Make sure to check for trail closures before you go out on any hikes. You can check with any park ranger or at the visitor’s center.
As you may know, “the Narrows” hike was given its name because it’s the narrowest section of Zion Canyon, even requiring hikers to walk in the Virgin River for most of the hike. When we visited in early February the air temperature was 34°F (2°C) and the water temperature was 40°F (4°C). Burrrr! With the proper gear, however, you wouldn’t even know it was so cold.
The day before our hike we stopped into Zion Outfitters where we rented a dry suit, neoprene socks, and boots to keep our bodies dry and our feet warm. Since it’s a drysuit, not a wetsuit, we could wear warm layers underneath. We also made sure to wear hats, gloves, and bring food to help keep us warm. In total, we were hiking in the cold water for about three hours. It wasn’t until the last half-hour that our feet started to feel cold, but it was never too bad.
The entire hike we only saw two other parties of people. I’ve never hiked the Narrows in the summer, but I’m pretty sure that’s unheard of. It was amazing to have so much solitude in the canyon, and definitely made it easier to photograph. Another benefit of going in the winter was seeing the pristine icicles hang down from the caves and rocks above us.
Zion National Park winter weather is not always consistent year after year, so it’s hard to know when it could dump snow and when it could be sunny and almost warm. If you get a day of sun, even partly sunny, we suggest hiking Angel’s Landing. The hike is 5-miles total, but very steep. We hiked it in freezing temperatures and I was still wearing a t-shirt and sweating!
If the hike is predicted to have snow or ice at the top, head over to Zion Adventure Company in Springdale to rent a pair of micro-spikes for better traction. This hike has very steep drop-offs at the top, so take it seriously and be careful. Children and people who don’t like heights should not complete the end of the hike.
As we mentioned, the white snow on the red rock definitely adds another dimension of beauty to Zion, making it a great time to photograph the park. Also, we found it easier to photograph Zion in the winter rather than the summer, because we could drive our personal vehicles throughout the park. Normally visitors must ride on the shuttle, which typically runs from mid-February through November, and part of the December holidays. It’s a bit quicker getting around with your camera gear in your own car.
Relax and Unwind
A great part about experiencing Zion National Park winter time is that the rates of hotels and amenities are cheaper than they are during their busy season. Stay in the town of Springdale, relax in luxurious hot tubs with park views, and enjoy local restaurants without lines of people.
Check out our full Southern Utah itinerary here. Zion, plus five other national parks.