

  8. The Adventure Ahead says:

    How cool! We always see images of this area with the sun bouncing off the rocks. So interesting to see it in the snow. Thanks for the unique perspective of the beautiful area πŸ™‚

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @TheAdventureAhead, thanks, I’m glad you think. Since we often go off-season I don’t get to see it in full sun!

  9. So totally cool. We lived in Arizona for a number of years and witnessed first hand the drama and spectacle of storms hitting the red rock. I have been in the Grand Canyon below the rim and watched winter paint the cliffs white above us. (we were a bit worried about getting out). You’re before and after photos tell a great story about national parks and nature in general. There is always a reason to go back and everything changes. When you relax your mind (and ego) and listen to nature’s song, you will hear new harmonies as the seasons change. Not just seasons but days and even hours. Even showing up early or staying late will can you something new. Love your pictures too. Incredible.

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Jenn, that is one thing my sabbatical taught me. Unplug and just listen to nature.

  10. Never been to very many National Parks, hopefully we will get to it soon. The sunsets captures of Zion National Park look awesome. The mountains and cliffs dusted with snow look pretty neat.

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Priya, thanks! I hope you make it to some national parks!

  11. Usually I don’t feel much like travelling in the winter and I would have never believed how gorgeous the park looks covered in snow. The cliffs on the first phoo are truly magical! The Virgin River has such a surreal emerald color!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Sianna, it is surprising how beautiful these places can be. I discovered this year how amazing the desert is in the winter.

  12. This area looks surreal. Nature can be so unexpected and breathtaking.

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Neni, thanks, the water in the Virgin River was so crazy!

  13. shannon fowler says:

    Ive never been to Zion national park. your photos are gorgeous! It definitely makes me want to visit.

  14. Calvin F. says:

    Lots of untouched nature πŸ˜€

  15. Linda Manns Linneman says:

    This is just beautiful. I can see where this would be difficult at times with the snow and ice though. I would love to visit here and see this beauty with my own eyes. Thank you so much for sharing