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Zion National Park in the Winter

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Our last little adventure before settling into Portland was visiting Zion National Park 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.

The downside is that you have to deal with the 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 the 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:

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

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!

How about you? Have you been to Zion National Park? 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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